The “PERFECT” Call: Congressional Representation by Tweet in the Midst of the Ukraine Whistleblower Scandal

AuthorSeth C. McKee,Heather K. Evans,Jennifer Hayes Clark
Published date01 January 2022
Date01 January 2022
Subject MatterArticles
2022, Vol. 50(1) 30 –44
American Politics Research
© The Author(s) 2021
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/1532673X211041922
Not long after the national media began reporting on the
Ukraine Whistleblower Scandal (UWS), President Trump
tweeted that the phone call at the heart of the alleged wrong-
doing was, in all capital letters, “PERFECT.” Beyond being
a curious word for describing a conversation, in hindsight it
was far from perfect; at least in the minds of the Democratic
House majority, who made their explication of an imper-
fectly transcribed copy of the call grounds for impeaching
the 45th President of the United States. In a nutshell, on July
25, 2019 President Trump called the Ukrainian President
Zelensky and (among other things) asked for a favor, which
amounted to soliciting the help of a foreign country (Ukraine)
to: (1) announce the investigation of a political rival, former
Vice President Joe Biden, and his son Hunter who served on
the board of the Ukrainian energy company Burisma and (2)
look into the possibility that (instead of Russia) the American
security firm CrowdStrike was actually in cahoots with
Ukraine in hacking Hillary Clinton’s emails in the 2016 pres-
idential election (a debunked conspiracy theory; see Gramer
& Mackinnon, 2020). In return for delivering on these
requests, the nearly $400 million in American military aid to
combat Russian aggression in Ukraine would be released
and President Zelensky would be given a highly coveted
White House meeting with President Trump.1
Three days after President Trump’s fateful call, Politico
ran a story on his action to hold up the critical military aid
to Ukraine (Emma & O’Brien, 2019). On the heels of volu-
minous early reporting on the scandal, the House of
Representatives began investigations on September 9, and
on the 18th anniversary of 9/11, President Trump lifted the
military hold. By mid-September the Democratic-led House
of Representatives was in high-gear tracking down leads to
get to the bottom of this scandal, which naturally fueled
tremendous media coverage. Indeed, given the basis of the
charges leveled against President Trump, it would have
been astounding if he managed to escape being only the
third impeached American President. Closed-door House
interviews with material and fact witnesses were followed
by nationally televised hearings with many of these same
individuals. Of course, it was a fait accompli that Democratic
Speaker Pelosi’s September 24 announcement of a formal
impeachment inquiry would ultimately end in a vote to
impeach President Trump, which happened on December
18, 2019.
APRXXX10.1177/1532673X211041922American Politics ResearchMcKee et al.
1Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, USA
2University of Virginia’s College at Wise, USA
3University of Houston, TX, USA
Corresponding Author:
Seth C. McKee, Oklahoma State University, Department of Political
Science, 220 Social Sciences and Humanities, Stillwater, OK 74078, USA.
The “PERFECT” Call: Congressional
Representation by Tweet in the Midst
of the Ukraine Whistleblower Scandal
Seth C. McKee1, Heather K. Evans2, and Jennifer Hayes Clark3
In this article we examine every tweet congresspersons sent from the time the media broke the news of President Trump’s
fateful July 2019 phone call with Ukrainian President Zelensky up to a week after House Speaker Pelosi announced a formal
impeachment inquiry. Our aim is to understand the type of rhetoric Members of Congress (MCs) engaged in with respect
to what we call the Ukraine Whistleblower Scandal (UWS). It is evident from our analysis that Democrats were more likely
to sound off on the UWS, which comports with the fact that it was a Republican President who got into trouble. Further,
there are characteristics of MCs that make them more likely to frame and discuss the UWS in certain ways, like House
Representatives holding law degrees or serving on one of the House committees investigating the UWS. Finally, in this age
of hyper-polarized parties, party affiliation was consistently the most important factor shaping representatives’ Twitter
statements on the UWS. In historical perspective, the overriding importance of party affiliation is lamentable since the
charges against President Trump were solemn and serious.
Ukraine, scandal, impeachment, Trump, polarization

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