How Donald Trump’s ‘perfect’ phone call foretold his 2020 loss

“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,” Trump told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on a call last summer. “Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it … it sounds horrible to me.”
Yes, we are back to the “perfect phone call” (in Trump’s words). The one in which Trump’s barely hidden quid pro quo — the US does a lot for Ukraine so how’s about Ukraine digs up some dirt on Biden? — led to his eventual impeachment by a Democratic-led House (and acquittal by the Republican-led US Senate).

What’s clear in that phone call is that Trump was worried about the possibility of having to face the former vice president in 2020, and wanted to bloody him up a bit (or even disqualify him) in the early days of the Democratic primary.

“It’s not an interference, they have information — I think I’d take it. If I thought there was something wrong, I’d go maybe to the FBI — if I thought there was something wrong.”

What a coincidence! Not.

Remember that Trump is the consummate cable TV addict and there’s ample evidence that he was already following the Democratic race for the chance to run against him well before the Ukraine call or his comments to Stephanopoulos.

All the way back in February 2019, The Associated Press — in a piece headlined “Trump the pundit handicaps 2020 Democratic contenders” — wrote this:

“In tweets, public remarks and private conversations, Trump is making clear he is closely following the campaign to challenge him on the ballot. Facing no serious primary opponent of his own — at least so far — Trump is establishing himself as an in-their-face observer of the Democratic Party’s nominating process — and no one will be surprised to find that he’s not being coy about weighing in.”

A month before the Zelensky call, Trump waxed political on Biden and his chances — unintentionally revealing in the process his concerns about facing off against the former VP. After referring to Biden as a “loser” who had been pulled off the “trash heap,” Trump said this:

“I’d rather run against Biden rather than anybody — I think he’s the weakest mentally. I like running against people who are weak mentally. I think Joe is the weakest up here [pointing to his head]. The other ones have much more energy.”

Uh huh.

Here’s the reality: By the time Trump talked to Zelensky in July 2019, he was well aware that a) Biden was in the race and b) polls — and most analysts — suggested the former VP was his most difficult opponent. Which is why he asked the Ukrainian president to look into debunked allegations that Biden had behaved in an untoward way in Ukraine during his time as vice president. And mentioned Biden’s son, Hunter — who, as the 2020 campaign wore on, became one of Trump’s main attacks against the Democratic nominee.

Trump knew all the way back on that “perfect” phone call what fate likely awaited him if Joe Biden wound up winning the Democratic nomination. He tried to put his hand on the scale to keep Biden from it but failed.

And then, as he undoubtedly feared even back in the summer of 2019, he watched as Biden beat him anyway.