The cryptically worded request marked urgent from the State Department’s independent watchdog set Congress on edge.
The message, according to Steven A. Linick, the department’s inspector general, was that he needed to meet — and right away — with senior congressional staff members to give them copies of documents related to the State Department and Ukraine. He signaled that they could be relevant to the House investigation into whether President Trump pressured Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his son Hunter Biden.
Some Democrats prepared for an explosive revelation that might show top administration officials had tried to obstruct their work. Speaker Nancy Pelosi told lawmakers on a caucus conference call that news reports were confirming that the heart of the briefing was about the White House retaliating against State Department staff who complied with the investigation. Representative Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland, the chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, called Mr. Linick’s request “significant” and told lawmakers to “stay tuned.”
So what congressional aides received — a roughly 40-page packet of documents sheathed in a manila envelope decorated with cursive script and manipulated to look aged, with a return address portraying that it had come from the White House — may have been a bit of a letdown.
The packet included documents laying out a record of contacts between Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, and Ukrainian prosecutors, as well as accounts of Ukrainian law enforcement proceedings. Some of it was established fact and some was unsubstantiated speculation that cast the Bidens in a bad light.
The packet contained a mysteriously curated collection of conspiratorial memos, news clippings and pages photocopied so poorly they were barely legible, according to a review of the dossier. The papers, contained in folders that appeared to be from a Trump hotel, were delivered to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s office in May — care of his secretary — by an unknown sender. The inspector general also included a series of emails between State Department officials that were not in the original file.
The memos referred to names that have played prominently in recent weeks, including Marie L. Yovanovitch, the former ambassador to Ukraine; Yuriy Lutsenko, the prosecutor general of Ukraine; Hunter Biden; and George Soros, a frequent target of conspiracies.
Perhaps most interestingly, a number of the memos listed a New York address — the Park Avenue office belonging to Mr. Giuliani.
Mr. Giuliani confirmed on Wednesday that the documents summarizing his interviews with the Ukrainian prosecutors were produced by a “professional investigator who works for my company.” Previously, Mr. Giuliani had recounted the interviews in a manner similar to that reflected in the documents. And he had previously described how his team had produced interview summaries modeled after those used by F.B.I. agents.
By the end of the day, some lawmakers, like Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey, the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, were calling for further action.
“We also need to understand Secretary Pompeo’s role, given that it appears that he discussed these documents with at least one of his top aides and that the documents were distributed at the highest levels of the State Department,” Mr. Menendez said.
But others, like Mr. Raskin, had reached a somewhat more cynical conclusion.
This, he told reporters, was an “irrelevant distraction.”
The packet was in an envelope labeled White House and addressed, in calligraphy, to Pompeo with “attn: Ruth” written underneath the secretary’s name. The envelope also included folders labeled “Trump Hotel,” creating another mystery.
What was the urgency in the first place?
Part of me wonders if this was an operation to get the bullshit conspiracy theories — the ones that Rudy, Pompeo and possibly Barr are chasing down in their junkets to Europe — in front of Congress and the public. They are trying to create a “Rudy Dossier” in the hopes that someone will take it up and investigate it, or to justify then fact that Pompeo and Barr are investigating it.
And then the obvious questions: Why was Secretary of State Pompeo in possession of this packet of disinformation? Why did he distribute and circulate it? To whom else did he distribute and circulate it?
One thing that seems clear from the packet is that The Hill‘s John Solomon is clearly part of the misinformation campaign:
In March, The Hill’s investigative reporter John Solomon published a story claiming that the U.S. government had pressured Ukrainian prosecutors to drop a probe of a group funded by the Obama administration and liberal billionaire George Soros. The story was published at 6 p.m., according to a timestamp on the paper’s website. Solomon himself didn’t share it on his Twitter account until 6:56 p.m. that night. The earliest cache of the story in the Internet Archive is from 7:42 p.m. Eastern time.
But hours before that, at 12:52 p.m. Eastern time, Solomon appears to have sent a version of the article to Ukrainian-American businessman Lev Parnas and the Trumpworld lawyers Joe diGenova and Victoria Toensing. The email was titled “Outline of Soros reporting, including embedded documents” and included the headline and the text of his piece.
Two congressional sources confirmed to The Daily Beast that Solomon’s email was part of a roughly 50-page package of material that was turned over to lawmakers on Wednesday by the State Department’s Inspector General’s office. Reuters was the first to report the email’s inclusion in the packet.
This might be the end of it. Or it might explain things. Or maybe it is nothing.