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In a move on the White House lawn that has become ritualistic, President Donald Trump shouted a statement to media as a helicopter propeller whirred loudly in the background.
The statement he read—from notes written in Sharpie—became an immediate meme.
Trump said that he’d been watching Ambassador Gordon Sondland’s testimony in the impeachment hearing on whether he’d used his office to coerce Ukraine into digging up dirt on political rival Joe Biden. Trump claimed Sondland had cleared him of wrongdoing by testifying that Trump told him “I want nothing,” when asked what he wanted from Ukraine.
“I want nothing,” Trump repeated for good measure, reading from his notes. “I want no quid pro quo. That’s what I want from Ukraine. That’s what I said. I want nothing. I said it twice.”
Astute observers quickly zoomed in on Trump’s notes. “I want nothing. I want nothing. I want no quid pro quo. Tell Zellinsky [sic] to do the right thing. This is the final word from the President of the U.S.” they said.
And thus a meme was born.
When you wish upon a st..... I WANT NOTHING ! pic.twitter.com/Mbt1dj2TJ0— Kevin 'Pass The ERA' Hayden (@LucSkyward) November 20, 2019
I WANT NOTHING— Radical Proletarian ✊🏽 (@jayrq6o9) November 20, 2019
but I would like... pic.twitter.com/xUR4p3XGIc
POLICE: The getaway car driver says you wanted to rob this bank.— Michael Powell (@PAIDtriot) November 20, 2019
MOBSTER: I want Nothing. I want nothing.
MOBSTER: NO QUID PRO QUO.
MOBSTER: Tell the getaway car driver to do right thing.
MOBSTER: This is my final word. pic.twitter.com/DqbMCifPRu
Someone PLEASE do this Whitney/Donald 'I want nothing' remix, STAT https://t.co/bx9cfYdXCf— Karen Attiah (@KarenAttiah) November 20, 2019
can't believe he started his set with "i want nothing" back to back https://t.co/aV9QQca9gs— Rembert Browne (@rembert) November 20, 2019
Trump be like: “I WANT NOTHING”— Chris Johnson (@chrisjohnson82) November 20, 2019
Dems be like: “And that you will receive in abundance!” pic.twitter.com/eqVzqDkSqP
To the tune of The Backstreet Boys "I Want it That Way" 🎶Tell me why chorus:— Arlen Parsa hates war (@arlenparsa) November 20, 2019
I want nothing
(I want nothing, no quid pro quo)
(To do the righttt thingggg)
This is the
Final word from the president
Of the United Statessss
CC @LEBassett here's your karaoke version pic.twitter.com/hFTT3nz1H4
I WANT NOTHING, except Ukraine and China to investigate my political opponent--then you get rewarded.— RufusKings1776 (@RufusKings1776) November 20, 2019
Trump appears to believe that his statement just now will be “the final word from the pres of the U.S.” pic.twitter.com/gQ7J0pn8Jq— Sam Stein (@samstein) November 20, 2019
As usual, Trump’s loyal following was completely willing to take his every word as fact. Turning Point USA’s Benny Johnson earned himself a bit of a sub-roasting for referring to Trump’s notes as “receipts.”
“They can’t be receipts if you make them up yourself, you plagiarizing dumb dumb,” someone commented.
By and large, however, people were unconvinced. Susan Hennessey, Lawfare executive editor, was among those pointing out that the conversation to which Trump refers took place a day after news of the whistleblower complaint broke, on the same day that Democrats announced an inquiry into the Ukraine matter.
While some, like Hennessey, made serious points about the logical inconsistencies in Trump’s argument, most were content to dunk on him.
In this context, #IWantNothing is the rough equivalent of walking into a bank with a gun and money bag and saying— Perry Brown (@the_real_PnB) November 20, 2019
I want nothing.
I want nothing.
I am not robbing the bank.
(handing the bag to the teller and waving the gun and then saying) do the right thing.
Normally when I want nothing I write it down twice in big black marker to remind myself. https://t.co/vxfBZ3Nl4q— Neal Katyal (@neal_katyal) November 20, 2019
The mental image of Donald Trump scribbling "I WANT NOTHING / I WANT NOTHING" in huge letters on a sheet of paper with a Sharpie so that he won't forget to say "I want nothing" 45 seconds later to a gaggle of reporters is just the most dismal and embarrassing thing and I hate it— Turkbert Cransauceko (@AlbertBurneko) November 20, 2019
I WANT NOTHING— Eric Wolfson (@EricWolfson) November 20, 2019
[EXCEPT TO BE PARDONED BY PRESIDENT PELOSI] pic.twitter.com/i18xerpJtL
Trump's 'I want nothing' comment was on Sep 9, the day three Democrat-led committees launched investigations into Ukraine pressure campaign. Denial has to be read in that context.— Ben Riley-Smith (@benrileysmith) November 20, 2019
I’m preparing to talk about civic engagement for an hour tomorrow and I have less notes than this 🤣🤣🤣 (re: I WANT NOTHING) pic.twitter.com/MHZmetV8zz— ❤️ Dr. Allison Berkowitz ❤️ (@SocialWorkItOut) November 20, 2019
Sondland’s testimony continues this afternoon.
Claire Goforth is a Jacksonville, Florida-based journalist covering politics, culture, justice, and unicorns. Her work has appeared in publications ranging from regional alt-weeklies to Al Jazeera.