Is to love, love, love him.
And I do.
-- Teddy Bears
When the recent audio tape was released a few days ago of Lev Parnas (and his partner Igor Furman) and Trump having a more than hour-long dinner with others, two parts of it got notable attention. Though what I think is really most important about the tape got buried.
The first thing that got the most attention, of course, was Trump saying he wants U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch to be fired, indeed saying to "take her out." While Trump defenders have tried to dismiss this as meaningless since Trump has every right to replace her (which is correct), what they're obfuscating are three notable things about it. The first is that it happened almost a year before she was finally removed, making clear that this was a long-term effort of Trump's, not something that just occurred at the last minute. Second, since Trump did indeed have every right to fire her -- why on earth didn't he, but instead take a year to do so and go out of his way to try to humiliate her?? And the third is that Trump doesn't even know the name of this ambassador who he's so anxious to have taken out.
The second thing that got the most attention from the tape is that Trump asked Parnas how long he thought Ukraine could last without aid. And when told not long at all, this showed that Trump was well-aware how very dangerous it was to hold back aid from our country's ally. Yet he did it anyway, giving benefit to Russia in its war against Ukraine.
As critically important as this two stories are, I actually think they pale to three others that have gotten much less attention.
First, what on earth is Trump doing asking Lev Parnas and Igor Furman for advice about U.S. foreign policy??? He has a National Security Advisor. And a Secretary of State? And the CIA. And all manner of other actual real-life experts who study this sort of thing.
Second, what kind of lack of security does Trump insist on that allows someone to privately record a dinner with Trump for over an hour?! Talk about "You put us all at risk." And this risk extends far beyond that dinner, because it's hard not to think that this laxity isn't the standard. In fact, we already know that Trump has a phone that isn't fully secure, and also that there are stories of people overhearing a security conversation between Trump and Chinese officials at their Mar-a-Lago dinner
But third and, I believe, the most important issue from this tape is that it gives total lie to Trump's repeated insistence that he doesn't know Lev Parnas, never met Parnas, doesn't even know where Parnas is from. (Despite, of course, actually asking his opinions on Ukraine.) This transcends this one, long dinner, since the repeated denials have come each time there's been some major story about dealings between Parnas, Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani and Trump. And further, since Trump clearly knows him -- and knows him well-enough to have a dinner that lasted over an hour, and to ask foreign policy questions of him -- it makes it reasonable to give lie to all the denials from Trump associates who have insisted they don't know him, and that the photos with him were nothing more than selfies. It's certainly possible that the photos with other people are all selfies, but given that Parnas now clearly has a relationship with Trump, along with "receipts" to back up much of what he says, those denials by others are far, far less likely. Just on the good side of not believable. All of which which near-full credibility to all of Parnas's stories.
And by the way, as incredibly critical is Trump's knowledge of Parnas is -- and as all these other issues related to the tape are -- they may not even be the Big Story of the weekend. Because now we have the news story of John Bolton's book bluntly explaining his first-hand knowledge of Trump's actions withholding mandated funds from Ukraine being a literal and very illegal quid pro quo effort. (Whether Trump falls back to his default response to such charges and insists that he doesn't know his former National Security Advisor John Bolton either remains to be seen...) And it would appear that if anything demanded that the Senate call witnesses in the trial against Trump, this would be it.
But then, of course, this isn't about Trump, we know who he is. This is about the elected officials of the Republican Party who enable him and are complicit.
Still, though, it's hard not to remember whimsically all of those many Trump cries that he doesn't know that man he had dinner with for over an hour, asked detailed national security questions to and has picture after picture with. He doesn't know him.