“I was wondering if someone would ask that,” deputy chief of staff Alexander Butterfield said. “There is a tape in the Oval Office.” It was Friday, the 13th of July, 1973. By that time some of the Senate Watergate Committee staff had already heard rumours that conversations in Nixon’s Oval Office were taped, but they didn’t know for sure. So they asked Butterfield directly. His answer, told to them in private, would later stun the world.
Butterfield admitted that, while he had hoped that no one would ask about the taping system, he had decided he would disclose its existence if asked a direct question. Luckily, somebody thought to ask the question. It was a pivotal moment in history and, it might be argued, from that moment Richard Nixon’s downfall became inevitable.
So when California Congressman John Garamendi asked (rhetorically) CNN’s Kate Bolduan, “Where is the full transcript, that is, the actual voice transcript of the call of the president’s call to the president of Ukraine? Where is it? Well, it’s in a secret server in the White House. All of that information should be presented at the [president’s impeachment] trial in the Senate.” Bolduan replied, “So you’re saying that there’s a recording of the call? Like a physical audio recording of the call, I’m understanding you right?” Garamendi said, “I do not have evidence of that, but that would be a question that I would think that the Senate would want to know.”
But there is evidence of that. We know this because Mick Mulvaney told us as much. Many of you may recall that an alert Palmer Report reader, Joshua Vandamm, messaged me on the 18th of October with an excerpt from the transcript of the previous day’s White House presser with Mick Mulvaney. Toward the end of the presser, Mulvaney said, “Let me ask you this: If we wanted to cover this up, would we have called the Department of Justice almost immediately and have them look at the transcript of the tape?” (Italics added.)
Now, that is not proof that there is a tape of the original call. Mulvaney may have easily misspoken. It is the bugbear of every conspiracy theorist in history that no one ever misspeaks, but in practical everyday life we know that is not so. Nevertheless, Mulvaney did say it, and the fact that no one appears to have noticed it, never mind that they haven’t followed up on it, is astounding.
Instead Republicans misdirect us with whines of faux victimhood, such as Canada’s broadcast of “Home Alone 2,” and how two years before Trump announced his candidacy for president and one year before Justin Trudeau became prime minister of Canada, Trudeau managed to have Trump’s cameo in that Christmas movie deleted. Wouldn’t it be great if, instead, someone ignored all that nonsense and asked a simple question: “if Trump’s phone call was so ‘perfect,’ why don’t you provide us with the original audio recording?” The transcript of the original call isn’t even a real transcript, it’s a summary of a paraphrase. That’s not a transcript, that’s a joke. And if the call really was “perfect” then a braggart like Trump would want the world to hear it verbatim. Unless, of course, he has something to hide. In fact, while they are at it, Republicans could turn over the contents of the top secret server all the data pertaining to the “perfect” call was stored on. Apparently they put it on a top secret server because, perfect or not, for some reason they didn’t want anyone to hear it.
The Republicans have kept all that hidden and, like Alexander Butterfield, they hope no one will ask the question, in public or otherwise. The beauty of the question is it’s a no-win for the Republicans. If they refuse to hand over the contents of the server and the presumed tape of the “perfect” call then it will suggest they have something to hide. If they destroy the contents of the server, that would be felony destruction of evidence. If they turn over the contents of the server then the chips, as they say, will fall where they may. If it exonerates Trump and they’re really serious about getting all this impeachment nonsense out of the way and getting back to the business of serving the American people, then now is their chance.
Whatever the case, Nancy Pelosi needs to ask the question, is there a tape of the conversation and, if so, why won’t you release it? So I put it to her: Madame Speaker, with all due respect, ask the question!
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.