Exactly WHO Was Shaking Down Ukraine For Money?

Ken AshfordL'Affaire Ukraine, Trump & AdministrationLeave a Comment

It doesn’t seem to be Hunter Biden:

As Rudy Giuliani was pushing Ukrainian officials last spring to investigate one of Donald Trump’s main political rivals, a group of individuals with ties to the president and his personal lawyer were also active in the former Soviet republic.

Their aims were profit, not politics. This circle of businessmen and Republican donors touted connections to Giuliani and Trump while trying to install new management at the top of Ukraine’s massive state gas company. Their plan was to then steer lucrative contracts to companies controlled by Trump allies, according to two people with knowledge of their plans.

Their plan hit a snag after Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko lost his reelection bid to Volodymyr Zelenskiy, whose conversation with Trump about former Vice President Joe Biden is now at the center of the House impeachment inquiry of Trump.

But the effort to install a friendlier management team at the helm of the gas company, Naftogaz, would soon be taken up with Ukraine’s new president by U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry, whose slate of candidates included a fellow Texan who is one of Perry’s past political donors.

It’s unclear if Perry’s attempts to replace board members at Naftogaz were coordinated with the Giuliani allies pushing for a similar outcome, and no one has alleged that there is criminal activity in any of these efforts. And it’s unclear what role, if any, Giuliani had in helping his clients push to get gas sales agreements with the state-owned company.

But the affair shows how those with ties to Trump and his administration were pursuing business deals in Ukraine that went far beyond advancing the president’s personal political interests. It also raises questions about whether Trump allies were mixing business and politics just as Republicans were calling for a probe of Biden and his son Hunter, who served five years on the board of another Ukrainian energy company, Burisma.

US Energy Secretary Rick Perry resigned late last week, as this news was breaking.

You know, this administration is the master of projection. If they accuse someone of child molestation, you can be pretty sure they themselves are child molesters.

Breaking: Manhattan Federal Judge Throws Out Trump Lawsuit Trying To Quash Subpoena For His Tax Returns

Ken AshfordCourts/Law, Trump & AdministrationLeave a Comment

A federal judge just dismissed President Trump’s lawsuit seeking to block the Manhattan District Attorney from obtaining the president’s tax returns as part of an investigation into hush-money payments during the 2016 campaign.

U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero rejected Trump’s argument that the presidency makes him immune to any investigation by any prosecutor.

In his 75-page ruling, Marrero called such a claim “extraodinary” and wrote that “This Court cannot endorse such a categorical and limitless assertion of presidential immunity from judicial process.”

Trump has filed an emergency appeal.

UPDATE: The U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York granted an emergency stay, after U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero earlier in the day rejected Trump’s request for an injunction blocking the subpoena for the records. The Second Circuit will hear the appeal on an expedited basis.

Dork doesn’t know what a “stay” is. It is not a victory.

Putin’s Poolboy Reverses US Policy On Turkey

Ken AshfordMiddle East, Syria, Trump & Administration, War on Terrorism/TortureLeave a Comment

He didn’t consult allies.

He didn’t consult Congress – even Republicans.

I’m not sure he even consulted his advisers.

But I’ll give dollars to donuts he talked to Putin about this.

This morning, Americans woke to this… out of the blue:

So President Trump has given his endorsement for a Turkish military operation that would sweep away American-backed Kurdish forces near the border in Syria. Basically, we’re fucking the Kurds hard. The Kurdish fighters, which are part of the Syrian Democratic Forces, or S.D.F., have been the United States’ most reliable partner in fighting the Islamic State in a strategic corner of northern Syria

Trump’s decision goes against the recommendations of top officials in the Pentagon and the State Department who have sought to keep a small troop presence in northeast Syria to continue operations against the Islamic State, or ISIS, and to act as a critical counterweight to Iran and Russia

And it is happening fast. Witnesses in Syria saw United States forces withdrawing from two positions in northeastern Syria: observation posts in Tel Abyad and Ein Eissa

Trump tried to explain…

Getting rid of the ISIS Caliphate means nothing if you leave tens of thousands of ISIS fighters behind, and unchecked.

With the betrayal of the Kurds and Trump’s full-on America first tweet storm this morning, is there a single principled internationalist, a single believer in American global leadership somewhere in the Trump Administration who will resign in protest?

Here are reactions, from all quarters:

Brett McGurk was a special envoy within the Bush, Obama and Trump Administrations before he resigned at the end of last year because Trump pulled troops from Syria:

Mustafa Bali is the head of SDF (Syrian Defense Force) Press Office

UPDATE: Graham shows he can take action when he wants to:

Aaand Trump just responded, obviously stung by the notion that this helps Russia:

He’s watching TV obviously.

oh there’s more….

“in my great and unmatched wisdom….” — some might think he’s displaying false modestly. He’s not. And it is his “wisdom” that is causing all his problems.

UPDATE — Pompeo seems to have his fingerprints on this:

And Graham again, riffing on Trump’s “wisdom”:

The “great and unmatched wisdom” line is getting much more blowback —

Coming late the party….

One State Department person said that Erdogan in Turkey seemed to expect US troops to assist him in entering Syria, and Trump would make it right with international sentiment. Jesus. I wonder what has to been said to Erdogan in the past to make him think that!

Weekly List 151

Ken AshfordWeekly ListLeave a Comment

With impeachment looming, Trump started this week by attacking the credibility of House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff and the whistleblower, both of whom he also endangered with his rhetoric. Midweek, Trump shifted strategy, openly soliciting foreign help from China and Ukraine in the 2020 election on national television, speaking to reporters on the South Lawn of White House. Republicans remained silent on Trump’s unprecedented request, which the head of the Federal Election Commission reminded the country, in a tweet, is illegal.

This week others in the regime became ensnared in the inquiry, as reporting revealed the involvement of not only Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, but also Attorney General William Barr, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and possibly Vice President Mike Pence, among others. Three House committee chairs sent subpoenas to Pompeo, Pence, and at the end of the week, the White House, and witnesses started to appear before House investigators in private hearings. Polling showed a dramatic shift in attitudes towards impeachment, with the majority of Americans now in favor.

As noted last week, I had always thought as we approached the end of Trump’s time in power, the lists would balloon: following last week’s 225 not normal items — 20 items longer than any previous list — this week we hit 240 items. In addition to the news on impeachment, this week’s list has many important stories on the continued degradation of American values and the regime’s cruelty, which got lost in the chaos of the news cycle.

  1. On Saturday, NYT reported the Trump impeachment battle will for the first time in our country’s history test the scope of what is acceptable for a president’s interactions with foreign countries.
  2. The Constitution does envision a showdown over foreign influence over a sitting U.S. president, in the emoluments clause. Trump’s entire time in office has been overshadowed by questions of foreign ties.
  3. On Saturday, WAPO reported the Trump regime is investigating email records of as many as 130 current and former senior State Department officials who sent emails to then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
  4. Former officials received emails saying they sent retroactively classified information that now constitute potential security violations. The investigation began 18 months ago and was dropped, then picked up again in August.
  5. Although a State Department official told the Post the investigation has nothing to do with Trump, the action appears to be part of a pattern of his using executive branch powers against perceived political adversaries.
  6. On Saturday, WAPO reported with impeachment looming, Trump has sought to portray himself as a victim, with the “deep state” out to get him — a core to his public persona and a strategy used by past authoritarians.
  7. On Saturday, Trump tweeted a video calling impeachment “the single greatest scam in the history of American politics,” adding, “It is disgraceful what the Do Nothing Democrats are doing (the Impeachment Scam).”
  8. Trump also tweeted, “How do you impeach a President who has created the greatest Economy in the history of our Country, entirely rebuilt our Military into the most powerful it has ever been, Cut Record Taxes.”
  9. Trump also tweeted Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky “told the Fake News” at the United Nations, “HE WAS NOT PRESSURED BY ME IN ANY WAY, SHAPE, OR FORM,” saying that should bring an end to the “Witch Hunt.”
  10. On Saturday, CNN reported Trump is frustrated with acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney for not having a strategy in place for after the Ukraine call transcript was released. Sources say he is on shaky ground.
  11. On Sunday, Trump attacked House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff in a series of tweets, saying he “made up what I actually said by lying,” adding, “His lies were made in perhaps the most blatant and sinister manner ever seen” in Congress.
  12. Trump also tweeted that Schiff “wrote down and read terrible things,” adding he wants Schiff “questioned at the highest level for Fraud & Treason.”
  13. Trump also demanded to meet the whistleblower, tweeting, “Like every American, I deserve to meet my accuser,” adding he/she represented “a perfect conversation…in a totally inaccurate and fraudulent way.”
  14. Trump also tweeted, “I want to meet not only my accuser, who presented SECOND & THIRD HAND INFORMATION,” but also “the person who illegally gave this information” which was “largely incorrect.”
  15. Trump also tweeted, “Was this person SPYING on the U.S. President?” threatening, “Big Consequences!” and added, “What is going on now is the single greatest scam in the history of American politics.”
  16. On Sunday, Trump’s first homeland security adviser, Tom Bossert, told “This Week” he repeatedly told Trump there was no basis to the theory that Ukraine intervened in the 2016 election on behalf of the Democrats.
  17. Bossert said he was “deeply disturbed” about Trump’s outreach to Zelensky, and condemned Rudy Giuliani, saying he and his team are “repeating that debunked theory to the president.”
  18. Giuliani told “This Week” of Bossert, he “doesn’t know what he’s talking about,” and “Everything I did was to defend my client and I am proud of having uncovered what will turn out to be a massive pay-for-play scheme.”
  19. Chair Adam Schiff told “This Week” the inquiry was “moving forward with all speed,” and his committee plans to hear from the whistleblower “very soon.”
  20. On Sunday, AP reported Attorney General William Barr was “surprised and angry” to learn that Trump had lumped him in with his personal lawyer, Giuliani, on his call with Zelensky.
  21. On Sunday, host Chris Wallace reported on “Fox News Sunday” that Trump was working with two more personal lawyer “off the books” — Joseph diGenova and Victoria Toensing — to pressure Ukraine.
  22. On Sunday, a CBS News poll found 55% of Americans approve of an impeachment inquiry, while 45% disapprove. Notably, 23% of Republicans approve, along with 87% of Democrats and 49% of Independents.
  23. Also, 42% believe Trump deserves to be impeached over Ukraine, 36% believe he does not deserve it, and 22% say it is too soon to say.
  24. On Sunday, “60 Minutes” reported the whistleblower’s lawyers sent a letter to the acting director of national intelligence asking for “appropriate resources” to keep their client safe.
  25. They cited Trump’s threats and “certain individuals” offering a “$50,000 bounty” for their identity. “60 Minutes” reported the whistleblower is under federal protection because they fear for their safety.
  26. Shortly after, the attorney for the whistleblower tweeted, “no agreement has been reached with Congress on contact with the whistleblower.” CBS News said it “stands by its sources and reporting on the whistle-blower.”
  27. On Sunday, support for Austria’s far-right party plunged in the election. A covert video in May showed the party’s vice-chancellor offering a lucrative contract to a woman he believed was the niece of a Russian oligarch.
  28. On Sunday, Chair Schiff told “Meet the Press” that Congress is looking to obtain records of Trump’s calls with Russian President Vladimir Putin, amid reporting that the White House has hidden his calls with foreign leaders.
  29. On Monday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that Washington would need Russian consent to publish transcripts of calls between Trump and Putin.
  30. On Monday, the Treasury Department announced new sanctions against Yevgeniy Prigozhin, the Russian oligarch known as “Putin’s Chef,” for attempting to interfere in the 2018 U.S. election.
  31. On Wednesday, when asked by reporters if Russia plans to interfere in the U.S. election in 2020, Putin quipped, “I’m going to tell you a secret. Yes, sure. We’re going to do that. Don’t tell anybody.”
  32. Putin added, “We see that (the U.S.) is trying to use any pretext to attack Trump, and now they’re even trying to use Ukraine,” adding he has a good relationship with Trump “built on trust,” and did not interfere in 2016.
  33. On Monday, Trump again attacked the whistleblower, tweeting, “The Fake Whistleblower complaint is not holding up,” adding, “The Whistleblower knew almost nothing, its 2ND HAND description of the call is a fraud!”
  35. Trump also tweeted, “Again, the President of Ukraine said there was NO (ZERO) PRESSURE PUT ON HIM BY ME,” adding, “Case closed!”
  36. Shortly after, Trump tweeted “if the so-called “Whistleblower” has all second hand information,” and “almost everything he has said about my “perfect” call” is wrong, “why aren’t we entitled to interview” them.
  37. Trump also tweeted he wanted to interview the whistleblower and “also the person who gave all of the false information to him,” adding, “It is just another Democrat Hoax!”
  38. Later Monday, despite legal protections guaranteed to whistleblowers, Trump told reporters “We’re trying to find out” the whistleblower’s identity.
  39. Trump also, despite not knowing the identity of the whistleblower, accused them of having political “bias” and being part of a “political hack job.” The whistleblower’s attorney said Trump is putting them at risk.
  40. Later Monday, the intelligence community inspector general (ICIG) sent a four-page statement saying the whistleblower used firsthand information and information from other sources in the August 12 complaint.
  41. The ICIG also clarified the complaint was processed under procedures put in place in May 2018, not, as Trump and his ally Sen. Lindsey Graham suggested, just before the complaint came forward.
  42. The ICIG also wrote, “the information provided as well as other information gathered and determined that the complaint was both urgent and that it appeared credible.”
  43. On Sunday, Trump quoted Pastor Robert Jeffress’s appearance on Fox News, tweeting: “If the Democrats are successful” in impeaching him from office, “it will cause a Civil War like fracture in this Nation.”
  44. John Coates, a Harvard Law School professor, said Trump’s “threatening civil war if Congress exercises its constitutionally authorized power” is itself a basis for impeachment.
  45. On Monday, former House Speaker Newt Gingrinch, who led the impeachment against Bill Clinton, told “Fox & Friends” of the Trump impeachment, “What you are watching is a legislative coup d’etat.”
  46. On Monday, Trump trade advisor Peter Navarro told CNBC that House Democrats have “declared war” on Trump.
  47. On Tuesday, Trump tweeted, “I am coming to the conclusion that what is taking place is not an impeachment, it is a COUP, intended to take away the Power of the People.”
  48. On Tuesday, starting with Fox News host Sean Hannity on his show at 9:30 p.m. EST, talk of a “coup” was mentioned nearly every hour on Fox News. Right-wing outlets like Breitbart and Rush Limbaugh also used “coup.”
  49. On Wednesday, Trump tweeted a video made by his re-election campaign repeating the “coup” claim against a back-drop of grainy shots of House Democrats and Biden. The campaign will spend $8 million to air the ad.
  50. On Monday, in a series of tweets, Trump again attacked Chair Schiff, suggesting he should be arrested for treason, saying he “made up a FAKE & terrible statement” which “bore NO relationship to what I said on the call.”
  51. Later, at a swearing in ceremony for his new Labor secretary, Trump continued, saying, “Adam Schiff — representative, congressman — made up what I said. He actually took words and made it up.”
  52. Also Monday, Giuliani told Fox Business News that Schiff “stood in front of the American people with millions of people listening and he lied,” adding, “just like he lied when he said he had direct evidence of Russian collusion.”
  53. Also Monday, Eric Trump told “Fox & Friends” that Schiff “is exactly why we need term limits in this country,” adding, “He’s a total disgrace.”
  54. On Monday, Trump quoted a pollster on Fox News, tweeting the idea of impeachment started “once they saw the President’s numbers going up, they said ‘We gotta do something,’ so they made this whole thing up.”
  55. Trump also tweeted, “The Fake News Media wants to stay as far away as possible from the Ukraine and China deals made by the Bidens,” adding, “A Corrupt Media is so bad for our Country.”
  56. On Monday, CNN reported the Trump campaign ran 1,800 ads on Facebook mentioning “impeachment” in the last seven days. The ads have been viewed 16-18 million times and cost $600,000 to $2 million.
  57. On Monday, Republican chairmen of two Senate committees, Ron Johnson and Chuck Grassley, sent a letter to the DOJ asking Barr to investigate ties between Ukraine and Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign.
  58. On Monday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told CNBC that the Senate would “have no choice” but to take up impeachment and hold a trial if the House votes to charge Trump.
  59. On Monday, Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee pressed committee chair Lindsey Graham to call Barr and other senior officials before the committee to testify on Ukraine.
  60. On Monday, former senator Jeff Flake called on his Republican colleagues to stand up to Trump in an op-ed, saying, “Trust me when I say you can go elsewhere for a job. But you cannot go elsewhere for a soul.”
  61. On Monday, Rep. Mac Thornberry, the top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, said he would retire. Rep. Chris Collins resigned ahead of a guilty plea, making 20 Republicans to exit in 2020.
  62. On Monday, the chairs of the House Intelligence, Oversight, and Foreign Affairs Committees subpoenaed Rudy Giuliani about his interactions with Trump regime officials in his role as an intermediary with Ukraine.
  63. The letter from the three chairs cites “credible allegations that you acted as an agent of the president in a scheme to advance his personal political interests by abusing the power of the Office of the President.”
  64. Giuliani was given an October 15 deadline to turn over information. Three of Giuliani’s business associates: Lev Parnas, Igor Fruman, and Semyon “Sam” Kislin were also scheduled to give depositions.
  65. On Monday, WSJ reported Secretary of State Mike Pompeo took part in the July 25 call between Trump and Ukrainian President Zelensky, tying the State Department more closely to the impeachment inquiry.
  66. On Monday, NYT reported in a recent phone call with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Trump pushed the leader to help AG Barr gather information for a DOJ investigation meant to discredit the Mueller probe.
  67. Trump’s call was made at the request of AG Barr. The White House curbed access to the call transcript to a small group of aides, similarly to what had been done with the Ukraine call.
  68. The discussion revealed Trump once again using the power of presidency to advance personal political interests. The call was specifically made to request Australia’s help in Barr’s investigation.
  69. Trump essentially asked Australia to investigate itself. The FBI started an investigation of the Trump 2016 campaign after an Australian official told the department about George Papadopoulos’s London meeting.
  70. On Monday, WAPO reported Barr has held private meetings overseas with foreign intelligence officials to ask their help in the DOJ inquiry, hoping to discredit U.S. intelligence agencies’ examination of Trump-Russia in 2016.
  71. In addition to the request to Australia, Barr made overtures to British intelligence, and traveled to Italy for a second trip last week with John Durham, who has been put in charge of “investigating the investigators.”
  72. Current and former intelligence and law enforcement officials expressed frustration and alarm that the attorney general was personally investigating conspiracy theories and baseless allegations three years later.
  73. In a statement, a spokesperson for the Australian government said it has “always been ready to assist and cooperate with efforts that help shed further light on the matters under investigation,” citing the conversation.
  74. On Tuesday, Daily Beast reported Barr went to Rome with John Durham last week in an under-the-radar trip which was quietly announced just days prior, to look into events leading up to the Mueller probe.
  75. Barr and Durham were especially interested in what Italian intelligence knew about Joseph Mifsud, who allegedly offered George Papadopolous dirt on Hillary in London, and listened to a taped deposition he had given.
  76. On Wednesday, Sen. Graham asked in a letter for “continued cooperation” from Australia, Italy, and the U.K. in Barr’s investigation, including an Australian diplomat who he says was “directed to contact” Papadopoulos.
  77. Australia’s ambassador responded, tweeting, “We reject your characterization” of our diplomat’s role in the FBI’s 2016 investigation, adding we will work closely with Barr to “resolve any misunderstandings.”
  78. On Wednesday, the Times of London reported Trump called UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson on July 26, the day after his call with Zelensky, and two days after Mueller’s testimony, to ask for help discrediting Mueller.
  79. The call also came just two days after Johnson took office. Trump asked Johnson to help accumulate evidence that would discredit the Mueller investigation after it did not exonerate him.
  80. On Tuesday, the Hill reported former White House aide Sebastian Gorka, a contributor to Sinclair TV and a talk show host on Salem Radio Network, traveled with Pompeo to the Vatican as part of the limited press pool.
  81. On Tuesday, Hong Kong police shot a protestor in the chest, one of six live rounds filed by police, in one of the most violent days of protests, as China celebrated 70 years of Communist party rule.
  82. Shortly after, Trump tweeted, “Congratulations to President Xi and the Chinese people on the 70th Anniversary of the People’s Republic of China!” — a communist government that has not held a free election.
  83. On Wednesday, Sigal Mandelker, Treasury’s undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, and the top U.S. sanctions chief, resigned to join the private sector.
  84. On Friday, CNN reported Trump promised Chinese President Xi Jinping that the U.S. would remain silent on Hong Kong democracy protests while trade talks continued, a remarkable backing away from human rights.
  85. Trump’s commitment to not talk about the protests necessitated then-U.S. general counsel in Hong Kong, Kurt Tong, to have to cancel a speech on the protests in Washington scheduled for June.
  86. On Monday, in a court filing, a lawyer for House Democrats said they believe grand-jury redactions in the Mueller report revealed Trump lied about his knowledge of his campaign’s contacts with WikiLeaks.
  87. The filing was made with the House Judiciary Committee seeking Mueller’s grand jury materials, saying, “The text redacted…and any underlying evidence to which it may point are critical” to the investigation.
  88. On Monday, in a letter to the judge, the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan said it is joining Trump in the lawsuit to block disclosure of his tax returns, saying the complaint “raises a number of significant constitutional issues.”
  89. The letter puts the U.S. attorney’s office up against Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. Vance’s office have said their subpoena is valid and any dispute should be heard in state court.
  90. On Thursday, the Manhattan District Attorney has asked a judge in a sharply-worded court filing to reject federal prosecutors from backing Trump, calling the DOJ decision to intervene on Trump’s side “audacious.”
  91. The filing also stated, “Until quite recently and for more than a year, DOJ prosecutors in this very District conducted a highly publicized grand jury investigation into some of the very same transactions and actors.”
  92. On Tuesday, WAPO reported a federal judge warned U.S. prosecutors that they needed to either charge former acting FBI director Andrew McCabe or to drop their investigation on whether he lied to investigators.
  93. The judge said the prosecutors’ indecision was undermining the credibility of the DOJ, and said if a decision was not made by November 15, he would order them to release internal FBI documents related to McCabe’s firing.
  94. On Monday, attorneys for Michael Flynn said in a filing that a judge’s decision to overturn a guilty verdict for Flynn’s business partner Bijan Rafiekian last week “renders meaningless” his December 2017 guilty plea.
  95. The filing suggests Mueller team prosecutor Brandon Van Grack bullied Flynn into a plea deal. Flynn is due for sentencing December 18, but if he is granted access to additional Mueller documents, it will likely be delayed.
  96. On Tuesday, ISM U.S. manufacturing purchasing managers’ index, a gauge of U.S. manufacturing, came in at 47.8%, the lowest level since June 2009, during a severe recession. Experts cited Trump’s escalating trade war.
  97. On Tuesday, Trump tweeted, blaming the Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell, saying he “allowed the Dollar to get so strong,” and adding, “They are their own worst enemies, they don’t have a clue. Pathetic!”
  98. On Tuesday, WAPO reported officials in Montana are warning residents for the second time this year about mailers sent by the Republican National Committee which look like official census forms but are actually solicitations for money.
  99. The mailers say “2019 Congressional District Census” and urge recipients to send at least $15 to “help pay for the costs of processing [the] Census Document,” and add to the confusion around the citizenship question.
  100. On Tuesday, a federal judge ruled against the Trump regime, saying Harvard University does not discriminate against Asian-Americans in admissions — the biggest legal challenge to affirmative action in years.
  101. The judge wrote, “Diversity will foster the tolerance, acceptance and understanding that will ultimately make race conscious admissions obsolete.” The regime is expected to appeal to the Supreme Court.
  102. On Tuesday, a federal judge in Georgia temporarily blocked a new abortion law that outlawed abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected, before many women realize they are pregnant, from going into law.
  103. On Tuesday, NYT reported at a meeting in the Oval Office in March on immigration, Trump was fuming and ordered advisers to shut down the entire 2,000-mile border with Mexico by noon the next day.
  104. Trump also mused about fortifying the border by stocking a trench with alligators, adding electrified spikes that could pierce human flesh, and shooting migrants who cross the border in the legs to slow them down.
  105. People at the meeting included Kirstjen Nielsen; Pompeo; Kevin McAleenan; Stephen Miller; Jared Kushner, and other senior staffers. Trump said “I ran on this” and “You are making me look like an idiot!”
  106. White House advisers were able to convince Trump to give them a reprieve, and a week later Nielsen talked him out of it. Miller took it as an opportunity and saw to it that Nielsen and others were pushed out.
  107. On Tuesday, WAPO reported a Fairfax County police officer was suspended for turning over a driver involved in a traffic accident to Immigration and Customs Enforcement after finding they had an immigration violation.
  108. The Fairfax police chief said the officer violated a long-standing policy of not performing civil immigration enforcement for ICE, despite stepped-up enforcement by the Trump regime. The incident is under investigation.
  109. On Wednesday, NYT reported the Trump regime plans to collect DNA samples from hundreds of thousands of detained immigrants held in federal detention centers which currently hold more than 40,000 people.
  110. Senior officials at the Department of Homeland Security said the DOJ was developing a federal regulation to give immigration officers authority to collect DNA. There is a 2005 exemption for collecting from immigrants.
  111. DHS officials plan to rollback the exemption in the DNA Fingerprint Act of 2005, and would provide a comprehensive DNA profile. The results would also be shared with other law enforcement agencies.
  112. On Thursday, AP and FRONTLINE reported the Trump regime is shifting caretaking of migrant children to the private sector and contractors from religious-based non-profits, which traditionally cared for children.
  113. The only private company to care for migrant children so far is CHS, owned by Caliburn International Corp. Former Trump chief of staff John Kelly serves on Caliburn’s board and stands to financially benefit.
  114. Conditions inside Caliburn facilities were described as jail-like. The children wear matching grey pants and black sweatshirts, and are not allowed to touch each other. There are alarms on the windows.
  115. A citizen whistleblower complaint claimed Caliburn’s revenues could increase from $65 million in 2017 to $275-325 million per year based on the child detention business. The business was awarded on a no-bid basis.
  116. On Friday, WSJ reported the Trump regime will deny visas to immigrants who cannot prove they have health insurance, or the ability to pay for medical costs once they become permanent U.S. citizens.
  117. Trump’s proclamation will go into effect on November 3. Trump cited, “immigrants who enter this country should not further saddle our health care system, and subsequently American taxpayers, with higher costs.”
  118. Stephen Miller and others in the regime are behind this latest move to limit immigration by placing financial burdens and obstacles on immigrants. Miller was also behind the recent “public charge” rule.
  119. On Friday, NYT reported the Agriculture Department moved this week to slice another $4.5 billion over five years from the food stamp program, trimming monthly benefits by as much as $75 for one-in-five families.
  120. The move, which changes how people’s income and expenses are calculated, marks the third time the regime has cut the program. Trump has used executive orders, since Congress would not comply.
  121. On Wednesday, Politico reported the House Oversight Committee is investigating two entities, a trade association and a foreign government, for booking a large block of rooms at Trump hotels and using few of them.
  122. On Wednesday, Senate Democrats asked the IRS Commissioner to strip the National Rifle Association of its tax-exempt status, after a senate report in Week 150 found it worked closely with Russians in the 2016 election.
  123. On Tuesday, Pompeo tweeted a letter accusing three House committee chairs of trying to bully State Department officials to testify, saying they were not given time to prepare or consult with department legal counsel.
  124. In response, the three chairs wrote, “Any effort to intimidate witnesses or prevent them from talking with Congress…is illegal and will constitute evidence of obstruction of the impeachment inquiry.”
  125. On Tuesday, WSJ reported House leaders plan to question former State Department officials: Kurt Volker will be deposed on Thursday and Marie Yovanovitch on October 11.
  126. On Tuesday, in a letter to the State Department, more than two dozen former U.S. diplomats and others experts said they were “disturbed” by reports linking Yovanovitch’s ouster to “absurd and unfounded allegations.”
  127. The letter also said Trump’s comments about her on the July 25 phone call “could be interpreted as a threat,” and “Such language and the broader attack on Ambassador Yovanovitch should be condemned unequivocally.”
  128. Also Tuesday, the State Department inspector general contacted several House and Senate committees, asking to brief their staffers on Wednesday on an undisclosed matter.
  129. On Tuesday, Politico reported in the spring of 2018 the Trump regime ordered an upgrade of the security of the National Security Council’s codeword system as part of an effort to ferret out and deter leaks.
  130. Part of the rationale for the upgrade of the system, known as NICE, or NSC Intelligence Collaboration Environment, was to prevent any leaks of the transcripts of Trump’s conversations with foreign leaders.
  131. On Tuesday, Giuliani hired Jon Sale, who served as an assistant special Watergate prosecutor, to represent him in the congressional investigation of Trump’s actions towards Ukraine.
  132. On Tuesday, Sen. Angus King told CNN that he and his staff had reconstructed the call between Trump and Zelensky using the memo, and determined more than two-thirds of the call time is unaccounted for.
  133. On Tuesday, Sen. Grassley, chair of the Senate Finance Committee, defended the whistleblower saying they followed protocol, and noted, “We should always work to respect whistleblowers’ requests for confidentiality.”
  134. On Thursday, a second Republican senator, Joni Ernst, also from Iowa, joined Grassley, saying, “I stand with Chuck Grassley on this. We have laws in place,” adding, “Whistleblowers should be protected.”
  135. On Wednesday, Trump told reporters that Schiff “should resign from office in disgrace, and frankly they should look at him for treason,” also calling Schiff a “lowlife.”
  136. Later Wednesday, House Minority leader Kevin McCarthy signed a censure resolution against Schiff introduced in Week 150 by Rep. Andy Biggs, the incoming chairman of the House Freedom Caucus.
  137. On Wednesday, speaking to reporters alongside Finnish President Sauli Niinisö, Trump called the whistleblower “fake” and “vicious” and into “some bad things” in a 40-minute press conference.
  138. A red-faced, enraged Trump also called the White House official who alerted the whistleblower a “spy,” said Schiff was guilty of “treason,” and said Speaker Nancy Pelosi, “hands out subpoenas like they’re cookies.”
  139. Trump sparred with a Reuters reporter for asking about Ukraine, glaring at him and saying, “Are you talking to me?” then telling him, “We have the president of Finland, ask him a question.”
  140. When pressed again on Ukraine and Biden, Trump responded, “I’ve answered everything. It’s a whole hoax. And you know who’s playing into it? People like you.” Trump also called the media “corrupt” and “fake.”
  141. Trump continued to air grievances while President Niiniso looked on, repeatedly using the terms “hoax” “scam” and “fraud.” Niiniso barely got to speak, at one point interjecting, “I think the question is for me.”
  142. A Finnish reporter asked Niiniso “I have to ask, what kind of favors has Mr. Trump asked from you?” to which Trump interjected, “I think you mean the other way around,” before Niiniso gave a thoughtful answer.
  143. Trump said of impeachment, “We’ll work together with shifty Schiff and Pelosi and all of them.” He also added of the call transcript with Ukraine, “There are those who think I am a very stable genius, ok?
  144. Finnish reporters described the conference to their readers back home with ridicule and concern, celebrating Niiniso’s dignity during Trump’s unhinged monologues, and criticizing Trump’s treatment of the press.
  145. Finnish newspaper Hufvudstadsbladet wrote: “Niinisto’s visit was overshadowed by Circus Trump — President Niinisto asked Trump to safeguard U.S. democracy.”
  146. On Wednesday, former Ukraine President Petro Poroshenk said in a statement to Bloomberg, Joe Biden never asked him to open or close any criminal cases, saying nothing improper was done related to his son.
  147. On Wednesday, NYT reported the three House committees are preparing to subpoena the White House by Friday if it does not comply with requests for documents related to Trump’s interactions with Ukraine.
  148. Speaking to reporters alongside Speaker Pelosi, Schiff said, “We’re not fooling around here,” adding the House will not let this “drag on months and months and months, which would be the administration’s strategy.”
  149. Schiff called Trump’s tweet demanding to “meet” the whistleblower “a blatant effort to intimidate witnesses” and “an incitement of violence,” adding, We will do everything in our power” to protect the whistleblower.
  150. As Schiff was speaking, Trump tweeted, “The Do Nothing Democrats should be focused on building up our Country, not wasting everyone’s time and energy on BULLSHIT,” adding he “got overwhelmingly elected.”
  151. Trump also tweeted, “Adam Schiff should only be so lucky to have the brains, honor and strength of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo,” calling Schiff a “lowlife” who “completely fabricated my words.”
  152. Trump also tweeted, “Congressman Adam Schiff should resign for the Crime” of “fraudulently fabricating a statement of the President of the United States and reading it to Congress,” adding, “he is sick!”
  153. Trump also live-tweeted as Speaker Pelosi spoke about working with Trump on legislation to lower drug prices, tweeting, “It is just camouflage for trying to win an election through impeachment.”
  154. Pelosi said Trump asking Zelensky for “a favor” was sufficient reason to move forward, adding of the founders, “They never thought that we’d have a president who would kick those guardrails over,” calling it “sad.”
  155. On Wednesday, NYT reported Schiff learned about the outlines of the whistleblower’s concern before complaint was filed, showing how determined the whistleblower was to make their concerns known.
  156. The whistleblower approached a House Intelligence Committee aide after he had a colleague convey his concerns to the CIA’s top lawyer. In both approaches, the accusation was left vague.
  157. In a news conference after the NYT reporting, Trump waved a copy of the article and said, “Big stuff. That’s a big story,” falsely claiming that Schiff “helped write” the complaint, and calling it “a scam.”
  158. On Wednesday, an Economist/YouGov Poll found support for impeachment increasing to 45% from 37% in late July. Democrats’ support jumped by 20 points, and Independents rose eight points.
  159. On Friday, CNN reported support for Trump’s impeachment is unprecedented: with both Nixon and Clinton, impeachment actions started off with more opposing than supporting impeachment.
  160. On Wednesday, after much build-up and speculation, the State Department IG turned over a packet of news clipping, timelines, and interview notes on the Bidens given to them by Giuliani.
  161. Rep. Jamie Raskin, who was the only lawmaker to attend IG Steve Linick’s briefing, called it a “completely irrelevant distraction,” and “essentially a packet of propaganda and disinformation spreading conspiracy theories.”
  162. On Wednesday, WAPO reported Trump repeatedly involved Vice President Mike Pence in efforts to pressure Ukraine’s leader, at a time when Trump has using other channels to solicit information on his political opponents.
  163. Trump instructed Pence not to attend Zelensky’s inauguration in May, then months later Trump used to Pence to relay aid was still being withheld pending aggressive action on corruption ahead of Trump’s July 25 call.
  164. Officials close to Pence say he was not aware of Trump’s pressing for damaging information on the Bidens; although one of Pence’s top advisers was on the July 25 call, and there were visible signs of Trump’s strategy.
  165. Pence’s actions came as the U.S. ambassador to Kiev was abruptly recalled, Giuliani inserted himself into the U.S.-Ukraine relationship, and alarms were raised inside the White House about the whistleblower complaint.
  166. On Wednesday, WAPO reported Giuliani has consulted with Paul Manafort through the federal prisoner’s lawyer several times in recent months, in hopes of bolstering his story that Ukraine helped Hillary Clinton in 2016.
  167. Giuliani said he is looking into the existence of the black ledger obtained by Ukraine’s National Anti-Corruption Bureau, which revealed cash payments to Manafort that led him to resign from Trump’s campaign.
  168. Giuliani claimed the ledger was used as a pretext for U.S. authorities to re-open a case against Manafort. The FBI already had a case open about his Ukraine work in 2013, and Mueller’s team did not mentioned the ledger.
  169. On Thursday, WAPO reported an IRS whistleblower filed a complaint saying he was told at least one Treasury Department political appointee acted to interfere with the annual audit of Trump or Pence’s tax returns.
  170. The Trump regime dismissed the complaint as flimsy because it was based on conversations with other government officials, but House Democrats were alarmed by the complaint which was flagged in a federal court filing.
  171. On Thursday, Pelosi told “Good Morning America” the Democrats’ investigation does not “hinge on” whether McConnell “has the guts to really do what the Constitution requires,” or “the impact” on the election.
  172. Pelosi added, “separate from that, the reelection of Donald Trump would do irreparable damage to the United States,” adding, “we have some serious repair and healing to do in our country for what he’s done so far.”
  173. On Thursday, Trump shifted strategy, snubbing his nose at impeachment and telling reporters on the South Lawn of the White House, “China should start an investigation into the Bidens.”
  174.  Asked what he hoped Zelensky would do after his July 25 call, Trump said, “If they were honest about it, they’d start a major investigation into the Bidens” — seeming to underscore his claim he did nothing wrong asking.
  175. Schiff cited Trump “encouraging a foreign nation to interfere again,” telling reporters, “It endangers our elections, it endangers our national security, it ought to be condemned by every member of this body.”
  176. No Republicans condemned Trump. Instead, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy prodded Pelosi in a letter asking if the House would vote on an official impeachment inquiry and if the GOP could call witnesses.
  177. Pelosi responded in a letter, noting McCarthy’s request came “shortly after the world witnessed President Trump on national television asking yet another foreign power to interfere in the upcoming 2020 elections.”
  178. On Thursday, GOP Sen. Ron Johnson defended Trump’s call on Ukraine and China, saying, “If there’s potential criminal activity, the president of the United States is our chief law enforcement officer.”
  179. On Thursday, CNN reported Johnson was a signatory to a February 2016 bipartisan letter to then-Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to make “reforms to the Prosecutor General’s office,” similar to Biden’s request.
  180. On Thursday, Ellen Weintraub, the head of the Federal Election Commission, re-upped a June tweet of a memorandum stating it is illegal for anyone running for public office to solicit help from a foreign national.
  181. On Thursday, Fox News host Tucker Carlson said in an op-ed on Trump’s calling a foreign head of state to investigate his political opponent, “Some Republicans are trying, but there’s no way to spin this as a good idea.”
  182. On Thursday, WSJ reported Trump ordered the removal of then U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, saying she was undermining him abroad and obstructing his efforts to get Ukraine to investigate Biden.
  183. State Department officials were told in the spring that her removal was a priority. Pompeo supported the move. Career officials told Yovanovitch they could not shield her from Trump and his allies.
  184. Giuliani told the Journal that Yovanovitch displayed an “anti-Trump bias” in private conversations, and had been obstacle to Trump’s efforts to push Ukraine to investigate the Bidens. Giuliani said he alerted Trump of both.
  185. Giuliani gave Pompeo a document on March 28 detailing a timeline on the Bidens’ dealings with Ukraine, as well as allegations of impropriety against Yovanovitch, including that she was “very close” to Biden.
  186. Trump said of her on Thursday, “I don’t know if I recalled her or somebody recalled her but I heard very, very bad things about her for a long period of time.” Yovanovitch will testify before lawmakers on October 11.
  187. On Thursday, Trump again mocked 16 year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg, quoting a tweet that referred to her as “an actress,” and telling the person who tweeted it, “Keep up the great work.”
  188. On Thursday, Fox News host Sean Hannity took a shot at his colleagues on his show, saying, “We have a few resistance people on the channel,” as the civil-war within the network continued to spill out publicly.
  189. On Thursday, Politico reported Energy Secretary Rick Perry is expected to depart from the regime in November. Unlike most in Trump’s cabinet, Perry had largely avoided controversies until the Ukraine investigation.
  190. Sen. Bob Menendez, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee pressed Perry for information about his May travel to Ukraine, and asked who asked him to attend Zelensky’s inauguration.
  191. Perry is also part of a House subpoena sent Monday to Giuliani on the inauguration, but has not been directly called to testify himself. He has frequently visited Ukraine, including meeting with Zelensky.
  192. On Thursday, Trump said in a speech in Florida the regime is looking at starting a news network, saying CNN is “terrible for our country, adding, “we ought to start our own network and put some real news out there.”
  193. Trump also said of CNN and other media, “they are so bad for our country,” adding, “I go out there and they say, ‘Boy, the media hates your country,’ and it’s just a shame. It’s just a shame. And we really are.”
  194. On Thursday, a USA TODAY/Ipsos Poll found a plurality of Americans (45%) support impeachment, while 38% disapprove — a major shift in attitude since June when 32% supported impeachment, 61% disapproved.
  195. Shortly after, Trump tweeted as U.S. president, “I have an absolute right, perhaps even a duty, to investigate, or have investigated, CORRUPTION,” including “asking, or suggesting, other Countries to help us out!”
  196. On Friday, Trump tweeted, “As President I have an obligation to end CORRUPTION, even if that means requesting the help of a foreign country or countries,” falsely claiming, “It is done all the time.”
  197. Trump also claimed he is duty-bound to investigate corruption, tweeting “This has NOTHING to do with politics or a political campaign against the Bidens. This does have to do with their corruption!
  198. On Friday, CNN reported that Trump and Giuliani are taking charge of the narrative on the impeachment inquiry, sidelining White House officials and making it harder to defend Trump and hurting his case.
  199. White House officials say Jared Kushner and White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney are the two most focused on developing an impeachment strategy. It was unclear if one had the senior-most role.
  200. On Friday, Trump told reporters, “This is not about politics. This is about corruption,” adding, “if you look and you read our Constitution and many other things, I have an obligation to look at corruption.”
  201. On Thursday, former special U.S. envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker gave a 10-hour deposition to the House Intelligence Committee, along with texts sent relating to Trump-Ukraine.
  202. Volker, the first State Department official to testify, told House investigators he warned Giuliani against trusting information he was getting from Ukrainian political figures about Joe and Hunter Biden.
  203. Volker claimed he was never given an explanation for Trump extending an invitation to the White House to Zelensky that was later withdrawn, or for halting military aid, which deeply concerned Ukrainian officials.
  204. Giuliani told the Post he “did not recall” being told by Volker, saying, “I’m pretty certain he never said that the claims weren’t true,” he would have “asked him what kind of investigation he’d done and how he knew that.”
  205. On Thursday, NYT reported that Volker and Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the E.U., worked on a statement in August for Zelensky that would have committed Ukraine to investigate Trump’s political opponents.
  206. Volker told Congress Thursday that Giuliani provided him and Sondland with critical elements of the language. The Ukrainians did not release the statement which would have given credence to allegations on Biden.
  207. On Thursday, in a letter to members of the three House committees from their Chairs, dozens of text messages from top State Department officials about a possible Trump-Ukraine quid pro quo were released.
  208. Late Thursday, Democrats publicly released text messages between U.S. and Ukrainian officials. The messages revealed how Trump tied the release of military aid to investigations that could help Trump’s 2020 campaign.
  209. The three committee chairs said the released text exchanges represented “only a subset of the full body of the materials” provided by Volker, and they hope to make the rest public later.
  210. Texts were sent by three U.S. diplomats: Kurt Volker; William Taylor Jr., the top American diplomat in Ukraine; and Gordon Sondland, a major GOP fundraiser and ambassador to the E.U.
  211. The texts revealed U.S. diplomats encouraged Zelensky to conduct a public investigation of Joe and Hunter Biden in exchange for a visit with Trump at the White House, in what one diplomat called a “crazy” swap.
  212. The texts lay out the raw contours of a potential quid-pro-quo exchange. An adviser to Zelensky appeared to agree to an investigation of Burisma, a Ukrainian gas company where Hunter Biden served on the board.
  213. Before the July 25 call, U.S. officials said Ukraine needed to open investigations in order for Zelensky to get a meeting with Trump, which was urgently needed by Ukraine given ongoing Russian aggression.
  214. U.S. officials said Trump would not set a date for a meeting until there was a “deliverable” — a publicly announced investigation. An aide to Zelensky said he understood a meeting was contingent on the investigations.
  215. In late August, Ukrainian officials became aware military aid was also being delayed. Taylor asked Sondland if other Americans knew of the delays in aid and a meeting, and added Russia must be pleased.
  216. On Friday, Ukraine’s prosecutor general, Ruslan Ryaboshapka, said he would audit several cases handled by his predecessors, including a criminal case involving the company that employed Hunter Biden.
  217. The move sparked concern that Ukraine was bowing to political pressure from Trump. Ryaboshapka said he intended to review 15 cases, including one on the owner of the natural gas company Burisma Holdings.
  218. On Friday, Trump tweeted a headline by conservative Washington Times about the texts, falsely claiming, “Ukraine envoy blows ‘massive hole’ into Democrat accusations,” and adding, “Case Closed!”
  219. On Friday, WSJ reported Sen. Johnson said he was told by Sondland in late August that the hold-up in military aid to Ukraine was related to a desired investigation that Trump and his allies wanted.
  220. Johnson said when he called Trump the next day on August 31, Trump flatly rejected the claim: “He said, ‘Expletive deleted — No way. I would never do that. Who told you that?”
  221. On Thursday, Sen. Ben Sasse said, “Americans don’t look to Chinese commies for the truth. If the Biden kid broke laws…that’s a matter for American courts, not communist tyrants running torture camps.”
  222. On Friday, Sen. Mitt Romney became the second Republican to criticize Trump, tweeting Trump’s “brazen and unprecedented appeal to China and to Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden is wrong and appalling.”
  223. On Friday, Rep. William Hurd, who is retiring in 2020, said “it is terrible” for Trump to ask China to probe Biden, adding congratulating China “on 70 years of communism via a tweet” is also something he would not do.
  224. On Friday, intelligence community inspector general Michael Atkinson testified before the House Intelligence Committee behind closed doors. Atkinson received the whistleblower complaint.
  225. Atkinson, who was appointed by Trump in 2017, deemed the complaint an “urgent concern,” which requires the complaint be given to Congress, but acting DNI Joseph Maguire refused to on advice of the DOJ.
  226. On Friday, NBC News reported weeks before the whistleblower complaint became public, the CIA’s general counsel, Trump appointee Courtney Simmons Elwood, made a criminal referral to the DOJ about it.
  227. The move meant that she and other senior officials concluded that a crime had been committed, raising further questions about why the DOJ later declined to open an investigation in Trump pressuring Zelensky.
  228. On Friday, chairs of the three House committees requested a wide-ranging batch of documents from Pence in the impeachment inquiry, relating to Trump’s pressuring Ukraine and any role Pence played, by October 15.
  229. On Friday, WAPO reported senior staffers working for Trump have all along been worried about his calls with foreign leaders, citing his diplomatic blunders, making promises he could not keep, and asking for favors.
  230. Aides said in his first call with Putin, Trump said something like, “Oh my gosh, my people didn’t tell me you wanted to talk to me.” Trump has also been consistently cozy with other authoritarian leaders.
  231. Aides bristled on how Trump spoke to longtime allies, especially women leaders like Theresa May. Unlike past leaders, Trump has rejected much of the protocol and preparation associated with foreign calls.
  232. On Friday, the three House committee chairs subpoenaed the White House for Ukraine documents, after the regime failed to comply with repeated requests, marking the third subpoena sent since impeachment began.
  233. In a letter to Mulvaney, the three said, “We deeply regret that President Trump has put us — and the nation — in this position,” and gave until October 18 to respond. The White House called it political posturing.
  234. On Friday, NYT reported a second intelligence official who was alarmed by Trump’s dealings with Ukraine is considering filing his own report and testifying before Congress.
  235. The official has more direct information about the events, and was interviewed by the intelligence community inspector general to corroborate the allegations in the first complaint.
  236. On Friday, Bloomberg reported Trump ordered a cut to national security staff as the White House confronts an impeachment inquiry. The stated reason was to make the council leaner under the new National Security Adviser.
  237. On Saturday, Trump tweeted, “the so-called Whistleblower’s account of my perfect phone call is “way off,” not even close,” adding, “Schiff and Pelosi never thought I would release the transcript of the call…they got caught.”
  238. Trump also tweeted, “This is a fraud against the American people!” However, documents, firsthand witness accounts, and public statements by Trump over two weeks have bolstered the facts outlined in the complaint.
  239. Trump also attacked Sen. Romney, tweeting, “If Mitt worked this hard on Obama, he could have won. Sadly, he choked!” and calling him “a pompous “ass” who has been fighting me from the beginning.”
  240. After golfing, Trump tweeted, “Not only are the Do Nothing Democrats interfering in the 2020 Election, but they are continuing to interfere in the 2016 Election. They must be stopped!” It was unclear what he meant.

Document Dump: Prepared Opening Remarks Of Kurt Volker, Former U.S. Special Representative for Ukraine Negotiations

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

From yesterday.  It is very unconvincing in several places, particularly read in conjunction that makes it clear there was a quid pro quo tied to security assistance and aid. Most charitably, it reads like the narrative of someone whose intentions were good, but in denial about his actions in service of an ultimate outcome — the continued provision of aid to Ukraine.

The key new detail in Volker’s statement, beyond what we already knew, is confirmation that not only did OMB freeze assistance to Ukraine, but it also froze notifications about security assistance to Congress, effectively hiding the fact that Trump was using the aid authorized by Congress to extort election assistance from Ukraine

Republicans should be furious that, first, Trump ignored the stated will of Congress on something they all claimed to care about and, second, that Trump’s OMB very specifically froze them out of notice they were entitled to have, as Congress.

Again, this scandal is not just about Trump demanding that other countries help him get reelected. It’s also about Trump defying the will of Congress to obtain leverage to extort that aid. Now we know that he even deliberately kept Congress in the dark about what he was doing.


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

I have doubts that Trump will be impeached, let alone removed. The bar is so low, but it has moved incrementally. He almost would have to shoot someone on Fifth Avenue before Republicans in Congress get a backbone.

I mean, here’s the latest:

  1. Two of President Trump’s top envoys to Ukraine worked on a statement for the country’s new president in August that would have committed Ukraine to pursuing investigations sought by Mr. Trump into his political rivals, according to three people briefed on the effort and documents released Thursday night.

    Their work on the statement is new evidence of how Mr. Trump’s fixation with conspiracy theories linked to Ukraine began driving senior diplomats to bend American foreign policy to the president’s political agenda in the weeks after a July 25 call between the two leaders.
  2. President Trump ordered the removal of the ambassador to Ukraine after months of complaints from allies outside the administration, including his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, that she was undermining him abroad and obstructing efforts to persuade Kyiv to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, according to people familiar with the matter.

    The recall of Marie Yovanovitch in the spring has become a key point of interest in the House impeachment inquiry. A whistleblower complaint by a CIA officer alleges the president solicited foreign interference in the 2020 elections by pressing Ukraine’s president in a July 25 call to pursue investigations, including into the activities of Mr. Biden, a Democrat who is running for president.

Here is a document dump of texts given at the Kurt Volker deposition showing the political pressure put on Ukraine.

The texts indicate that the U.S. ambassador to the EU and the former State Department special envoy to Ukraine were actively working to persuade Ukraine to publicly commit to an investigation as an explicit condition for an in-person meeting between President Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. The messages provide the clearest picture yet of how the State Department worked with Giuliani in order to advance President Trump’s political goals.

“Heard from White House – assuming President Z convinces trump he will investigate / ‘get to the bottom of what happened’ in 2016, we will nail down date for a visit to Washington,” former U.S. special representative for Ukraine negotiations Kurt Volker said in one exchange with a top Zelensky aide on July 25, just before the now-infamous call between Trump and Zelensky. That call formed the initial basis of Democrats’ impeachment inquiry.

U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland and Volker — who resigned from the State Department on Sept. 27 and provided a deposition before Congress on Thursday — even worked to draft language for a potential Zelensky statement announcing the probe. Zelensky never made the announcement.

The texts show that Volker and Sondland — both Trump political appointees — repeatedly discussed the need to settle on the exact wording that Zelensky should use to announce a potential probe into the origins of allegations that were a focus of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation and Burisma Holdings, a Ukrainian gas company that Hunter Biden joined the board of in 2014 while his father was vice president and overseeing the U.S.’s relations with Ukraine. Trump has repeatedly lobbed allegations of corruption in relation to the arrangement, but there is no evidence of wrongdoing.

The two ambassadors settled on the following language for the announcement that never transpired, according to the texts: “We intend to initiate and complete a transparent and unbiased investigation of all available facts and episodes, including those involving Burisma and the 2016 U.S. elections.”

The messages also show an alarmed Zelensky advisor, Andrey Yermak, contacting Volker in late August after Trump decided to withhold nearly $400 million in military aid from the country. Trump has claimed that he withheld the funds to try to force European countries to contribute more to Ukraine’s defense. But in the July call with Zelensky, Trump explicitly asks for a favor when the Ukrainian president asks about more military defense weapons.

The series of texts show U.S. Charges D’affaires for Ukraine Bill Taylor expressing discomfort with the developments. “Are we now saying that security assistance and WH meeting are conditioned on investigations?” he asked on Sept. 1.

“Call me,” Sondland replied.

On Sept. 9, Taylor texted Sondland again. “As I said on the phone, I think it’s crazy to withold security assistance for help with a political campaign.”

“Bill, I believe you are incorrect about President Trump’s intentions,” Sondland replied. The President has been crystal clear no quid pro quo’s (sic) of any kind. The President is trying to evaluate whether Ukraine is truly going to adopt the transparency and reforms that President Zelensky promised during his campaign.”

He continued, “I suggest we stop the back and forth by text If you still have concerns I recommend you give [Executive Secretary in the Office of the Secretary of State] Lisa Kenna or S a call to discuss them directly. Thanks.”

Note that Taylor is a career diplomat. Sondland is a political appointee and a Trump loyalist. He obviously thinks it’s unwise to discuss this via text message.

And there you have it. Crime and attempt to hide it (stop texting)

My sense is that the public grows weary. “Yeah, but what if Hunter Biden is doing something corrupt? Don’t we have the right to know?” — that’s what I hear and see on social media. They are saying, essentially, that it is okay to investigate people who just happen to be your political enemies. After all, they say, isn’t that what the Obama DOJ did when it started looking into Trump-Russia collusion?

There are a couple of big differences.

For one thing, it was the United States investigating its own people. We weren’t urging or pressuring foreign governments to investigate OUR people. And we weren’t withholding money to fight Russia (which is in our interest) to do so. And Obama wasn’t sending his private lawyer out to do the legwork. And Obama, as far was we know, never targeted Trump for investigation, but rather, allowed his DOJ to follow the hacks where they led.

To simplify: It’s perfectly fine for the POTUS to ask foreign governments to cooperate with open DoJ investigations. It is inappropriate for POTUS to ask foreign governments to open investigations into specific people. It is a major abuse to leverage US policy to force those investigations.

I mean, why are we even ARGUING legalities at this point? Here’s is the Chairwomen of the Federal Election Commission with a simple reminder she put out in a tweet:

Maybe I need to stay off some social media. I mean, it leads to dark despair:

At least the polls are good:

The poll numbers are in on impeachment, and it’s not good news for President Donald Trump. A clear plurality of Americans approve of the House’s impeachment inquiry into Trump, and they are split on whether they want to impeach and remove him from office.
Americans are more eager to impeach Trump now than they were at similar points in the impeachment sagas of Bill Clinton and Richard Nixon.

Impeachment actions usually start off as being unpopular with the American public. After the House voted to start an impeachment inquiry of Clinton in October 1998, a CBS News/New York Times poll found that 45% approved and 53% disapproved.
But with Trump, those numbers are reversed. In an average of polls taken since House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced a formal inquiry last week, 51% support an impeachment inquiry. A minority, 44%, are against it.

When it comes to impeaching and removing Trump from office, the difference is even more dramatic. An average of polls taken since early last week shows that 46% support impeaching and removing Trump from office. That’s about equal with the 45% who are against such an action.


Some of the support for impeaching Trump and the impeachment inquiry against him may be because of polarization and dislike for the President. Trump’s strongly disapprove rating has consistently been around 50%, and most of the people who disapprove of Trump are for some sort of impeachment action.

Polarization, however, is probably not the root cause of the polling we’re seeing on a possible Trump impeachment. Politics were polarized during Barack Obama’s administration, and not many wanted him impeached and removed. Only 33% of Americans wanted Obama impeached and removed in a July 2014 CNN poll. Most, 65%, didn’t feel that way.

That split came even though Obama was about as a popular (42% approval rating) as Trump is today.

The bottom line: Americans think Trump did something wrong that, at a minimum, deserves to be looked into for possible impeachment. He is in historically unprecedented waters. The impeachment numbers he’s facing now are really not good for him, given where we are in the process.

I guess my problem with the polls is that Trump’s wrongdoing is so blatant. There should be shouting in the streets.

Or maybe everybody else is just tired like me.

UPDATE: Hey! Look who came to the party? Will he stay?

So does he support an impeachment inquiry? Or is the appropriate response to “wrong and appalling” conduct sending some concerned tweets?

UPDATE: GOP Sen. Ron Johnson tells the Wall Street Journal that the U.S. ambassador to the EU (Sondland) told him in August that the status of aid to Ukraine was tied to Trump’s interest in having Kiev investigate certain matters. Johnson confronted Trump, who denied it. (The July 25 call, however, says otherwise).

If Johnson is correct, then Sondland was telling a different story to Taylor.

Bright light on Sondland.

The Packet That Seems To Be The Rudy Dossier

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

I don’t understand this story, so bear with me.

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.

Trump Clings To Debunked Facts, Just Like His Supporters

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

It’s not complicated. He is just plain dumb. He really is.

Shortly after taking office, Donald Trump asked his aides whether Ukraine, and not Russia, might have hacked Democratic National Committee emails as part of a false-flag operation. Then–Homeland Security Adviser Tom Bossert tried to stop the idea in its tracks.

“It’s not only a conspiracy theory, it is completely debunked,” Bossert said on ABC’s This Week on Sunday. Bossert brought in the director of the National Security Agency to brief Trump, according to The New York Times. The president, Bossert thought, seemed to grasp the truth.

But in July 2019, more than a year after Bossert left the White House, Trump raised the theory in a call with the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, which resulted in a whistle-bower complaint and the release of an incriminating reconstructed transcript of the call. Now Trump’s recalcitrance has landed him in perhaps the most serious peril of his presidency, with Democrats moving forward with an impeachment inquiry, and polls showing strong public support.

The latest Trump scandal demonstrates how incapable Trump is of learning—either facts or lessons—and how dangerous that is. Trump’s refusal to accept the truth about Ukrainian hacking (which did not happen) arose from his refusal to accept the truth about Russian hacking (which did happen). That is, Trump’s obsession with Ukraine began as a search for vindication over allegations of foreign interference in the 2016 election, and led directly to Trump importuning foreign interference in the 2020 race.
Trump’s troubles stem from a temperamental aversion to displeasing information, and an inability to sort reliable sources from bad ones. He shows notable lack of interest in his official briefing materials, which have been shrunk down to minimal form. He eagerly consumes conspiracy theories and humbug, though. Former Chief of Staff John Kelly attempted to keep bogus information away from Trump, but his successor, Mick Mulvaney, wants to let Trump be Trump—even, apparently, if that includes taking up debunked nonsense.

Trump has at his command the full information-gathering capabilities of the U.S. government, perhaps the most powerful data operation in world history. The intelligence community is not infallible, with several notable failures in recent memory, but it’s far better than the alternative: Giuliani’s credulous, harebrained solo investigations. Because Trump never accepted the reality of Russian interference despite the unanimous judgment of his own experts, he was also unable to grasp the danger in asking Zelensky to do him a “favor.” Nor did the Mueller experience teach him the dangers of attempting a cover-up.

The paradox is that the stubbornness Trump shows when he refuses to grapple with new information is tightly related to his success as a politician. During the 2016 presidential race, the search by some pundits for a “Trump pivot,” when the candidate would drop his bigoted and wild-eyed rhetoric and adopt a more somber tone, became a running joke. Trump never pivoted, because he was constitutionally incapable of it. But his consistency contributed to an appearance of authenticity that his supporters love, even though, as Gilad Edelman recently wrote, he is “an inveterate fabricator born to fabulous wealth who poses as the self-made tribune of the working class.” Obstinacy helped Trump succeed in 2016, but it threatens to cut him down in 2019.

Bernie Has Heart Attack

Ken AshfordElection 2020Leave a Comment

As if this day isn’t crazy enough with impeachment news and a plunging stock market, the 2020 Election had a significant development:

Sen. Bernie Sanders, 78, was hospitalized in Las Vegas.

“During a campaign event yesterday evening, Sen. Sanders experienced some chest discomfort. Following medical evaluation and testing he was found to have a blockage in one artery and two stents were successfully inserted,” said Sanders’ senior adviser Jeff Weaver on Wednesday in a statement.

“Sen. Sanders is conversing and in good spirits. He will be resting up over the next few days,” Weaver said. “We are canceling his events and appearances until further notice, and we will continue to provide appropriate updates.”

Sanders remains hospitalized, a source told ABC News.

Weaver led an all-staff phone call this morning to inform the entire campaign, according to a source familiar with the call. An additional source familiar described the call as subdued.

I am using the word “heart attack” — the media seems to be avoiding that word.

In any event, even if he stays in the race, it will raise questions about his health. Obviously.

More On “The Coup”

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

Many developments in the past 12 hours. Let’s start with Trump:

Yeah, he’s been busy. I will get to the “delooted” tweet in a moment

Yup. A coup. This rhetoric is pure Trumpian but many like me wonder if he is not-so-subtly engaged in a call-to-arms. You just know that there are more than a few rightwing gun nuts who will do what they can to suppress the “coup”.

It looks like Trump is laying off the whistleblower lately, and making about Democrats. He’s got a new phrase he was trying out this morning:

House Democrats have passed 255 pieces of legislation which languishes in the Senate. The bills include everything from universal background checks on guns to lowering drug prices.

Whooop, he just used it again as I typed this:

“Bullshit”? Okay. He went there. And the final electoral vote was 304-227.

His attacks on Pelosi and Schumer right now are because of a press conference they just gave. They slammed Trump’s remarks aimed at a whistleblower who came forward about Trump’s Ukraine-related conduct. The Democratic leaders called Trump’s comments “dangerous,” witness intimidation, and an “incitement of violence.”

Trump has equated the whistleblower’s sources to spies, suggested that those sources committed treason punishable by death, and demanded the he get to interview the whistleblower.

“This is a blatant effort to intimidate witnesses,” House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff said a press conference on Wednesday, adding that those comments were an “incitement of violence.”

Oh, and getting to the delooted Trump tweet:

Yup. The president suggested shooting immigrants in the legs at the border to slow them down. Also alligators and snakes in a moat.

Trump denied it in this tweet:

He deleted the tweet and and corrected his spelling, but #Moot is the top trending hashtag on Twitter.

What else has happened?


The State Department’s inspector general is expected to give an “urgent” briefing to staffers from several House and Senate committees on Wednesday afternoon about documents obtained from the department’s Office of the Legal Adviser related to the State Department and Ukraine, sources familiar with the planned briefing told ABC News.

Details of the briefing, requested by Steve Linick, the inspector general at State, remain unknown. Linick is expected to meet with congressional staff in a secure location on Capitol Hill.

The unusual nature and timing of the briefing – during a congressional recess – suggests it may be connected to a recent intelligence community whistleblower allegation which describes, in part, the State Department’s role in coordinating interactions between Rudy Giuliani, the president’s personal attorney, and Ukrainian officials.

That was last night. The meeting has presumably already taken place, but we don’t know what it is about, but these are the rumors:

And this, too:

The House threatened on Wednesday to subpoena the White House if it did not comply by Friday with broad requests for documents related to President Trump’s efforts to pressure Ukraine into investigating Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his son and any attempt by the administration to conceal his actions.

Representative Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland, the chairman of the Oversight and Reform Committee, notified his committee of the impending subpoena on Wednesday. He said the White House had thus far ignored Congress’s voluntary requests.

“I do not take this step lightly,” Mr. Cummings wrote. “Over the past several weeks, the committees tried several times to obtain voluntary compliance with our requests for documents, but the White House has refused to engage with — or even respond to — the committees.”

And this too:

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo confirmed on Wednesday that he had listened in on President Trump’s telephone conversation with the president of Ukraine — a call that has become the subject of a whistle-blower’s complaint and is at the heart of an impeachment inquiry by House Democrats.

“I was on the phone call,” Mr. Pompeo said at a news conference in Rome — the first time he has addressed the topic publicly since reports surfaced that he had heard the exchange.

He did not elaborate on the conversation and did not answer a question about whether anything in it had raised a red flag for him.

In the July 25 call, Mr. Trump pressed President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine to investigate the activities in Ukraine of former Vice President Joseph R. Biden and his son Hunter.


In the POLITICO/Morning Consult poll, 46 percent of voters said Congress should begin impeachment proceedings vs. 43 percent who said they should not. Eleven percent had no opinion. That support represented a 3-point bump from last week, when voters were evenly split.

Breathless day.

Trump will have a press conference with the Finnish president shortly. I’m sure questions will be asked. And I will update.

UPDATE: Nah. It’s mostly Schiff and Pelosi bashing. He bashed Schiff for criticizing Mike Pompeo, saying “he couldn’t carry his blankstrap,” meaning jockstrap.

This happened:

Asked about whistleblower protections, Trump says a whistleblower should be protected “if the whistleblower’s legitimate.” That kind of begs the question, doesn’t it? Trump says “the person” who gave the whistleblower his information is “a spy.”

About 2020, Trump says “I’d rather run against Biden than almost any of those candidates.” He says Biden has “never been a smart guy” and is “less smart now than he was.”

Rails against Washington Post and the story about the fence/moat/etc. Fake news blah blah blah but now he is going to change the term to “corrupt media” which is “the enemy of the people.”

And that’s over.

It makes me ask which side in this is the REAL “Deep State”? The ones who wish for transparent open government, or the ones trying to squirrel away information and evidence into inaccessible dark corners?

Oh joy! ANOTHER joint press conference with Trump and the Finnish President.

After talking about his visits to the African American History and Culture museum and National Museum of the American Indian, Finland’s president Niinisto told Trump, “Mr. President, you have a great democracy. Keep it going on.”

Finnish President is now politely delivering a mini-lecture to Trump on the environment and arms control; Trump has to stand next to him and take it.

As often, Trump gives the first question to John Roberts of Fox News. Roberts asks about subpoenas to the White House. “I always cooperate,” Trump says (?), and calls all this a “fraudulent crime on the American people.” He promises to “work together with Shifty Schiff.”

Trump says Schiff’s rendition of his phone call has to be a crime. It very much is not. He also says some people even say it was treason. Those people are not people who understand what treason is.

Trump is now attacking the Mueller investigation. “I get three days of peace,” he complains, and now “I hear about the word impeachment. I said, ‘What did I do now?'” He says he learned it was about a “beautiful conversation.”

Fox news guy has to beg Trump to let him ask a friendly question. Trump gives Fox’s John Roberts a hard time about asking a second question, tells him to ask a question of the Finnish president, then says it seems like Roberts might have a good question and lets him ask it.

Responding to NY Times report that Schiff know about the whistleblower’s complaint days before it was even filed, Trump accuses Adam Schiff of helping the whistleblower write his complaint: “I’d go a step further, I think that he probably helped write it.”

Trump says that shows the whole thing is a scam. Like Russia. “You can ask Putin: nobody’s been tougher on Russia than Donald Trump,” Trump says. He says that, “with that being said,” it’d be good to get along with Russia.”

Trump bragging on himself now about how well he is handling all the scandal.

Trump said they produced the “exact transcript, word for word, comma for comma” — that’s a lie — and that it showed the whistleblower is wrong — that is wrong, too.

Trump is repeating his usual lie about getting the Veterans Choice program passed. It was signed into law by Obama; Trump signed a modification of the program; Trump has said this more than 100 times now.

Trump calls himself a very stable genius again.

Trump says he’s going to bring “a lot of litigation” against “a lot of people,” apparently related to the Mueller investigation. (He has sued a lot of people in his life; he has also threatened a lot of litigation he has never actually initiated.)

Asked about what he wanted from Ukraine president regarding Biden, Trump gives rambling response full of half-sentences. Says Ukraine was corrupt and he hates giving money to them. Doesn’t want to be the “sucker”.

Wow. Another reporter presses him again for an answer. Trump lashes out at fake media and corrupt media but doesn’t answer the question. Amazing exchange. I will get the video.

Trump says is democracy. And he ends it.

But this was a great moment.

Ah, the video:

Rep. Raskin says State Department IG handed over to lawmakers a “packet of disinformation” which was being circulated in May of this year, including conspiracy theories about origins of Mueller investigation and former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine. The origins of said packet are not clear.

Raskin says the packet of propaganda “raises profoundly troubling questions.” “Why was Sec. of State Pompeo in possession of this packet of disinformation? Why did he distribute it and circulate it? … So I’ve got to say that it raises more questions than answers.”

Trump Defense Still Muddled

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

Mere minutes ago, Trump tweeted this:

He’s still with this perplexing defense.

It doesn’t matter that the whistleblower had second hand information about the call. We’ve now seen the transcript of the call, and IT IS TROUBLING. How we got here is irrelevant. But even then, the House committees will talk to first hand sources about the call, and there goes the “second hand information” defense.

They have no strategy, which the Washington Post confirms:

Trump said he was trying to “find out about” the whistleblower Monday, the latest move in an increasingly frenetic counterassault targeting the anonymous intelligence officer and top Democrats leading the impeachment inquiry. The comments came as his allies struggled to coalesce around a clear strategy to respond to a fast-moving and quickly mounting threat to his presidency.

The ad hoc counter-impeachment effort developing around Trump underscores the risk the president faces as Democratic leaders plan to launch a probe aimed at proving that Trump abused his presidential powers in asking Ukraine’s president to investigate former vice president Joe Biden, a leading 2020 Democratic presidential contender, and his family, as well as an unsubstantiated theory that Ukrainians worked with Democrats to interfere in the 2016 election.

The White House has not yet set up anything resembling a “war room” to coordinate its response, and officials spent Monday in meetings trying to determine a path forward. The president’s outside legal team played down the threat of impeachment and dismissed the need for the kind of coordinated war-room-based effort that President Bill Clinton relied on 20 years ago.

Yeah> How has the “no war room” approach been going so far?

Some Republican officials have stumbled in recent days in their attempts to defend Trump’s dealings with Ukraine, and others have pushed the White House to offer more guidance to its defenders by standing up a centralized, organized response effort.

Trump’s reelection campaign has taken a de facto lead role in hitting back against the president’s detractors, but it has not been specifically tasked with a coordinating role, according to a person familiar with the matter who, like others, discussed internal strategy on the condition of anonymity

All this is happening as Trump and his defenders faced new revelations that Attorney General William P. Barr has held private meetings overseas with foreign intelligence officials, seeking their help with his department’s inquiry into foreign interference in the 2016 election — a probe that Trump hopes will discredit the U.S. intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia sought to assist his campaign. It was also reported that the president used a recent phone call to ask Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison to provide help to this ongoing Justice Department.

So we get the crazy tweets. That’s the strategy.

Behind the scenes, the president is sounding out a range of advisers for different options, speaking to friends, outside confidants and Republican lawmakers to get advice about how to proceed, according to a senior administration official.

“There are different ways to bake the cake, depending on what sort of cake you want,” the official said. “Different flavoring, different temperatures, different ingredients yield different types of cake, and the president as the master baker is testing recipes and deciding what type of cake he wants.”

Some Republicans have pushed the White House to set up a more organized approach and have lamented that there’s no clear plan or strategy to follow.

“It’s such a cliche that Trump doesn’t think anyone can defend him the way he can defend himself, but they need to try, because right now it’s just him tweeting about Adam B. Schiff,” said a Republican congressional aide, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss their view of the White House’s plan.

No, it’s not a cliche, anonymous Republican.

It is interesting, however, that nobody is stepping up to the plate, other than Fruity-G. But…

Trump thinks he has the American people behind him…

But the map, which doesn’t take population density into account, shows great expanses of land and not people.

Also, it’s the Bush 2004 election map.

The other tactic from the Trump team? It looks like resist, resist, resist. This just came out from Pompeo.

UPDATE — Hey looked who lawyered up:

Sale is former Watergate prosecutor.

And hey… who is paying for a Hungarian Nazi travelling with Pompeo, and who is paying for his junket?

Subpoena him.

Impeachment Weekend

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

Compared to last week, there was little development over the weekend on the impeachment inquiry, but for a lot of eyes on the Trump team’s defense, as well as GOP reaction in Congress.

From the talking heads on Sunday’s news shows, it looks like the Trump team defense is going to be… ineffective.

Mainly, it looks like the Trump team wants to attack not only the whistleblower complaint, but the whistleblower himself. HE’S BIASED, IT IS THIRD-HAND, etc.

Of course, that does not mean that the complaint itself is inaccurate (it was chillingly accurate about the phone call to Ukrainian President Zelensky). The argument that the whistleblower didn’t hear things first hand isn’t exculpatory.  And it is only a matter of time before Congress speaks to the FIRST HAND sources which the whistleblower will no doubt reveal.

This weekend was insane with Trump tweets and rants. Things like this:

“Civil war”? That caught a few eyes, and quite possibly, we might have a death toll to this impeachment process, thanks to Trump’s incitement of some grazed gun nut wanting to be the “shot heard round the world.”

One Harvard law professor thinks that tweet alone is grounds for impeachment:

The attorney for the intelligence community whistleblower whose complaint fueled a House inquiry into impeaching President Donald Trump says he has “serious concerns” that Trump’s comments had put his client in danger.

Trump also tweeted:

This was in response to Schiff giving a “parody” account of Trump’s call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky while speaking on the House floor on Thursday. Included in Schiff’s hyperbolic interruption of the president’s July 25 call, which can be viewed in the video below, was a comment that Trump asked Zelensky “to make up dirt on my political opponent.”

Hardly a smart move by Schiff, but TREASON??

Then, there is crazy Rudy… FRUITY-G as I call him… with bizarre conspiracy theories. On Sunday, former Homeland Security Adviser Tom Bossert was sharply critical of Trump personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, who was also a guest on “This Week With George Stephanopoulos”. He expressed a combination of frustration and bewilderment that some members of the Trump team continue to spout debunked conspiracy theories about the hack of the Democratic National Committee [DNC] computer servers during the 2016 election campaign. Rudy Giuliani explained that he wants to know who in Ukraine provided information damning to Trump during the 2016 campaign.

GIULIANI: I have never peddled it. Have you ever hear me talk about Crowdstrike? I’ve never peddled it. Tom Bossert doesn’t know what he’s talking about. I have never engaged in any theory that the Ukrainians did the hacking. In fact, when this was first presented to me, I pretty clearly understood the Ukrainians didn’t do the hacking, but that doesn’t mean Ukraine didn’t do anything, and this is where Bossert…

STEPHANOPOULOS: So, why does the president keep repeating it?

GIULIANI: Let’s get on to the point…

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, this was in the phone call.

GIULIANI: I agree with Bossert on one thing, it’s clear: there’s no evidence the Ukrainians did it. I never pursued any evidence and he’s created a red herring. What the president is talking about is, however, there is a load of evidence that the Ukrainians created false information, that they were asked by the Obama White House to do it in January of 2016, information he’s never bothered to go read. There are affidavits that have been out there for five months that none of you have listened to about how there’s a Ukrainian court finding that a particular individual illegally gave the Clinton campaign information. No one wants to investigate that. Nobody cared about it. It’s a court opinion in the Ukraine. The Ukrainians came to me. I didn’t go to them. The Ukrainians came to me and said…

STEPHANOPOULOS: When did they first come to you?

GIULIANI: November of 2016, they first came to me. And they said, we have shocking evidence that the collusion that they claim happened in Russia, which didn’t happen, happened in the Ukraine, and it happened with Hillary Clinton. George Soros was behind it. George Soros’ company was funding it.

I just don’t get what Team Trump is trying to do.

Trump’s strategy, according to @davidfrum:

1. Talk MORE about impeachment
2. Show no contrition
3. Leave fingerprints everywhere
4. Make no attempt at persuasion
5. Read the stage directions aloud

There seems to be little co-ordination. Maybe that’s why Stephen Miller had to go on TV and get stumped:

Where are Republicans politicians? Still quiet. House Minority Leader McCarthy went on 60 Minutes, and by all accounts, did a horrible job of it.

Oh, and a 6th Republican Congressman from Texas just threw in the towel in the 2020 election.

But at least McConnell said this:

And the people… they are swinging for impeachment, according to a YouGov/CBS poll. Still the expected differences along party lines, but on the whole, the numbers are bad for Trump.

Another poll:

Another poll:

Also… there is a lot of this:

And in a related note, Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY) was the first member of Congress to endorse Donald Trump. Tomorrow he pleads guilty to insider trading. Corruption has rotted the Republican Party from top down.