Views On The Republican Prebuttal

Ken AshfordL'Affaire Ukraine, Republicans, Trump & Administration, Trump ImpeachmentLeave a Comment

The Republican staff report is as predictable as a typical Trump tweet—and as mendacious. It assails and belittles the Democrats’ effort to investigate whether Trump muscled Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to initiate investigations that would dig up dirt on Joe Biden and produce information to back up a nutty conspiracy theory that holds that Ukraine, not Russia, hacked the 2016 election. And the GOP report proclaims the Democratic-led probe is “not the organic outgrowth of serious misconduct; it is an orchestrated campaign to upend our political system.”

Even after Ambassador Gordon Sondland, who Trump used as a lieutenant in this caper, testified that there was a quid pro quo—White House action backing Zelensky in return for the Ukrainian government pursuing these investigations—the Republicans claim in this report there was “no quid pro quo, bribery, extortion, or abuse of power.” The report also asserts there was “nothing wrong” with Trump asking Zelensky to investigate Biden’s activities regarding Ukraine and his son Hunter’s involvement with a Ukrainian energy company called Burisma. It’s the product of Deep Spin.

The report echoes many of the rants of distraction and deflection issued by Nunes and Jordan during the intelligence committee’s hearings. And it is chock-full of attempts at gaslighting that are easily challenged or debunked. 

One example: “The evidence does not support the accusation that President Trump obstructed the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry,” the report states. Huh? The Trump White House has blocked key witnesses from testifying, and the State Department has refused to hand over significant documents.

But one spot where the report truly goes off the rails—in a manner illustrating its fundamental crookedness—is its account of that fateful July 25 phone call between Trump and Zelensky.

It was this conversation that kicked off the Trump-Ukraine scandal, when it caused a whistleblower—now known publicly as a CIA analyst—to submit a complaint to the intelligence community’s inspector general asserting that Trump had abused the power of his office to pressure Zelensky to churn up derogatory information on a Trump rival. In September, the White House released a quasi-transcript of the call, noting it was not a verbatim rendering of the conversation, that clearly depicted Trump’s underhanded effort to leverage US assistance to Ukraine for his personal political benefit. When Zelensky expressed his interest in obtaining from the United States anti-tank Javelin missiles—a possible deterrent to Russia, which has seized portions of Ukraine—Trump immediately replied, “I would like you to do us a favor though.” Bingo—that’s linkage, that’s conditionality. Which the GOP report claims never transpired.

In recounting this phone call, the Republican report maintains that the Democrats have distorted the transcript: 

Although Democrats have seized on the President’s phrasing—“I would like you to do us a favor though”—to accuse the President of pressuring President Zelensky to target his 2020 political rival for his political benefit, they omit the remainder of his sentence. The full sentence shows that President Trump was not asking President Zelensky to investigate his political rival, but rather asking him to assist in “get[ting] to the bottom” of potential Ukrainian involvement in the 2016 election.

Actually, no. This is an outright lie. There are several sentences between Trump’s request for a “favor” and his reference to getting to “the bottom” of Ukrainian involvement in the 2016 election (which was minimal). The Republican reconstruction leaves out an important step: Trump asked Zelensky “to find out what happened with this whole situation with Ukraine, they say Crowdstrike…I guess you have one of your wealthy people…The server, they say Ukraine has it.” This word-salad was a reference to crazy conspiracy hogwash that claims Russia did not hack the Democratic National Committee in 2016 and that Ukraine was somehow involved in the hacking or in spiriting away the DNC servers to cover up what really happened (which might be that the Democrats hacked themselves to set up Russia and Trump). This is an absurd notion. The US intelligence community and special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation each concluded Russia hacked the DNC as part of its sweeping and systematic plot to disrupt the US election and help Trump win. Even the House Intelligence Committee (when it was led by Republicans) and the GOP-controlled Senate Intelligence Committee also declared Russia was the culprit. But Trump has embraced this idea, despite his top aides telling him it was bunk. Why? Because it absolves Moscow of culpability and removes the very real Russia stain on his electoral triumph. This is an alternative, bizarre reality Trump wanted to make real. 

It’s also what the House Republicans airbrushed out of the picture: Trump muscling Zelensky in pursuit of information to prove a ludicrous conspiracy theory about the DNC servers. After all, it does show their man to be nuts. The report makes no mention of Trump’s fixation on this false server narrative; instead, it depicts him as merely asking Zelensky to investigate Ukrainian meddling in the 2016 election. And the meddling that the Republicans reference essentially centers on anti-Trump statements Ukrainian officials publicly made in 2016—remarks that were hardly surprising given that Trump, while campaigning, had indicated he believed it might be fine to let Russia hold on to Crimea, that portion of Ukraine it had illegally occupied and annexed. Republicans also point out that some Ukrainian officials were willing to help Democrats and American reporters researching the Ukrainian activities of Paul Manafort, Trump’s former top campaign aide—without noting that Manafort had pocketed millions of dollars as a consultant for a corrupt and pro-Russian Ukrainian president who had fled to Moscow in 2014 and was a legitimate subject of concern. (Manafort is currently serving a lengthy prison sentence in part because he laundered money and evaded taxes related to his Ukrainian work.) But just as the Republicans did during the hearings, their report casts these Ukrainian actions as major-league intervention—though they pale in comparison to the extensive covert Russian attack ordered directly by Vladimir Putin. Certainly, the GOP’s obsession with Ukrainian meddling serves Trump’s interest by drawing attention from or diminishing the importance of the Russian assault on the 2016 election. 

There is another big whopper in the Republican report about the Trump-Zelensky call. It correctly notes that after Trump referred to the “whole situation” in Ukraine, he told Zelensky there was “the other thing” and raised the issue of Hunter Biden and the unfounded allegation that his father had stopped a prosecution of Burisma by forcing the dismissal of the government’s top prosecutor. Trump, according to the quasi-transcript, said, “So if you can look into it… It sounds horrible to me.” (Ellipses in the original document.) The report states, “President Zelensky did not reply to President Trump’s reference to the Bidens, and the two did not discuss the topic substantively.”

That is wrong and misleading. Zelensky in fact zeroed in on what Trump was requesting. He responded:

I wanted to tell you about the prosecutor. First of all, I understand and I’m knowledgeable about the situation. Since we have won the absolute majority in our Parliament, the next prosecutor general will be 100% my person, my candidate, who will be approved, by the parliament and will start as a new prosecutor in September. He or she will look into the situation, specifically to the company that you mentioned in this issue. The issue of the investigation of the case is actually the issue of making sure to restore the honesty so we will take care of that and will work on the investigation of the case.

Zelensky did the opposite of what the GOP report describes. He told Trump that he would have a prosecutor “look into” the company that Trump mentioned. “We will take care of that and will work on the investigation of the case,” Zelensky said, according to that inexact transcript the Trump White House released. It could not be clearer: This was a substantive conversation directly about Trump’s request that the Ukrainians investigate the Bidens and Burisma. Yet the Republicans claim Zelensky did not respond to Trump’s comments about the Bidens. That is, Trump’s remarks about the Bidens were trifling and merited no concern then or now. This telling makes it seem as if nothing would (or could) come of Trump’s reference to the Bidens. In other words, no harm, no foul. But the evidence indicates Zelensky got the message and promised to do what Trump wanted: investigate his political foe. 

Other parts of the report can be dissected in this fashion. Republicans are not just taking the position that Trump’s conduct regarding Ukraine does not merit the ultimate political punishment: impeachment. They are saying that black is white. In a practice reminiscent of Soviet revisionism, they are trying to disappear inconvenient facts and rewrite the story to protect their dear leader. The document they have produced is a reiteration of Nunes, Jordan, and co.’s against-the-facts assertion that there is no scandal here—not even a scintilla of scandal—and that the real scandal is the Democrats’ dastardly attempt to oust Trump from office without cause; the Bidens’ corruption in Ukraine; and Kyiv’s plotting against Trump in 2016. Take your pick. But to mount this crusade, the Republicans have to deny or erase evidence—even evidence provided by the Trump White House. Consequently, they have manufactured a report that literally cannot handle the truth. 

Trump Declines Invitation To Participate in House Judiciary Committee Hearings, Then Complains About Unfair Process

Ken AshfordL'Affaire Ukraine, Trump & Administration, Trump ImpeachmentLeave a Comment

Neither President Donald Trump nor his attorneys will participate in Wednesday’s House Judiciary Committee impeachment hearing, they said late Sunday.

In a letter to Chairman Jerrold Nadler, White House counsel to the President Pat Cipollone said, “We cannot fairly be expected to participate in a hearing while the witnesses are yet to be named and while it remains unclear whether the Judiciary Committee will afford the President a fair process through additional hearings. More importantly, an invitation to an academic discussion with law professors does not begin to provide the President with an semblance of a fair process. Accordingly, under the current circumstances, we do not intend to participate in your Wednesday hearing.”

Cipollone accused the New York Democrat in the letter of “no doubt purposely” scheduling the hearing while Trump will be at a NATO meeting in London.Cipollone said they would respond separately to the Friday deadline about their participation in future hearings.The Judiciary Committee’s first hearing on “Constitutional Grounds for Presidential Impeachment” is expected to kick off a frantic month of activity in the House.

The judiciary panel is expected to hold multiple public hearings and then consider articles of impeachment, which it would approve to set up a possible House floor vote before Christmas that could make Trump just the third president in US history to be impeached.

Under the House-passed rules, the President’s counsel is able to participate in the impeachment hearings in the Judiciary Committee, unlike the public hearings last month in the House Intelligence Committee.

Two important details in the Cipollone letter: First, Cipollone still insists Trump “has done nothing wrong”! — indeed, that the HPSCI hearings “confirm[ed]” it. Extraordinary and deeply troubling for the White House counsel to say such a thing.

Second, Cipollone writes that “Both Presidents [Nixon and Clinton] in th[eir] [impeachment] proceedings asserted numerous privileges.” I don’t believe, however, that *any* of the examples at the pages (24-26) of the CRS report Cipollone cites involved privilege claims *in impeachment proceedings.* Indeed, Presidents from Washington on down have acknowledged that executive privilege is inapplicable–or in any event outweighed by congressional need–in impeachment inquiries.

Just now…

On the Sunday shows, Republicans previewed two leading arguments they’ll make in Trump’s defense as the next phase begins.

The first argument came from Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia on “Fox News Sunday.” Chris Wallace pushed Collins on whether he saw it as a problem that Trump conditioned official acts — whether a White House meeting or hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid — on announcing investigations into Joe and Hunter Biden.

Collins claimed there was “nothing problematic” about conditioning aid on Ukraine rooting out “corruption.” He then said in the very next breath that it “just so happened” that the corruption in question involved Hunter Biden, insisting that “other witnesses” also said Hunter’s arrangement with the Ukranian company Burisma was questionable.

As Will Saletan notes, no witness said this. But the crucial point here is that Collins has adopted the position that there was nothing wrong with demanding this investigation, because it was just pure coincidence that the corruption in question (which is entirely fabricated) involved a chief 2020 rival.

The idea that Trump was focused on generic corruption is falsifiable: Trump aides and allies have privately and publicly conceded it’s bunk, and on his call with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky, Trump explicitly called only for investigations that would help him politically. Whatever Collins actually believes about Trump’s motives, what’s staring us in the face is that Collins is arguing that what Trump actually did do is just fine.

We also saw this from Senator John Kennedy of Louisiana, who said on NBC News: “I think both Russia and Ukraine meddled in the 2016 election.” Kennedy continued that Trump should be allowed to present evidence to this effect, in keeping with his “demonstrated record fighting foreign corruption.”

The notion that Ukraine interfered in 2016 is based on a series of occurrences (which Kennedy alluded to) that have been wildly distorted beyond any connection with reality. As Glenn Kessler details, it’s based on “flotsam and jetsam” that has nothing whatsoever in common with the state-level interference alleged.

But the point here is that Kennedy is saying not just that this interference happened, but also that it justified Trump’s demand for investigations to get to the bottom of it, as part of his efforts to fight “foreign corruption.”

Senate Republicans will advance this argument at Trump’s impeachment trial: Trump understandably concluded he’d been victimized by a Ukrainian plot; therefore Trump’s demand for Zelensky to “investigate” it was entirely justified.

But they will be doing this after intelligence officials privately warned them this theory has been Russian propaganda for years. That’s because it’s supposed to help absolve Russia of sabotaging the 2016 election for Trump (which will also absolve his campaign of efforts to coordinate with and benefit from it).

Indeed, this is what gives the theory its political utility for Trump. Here again, the argument requires you to believe this demand for an investigation into “corruption” would also help him politically by pure coincidence.

But putting aside how laughable that is, we’re once again left with this: Republican are arguing that Trump’s pressure on Zelensky was absolutely fine.

On both these fronts, Republicans are entirely unperturbed by Trump’s use of his office to solicit foreign interference in the next election on his behalf. They absurdly claim influencing the election wasn’t the motive, but that actually underscores the point: They have largely adopted the posture that making these demands of Zelensky was justified — that it was the correct thing to do.

In an alternate universe in which reporters and commentators fully reckoned with this state of affairs, any process objections would be immediately dismissed as pure bad faith and misdirection, rather than being treated as one of two competing but equivalently legitimate and sincerely felt arguments in a conventional political skirmish.

One can envision some Republicans sincerely believing Trump’s conduct was justifiable while also harboring sincere process objections. But accepting this requires extensive denial about the spectacular bad faith we’ve already seen, from the up-is-down inversion of witness claims into their diametric opposites, to the reflexive reversion to conspiracy theories hermetically sealed off from factual penetration entirely.

Indeed, as Jay Rosen notes, the familiar lament that the two sides can’t agree on common facts is itself distortive. It obscures the degree to which Republicans are employing their various claims — about process and substance alike — in purely instrumental ways.

The New York Times gets at this bluntly:Republicans … want to mire Democrats in a sloppy fight, making the hearings into such a confusing mishmash of competing information that even Republicans troubled by Mr. Trump’s actions see no upside in breaking with him.

Republicans have made up their minds: Trump did no wrong. The process objections lay the groundwork to create the impression that if few or no Republican minds end up getting changed, it’s because the case against Trump was mishandled, and not because changing Republican minds was never possible.

No one who aspires to the faithful representation of these events is required to pretend otherwise.

Why Trump Embraces Conspiracy Theories

Ken AshfordTrump & AdministrationLeave a Comment

I think this piece by Peter Nicholas in the Atlantic goes a long way toward explaining Trump (and his followers’) dependence on kooky conspiracy theories. The question is whether or not Republicans can, or even want to, turn this around is unanswered.

This is the conclusion.  I recommend you read the whole thing if you can. It’s fascinating:

To grasp why conspiracy theories appeal to Trump, it’s important to understand the man. Mental-health experts have described Trump as a narcissist forever feeding his grandiose sense of self. Facts and evidence aren’t nearly so convincing to Trump as what makes him feel better about himself. Trump was an illegitimate candidate in 2016 who benefited from foreign interference? No, that was Hillary! “His perception, even his definition, of good and bad is what makes him feel good in the moment,” David Reiss, a San Diego–based psychiatrist who has studied and written about Trump’s psyche, told me. “There’s no sense of consequences beyond what’s good for me in the moment, and then that gets projected onto everything. What’s good for me is good for the universe.”

Joseph Vitriol, a College Fellow in Harvard’s psychology department who has studied conspiracy theories, told me that Trump “likely will gravitate toward anything that will make him feel good about himself and believe that he’s respected. That makes him averse to information that’s inconsistent with that perception, and makes him deeply suspicious of the motivations of people who criticize him. It also makes him unable to meaningfully engage with a broad range of information.”

This propensity for self-soothing combines with an anti-intellectualism that seems part of Trump’s makeup. He’s skeptical of elite opinion and not convinced that he has anything still to learn. As my colleague Ron Brownstein wrote last week, Trump and his Republican allies have been “escalating their war on expertise.”

Trump’s mind is thus fertile soil for bogus ideas to take root. A new book written by an anonymous senior Trump-administration official, A Warning, describes Trump pushing away facts and conclusions that don’t jibe with his own views. “When he does sit down for a briefing on sensitive information, it’s the same as any other Trump briefing,” the author writes. “He hears what he wants to hear, and disregards what he doesn’t. Intelligence information must comport to his worldview for it to stick. If it doesn’t, it’s ‘not very good.’”

“He gets his intellectual mojo out of television,” not other forms of learning, said Brinkley, who traveled to Mar-a-Lago during the transition in 2016 to meet with Trump and discuss past presidential inaugurals.

Conspiracy theory is a convenient umbrella term for various ideas Trump holds that lack foundation. But the phrase may be assigning these notions more gravity than they deserve. Trump often dishes up brute assertions that leave no space for rational argument. Statements that stoke anger, not thought. Democrats are out to get him because they’re “sick.” The impeachment inquiry is a “hoax.” Repeat as needed. Nancy Rosenblum, a government professor emerita at Harvard, describes it as conspiracy without the theory. The term she’s coined for this sort of mind-set: conspiracism.

“There’s no answer for it,” she told me, “which is why it is so seriously disorienting to people. We’ve never seen anything like it. We don’t know how to meet it. It’s an attempt to construct a reality, and when it comes from the president, he has the capacity to impose that reality on the nation.”

It goes on to describe all the various ways we’ve learned that people inside the White House, from Priebus to Mattis to Kelly and others, tried to keep him from accessing all this conspiracy nonsense. But they have all either been kicked out or eased aside and nobody can keep Trump away from Fox or his phone which means there’s really nothing they can do.

Constructing his own reality necessitates an attack on fact-finding institutions that are central to American democracy—universities, nonpartisan government agencies, law enforcement, the intelligence community, and the news media. For Trump’s version of events to take hold, he needs people to accept that the facts leaping out at them aren’t to be believed, that institutions wedded to objective truth aren’t to be trusted.

Here, Trump’s imprint will be hard to erase. Trump acolytes inside the Republican caucus are aping his methods and standing with him as he advances his fact-free claims about Ukraine’s complicity in the 2016 election. Unceasing attacks on “fake news” have resonated with a certain audience. Polling from The Wall Street Journal/NBC News shows that in 2010, 60 percent of Republicans had either no or very little confidence in the national news media. As of June—two and a half years into Trump’s presidency—that figure had grown to 74 percent. “Conspiracy theories go right to the jugular of what a democracy is,” Vitriol said. “The stakes are as high as they could possibly be.”

One day, the conspiracist in chief will leave office. His successors will face a choice: Exploit the damage he’s done to democratic institutions and norms, or see if it can be fixed.

I think Trump is most essentially a cult of personality so some of this will fade naturally when he is no longer the center of attention.  But with the old-school conservative movement dead and the Republican Party reduced to nothing more than a party desperately clinging to power for its own sake, it’s not hard to see this phenomenon hanging around, particularly when there’s money to be made at it, which Fox and and the various profit centers of the right wing have shown can be very lucrative.

To most Americans, this stuff looks like a descent down the rabbit hole.  But to those inside it it seems to feel very comforting even though it makes no sense. Maybe that’s the key. It just requires blind faith, loyalty and features a pleasant camaraderie — reason is not required.

Weekly List 159

Ken AshfordWeekly ListLeave a Comment

This week, more conspiracy theories were debunked, as a draft of the Department of Justice Inspector General report found the FBI did not try to place spies in Trump’s 2016 campaign, nor did Obama wiretap him. Trump allies continued to push the conspiracy that Ukraine, not Russia, may have interfered in 2016, despite it being thoroughly and widely disproved.

Trump sought to portray strength — firing the Navy Secretary and tweeting an image of his face super-imposed on the body of Sylvester Stallone in “Rocky.” He told supporters in Florida how hard he was working for them — as opposed to Democrats’ focus on impeachment — then clandestinely flew to Afghanistan on Thanksgiving to visit U.S. troops under false pretenses.

The House Judiciary Committee announced the start of impeachment hearings next week, as Trump and his team weighed whether to participate. The committee did not rule out an article related to the Mueller probe. Reporting revealed the September 9 call between Trump and Gordon Sondland — central in Trump’s defense of his actions towards Ukraine — may not have happened, and Rudy Giuliani faces a broad probe of possible criminal activity.

  1. On Saturday, NBC News reported the Trump regime is also holding back $105 million in congressionally-approved military assistance to Lebanon. Trump’s national security team is also in favor of the aid.
  2. The aid was mentioned by David Hale in his closed-door impeachment hearing deposition. The Office of Management and Budget has not explained the reason for the delay.
  3. On Sunday, House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff told “Meet the Press” the hearings produced “overwhelming” evidence Trump conditioned aid on investigations to help his re-election.
  4. Schiff said it is “urgent” for the House to move forward and not do “months and month of rope-a-dope in the court,” adding, “we have another election where the president is threatening more foreign interference.”
  5. On Sunday, ABC News reported the House Intelligence Committee is in possession of video and audio recordings, and photographs provided by Lev Parnas which include Rudy Giuliani and Trump.
  6. Chair Schiff said on “Meet the Press” that Parnas and Igor Fruman were subpoenaed. Fruman has not cooperated. Parnas’ lawyer said his cooperation is “non-partisan,” and for “the best interests of our nation.”
  7. On Sunday, WAPO reported a confidential White House review of Trump’s decision to put Ukraine aid on hold revealed emails showing extensive after-the-fact communication to come up with justification of his decision.
  8. The research by the White House Counsel’s Office, triggered by the House impeachment inquiry, included emails between chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and other officials in early August on the hold Trump placed in mid-July.
  9. Trump decided on the hold without a rationale or legal justification. Mulvaney asked OMB director Russell Vought in early August for a legal rationale. Vought said it was legal, but the NSA and the State Department disagreed.
  10. Mulvaney’s request came as he learned the whistleblower made a complaint to the CIA’s general counsel. The White House released aid on September 11, two days after the House was notified of the complaint.
  11. White House counsel Pat Cippollone’s office has overseen the review, and has kept tight control of his findings, exasperating tensions between he and Mulvaney, whose aides said they need information for public inquiries.
  12. On Saturday, Rep. Adam Smith, a high ranking Democrat, said an ethics investigation of Rep. Devin Nunes is likely over allegations he met with Ukraine’s former top prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, to get dirt on the Bidens.
  13. According to the lawyer for Parnas, a top aide for Nunes, Derek Harvey, also joined a group that frequently met at the Trump Hotel DC in the spring of 2019 to discuss the Biden matter and other topics.
  14. Nunes told Breitbart, these “false and scandalous stories published by the Daily Beast and CNN are the perfect example of defamation and reckless disregard for the truth,” and threatened to sue for the “fake stories.”
  15. Newsweek reported Nunes spent $57,000 of taxpayer monies on flights and other expenses for travel to Europe for himself and three staffers, Scott Glabe, George Pappas, and Harvey.
  16. Rudy Giuliani appeared on Fox News on Saturday, saying “Devin Nunes says he didn’t meet with Shokin. I have no reason to believe that he did,” adding, “If he did, there would’ve been nothing wrong with it.”
  17. Giuliani also said that he has a good relationship with Trump, adding, “I’ve seen things written like he’s going to throw me under the bus,” but “when they say that, I say he isn’t, but I have insurance.”
  18. On Sunday, in an interview with NYT, former White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said, “I was attacked for everything, not just my performance,” and, “I don’t like being called a liar.” Sander repeatedly lied.
  19. On Sunday, Rick Perry told “Fox & Friends” Trump is “the chosen one” and “sent by God to do great things.” Co-host Peter Hegseth said what Trump withstood is “unlike what really any other mortal could understand.”
  20. On Monday, Nikki Haley told Christian Broadcasting Network on Trump, “I think God sometimes places people for lessons and sometimes places people for change. And you can look at everything that has happened.”
  21. On Tuesday, First Lady Melania was booed while addressing a group of middle school and high school students in Baltimore in a speech about youth opioid use, four months after Trump publicly disparaged the city.
  22. On Wednesday, former Democratic governor Martin O’Malley confronted acting deputy secretary of Homeland Security Ken Cuccinelli at Dubliner, a Capitol Hill Irish bar, on Thanksgiving Eve over immigration policy.
  23. Onlookers said as the two passed, O’Malley unloaded on Cuccinelli over separating migrant children from their parents, invoking “kids in cages,” and telling him his immigrant parents would “be ashamed of him.”
  24. On Wednesday, WAPO reported White House adviser Stephen Miller has emerged unscathed from leaked emails tying him to white nationalists and racist talking points. He boarded Air Force One with Trump on Tuesday.
  25. The White House has vigorously defended Miller, and Republican lawmakers have refrained from commenting. Two dozen Senate Democrats and 100 in the House have called on him to step down.
  26. On Wednesday, the editorial board for the Sacramento Bee, Nunes’ local paper, said in an op-ed he should “cease silly lawsuits and answer serious questions” about the roughly $60,000 spent on his trip to Europe.
  27. The board cited Nunes’ ongoing lawsuit against Twitter accounts known as “Devin Nunes’ cow” and “Devin Nunes’ mom,” calling the suits a “mockery” and saying he was “eviscerated” in court filings this week.
  28. On Thursday, NYT reported at least nine Republican organizations have bought Donald Jr.’s book in bulk in an effort to bolster sales. Nonetheless, “Triggered” dropped to number 2 this week as Anonymous’ book came out.
  29. On Sunday, Trump tweeted about a non-existent poll, claiming, “Polls have now turned very strongly against Impeachment, especially in swing states. 75% to 25%. Thank you!”
  30. On Monday, Trump tweeted again about an non-existent poll: “Support for Impeachment is dropping like a rock, down into the 20’s in some Polls,” adding, “Dems should now get down to work.”
  31. Later Monday, Trump quoted “Fox & Friends” host Brian Kilmeade saying impeachment “is getting less and less popular by the day.” This tweet is also false.
  32. In all three tweets, Trump did not cite a polling source for his numbers, and it appeared rather than cherry-picking polls which Trump has done in the past, he instead invented polls.
  33. On Tuesday, a new CNN poll found 50% of Americans say Trump should be impeached, 43% say he should not — unchanged since October despite impeachment hearings. Independents are 47% in favor, 45% opposed.
  34. The gender gap for impeachment was 40 points: women 61% in favor, 34% against; men 40%, 53%. The poll also found Trump’s approval with women was 32% with women, and 52% with men.
  35. Relative to past presidents, CNN found support for Trump’s impeachment was high: Bill Clinton at his highest point was 29%, Obama was 33%, and George W. was 30%.
  36. On Tuesday, a Politico/Morning Consult poll found support for impeachment up to 48%, with 45% against. Support has increased from +3 to +5 in the past week.
  37. On Wednesday, Reuters/Ipsos found support for impeachment up to 47% for, 40% against. Net support is up 4 points in the poll since impeachment hearings began.
  38. On Saturday, AP reported Secretary of Navy Richard Spencer said he does not consider a tweet by Trump to be a formal order, saying, “I need a formal order to act,” relating to a sailor who could lose his status as a Navy SEAL.
  39. On Saturday, NYT reported Spencer and the admiral who leads the SEALs have threatened to resign or be fired if Trump halted their plan to expel the sailor, Chief Petty Officer Edward Gallagher.
  40. On Sunday, Gallagher appeared on “Fox & Friends,” saying the Navy was retaliating against him and trying to take his Trident pin “after the president restored my rank,” and that he was “overjoyed” by Trump’s help.
  41. Ahead of Gallagher’s appearance, Trump tweeted, “Navy Seal Eddie Gallagher will be on @foxandfriends this morning at 7:30 A.M.,” adding, “Have no fear, all will end well for everyone!”
  42. Later Sunday, Trump tweeted, “I was not pleased with the way that Navy Seal Eddie Gallagher’s trial was handled,” saying, “he was treated very badly.” Trump also cited “large cost overruns” by the last administration.
  43. Trump added, “Therefore, Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer’s services have been terminated by Secretary of Defense Mark Esper,” and, “Eddie will retire peacefully with all of the honors” and his Trident pin.
  44. Sec. Esper claimed Spencer privately proposed to White House officials that Gallagher could retire as SEAL with his pin if they did not interfere, but did not share the proposal with him, and so he lost confidence in him.
  45. Shortly after, Spencer resigned in a letter to Trump, saying, “Unfortunately it has become apparent that in this respect, I no longer share the same understanding with the Commander in Chief who appointed me.”
  46. Spencer added, “I cannot in good conscience obey an order that I believe violates the sacred oath I took in the presence of my family, my flag and my faith to support and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
  47. On Wednesday, in an op-ed, Spencer responded to his firing, saying, “We are effective overseas not because we have the best equipment but because we are professionals. Our troops are held to the highest standards.”
  48. Spencer noted, “Trump involved himself in the case almost from the start. Before the trial began,” and that Trump’s interest in the case “stemmed partly from the way the defendant’s lawyers” talked about it on Fox News.
  49. Spencer wrote to Trump on November 14 to ask him not to get involved, and next day, White House Counsel Pat Cipollone called to say Trump would remain involved. Cipollone called again to tell Spencer to restore Gallagher’s rank.
  50. Spencer said, “This was a shocking and unprecedented intervention,” adding Trump “has very little understanding of what it means to be in the military, to fight ethically,” or to be governed by “rules and practices.”
  51. On Sunday, Sen. John Kennedy told “Fox News Sunday” he was not sure if it was Russia or Ukraine that interfered in the 2016 election, saying, “I don’t know, nor do you, nor do any others.”
  52. On Monday, Kennedy backtracked, telling CNN, “I was wrong,” adding, “It was Russia who tried to hack the (Democratic National Committee) computer. I’ve seen no indication that Ukraine tried to do it.”
  53. On Monday, Fox News host Tucker Carlson joked he was siding with Russia over Ukraine: “Why do I care what is going on in the conflict between Ukraine and Russia?…Why shouldn’t I root for Russia? Which I am.”
  54. On Monday, Trump also quoted lawyer Sam Dewey, a frequent cable news commentator, tweeting, “President Trump is facing a process which is unprecedented for its unfairness.”
  55. On Monday, Trump claimed credit at a ceremony for signing the Woman’s Suffrage Centennial Coin Act, saying, “I’m curious why wasn’t it done a long time ago?” adding, “now I’m president, we get things done.”
  56. The bill, introduced in April 2019 with bipartisan support of all 25 female senators, commemorates the 100 year anniversary of when the 19th Amendment was ratified, giving women the right to vote.
  57. On Monday, U.S. District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson found that the White House claim that Don McGahn is “absolutely immune” to be “baseless,” saying he must comply with the House Judiciary subpoena.
  58. In an 118-page opinion, the judge said, “per the Constitution, no one is above the law,” adding, “the primary takeaway from the past 250 years of recorded American history is that Presidents are not kings.”
  59. The ruling also says that the House should have subpoena power over other top regime officials, and that Trump himself may not be immune from testimony.
  60. Jackson’s wording was some of the strongest yet to criticize the White House’s approach to investigations into Trump. The Justice Department, which represents McGahn, said it would appeal.
  61. On Tuesday, the lawyer for John Bolton said the court decision did not impact Bolton, claiming his “responsibilities are focused exclusively on providing information and advice to the president on national security.”
  62. Jackson’s ruling said there was not “any difference whether the aides in question are privy to national security matters, or work solely on domestic issues,” saying that aides could cite executive privilege, but should testify.
  63. On Tuesday, Trump attacked the ruling, tweeting, “the D.C. Wolves and Fake News Media are reading far too much” into it, and, “I am fighting for future Presidents and the Office of the President.”
  64. Trump claimed, “I would actually like people to testify. Don McGahn’s respected lawyer has already stated that I did nothing wrong,” and complimented John Bolton as a “patriot” for not testifying.
  65. Trump added, “I would love to have Mike Pompeo, Rick Perry, Mick Mulvaney and many others testify about the phony Impeachment Hoax,” adding, “It is a Democrat Scam that is going nowhere.”
  66. On Tuesday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the debunked conspiracy theory that Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in the 2016 election is worthy of investigation, saying we have “a duty to make sure we chase that down.”
  67. Pompeo told reporters that in his time as CIA director, he learned “there were many countries that were actively engaged in trying to undermine American democracy, our rule of law.”
  68. Pompeo refused to say what he and Giuliani discussed in two March phone calls revealed in State Department records in Week 158, telling reporters, “I don’t have much to say with respect to the Ukraine investigation.”
  69. Pompeo also side-stepped questions about Trump’s morning tweet, in which he said he would “love to have Mike Pompeo” and other officials testify, responding, “When the time is right, all good things happen.”
  70. Later Tuesday, Bolton tweeted, “our country’s commitment to our national security priorities is under attack from within,” and, “America is distracted. Our enemies are not.” It was unclear what Bolton meant or his intention.
  71. On Wednesday, a federal judge on the DC Circuit Court temporarily stayed Jackson’s order for McGahn to comply with a House subpoena to testify, and said the appeals court would hear arguments on January 3.
  72. On January 3, the DC Circuit Court will also hear arguments on whether the DOJ must turn over Mueller grand jury testimony to the House. The DOJ is also representing McGahn.
  73. On Monday, the Supreme Court blocked the House Oversight Committee from immediately obtaining Trump’s tax returns, giving Trump’s lawyers until December 5 to file a petition stating why it should accept the case.
  74. If the petition is denied, the lower court ruling will go into effect. If accepted, the case will be heard before June. The House lawyer said, “Each day of delay harms Congress by depriving it of important information.”
  75. On Tuesday, the House Oversight Committee sued AG William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross for failing to turn over documents related to the regime’s failed attempt to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census.
  76. On Saturday, WAPO reported during the team’s visit to the White House as NCAA champions, the Columbia fencing team was not able to give Trump a letter critical of his gender equity policies, nor wear pins in support of it.
  77. On Monday, WAPO reported José Ricardo Villalta Canales sued Maryland Natural Resources Police for turning him over to ICE where he remained in custody for three months, after being fined for cutting down a tree.
  78. On Monday, WAPO reported the Education Secretary is poised to issue sweeping rules governing campus sexual assault, requiring universities to allow cross examination of those alleging sexual assault.
  79. The proposal received an astounding 124,196 public comments, criticism from advocacy groups, survivors of sexual assault and campus leaders. Secretary Betsy DeVos said the new system would restore balance.
  80. On Monday, DOJ Pride, a group of DOJ employees who are LGBTQ, sent a letter to AG Barr arguing the department’s stance against Title VII of the Civil Rights Act had a “clear and negative impact on employee morale.”
  81. The letter cited concern the DOJ does not “support its LGBTQ workforce” or believe they “need or deserve anti-discrimination protections,” and the department “will be less able to recruit and retain talented employees.”
  82. On Monday, Google fired Rebecca Rivers, the employee who helped organize a petition against its working with Customs and Border Protection. She was placed on administrative leave earlier this month.
  83. On Monday, Trump ally and conservative broadcaster Rick Wiles warned on his show of a “Jew Coup,” saying Jewish members of Congress, the media, and the government were trying to take down Trump with impeachment.
  84. On Wednesday, LA Magazine reported Tom Bowers, a Deutsche Bank executive who signed off on bank’s unorthodox loans to Trump, committed suicide. Rosemary Vrablic, Trump’s private banker, reported to Bower.
  85. On Wednesday, Detroit Free Press reported 90 foreign students were arrested at a fake university set up the Department of Homeland Security in metro Detroit, bringing the total to 250 since it was set up in January.
  86. University of Farmington was set up as part of a sting operation to entice foreign-born students, mostly from India, to register for a school that claimed it offered graduate programs in technology and computer studies.
  87. The students arrived legally in the U.S. on student visas, but since the school was revealed to be a federal creation, they lost their immigration status, and 250 were arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
  88. On Wednesday, WSJ reported according to a report by the DHS IG, the department did not have the necessary process in place to track how many migrant children were separated from their families.
  89. The report found U.S. Customs and Border Protection was aware of the deficiency in November 2017, but the agency did little to address the problem ahead of mass separations that took place from May to June 2018.
  90. The report found Trump’s “zero-tolerance” policy backfired, citing CBP agents were so overwhelmed, they released more migrants from detention and failed to turn over children in the required 72 hour window.
  91. The report found at least 1,200 migrant children were not properly tracked by the government, and it is not known if they were reunited with their families.
  92. On Thursday, WSJ reported that immigration judges in San Diego are quietly disrupting Trump’s new “Remain in Mexico” rule. Between January and September, 33% of the cases before the nine judges were terminated.
  93. On Wednesday, ProPublica and Portland Monthly reported three women say they experienced sexual misconduct by Gordon Sondland in business settings before he become ambassador, including one saying he exposed himself.
  94. All three women described professional retaliation when they rebuffed him, including one saying he backtracked from investing in her business. All three women agreed to be named in the reporting.
  95. In a letter to ProPublica, Sondland’s attorney accused it of trying to “affect Ambassador Sondland’s credibility as a fact witness,” and suggested the news organizations of “veiled witness tampering.”
  96. On Thursday, associates of Sondland said he had no plans to resign over the allegations, which he denied.
  97. On Friday, Guardian reported the Ohio legislature introduced a bill that required doctors to “reimplant an ectopic pregnancy,” a procedure that does not exist in medical science, or face charges of “abortion murder.”
  98. The bill, one of the most extreme anti-abortion introduced to date, marks the second time obstetricians and gynecologists have told Ohio legislators that an idea is medically impossible.
  99. On Saturday, Rep. Ilhan Omar’s 2020 opponent, Danielle Stella, was permanently banned from Twitter, after tweeting the congresswoman “should be tried for #treason and hanged.”
  100. Stella took to Facebook to defend her rhetoric and the accompanying image, citing a conspiracy theory and claiming, “I believe all involved should be thoroughly investigated. I did not threaten anyone.”
  101. On Monday, Hong Kong voters delivered a landslide victory to pro-democracy candidates, who won almost 90% of districts. China-backed leader Carrie Lam said she will “listen humbly” to the views of the public.
  102. However, the Chinese foreign minister warned, “Whatever happens, Hong Kong is always a part of China and any attempts to create chaos in Hong Kong or to jeopardise its prosperity and stability will not be successful.”
  103. On Sunday, Axios reported that White House officials directed Sen. Lindsey Graham to block the Armenian genocide resolution after leaving a meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in the Oval Office.
  104. On Monday, Sen. Ron Wyden said in his investigation of Turkish state-run bank Halkbank, accused of the biggest money laundering scheme in US history, he learned that Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin attended lunch with Erdoğan.
  105. The Treasury Department disclosed Mnuchin had six other meetings with top Turkish officials. Wyden said Treasury “does not deny” Trump tasked Mnuchin “with intervening in the criminal investigation of Halkbank.”
  106. On Monday, Reuters reported Turkey will test its new Russian S-400 missile defenses, despite pressure from the Trump regime to drop the system, which is incompatible with NATO defenses.
  107. On Thursday, CNN reported the Trump regime plans to cut its financial contribution to NATO, seen as a symbolic move, ahead of Trump attending a summit of NATO’s 70th anniversary in London next week.
  108. U.S. officials say the regime plans to reduce the U.S. contribution down to 16% of the overall budget, in line with Germany which provides 15% but has a smaller economy. Other NATO members will make up the shortfall.
  109. On Thursday, speaking alongside the NATO chief, French President Emanuel Macron criticized Turkey’s operation in Syria against Kurds, who were critical in the fight against ISIS, after Trump’s withdrawal.
  110. On Friday, Erdoğan called Macron “brain dead,” and “inexperienced” for saying Turkey should not be part of NATO. France summoned the Turkish envoy to explain Erdoğan’s comment.
  111. On Thursday, Seoul said North Korea fired two short-range projectiles, the 13th major public weapons test by Kim Jong Un this year.
  112. On Tuesday, WSJ reported Trump secretly met Sunday morning with Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and his preferred pick to fill the state’s Senate seat, Kelly Loeffler, at the White House — and told Kemp not to pick Loeffler.
  113. Reportedly, Trump did not inform White House aides about the meeting which turned acrimonious. Trump pushed for Rep. Doug Collins, who would be a certain vote against impeachment.
  114. On Friday, Trump ally Rep. Matt Gaetz called for a primary challenge to Kemp for not obeying Trump, tweeting, “maybe you need a primary in 2022,” adding, “Let’s see if you can win one w/o Trump.”
  115. On Sunday, WSJ reported Andrew Favorov, the head of natural gas for Naftogaz, told SDNY federal prosecutors that Parnas and Fruman tried to recruit him in March to help oust Naftogaz CEO Andriy Kobolyev.
  116. Favorov said the two described Kobolyev and Marie Yovanovitch as part of “this Soros cartel” working against Trump, and said he should take over as CEO of Naftogaz. Favorov said he reported their plan to Kobolyev.
  117. On Monday, WSJ reported prosecutors have subpoenaed Giuliani Partners, Giuliani’s consultant business, and sent subpoenas and other requests to possible witnesses for records and information on Giuliani, Parnas, and Fruman.
  118. Subpoenas list eight possible charges, including obstruction of justice, money laundering, conspiracy to defraud, making false statements, serving as an agent of a foreign government without registering with the DOJ.
  119. Other charges include donating funds from foreign nationals, making contributions in the name of another person or allowing someone else to use one’s name to make a contribution, and mail fraud and wire fraud.
  120. On Monday, WAPO reported SDNY federal prosecutors are also investigating Parnas and Fruman’s interactions with Giuliani and the main pro-Trump super PAC, America First Action, set up after the election.
  121. Investigators are scrutinizing Giuliani Partners’ donations to the PAC. Parnas and Fruman attended an America First dinner in April 2018, at which they spoke to Trump about Yovanovitch.
  122. On Monday, NYT reported Giuliani targeted two Ukrainian oligarchs with legal trouble in the U.S., Dmitry Firtash and Ihor Kolomoisky, to help him dig up damaging information on Joe Biden.
  123. Kolomoisky said he met with Giuliani and Parnas under a made-up pretense, and Giuliani asked him to set up a meeting with Zelensky. He said no, so Giuliani tweeted an uncomplimentary article about him.
  124. Firtash initially said he did not have information on the Bidens, but hired lawyers Victoria Toensing and Joseph diGenova, recommended by Giuliani, who approached the DOJ on his behalf.
  125. Confidential documents on Firtash made their way to John Solomon, who was a client of Toensing. Giuliani and Solomon obtained a sworn affidavit from Shokin saying Biden wanted him fired, taken by Firtash’s legal team.
  126. On Tuesday, WAPO reported Venezuelan energy executive Alejandro Betancourt López hosted Giuliani in Madrid in August, and hired him to help him in a DOJ investigation of money laundering and bribery.
  127. A month later, Giuliani was part of a legal team for Betancourt that met with the chief of the DOJ’s criminal division and other government attorneys, saying he should not face criminal charges.
  128. The $1.2 billion money laundering case is the latest example of Giuliani using his access in the Trump regime to offer his services to foreign clients. The Madrid meeting took place as Giuliani pursued the Ukraine campaign.
  129. On Tuesday, in an interview with former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly, Trump distanced himself from Giuliani and contradicted witnesses, saying of Giuliani’s efforts with Ukraine, “No, I didn’t direct him.”
  130. Asked what Giuliani was doing in Ukraine, Trump said, “You have to ask that to Rudy,” and “I don’t even know,” adding, “I know he was going to go to Ukraine and I think he canceled a trip,” and “Rudy has other clients.”
  131. In Week 130 NYT reported Giuliani had planned a trip to visit Zelensky to push for investigations, but canceled after political blowback. Gordon Sondland and Kurt Volker mentioned him 430 times in their testimony.
  132. On Wednesday, WAPO reported Giuliani was in talks with Ukraine’s former top prosecutor, Yuri Lutsenko, on a deal for Giuliani Partners to work for Ukrainians. Legal agreements were drafted, but not signed.
  133. Talks occurred between the two in New York in January and Warsaw in February, as Giuliani was gathering information on the Bidens and Ukraine 2016 interference, and wanted Lutsenko’s help with that.
  134. Lutsenko wanted a pipeline to top U.S. officials arranged by Giuliani. Notably, Giuliani told WAPO that he does not charge Trump any fees for legal services.
  135. Giuliani’s firm would have been paid a $200,000 retainer, then a $300,000 monthly fee from the Ministry of Justice. Toensing and diGenova were also mentioned, and were part of a separate proposal with the Ministry.
  136. On Wednesday, Reuters reported Giuliani called Trump to say he was joking about having an “insurance policy” if Trump turned on him on the Ukraine scandal.
  137. Giuliani’s lawyer Robert Costello said the call was made “at my insistence,” adding of Giuliani, “He shouldn’t joke, he is not a funny guy. I told him, ‘Ten thousand comedians are out of work, and you make a joke.’”
  138. On Monday, WAPO reported Trump has made Jared Kushner the de facto project manager for constructing his wall, following frustration with the lack of progress ahead of the 2020 election.
  139. Kushner has pushed CBP and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to expedite the process of taking over private land. More than 800 filings to seize private property are expected to be made in the coming months.
  140. Kushner has started convening biweekly meetings in the West Wing, and has clashed with career officials who question his ideas and say he lacks knowledge on policy issues and politics of the immigration debate.
  141. On Monday, Daniel Walsh, the deputy White House chief of staff, who had significant and broad responsibility, resigned. He was one of the last senior officials remaining from day one of the regime.
  142. It was unclear what Walsh would do next, but the White House said he planned to join the private sector. Senior officials leaving the Trump regime have had mixed luck with their professional careers.
  143. On Tuesday, the House committees released transcripts of OMB official Mark Sandy’s closed-door deposition in the impeachment inquiry. Sandy, a career official, was the only OMB official to testify.
  144. Sandy, the deputy associate director for national-security programs, said he flagged concerns with his boss at OMB that the hold on Ukraine aid could violate appropriations laws.
  145. Sandy said on July 12 he received an email from Mulvaney’s office, notifying him that Trump had directed the regime to freeze Ukraine’s military aid.
  146. Sandy said he signed the paperwork for the hold in July, but was not given a reason for the hold until September, when he was told it was Trump’s desire to have other countries contribute aid to Ukraine.
  147. Sandy said Michael Duffey, a political appointee took over the process for Ukraine aid on July 30, and began personally approving foreign aid and defense accounts, a task typically overseen by career officials.
  148. Sandy said he first got questions on aid from Duffey on July 19 when Duffey said Trump had questions. On July 25, Sandy approved a temporary freeze after getting guidance from OMB lawyers.
  149. Sandy said that two OMB officials had expressed frustration and quit, in part because of the hold on Ukraine aid. One was in the legal division and had a “dissenting opinion” over whether aid could be put on hold.
  150. On Tuesday, the House also released the deposition transcript for Philip Reeker, a senior State Department official. The two transcripts were the final two to be released from closed-door impeachment depositions.
  151. Reeker defended Yovanovitch, and described a State Department leadership failure, including by Pompeo, to defend her.
  152. Reeker had a call with Ulrich Brechbuhl, counselor at State and confidant of Pompeo on April 24, who told him things had gotten “suddenly much worse” for her and there was “a lot of unhappiness” in the White House.
  153. On Tuesday, the House Budget Committee said in a report that the OMB engaged in a “pattern of abuse” of its authority and the law by withholding State Department and Pentagon aid to Ukraine approved by Congress.
  154. The report said limiting the spending is a violation of the Impoundment Control Act of 1974, adding the funds were not released until September 12, when the House was notified of the whistleblower complaint.
  155. On Tuesday, the House Judiciary Committee announced its first public hearings on impeachment will start on December 4, with a panel on the “constitutional grounds for presidential impeachment.”
  156. Chair Jerrold Nadler said Trump’s counsel can participate in the hearing and question witnesses. The House Intelligence report will be released shortly after Congress returns from Thanksgiving recess.
  157. Chair Nadler in a letter to Trump, gave him until December 1 to inform the committee if he plans to participate in the hearings. House Judiciary has the power to draft articles of impeachment against Trump.
  158. On Tuesday, NYT reported that Trump had already been briefed by lawyers from the White House counsel’s office about the whistleblower in late August — well before he released aid to Ukraine in September.
  159. At the time lawyers briefed Trump, they were trying to determine if they were legally required to give the complaint to Congress, after it was given to the intelligence committee’s inspector general in mid-August.
  160. In late August, the intelligence committee IG Michael Atkinson concluded the complaint should go to Congress. White House counsel Pat Cipollone and his deputy John Eisenberg disagreed, citing executive privilege.
  161. Given the disagreement, advice was sought from the DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel. A week later the OLC concluded the regime did not have to turn over the complaint.
  162. On Tuesday, CNN reported according to a House Budget Committee summary, the OMB’s first official action to withhold $250 million in Pentagon aid to Ukraine came on the evening of July 25.
  163. Trump spoke to Zelensky at 9:00 a.m. ET. Laura Cooper said an email from the State Department came at 2:31 p.m., saying, “Ukrainian embassy and House foreign affairs committee are asking about security assistance.”
  164. Another email from State at 4:25 p.m. said, “The Hill knows about the FMF situation to an extent and so does the Ukrainian embassy.” Cooper said “my staff got a question from a Ukraine embassy contact” too.
  165. A letter from Michael Duffey, an OMB political appointee, on August 9 said the OMB would begin releasing 2% of State Department funds each day. When Politico reported on August 29 of aid being withheld, 25% of funds were released each Sunday.
  166. On Tuesday, at a rally near Miami, Florida which Trump dubbed a “homecoming rally” — the first in the state since he switched his primary residence — Trump lashed out at the impeachment inquiry.
  167. Trump accused Democrats of “trying to rip our nation apart” with investigations, saying, “First it was the Russia hoax,” and “now the same maniacs are pushing the deranged … impeachment” narrative.
  168. Trump continued to say that he did nothing wrong, and that Democrats are moving forward on impeachment because “they know that they cannot win the next election.”
  169. Trump claimed he beat the “Clinton dynasty,” adding, “And then we beat Barack Hussein Obama and whatever the hell dynasty that is!” —  stressing Obama’s middle name. It was unclear what he meant.
  170. Trump added, “we won these last two weeks so solidly,” and “You see what’s happening in the polls? Everybody said, ‘That’s really bulls***,” and described his supporters as the “super elite.”
  171. Trump added, “They said he went into the hospital. And it’s true, I didn’t wear a tie,” adding, “first thing they do is say, ‘Take off your shirt, sir, and show us that gorgeous chest. We’ve never seen a chest quite like it.’”
  172. Trump said he pushed back by pardoning and granting clemency to military members, saying, “I stuck up for three great warriors against the deep state,” and, “you know what I’m talking about.”
  173. Trump added, “I had so many people say, ‘Sir, I don’t think you should do that,’” adding, “I will always stick up for our great fighters,” and, “People can sit there in air-conditioned offices and complain.”
  174. Trump also claimed the “radical left” wants to “change the name Thanksgiving. They don’t want to use the term Thanksgiving.” The idea came from Fox News segments on the “War on Thanksgiving.”
  175. Trump compared it to the so-called War on Christmas, saying, “Now everybody is using Christmas again,” saying of Thanksgiving, “Everybody here loves the name Thanksgiving and we’re not changing it!”
  176. On Wednesday, WAPO reported while Trump’s phone conversation with Sondland on September 9 where he said, “I want nothing. I want no quid pro quo,” is a centerpiece of GOP defense, it may not have happened.
  177. There are no other witness testimony or documents to corroborate Sondland’s impeachment inquiry testimony about the call. Trump referred only to what Sondland said in his written notes speaking to the press.
  178. The White House has not located a record in its switchboard logs of the September 9 call, raising questions about the accuracy of Sondland’s testimony. Trump has cited the call as proof he was not seeking favor.
  179. There was however a call between them in early September in which Trump said he wanted “no quid pro quo,” but that he did want Zelensky to publicly announce investigations into his political opponents.
  180. Tim Morrison said after Sondland described that call to him on September 7, he had sinking feeling, saying he “did not think it was a good idea for the Ukrainian president to . . . involve himself in our politics.”
  181. Sondland has been confronted about September 9 because of his WhatsApp messaging with William Taylor, and five hour delay in responding. His account of his conversation has evolved in his testimony.
  182. Given the time difference, the call would have taken place at roughly 5:30 a.m. ET — two hours before a colleague said Sondland typically would have called. Trump’s first tweet on September 9 was at 6:21 a.m.
  183. On Wednesday, NYT reported in a draft of his soon to be released report, DOJ IG Michael Horowitz found no evidence the FBI attempted to place undercover agents or informants inside Trump’s 2016 campaign.
  184. The finding undercuts the conspiracy theories frequently cited by Trump and his allies that not only did the FBI spy, but also frequent accusations by Trump that Obama had ordered his phone to be tapped.
  185. The report will also undercut a claim by Trump allies that Joseph Mifsud was an FBI informant. George Papadopoulos has helped spread the false claim, saying he was set up by the FBI and CIA, without offering proof.
  186. The report was also expected to debunk a theory that the FBI relied on the Steele dossier information to open their investigation. The dossier was cited in the wiretap applications for Carter Page.
  187. On Wednesday, ProPublica reported according to a review of documents, the Trump Org reported higher numbers to lenders, and lower to tax officials for Trump Tower, the third Trump property known to do so.
  188. On Wednesday, Trump tweeted an image of his head superimposed on the body of Sylvester Stallone in his boxing gear from the movie “Rocky.” It was unclear why.
  189. On Thursday, CNN reported there is worry and a morale problem at the Pentagon over Trump’s decision making, including intervening in the cases of service members, and sporadic and impulsive decision making.
  190. Military leaders are also concerned that Trump is being influenced by Fox News commentators in ways that encourage him to politicize the military, an institution that is meant to stay above the fray of politics.
  191. Military leaders also cited Trump’s intervention in war crimes has created “confusion,” making it appear there is no accountability if people violate their oath or commit crimes so long as they can get Trump in their corner.
  192. They also cite concern of Trump’s divisive rhetoric and mercurial management style, including frequently issuing orders in tweets, which undermines national security by making planning increasingly difficult.
  193. On Thursday, Thanksgiving, Trump made a surprise visit in Afghanistan. His flight was shrouded in secrecy and kept from the media until he arrived, in what was described as “a made-for-TV drama” display with the military.
  194. Trump’s three-and-a-half-hour stop marked his second visit to a combat zone while in office, after facing criticism for going two years without a visit to troops overseas. He had hinted recently, “I’m going to a war zone.”
  195. While visiting troops, Trump claimed he came because the Taliban “wants to make a deal. And we’re meeting with them, and we’re saying it has to be a cease-fire.” Trump broke off talks with the Taliban in September.
  196. Trump also claimed, “They didn’t want to do a cease-fire, but now they do want to do a cease-fire,” adding, “It will probably work out that way…We’ve made tremendous progress.” It was unclear what Trump meant.
  197. On Friday, WAPO reported neither the Taliban nor the government of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani indicated that a cease-fire was near, or even being discussed.
  198. A spokesperson for the Taliban told the Post, “We are ready to talk, but we have the same stance to resume the talks from where it was suspended.” Back home, the Trump regime also lowered expectations on talks.
  199. On Friday, Daily Beast reported Trump invoked Section 412 of the PATRIOT Act, which permits indefinite detention of resident aliens on national security grounds, on Palestinian Adham Amin Hassoun.
  200. This marks the first time in the 18 years since the act was enacted that this obscure provision has been used. Hassoun was never accused of an act or plot of violence, but for cutting checks to extremist-tied Muslim charities.
  201. On Friday, HuffPost reported that Trump has spent $115 million on travel and security expenses at golf trips. Some of those expenditures have gone to Trump’s personal benefit for staffers who stay and eat at his properties.
  202. The exact amount cannot be determined, because the White House has repeatedly refused to provide documentation on aides staying at his properties, or receipts for the charges they incurred.
  203. On Friday, Chair Nadler asked Trump in a letter if he intends to mount a defense during the committee’s consideration of impeachment articles, asking if his lawyers will present evidence or call witnesses.
  204. Nadler gave a December 6 deadline. Nadler also said the committee has been investigating if Trump engaged in “obstruction of justice” detailed in the Mueller report, and may draft an impeachment article on the report.
  205. Nadler said the committee will hear a public defense of Trump during the week of December 9, and the entire House plans to vote on impeachment during the week of December 16, before leaving for holiday break.
  206. The White House had not yet responded to an email seeking comment on Friday, and Trump weighs whether to participate in the impeachment hearings, which he has called a sham and unfair.
  207. On Friday, NYT after facing an outcry from Trump allies on Fox News for his silence on impeachment, Sen. Graham has emerged as a Trump defender. He tweeted on Wednesday, “Salem witches got a better deal than this!”
  208. On Friday, CNN reported Ukrainian officials are discussing ways to improve the country’s standing with Trump, and may still announce investigations that would politically benefit Trump.
  209. The discussions come as Zelensky is slated to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Paris on December 9, along with leaders of France and Germany, and is eager to show that Ukraine has U.S. support.
  210. On Friday, presidential historian David Brinkley predicted support for Trump will collapse “once the vote is taken by Congress to impeach him and he’s wearing the ‘I’ on his chest.”
  211. Brinkley added after Congress votes, “you’re going to see that movement grow even more,” adding, “It tells you he doesn’t have a lot of friends, he’s a base politician. He doesn’t know how to turn this around.”
  212. On Saturday, the Hill reported no Republican senators want to take over as chair of the Senate Ethics Committee, with Sen. Johnny Isakson retiring, an unusual occurrence to have a chair position difficult to fill.
  213. The Ethics committee is responsible for enforcing standards of behavior for senators and their staff, and investigating potential violations of federal law or the Senate’s rules. One senator said “I’d rather have a root canal.”
  214. On Saturday, CBS News reported Speaker Nancy Pelosi will lead a delegation of Democratic House and Senate members next week to the annual international climate summit known as COP25 in Madrid.
  215. The trip comes after Trump formally withdrew from the Paris climate accord. Pelosi said, “On behalf of the U.S. Congress, I am proud to travel to COP25 to reaffirm the commitment of the American people.”
  216. On Saturday, NYT reported on voting machines that malfunctioned in Northampton County, Pennsylvania in the 2019 election, and left officials scrambling to count paper ballots by hand overnight.
  217. The machines were ExpressVoteXL, made by Election Systems & Software, and are among their newest and most high-end machines, which combines a touch-screen with a paper ballot. Problems were identified in testing.
  218. The suburbs of Philadelphia will play a critical role in the 2020 election. The snafus highlighted the fears, frustrations, and mistrust over election security that many voters are feeling ahead of the election.
  219. Concerns are heightened in an era when candidates and incumbents have challenged or discredited a close loss, either using unfounded allegations of voter fraud or claims of a “rigged” election.
  220. On Saturday, WAPO reported as Trump faces impeachment, he and his aides have staged photo opportunities and public events to showcase him on the job and make him seem hard at work.
  221. At his rally in Florida, Trump told supporters, “I’m working my ass off,” and “The failed Washington establishment is trying to stop me because I’m fighting for you and because we’re winning.”
  222. Trump recently met with former Clinton strategist Mark Penn, who counseled him to focus on governing and travel more. Trump is seeking to draw a contrast to Democrats as they try to impeach and remove him.
  223. On Saturday, Trump was uncharacteristically quiet on Twitter, unlike tweet storms in recent weeks. Between Friday, and the close of Week 159 mid-Saturday, Trump sent only four tweets.

Trump: ‘Rudy Who?”

Ken AshfordL'Affaire Ukraine, Trump & Administration, Trump ImpeachmentLeave a Comment

Funny, but also deeply absurd, based on the known facts:

Trump told Zelensky on July 25 call: “I will tell Rudy to call” and “If you could speak to him that would be great”

And Rudy told WaPo: “I don’t do anything that involves my client without speaking with my client”

But I say, take Trump at his word, and subpoena Rudy to testify. No attorney-client privilege, it seems.

The other big news of the day is a New York Times story that states that Trump was aware of the whistleblopwer complaint when he decided to release the military aid to Ukraine and when he stated “I want nothing. I want nothing. No quid pro quo” to Sondland. Two weeks before Trump released the Ukraine aid, White House lawyers briefed him on whistle-blower’s complaint — a key detail about what Trump knew when he made a critical decision at the heart of impeachment investigation.

But we already knew that.

Another connection…

UPDATE from the NY Times. Rudy Giuliani negotiated earlier this year to represent Ukraine’s top prosecutor for at least $200,000 during the same months that Giuliani was working with the prosecutor to dig up dirt on Biden, according to people familiar.

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.”

The Lawfare L’Affaire Ukraine Report

Ken AshfordL'Affaire Ukraine, Trump & Administration, Trump ImpeachmentLeave a Comment

Breaking — some more to add to the timeline. The Office of Management and Budget’s first official action to withhold $250M in aid to Ukraine came on the evening of July 25—the day of the now-infamous call between Trump and Ukrainian president Zelensky.

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 White House, 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.

And this…

Nadler: “At base, the President has a choice to make: he can take this opportunity to be represented in the impeachment hearings, or he can stop complaining about the process. I hope that he chooses to participate in the inquiry … as other Presidents have done before him.”

No Absolute Executive Privilege, Rules Judge

Ken AshfordL'Affaire Ukraine, Trump & Administration, Trump ImpeachmentLeave a Comment

It might seem like ages ago that former White House Counsel Don McGahn blew off the House Judiciary Committee’s subpoena seeking his testimony related to the Mueller report. That’s because, well, it was ages ago. On Monday evening, a federal judge resolved the dispute between the executive and the legislature. And D.C. District Court Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s nearly 120-page ruling couldn’t have gone better for House Democrats. But the ruling could have yet-unknown implications for the House’s impeachment inquiry… or, not.

Not only did Jackson order McGahn to testify … but she also tore the White House’s “absolute immunity” claims to shreds. She called DOJ’s argument that current and former presidential advisers are “immune” from congressional testimony “a fiction.” Jackson, an Obama appointee, rebuked the unitary executive theory that often guides the Trump White House and DOJ.

“Compulsory appearance by dint of a subpoena is a legal construct, not a political one, and per the Constitution, no one is above the law,” she concludes.

The Justice Department, which is representing the former White House counsel in the case, quickly announced plans to appeal, and the White House decried the ruling in a statement. McGahn’s lawyer said his client will comply with Jackson’s order to appear unless a court issues a stay pending appeal.

Jackson accused the Trump administration of “emasculating” the House by trying to thwart its ability to seek redress from the courts when subpoenas are ignored. The judge quoted from “The Federalist Papers,” specifically No. 51 by James Madison and No. 69 by Alexander Hamilton, along with Alexis de Tocqueville’s “Democracy in America,” as she rejected the administration’s argument that White House senior staff are “absolutely immune.”

Trump has cottoned to describing his authority as “absolute.” He has publicly declared his intention to stonewall and ignore all subpoenas. White House counsel Pat Cipollone said in an Oct. 8 letter that the administration would not cooperate in any way with the House’s inquiry into whether the president abused his power vis-a-vis Ukraine.

Some variant of the word “absolute” appeared 124 times in Jackson’s opinion. She picked apart each of the Justice Department’s arguments with often elegant prose and laid out a standard for compliance that would apply just as much to, say, former national security adviser John Bolton as McGahn. She apparently wrote this opinion knowing that her decision would be appealed, and the case could eventually wind up before the Supreme Court. Some Democrats hope that her ruling, in the meantime, could embolden other current or former Trump administration officials to comply with subpoenas and appear for depositions.

“Stated simply, the primary takeaway from the past 250 years of recorded American history is that Presidents are not kings,” Jackson wrote. “This means that they do not have subjects, bound by loyalty or blood, whose destiny they are entitled to control. Rather, in this land of liberty, it is indisputable that current and former employees of the White House work for the People of the United States, and that they take an oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. Moreover, as citizens of the United States, current and former senior-level presidential aides have constitutional rights, including the right to free speech, and they retain these rights even after they have transitioned back into private life.”

The Trump administration expressed frustration with the order, saying it “contradicts longstanding legal precedent established by administrations of both parties,” according to a statement from White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham. (It does not contradict longstanding legal precedent)

What does this mean for impeachment? The short answer is… probably not much. DOJ has already said it will appeal the decision, and Jackson’s ruling is likely to be stayed pending appeal. House Democrats are showing no signs of pumping the brakes on their impeachment inquiry, and they’ve repeated over and over that they believe they have more than enough evidence to move forward. Moreover, John Bolton and Mick Mulvaney aren’t likely to defer to Jackson’s ruling. AND… even if McGahn is compelled to testify before the House wraps up its impeachment inquiry, he could still assert executive privilege, as Jackson noted in her ruling Monday.