When does this madness end? There was Donald Trump again, pandering for the cameras and microphones Thursday, this time to ask another foreign country, China, to interfere in an American election.
"China should start an investigation into the Bidens," Trump said as he left the White House to travel to Florida.
Trump's suggestion that China to investigate his top Democratic presidential opponent Joe Biden and his son Hunter's business dealings in Ukraine in 2014 came as the first witness appeared on Capitol Hill to be interviewed by House investigators. That interview is part of an impeachment inquiry into the president's telephoned request in July for similar help from Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
Trump claims to see nothing wrong in this, and says his call with Zelensky was "perfect."
In another wild disconnect, Trump keeps bashing House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff, D-California, for Schiff's characterization of Trump's call to Zelenskyy.
Schiff should resign, Trump tweeted in one of about 20 outbursts about the man heading up Trump's impeachment inquiry "for the Crime of, after reading a transcript of my conversation with the President of Ukraine (it was perfect), fraudulently fabricating a statement of the President of the United States and reading it to Congress, as though mine!"
Trump called Schiff's characterization "treason." Trump does tend, after all, to project his own actions and failings onto those he attacks.
For starters, here's how Schiff in his opening statement characterized the Trump/Zelenskyy summary transcript released by the White House:
"Well, it reads like a classic organized crime shakedown. Shorn of its rambling character and in not so many words, this is the essence of what the president communicates:
"We've been very good to your country. Very good. No other country has done as much as we have. But you know what? I don't see much reciprocity here. I hear what you want. I have a favor I want from you, though. And I'm going to say this only seven times, so you better listen good. I want you to make up dirt on my political opponent, understand? Lots of it. On this and on that. I'm going to put you in touch with people, not just any people. I'm going to put you in touch with the attorney general of the United States, my attorney general Bill Barr. He's got the whole weight of the American law enforcement behind him. And I'm going to put you in touch with Rudy. You're going to love him, trust me. You know what I'm asking and so I'm only going to say this a few more times, in a few more ways. And by the way, don't call me again. I'll call you when you've done what I asked.
"This is, in sum and character, what the president was trying to communicate with the president of Ukraine. It would be funny if it wasn't such a graphic betrayal of the president's oath of office. But as it does represent a real betrayal, there's nothing the president says here that is in America's interest, after all."
Compare Schiff's characterization with these actual excerpts from the summary transcript released by the White House.
Trump: "The United States has been very very good to Ukraine. I wouldn't say that it's reciprocal necessarily because things are happening that are not good but the United States has been very very good to Ukraine."
And after Zelenskyy says Ukraine is ready to "cooperate" with the U.S. in order to receive military aid, Trump says: "I would like you to do us a favor though There's a lot of talk about Biden's son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the Attorney General would be great. Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it "
Trump also said plainly that he would put Zelensky in touch with Attorney General William Barr and his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, to assist with the effort. Trump mentioned Giuliani to Zelensky four times, and Barr five times.
And from the readout, Trump says: "Well, thank you very much and I appreciate that. I will tell Rudy and Attorney General Barr to call."
Trump is right about the call being "perfect." It's just not perfect in the way Trump thinks, contends Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin. "We have Trump's words doing what no president can be permitted to do — namely, invite foreign interference in our election."
And think about it, folks. Thursday marks the third such Trump ask that we know of (and we're not counting the globetrotting efforts of Giuliani and others to dig up dirt on the origins of the Mueller probe).
The first time, Trump asked for Russia's help — while on TV in an 2016 campaign clip. His aides and supporters said he was joking. Russia didn't think so.
The second time Trump was on that July phone call in the Oval Office while aides listened and took notes — aides who knew he'd put a hold on the Congress allocated funds to help Ukraine keep Russia from seizing more of its country.
The third time, Thursday, the president was on the White House lawn speaking into the cameras and microphones of reporters.
Our president, Donald Trump, has repeatedly tried to entice foreign powers to provide opposition research that he believes will help him get reelected.
If this isn't a violation of his oath and a betrayal of our democracy and of voters, what is?