Since news broke Friday of a whistleblower complaint over President Trump asking Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate corruption allegations against his political rival, Trump has mounted the best defense: a strong offense.
Despite admitting to withholding aid to Ukraine, and also admitting, days later, to asking Zelensky to investigate the Bidens, Trump has maintained that he holds the high ground. From this self-determined position, the president has lobbed numerous theories to preempt the complaint’s potentially damning contents.
On Friday, Trump tweeted his first public response to the complaint, claiming that the whistleblower—who is likely someone in the United States intelligence community, but remains anonymous—is “highly partisan.”
“The Radical Left Democrats and their Fake News Media partners, headed up again by Little Adam Schiff, and batting Zero for 21 against me, are at it again! They think I may have had a ‘dicey’ conversation with a certain foreign leader based on a ‘highly partisan’ whistleblowers,” Trump tweeted.
A day later, Trump addressed the complaint in person for the first time. During an Oval Office appearance alongside Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, whose state visit came at an inopportune time, Trump repeated the partisan claim, and tacked on a familiar criticism of the press, asserting that the national interest in his attempt to muster opposition research from a foreign government somehow stemmed from backlash The New York Times received for its handling of new allegations of sexual misconduct against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
“I don’t know the identity of the whistleblower, I just hear it’s a partisan person, meaning it comes out from another party, but I don’t have any idea—I can say that it was a totally appropriate conversation, it was actually a beautiful conversation,” Trump said in the Oval Office. “... You know the press has had a very bad week with Justice Kavanaugh, and all of those ridiculous charges, and all of the mistakes made at The New York Times and other places. ... So keep playing it up because you’re going to look really bad when it falls.”
When asked by reporters if he had mentioned Biden during his conversation with the Ukrainian president, Trump said he didn’t want to talk about “any conversation, other than to say... great conversation, totally appropriate conversation,” adding, “keep asking questions and build it up to as big as possible so you can have a bigger downfall.”
The next day, Trump raised the stakes.
“It appears that an American spy in one of our intelligence agencies may have been spying on our own president. The complaint suggests that this intel agent was listening in on Trump’s conversation,” Trump tweeted on Saturday, quoting Fox News commentator Gregg Jarrett.
On Sunday, Trump took the baton from more Fox News commentators, who have focused on the younger Biden’s work in Ukraine. “The real story involves Hunter Biden going around the world and collecting large payments from foreign governments and foreign oligarchs,” Trump tweeted, quoting Peter Schweizer and Laura Ingraham. “Hunter made a fortune in Ukraine and in China. He knew nothing about Energy, or anything else.”
Later that same day, Trump pounced on reports that the whistleblower did not directly hear the call. “Now the Fake News Media says I ‘pressured the Ukrainian President at least 8 times during my telephone call with him,’” the president tweeted. “This supposedly comes from a so-called ‘whistleblower’ who they say doesn’t even have a first hand account of what was said.”
As a new week began, and interest in the Ukrainian call had only intensified, Trump pivoted to questioning the whistleblower’s motivations, implying they may be working for a foreign entity. “Is he on our Country’s side. Where does he come from,” Trump tweeted on Monday. “Is this all about Schiff & the Democrats again after years of being wrong?”
The Democrats appeared to respond on Tuesday by announcing that the House of Representatives would move forward with an official impeachment inquiry. “The president must be held accountable. No one is above the law,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in announcing the monumental move.
Trump’s position appeared further compromised on Tuesday after the White House released a memorandum on his July phone call with Zelensky, including a redacted transcript of the conversation that shows Trump pressing Zelensky to resume an investigation into Hunter Biden, and to later touch base with Attorney General William Barr on the resumed probe.
“A lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the Attorney General would be great,” Trump said on the call. “Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it... It sounds horrible to me.”
Undeterred, conservative publications dug into the whistleblower’s attorneys, easily catching Trump’s attention.
The president shared a story from The Federalist reporting that an attorney for the “anti-Trump ‘whistleblower’” worked for Hillary Clinton and Chuck Schumer. The attorney in question, Andrew Bakaj, interned for Clinton and Schumer in 2001, according to Bakaj’s LinkedIn page, The Federalist reported. Bakaj has since worked as an official in the CIA and Pentagon that specializes in whistleblower and security clearances.
Trump took the bait on another Bakaj story again the next day. The Washington Free Beacon, an online conservative political magazine, reported on Wednesday that Bakaj earmarked a $100 donation to Biden’s presidential campaign earlier this year. “Wow! ‘Ukraine Whistleblower’s lead attorney donated to Biden,’” Trump tweeted hours after the Beacon story was published.