It was a quick exchange that didn't generate much attention, but a reporter asked Donald Trump two months ago to explain his administration delaying military aid to Ukraine. The president, without missing a beat, lied. "I didn't delay anything," Trump said at the time.
The next day, the Republican's story changed and he tried to explain why his administration delayed the aid he'd just denied delaying. "We want to make sure that country is honest," Trump told reporters. "It's very important to talk about corruption. If you don't talk about corruption, why would you give money to a country that you think is corrupt?"
From time to time, the White House and its allies will still pretend to take this line seriously, as if Trump, despite allegations of widespread corruption surrounding him and his team, has a deep and abiding concern related to possible Ukrainian malfeasance.
As the scandal has unfolded, the idea that the American president is sincere about this has always been laughable, and in recent days, the point has become even more absurd. Privately, administration officials keep making clear that Trump couldn't have cared less about corruption in Ukraine, a point that's been bolstered publicly during congressional impeachment proceedings. (When the National Security Council recommended that Trump bring up the issue during a phone meeting with Zelensky in April, and included specific talking points in briefing materials to emphasize the importance of the topic, Trump ignored the NSC, making his apparent indifference clear.)
This morning, however, these concerns came into sharper focus. Consider this exchange between House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and Ambassador Gordon Sondland, as part of a clarification regarding the White House's quid-pro-quo scheme.
SCHIFF: He had to get those two investigations if that official act was going to take place, correct?
SONDLAND: [Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky] had to announce the investigations. He didn't actually have to do them, as I understood it.
A great many revelations have come to the fore today, many of which reinforce some of the worst fears surrounding Trump and his extortion scheme. This point about simply "announcing" investigations, without regard for follow through, is among the most striking.