WTF Community

The Impeachment of President Donald J. Trump


(David Bythewood) #1045

Nancy Pelosi’s office has a “fact sheet” laying out the most compelling evidence to date against Trump in the investigation of his efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate Biden with 3 main headers:
➞The Shakedown
➞The Pressure Campaign
➞The Cover Up


State Department Tried to Block Taylor’s Testimony

But the House Intelligence Committee was ready with a subpoena.
Yet another attempt by Trump to obstruct justice fails.

The State Department tried to block Mr. Taylor from appearing for Tuesday’s deposition, or to limit his testimony if he did, according to an official working on the impeachment inquiry who insisted on anonymity to described the negotiations. Early Tuesday morning, in keeping with a pattern that has allowed investigators to extract crucial information from numerous administration witnesses, the House Intelligence Committee quietly issued a subpoena to compel Mr. Taylor to testify, and he complied.


Hungary’s Orban Gave Trump Harsh Analysis of Ukraine Before Key Meeting

Just 10 days before a key meeting on Ukraine, President Trump met, over the objections of his national security adviser, with one of the former Soviet republic’s most virulent critics, Prime Minister Viktor Orban of Hungary, and heard a sharp assessment that bolstered his hostility toward the country, according to several people informed about the situation.

Mr. Trump’s conversation with Mr. Orban on May 13 exposed him to a harsh indictment of Ukraine at a time when his personal lawyer was pressing the new government in Kiev to provide damaging information about Democrats. Mr. Trump’s suspicious view of Ukraine set the stage for events that led to the impeachment inquiry against him.

The visit by Mr. Orban, who is seen as an autocrat who has rolled back democracy, provoked a sharp dispute within the White House. John R. Bolton, then the president’s national security adviser, and Fiona Hill, then the National Security Council’s senior director for Eurasian and Russian affairs, opposed a White House invitation for the Hungarian leader, according to the people briefed on the matter. But they were outmaneuvered by Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, who supported such a meeting.

As a result, Mr. Trump at a critical moment in the Ukraine saga sat down in the Oval Office with a European leader with a fiercely negative outlook on Ukraine that fortified opinions he had heard from his personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, and from President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia repeatedly over the months and years.

Echoing Mr. Putin’s view, Mr. Orban has publicly accused Ukraine of oppressing its Hungarian minority and has cast his eye on a section of Ukraine with a heavy Hungarian population. His government has accused Ukraine of being “semi-fascist” and sought to block important meetings for Ukraine with the European Union and NATO.

Ten days after his meeting with Mr. Orban, Mr. Trump met on May 23 with several of his top advisers returning from the inauguration of Ukraine’s new president, Volodymyr Zelensky. The advisers, including Rick Perry, the energy secretary; Kurt D. Volker, then the special envoy for Ukraine; and Gordon D. Sondland, the ambassador to the European Union, reassured Mr. Trump that Mr. Zelensky was a reformer who deserved American support. But Mr. Trump expressed deep doubt, saying that Ukrainians were “terrible people” who “tried to take me down” during the 2016 presidential election.

Mr. Orban’s visit came up during testimony to House investigators last week by George P. Kent, a deputy assistant secretary of state responsible for Ukraine policy. The meeting with Mr. Orban and a separate May 3 phone call between Mr. Trump and Mr. Putin are of intense interest to House investigators seeking to piece together the back story that led to the president’s pressure on Ukraine to investigate Democrats.


Trump’s Ukraine envoy testifies amid questions of quid pro quo

William Taylor will face questions about his concerns that Trump was withholding military aid to pressure Ukraine to investigate Biden.

President Donald Trump’s top envoy to Ukraine arrived on Capitol Hill Tuesday with the potential to deliver some of the most revealing testimony to date in the House’s impeachment inquiry.

William Taylor was facing questions from House investigators about the deep concerns he had that Trump was withholding military aid to the eastern European nation to pressure Ukrainian leaders to investigate former Vice President and 2020 hopeful Joe Biden on spurious charges.

According to a source in the room for Taylor’s deposition, the longtime career government official’s opening statement was 15 pages long and prompted “a lot of sighs and gasps” inside the room.

Taylor, who replaced U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch after her unceremonious ouster by Trump in May, raised alarms with colleagues on Sept. 1 in a text message exchange released earlier this month by the three committees spearheading the inquiry.

“Are we now saying that security assistance and [White House] meeting are conditioned on investigations?” he wondered, referring to a potential meeting between Trump and his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelensky.

Eight days later, Taylor’s concerns grew more urgent. In texts with two other diplomats, Taylor said it was “crazy” that military aid to Kiev was being blocked in order to force “help with a political campaign.” Nearly $400 million in military assistance to Ukraine was put on hold in late July by the White House but was released in September two weeks after POLITICO revealed that it was frozen. Taylor described the hold on aid as a “nightmare” and said it had already shaken Ukraine’s faith in the United States.

"The Russians love it. (And I quit.)," Taylor said of the prospect that the aid would be blocked even after Ukraine agreed to open Trump’s preferred investigations.

(David Bythewood) #1049

Two more articles following this story directly.


Ukraine Envoy Testifies Trump Linked Military Aid to Investigations, Lawmaker Says

In closed-door testimony, a Democratic lawmaker said, William B. Taylor Jr., the top American diplomat in Ukraine, drew a “direct line” between President Trump’s withholding of security aid and his demand for investigations.

William B. Taylor Jr., the United States’ top diplomat in Ukraine, told impeachment investigators privately on Tuesday that President Trump held up security aid for the country and refused a White House meeting with Ukraine’s leader until he agreed to investigate Mr. Trump’s political rivals.

The testimony drew what one lawmaker described as a “direct line” between American foreign policy and his own political goals.

In testimony that Democrats in attendance called the most damaging account yet for the president, Mr. Taylor provided an “excruciatingly detailed” opening statement that described the quid-pro-quo pressure campaign that Mr. Trump and his allies have been denying.

Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Democrat of Florida, who sat in on the deposition as a member of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, said that Mr. Taylor relied in part on detailed “notes to the file” that he had made as he watched the pressure campaign unfold. His testimony shed new light on the circumstances around a previously revealed text message in which Mr. Taylor wrote to colleagues that he thought it was “crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign.”

On Tuesday, Mr. Taylor directly addressed accusations surrounding Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, and Burisma, a Ukrainian gas company that employed Hunter Biden, the son of former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., one of the leading Democratic candidates for president.

He “drew a very direct line in the series of events he described between President Trump’s decision to withhold funds and refuse a meeting with Zelensky unless there was a public pronouncement by him of investigations of Burisma and the so-called 2016 election conspiracy theories,” Ms. Wasserman Schultz said.


Opening statement of Ambassador William B. Taylor



Below, a few takeaways from Taylor’s opening statement.

1. There was a quid pro quo on military aid, he believes

In the text messages described above, Taylor, the acting U.S. ambassador, asked Sept. 1 about hundreds of millions of dollars in withheld military aid: “Are we now saying that security assistance and WH meeting are conditioned on investigations?” And on Sept. 9, he worried that “it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign.”

In his opening statement, Taylor said nothing has disabused him of that belief.

“I believed that then, and I still believe that,” he said.

2. But it wasn’t the only one

One of the big questions here was whether Trump might have gotten leverage from a) withholding hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid, or b) from withholding an Oval Office meeting that new Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky badly wanted.

Graphic: Who’s who in the impeachment inquiry

“By mid-July it was becoming clear to me that the meeting President Zelenskyy wanted was conditioned on the investigations of Burisma,” which employed Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden, “and alleged Ukrainian interference in the 2016 U.S. elections,” Taylor said.

The military aid was held up around the same time, but Taylor said it took him longer to reach the same conclusion about it.

“It still had not occurred to me that the hold on security assistance could be related to the ‘investigation,’" he said, describing where things stood in late August when the withheld military aid was first reported. “That, however, would soon change.”

3. An explicit quid pro quo — explicitly relayed to Ukraine

Taylor provides perhaps the most compelling evidence yet that this quid pro quo didn’t just exist but was explicitly communicated to Ukraine. He said he was told by National Security Council aide Tim Morrison that Sondland, the ambassador to the European Union, directly communicated that quid pro quo to a top Zelensky aide, Andriy Yermak.

“During this same phone call I had with Mr. Morrison, he went on to describe a conversation Ambassador Sondland had with Mr. Yermak at [a meeting in] Warsaw,” Taylor said. “Ambassador Sondland told Mr. Yermak that the security assistance money would not come until President Zelenskyy committed to pursue the Burisma investigation.” (Zelenskyy, the spelling used by Taylor in his written remarks, is the preferred spelling in Ukraine.)

That’s about as explicit as it gets — although it’s secondhand. It appears Morrison’s testimony will now be key.

Taylor also said Sondland later told him directly that both a meeting and military aid depended on the investigations.

“Ambassador Sondland also told me that he now recognized that he had made a mistake by earlier telling the Ukrainian officials to whom he spoke that 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,” Taylor said. “He said that President Trump wanted President Zelenskyy ‘in a public box’ by making a public statement about ordering such investigations.”

Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney last week appeared to confirm a quid pro quo — saying the aid was held up in part because Ukraine declined to investigate a conspiracy theory about the 2016 election that Trump favors. He soon tried to clean that up, saying Trump was merely concerned about corruption more broadly.

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) has also described such an arrangement on the 2016 investigation, saying Trump told him about it in an Aug. 31 phone call.

“But the president was very consistent on why he was considering [holding up the aid]," Johnson said this month. “Again, it was corruption, overall, generalized — but yeah, no doubt about it, what happened in 2016 — what happened in 2016, as relates? What was the truth about that?”

Johnson has also said Sondland told him at the time that the aid was tied to the investigation involving 2016 election interference, which Trump would apparently like to use to undercut the idea that Russia was behind it.

4. Sondland has explaining to do

Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee are talking about bringing Sondland back for more questioning, apparently believing he wasn’t forthcoming with them.

Sondland testified last week, for instance, that he wasn’t able to vouch for the lack of a quid pro quo. But Taylor suggests he was directly involved in communicating one. Taylor suggests Sondland tried to put a good face on it — and that Trump and Sondland took care to say it wasn’t a “quid pro quo” — but that that’s what it effectively was.

“Ambassador Sondland said that he had talked to President Zelenskyy and Mr. Yermak and 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,’" Taylor said of his Sept. 8 phone call with Sondland. “I understood a ‘stalemate’ to mean that Ukraine would not receive the much-needed military assistance.”

Sondland also said testified last week that “I recall no discussions with any State Department or White House official about former vice president Biden or his son, nor do I recall taking part in any effort to encourage an investigation into the Bidens.”

But Taylor described Sondland relaying a direct request involving the Bidens to Ukraine.

5. More cloak-and-dagger

Taylor doesn’t just describe quid pro quos; he describes the kind of secrecy we’ve come to expect from the Ukraine saga.

He says on a June 28 call with the “three amigos” — Sondland, Volker and Energy Secretary Rick Perry — Sondland said he wanted to prevent records of their upcoming call with Zelensky. He says Volker said on the call that he was going to make the White House demands to Zelensky explicit.

“I sense something odd when Ambassador Sondland told me on June 28 that he did not wish to include most of the regular interagency participants in a call planned with President Zelenskyy later that day,” Taylor says. “Ambassador Sondland, Ambassador Volker, Secretary Perry, and I were on this call, dialing in from different locations. However, Ambassador Sondland said that he wanted to make sure no one was transcribing or monitoring as they added President Zelenskyy to the call.”

Taylor also says he was given no rundown of what Trump spoke about with Zelensky in their July 25 call, the rough transcript of which showed Trump requesting the two investigations.

“Strangely, even though I was the Chief of Mission and was scheduled to meet with President Zelenskyy along with Ambassador Volker the following day, I received no readout of the call from the White House,” he says.

The whistleblower who touched off this whole thing has alleged that the call between Trump and Zelensky was stored on a code-word-level computer system that is generally reserved for sensitive national security information.

Sondland also encouraged Taylor in their texts, after Taylor raised concerns about quid pro quos, to speak with him on the phone. Sondland has denied he was trying to avoid a written record of their conversation, saying that’s generally how he conducts business.

The NY Times,

Who is mystery NY Times Op Ed Author

:rotating_light: Absolutely! – just finished reading it.

Testimony from Timothy Morrison, Senior official for Russia and Europe on the National Security Council, should provide additional corroboration. According to WaPo’s most excellent “Impeachment Inquiry Schedule” posted by @Pet_Proletariat, Morrison was scheduled to testify on Oct. 25, but that deposition has been delayed to an as-yet-to-be-determined date due to the funeral services for the late Rep. Elijah Cummings. Also, Morrison has not said whether or not he will appear – so we’ll just have to wait with bated breath until we find out more.


Next up on the calendar,

OCT. 23


Pentagon official to testify

Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, Laura Cooper is expected to appear in closed session on Oct. 23. She works on Ukraine, Russia and Eurasia.


Cooper has agreed to appear. Her appearance was rescheduled from the previous Friday.


Cross-posting :pray:

(David Bythewood) #1056

Video of Matt Gaetz and other GOP House members pulling a stunt where they pretend Republicans are being blocked from access to the Impeachment Inquiry when they know full well that the GOP has Representatives in those hearings.

This is a stunt. Nothing more.

The article below is about how House GOP is whining about being locked out of closed-door impeachment investigation sessions. It is a lie and a stunt; only those not involved are being blocked, as per normal procedure.

House Republicans complain about limited access to closed-door House impeachment investigation sessions

In other news…

Trump’s attorney William Consovoy just argued in Court that Trump could NOT be criminally investigated while in office if he shot someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue It was even insisted that local police would even be restricted from intervening to constrain Trump while he was doing the shooting.

Our Stochastic Terrorist president could upgrade to direct terrorism and the GOP would still back him.

Day 1006

Yes! And a lame stunt at that. Everyone knows (I guess with the exception of these Republican Congresspersons, the rest of Trump’s base, and Fox News) that all Committees on Capital Hill are composed of Republicans and Democrats proportionate to their numbers in the chambers – and who’s ever in the majority runs the show – just like the Republicans did in the House committees from 2016-2018.

Sometimes committee sessions are open, sometimes closed, depending on the needs and goals of the committee. For example, many investigations such as this one are conducted behind closed doors to keep witnesses who may be inclined to provide false testimony from aligning their “stories” with other witnesses who are also giving false “stories.”

Of course, Gaetz and Co. are perfectly aware of all this, but as you say, have pulled this stunt and unfortunately it will probably fool most of Trump’s base into thinking that some secret, nefarious plot is being perpetrated against their fearless leader.

And as the article points out: “McCarthy alleged that Republicans have not been allowed to cross-examine the witnesses, which is not accurate.” No one has prevented Republicans on any of the committees from asking any question they want. AND Schiff has promised that all transcripts will be released in future (they’re not being released immediately for the reason given above).


Yeah, it sure looks like a shit show.

I would refer these clowns to page 13, under section 14. PROCEDURES RELATED TO HANDLING OF CLASSIFIED INFORMATION

Who’s breaking what rules now? How is this unfair?


Contradicting Trump, Ukraine Knew of Aid Freeze Before It Became Public

To Democrats who say that President Trump’s decision to freeze a $391 million military aid package to Ukraine was intended to bully Ukraine’s leader into carrying out investigations for Mr. Trump’s political benefit, the president and his allies have had a simple response: There could not have been any quid pro quo because the Ukrainians did not know the assistance had been blocked.

Following testimony by William B. Taylor Jr., the top United States diplomat in Ukraine, to House impeachment investigators on Tuesday that the freezing of the aid was directly linked to Mr. Trump’s demand for the investigations, the president took to Twitter on Wednesday morning to approvingly quote a Republican member of Congress saying neither Mr. Taylor nor any other witness had “provided testimony that the Ukrainians were aware that military aid was being withheld.”

But in fact, word of the aid freeze had gotten to high-level Ukrainian officials by the first week in August, according to interviews and documents obtained by The New York Times.

The problem was not a bureaucratic glitch, the Ukrainians were told then. To address it, they were advised, they should reach out to Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, according to the interviews and records.

The timing of the communications about the issue, which have not previously been reported, shows that Ukraine was aware the White House was holding up the funds weeks earlier than United States and Ukrainian officials had acknowledged. And it means that the Ukrainian government was aware of the freeze during most of the period in August when Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, and two American diplomats were pressing President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine to make a public commitment to the investigations being sought by Mr. Trump.

The communications did not explicitly link the assistance freeze to the push by Mr. Trump and Mr. Giuliani for the investigations. But in the communications, officials from the United States and Ukraine discuss the need to bring in the same senior aide to Mr. Zelensky who had been dealing with Mr. Giuliani about Mr. Trump’s demands for the investigations, signaling a possible link between the matters.


Mr. Taylor told the impeachment investigators that it was only on the sidelines of a Sept. 1 meeting in Warsaw between Mr. Zelensky and Vice President Mike Pence that the Ukrainians were directly told the aid would be dependent on Mr. Zelensky giving Mr. Trump something he wanted: an investigation into Burisma, the company that had employed Hunter Biden, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s son.

American and Ukrainian officials have asserted that Ukraine learned that the aid had been held up only around the time it became public through a news story at the end of August.

The aid freeze is getting additional scrutiny from the impeachment investigators on Wednesday as they question Laura K. Cooper, a deputy assistant defense secretary for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia. This month, Democrats subpoenaed both the Defense Department and the White House Office of Management and Budget for records related to the assistance freeze.

As Mr. Taylor’s testimony suggests, the Ukrainians did not confront the Trump administration about the freeze until they were told in September that it was linked to the demand for the investigations. The Ukrainians appear to have initially been hopeful that the problem could be resolved quietly and were reluctant to risk a public clash at a delicate time in relations between the two nations.


Pentagon official handling Ukraine and Russia testifies in impeachment inquiry

As she arrived at the U.S. Capitol, Cooper did not answer questions from reporters. She apparently appeared voluntarily before the lawmakers as the Pentagon had not blocked her from testifying. The Trump administration had sought to block testimony by several other current and former officials.

In an opening statement to lawmakers that U.S. media posted online, Taylor called the exchanges between Trump, his advisers and Ukraine a “rancorous story about whistleblowers … quid pro quos, corruption and interference in elections.” Quid pro quo is a Latin term meaning a favor for a favor. Trump has denied that there was any quid pro quo involved in the Ukraine aid.


Ukrainian leader felt Trump pressure before taking office

More than two months before the phone call that launched the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, Ukraine’s newly elected leader was already worried about pressure from the U.S. president to investigate his Democratic rival Joe Biden.

Volodymyr Zelenskiy gathered a small group of advisers on May 7 in Kyiv for a meeting that was supposed to be about his nation’s energy needs. Instead, the group spent most of the three-hour discussion talking about how to navigate the insistence from Trump and his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, for a probe and how to avoid becoming entangled in the American elections, according to three people familiar with the details of the meeting.

They spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because of the diplomatic sensitivity of the issue, which has roiled U.S.-Ukrainian relations.

The meeting came before Zelenskiy was inaugurated but about two weeks after Trump called to offer his congratulations on the night of the Ukrainian leader’s April 21 election.

The full details of what the two leaders discussed in that Easter Sunday phone call have never been publicly disclosed, and it is not clear whether Trump explicitly asked for an investigation of the Bidens.

The three people’s recollections differ on whether Zelenskiy specifically cited that first call with Trump as the source of his unease. But their accounts all show the Ukrainian president-elect was wary of Trump’s push for an investigation into the former vice president and his son Hunter’s business dealings.

Either way, the newly elected leader of a country wedged between Russia and the U.S.-aligned NATO democracies knew early on that vital military support might depend on whether he was willing to choose a side in an American political tussle. A former comedian who won office on promises to clean up corruption, Zelenskiy’s first major foreign policy test came not from his enemy Russia, but rather from the country’s most important ally, the United States.

The May 7 meeting included two of his top aides, Andriy Yermak and Andriy Bogdan, the people said. Also in the room was Andriy Kobolyev, head of the state-owned natural gas company Naftogaz, and Amos Hochstein, an American who sits on the Ukrainian company’s supervisory board. Hochstein is a former diplomat who advised Biden on Ukraine matters during the Obama administration.

Zelenskiy’s office in Kyiv did not respond to messages on Wednesday seeking comment. The White House would not comment on whether Trump demanded an investigation in the April 21 call.


Another Trump defense blown out of the water. :clap:

In parallel with this now debunked “they-didn’t-even-know-the-aid-was-held-up” defense, Trump has quoted Zelensky as saying “there was no pressure” – and, yes, Zelensky did say this, but, as is usually the case, the person being extorted does not admit to being extorted for fear of additional consequences beyond the extortion. The Ma & Pa owners of the corner grocery store who are being shaken down by the mob for “protection money,” do not admit it to the police because they know if the mob finds out they ratted on them, their store will likely be burned to ground.

At the time Zelensky said there was “no pressure” he was sitting in a press conference right next to Trump, the all-powerful guy who was shaking him down, and who could hold up more aid in the future or do even worse things to Ukraine – so, yes, Zelensky took the path of least resistance and said there was “no pressure.” It’s the diplomats and other officials behind the scenes who know full well there was pressure – that there was a quid pro quo.


Live update, committee waits for House Republicans to finish their pizza before the Impeachment Inquiry can continue.