WTF Community

Impeachment Inquiry into Trump 2019

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

(David Bythewood) #1607

What they’re failing to note is that support may not be growing but it’s not ebbing either, which the GOP is claiming left and right.


#1608

Some testimony from Don McGahn might change their minds. His was the most colorful in the Mueller Report. :smirk:


(David Bythewood) #1609

Trump is still engaged in another illegal withholding of aid.

Whether this turns out like the Kurdish ethnic cleansing, the Ukraine debacle, or both, remains to be seen:








(David Bythewood) #1610

Ukraine did not meddle in US vote, says Zelensky

GOP senator John Kennedy backtracks on Ukraine hacking claim: ‘I was wrong’

Former Chess Champion Garry Kasparov Says Tucker Carlson Is a ‘buffoon’ Over Ukraine Conflict Comments

Tucker Carlson Says He’s Rooting for Russia in Conflict With Ukraine, Then Claims He’s ‘Joking’

The Fox News host said he was “serious” when he initially insisted he was rooting for Russia, only to walk it back at the end of the show.

A wealthy Venezuelan hosted Giuliani as he pursued Ukraine campaign. Then Giuliani lobbied the Justice Department on his behalf.


On this last one, it’s Rudy working with yet ANOTHER rich and powerful oligarch, exchanging favors for supposed preferential treatment from DC.

Mike Pompeo pours fertilizer on Trump’s invasive Ukraine conspiracy theory


(David Bythewood) #1611

BIG boom.

Trump administration officially put hold on Ukraine aid same day as Trump call

The Office of Management and Budget’s first official action to withhold $250 million in Pentagon aid to Ukraine came on the evening of July 25, the same day President Donald Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky spoke on the phone, according to a House Budget Committee summary of the office’s documents.

That withholding letter, which was among documents provided to the committee, was signed by a career OMB official, the summary states. But the next month, OMB political appointee Michael Duffey signed letters taking over the decision to withhold both the Pentagon and State Department aid to Ukraine from the career official.

A hold was placed on the Ukraine aid at the beginning of July, and the agencies were notified at a July 18 meeting that it had been frozen at the direction of the President, a week before the Trump-Zelensky call.

The career official who initially withheld the aid money was Mark Sandy, according to a source familiar with the matter. Sandy testified before House impeachment investigators in a closed-door deposition, while Duffey defied a subpoena.

The documents to the House Budget Committee provide additional insight into the actions going on inside the White House’s budget office to hold up the US aid to Ukraine, a key part of the House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry. The committee only received a partial production of documents, which are separate from the impeachment inquiry, and it’s unclear what the significance is that the money was officially withheld on the same day as the July 25 call.

Asked about the information, an OMB spokesman said, “OMB has and will continue to use its apportionment authority to ensure taxpayer dollars are properly spent consistent with the President’s priorities and with the law. This is the same old spin from Democrats.”

Trump spoke to Zelensky the morning of July 25 around 9 a.m. ET. Laura Cooper, the deputy assistant secretary of Defense for Russian, Ukrainian, and Eurasian affairs, testified before Congress that that afternoon there were three interactions from her staff on that indicate the Ukrainian government was aware there was an issue with US aid to the country.

An email from the State Department that Cooper said came through at 2:31 p.m. ET said the “Ukrainian embassy and House foreign affairs committee are asking about security assistance.”

Another email from the State Department at 4:25 p.m. ET that day said: “The Hill knows about the FMF (foreign military financing) situation to an extent and so does the Ukrainian embassy.”

“A member of my staff got a question from a Ukraine embassy contact asking what was going on with Ukraine security assistance,” Cooper said.

OMB issued several short-term withholdings of the Ukraine aid in August and September. Some of the aid money was released September 11, the summary says, and the remainder of the funds were released on September 27 and September 30, which is the last day of the fiscal year.

The letters from Duffey show that on August 9, OMB said it would begin releasing 2% of the State Department funds each day, which the committee says prevented the normal spending of those funds.

Then on August 29, one day after Politico first reported that the aid had been withheld, Duffey signed another letter releasing 25% of the State Department funds each Sunday between September 1 and 22, according to the summary.


#1612

White House Invited to Participate in Impeachment Hearing Next Week

The House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday invited President Trump’s legal team to participate in its first public impeachment hearing next week, when lawmakers plan to convene a panel of constitutional scholars to inform the panel’s debate over whether the president’s actions amount to “high crimes and misdemeanors.”

The Judiciary Committee scheduled the hearing, “The Impeachment Inquiry into President Donald J. Trump: Constitutional Grounds for Presidential Impeachment,” for Dec. 4. Democratic officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity ahead of a formal announcement, did not say who the panel will invite as witnesses, but they said it would feature legal experts who could speak about constitutional precedent and the history of impeachment.

Representative Jerrold Nadler, Democrat of New York and the Judiciary Committee chairman, wrote a letter to the White House on Tuesday notifying him of the hearing and offering his lawyers a chance to question the witnesses.

The initial hearing will likely take place around the same time that the committee receives a written report from the House Intelligence Committee summarizing the findings of its two-month investigation into a pressure campaign on Ukraine by Mr. Trump. The committee is expected to use that report and other, earlier evidence of possible misconduct by the president to draft articles of impeachment in the coming weeks.

Letter to White House from Chairman Nadler


#1613

A few explanations on SCOTUS’ decision to hear T’s appeal about the Tax returns for Mazars…now scheduled for a Dec 13th review.

Appeal from T’s lawyers to the Supreme Court


#1614

Committees Release Sandy, Reeker and Other Transcripts As Part of Impeachment Inquiry

https://intelligence.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=872

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 Chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, released the transcripts from joint depositions of Deputy Associate Director for National Security Programs at the Office of Management and Budget Mark Sandy and Acting Assistant Secretary of State in the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs Philip Reeker. In addition, the Committees released the transcripts from depositions of witnesses under subpoena who failed to comply.

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

“The testimonies from Ambassador Reeker and Mr. Sandy continue to paint a portrait of hand-picked political appointees corrupting the official levers of U.S. government power, including by withholding taxpayer funded military assistance to Ukraine, to further the President’s own personal political agenda.

“Mr. Sandy confirmed that he was told by the office of Mick Mulvaney, the Acting White House Chief of Staff, that the President himself had directed the hold on security assistance to Ukraine. However, he was provided no other reason or justification for the hold when he was directed to implement it. And in fact, after he raised concerns with OMB leadership and lawyers that the withholding of funding for Ukraine may violate the law, his authority for approving security assistance funding was revoked and given instead to a hand-picked Trump OMB political appointee.

“Finally, we learned from Mr. Sandy that he was first informed in early September—approximately two months after the hold was implemented—that the reason for the hold was due to concerns regarding European countries not paying their fair share of foreign assistance. Given other testimony and the public admission by Mr. Mulvaney that the aid was held to pressure Ukraine to conduct the investigations desired by the President, this constitutes powerful evidence that this justification was concocted as an after-the-fact rationalization to justify the hold.”

The testimony of Mr. Sandy can be found here. Key excerpts of Mr. Sandy’s testimony can be found here.

The testimony of Mr. Reeker can be found here. Key excerpts of Mr. Reeker’s testimony can be found here.

The transcript of the deposition of Dr. Charles Kupperman on October 28, 2019, who failed to comply with the subpoena, can be found here.

The transcript of the deposition of Mr. Brian McCormack on November 4, 2019, who failed to comply with the subpoena, can be found here.

The transcript of the deposition of Mr. Robert Blair on November 4, 2019, who failed to comply with the subpoena, can be found here.

The transcript of the deposition of Mr. John Eisenberg on November 4, 2019, who failed to comply with the subpoena, can be found here.

The transcript of the deposition of Mr. Michael Ellis on November 4, 2019, who failed to comply with the subpoena, can be found here.

The transcript of the deposition of Mr. Michael Duffey on November 5, 2019, who failed to comply with the subpoena, can be found here.

The transcript of the deposition of Mr. Preston Wells Griffith on November 5, 2019, who failed to comply with the subpoena, can be found here.

The transcript of the deposition of Mr. T. Ulrich Brechbuhl and Mr. Russell Vought on November 6, 2019, who failed to comply with the subpoena, can be found here.

The transcript of the deposition of Mr. John Michael “Mick” Mulvaney on November 8, 2019, who failed to comply with the subpoena, can be found here.


#1615

:boom:

President Trump had already been briefed on a whistle-blower’s complaint about his dealings with Ukraine when he unfroze military aid for the country in September, according to two people familiar with the matter.

Lawyers from the White House counsel’s office told Mr. Trump in late August about the complaint, explaining that they were trying to determine whether they were legally required to give it to Congress, the people said.

The revelation could shed light on Mr. Trump’s thinking at two critical points under scrutiny by impeachment investigators: his decision in early September to release $391 million in security assistance to Ukraine and his denial to a key ambassador around the same time that there was a “quid pro quo” with Kyiv. Mr. Trump used the phrase before it had entered the public lexicon in the Ukraine affair.

Trump is so nailed. I don’t see how a single Republican member of Congress can continue to support him – yet they all do. Beyond shameful.


#1616

Two officials at the White House Office of Management and Budget recently resigned in part over concerns about the holdup on Ukraine aid, a career employee of the agency told impeachment investigators, according to a transcript of his testimony released Tuesday.

Mark Sandy, the only OMB official to testify in the impeachment inquiry, did not name the employees in question. He said one worked in the OMB legal division and described that person as having a “dissenting opinion” about how the security assistance to Ukraine could be held up in light of the Impoundment Control Act, which limits the ability of the executive branch to change spending decisions made by Congress.

Sandy, the agency’s deputy associate director for national security programs, testified on Nov. 16, and his remarks revealed some of the White House’s internal maneuverings relating to blocking the aid. Other White House officials, including Sandy’s superiors at the budget office who are political appointees, have defied congressional subpoenas to participate in the House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry.

Sandy was asked specifically about whether the official who worked in the OMB’s legal office quit “at least in part because of their concerns or frustrations about the hold on Ukraine security assistance.” Sandy replied, “Yes, in terms of that process, in part.”

He said the other official, who resigned in September, “expressed some frustrations about not understanding the reason for the hold.”


#1617

Public support for impeaching President Donald Trump has tracked steadily higher over the past few weeks while a U.S. House of Representatives committee held a series of televised impeachment hearings, according to a Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll released on Tuesday.

The latest poll, conducted on Monday and Tuesday, found that 47% of adults in the United States felt Trump “should be impeached,” while 40% said he should not.

The result, combined with Reuters/Ipsos polling over the past several weeks, showed that the number of Americans who want to impeach the president increasingly outnumbers those who do not.

Just before the hearings started on Nov. 13, the Reuters/Ipsos poll found that “net support” for impeachment, which is the difference between the number who support impeachment and the number who oppose, was 3 percentage points.

That increased to 4 points after the first week of hearings, and then to 5 points as the second week of hearings started. The latest poll shows that net support for impeachment is now at 7 points.


(David Bythewood) #1618

Giuliani Pursued Business in Ukraine While Pushing for Inquiries for Trump

The president’s private lawyer explored agreements with Ukrainian officials for hundreds of thousands of dollars.

As Rudolph W. Giuliani waged a public campaign this year to unearth damaging information in Ukraine about President Trump’s political rivals, he privately pursued hundreds of thousands of dollars in business from Ukrainian government officials, documents reviewed by The New York Times show.

Mr. Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, has repeatedly said he has no business in Ukraine, and none of the deals was finalized. But the documents indicate that while he was pushing Mr. Trump’s agenda with Ukrainian officials eager for support from the United States, Mr. Giuliani also explored financial agreements with members of the same government.

His discussions with Ukrainian officials proceeded far enough along that he prepared at least one retainer agreement, on his company letterhead, that he signed.

In an interview on Wednesday, Mr. Giuliani played down the discussions. He said that a Ukrainian official approached him this year, seeking to hire him personally. Mr. Giuliani said he dismissed that suggestion, but spent about a month considering a separate deal with the Ukrainian government. He then rejected that idea.

“I thought that would be too complicated,” Mr. Giuliani said. “I never received a penny.”

Mr. Giuliani’s shadow diplomacy campaign in Ukraine on behalf of the president is a central focus of the current House impeachment inquiry. At the same time, a federal criminal investigation into Mr. Giuliani is examining his role in the campaign to oust Marie L. Yovanovitch, the American ambassador to Ukraine, and whether he sought to make money in Ukraine at the same time he was working against her, according to people briefed on the matter.

Prosecutors and F.B.I. agents in Manhattan are examining whether Mr. Giuliani was not just working for the president, but also doing the bidding of Ukrainians who wanted the ambassador removed for their own reasons, the people said. It is a federal crime to try to influence the United States government at the request or direction of a foreign government, politician or party without registering as a foreign agent. Mr. Giuliani did not register as one, he has said, because he was acting on behalf of his client, Mr. Trump, not Ukrainians.

The federal inquiry focused on Mr. Giuliani grew out of the case against two of his associates, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, who were arrested on campaign finance charges last month. Alongside Mr. Giuliani, Mr. Parnas and Mr. Fruman worked to pressure Ukraine into announcing investigations into former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his son Hunter.

Mr. Parnas and Mr. Fruman have pleaded not guilty to the campaign finance charges.

Spokesmen for the United States attorney in the Southern District of New York, Geoffrey S. Berman, whose prosecutors are handling the case, and the F.B.I. declined to comment.

The documents reviewed by The Times portray an evolving effort over the course of several months by Mr. Giuliani and lawyers close to him to consider taking on various Ukrainian officials or their agencies as clients.

One of the documents, a proposal signed in February by Mr. Giuliani, called for the Ukrainian Ministry of Justice to pay his firm $300,000. In return, Mr. Giuliani would help the government recover money it believed had been stolen and stashed overseas.

In another unsigned draft proposal that was not on letterhead, Mr. Giuliani looked to enter into a similar deal with Yuriy Lutsenko, who was then Ukraine’s top prosecutor. At the time, Mr. Giuliani had been working with Mr. Lutsenko to encourage investigations into the Bidens and the 2016 election.

Mr. Giuliani was critical of Ms. Yovanovitch, whom he and other Republicans have said was opposed to the president. Mr. Giuliani’s moves against her, however, were also aligned with the interests of Mr. Lutsenko, who had butted heads with the ambassador.

Ultimately, Ms. Yovanovitch was removed from her post in May, and Mr. Lutsenko was replaced in August after a new Ukrainian president took office.

The Times could not determine whether the documents it reviewed comprise the entirety of the efforts by Mr. Giuliani and other lawyers to represent Ukrainian government officials.

The documents date to mid-February, when a draft proposal said Mr. Giuliani would represent Mr. Lutsenko “to advise on Ukrainian claims for the recovery of sums of money in various financial institutions outside Ukraine.” It called for Mr. Lutsenko to pay $200,000 to retain Giuliani Partners, Mr. Giuliani’s firm, and a husband-and-wife legal team aligned with Mr. Trump, Joseph E. diGenova and Victoria Toensing.

The proposal came a few weeks after Mr. Giuliani met at his office in New York with Mr. Lutsenko to discuss Ukrainian corruption. Mr. Lutsenko told Mr. Giuliani and others about payments involving Mr. Biden, Hunter Biden and Burisma Holdings, a Ukrainian company that had named the younger Mr. Biden to its board, according to a memo summarizing the meetings.

An updated proposal was circulated on Feb. 20, along with instructions on how to wire money to Giuliani Partners. This version made no mention of Mr. Lutsenko, but instead sought $300,000 from the Ukrainian Ministry of Justice and the Republic of Ukraine. The proposal was signed by Mr. Giuliani, but not by the justice minister at the time, Pavlo Petrenko.

The Ukrainian Ministry of Justice said Wednesday that it did not enter into any contracts or make payments to Mr. Giuliani.

In March, a document proposed that the Ukrainian justice ministry would hire Ms. Toensing and Mr. diGenova for asset recovery. But it said that the General Prosecutor’s office, run by Mr. Lutsenko, would pay $300,000 to Giuliani Partners.

Several later draft retainer agreements involved Ms. Toensing and Mr. diGenova but did not reference Mr. Giuliani.

In April, Mr. Lutsenko reappeared as a potential client in some new versions of documents, along with one of his deputies. Under the proposals, which were signed only by Ms. Toensing and printed on her law firm’s letterhead, she and Mr. diGenova would represent the officials “in connection with recovery and return to the Ukraine government of funds illegally embezzled from that country.”

Asked for comment by The Times, a spokeswoman for Mr. Lutsenko, Larisa Sarhan, on Wednesday referred to an interview Mr. Lutsenko gave to a Ukrainian news outlet confirming that aides to Mr. Giuliani had asked him to hire a lobbying company. He did not specify which company.

Mr. Lutsenko told Ukrainska Pravda he had been seeking a meeting with William P. Barr, the United States attorney general, and was in touch with unnamed advisers to Mr. Giuliani. “In the end, they said the meeting would be impossible unless I hired a company that would lobby for such a meeting,” Mr. Lutsenko told the news outlet, adding that he declined to do that.

The proposed April agreement between Mr. Lutsenko and Ms. Toensing and Mr. diGenova also referenced another assignment: helping the Ukrainians meet with American officials about “the evidence of illegal conduct in Ukraine regarding the United States, for example, interference in the 2016 U.S. elections.”

The proposals noted that Ms. Toensing and Mr. diGenova might have to register as foreign agents under American law.

“We have always stated that we agreed to represent Ukrainian whistle-blowers,” Mark Corallo, a representative for the law firm of Ms. Toensing and Mr. diGenova, said in a statement on Wednesday. Mr. Corallo said the business proposals were “unaccepted” and the lawyers never represented the Ukrainians. “No money was ever received and no legal work was ever performed,” he said.

In another agreement signed by Ms. Toensing in April, the client would have been Victor Shokin, the top Ukrainian prosecutor before Mr. Lutsenko. Mr. Shokin was ousted after critics, among them Mr. Biden, said he was soft on corruption.

Mr. Shokin did not respond to a request for comment.

Mr. Shokin had also spoken with Mr. Giuliani and his associates in January, via Skype. In the call, Mr. Shokin asserted that American officials applied pressure on the Ukrainian government to kill an investigation of Burisma, and that he was fired after Mr. Biden accused the prosecutor of being corrupt, according to a memo summarizing the discussion.

Ms. Toensing proposed that, for $25,000 a month, she and her partner represent Mr. Shokin “for the purpose of collecting evidence regarding his March 2016 firing as Prosecutor General of Ukraine and the role of then-Vice President Joe Biden in such firing, and presenting such evidence to U.S. and foreign authorities.”


#1619

Similar article as above @Windthin posted.

Same details on what Giuliani was up to with Ukraine, Lutsenko and Ukraine’s Dept of Justice proposing a contract to find missing assets, and determined who was at fault for the firing of Mr. Shokin, and the killing of the Burisma investigation.

The involvement of the legal team Toensing and DiGenova who were also angling to represent Lutsenko, the corrupt Ukrainian Prosecutor who was voted out of Parliament once Zelensky’s term started, was troubling as well.

Ostensibly there were no signed contracts, no money exhanged and no FARA (Foreign Agent declarations) filed by any of them, but the intention was there to work with the more corrupt members of Ukraine.

Brace for a lot obfuscation on this…Giuliani and this Toensing & DiGenova team who are all going to exclaim - attorney-client privileges methinks.

In a statement, a spokesman for Toensing and diGenova said the couple previously had said they had agreed to represent people they described as “Ukrainian whistleblowers.” Spokesman Mark Corallo confirmed those discussions included possible representation of Lutsenko.

“All the other names are attorney client privileged, and it is unfortunate that some unethical person chose to violate that privilege,” he said. Corallo said that all of the retainer letters under consideration included “the necessary notice of FARA registration,” referring to the Foreign Agents Registration Act. That suggests the couple had planned to register as foreign lobbyists if the agreements had been executed.


#1620

@Pet_Proletariat posted this huge story yesterday – I’m cross posting it here because it’s bound to figure into the obstruction of justice charges that are likely to be leveled against Trump in the impeachment process.

It’s not illegal to lie to the press as Corey Lewandowski so smugly pointed out when he was under oath: “I have no obligation to be honest with the media” (a sterling character). However, impeachment does not take place in a court of law, but in the chambers of Congress and the final verdict will be greatly influenced by public opinion. We all know Trump lies all the time (even his supporters know this, but blow it off); however, this lie in particular is a true bombshell that relates directly to the question of Trump’s guilt or innocence. It’s so “in your face” that even the most die-hard-Trump-enabling members of Congress are going to have trouble ignoring it as the impeachment process rolls on.

I’m posting a screenshot because it’s satisfying to witness once more a shift in the way the media is reporting on Trump. There’s no longer any equivocating. No suggestion that Trump might actually be telling the truth. And see especially the last line, “Trump … has amassed a long record of spreading blatant lies and falsehoods throughout his presidency.” In the past, that declaration might be part of a CNN editorial or in one of its articles labeled “Analysis,” but now, calling Trump a blatant liar has become acceptable as part of factual, main stream reporting. And it’s about time because that fact that Trump lies is the truth.

Trump%20claims%20he%20did%20not%20direct%20Giuliani

President Donald Trump has now denied that he directed his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani to go to Ukraine and seek out investigations on his behalf, contradicting his own words to the Ukrainian President in the White House-released transcript of the July 25 call.

Trump also contradicted sworn testimony from members of his administration and claims from his own White House acting chief of staff.

Ahead of a Tuesday night rally in Florida, Trump was asked by conservative radio host Bill O’Reilly if the President directed Giuliani’s involvement in Ukraine.

"No," the President said, before launching into a tangent of flattering Giuliani’s credentials, calling him “a great corruption fighter” and “the greatest mayor” of New York City.

O’Reilly asked once again: “Giuliani’s your personal lawyer. So you didn’t direct him to go to Ukraine to do anything or put any heat on them?”

"No, I didn’t direct him, but he’s a warrior, Rudy’s a warrior. Rudy went, he possibly saw something. But you have to understand, Rudy (has) other people that he represents," Trump said, adding that Giuliani has “done work in Ukraine for years.”

But according to the rough transcript of a phone call between Trump and the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Trump repeatedly pressed for Giuliani’s involvement.

Trump told Zelensky: “Mr. Giuliani is a highly respected man. He was the mayor of New York City, a great mayor, and I would like him to call you. I will ask him to call you along with the Attorney General. Rudy very much knows what’s happening and he is a very capable guy. If you could speak to him that would be great.

Trump later said: “I will have Mr. Giuliani give you a call and I am also going to have Attorney General Barr call and we will get to the bottom of it. I’m sure you will figure it out.”

A third time, Trump referenced Giuliani: “I will tell Rudy and Attorney General Barr to call.

Trump’s claim that he didn’t direct his personal lawyer to handle issues in Ukraine also contradicts what has been told to Congress in impeachment hearings and what Trump’s own acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, has told the press.

In October, Mulvaney defended Giuliani’s involvement in US-Ukraine affairs by saying “the President gets to use who he wants to use.”

"You may not like the fact that Giuliani was involved. That’s great. That’s fine. It’s not illegal. It’s not impeachable. The President gets to use who he wants to use," Mulvaney said during a press briefing.

And US Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland told members of Congress last week that the President had directed him to reach out to Giuliani on US-Ukrainian relations.

“We … were disappointed but the President’s direction that we involve Mr. Giuliani,” Sondland said, indicating that their goal of setting up a meeting with the two presidents would be abandoned if they didn’t “do as President Trump directed and talk to Mr. Giuliani to address the President’s concerns.”

“My understanding was that the President directed Mr. Giuliani’s participation, and that Mr. Giuliani was expressing the concerns of the President,” Sondland added.

There is a key distinction between Trump’s denials and Sondland’s testimony: If Sondland was lying, he could be prosecuted, because it’s a crime to give false testimony to Congress. Trump can say whatever he wants to the press, and has amassed a long record of spreading blatant lies and falsehoods throughout his presidency.


#1621

Cross-posting :pray:


(David Bythewood) #1622

Column: The cult of Trump faces the calm of Adam Schiff


(David Bythewood) #1623

Here’s the Proof that Trump’s “No Quid Pro Quo” Call Never Happened

At the heart of the impeachment inquiry, members of Congress may have been mistakenly led to believe that there were two phone calls between President Donald Trump and Ambassador Gordon Sondland in early September—with the second call having the possibility of helping the President’s case. That’s not what happened. There was only one call, and it was highly incriminating.

The call occurred on September 7th. In this call, Trump did say there was “no quid pro quo” with Ukraine, but he then went on to outline his preconditions for releasing the security assistance and granting a White House visit. The call was so alarming that when John Bolton learned of it, he ordered his’ deputy Tim Morrison to immediately report it to the National Security Council lawyers.

Sondland has testified there was a call on September 9th in which Trump said there was “no quid pro quo,” but that he wanted President Zelenskyy “to do” the right thing. A close reading of the publicly available evidence shows that the latter call was actually the very one that sent Morrison to the lawyers, and that Ambassador Bill Taylor foregrounded in his written deposition to inform Congress of the quid pro quo.

As this article was in the publication process at Just Security , the Washington Post published a report raising doubts about the existence of the September 9 call. The analysis that follows is consistent with the Post’s report and, among other points, shows why Sondland’s “no quid pro quo” call is in fact the same as the September 7th call that Morrison reported to NSC lawyers on September 7th.

Background

One of the central questions that the House’s impeachment inquiry is attempting to resolve is “whether President Trump sought to condition official acts, such as a White House meeting or U.S. military assistance, on Ukraine’s willingness to assist with two political investigations that would help his reelection campaign.” And, over the past several weeks, witnesses testifying before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) have given uncontested testimony that established the following:

  • During a July 10, 2019 meeting at the White House, the U.S. Ambassador to the European Union told Ukrainians officials that there would be a “pre-requisite of investigations” before any White House meeting would occur. (Sondland Opening Statement, Nov. 20, 2019, at 10; Hill Depo. at 27; Vindman Depo. at 29)
  • During a July 25, 2019 phone call, President Trump asked President Zelenskyy for the “favor” of an investigation into Joe Biden and the false, Russian-backed claims that it was Ukraine that interfered in the 2016 U.S. election. (Memcon of Trump-Zelenskyy Call, July 25, 2019)
  • Following a July 26, 2019 meeting between the Ambassador to the EU and Ukrainians officials, President Trump asked the ambassador, “So [Zelenskyy is] going to do the investigation?”, to which the ambassador replied, “He’s going to do it.” (Holmes Depo. at 24; Sondland Testimony on Nov. 20, 2019)
  • President Trump demanded that President Zelenskyy make a public announcement that he was opening an investigation into Biden and the 2016 election as a pre-requisite before he would agree to a White House meeting. (Sondland Opening Statement, Nov. 20, 2019, at 14)
  • President Trump’s personal attorney told both American officials and Ukrainian officials that the president would require, as a quid pro quo, that Ukraine announce the desired investigations before any White House meeting would occur. (Sondland Opening Statement, Nov. 20, 2019, at 14)
  • At a meeting in Warsaw, Poland, the U.S. Ambassador to the European Union informed a senior Ukrainian official that the security assistance money would not be released until Ukraine publicly announced an investigation into “Burisma and 2016.” (Sondland Declaration, Nov. 4, 2019, at 2; Taylor Opening Statement, Oct. 22, 2019, at 10-11; Morrison Depo. at 144-145)

That list is by no means exhaustive. In addition to other testimony before the HPSCI supporting these facts, the Acting Chief of Staff/Director of the Office of Management and Budget Mick Mulvaney stated during a press conference that the security assistance to Ukraine was withheld as a quid pro quo in exchange for Ukraine conducting an investigation into false allegations of Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election.

What then, is there left for the impeachment inquiry to prove?

In the face of this damning and conclusive evidence, the White House and House Republicans have been forced to retreat to their current defense: that President Trump himself has not been proven to have done anything wrong, because there was no witness who testified to having personally heard the President announce that he was seeking a quid pro quo from Ukraine, in exchange for release of the security assistance.

This “defense,” it should be noted, is hardly a defense at all. There is no dispute that the President used the powers of his office to coerce a foreign state into investigating a domestic political rival, nor is there any dispute that the Ukrainians were informed by the Trump administration that the hold on security assistance would not be lifted until these investigation were publicly announced. Multiple witnesses also testified that EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland had told them that, in his conversations with the president, Trump had described his requirement for Zelenskyy to publicly announce the investigations into Biden and 2016. However, to the extent that no witness testified to having personally heard Trump request a quid pro quo in regards to the security assistance, there are two reasons for this.

The first is that, with a single exception, every individual who interacted directly with President Trump refused to comply with House subpoenas for their testimony.

The second is that the single exception who did testify, Ambassador Sondland, did not testify accurately when he said that President Trump had never asked him for a quid pro quo from Ukraine. In fact, President Trump had personally informed Sondland of his specific demands for a quid pro quo from Ukraine – and the White House National Security Council is sitting on documents that confirm it.

I. The “No Quid Pro Quo” Call

Of all the omissions from Ambassador Sondland’s testimony, one of the most significant has to do with his testimony about what has been dubbed the “no quid pro quo” call. Because the White House and State Department did not comply with the House’s subpoenas for records, no documents concerning this call have been produced, but all witnesses agree that, some time around the second week of September, President Trump and Ambassador Sondland had a phone call, and at some point during this call, Trump said the words “no quid pro quo.”

Sondland has, at times, been ambiguous as to when exactly this phone call took place, and has vacillated between the dates of September 6-9. But in the version of events that Sondland most frequently describes in his testimony, he says that he made the “no quid pro quo” call on September 9th. Sondland has testified it was a brief conversation, in which he asked President Trump a single question:

I asked him one open-ended question: What do you want from Ukraine? And as I recall, he was in a very bad mood. It was a very quick conversation. He said: I want nothing. I want no quid pro quo. I want Zelenskyy to do the right thing. (Sondland Depo. at 106)

It is this testimony from Sondland that the White House and House Republicans have clung to, in support of their claim that the impeachment inquiry has failed to show misconduct by the President. ’’

President Trump has taken to regularly invoking Sondland’s testimony at rallies and at press events, asserting that Sondland’s description of the “no quid pro” call exonerates him. In fact, in the middle of Sondland’s public testimony, President Trump made an appearance on the White House lawn, a portion of Sondland’s paraphrased testimony in hand, to perform a dramatic reenactment of the call, as it was described by Sondland.

Overall, it must be noted, Sondland’s testimony was incredibly damning for Trump. However, it was not quite as damning as it should have been.

Because in reality, as shown from the testimony of other witnesses, the “no quid pro quo” call did not take place on September 9th. What’s more, the call was not prompted by any text from Bill Taylor. And lastly, Sondland’s testimony about the “no quid pro quo” call omitted the most important part: the part where President Trump informed Sondland that the security assistance would be at a “stalemate” until President Zelenskyy stood in front of a microphone and personally announced that he was opening an investigation into Trump’s political rivals.

II. The “No Quid Pro Quo” Call Took Place on Sept. 7, Not on Sept. 9

The “no quid pro quo” call did not take place on September 9th, as Sondland claimed at one point in his testimony; instead, it took place on September 7th. This is shown from the testimony of Tim Morrison, Senior Director for European Affairs for the National Security Council, and Charge D’Affaires Bill Taylor, both of whom were briefed on the call by Sondland shortly after it occurred.

This detail is critically important, not because the precise date of the call is significant in and of itself, but because of what it shows about the true content of that call – the substance of the conversation that Morrison and Taylor described in their testimony, and that Sondland omitted from his.

Sondland’s Testimony

Though Ambassador Sondland testified that, to the best of his recollection, the “no quid pro quo” call occurred on September 9th, Sondland was also quick to point out that as a result of his inability to review certain State Department records, his “memory admittedly has not been perfect.” (Sondland Testimony of Nov. 20, 2019) Still, Sondland said he had a distinct reason for remembering the date of this particular call: it was prompted by what Sondland described as a “fairly shocking” and “alarming” text message he received from Charge Taylor, in a group chat that included Ambassador Kurt Volker. It was in response to this text, Sondland said, that Sondland made the call to President Trump:

So rather than ask the President nine different questions – is it this, is it this, is that – I just said what do you want from Ukraine? I may have even used a four letter word. And he said I want nothing, I want no quid pro quo, I just want Zelensky to do the right thing, to do what he ran on or – or words to that effect. (Sondland Testimony of Nov. 20, 2019)

Because Ambassador Volker’s text exchanges were one of the few documentary records produced in response to the HSPCI’s subpoenas, we have a copy of the text exchange Sondland referred to. Per Volker’s records, Taylor’s text was sent at 12:47am on September 9th:

After speaking to President Trump, Sondland testified, he texted a response to Taylor at 5:19am,[1] which Sondland described as a “paraphrase” of what Trump had just told him: “The President has been crystal clear: no quid pro quos of any kind.”

With these text records to support his account, Ambassador Sondland testimony’ that this this call took place on September 9th went largely unchallenged during the hearings before the HPSCI. But despite the text recordings – which would seemingly corroborate Sondland’s memory and provide him precise evidence about when the call occurred – Sondland’s testimony has had a curious uncertainty too. For instance, in Sondland’s amendment to his closed-door testimony, he avoided identifying the precise date for the call altogether, instead giving a range of possible dates – from September 6th to September 9th – and then noting that his lack of access to his phone records prevented him from identifying the date with more certainty:

And, in his public testimony before HPSCI, when asked to confirm that this call had indeed taken place on September 9th, Sondland repeatedly invoked his lack of access to the records to explain his inability to say with certainty if the call occurred on September 6th or September 9th:

CASTOR: And then the – the next time, you know, we tried to unpack this, the – the next time you talked with the President was on the telephone – was September 9th, according to your deposition, right?

SONDLAND: I may have even spoken to him on September 6th but again I just don’t have all the records. I wish I could get them, then I could answer your questions very easily.

Again and again, Sondland deferred from providing a certain date for the phone call, focusing instead on his inability to refresh his memory with the relevant records:

CASTOR: Okay. And then in your September 9th communication with The President during your deposition that was a striking moment when you walked us through your telephone call with President Trump on September 9th.

SONDLAND: By the way I still cannot find a record of that call because the State Department or The White House cannot locate it. But I’m pretty sure I had the call on that day.

Sondland’s testimony about the White House’s inability to locate records of this call is also curious. On the one hand, the failure to preserve such critical records might appear to be something like obstruction, if not the outright destruction of evidence. On the other hand, the White House informing Sondland that it “cannot locate” a record of the September 9th call makes perfect sense – if in fact no call occurred at all between Sondland and Trump on September 9th.

Finally, it makes little sense that Sondland would have considered Taylor’s September 9th text message to be “fairly shocking” and “alarming,” or necessitate a pre-dawn call to the White House to ask the President about whether there was a quid pro quo. After all, Sondland himself had told Taylor just one day before that the President had communicated a quid pro quo, and Sondland had told Morrison the same thing the day before that.

Morrison’s Testimony

After Fiona Hill resigned in mid-July as the NSC’s Senior Director for European Affairs, Tim Morrison took over her role, and for the next three months, he received updates on Ukraine-related matters from Ambassador Sondland. In his closed-door testimony, Morrison described how, on September 7th, he received a call from Sondland, who wanted to update him on a call he had just had with President Trump:[2]

In the phone call, he told me that he had just gotten off the phone — the September 7th phone call — he told me he had just gotten off the phone with the President. I remember this because he actually made the comment that it was easier for him to get a hold of the President than to get a hold of me, which led me to respond, “Well, the President doesn’t work for Ambassador Bolton; I do,” to which Ambassador Sondland responded, “Does Ambassador Bolton know that?” But that’s why I have a vivid recollection of this. And he wanted to tell me what he had discussed with the President. … He told me [ ] that there was no quid pro quo, but President Zelenskyy must announce the opening of the investigations and he should want to do it. (Morrison Depo. at 190) (emphasis added)

Important to note: this is the same “no quid pro quo, but…” language that Sondland used to describe his call with Trump that took place in the September 6-9 timeframe.

In Morrison’s public testimony, he once again placed the “no quid pro quo” call on September 7th:

GOLDMAN: Now a few days later, on September 7th, you spoke again to Ambassador Sondland who told you that he had just gotten off the phone with President Trump, isn’t that right?

MORRISON: That sounds correct, yes.

GOLDMAN: What did Ambassador Sondland tell you that President Trump said to him?

MORRISON: If I recall this conversation correctly, this was where Ambassador Sondland related that there was no quid pro quo, but President Zelenskyy had to make the statement and that he had to want to do it.

GOLDMAN: And by that point, did you understand that the statement related to the Biden and 2016 investigations?

MORRISON: I think I did, yes.

GOLDMAN: And that that was essentially a condition for the security assistance to be released?

MORRISON: I understood that that’s what Ambassador Sondland believed.

In this call, Sondland told Morrison of Trump’s demand that President Zelenskyy personally announce the Burisma/2016 investigations, and upon hearing this, Morrison said, he had a “sinking feeling.” (Morrison Depo. at 145) Morrison was concerned President Trump’s “requirements” could not be met in time for the hold on the military assistance to be lifted. As Morrison explained, although the end of the fiscal year was September 30th, “because Congress imposed a 15-day notification requirement on the State Department funds, September 7th, September 30th, that really means September 15th in order to secure a decision from the president to allow the funds to go forward.” (Morrison Testimony on Nov. 11, 2019)

In other words, on September 7th, when Sondland was briefing Morrison about Trump’s demands for Zelenskyy to announce the investigations, there were only eight days left before the security assistance evaporated all together. Ukraine only had eight days left to provide Trump with something that would satisfy his demands.

And Morrison had another reason for knowing the precise date this call occurred – because as soon as the call was over, he went to the NSC lawyers to report it.

GOLDMAN: Did you tell Ambassador Bolton about this conversation as well?

MORRISON: I did, yes.

GOLDMAN: And what did he say to you?

MORRISON: He said to tell the lawyers.

GOLDMAN: And why did he say to tell the lawyers?

MORRISON: He did not explain his instruction.

GOLDMAN: But he is not going to — he doesn’t tell you to go tell the lawyers because you are running up on the eight-day deadline there, right?

MORRISON: Again, I don’t know why he directed that, but it seems reasonable and is consistent with what I was going to do anyway.

Taylor’s Testimony

After going to the NSC lawyers to document what Sondland had told him about the “no quid pro quo” call, Morrison’s next move was to email Charge Bill Taylor with an urgent request for a call. In his testimony, Taylor described how, because this happened on a Saturday, he had to make a special trip in to the embassy in Kiev, in order to use the facilities there to make a secured call to Morrison. (Taylor Depo at. 250-252) Morrison then briefed Taylor on the call he had just had with Sondland:

Two days later, on September 7, I had a conversation with Mr. Morrison in which he described a phone conversation earlier that day between Ambassador Sondland and President Trump. Mr. Morrison said that he had a “sinking feeling” after learning about this conversation from Ambassador Sondland. According to Mr. Morrison, President Trump told Ambassador Sondland that he was not asking for a “quid pro quo.” But President Trump did insist that President Zelenskyy go to a microphone and say he is opening investigations of “Biden and 2016 election interference,” and that President Zelenskyy should want to do this himself. Mr. Morrison said that he told Ambassador Bolton and the NSC lawyers of this phone call between President Trump and Ambassador Sondland. (Taylor Opening Statement, Oct. 22, 2019, at 12) (emphasis added)

The next day, Sondland sent a group text message to both Taylor and Volker, letting them know that he’d had “multiple conversations” with both President Zelenskyy and President Trump, and wanted to brief them on the calls. Volker was not available to join the call, but Taylor was, and he spoke to Sondland at approximately 11:30am on September 8th:

Taylor testified that during his September 8th call with Sondland, Sondland briefed him on what Taylor understood to be the same phone call with President that Morrison had briefed him on the day before:

[O]n September 8, Ambassador Sondland and I spoke on the phone. He confirmed that he had talked to President Trump as I had suggested a week earlier, but that President Trump was adamant that President Zelenskyy, himself, had to “clear things up and do it in public.” President Trump said it was not a “quid pro quo.” I believe this was the same conversation between Ambassador Sondland and President Trump that Mr. Morrison had described to me on September 7.

The language that Taylor says Sondland used to describe his call with Trump once again matches the language described by both Morrison and Sondland in their testimony:

Ambassador Sondland also said that he had talked to President Zelenskyy and Mr. Yermak and had told them that, although this was not a quid pro quo , if President Zelenskyy did not “clear things up” in public, we would be at a “stalemate.” I understood a “stalemate” to mean that Ukraine would not receive the much-needed military assistance. Ambassador Sondland said that this conversation concluded with President Zelenskyy agreeing to make a public statement in an interview on CNN. (Taylor Opening Statement, Oct. 22, 2019, at 16)(emphasis added)

Taylor was able to precisely date his phone calls with Morrison and Sondland – which took place on September 7th and 8th respectively – based on his own contemporaneous notes about the call, as well as the text messages records from Volker:

Shortly after that call with Ambassador Sondland, I expressed my strong reservations in a text message to Ambassador Sondland, stating that my “nightmare is they [the Ukrainians] give the interview and don’t get the security assistance. The Russians love it. (And I quit.).” I was serious. (Taylor Opening Statement, Oct. 22, 2019, at 16) (emphasis added)

The text message Taylor described was sent on September 8th, at 12:37pm:

Based on the testimony of both Morrison and Sondland, as well as the corresponding text records, Sondland’s “no quid pro quo” call with Trump had already happened on September 7th. Indeed, it also explains why Sondland’s text message in reply to Taylor on Sept. 9 began, “Bill, I believe you are incorrect about President Trump’s intentions. The President has been crystal clear no quid pro quo’s of any kind.” It was a reference to their phone conversation the day before, when Sondland debriefed Taylor about his call with the President.

III. The “No Quid Pro Quo” Call Was in Response to Negotiations That Occurred in Warsaw, Not Bill Taylor’s Text

In addition to Sondland giving incorrect testimony about the date of the “no quid pro quo” call, Sondland was also incorrect about what had prompted the call in the first place. His September 9th text exchange with Bill Taylor could not have been what caused him to call President Trump, because that call had happened at least two days before the text. Instead, Sondland had called Trump in order to confirm whether a proposed modification to the quid pro quo arrangement would be acceptable to Trump.

The proposed modification to the quid pro quo arrangement had been worked out the week before, during the American delegation’s trip to Warsaw. Originally, this trip had been intended to include a bilateral meeting between President Trump and President Zelenskyy, but Trump had canceled at the last minute, citing his need to monitor an incoming hurricane. Vice President Pence was sent in his place, and on September 1st, Pence and Zelenskyy met at the Warsaw Marriott. Both Sondland and Morrison were in attendance.

After the bilateral meeting concluded, several officials from both sides stayed behind, including Sondland and Zelenskyy’s senior adviser Andriy Yermak. Morrison observed Sondland and Yermak speaking to one another, and immediately after, Morrison testified, Sondland came over to brief him on the conversation:

I recall Ambassador Sondland telling me that what he conveyed to the Ukrainian Presidential advisor, Mr. Yermak, was that the Prosecutor General would be sufficient to make the statement to obtain release of the aid. (Morrison Depo. at 182, 272)

Concerned, Morrison immediately placed a call to Charge Taylor to brief him on Sondland’s conversation with Yermak.[3] As Taylor explained in his opening statement before his public testimony,

During this [September 1] phone call with Mr. Morrison, he described a conversation Ambassador Sondland had with Mr. Yermak in Warsaw. Ambassador Sondland told Mr. Yermak that the security assistance money would not come until President Zelenskyy committed to pursue the Burisma investigation. I was alarmed by what Mr. Morrison told me about the Sondland-Yermak conversation. I understand that Mr. Morrison testified at his deposition that Ambassador Sondland proposed that it might be sufficient for the Ukrainian Prosecutor General to commit to pursue the investigation, as opposed to President Zelenskyy. But this was the first time I had heard that the security assistance—not just the White House meeting—was conditioned on the investigations. (Taylor Opening Statement, Oct. 22, 2019, at 101-11)

As described in Taylor’s testimony, following his call with Morrison, Taylor sent a text message to Sondland:

Very concerned, on that same day—September 1—I sent Ambassador Sondland a text message asking if “we [are] now saying that security assistance and [a] WH meeting are conditioned on investigations?”

Ambassador Sondland responded asking me to call him, which I did. During that phone call, Ambassador Sondland told me that President Trump had told him that he wants President Zelenskyy to state publicly that Ukraine will investigate Burisma and alleged Ukrainian interference in the 2016 U.S. election. (Taylor Opening Statement, Oct. 22, 2019, at 11)

The text messages from Volker show that the exchange Taylor described took place after 12pm Eastern time[4] on September 1st:

It was this September 1st conversation with Andriy Yermak that led to ’the “no quid pro quo” call, because the “no quid pro quo” call was a discussion about whether Trump was willing to accept what Sondland had offered to Yermak: that it be the chief prosecutor, and not Zelenskyy, who announced the Biden and 2016 investigations.

As Morrison testified regarding the September 1st discussions in Warsaw:

My recollection is that Ambassador Sondland’s proposal to Mr. Yermak was that it could be sufficient if the new Ukrainian Prosecutor General, not President Zelenskyy, would commit to pursue the Burisma investigation. (Morrison Depo. at 15)

[Sondland] walked across the space and he briefed me on what he said he had said to Mr. Yermak. … He told me that in his — that what he communicated was that he believed the — what could help them move the aid was if the Prosecutor General would go to the mike and announce that he was opening the Burisma investigation . (Morrison Depo. at 134) (emphasis added)

And as Taylor testified:

Ambassador Sondland also told me that he now recognized that he had made a mistake by earlier telling Ukrainian officials that only a White House meeting with President Zelenskyy was dependent on a public announcement of investigations—in fact, Ambassador Sondland said, “everything” was dependent on such an announcement, including security assistance. He said that President Trump wanted President Zelenskyy “in a public box” by making a public statement about ordering such investigations. In the same September 1 call, I told Ambassador Sondland that President Trump should have more respect for another head of state and that what he described was not in the interest of either President Trump or President Zelenskyy. At that point I asked Ambassador Sondland to push back on President Trump’s demand. Ambassador Sondland pledged to try. We also discussed the possibility that the Ukrainian Prosecutor General, rather than President Zelenskyy, would make a statement about investigations, potentially in coordination with Attorney General Barr’s probe into the investigation of interference in the 2016 elections. (Opening Statement of Taylor, Oct. 22, 2019, at 11)

Sondland, for his part, initially failed to recall altogether that he’d spoken with Andriy Yermak in Warsaw about any investigations, and denied that any quid pro quo arrangements had been discussed. However, on November 4th, after learning of what Morrison and Taylor had testified to regarding his conversation with Yermak in Warsaw, Sondland amended his testimony. In his amendment, Sondland stated that he “now recall[ed]” his September 1st conversation with Yermak, and that he and Yermak had discussed whether the public announcement of the investigations needed to come from President Zelenskyy himself, or if it would be acceptable for the announcement to instead be made by Ukraine’s Prosecutor General:

These discussions about whether it would be acceptable for the Prosecutor General to make the announcement – and not President Zelenskyy – were an attempt to find a compromise solution to Trump’s demands. Having Ukraine’s chief prosecutor make the announcement would at least minimize the damage, by helping to maintain the appearance of a regularly instituted investigation, rather than a politically motivated scheme. In contrast, if President Zelenskyy were to make the announcement himself, any illusion that this was an independent prosecutorial decision would have been dispelled. Worse yet, it would compromise Zelenskyy in the process, undermining his independence as Ukraine’s president. Thus, in Warsaw, the American and Ukrainians officials had discussed whether the Prosecutor General might be an acceptable substitute, and left it to Sondland to determine if it would be acceptable to President Trump.

And that brings us to the September 7th call between Sondland and President Trump, when Sondland called Trump to ask “one open-ended question: What do you want from Ukraine?” (Sondland Depo. at 106) Sondland did not make this call because of anything Taylor had texted him; rather, Sondland was apparently calling to ask President Trump if the solution that had been negotiated in Warsaw, in which the Prosecutor General made the announcement, would be acceptable to him.

It was not. President Trump rejected the substitution of the Prosecutor General, and demanded that President Zelenskyy himself make the announcement. As Morrison testified in his closed-door deposition,

[T]his was a conversation where Gordon related that both — the President said there was not a quid pro quo, but he further stated that President Zelenskyy should want to go to the microphone and announce personally – so it wouldn’t be enough for the Prosecutor General, he wanted to announce personally, Zelenskyy personally, that he would open the investigations . (Morrison Depo. at 144-145) (emphasis added)

THE CHAIRMAN: And then it was subsequently on the phone where he came back to you, Ambassador Sondland that is, and said, no, the Prosecutor General is not going to be sufficient , President Zelenskyy has to commit to that, right?

MORRISON: Yes, sir. He related the President told him there was no quid pro quo, but President Zelenskyy had to do it and he should want to do it. (Morrison Depo. at 229) (emphasis added)

Taylor’s testimony on this point is consistent with Morrison’s:

Ambassador Sondland also said that he had talked to President Zelenskyy and Mr. Yermak and had told them that, although this was not a quid pro quo, if President Zelenskyy did not “clear things up” in public, we would be at a “stalemate.” I understood a “stalemate” to mean that Ukraine would not receive the much-needed military assistance. Ambassador Sondland said that this conversation concluded with President Zelenskyy agreeing to make a public statement in an interview on CNN. (Taylor’s Opening Statement, Oct. 22, 2019, at 12) (emphasis added)

Taylor further testified that, in that same September 8th call, Sondland had also briefed him on his call with President Zelenskyy, and, Sondland said, President Zelenskyy had agreed to President Trump’s demands. Zelenskyy was going to go on CNN, and personally announce the investigations.

IV. The “No Quid Pro Quo” Call Was In Fact a Demand for Quid Pro Quo

Whether due to a faulty memory, or due to intentional deceit, Sondland’s testimony about the “no quid pro quo” call omitted the most critical part of the conversation: President Trump’s rejection of the compromise offer for the Prosecutor General to announce the investigations, and his demand that Zelenskyy himself do it. The “no quid pro quo” call was, in reality, a “here is the specific quid pro quo I want” call. And, by erroneously placing the call on September 9th, Sondland helped obscure these omissions from his testimony, by divorcing the call from its actual context in the ongoing negotiations with Ukraine over what form of quid pro quo would be acceptable. More importantly, it also gave the appearance that the call Sondland was describing was somehow different from the call that was described by two other witnesses – both of whom testified that the call included an explicit demand by Trump for a quid pro quo.

When Sondland briefed Morrison and Taylor on the “no quid pro quo” call on September 7th and 8th, he included details that caused both Morrison and Taylor to be alarmed, as was John Bolton when he was informed of it. For instance, Sondland’s description of his conversation with Trump had caused Morrison to become “pessimistic” that President Trump’s demands could be met in time for the aid to be release. (Morrison Depo. at 145) Morrison testified that when he learned of what President Trump said on the call with Sondland, he had a “sinking feeling,” because he “did not think it was a good idea for the Ukrainian President to [ ] involve himself in our politics.” ( Id .) And when Sondland briefed Taylor on his call with President Trump, Sondland made plain his own understanding that the President’s demands were transactional in nature – that what Trump was asking for was a quid pro quo. As Taylor testified, Sondland explained to him that the reason President Trump was “a businessman,” and “[w]hen a businessman is about to sign a check to someone who owes him something, [ ] the businessman asks that person to pay up before signing the check.” (Taylor Depo. at 40) Taylor understood “the check” in this analogy to be the military assistance. ( Id . at 146)

And yet, when Sondland appeared before Congress to testify about this same exact same phone call with President Trump, he could no longer recall any of the content of their conversation that had caused such alarm for Morrison, Taylor, and Bolton.

Still, as much as these omissions from Sondland’s testimony may have benefited President Trump, ’the differences between Sondland’s testimony and the testimony of the other witnesses are cosmetic. In substance, Sondland does not dispute the accuracy of the testimony given by the other witnesses.

For instance, Sondland does recall having a conversation with someone in which he was told what quid pro quo Trump required from Ukraine. The only problem is that Sondland has said he cannot recall if he had this conversation with President Trump, or with President Trump’s attorney:

GOLDMAN: On September 8, you then had a conversation directly with Ambassador Taylor about this same phone call where Ambassador Taylor said that you confirmed that you spoke to President Trump as he had suggested earlier to you and that President Trump was adamant that President Zelenskyy himself, meaning not the prosecutor general, had to, quote, “clear things up and do it in public,” unquote. Do you recall – you don’t have any reason to think that Ambassador Taylor’s testimony based on his contemporaneous notes was [in]correct?

SONDLAND: I don’t know if I got that from President Trump or if I got it from Giuliani. That’s the part I’m not clear on.

GOLDMAN: Well, Ambassador Taylor’s quite clear that you said President Trump. Mr. Morrison is also quite clear that you said President Trump. You don’t have any reason to dispute their very specific recollections, do you?

SONDLAND: No. If they have notes and they recall that, I don’t have any reason to dispute it. I just personally can’t remember where I got it from.

Sondland repeated this claim multiple times in his public testimony: that he remembered having a conversation about “whether or not the prosecutor could make the statement or Zelenskyy could make the statement,” but that “I don’t recall who told me – whether it was Volker, whether it was Giuliani, or whether it was President Trump – it’s got to be Zelenskyy, it can’t be the prosecutor. … Whoever I got that information from, I relayed to I believe [ ] Ambassador Taylor and to Mr. Morrison.”

So Sondland does remember a phone call in which someone told him about the quid pro quo that Trump was demanding – Sondland just ’can’t remember if it was President Trump that he had this conversation with. (Though whether the conversation was with Giuliani or President Trump makes little difference, since Sondland testified that he understood Giuliani was conveying the President’s conditions.)

But Morrison and Taylor both confirmed, in their testimonies, that it was President Trump. And Sondland has agreed that he has no reason to doubt the version of events described by Morrison and Taylor:

GOLDMAN: Now, you had a conversation on September 7 according to both Ambassador Taylor and Tim Morrison with Tim Morrison where you told Mr. Morrison that President Trump told you that he was not asking for a quid pro quo but that he did insist that President Zelenskyy go to a microphone and say that he is opening investigations of Biden and 2016 election interference, and that President Zelenskyy should want to do this himself. You don’t have any reason to dispute both Ambassador Taylor’s and Mr. Morrison’s testimony about that conversation, do you?

SONDLAND: No.

Finally, it’s worth noting that Sondland’s phone call with President Trump is not the only presidential phone call that Sondland now has difficulty remembering. When Sondland and Taylor spoke on September 8th, it wasn’t just Sondland’s call with President Trump that Sondland needed to tell Taylor about – Sondland also needed to update him on his calls with President Zelenskyy.

In fact, according to Sondland’s text message to Taylor, there had been “ multiple convos” with Trump and Zelenskyy that he needed to brief Taylor on:

Sondland has never testified about the substance of his conversations with President Zelenskyy on September 7th and/or 8th. In his private deposition, when shown this text exchange and asked about the referenced calls, Sondland responded, “Yeah. I don’t recall… I don’t recall the – I don’t recall the conversations. … I don’t – I don’t recall the conversations. I’d need more refreshment to recall the conversations.” (Sondland Depo. at 351)

But on September 8th, Sondland still recalled these conversations, and he briefed Taylor on them. And according to Taylor, Sondland told him his conversation with President Zelenskyy had “concluded with President Zelenskyy agreeing to make a public statement in an interview with CNN.” (Taylor Opening Statement, Oct. 22, 2019, at 12) Taylor testified that this was “the first time” he had had heard about Zelenskyy giving a CNN interview. (Taylor Depo. at 207)

In other words: on September 7th-8th, Sondland spoke to both President Trump and President Zelenskyy. In his call with President Trump, Sondland was told that Trump required Zelenskyy “to go to the microphone and announce personally that he would open the investigations.” (Morrison Depo. at 144-145) And in his call with President Zelenskyy, Sondland secured an agreement from Zelenskyy that he would “do a CNN interview” in which he “would make a statement regarding investigations.” (Taylor Opening Statement, Oct. 22, 2019, at 12) (see also Kent Depo. at 330-31, 333; Holmes Opening Statement, Nov. 21, at 10-11)[5]

Sondland may no longer have any memory of what occurred on the September 7th-8th phone calls, but the sequence of events depicted by the text exchanges and Taylor’s testimony is clear: Trump told Sondland his demands for Zelenskyy; Sondland conveyed to Zelenskyy what Trump demanded; and Zelenskyy then agreed “to go to the microphone and announce personally that he would open the investigations.”

V. The White House Has Contemporaneous Written Records of the “No Quid Pro Quo” Call

As much as President Trump and the House Republicans like to claim that this is all a matter of “hearsay” or “second-hand information,” and that the true contents of President Trump’s communications with Sondland can be dismissed as some kind of unknowable he said/they said, the evidence of the “quid pro quo” call is not limited to witness testimony.

In fact, there does exist a detailed, contemporaneous record of what exactly Sondland said on that call with Trump. Because on September 7th, after his call with Sondland, Morrison immediately went to the NSC lawyers to report what had happened, because “[he] was concerned about what Ambassador Sondland was saying were requirements” for the release of the security assistance. (Morrison Depo. at 145) That is, Morrison went to the NSC lawyers to report Sondland’s claim that President Trump was involved in making an explicit quid pro quo demand to Ukraine.

In his deposition testimony, Morrison framed his repeated visits to the NSC lawyers as an effort to “protect” the President. “I wanted to make sure, in going to the lawyers,” Morrison said, “that there was a record of what Ambassador Sondland was doing, to protect the President.” (Morrison Depo. at 184) Morrison explained that he felt the need to document Sondland’s September 7th call with the NSC lawyers because Sondland had represented to him that President Trump was behind the quid pro quo scheme: “[P]art of what I’m trying to do here in talking to the lawyers is making sure they’re aware of what Mr. Sondland is doing. And he’s saying the President is aware , but I’m still not entirely certain that he is.” (Morrison Depo. at 224) (emphasis added)Of course, as Morrison later acknowledged under questioning from Chairman Schiff, it was also possible that Sondland was telling the truth about his conversations with President Trump. In which case, rather than serving to protect the President, Morrison’s efforts to document these calls would have the opposite result:

THE CHAIRMAN: But did you understand also at the time you took this action that if, in fact, Ambassador Sondland was acting at the direction of the President, you were also creating a paper trail incriminating the President?

MORRISON: Well, sir, you could make that argument, yes. (Morrison Depo. at 228)

When Morrison first heard about the “no quid pro quo” call on September 7th, he recognized immediately what House Republicans have yet to realize: the “no quid pro quo” call does not exonerate Trump, it incriminates him.

– – – – – – – – – –

[1] Based on other text exchanges for which the exact time is known, Volker’s texts appear to have been recorded on Eastern time. If that is the case, then Sondland and Trump must have connected between approximately 1am, when Taylor sent the text, and approximately 5am, just before Sondland’s response to Taylor at 5:19am. It is hard to understand why Sondland would have thought he needed to call the White House at a time when most people – including presumably the president – would be sleeping, in order to ask a non-emergency question of: “What do you want from Ukraine?” Additionally, as the Washington Post reported, the White House has no record of the call. The Post also reported that “impeachment investigators believe the messages were logged in Eastern time, according to people familiar with the inquiry.”

[2] Morrison is clear that this call happened on September 7th, and Sondland does not dispute that Morrison is describing that the “no quid pro quo” call that Sondland testified took place on September 9th. (Sondland Testimony on Nov. 20, 2019)

[3] Additionally, after returning from Warsaw, Morrison went to the NSC lawyers to report Sondland’s conversation with Yermak.

[4] Based on the reported meeting times for the bilateral between Zelenskyy and Pence, these texts were recorded in Eastern time.

[5] This interview was scheduled for September 13th, on CNN’s Fareed Zakaria GPS, and a renewed effort occurred for a statement in a CNN interview later in September, but neither ultimately took place.

Witness testimony and records raise questions about account of Trump’s ‘no quid pro quo’ call

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/witness-testimony-and-records-raise-questions-about-account-of-trumps-no-quid-pro-quo-call/2019/11/27/425545c2-0d49-11ea-8397-a955cd542d00_story.html


#1624

Intelligence Committee to begin circulating draft Ukraine report Monday

Members of the House Intelligence Committee will begin reviewing a report Monday on the panel’s investigation of President Donald Trump’s efforts to press Ukraine to investigate his Democratic adversaries, a crucial step in the House’s fast-moving impeachment inquiry.

After a 24-hour review period, the panel is expected to approve the findings on Tuesday — likely on a party-line vote — teeing it up for consideration by the Judiciary Committee, which is expected to draft and consider articles of impeachment in the coming weeks.

Committee vote Tuesday. :raised_hands:


#1625

U.S. panel sets deadline for Trump to decide participation in impeachment hearings

A U.S. congressional panel on Friday gave President Donald Trump one week to say whether his legal counsel intends to introduce evidence and call witnesses in upcoming impeachment proceedings that could lead to formal charges of misconduct within a few weeks.

The Democratic-led House Judiciary Committee, which is due to begin weighing possible articles of impeachment against Trump next week, sent a two-page letter to the president setting a deadline of 5 p.m. EDT (2200 GMT) on Dec. 6 for the president’s counsel to specify intended actions under the committee’s impeachment procedures.

The procedures set out rules by which the president can call witnesses, introduce evidence and make presentations.

Panel Democratic Chairman Jerrold Nadler set the same deadline for Republican lawmakers on the committee to notify him about intended witnesses and evidence and scheduled a Dec. 9 meeting to consider the matter.

The Judiciary panel is expected to hold a series of impeachment proceedings, including an initial hearing on Wednesday at which legal experts are due to testify about the constitutional grounds for impeachment. The committee invited Trump to participate in the hearing and gave him until 6 p.m. EST (2300 GMT) on Sunday to say whether he or his legal team would attend.

Deadline is for 6pm ET, Sunday. Trump keeps talking about “due process” or whatever, here’s his chance. I bet he blows it just so he can keep on complainin’.


#1626

Sidelined for Months, Judiciary Panel Will Reclaim Impeachment Drive It Once Led

After being unceremoniously sidelined for two months while the Intelligence Committee assembled a case that the president pressured Ukraine to help him in the 2020 election, the judiciary panel is poised to retake the national stage this week to swiftly draft and debate articles of impeachment and almost certainly vote to make Mr. Trump only the third president in history to be impeached.

“News of the Judiciary Committee’s demise has been greatly exaggerated,” said Representative Hakeem Jeffries of New York, a top Democratic leader and member of the panel.

The panel, the arbiter of presidential impeachment proceedings past, will be thrust once again into the center of the maelstrom its Democratic members have been contemplating for months, to lead what is likely to be a raucous and messy process of formally charging the president with high crimes and misdemeanors.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democratic leaders have conspicuously avoided locking in a timeline for the inquiry, but privately they are said to be aiming for a full House vote on impeachment articles before the Christmas recess, barring unexpected developments. That would leave the Judiciary Committee with as little as two weeks to do its work.

The first milestone will come in the form of a written report from the Intelligence Committee, which is to be made available to members on Monday in advance of its approval on Tuesday. The handoff of the report, which will most likely form much of the basis for articles of impeachment against Mr. Trump, will be a stylistic and substantive turning point for the inquiry that will almost certainly inflame a debate that has already roiled Congress and divided the country.