New DOJ memo says executive branch witnesses must be allowed to bring lawyers to testimony
The Justice Department said attempts by impeachment investigatorsto compel testimony from executive branch witnesses about President Donald Trump’s dealings with Ukraine are “legally invalid” unless they allow for the witnesses to bring a government lawyer.
The guidance, from the DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel, amounts to a new legal reasoning that the White House and other agencies can use to stymie House depositions after Democrats curtailed the previous legal argument that the House wasn’t in a formal impeachment inquiry with a vote last week. The memo is certain to anger Democrats as it furthers a strategy of non-cooperation from the White House in the inquiry, and once again puts the Justice Department in the position of blocking the President from further scrutiny.
Impeachment investigators had so far benefited from several depositions from current and former national security officials about the Ukraine saga, but in recent days, a number of current and former government witnesses, including former national security adviser John Bolton and a top national security aide to Vice President Mike Pence, have all skipped out on scheduled depositions.
In the memo, OLC lawyers write that the President, who has not been asked or subpoenaed to testify, must be allowed to have a representative present in depositions to be able to protect privileged information from disclosure. The House Intelligence Committee, which is leading the ongoing investigation, has so far only allowed witnesses to appear for depositions with personal counsel.
The five-page memo appears limited in scope but potentially sets up a future fight over the impeachment investigators’ ability to pierce the administration’s shield of executive privilege, which could block witnesses from providing valuable information about Trump’s direct involvement in the case.
OLC attorneys cite a DC Circuit court opinion comparing an impeachment inquiry with a grand jury investigation in a criminal probe, setting up the need to meet a high threshold to overcome the protections of the privilege.
The administration’s new legal memo is untested in court. Witnesses are not permitted to bring lawyers into criminal grand juries, and federal courts have generally not allowed administration blocking attempts to stand in the way of criminal investigators or of Congress’ needs during impeachment proceedings. As recently as last month, a federal judge told the administration it couldn’t block the House’s pursuit of confidential grand jury information sought for the impeachment proceedings, for example.
Interesting article about this all.
We knew this was coming, right?
Trump floats new defense: The quid pro quo didn’t happen, but if it did, so what?
Committees Release Sondland and Volker Transcripts as Part of Impeachment Inquiry
Today, Rep. Adam B. Schiff, the Chairman of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Rep. Eliot L. Engel, the Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, and Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, the Acting Chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, released the transcripts of Gordon Sondland, the U.S. Ambassador to the European Union, and Kurt Volker, the former United States Representative for Ukraine Negotiations.
The Committees also released additional text messages previously produced by Ambassador Volker that provide context to the transcripts and new information relevant to the inquiry.
The three Chairs issued the following statement announcing today’s releases:
“The testimony of Ambassadors Volker and Sondland shows the progression of efforts by the President and his agent, Rudy Giuliani, to use the State Department to press Ukraine to announce investigations beneficial to the President’s personal and political interests.
“As early as May 2019, President Trump directed the Ambassadors to work with Giuliani on Ukraine policy, and over the course of the summer, an effort was made to extract a public statement from the new Ukrainian president that the Ukrainian government was investigating Burisma or the Biden family and a debunked conspiracy theory about the 2016 U.S. elections.
“It is clear from their testimony that, in exchange for the statement, President Trump would award the Ukrainian president with a highly coveted White House meeting and, later, with millions of dollars in critical military aid being withheld. Ambassador Sondland called this changing U.S. policy toward Ukraine a ‘continuum’ that became ever more ‘insidious’ over time.
“Finally, with the release of the full production of text messages provided to the Committees by Ambassador Volker, and an additional declaration by Ambassador Sondland, the President’s scheme comes into clearer focus.
“In an effort to prevent further incriminating information from coming to light, the State Department is continuing to obstruct our investigation by refusing to provide subpoenaed records, including additional text messages provided to the Department by Ambassador Sondland. This blanket stonewalling will only continue to build the case against the President for obstruction of Congress, especially in light of the damning evidentiary record the Committees have already gathered.”
The testimony of Ambassador Sondland can be found here, including an addendum he filed on November 4, 2019.
Key excerpts from Ambassador Sondland’s testimony can be found here.
The testimony of Ambassador Volker can be found here.
Key excerpts from Ambassador Volker’s testimony can be found here.
In addition, the Committees released all additional Volker text messages received by the Committees, which can be found here.
Key excerpts from these additional text messages can be found here.
The Committees first released excerpts of text messages produced by Ambassador Volker on October 2, 2019, which can be found here.
Sondland Updates Impeachment Testimony, Describing Ukraine Quid Pro Quo
A critical witness in the impeachment inquiry offered Congress substantial new testimony this week, revealing that he told a top Ukrainian official that the country likely would not receive American military aid unless it publicly committed to investigations President Trump wanted.
The disclosure from Gordon D. Sondland, the United States ambassador to the European Union, in four new pages of sworn testimony released on Tuesday, confirmed his involvement in essentially laying out a quid pro quo to Ukraine that he had previously not acknowledged.
The testimony offered several major new details beyond the account he gave the inquiry in a 10-hour interview last month. Mr. Sondland provided a more robust description of his own role in alerting the Ukrainians that they needed to go along with investigative requests being demanded by the president’s personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani. By early September, Mr. Sondland said, he had become convinced that military aid and a White House meeting were conditioned on Ukraine committing to those investigations.
Summary of Impeachment Inquiry into Trump 2019
October 28th - November 5th
- US House Committee Repository Calendar
- Congress.gov Calendars and Schedules
- Washington Post’s Impeachment Calendar
- 10/28/19 Army Officer Who Heard Trump’s Ukraine Call Reported Concerns
- 10/28/19 White House Brings Lessons of Mueller Investigation to Impeachment Response
- 10/28/19 Judge kicks newest impeachment lawsuit into high gear
- 10/29/19 House committees have asked Mulvaney aide Rob Blair for testimony
- 10/29/19 Trumpworld’s New Impeachment Defense: Smear Iraq War Hero As A Spy
- 10/29/19 ‘Extremely disturbing’: Top Dems alarmed over Vindman’s testimony on Trump-Ukraine call
- 10/29/19 House Judiciary Committee says it has ‘urgent’ need for Mueller grand jury docs
- 10/29/18 Democrats Unveil Proposed Rules for Public Impeachment Proceedings
- 10/29/19 Trump ‘Shall Be Invited’ to House Hearings: Impeachment Update
- 10/28/19 Army Officer Who Heard Trump’s Ukraine Call Reported Concerns
- 10/29/18 Vindman offers a firsthand account of critical episodes in alleged quid pro quo
- 10/29/19 NSC official testifies Trump undermined national security with Ukraine pressure
- 10/29/19 Parties Spar Over White House Aide in Combative Impeachment Hearing
- 10/29/19 Meet Alexander Vindman, the Colonel Who Testified on Trump’s Phone Call
- 10/29/19 Vindman offers a firsthand account of critical episodes in alleged quid pro quo
- 10/29/19 ‘Extremely disturbing’: Top Democrats alarmed over Vindman’s testimony on Trump-Ukraine call
- 10/29/19 Trump allies attack loyalty of impeachment inquiry witness because he was born in Ukraine
- 10/29/19 After Vindman’s Testimony Went Public, Right-Wing Conspiracies Fired Up
- 10/29/19 Internal White House debate stifles release of Pence-Zelenskiy call
- 10/29/19 Trump Attorneys Assert Immunity From Broad Sweep of Law
- 10/29/19 White House Ukraine Expert Sought to Correct Transcript of Trump Call
- 10/30/19 Former G.O.P. Lawmaker Pressed for Ambassador’s Ouster, Diplomat Says
- 10/30/19 Trump’s Russia Director To Leave National Security Council Amid Impeachment Inquiry
- 10/30/19 Testimony from career diplomats outlines Trump’s dark view of Ukraine
- 10/30/19 State Department official to testify that John Bolton warned about influence of Rudy Giuliani on Ukraine
- 10/30/19 State Dept. officials offer new details about Trump’s shadow diplomacy with Ukraine
- 10/30/19 House committees seek testimony from former national security adviser John Bolton in impeachment inquiry
- 10/30/19 House Committees Seek Bolton’s Testimony in Impeachment Inquiry
- 10/30/19 Testimony: Nunes acolyte misrepresented himself to Trump as Ukraine expert
- 10/30/19 John Bolton Is Summoned to Testify in Trump Impeachment Inquiry
- 10/30/19 Source: Bill Taylor will ‘fulfill his duty’ if asked to testify in impeachment probe
- 10/30/19 The Latest: Bolton won’t testify without subpoena
- 10/30/19 White House lawyer moved transcript of Trump call to classified server after Ukraine adviser raised alarms
- 10/31/19 Lawyer indicates Bolton won’t testify in impeachment probe
- 10/31/19 A Divided House Endorses Impeachment Inquiry Into Trump
- 10/31/19 A divided House backs impeachment probe of Trump
- 10/31/19 House Passes Impeachment Resolution on Stark Partisan Lines
- 10/31/19 As Impeachment Inquiry Moves Into Open Phase, Here’s What To Expect Next
- 10/31/19 Trump lures GOP senators on impeachment with cold cash
- 10/31/19 Court’s December detour could place some impeachment witnesses out of Democrats’ reach
- 10/31/19 These are the two Democrats who voted ‘no’ on the impeachment inquiry resolution
- 10/31/19 The full Trump-Ukraine timeline
- 10/31/19 Trump invites Republican senators for lunch and makes his case against impeachment
- 10/31/19 White House official corroborates diplomat’s account that Trump appeared to seek quid pro quo
- 10/31/19 Top NSC Russia official confirms key testimony linking Trump to quid pro quo
- 10/31/19 White House Aide Confirms He Saw Signs of a Quid Pro Quo on Ukraine
- 10/31/19 White House Official Says He Heard Ukraine Aid Was Tied to Biden Probe
- 10/31/19 Back-to-back court hearings could set tone for impeachment inquiry
- 10/31/19 Judge chides DOJ for trying to block star Mueller witness testimony
- 10/31/19 John Bolton’s former deputy asks judge to resolve conflicting demands for House impeachment testimony
- 10/31/19 Latest Impeachment Witness: I Wasn’t Worried That Trump Broke the Law With Call
- 11/01/19 Pelosi Expects Public Impeachment Hearings to Begin This Month
- 11/01/19 White House official who heard Trump’s call with Ukraine leader testified that he was told to keep quiet
- 11/01/19 Testimony: White House lawyer told Vindman not to discuss Ukraine call
- 11/01/19 Trump may read summary of Ukraine call in ‘fireside chat’: interview
- 11/01/19 Trump says he would be willing to do ‘fireside chat’ reading the Zelensky transcript
- 11/01/19 As Trump moves to bully witnesses and derail impeachment, Democrats see obstruction
- 11/01/19 Americans sharply divided over whether to impeach and remove Trump from office, Post-ABC poll finds
- 11/01/19 Growing number of GOP senators consider acknowledging Trump’s quid pro quo on Ukraine
- 11/01/19 Top White House official tried to find out if ambassador went rogue or acted at Trump’s direction on Ukraine
- 11/01/19 ‘It’s like nothing we have come across before’: UK intelligence officials shaken by Trump administration’s requests for help with counter-impeachment inquiry
- 11/01/19 House subpoenas White House lawyer, other official to testify Monday
- 11/02/19 Internal Mueller documents show Trump campaign chief pushed unproven theory Ukraine hacked Democrats
- 11/02/19 Here’s The First Batch of Memos From Robert Mueller’s Russia Inquiry
- 11/03/19 Mueller interview notes obtained by CNN show Trump’s push for stolen emails
- 11/03/19 Top aide to White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney refuses to testify before House impeachment inquiry
- 11/03/19 Mulvaney allies to try to stonewall Democrats’ impeachment inquiry, officials say
- 11/03/19 NBC/WSJ poll: 49 percent now back Trump’s impeachment and removal
- 11/03/19 Fox News Poll: 49 percent favor impeaching Trump
- 11/03/19 Whistleblower willing to answer Republicans’ questions in impeachment probe, lawyer says
- 11/03/19 Whistleblower willing to answer questions from House GOP, attorney says
- 11/03/19 ‘We’ll see what happens’: Trump refuses to rule out government shutdown if Democrats continue impeachment inquiry
- 11/03/19 Amid impeachment drive, the pro-Trump search for dirt on Ukraine and the Bidens goes on
- 11/04/19 The 6 public confirmations of a quid pro quo between Trump and Ukraine
- 11/04/19 All four White House officials scheduled for House inquiry depositions Monday won’t testify
- 11/04/19 White House officials spurn demand to testify in impeachment probe
- 11/04/19 Committees Release Testimony Of Yovanovitch And Mckinley As Part Of New Public Phase Of Impeachment Inquiry
- 11/04/19 House Democrats Release Transcripts of Yovanovitch, McKinley Impeachment Testimony
- 11/04/19 Ousted Ukraine ambassador Yovanovitch says she was told to tweet praise of Trump to save her job
- 11/04/19 Ex-Ukraine Ambassador Testified She Felt Threatened by Trump
- 11/04/19 Impeachment deposition: Pompeo and other State leaders ignored pleas to help ambassador amid Giuliani campaign
- 11/04/19 Impeachment Inquiry Transcripts: Excerpts and Analysis
- 11/04/19 Trump signals alarm as Democrats’ public impeachment push accelerates
- 11/04/19 Exclusive: Giuliani associate now willing to comply with Trump impeachment inquiry - lawyer
- 11/04/19 Republicans Seek to Swamp Democratic Offices With Anti-Impeachment Calls
- 11/04/19 Republicans consider moving Jim Jordan to House Intelligence Committee
- 11/05/19 Pompeo Faces Political Peril and Diplomats’ Revolt in Impeachment Inquiry
- 11/05/19 New DOJ memo says executive branch witnesses must be allowed to bring lawyers to testimony
- 11/05/19 Committees Release Sondland and Volker Transcripts as Part of Impeachment Inquiry
- 11/05/19 Sondland Updates Impeachment Testimony, Describing Ukraine Quid Pro Quo
- 10/29/19 Full text of the House resolution on Trump impeachment process
- 10/28/19 Lt. Col. Alexander S. Vindman, European affairs director at the National Security Council Prepared remarks
- 11/04/19 The testimony of former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie “Masha” Yovanovitch from October 11, 2019 can be found here . Key excerpts from Yovanovitch’s testimony can be found here
- 11/04/19 The testimony of former Senior Advisor to the Secretary of State Ambassador P. Michael McKinley from October 16, 2019 can be found here. Key excerpts from McKinley’s testimony can be found here
- 11/05/19 The testimony of Ambassador Sondland can be found here 1, including an addendum he filed on November 4, 2019.
- 11/05/19 Key excerpts from Ambassador Sondland’s testimony can be found here 1.
- 11/05/19 The testimony of Ambassador Volker can be found here.
- 11/05/19 Key excerpts from Ambassador Volker’s testimony can be found here 1.
- 11/05/19 In addition, the Committees released all additional Volker text messages received by the Committees, which can be found here 1.
- 11/05/19 Key excerpts from these additional text messages can be found here 1.
- 11/05/19 The Committees first released excerpts of text messages produced by Ambassador Volker on October 2, 2019, which can be found here 1.
Closed Door Hearing:
- 10/04/19 Appeared - Michael Atkinson, the inspector general of the intelligence community
Closed Door Depositions:
- 10/03/19 Appeared - Kurt Volker, a former Trump administration envoy to Ukraine
- 10/07/19 Blocked - George P. Kent, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State
- 10/08/19 Blocked - Gordon Sondland, the ambassador to the European Union
- 10/08/19 Blocked - T. Ulrich Brechbuhl, State Department counselor
- 10/10/19 Requested more time - Lev Parnas, an associate of Trump lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani
- 10/11/19 Testified - Ambassador Marie “Masha” Yovanovitch, who was removed from Ukraine by the Trump administration.
- 10/11/19 Requested more time - Igor Fruman, an associate of Rudolph W. Giuliani
- 10/14/19 Cooperating - Semyon “Sam” Kislin, an associate of Trump attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani
- 10/14/19 Appeared - Fiona Hill, the former National Security Council Russia adviser
- 10/15/19 Appeared - George P. Kent, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State
- 10/16/19 Appeared - Michael McKinley, former senior adviser to Secretary of State Michael Pompeo
- 10/17/19 Appeared - Gordon Sondland, the ambassador to the European Union
- 10/18/19 Rescheduled - Laura Cooper, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense
- 10/22/19 Appeared - William “Bill” Taylor, State Department official
- 10/23/19 Appeared - Laura Cooper, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense
- 10/23/19 Postponed - Philip Reeker, the acting assistant secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs
- 10/23/19 Blocked - Michael Duffey, associate director for national security programs at the White House Office of Management and Budget
Note: All depositions for Oct. 24 and 25 have been postponed due to services for the late former House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.
- 10/24/19 Postponed - Alexander Vindman, the National Security Council director for European Affairs and an expert on Ukraine
- 10/24/19 Postponed - Kathryn Wheelbarger, the acting assistant secretary for international security affairs
- 10/25/19 Postponed - Suriya Jayanti, a foreign service officer stationed in Kyiv who specialized in energy issues
- 10/25/19 Refused - Russell Vought, White House Office of Management and Budget acting director
- 10/26/19 Appeared - Philip Reeker, the acting assistant secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs
- 10/28/19 Refused/filed a lawsuit - Charles Kupperman, former Deputy National Security Adviser to John Bolton
- 10/29/19 Appeared - Lt. Col. Alexander S. Vindman, European affairs director at the National Security Council
- 10/30/19 Appeared - Catherine Croft, State Department Ukraine expert
- 10/30/19 Appeared - Christopher Anderson, State Department Ukraine expert
- 10/30/19 - Refused - Kathryn Wheelbarger, the acting assistant secretary for international security affairs
- 10/31/19 Appeared - Timothy Morrison, the former senior director for Russian affairs at the National Security Council
- 10/04/19 Refused - Robert Blair, a senior adviser to acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney
- 10/04/19 Refused - Brian McCormack, director of natural resources, energy and science at the White House Office of Management and Budget
- 10/04/19 Blocked - John Eisenberg, National Security Council lawyer
- 10/04/19 Refused - Michael Ellis, National Security Council lawyer
Full House Sessions:
Timeline has been updated. Breaking news starts below.
I remember when “changing testimony” used to be called “admitted to perjury”.
Sondland changes testimony, acknowledges delivering quid pro quo message to Ukraine
Sondland has revised his testimony to include a new 4 page sworn statement that admits there was a quid pro quo, that Pence was aware of the arrangements and that he was a key player in getting Ukraine to play ball.
The big smoking gun:
Pence didn’t just know, he helped.
Sondland reverses himself on Ukraine, confirming quid pro quo
In his supplemental testimony, Sondland said he initially believed the public declarations for new investigations could be made by Ukraine’s top prosecutor, but said he later “came to understand that, in fact, the public statement would need to come directly from President Zelensky himself.”
Just three days before Sondland’s conversation with Yermak in Warsaw, on August 28, POLITICO first revealed that the military aid had been frozen.
The transcripts released by impeachment investigators on Tuesday were accompanied by a tranche of text messages chronicling communications among Sondland and two other senior diplomats involved in the Ukraine controversy — Volker and William Taylor.
In one exchange, Volker sent Yermak the precise language that the U.S. wanted Zelensky to use when he announced Trump’s preferred investigations.
“Special attention should be paid to the problem of interference in the political processes of the United States, especially with the alleged involvement of some Ukrainian politicians,” Zelensky was to say. “I want to declare that this is unacceptable. We intend to initiate and complete a transparent and unbiased investigation of all available facts and episodes, including those involving Burisma and the 2016 U.S. elections, which in turn will prevent the recurrence of this problem in the future.”
Sondland said he “always believed that suspending aid to Ukraine was ill-advised,” and although he claims he did not know why the military assistance was initially suspended, Sondland said he later “presumed” that the aid “had become linked to the proposed anti-corruption statement.”
After two days of no-shows, David Hale appeared on Capitol Hill to testify. More transcripts may also be released.
Rep. Adam B. Schiff, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, just announced the first public hearings in the inquiry.
Here’s what you need to know:
- House Committees will hold the first public hearings in the impeachment inquiry next week.
- A State Dept. official began testifying this morning, the first administration official who appeared as scheduled this week.
- The lawyer for one key witness disputes another’s account of coffee and cordial chats.
- Trump liked what he read in Kurt Volker’s transcript.
- From Tuesday: House Democrats released revised testimony from Sondland and summoned Mulvaney to appear.
- Catch up on impeachment: What you need to know
House Committees will hold the first public hearings in the impeachment inquiry next week.
House Democrats will begin convening public impeachment hearings next week, they announced on Wednesday, initially calling three marquee witnesses to begin making a case for President Trump’s impeachment in public.
The hearings will kick off on Wednesday, with testimony from William B. Taylor Jr., the top American envoy in Ukraine, and George Kent, a top State Department official, said Representative Adam B. Schiff, Democrat of California and the chairman of the Intelligence Committee. On Friday, Mr. Schiff’s committee will hear from Marie L. Yovanovitch, the former American ambassador to Ukraine, he said.
All three witnesses have already spoken privately with investigators.
House Intelligence Committee Announces First Week of Open Hearings With William Taylor, George Kent and Marie Yovanovitch
Today, Chairman Adam Schiff announced that on Wednesday, November 13, 2019, and Friday, November 15, 2019 the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence will hold its first open hearings as part of the impeachment inquiry into President Donald J. Trump.
On Wednesday, November 13, 2019, the Committee will hear from Ambassador William Taylor and Deputy Assistant Secretary George Kent. Taylor currently serves as the Chargé D’affaires for the U.S. State Department in Ukraine. Kent serves as Deputy Assistant Secretary in the European and Eurasian Bureau at the U.S. Department of State.
On Friday, November 15, 2019, the Committee will hear from former Ambassador Marie “Masha” Yovanovitch. Until May 2019, Yovanovitch served as the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine.
This just in…the hearings begin next week, per House Intelligence Chair Adam Schiff
In a previous post above, @Pet_Proletariat linked to this breaking news along with images of Sondland’s revised testimony (which is a bombshell of cataclysmic proportions). I’m posting the testimony again here because someone at CNBC has now converted the images to text so it’s easier to read.
… In the addendum, Sondland admits that he told a top Ukraine official that hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid to Ukraine — which had been withheld without clear explanation at the time from the Trump administration — would likely not be delivered until Ukraine agreed to make a “public anti-corruption statement” that had been under discussion.
Read the update to Sondland’s testimony below:
[Bold highlights are mine - @Keaton_James]
DECLARATION OF AMBASSADOR GORDON D. SONDLAND
I, Gordon Sondland, do hereby swear and affirm as follows:
I have reviewed the October 22, 2019, opening statement of Ambassador William Taylor. I have also reviewed the October 31, 2019, opening statement of Tim Morrison. These two opening statements have refreshed my recollection about certain conversations in early September 2019.
Ambassador Taylor recalls that I told Mr. Morrison in early September 2019 that the resumption of U.S. aid to Ukraine had become tied to a public statement to be issued by Ukraine agreeing to investigate Burisma. Ambassador Taylor recalls that Mr. Morrison told Ambassador Taylor that I told Mr. Morrison that I had conveyed this message to Mr. Yermak on September 1, 2019, in connection with Vice President Pence’s visit to Warsaw and a meeting with President Zelensky. Mr. Morrison recalls that I said to him in early September that resumption of U.S. aid to Ukraine might be conditioned on a public statement reopening the Burisma investigation.
In my October 17, 2019 prepared testimony and in my deposition, I made clear that I had understood sometime after our May 23, 2019, White House debriefing that scheduling a White House visit for President Zelensky was conditioned upon President Zelensky’s agreement to make a public anti-corruption statement. This condition had been communicated by Rudy Giuliani, with whom President Trump directed Ambassador Volker, Secretary Perry, and me, on May 23, 2019, to discuss issues related to the President’s concerns about Ukraine. Ambassador Volker, Secretary Perry, and I understood that satisfying Mr. Giuliani was a condition for scheduling the White House visit, which we all strongly believed to be in the mutual interest of the United States and Ukraine.
With respect to the September 1, 2019, Warsaw meeting, the conversations described in Ambassador Taylor’s and Mr. Morrison’s opening statements have refreshed my recollection about conversations involving the suspension of U.S. aid, which had become public only days earlier. I always believed that suspending aid to Ukraine was ill-advised, although I did not know (and still do not know) when, why, or by whom the aid was suspended. However; by the beginning of September 2019, and in the absence of any credible explanation for the suspension of aid, I presumed that the aid suspension had become linked to the proposed anti-corruption statement. As I said in my prepared testimony, security aid to Ukraine was in our vital national interest and should not have been delayed for any reason. And it would have been natural for me to have voiced what I had presumed to Ambassador Taylor, Senator Johnson, the Ukrainians, and Mr. Morrison.
Also, I now do recall a conversation on September 1, 2019, in Warsaw with Mr. Yermak. This brief pull-aside conversation followed the larger meeting involving Vice President Pence and President Zelensky, in which President Zelensky had raised the issue of the suspension of U.S. aid to Ukraine directly with Vice President Pence. After that large meeting, I now recall speaking individually with Mr. Yermak, where I said that resumption of U.S. aid would likely not occur until Ukraine provided the public anti-corruption statement that we had been discussing for many weeks. I also recall some question as to whether the public statement could come from the newly appointed Ukrainian Prosecutor General, rather than from President Zelensky directly.
Soon thereafter, I came to understand that, in fact, the public statement would need to come directly from President Zelensky himself. I do not specifically recall how I learned this, but I believe that the information may have come either from Mr. Giuliani or from Ambassador Volker, who may have discussed this with Mr. Giuliani. In a later conversation with Ambassador Taylor, I told him that I had been mistaken about whether a public statement could come from the Prosecutor General; I had come to understand that the public statement would have to come from President Zelensky himself.
Finally, as of this writing, I cannot specifically recall if I had one or two phone calls with President Trump in the September 6-9 time frame. Despite repeated requests to the White House and the State Department, I have not been granted access to all of the phone records, and I would like to review those phone records, along with any notes and other documents that may exist, to determine if I can provide more complete testimony to assist Congress. However, although I have no specific recollection of phone calls during this period with Ambassador Taylor or Mr. Morrison, I have no reason to question the substance of their recollection about my September 1 conversation with Mr. Yermak.
I declare under penalty of perjury that the aforementioned is true.
Executed on November 4, 2019.
What does Sondland’s revised testimony tell us?
Sondland perjured himself during his original testimony. IMHO, the House Intelligence community should make an immediate criminal referral. There is no reason to simply let him off the hook. If he wants to strike a deal to tell more of what he knows, that’s up to the committee, but the only reason for Sondland to strike such a deal is if he is living under the cloud of a possible prison term – which is entirely justified, based on his flagrant perjury.
There were definitely, positively, absolutely two quid pro quos. We can say this because now Sondland, one of the people executing the crimes, has admitted to it and his admission is backed up by the previous testimony of other witnesses (e.g., Taylor and Morrison).
The first quid pro quo was in the from of a bribe: Mr. Zelensky, you can have a meeting with Trump if you smear Trump’s opponent by announcing an investigation.
The second quid pro quo was in the form of an extortion: Mr. Zelensky, we will withhold military aid until you smear Trump’s opponent by announcing an investigation.
Possibly three quid pro quos, as Ukraine backing off on the Mueller investigation seems to be the original one, and I wonder now if it wasn’t their trial run, their proof that they could get more.
Ah, yes! Forgot about that one. The alleged original quid pro quo (the “dress rehearsal” for these two most recent quid pro quos) was first exposed by the NYT (post above). Recently, Rachel Maddow further developed the damning allegations (post above).
Senate Republicans consider including Bidens in Trump impeachment trial
Senate Republicans are privately debating whether they should use an impeachment trial of President Trump to scrutinize former vice president Joe Biden and his son Hunter as some Trump allies push to call them as witnesses while others dismiss the suggestion as a risky political ploy.
The ongoing discussions are a revealing glimpse into the fault lines in the GOP ahead of a possible trial of Trump in the Senate, where there are varying appetites among Republicans for the type of political combat relished by the president and his most ardent defenders.
Among a group of Trump’s allies inside and outside Congress, there is intense and growing interest in countering the House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry by delving into Hunter Biden’s business dealings in Ukraine and China. Because his father was vice president at the time, these allies think it could be a way to explain why Trump pressed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in a July 25 phone call to “look into” the Bidens, who have denied any wrongdoing.
That effort gained steam on Capitol Hill last week at a private lunch where Republican Sens. Rand Paul (Ky.) and John Neely Kennedy (La.) raised the idea of summoning Hunter Biden, said two people familiar with the exchange who, like others in this article, spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly. Paul took his private push public at a campaign rally with the president Monday night in Kentucky.
“I say this to my fellow colleagues in Congress, to every Republican in Washington: Step up and subpoena Hunter Biden and subpoena the whistleblower!” Paul told the crowd, also referring to the unnamed intelligence official who first raised alarms about the president’s Ukraine conduct.
Yet many Senate Republicans have reservations about such a strategy, fearing that it would look overtly political and that it may not be appropriate, or even possible, to include such witnesses in an impeachment trial. A Senate GOP leadership aide, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, played down the idea, arguing that it was not under serious discussion and that “it’s way too early to speculate on what witnesses will appear in a Senate trial.”
Republicans are considering calling Vice President Joe Biden, the former Senator from Delaware and Hunter Biden, his only living son as a witnesses in President’s Trump’s Impeachment Trial?
Wtf, ok I have soooo many thoughts! Too many to share.
How do you justify including them in the witness list when they didn’t witness anything?
They’re literally going to try to use the impeachment inquiry to do the thing Trump is being impeached for, or one of the things. Wow.
Thanks to Rand Paul, Russian Media Are Naming the Alleged Whistleblower
Outing “the whistleblower” is the most egregious, but certainly not the only, example of Kremlin-funded media cheerleading the fight against impeachment. They love “their” Trump.
As if on cue, the Kremlin-controlled heavy hitters—TASS, RT, Rossiya-1—disseminated the same information. But unlike Rand Paul, one of the Russian state media outlets didn’t seem to find the source—Real Clear Investigations—to be particularly impressive, and claimed falsely that the material was published originally by The Washington Post.
This was the most egregious, but certainly not the only example of Kremlin-funded media cheerleading for Trump’s fight against impeachment as proceedings against him unfold with growing speed. As a chorus of talking heads on Fox News have picked up on Trump’s talking points, which is predictable—they’ve also been echoed across the pond, albeit with a tinge of irony.
Committees Release Ambassador Bill Taylor’s Deposition Transcript as Part of Impeachment Inquiry
Today, Rep. Adam B. Schiff, the Chairman of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Rep. Eliot L. Engel, the Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, and Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, the Acting Chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, released the transcript from the joint deposition of Ambassador William Taylor, Chargé d’Affaires Ad Interim For U.S. Embassy in Kyiv, Ukraine.
The three Chairs issued the following statement announcing today’s release:
“The testimony of Ambassador Taylor—a West Point graduate, Vietnam veteran, and nonpartisan diplomat—shows how President Trump withheld military aid to Ukraine and conditioned its release, as well as a vital White House meeting, on the President of Ukraine publicly announcing investigations into debunked conspiracy theories involving the Bidens and the 2016 election.
“Ambassador Taylor’s testimony lays bare how this shadow foreign policy channel pursued by the President’s agent, Rudy Giuliani, with the assistance of Ambassadors Sondland and Volker, placed immense pressure on the Ukrainian government to accomplish the President’s goal. Ambassador Taylor makes clear why this military aid and continued bipartisan support for Ukraine are so critically important—and why these efforts to undermine U.S. foreign policy for domestic political reasons were so damaging. We look forward to his public testimony.”
The testimony of Ambassador Taylor can be found here.
Key excerpts from Ambassador Taylor’s testimony can be found here.
3 big takeaways from Bill Taylor’s full transcript
Below are some takeaways from Taylor’s full testimony.
1. A second quid pro quo?
The quid pro quo that we knew Taylor had explicitly outlined was one involving military aid; he said he had been told that Sondland told the Ukrainian official that the investigations Trump wanted would need to be announced for the aid to go through.
But in his further testimony, he also indicates he was told in some slightly less-certain terms that there was a quid pro quo involving a meeting with Trump. Taylor hinted at this in his opening statement, but he clarified it in his testimony:
Q: On page 5 of your testimony, in the third paragraph, you say: “But during my subsequent communications with Ambassador [Kurt] Volker and Sondland, they relayed to me that the President, quote, “wanted to hear from Zelensky,” unquote, “before scheduling the meeting in the Oval Office. It was not clear to me what this meant.” Now, I take it, ambassador, you used that word “before” deliberately – that is, they wanted to hear from Zelensky before they would schedule this meeting. Is that right?
A: That is correct.
Taylor says elsewhere in his testimony that he didn’t know the full details at the time, but that he came to understand that the condition was that Ukraine would announced certain investigations, including one involving the company that employed Joe Biden’s son Hunter.
“By mid-July, it was becoming clear to me that the meeting President Zelensky wanted was conditioned on investigations of Burisma and alleged Ukrainian influence in the 2016 elections,” Taylor said in his opening statement. “It was also clear that this condition was driven by the irregular policy channel I had come to understand was guided by Mr. Giuliani.”
2. He points the finger at Giuliani, not at Trump personally
I wrote earlier Wednesday about how the testimonies of Volker and Sondland appears to be pointing in the direction of Republicans laying all this at the feet of Trump’s lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani. The two of them suggested they never had an explicit quid pro quo conveyed to them, and Sondland said he instead just “presumed” one was in place. What’s more, they both indicated Giuliani’s actions were problematic, if not illegal.
And Taylor’s testimony also stops short of directly implicating Trump. Taylor indicates the quid pro quo was coming from Giuliani and said he didn’t know if Trump was behind it.
REP. LEE ZELDIN (R-N.Y.): So where was this condition coming from if you’re not sure if it was coming from the President?
TAYLOR: I think it was coming from Mr. Giuliani.
ZELDIN: But not from the president?
TAYLOR: I don’t know.
That doesn’t mean Trump wasn’t involved; indeed, someone like Taylor would have a difficult time knowing that, given he wasn’t central to this effort. (He didn’t even get read in on Trump’s July 25 call with Ukraine’s president, for instance.) But it’s significant that he stops short of saying he could trace this to Trump.
3. Taylor is going to be a very important witness next week
Taylor is one of two witnesses slated for the first public hearing of the impeachment inquiry next week, along with George Kent. And his testimony on Nov. 13 is looming larger than ever.
Volker and Sondland have shown that they aren’t terribly interested in blowing the lid off the Ukraine scandal, with Volker denying knowledge of a quid pro quo and Sondland only disclosing his after others implicated him (he issued a clarification to his testimony on Monday).
Taylor, by contrast, seemed to come into the job wary of the Giuliani set-up, and he describes a process of gradually having his worst fears confirmed. He also says he has “always kept careful notes, and I keep a little notebook where I take notes on conversations, in particular when I’m not in the office.”
Those notes could prove crucial, as could Taylor’s willingness to say things that other political appointees are warier of.