Impeachment Murmurs Get Louder

Ken AshfordL'Affaire Ukraine, Trump & AdministrationLeave a Comment

Oh, it’s getting ugly out there.

Even at Fox & Friends, they can’t mask the trouble Trump is in:

Jonah Goldberg, a conservative columnist, says the most noxious part of Ukraine-Biden whistleblower affair is Team Trump thinks we’re all idiots:

What offends me most about the whistleblower-Ukraine-Biden story isn’t the obvious corruption of it all. It’s the way members of Team Trump assume we’re all idiots who won’t notice they’ve abruptly shifted their narrative.

At first, it seemed like a familiar scenario of allegations met with denials. The Washington Post reported that a “U.S. intelligence official” who had worked at the White House and had access to “communications” between Trump and a foreign leader in which Trump “promised” something that was so alarming the official filed a formal whistleblower complaint to the inspector general of the intelligence community. The IG found the complaint credible. The Department of Justice blocked the report from being sent to Congress in accordance with (a constitutionally debatable) law.

Trump’s denials came swiftly. In a tweet, he called the allegations “Another Fake News story,” adding, “is anybody dumb enough to believe that I would say something inappropriate with a foreign leader while on such a potentially ‘heavily populated’ call.”

Right, because only fools think Trump ever says anything inappropriate.

For two years, Trump defenders had an infinite supply of indignation over the mere suggestion that the president would collude with Russia. But now that indignation is reserved for anyone who suggests the president shouldn’t have tried to collude with the Ukrainians? Come on.


We’re supposed to believe a president who has never shown an iota of real concern over corruption in China, Egypt, Russia, the Philippines, North Korea and elsewhere is simply upset about the one corruption story that coincidentally touches on the potential Democratic opponent who is crushing him in the polls? Does anyone believe Rudy Giuliani — Trump’s personal attorney — is calling Hunter Biden a “drug addict” on TV because this is all a matter of statecraft? Show of hands: If Biden weren’t running, would the president have brought up Biden eight times — or at all — with the Ukrainian president?

The questions answer themselves.

It’s reminiscent of Trump’s “Lock her up!” attacks on Hillary Clinton. Once they served their purpose, the newly elected president said, “She’s been through enough.”

It’s almost like he’s been playing us for idiots all along.

The latest? Reporting by The Washington Post saying that Trump told his acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, to hold back almost $400 million in military aid for at least a week before Trump spoke to the Ukrainian president.

Oh, and Trump has changed his explanation today. Yesterday he said he withheld money because of corruption in Ukraine. Now he says he withheld aid because Europe wasn’t paying its fair share.

Yesterday: Why would anyone want to give money to a corrupt government

Today: I was trying to get other countries to do their share in giving money to the corrupt government.

As I have written before, the facts are largely NOT in dispute. Trump (or Rudy) is admitting this to be true. But he just doesn’t think there is a problem.

Here’s a timeline of the whole scandal. It is damning.

September 2018: Congress approves military aid to Ukraine.

Feb. 28, 2019: Congressional officials are notified that the administration is set to release large amounts of that aid. It doesn’t happen.

May 19: Trump goes on Fox News and rails about Biden and Ukraine, falsely claiming that Biden improperly pressured Ukraine to fire a prosecutor who was supposedly “after” his son.

May 23: Congress is again notified of a pending release of aid. It again doesn’t happen.

July 18th or thereabouts: Trump orders Mulvaney to freeze the aid to Ukraine. Trump’s decision is communicated to officials at the State and Defense departments. Importantly, as The Post reports, officials are instructed to tell lawmakers that the delay stemmed from some kind of “interagency process,” but not to share any more details.

July 24: The special counsel testifies to Congress, and Trump hails the proceedings as a “very good day.” While the special counsel detailed extraordinary corruption and wrongdoing, Trump plainly takes from it that he can conduct himself with total impunity.

July 25: Trump holds a call with Zelensky. Trump himself will later admit he brought up Biden and “corruption” in Ukraine. It is also subsequently reported that Trump directly urged Zelensky to discuss this with Giuliani.

Late July: A few days after that call, Giuliani meets with an aide to Zelensky, and demands an investigation into Biden. Giuliani later admits he would not be doing this without discussing it with Trump.

Aug. 12: The inspector general of the intelligence community receives a complaint from a whistleblower.

Aug. 26: The inspector general forwards the whistleblower complaint to the DNI, saying he deemed it of “urgent concern” and “credible.”

Aug. 30: CNN reports that Trump is seriously looking at blocking the aid entirely, and that the Pentagon privately advised for the aid to be released.

Early September: Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) speaks to Zelensky. Murphy has since characterized their conversation by saying that Zelensky “directly” expressed concerns that the cutoff of aid was a “consequence” of failing to probe Biden.

Sept. 9: The inspector general alerts the congressional intelligence committees to the whistleblower complaint, and says the DNI hasn’t forwarded it to them, in potential violation of the law.

Sept. 10: Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the chair of the House Intelligence Committee, demands that the DNI transmit the whistleblower complaint to Congress.

Sept. 12: The aid to Ukraine is released.

Sept. 13: Schiff subpoenas the DNI for the whistleblower complaint.

Sept. 17: The DNI again formally refuses to turn over the whistleblower complaint, arguing that the law doesn’t apply, because the activity in question relates to “someone” outside the intelligence community. Reporting indicates that the DNI did this after getting advised to do so by the Justice Department.

Sept. 17: The inspector general pushes back hard on the DNI’s decision, flatly stating that the complaint “relates to one of the most significant and important of the DNI’s responsibilities to the American people.”

Sept. 18-19: It turns out the “someone” in question may be Trump himself. The Post scoops that the whistleblower complaint involved a “promise” Trump made to a foreign leader. We then learn that it also involves Ukraine.

Sept. 19: Giuliani first denies to CNN that he is pressuring Ukraine to investigate Biden, before reversing and confirming as much.

Sept. 22: Trump confirms he brought up Biden and corruption in the call with Zelensky, but top administration officials deny Trump “pressured” him to investigate Biden.

So here’s what we know: As the timeline shows, Trump was thinking hard about Biden and Ukraine well in advance of ordering the aid frozen. At the same time, many officials in Trump’s own administration were deliberately kept in the dark about Trump’s rationale for freezing the aid.

Does that prove a connection? No, and we still don’t know whether Trump explicitly threatened to withhold the aid while making his demand of Zelensky, but this sequence makes a connection seem very plausible.

Regardless, the timeline shows that this constitutes extraordinarily serious misconduct even if Trump didn’t offer any explicit quid pro quo. Ukraine badly wanted the aid, and Zelensky told Murphy that Trump made him feel like there was a connection.

Both Trump and Giuliani have openly flaunted their own efforts to get Ukraine to dig dirt on Biden. Trump did this literally the day after the special counsel’s testimony persuaded him he can operate with impunity.

Trump’s top officials then corruptly concealed the “urgent” and “credible” whistleblower complaint from Congress — and we then only learned that Trump’s pressure on Zelensky appeared to be at the center of that complaint through dogged reporting.

No matter how you cut this, Trump used the power of the presidency to try to leverage a foreign power into interfering in the election on his behalf. And his top officials appear to be breaking the law to prevent Congress from getting to the bottom of it.

Congress is reacting.

Senate Democratic Minority Leader Chuck Schumer announced this morning that he would bring a resolution to the floor to “request the unanimous consent of the Senate to pass a resolution calling for the whistleblower complaint to be provided to the Senate and House Intelligence Committees.”

The resolution isn’t binding legislation but is “expressing the sense of the Senate that the whistleblower complaint received on August 12, 2019, by the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community should be transmitted immediately to the Select Committee on Intelligence of the Senate and the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence of the House of Representatives.” That’s not a blockbuster kind of instruction, given that that’s how the law says these complaints are supposed to be handled, but Republicans are expected to block the motion anyway.

The question is whether Moscow Mitch McConnell will block it himself or make one of his lackeys stand there and do it.

UPDATE: Is Trump okay? He looks like a beaten man here: