WTF Community

Day 979

(Matt Kiser) #1

1/ Trump urged President Volodymyr Zelensky to "do us a favor" and "look into" potential corruption by Joe Biden's son, according to the White House readout of the July 25th call. Trump told Zelensky he'd have Attorney General William Barr and Rudy Guiliani contact him so Ukraine could to "figure it out" and "get to the bottom of it." Trump, before asking Ukraine to investigate Biden's son, reminded Zelensky that the U.S. sends security aid to Ukraine. Trump also asked Zelensky to investigate Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election as it related to Ukraine, as well as to investigate whether he could locate a hacked Democratic National Committee computer server that contained some of Hillary Clinton's emails. After the whistlerblower complaint raising concerns about Trump's call with Zelensky, the director of national intelligence and the inspector general for the intelligence community each referred the complaint for a possible criminal investigation into Trump's actions. While there was no explicit reference to the $391 million in foreign aid that Trump directed Mick Mulvaney to block days before the call took place, the intelligence community's inspector general told the Director of National Intelligence that Trump's comments could be viewed as soliciting a foreign campaign contribution in violation of federal campaign finance laws. The Justice Department, however, concluded that it "could not make out a criminal campaign finance violation" based on the summary of the call. Officials, however, didn't take into consideration that Trump was withholding aid to Ukraine at the time. The document, which the White House and Trump refer to as a transcript, isn't verbatim – it's a "memorandum of telephone conversation" based off the "notes and recollections" of Situation Room and National Security Council officials. (New York Times / Washington Post / Wall Street Journal / Bloomberg / NBC News / Politico / NPR / CNN / ABC News / CNBC)

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

Impeachment Inquiry into Trump 2019
(David Bythewood) #2


Justice Dept. rejected investigation of Trump phone call just weeks after it began examining the matter

Justice Department officials took less than a month to abandon an inquiry into President Trump’s communications with his Ukrainian counterpart about investigating former vice president Joe Biden — reigniting concerns among Democrats and legal observers that the law enforcement agency is serving as a shield for the commander in chief.

Just weeks after intelligence leaders asked the Justice Department and FBI to consider examining a summer phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, the head of the department’s criminal division determined there was not sufficient cause even to launch an investigation, senior Justice Department officials said.

The full Trump-Ukraine timeline — as of now

Department officials and career public integrity prosecutors reviewed a rough transcript of the call and verified its authenticity, but — because a case was not opened — took no other steps, such as conducting interviews, the officials said. They looked only at whether Trump might have violated campaign finance laws, not federal corruption statutes, even though some legal analysts said there seemed to be evidence of both.



The Whistleblower’s complaint has been declassified today and available to be read by all - (see Congressional Committee Investigations into Trump 2019)

And with Acting DNI’s Maguire’s testimony today, he says he has gone to the WH first to see if he can release the Whistleblower complaint because Maguire believes it may fall under an Executive Privilege heading. But Maguire has stated that he was not told by the WH to not go ahead with the release of the Whistleblower…but was more concerned with the Office of Legal Counsel (Formerly McGahn’s office now Cipollone) with regard to Executive Privilege.

Maguire will not confirm whether he spoke to the President on this issue. (today’s testimony)

The WH lawyers are more in the spotlight…and here’s a review of who they are.

Going to the WH first - This of course is one of the most mind blowing issue - Why would anyone bring a secret whistleblower complaint to the source it is complaining about?

The White House counsel helped to identify legal obstacles to the disclosure of information that could be politically damaging to Trump. The head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel issued a classified opinion to initially block the whistleblower’s complaint from being transmitted to congressional committees that are legally entitled to receive it. The director of DOJ’s criminal division swiftly dismissed a criminal referral from the intelligence community’s inspector general that said Trump may have broken campaign finance laws by seeking dirt on Joe Biden. And Bill Barr declined to recuse himself, even though Trump invoked the attorney general at least twice during his July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Here’s a quick primer on why each of the four taxpayer-funded attorneys is in the spotlight:

Steven Engel, director of the Office of Legal Counsel:

In late August, the inspector general for the intelligence community gave to the acting director of national intelligence a whistleblower complaint alleging that unnamed White House officials had expressed concern about Trump’s call. The IG said this was credible and urgent and should be turned over to Congress. But then Joseph Maguire, the acting DNI, contacted the Justice Department to ask for guidance. Engel issued a secret memo on Sept. 3 saying that the complaint didn’t need to be turned over to congressional intelligence committee because it was outside of the DNI’s jurisdiction. Instead, he said the allegation would more properly be referred to the Justice Department as a potential criminal matter for further review. (The DOJ published yesterday an unclassified version of Engel’s legal reasoning.)

Assistant Attorney General Brian Benczkowski, head of the criminal division:

When the intelligence community IG submitted a criminal referral that said the president possibly violated campaign finance laws, it was Benczkowski who made the call within a matter of weeks that there was not enough evidence to pursue an investigation of Trump. He’s a former Senate GOP staffer who worked at the same law firm as Barr before being appointed to the job. Benczkowski’s confirmation was held up for a stretch two years ago because of his legal work for a Russian bank.

“Senior Justice Department officials defended their handling of the matter, saying that campaign finance laws required them to ‘quantify’ the value of what Trump was seeking for his campaign, and that was impossible to do with the investigations Trump had requested. They said they were examining what was referred, and the rough transcript of the call was the ‘best evidence’ to help determine what to do,” Matt Zapotosky and Devlin Barrett report. “The FBI, the officials said, deferred to the Justice Department. … They said career prosecutors agreed with the decision.”

“All relevant components of the Department agreed with his legal conclusion, and the Department has concluded the matter,” Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said in a statement.

Attorney General Bill Barr:

Justice Department officials also said that the attorney general was “generally knowledgeable” of discussions about Engel’s decision but he didn’t make the call not to move forward with the investigation.

Kupec, Barr’s spokeswoman, said in a statement: “The President has not spoken with the Attorney General about having Ukraine investigate anything relating to former Vice President Biden or his son. The President has not asked the Attorney General to contact Ukraine – on this or any other matter. The Attorney General has not communicated with Ukraine – on this or any other subject. Nor has the Attorney General discussed this matter, or anything relating to Ukraine, with Rudy Giuliani.”

She added that U.S. Attorney John Durham, who has been investigating the origins of the FBI’s probe into possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia, is “exploring the extent to which a number of countries, including Ukraine, played a role in the counterintelligence investigation directed at the Trump campaign during the 2016 election,” per Devlin, Matt, Carol Leonnig and Shane Harris.

But Democrats said Barr should have recused himself entirely. The Democratic chairman of the House Judiciary Committee called on Barr to not be involved with anything related to Ukraine and this episode. Sen. Kamala Harris, a Democratic presidential candidate and formerly California’s attorney general, demanded that Barr testify under oath before Congress as soon as possible about his role.

White House counsel Pat Cipollone:

Cipollone has been engaged in this matter since shortly after the whistleblower action surfaced, we reported last week, helping to identify legal obstacles to the sharing of information that could be politically damaging to Trump.

Three of my colleagues revealed yesterday that Maguire, the acting director of national intelligence, threatened to resign over concerns that the White House might attempt to force him to stonewall Congress when he was going to testify about the whistleblower complaint. “He has at times expressed his displeasure to [Cipollone] and others that the White House had put him in the untenable position of denying the material to Congress over a claim that it did not fall within his jurisdiction as leader of the intelligence community,” according to Greg Miller, Shane and Karoun Demirjian. “The current and former officials, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive matter, said Maguire had pushed the White House to make an explicit legal decision on whether it would assert executive privilege over the whistleblower complaint … It was unclear whether Maguire’s threat had forced the White House to acquiesce and allow him to testify without constraint. But officials said Maguire has pursued the opportunity to meet with lawmakers to defend his actions and integrity.”

Maguire denied that he ever threatened to resign, and the White House also disputed the account. After their statements were issued, Washington Post Executive Editor Martin Baron said, “We stand by the story.”

(David Bythewood) #6

The complaint:


(David Bythewood) #8

I don’t think it’s normally procedure to go TO the subject of a whistleblowing to ask if it’s okay!

(David Bythewood) #9

Another Trump deflection tactic is the claim that the Whistleblower Complaint containing second-hand information is significant.

It is not. The whole point is to investigate worrisome info.

If every complaint required an eye-witness, most would never be made to begin with.

A good article about the point I’ve been making, that this is NOT about just one phone call:

The Ukraine Scandal Is Not One Phone Call. It’s a Massive Plot.

Trump’s Ukraine Call ‘Transcript’ Proves This Is ‘Stupid Watergate’

The Trumpists release a non-transcript that is nonetheless incriminating—for the president, for his attorney general, and for Rudy Giuliani.


Crucially, the complaint describes existence of an “official word-for-word transcript of the call that was produced–as is customary–by the White House Situation Room”, while the document released by the White House states it is a “memorandum” and contains the message “CAUTION: A Memorandum of a Telephone Conversation (TELCON) is not a verbatim transcript of a discussion.”.

What the White House released as a “transcript” is not a real transcript. A real transcript exists but is currently still being kept hidden.

(David Bythewood) #11

The really major detail in the report, where these “perfect calls” had their electronic copy moved to a highest level security computer.

NOT normal procedure for ordinary calls.

Here is Trump attacking the whistleblower again for secondhand info.

There is nothing that says a whistleblower must have firsthand info.

But he also claims they have a “known bias.”

Did somebody illegally tell him who the anonymous whistleblower is?

Or is this another lie?


Trump it talking about shooting half his staff–the half that blabbed (“they used to deal with spies differently”)–as the other half, his -co-conspirators-are preparing to go to jail.

(David Bythewood) #13

Yeah, I just saw this. He’s more worried about who talked than anything else. Again.


Here’s the audio of Trump talking to a group when he says whistleblower is “close to a spy.” His words are always so abrasive, bullying and blunt lies.

He’s being painted into a corner…and he does not like it.

Speaking at a private event in New York, Trump described reporters as “scum” and raged at the Democrats’ new impeachment proceedings, which were spurred by the whistleblower’s complaint alleging that Trump tried to strong-arm Ukraine’s leader to interfere in the 2020 election.

The still-unidentified whistleblower acknowledged that he did not listen to Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky, but cited information from more than half a dozen U.S. officials over the past four months as part of “official interagency business.”

Basically, that person never saw the report, never saw the call, he never saw the call — heard something and decided that he or she, or whoever the hell they saw — they’re almost a spy,” Trump said.

“I want to know who’s the person, who’s the person who gave the whistleblower the information? Because that’s close to a spy,” he continued. “You know what we used to do in the old days when we were smart? Right? The spies and treason, we used to handle it a little differently than we do now.

(Eleanor) #15

They don’t have an emoji that shows me jumping up and down and cheering. I hope it’s not just a dream. :smiley:

(Matt Kiser) closed #16

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