When should Republicans jump ship?
History could forgive Trump’s defenders. But we know it will reward his deserters.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Friday she expects the Democratic-led impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump to begin public hearings this month but insisted there’s no deadline to finish the investigation.
“I would assume there would be public hearings in November,” Pelosi said in a roundtable with Bloomberg reporters and editors. Any case that is made to impeach the president “has to be ironclad.”
Pelosi spoke a day after the House voted to set up a formal process for public hearings in an investigation of whether Trump used his office to pressure Ukraine to open a politically motivated investigation in exchange for releasing military aid.
Pelosi said the closed-door depositions of witnesses will continue as long as they are “productive.”
“I don’t know what the timetable will be – the truth will set us free,” she said. “We have not made any decisions on if the president will be impeached.”
Pelosi also said that Congress should pursue an impeachment inquiry regardless of its impact on financial markets. “The markets have their own strength and their resilience,” she said.
An interesting tidbit from the impeachment hearing:
I suspect Speaker Pelosi was waiting for formalized proceedings before rolling everything out. We know the White House had no plan in place for impeachment, let alone defending against multiple angles. This is going to get wild.
“It would cost almost nothing in terms of paper or ink cartridges to add the words ‘and Pence, too.’ ”
What led to Trump’s first meeting on June 20, 2017, with Ukraine’s then-President Petro Poroshenko? Ukraine had hired the lobbying firm BGR Group in January 2017 to foster contact with Trump, but nothing had happened . . . and then the door opened. Why?
On June 7, less than two weeks before Poroshenko’s White House meeting, Trump’s lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, had visited Kyiv to give a speech for the Victor Pinchuk Foundation, headed by a prominent Ukrainian oligarch. While Giuliani was there, he also met with Poroshenko and his prosecutor general, Yuriy Lutsenko, according a news release issued by the foundation.
Just after Giuliani’s visit, Ukraine’s investigation of the so-called black ledger that listed alleged illicit payments to former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was transferred from an anti-corruption bureau, known as NABU, to Poroshenko’s prosecutor general, according to a June 15, 2017, report in the Kyiv Post. The paper quoted Viktor Trepak, former deputy head of the country’s security service, saying: “It is clear for me that somebody gave an order to bury the black ledger.”
The New York Times reported in May 2018 that Ukraine had “halted cooperation” with Mueller’s investigation. The paper quoted Volodymyr Ariev, a parliament ally of Poroshenko, explaining: “In every possible way, we will avoid irritating the top American officials.”
Was there any implicit understanding that Poroshenko’s government would curb its cooperation with the U.S. Justice Department’s investigation of Manafort, who would later be indicted by Mueller?
Here’s the 2018 NYT article referred to:
In the United States, Paul J. Manafort is facing prosecution on charges of money laundering and financial fraud stemming from his decade of work for a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine.
But in Ukraine, where officials are wary of offending President Trump, four meandering cases that involve Mr. Manafort, Mr. Trump’s former campaign chairman, have been effectively frozen by Ukraine’s chief prosecutor.
The decision to halt the investigations by an anticorruption prosecutor was handed down at a delicate moment for Ukraine, as the Trump administration was finalizing plans to sell the country sophisticated anti-tank missiles, called Javelins.
The highly suspicious interactions between the Trump administration and Ukraine in 2017/18 and in 2019 are eerily similar. The question arises, in 2019 when Trump extorted the President of Ukraine, was he simply re-running a play he’d already executed earlier with the previous President of Ukraine?
Both cases involve Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani.
In both cases, meetings were stalled between Trump and the President of Ukraine (Petro Poroshenko in the first case, Volodymyr Zelensky in the second). Such a meeting is highly coveted by a Ukrainian leader needing to legitimize his rule.
In the first case, the stalled meeting was suddenly given the green light two weeks after Giuliani’s visit to Poroshenko and Ukraine’s Prosecutor General who was handling the Manafort investigation.
In the second case, the stalled meeting was OK’d after Trump’s extortion demand in his July 25 phone call with Zelensky.
In both cases, Trump was vitally interested in influencing investigations in Ukraine for his own personal benefit.
In the first case, Trump wanted to stop Ukraine’s investigation of his ex-campaign manager, Paul Manafort, which could lead to Robert Mueller receiving damning evidence against Trump.
In the second case, Trump wanted Ukraine to investigate his political rival, Biden, to further his chances of re-election.
In both cases, Ukraine’s need for Javelin missiles to defend against Russian attacks was at the center of the interaction.
In the first case, Javelin missiles were indeed released to Ukraine after they stopped their investigations into Manafort and stopped cooperating with Mueller. And Trump did indeed meet Poroshenko.
In the second case, Javelin missiles were also released, but Trump did not get the investigation of the Bidens that he was demanding. That’s very likely because the whistleblower exposed his extortion attempt and Trump was forced to release the missiles anyway in an attempt to make it look like he really wasn’t extorting Ukraine. Trump also did indeed meet with Zelensky, but again, that’s likely because his hand was forced by the revelations about his extortion attempt.
I was wondering when this would come up again…
A growing number of Senate Republicans are ready to acknowledge that President Trump used U.S. military aid as leverage to force Ukraine to investigate former vice president Joe Biden and his family as the president repeatedly denies a quid pro quo.
In this shift in strategy to defend Trump, these Republicans are insisting that the president’s action was not illegal and does not rise to the level of an impeachable offense as the Democratic-led House moves forward with the open phase of its probe.
But the shift among Senate Republicans could complicate the message coming from Trump as he furiously fights the claim that he had withheld U.S. aid from Ukraine to pressure it to dig up dirt on a political rival, even as an increasing number of Republicans wonder how long they can continue to argue that no quid pro quo was at play in the matter.
The pivot was the main topic during a private Senate GOP lunch on Wednesday, according to multiple people familiar with the session who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the meeting. Sen. John Neely Kennedy (R-La.) argued that there may have been a quid pro quo but said that the U.S. government often attaches conditions to foreign aid and that nothing was amiss in Trump’s doing so in the case of aid to Ukraine, these individuals said.
Inside the lunch, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), who ran against Trump in 2016, said a quid pro quo is not illegal unless there is “corrupt intent” and echoed Kennedy’s argument that such conditions are a tool of foreign policy.
“To me, this entire issue is gonna come down to, why did the president ask for an investigation,” Kennedy, who worked as a lawyer, said in an interview. “To me, it all turns on intent, motive. … Did the president have a culpable state of mind? … Based on the evidence that I see, that I’ve been allowed to see, the president does not have a culpable state of mind.”
Are they high?
A top White House official told lawmakers he tried to find out whether President Donald Trump told a key US diplomat he wanted Ukraine to investigate the Bidens, multiple sources familiar with his closed-door impeachment inquiry deposition on Capitol Hill told CNN.
His actions show concern inside the White House about the extent of the President’s role in the push for investigations that could help Trump politically.
Tim Morrison, the President’s top Russia adviser, had multiple conversations with American Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland. In those discussions, the ambassador referenced talks he had with the President. Morrison became concerned that Sondland was going rogue on Ukraine.
Morrison told lawmakers he thought Sondland was a “free radical,” according to two of the sources. The term was a reference to molecules that cause cancer.
To find out whether Sondland had talked to the President, Morrison went so far as asking Trump’s executive secretary if the President had actually talked with Sondland. The ambassador’s claims about having the conversations checked out each time, Morrison said in his testimony Thursday, according to the sources. In his own opening statement, Sondland downplayed both Trump’s role and his own in the effort to pressure Ukraine – suggesting he was reluctantly working with Rudy Giuliani, the President’s personal attorney, who was running a shadow diplomatic operation in Ukraine.
UPDATE: Here’s Rachel Maddow’s take on what may have been the first time Trump extorted Ukraine. That chain of events back in 2017 is uncannily similar to his most recent extortion attempt.
Maddow closes with a clip of Rep. Gerry Connolly stepping out one of the impeachment hearings on Wednesday. He makes cryptic statement that implies the committees may already be tugging at this very thread.
It’s really heart rending the way Trump is shredding our century’s-long alliance with the UK. They are perhaps our most valuable ally, having stood by us through thick and thin. Will they be so quick to come to our aid when we need their help in the future? No. And who benefits from dividing us? Trump’s BFF, Putin.
This article offers up a host of offenses Trump has perpetrated against the UK – a sad, but crucial accounting. A couple telling passages:
Trump and Barr have also been asking other foreign governments for help in investigating the FBI, CIA and Mueller investigators. The US president has called on the Australian prime minister Scott Morrison for assistance, while the attorney general has been on similar missions to the UK and Italy.
And the information being requested has left allies astonished. One British official with knowledge of Barr’s wish list presented to London commented that “it is like nothing we have come across before, they are basically asking, in quite robust terms, for help in doing a hatchet job on their own intelligence services”.
The Trump followers’ counternarrative is that US intelligence and security services had deliberately, and wrongly, concluded that the Russians were behind the hacking. The real culprit, they allege, was a private company, Crowdstrike, which is run with an anti-Russian agenda.
Every aspect of the Crowdstrike conspiracy tale has been disproved. But this has not stopped Trump from demanding that Zelensky looks into it, albeit in a somewhat incoherent manner, in the now infamous 25 July call to the Ukrainian president.
It’s good to see the House Intelligence Committee pro-actively issuing subpoenas instead of waiting for a no-show. Now if the key witness, John Eisenberg, stays home on Monday, BOOM, he’s instantly in violation of a subpoena. (Eisenberg is the Trump ally who placed the incriminating phone call summary on a super secret server and asked Vindman to keep it secret as well – with no apparent reason other than to help Trump avoid accountability for his extortion attempt on Ukraine.)
The same goes for Brian McCormack, Rick Perry’s chief of staff. Interviewing him will be crucial to finding out what Perry knew and when about Trump’s extortion attempt. Perry was one of “The Three Amigos” who were allegedly carrying out the scheme on Trump’s behalf when the whistleblower blew the lid off it.
Until Friday night when these subpoenas were issued, these two witnesses had only been requested to testify. Now they will be breaking the law if they refuse to appear.
The House Intelligence Committee subpoenaed two more administration officials Friday as part of its expanding impeachment investigation into President Trump’s dealings with Ukraine.
Investigators subpoenaed John Eisenberg, the White House National Security Counsel’s top legal adviser, to testify on Monday. The House also subpoenaed Brian McCormack, outgoing Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s chief of staff, for Monday deposition, according to a source familiar with the matter.
President Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, suggested as early as the summer of 2016 that Ukrainians might have been responsible for hacking the Democratic National Committee during the presidential campaign rather than Russians, a key witness told federal investigators last year.
Newly released documents show that Manafort’s protege, deputy campaign manager Rick Gates, told the FBI of Manafort’s theory during interviews conducted as part of former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign. Gates told the FBI that Manafort had shared his theory of Ukrainian culpability with him and other campaign aides before the election.
The new information shows how early people in Trump’s orbit were pushing the unsubstantiated theory about Ukraine’s role. And it illustrates a link between Mueller’s investigation, which concluded in March, and the current House impeachment investigation of Trump. The president had pushed Ukrainians to open a probe into whether their country interfered in the election — an assertion his allies have made in an effort to discredit Mueller’s findings about Russia’s role.
The documents were released in response to lawsuits filed by BuzzFeed and CNN seeking documents related to Mueller’s investigation. BuzzFeed on Saturday published the first installment of internal Mueller records, released by the Justice Department to the news organization in response to a court order.
A lot of newsbreaking 302’s are coming out…and Roger Stone’s trial is coming up in the next week or so…
That T was aware of the DNC emails when they were delivered to Wiki and wanted them out to hurt Hillary has got to be very important. Because T did not do any oral questioning with Mueller and he vaguely wrote answers there is bound to be some corroborating evidence in these.
I guess it’s just going to get worse until it ends? I don’t know how the President can sustain his position as more details surface? And now the GOP think it’s a good idea to go out there and try to defend the “quid pro quo” thing? These members seem to have so solidly bought into Trump’s conspiratorial version of the DNC/Clinton Hack that they believe where Trump sits is still a defensible position. It’s all lies. He’s just a continuum of corruption, from begging to end.
We have evidence that President tried to cheat/cheated in the 2016 election and was trying to cheat again in 2020, using the power of US Presidency, nonetheless. There’s this massive Impeachment Inquiry, and there’s drip-drip now as more comes out. How much longer can the GOP prop up this President?
The glaring truth, ie - that T was in on the emails, that T acknowledges and basks in (w/ GOP) in the Quid Pro Quo…which we all know is illegal.
The GOP’s efforts, along with FOX, combined with strange, truth-bending fabrications that DOJ, T’s conspiratorial henchmen (Reps Nunes, Gaetz, Jordan, Meadows, Sen. Graham) along with Rudi’s ideas about Crowdstrike based in Ukraine, Barr’s digging for dirt on Misfud, Pappapoulis, Steele, Ukraine’s servers, and worst of all - that GOP wants to pin it on the Intelligence services, and Obama is sheer tom-foolery. And worse.
For the other half (or less) of the country that believes in T as a leader, and who does not have a check on the truth, nor interested in it, and buys in hook-line-sinker with what Fox, T tells them, it is an alarming situation.
At some point, can some saner minds prevail???
I hope with Pelosi’s and Schiff steady hand to isolate the fact-from-fiction in the Impeachment inquiry that the public opinion gets swayed. And why wouldn’t Mitt Romney be the “Goldwater” figure who told the president to resign because he’s gonna get impeached for sure in the house, and so far not in the Senate. When does it end???
God help us all if we get attacked by any number of bad authoritarian countries…
This is what obstruction of justice looks like. We can only hope that the committees act swiftly and vigorously by issuing subpoenas and then the courts do the right thing and enforce them quickly.
The committees are doing their best to expedite the inquiry process – if Trump wants to drag it out, I say, “so be it.” Rather than caving in and skipping these crucial witnesses, I feel the committees should dig in and refuse to move on until the court battles are resolved.
Trump & Co. will undoubtedly whine that the process is taking too long, but that’s their doing so they deserve to suffer the political consequences – I believe the repercussions of a prolonged process will be much worse for Republicans than Democrats, especially if the public can be educated to understand that the delays are being caused by the Republicans. And Democrats must ensure that this question is posed daily in the media: “Why won’t Trump allow these witnesses to testify?” The answer is simple: “Because they have evidence that shows Trump is guilty.”
A top aide to White House Chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, Robert Blair, has refused to testify in the House impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump after the White House directed him not to appear for his scheduled deposition, his attorney told CNN.
The House committees investigating Trump had scheduled Blair’s deposition for Monday.
“Mr. Blair is caught between the assertions of legal duty by two coequal branches of government, a conflict which he cannot resolve,” Blair’s attorney Whit Ellerman told CNN on Saturday.
“In light of the clear direction he has been given by the executive branch, Mr. Blair has respectfully declined to appear and testify. Nevertheless, he will fulfill all his legal duties once that conflict is appropriately resolved.”
Blair has not yet received a subpoena, but Ellerman said Blair will still refuse to testify if he is subpoenaed.
Oh, he will be subpoenaed.
And, BTW, why does CNN keep referring to “the White House”? Why not say it like it is? In the first paragraph, instead of “the White House directed him not to appear,” it should say “Trump directed him not to appear.”
Looks like a Rep Murphy (D-Conn) is trying to educate the public on the real intent of T’s desire to use Ukraine as a bargaining chip. Here’s a good explainer about what T is doing with pressuring Ukraine…and a way for the public to understand what’s at stake.