Typically, accused criminals don’t plead for jurors to look at incriminating evidence. It is as though Richard Nixon had staged a listening party for the “smoking gun” tape (If the tape squarely implicates me, that’s because I like it square), or as though Bill Clinton had decided to put that honeyed drawl to work with a dramatic reading of the Starr Report.
Yet there is a counterintuitive logic to Trump’s line of attack. The evidence in the impeachment inquiry is, though easier to parse than Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report, still somewhat confusing, and its reception has become heavily polarized. One easily legible sign that Trump did something wrong is that his administration rushed to cover up the July 25 call after it happened. Republicans have a choice ahead of them: Support impeachment, which seems unlikely; admit that Trump did something wrong, but say that it isn’t worthy of impeachment; or deny that Trump did anything wrong. By inviting the nation to read the transcript, the president seems to be signaling that he has nothing to be ashamed of, and trying to push Republicans toward door No. 3.