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.