US President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence speak to the press on August 10, 2017, at Trump's Bedminster National Golf Club in New Jersey before...
NICHOLAS KAMM

A scandal featuring a striking cast of characters

Updated

At a press conference yesterday, Donald Trump noted that Vice President Mike Pence also spoke privately to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy – and if we saw exactly what was said, those interactions were “perfect.”

“I think you should ask for VP Pence’s conversation because he had a couple conversations also. I can save you a lot of time. They’re all perfect. Nothing was mentioned of any import other than congratulations.

“But the word is that they’re going to ask for the first phone conversation. You can have it anytime you need it. And also Mike Pence’s conversations, which were, I think, one or two of them. They were perfect. They were all perfect.”

The reference to “the first phone conversation” was apparently Trump pointing to a conversation with the Ukrainian leader in April, which may itself be controversial.

But I was also glad to see Trump reference Pence, because his role is of some interest, too. The vice president recently met with Zelensky in Poland, and according to the official transcript, a reporter asked Pence whether his discussion with the Ukrainian leader focused at all on Joe Biden. Pence said no, though he added soon after, “But as President Trump had me make clear, we have great concerns about issues of corruption.”

It’s become clear that when Team Trump is talking to Ukraine about “corruption,” it’s little more than a euphemism for the American president’s conspiracy theories and political agenda.

Pence went on to say at the press conference that he told Zelensky that he would “carry back to President Trump the progress that he and his administration in Ukraine are making on dealing with corruption in their country.”

All of which serves as a reminder: Donald Trump may very well be impeached, but this is a controversy with a striking cast of characters. Indeed, Pence’s possible role in the mess is of interest, but he’s hardly alone.

There are related questions about Secretary of State Mike Pompeo

Lawmakers trying to unravel the controversy over President Donald Trump’s discussions with the leader of Ukraine are increasingly homing in on exactly what role Mike Pompeo played in the drama.

… and the president’s personal attorney

Even as they publicly insist President Donald Trump did nothing wrong during his call with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy, his allies are privately acknowledging more serious concerns about the ethical questions raised and the potential political fallout from it – especially over the involvement of Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal attorney.

… and the already scandalous attorney general

The Trump administration’s release of notes documenting President Donald Trump’s conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has raised questions about Trump’s relationship with Attorney General William Barr and whether he views Barr as someone whose job includes advocating for him on personal matters.

… and the acting White House chief of staff

When Trump ordered military aid to Ukraine to be frozen, he went through his chief of staff and budget director Mick Mulvaney. Congress had passed the aid, and Ukraine was under military attack from Russia, a fact that made the halting of the assistance worrisome to numerous officials in two branches of government.

… and the unknown number of White House officials who told an intelligence community whistleblower that they witnessed the president “abuse his office for personal gain.”

To be sure, this is a Trump scandal, through and through. But as the political world experiences this earthquake, the president isn’t the only one wobbling,