WTF Community

Impeachment Inquiry into Trump 2019

conflicts-of-interest
russia
house-committees
trump
tax-returns

#1246

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?


(David Bythewood) #1247

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.


(David Bythewood) #1248




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.


#1249

Committees Release Ambassador Bill Taylor’s Deposition Transcript as Part of Impeachment Inquiry

https://intelligence.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=797

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.


#1250

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.


(David Bythewood) #1251





(Matt Kiser) #1252

#1253

What a great profile, this passage at the end tho :raised_hands:

As he headed to the elevator, Schiff told me a story about a sailboat ride he shared with Pelosi earlier this year, in the waters off Hyannis Port, on Cape Cod, during a Democratic fund-raising weekend. When they left the harbor, the skies were clear. But then “the clouds rolled in, and the wind picked up, and the skies darkened, and the rain started coming down,” Schiff said. “Soon we were ‘burying the rail’ ” — heeling so far to one side that the rail of the boat was underwater. The captain was worried about the stomachs and nerves of his V.I.P. passengers. “He said, ‘We can lower the sail and motor back,’ ” Schiff recalled. “And the speaker’s reaction was: ‘Yes, you could, but that would be the cowardly thing to do.’ And so the captain said, ‘Keep the sail up.’ ”

I asked Schiff if he would have preferred the safer choice of motoring back. “No,” he said. “I was loving it.”


(David Bythewood) #1254

I love this. Just had to share it.


#1255

Trump wanted Barr to hold news conference saying the president broke no laws in call with Ukrainian leader

President Trump wanted Attorney General William P. Barr to hold a news conference declaring the commander in chief had broken no laws during a phone call in which he pressed his Ukrainian counterpart to investigate a political rival, though Barr ultimately declined to do so, people familiar with the matter said.

The request from Trump traveled from the president, to other White House officials, and eventually to the Justice Department. The president has mentioned Barr’s declination to associates in recent weeks, saying he wished Barr would have held the news conference, Trump advisers say.


#1256

Wow – this is like when a surprise witness takes the stand in an episode of Law & Order. An aide to Mike Pence will likely testify tomorrow – and this wasn’t even on the radar before yesterday. The aide, Jennifer Williams, listened in on the infamous July 24th call (Pence did not). The question becomes, did she then brief him on what happened? Pence did receive a readout of the call, but he could always claim he didn’t look at that. On the other hand, if his aid testifies she filled him in on what the President told Zelensky, then it will be almost impossible for Pence deny he knew Trump was extorting Ukraine.

Will Williams’ testimony implicate Pence or help with his defense? The suspense is killing me! :hourglass_flowing_sand:

An aide to Vice President Mike Pence, Jennifer Williams, will show up for testimony on Thursday if she receives a subpoena, according to a source familiar with the matter.

Williams was on the July 25 call between President Donald Trump and Ukraine President Volodymr Zelensky. Williams was concerned about what she heard on the call but there is no indication Williams raised her concerns to her superiors, according to the source.

Justin Shur, Williams’ attorney, told CNN in a statement Wednesday night that she would answer the committee’s questions “if required to appear.”

Williams would be the first person on Pence’s national security team to appear. She has knowledge of how much the vice president knew about the efforts by Trump and those around him to push Ukraine to launch investigations into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, as well as 2016 election interference, a source familiar with her thinking told CNN.

Pence did not listen in, but a transcript of the call was put into his daily briefing binder, an administration source says.

He has repeatedly insisted that Trump did nothing wrong but Pence has not clarified how much he himself knew about efforts to pressure Ukraine and the parallel Ukraine policy that Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and others were leading outside the normal diplomatic and official channels.


(David Bythewood) #1257


This is after Don Jr. outed the whistleblower on his twitter feed, and somebody else confirmed it.

In other news:

Bolton Just Ghosted on His Impeachment Hearing

The former national security adviser didn’t show for his deposition, apparently leaving the inquiry without firsthand knowledge of what went down in Ukraine.

Bolton willing to defy White House and testify if court clears the way, according to people familiar with his views

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/bolton-willing-to-defy-white-house-and-testify-if-court-clears-the-way-according-to-people-familiar-with-his-views/2019


#1258

Groundbreaking reporting on what was happening in Zelensky’s administration as Trump’s extortion scheme unfolded

We are so fortunate to have a free press with the resources and determination to uncover the truth. The NYT has taken a deep dive into the upper echelons of the Ukrainian government to find out how they reacted as Trump was shaking them down. This is a fascinating piece – and somewhat hard to summarize, but here are some highlights. Note that everything the NYT uncovered in the Ukraine corroborates and adds to what we know about how the Trump administration was coordinating the shakedown on this side of the Atlantic.

It was early September, and Ukraine’s new president, Volodymyr Zelensky, faced an agonizing choice: whether to capitulate to President Trump’s demands to publicly announce investigations against his political enemies or to refuse, and lose desperately needed military aid.

Only Mr. Trump could unlock the aid, he had been told by two United States senators, and time was running out. If the money, nearly $400 million, were not unblocked by the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30, it could be lost in its entirety.

In a flurry of WhatsApp messages and meetings in Ukraine’s capital, Kiev, over several days, senior aides debated the point. Avoiding partisan politics in the United States had always been the first rule of Ukrainian foreign policy, but the military aid was vital to the war against Russian-backed separatist forces in eastern Ukraine, a conflict that has cost 13,000 lives since it began in 2014.

By then, however, Mr. Zelensky’s staffers were already conceding to what seemed to be the inevitable, and making plans for a public announcement about the investigations. It was a fateful decision for a fledgling president elected on an anticorruption platform that included putting an end to politically motivated investigations.

Talk about a “buried lede”! “Only Mr. Trump could unlock the aid, he had been told by two United States senators…” WTF? This casual aside contains a bombshell. Were two Senators also aiding and abetting Trump’s extortion scheme? Does the NYT know the names and will they be following up on this story?

… Elements of this internal Ukrainian debate have appeared in the Ukrainian news media and seeped into congressional testimony in the United States, as part of an impeachment inquiry undertaken after accusations surfaced of Mr. Trump’s demands.

But interviews in Kiev with government officials, lawmakers and others close to the Zelensky government have revealed new details of how high-level Ukrainian officials ultimately decided to acquiesce to President Trump’s request — and, by a stroke of luck, never had to follow through.

A tug-of-war ensued between a senior aide to Mr. Zelensky, Andriy Yermak, and another of Mr. Trump’s envoys to Ukraine, Kurt Volker, over the wording of the proposed public statement. Mr. Volker went so far as to draft a statement for Mr. Zelensky that mentioned both investigations.

Mr. Yermak pushed back, suggesting language that mentioned investigations but in general terms, so as not to antagonize the Democrats. Late in the negotiations, the American diplomats consented to dropping mention of Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election.

Even as Mr. Yermak negotiated the wording in August, the stakes were clear. While rumors had been swirling for months about a possible hold on military aid, by early August high-level Ukrainian officials had confirmed the freeze.

The trade soon became explicit. They were approached in September by Mr. Sondland, a major donor to Mr. Trump’s inauguration who had been appointed ambassador to the European Union despite having no diplomatic experience. At that point, he explained in blunt terms to Mr. Zelensky and Mr. Yermak, there was little chance the aid would be forthcoming until they made the public statement on the investigations.

Trump keeps trying to make this all about “one perfect phone call,” but the testimony in the inquiry along with this reporting of what was happening in Ukraine makes it abundantly clear that this was a big, complex scheme involving many players and detailed, extended negotiations. This extortion was orchestrated on a grand scale.

Another important point: This article makes it clear that rumors about the aid being withheld were “swirling for months” before the July 25 phone call. Trump supporters are saying Zelensky didn’t know the aid was being withheld before the call so there couldn’t possibly be a quid pro quo. That’s simply not true. We know that Zelensky at least had a pretty darn good idea the aid could be withheld – that fear and doubt is plenty ammunition to use in an extortion scheme.


Nearly all Mr. Zelensky’s top advisers favored his making the public statement, said one of the officials who participated in the debate. United States military aid, they agreed, as well as diplomatic backing for impending peace talks to end the war outweighed the risks of appearing to take sides in American politics.

But there was a lone holdout — Alexander Danyliuk, the director of the national security council. Mr. Danyliuk, who resigned in late September, told the Ukrainian news media that the Zelensky administration would now need to “correct the mistakes” in relations with the United States and “in particular their own.”

Finally bending to the White House request, Mr. Zelensky’s staff planned for him to make an announcement in an interview on Sept. 13 with Fareed Zakaria, the host of a weekly news show on CNN.

Wow – Maybe this was common knowledge, but I didn’t realize the scheme had developed to the point where a specific CNN show on a particular date had been lined up for Zelensky’s pay off to the extortion (which never happened because the lid was blown off the scheme). Has anyone seen any reporting if Zakaria has commented on this?


(David Bythewood) #1259

Two SENATORS? Who? When? Where? A deadline? WTF?
BS%20WTFph%20Meter


(David Bythewood) #1260

Could President Trump be impeached and convicted – but also reelected?


(David Bythewood) #1261

I had something on this. I didn’t see that there was a specific show, but I know there was a script, and there were talks of whether he was to do it or the newly-elected prosecutor general.

I found these and they’re new:


This is how close Trump’s plan came to working

Zelensky — who won election as an anti-corruption reformer — decided to capitulate. He’d announce the investigations in an interview with CNN on Sept. 13, Kramer said. The Ukrainians told Sondland on Sept. 8 and he shared it with Taylor.

So apparently this is breaking news and, yes, Trump was days from pulling off his grand scheme.


#1262

Is it time to dial down references to “quid pro quo,” and amp up the term “bribery”?

[Rep. Stephen Lynch of Massachusetts], a Democratic member of one of the committees leading the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump and Ukraine, said Thursday that instead of using the term “quid pro quo,” Democrats should consider describing the allegations against the President as “bribery” because the term is more accurate.

I agree with Lynch that the term “quid pro quo,” although legally accurate, will be ineffectual in removing Trump. Let’s face it, it just doesn’t sound like a serious crime. I’ve been using the term “extortion” as in “speak into the microphone or I’ll withhold military aid.” However, I’m coming around to the emerging consensus that “bribery” is the best term to use, as in “if you speak into the microphone, I’ll give you military aid.”

The strongest case for using the term “bribery” is that it’s specifically mentioned in the impeachment article in the Constitution:

Article 2, Section 4:

The President, Vice President and all civil officers of the United States, shall be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.

“Extortion” would certainly classify as a “high crime,” but I think we need to keep this really, really simple if we’re going to have any hope at all of flipping enough Trump supporters to reach a tipping point.

Also, the fact that Trump additionally offered a White House meeting in exchange for speaking into the mic, is definitely classified as a bribe.

So from now on, I’ll be using the term “bribery,” sometimes throwing in an “extortion” for good measure since, in the case of the withheld military aid, they’re two sides of the same coin – plus I like the ring of “extortion.” But to present a united front, my go to description is now “bribery”! Of course, this is all just IMO.

P.S. It’s no wonder that a Latin term like “quid pro quo” causes people’s eyes to glaze over. Imagine an orator today ending a rousing speech with “E Pluribus Unum!” – blank stares all 'round. But if the speech ended with “United We Stand!” – the crowd would burst into cheers!


#1263

:eyes:

Committees Release George Kent’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 George Kent, Deputy Assistant Secretary in the European and Eurasian Bureau at the U.S. Department of State.

The three Chairs issued the following statement announcing today’s release:

“The testimony of Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent strongly corroborates testimony from numerous other witnesses. Mr. Kent affirms that he and his colleagues recognized the impropriety of pressuring Ukrainian officials to undertake politically-motivated investigations to help President Trump’s reelection prospects in 2020.

“Mr. Kent not only affirms testimony released this week by the Committees, but he also describes his contemporaneous documentation of conversations and events. Yet, the State Department and White House continue to withhold these key documents from the Committees in defiance of duly authorized subpoenas. These actions demonstrate the President’s clear obstruction of Congress and support the inference that these documents further corroborate the testimony of presidential misconduct that we have received.

“We look forward to Mr. Kent’s public testimony.”

The testimony of Deputy Assistant Secretary Kent can be found here.

Key excerpts from Deputy Assistant Secretary Kent can be found here.


(David Bythewood) #1264

#1265

Cross-posting :pray: