Helping drive the scandal that's likely to lead to Donald Trump's impeachment are two related documents. The first is a detailed call summary, released by the White House, that shows the American president pressing his Ukrainian counterpart to help with Trump's political schemes. The second is a complaint against Trump and his team, filed by a whistleblower from the U.S. intelligence community.
At least for now, Republicans don't know who the whistleblower is, but they seem to believe tearing down his/her credibility is key to protecting Trump. It led Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), for example, to insist yesterday, "The transcript does not match the complaint."
The president himself has helped spearhead the effort, arguing on Friday that the assertions in the whistleblower's complaint have "proved to be so inaccurate." Trump has since asserted, "The Whistleblower's complaint is completely different and at odds from my actual conversation with the new President of Ukraine," adding, "The Fake Whistleblower complaint is not holding up."
I can appreciate the motivation behind the offensive. The whistleblower's complaint helped light the match, which has led the White House and its allies to believe tearing down his or her credibility will snuff out the larger controversy.
The trouble, of course, is that reality keeps getting in the way. As the Associated Press noted in a fact-check piece over the weekend:
The whistleblower's accusations have not been shown to be incorrect. Several key details have actually been corroborated. For example, the White House account of the July 25 phone call showed that the whistleblower had accurately summarized the conversation, as relayed by unidentified U.S. officials, in the complaint sent to the acting director of national intelligence.
The Washington Post published a rather detailed analysis along these lines, comparing the two documents, and noting their many close similarities. "It's sounding more and more as if the whistleblower is just as credible as the intelligence community's inspector general, and a subsequent review by the Office of Legal Counsel determined him or her to be," the piece concluded.
I honestly don't know what Trump and his cohorts could say to downplay the significance of this scandal, but trying to poke holes in the whistleblower's complaint isn't working for them.