If one call can change your destiny, this might be the one for President Donald Trump: After a conversation he had on July 25, heâ€™s facing a constitutional crisis the U.S. has seen only three other times in its history. Yep, weâ€™re talking about impeachment.
During the now-infamous call, Trump asked Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelensky to dig up dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden. That ask came to light after a whistle-blower filed a complaint about a potential act of treason at the Presidentâ€™s hands, which resulted in calls for impeachment from well over 170 Representatives. After a closed-door meeting between Democratic party leaders, those calls turned into real action when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi officially filed a formal impeachment inquiry of the President on Tuesday (September 24).
The day after Pelosi filed the impeachment inquiry, Trump released a memorandum of what was said during the call between himself and Zelensky. We read it, and we have some questions.
1. Why wasnâ€™t there an exact transcript?
According to the Washington Post, this is just how the White House does business. The last time the president recorded phone calls was during Richard Nixonâ€™s presidency, which led to his downfall. Now, politicians rely heavily on notetakers.
A transcript is a direct copy of a recorded call, but this memorandum isnâ€™t that: Basically, notetakers were there during the conversation and took an informal report or message of the call. That means we donâ€™t know every little thing that took place between Trump and Zelensky â€” we just know what the notetaker put down.
2. Why were there so many copy errors?Â
Incomplete sentences are expected. After all, it is a phone call, and people donâ€™t typically speak the same way they write. But misspelling Zelensky? Misusing semicolons? Typing ensure when you surely mean assure? Literally make it make sense.
3. What does Crowdstrike have to do with any of this?
Crowdstrike was a cybersecurity firm that conducted an analysis of the hack of the Democratic National Committee during the 2016 election and found that the hack was at the hands of two groups connected to the Russian government. During the call, Trump said: â€œI would like you to do us a favor though because our country has been through a lot and Ukraine knows a lot about it. I would like you to find out what happened with this whole situation with Ukraine, they say Crowdstrike.â€
Itâ€™s still pretty unclear why Trump was referencing the firm in the first place, but he went on to add: â€œI guess you have one of your wealthy peopleâ€¦ The server, they say Ukraine has it. There are a lot of things that went on, the whole situation. I think youâ€™re surrounding yourself with some of the same people.â€
4. Is Rudy Giuliani, the presidentâ€™s personal lawyer, even allowed to be involved here?
Itâ€™s not totally clear what, if anything, Giuliani did on Trumpâ€™s behalf. Zelensky first brought up Giuliani to Trump, telling him: â€œI will personally tell you that one of my assistants spoke with Mr. Giuliani just recently and we are hoping very much that Mr. Giuliani will be able to travel to Ukraine and we will meet once he comes to Ukraine.â€
Trump then complimented the former mayor of New York City and asked Zelensky to work with Giuliani to investigate Joe Biden and his son Hunter.
This is important for a few reasons: Namely that Giuliani hasnâ€™t acted like a typical presidential lawyer. Heâ€™s been Trumpâ€™s friend, surrogate, confidant, and minder. More than that, though, is that Giuliani could get in a lot of criminal trouble for this conversation since heâ€™s Trumpâ€™s personal lawyer and doesnâ€™t have governmental protections. NBC News points out that Giuliani could be in violation of the Logan Act, for attempting to intervene without authorization in disputes between the U.S. and foreign governments. Heâ€™s also slipping into the potential of some serious federal criminal bribery and extortion conspiracy, NBC News reported.
For his own part, Giuliani told Fox and Friends on Wednesday (September 25) morning that the transcript was read to him and heâ€™s pretty much cool with it.
5. What does the U.S. Attorney General William Barr have to do with all of this?
Itâ€™s unclear. What we do know is that Trump asked Zelensky to contact Barr about opening a potential corruption investigation of Biden and his son, after Trump accused the former Vice President of using his position to help a Ukranian energy company â€” the same company that was paying Hunter Biden â€” by pushing to oust a Ukranian prosecutor, according to the New York Times. Thereâ€™s currently no evidence that either Joe or Hunter did anything illegal.
â€œThereâ€™s a lot of talk about Bidenâ€™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,â€ Trump claimed. â€œBiden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution os if you could look into iotâ€¦ it sounds horrible to me.â€
But, according to the New York Times, the Justice Department said Wednesday (September 25) that Barr has never spoken with Trump about working with Ukraine to investigate the Bidens, that he had no idea Trump told Zelensky to contact him, and that he had never spoken with Giuliani about â€œanything related to Ukraine.â€
6. Who is the former ambassador they seem to dislike so much?
â€œThe former ambassador from the United States, the woman, was bad news and the people she was dealing with in Ukraine were bad news so I just want to let you know that,â€ Trump said on page 4 of the memorandum, referring to his former ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch. According to the Washington Post, Yovanovich, who was outspoken about cracking down on corruption in Ukraine, was recalled just two months before her scheduled departure date â€”Â Democrats called it a â€œpolitical hit job.â€ She had served in Republican and Democratic administrations and was the American ambassador to Ukraine for nearly three years, Foreign Policy reported.
Zelensky apparently also didnâ€™t like Yovanovich: â€œIt was great that you were the first one who told me that she was a bad ambassador because I agree with you 100 percent,â€ Zelensky said. â€œHer attitude towards me was far from the best as she admired the previous President and she was on his side.â€
7. Why all the compliments?
Trump to Zelensky: â€œCongratulations on a great victory. We all watched from the United States and you did a terrific jobâ€¦ Itâ€™s a fantastic achievement.â€
Zelensky to Trump: â€œI also wanted to tell you that we are friends. We are great friends and you Mr. President have friends in our country so we can continue our strategic partnership.â€
Zelensky to Trump: â€œWe can either take my plane and go to Ukraine or we can take your plane, which is probably much better than mine.â€
And, perhaps the most egregious of them all, Zelensky told Trump that the last time he visited New York, he â€œstayed at the Trump Tower.â€
8. Is it really, as Senator and former Trump adversary Lindsey Graham called it, a â€œnothing (non-quid pro quo) burgerâ€?
Not really. Trump may have asked Zelensky to investigate the Bidens and also the 2016 DNC email hack, but he didnâ€™t blatantly offer something in return. Even though the Trump administration had been withholding nearly $400 million in aid to Ukraine, neither Trump nor Zelensky mentioned it during the conversation.
Trump does say: â€œI would like you to do us a favor though,â€ immediately after Zelensky thanks him for being a â€œbigger partnerâ€ than the European Union. In fact, he reminds Zelensky about half a dozen times that the U.S. has been â€œvery, very good to Ukraine.â€ This is significant because Trump is known for speaking like a mob boss, and reinforcing to the Ukrainian government that Trumpâ€™s decisions, like whether or not to assist the country, could be tied to how well they treat each other. Itâ€™s suggestive, to say the least, that Trump talks about how great the U.S. is to Ukraine as he asks the Ukranian government to perform an investigation on his behalf.
9. Does this exonerate Trump?
Zelensky signs off saying: â€œI also want to ensure you that we will be very serious about the case and will work on the investigation.â€
The Bidens have yet to release a statement about the phone call or impeachment proceedings.
Janelle Monáe Leads The Revolution In Stirring ‘Turntables’ Video
YouTube “We are in the middle of a revolution right? What’s a revolution without a song and a song without a revolution.” That’s the question the Grammy-winning artist Janelle Monáe posed to Entertainment Weekly when describing her latest single, “Turntables.” The song was released on and flips between cleverly rapped lines about “liberation, elevation, education” and a harmonic…
“We are in the middle of a revolution right? What’s a revolution without a song and a song without a revolution.”
That’s the question the Grammy-winning artist Janelle Monáe posed to Entertainment Weekly when describing her latest single, “Turntables.” The song was released on and flips between cleverly rapped lines about “liberation, elevation, education” and a harmonic refrain with clear gospel influences. It’s Monáe’s take on a contemporary protest song, a call for a political sea change, in the vein of, say, Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit” or Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power.”
Courtesy of Atlantic RecordsAnd on Tuesday (September), Monáe released a moving music video — or, as she calls it, an emotion picture — that solidified that message. The visual opens and closes with the singer walking along the beach in a beige trench coat and military cap. At times, she can be seen singing into a retro microphone before an American flag; in others, she moves through staged breakfast scenes, with a family reading through newspaper headlines as they mouth her lyrics. The visual flashes through archival and contemporary footage depicting inspirational figures past and present: Where one scene shows the model and activist Jillian Mercado at a photo shoot, another depicts a conversation with lifelong activist Angela Davis.
What rings true without is a hopeful cry for change and for equality, and a recognition of those who have been leading that fight for decades. Monáe wrote “Turntables” for the new Amazon Studios documentary, All In: The Fight for Democracy, that shines a light on voter suppression, particularly through the lens of Stacey Abrams’s failed bid for the Georgia governorship. “Right now, I am focused on turning the election in our favor,” Monáe told Entertainment Weekly, “and I hope this song can inspire those who are on the ground doing the work.”
Joe Keery’s Reinvention, Mxmtoon’s Carly Rae Jepsen Collab, And More Songs We Love
Getty Images/April Blum The search for the ever-elusive “bop” is difficult. Playlists and streaming-service recommendations can only do so much. They often leave a lingering question: Are these songs really good, or are they just new? Enter Bop Shop, a hand-picked selection of songs from the MTV News team. This weekly collection doesn’t discriminate by…
Getty Images/April Blum
The search for the ever-elusive “bop” is difficult. Playlists and streaming-service recommendations can only do so much. They often leave a lingering question: Are these songs really good, or are they just new?
Enter Bop Shop, a hand-picked selection of songs from the MTV News team. This weekly collection doesn’t discriminate by genre and can include anything — it’s a snapshot of what’s on our minds and what sounds good. We’ll keep it fresh with the latest music, but expect a few oldies (but goodies) every once in a while, too. Get ready: The Bop Shop is now open for business.
St. Vincent ft. Yoshiki: “New York”
St. Vincent, the intuitive musical goddess that she is, must have sensed our collective need for another quarantine ballad. Enter “New York [Feat. Yoshiki],” a classical arrangement of the standout single from 2017’s Masseduction. An added string section courtesy of Yoshiki, a Japanese multi-instrumentalist, beautifully complements the song’s original piano instrumentals. What more can I say? “New York isn’t New York / Without you, love” just hits different in the middle of a pandemic. —Sam Manzella
Djo: “Keep Your Head Up”
Last year, Joe Keery (of Stranger Things fame) released a glossy solo album under the moniker Djo. It was titled Twenty Twenty, and its sparkling arrangements ended up being quite far removed from the overall vibe of 2020 the year, but who could fault him for his optimism? Keery has also long been a contributing member of Chicago psych band Post Animal, but Djo is simply Joe — and latest “Keep Your Head Up” feels like several Joes ripping open a vortex in the funk-time continuum. This is a groove, peppered with buzzy synths and icy falsetto and an honest-to-god sax part. It’s akin to Todd Terje doing Tame Impala, a lightheaded cocktail rush that feels both clubby and bedroom ambitious. Positively galactic. —Patrick Hosken
Mxmtoon ft. Carly Rae Jepsen: “OK On Your Own”
When Mxmtoon’s Maia said she recorded “OK On Your Own” for the girls and the gays, she wasn’t kidding. The mellow bedroom-pop bop soundtracks a journey of self-reflection after a breakup, complete with the soft ukulele instrumentals that put the 19-year-old singer-songwriter on the map. Is it revelatory? No, but with pop icon Carly Rae Jepsen lending her sugary-sweet vocals to the second verse, it doesn’t have to be. Now I’m just waiting for “Party for Two.” —Sam Manzella
Video Age: “Aerostar”
Pleasure Line, the third album from emerging indie pop quartet Video Age, delivers perfectly escapist ’80s new wave vibes for when you need to get outta 2020 for just a moment. “Aerostar” is its punchy center, a hip-twisting, shoulder-shuffling groove that delivers quirky robot dance commands (“Slide to the left, now! Shimmy to the right!”) over hoppin’ funk synths and a kickin’ drum machine. It all harkens to a simpler time, one where dance floors were actually a real thing. Oh, the ’80s! —Terron Moore
Ruel: “As Long As You Care”
About a year ago, Australian middle-part heartthrob Ruel told MTV News that for him, “songwriting is exaggerating to an extent.” On his latest, the technicolor, soulful “As Long As You Care,” his exaggeration is so seamless, you’d be forgiven for believing the 17-year-old is actually a time traveler. The neo-soul groove he rides propels everything upward, even as the sound cheekily looks backward. “As Long As You Care” has one amazing hook, coupled with sonic candy that makes his upcoming third EP, Bright Lights, Red Eyes (out October 23) one to watch. —Patrick Hosken
Alycia Bella ft. Boogie: “Cue the Sun”
Something magical happens two-and-a-half minutes into “Cue the Sun,” the exploratory new collab between striking R&B voice Alycia Bella and rapper Boogie. After piping in the aural equivalent of stage smoke via jazzy piano and gorgeous vocalizations — “It feel like being lost in the right direction” — Bella’s song enters a more sparkly realm for Boogie’s recitations. By the end, you’re lighter, like your mind’s been cleared of all the cobwebs. Cue the sun. —Patrick Hosken
Carly Rae Jepsen
Michael Love Michael’s XO Is A Service To Their Queer Ancestors
Ross Days It can be tempting, as a writer, to compartmentalize, to define by a set of fixed words or parameters. Pinpoint the detail about your subject that most interests you — an unexpected gesture, a prime soundbite pulled from an interview — and flesh it out into a full story. But in the case…
It can be tempting, as a writer, to compartmentalize, to define by a set of fixed words or parameters. Pinpoint the detail about your subject that most interests you — an unexpected gesture, a prime soundbite pulled from an interview — and flesh it out into a full story. But in the case of the New York-based artist Michael Love Michael, who last month self-released their debut album XO, it’s simply not possible, in part because they do so much.
As the former culture editor at Paper magazine, the 32-year-old “Cancer-Leo cusp,” who grew up between Chicago and Gary, Indiana, crafted celebrated profiles of such disparate musicians as Paramore’s Hayley Williams and cyborg sensation Poppy, while also serving up weekly playlists packed with the best bops from Megan Thee Stallion, Yves Tumor, and beyond. One day, it seemed they were stomping a runway in New York in a leather tank top and a cherry pout for the queer designer Willie Norris; the next, they were escaping to a farm to study permaculture at an undisclosed location “out West.”
XO, by design, rejects easy categorization. The collection, which was produced in under a year in collaboration with Michael’s longtime creative partner Rich Dasilva, fluctuates dramatically between glittering power-pop — as on the synth-heavy “6 Jaguars,” which dissolves at the bridge into a biting rap (“They call me bitch if they don’t like me… Does that tell you who I’m voting for, honey?”) — and lush, emotional ballads. Michael’s voice boasts a similarly wide range, whether as a groaning whisper in a spoken-sung segment closing “The Hatred,” or as a looping, crystalline falsetto as they perform as their own backup singer on “Blueberry.”
Their first comprehensive artistic statement, Michael tells MTV News, was intended to dispel any notion of essentialization, particularly as a Black, nonbinary artist making their mark in the industry (in June, they left Paper, citing its treatment of its Black staffers). “I think Black, queer people can sometimes just be lumped together in sort of this really offensive, monolithic way, and it’s just a way of me saying that I have multitudes,” they say. “I am a very tender, spiritual, sensitive person. And I’m also fierce.”
Ross DaysMTV News: Did you record XO while you were on the farm, or was that all done before?
Michael: I basically worked on it from April until late July, so there was part of it that was finished here, but most of it was done during quarantine in New York, four or five tracks. I started recording my vocals on my iPhone and my computer, and I’m really happy with how it all turned out, because, at least in my opinion, none of it sounds like it was done at home. It has a uniformity, and it sounds kind of expansive in a lot of ways.
MTV News: I really connected with the song “Blueberry,” and there was this sound on it that reminded me almost of a dulcimer, though I couldn’t quite make it out. Given that much of it was produced at home, was there a lot of live instrumentation on this?
Michael: So there’s acoustic guitar, there’s whistling, there are actual finger snaps, and then the rest is electronic. So then there’s kind of the 808 bass drone and there’s that sound, which is like a fake electronic guitar. But I’m glad you like “Blueberry.” “Blueberry” is very, very sweet and comes from a sad place.
MTV News: Would you tell me about it?
Michael: OK, so “Blueberry” is about an unrequited love. When I was a teenager, I had this really intense crush on this guy who was closeted and involved with this girl as a way to kind of conceal, as we all do when we’re going through that journey. But we always had a connection, and it was very kind of the teenage lust kind of factor. And then, after high school, he went to the Iraq War and died.
There are lines about going off to war but also being brave and being who you are. There’s this line about purple hearts beating wild with red, red blood — the idea of a Purple Heart for bravery, while also referencing the bravery it requires to be out as yourself. There’s also the idea that both of us are sacrificing something, my jealousy and my self-reflection, and the blueberry gates became a place I would go in my mind when I would think of him. I wanted to find a way to talk about having a closeted relationship full of young lust and love, and to speak about what’s involved when two people sacrifice parts of themselves to make things work that can’t work, ultimately.
MTV News: What are some other songs on the album that feel special for you?
Michael: This is almost like my second coming out, as an artist and sharing my music with everybody. Even though I’ve been making music since I was 16, I’ve never actually had the courage until now to release anything. “XO” is my favorite track, because that’s the thesis of the project. It’s about overcoming some of my own personal demons to love myself enough to realize I had something to share and something to say, like a love letter to a damaged former self.
“Mother’s Day” is another one that I really love, because it’s kind of strange and cryptic. This one is more about people’s relationship to all things maternal, how you have to be a reciprocal give-and-take dynamic with whatever those things are, whether that’s the earth, someone you look up to who is a femme person or a mother figure. It has echoes of my own relationship with my mother and my grandmother. There’s a line about planting a garden — “Every Mother’s Day, I plant a garden for you / Every Mother’s Day, I water your flowers that bloom” — and that was something I used to do for my grandmother as a kid.
MTV News: Do you have a good relationship with your mom and your grandmother?
Michael: With my grandmother, yes. With my mother, that’s something that’s very much in process. It’s a tricky song. It’s really complex, obviously. But I love it for that reason, and I love that I feel like I’m learning how to be really good at writing about things that are personal broader and nuanced ways. I can be descriptive and I can also not be descriptive, and all of it’s intentional. It kind of reminds me of a St. Vincent, Brian Eno vibe. It feels kind of stompy, crunchy, stadium rock or something.
MTV News: What made now feel like a good time to release an album and share this project?
Michael: It was something that I didn’t intend to happen. I was happy with just having some demo recordings and maybe an EP released on SoundCloud, and then I had friends who really encouraged me to think bigger. Also, I had my own aspirations that I buried because I was trying to be realistic and I was trying to hold down full-time jobs and I was trying to be sort of a traditional careerist, and it’s just like, no bitch. Don’t dull your own shine, don’t gaslight yourself just because society gaslights you.
And so, that’s what kind of really motivated me to kind of come out with it all, and I just feel really grateful for the ability to have unlocked this avenue of creativity. Even for this to happening, for us to be talking about my album for MTV is fucking cool. Everything is luxury now, I just get so excited about everything else because creativity begets more creativity. So I don’t take any of it for granted, it’s so fucking cool.
MTV News: Yeah, I can really relate with feeling vulnerable in sharing something creative.
Michael: This is an exercise in proving something to myself. I really do believe, if you see something missing and you have the capacity to provide or be that missing link, then do that. If you feel empowered and you feel like you can and you have the resources and the energy, do that. Where queer voices are sort of becoming less and less marginalized, people want to hear what it is we have to say. Remember that there are so many people who fought and died for so much of the freedom that I and many of us take for granted. Part of being a person with a voice and sharing it is also being in service to your ancestors who came before you.
MTV News: In listening to XO as a whole, there are songs that are very soft and almost indie-leaning in a way, and then you also have these songs that are very fierce and very hard. I wondered what your intention was, or were you expressing different sides of yourself?
Michael: Well, I love that you picked up on the contrast, because that was the exact point. I definitely wanted to present duality. It’s an introduction to me as a musician and, hopefully, if there ever were any expectations, it surprises, maybe it shocks. Maybe it’s exactly what people expect — I have no fucking idea. I called it XO because I thought of X-O as sort of an expression of contrast, because it’s like hugs and kisses are sort of opposite things, but then so is the idea of being open and being closed.
I think Black, queer people can sometimes just be lumped together in sort of this really offensive, monolithic way, and it’s just a way saying that I have multitudes. I’m a complex, fully realized human being. So it was important for me to show a hard edge and a softer, gentler side, because at the end of the day, I am a very tender, spiritual, sensitive person, and I’m also fierce. The Cancer-Leo cusp is really that, it’s very that.