The testimony Tuesday of Bill Taylor, the US charge d’affaires to Ukraine, has rocked the political establishment.
Taylor told the House he encountered an “irregular” channel on Ukraine, guided by Rudy Giuliani, that produced “a weird combination of encouraging, confusing, and ultimately alarming circumstances.” Taylor is the guy in those text messages who described the administration’s handling of Ukraine’s request for a presidential-level meeting with Trump as “crazy.”
He testified that an OMB official said on a White House conference call, a week before the famous Trump-Zelensky phone conversation, that she could not release the aid to Kiev based on orders that went “from the president to the chief of staff to OMB.”
“I and others sat in astonishment,” Taylor said. “The Ukrainians were fighting the Russians and counted on not only the training and weapons, but also the assurance of U.S. support…In an instant, I realized that one of the key pillars of our strong support for Ukraine was threatened.”
Aside from the quid pro quo extortion attempts of Ukraine, Taylor points to a troubling theme and it is this: foreign governments are being recruited to attack Trump’s enemies, including elements of our government. The intended targets are not just the Bidens; it also includes the FBI and the CIA,
And we are having attorneys doing the dirty work: Rudy Giuliani for one (who is now seeking a criminal defense lawyer) was the “irregular” channel in Ukraine. But there’s another attorney out there — Attorney General William Barr:
Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte of Italy said his country’s intelligence services had informed the American attorney general, William P. Barr, that they played no role in the events leading to the Russia investigation, taking the air out of an unsubstantiated theory promoted by President Trump and his allies in recent weeks.
“Our intelligence is completely unrelated to the so-called Russiagate and that has been made clear,” Mr. Conte said in a news conference in Rome on Wednesday evening after spending hours describing Italy’s discussions with Mr. Barr to the parliamentary committee on intelligence.\
Mr. Conte publicly acknowledged for the first time that Mr. Barr had twice met with the leaders of Italy’s intelligence agencies after asking them to clarify their role in a 2016 meeting between a Maltese professor and a Trump campaign adviser on a small college campus in Rome, Link Campus University.
During a subsequent meeting, the professor, Joseph Mifsud, told the adviser, George Papadopolous, that Russia had obtained damaging information about Hillary Clinton in the form of “thousands of emails,” according to the special counsel’s report into Russian meddling in the 2016 American election. Mr. Papadopolous later shared that information with foreign diplomats, which eventually set off alarms among American intelligence officials about Russian interference.
Mr. Trump and his associates have asserted, without evidence, that Mr. Mifsud is not a professor with links to Russia, as the special counsel’s report states, but a Western intelligence asset working as part of an Obama administration plot to spy on the Trump campaign. That theory, once relegated to the far-right margins, has become a frequent talking point of Mr. Trump’s as he seeks to undermine the special counsel’s report.
Mr. Barr at least twice visited Rome to investigate the allegations, on Aug. 15 and Sept. 27.
Mr. Conte said on Wednesday that Mr. Barr met on Aug. 15 with Gen. Gennaro Vecchione, who leads the agency coordinating Italy’s internal and external intelligence. That meeting, he said, “was meant to decide the extent of the collaboration,” adding, “I didn’t take part in it, but was informed.”\
Mr. Barr and the Italian general met again on Sept. 27 and were joined by two other senior Italian agents, the heads of internal and external intelligence, Mr. Conte said. “The meeting clarified, after this was verified, that our intelligence is unrelated to the affair.”
“This extraneousness has been acknowledged,” he said, apparently referring to an acknowledgment by the Trump administration.
Mr. Barr also asked Italian authorities to “verify the operations of American agents,” Mr. Conte said. “That is, his question was to verify what the American intelligence did.”
The revelations of Mr. Barr’s visits spurred controversy in Italy, where Mr. Conte’s critics argued he had inappropriately allocated the country’s intelligence resources to help Mr. Trump win domestic political advantage.
Italian officials have lamented that the unusual requests by the Trump administration complicated what has been a long-lasting collaboration between allies on issues of justice and national security.
The Italians are asking questions that Americans should be asking. Why is our Attorney General going to foreign countries to investigate our intelligence and law enforcement institutions, including his own?
But it gets worse. Way at the end of a CNN story on Rudy Giuliani’s grifters, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, this bombshell appears:
Two weeks ago when they were arrested, Parnas and Fruman were preparing to fly to Vienna, Austria, to meet Giuliani and another key figure in the impeachment investigation, Ukraine’s former prosecutor general Viktor Shokin, according to four sources familiar with their trip. Shokin is the same Ukrainian official who former Vice President Joe Biden — along with other Western leaders — had pushed to have removed over concerns he wasn’t prosecuting corruption.
While questions in Washington swirl around Shokin’s role in this controversy, Giuliani, Parnas, Fruman had specific plans for the former Ukrainian official up until the day of their arrest. According to those four sources, they told others they were headed to Vienna to help with a planned interview the next day: Shokin, they said, was scheduled to do an interview from the Austrian capital with Sean Hannity.
Through a spokesperson, Hannity said that “we never reveal our sources, potential sources, or persons they may or may not request to interview. Sean Hannity takes the first amendment seriously.”
Rudy and his goons were going to Vienna to help Shokin prepare for an interview with… Hannity? How did Hannity get into the picture?
That information dramatically changes the import of this news — that the night before this interview was scheduled, and after meeting with SDNY that same day, and probably after the grifters had been arrested as they tried to leave the country, the Attorney General of the United States had a meeting with Rupert Murdoch at the latter’s home.
Attorney General William P. Barr met privately Wednesday evening with Rupert Murdoch, the media mogul who is one of President Trump’s frequent confidants but whose Fox News is viewed by the president as more hostile toward him than it used to be.
The meeting was held at Mr. Murdoch’s home in New York, according to someone familiar with it. It was unclear if anyone else attended or what was discussed. Aides to both Mr. Murdoch and Mr. Barr declined requests for comment on the meeting.
So the presumed October 9 schedule for the players looks like this:
Lunch: Rudy meets with the grifters across the street from DOJ
Before the arrest: Barr informed they would be arrested (he met with SDNY that day)
Roughly 6:30: SDNY nabs the grifters as they prepare to fly to Vienna using one way tickets
After the arrest: Barr meets privately with Rupert Murdoch, Sean Hannity’s boss
This story from Parnas and Fruman’s arraignment yesterday revealed that SDNY has been monitoring twelve different phone lines.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Rebekah Donaleski told Oetken that evidence in the case that will need to be turned over to the defense was “quite voluminous.” She mentioned about 50 bank accounts and more than a dozen cell phones that were monitored in some fashion, as well as search warrants and subpoenas.
Wiretaps might be the kind of thing SDNY would brief Barr on if he met with prosecutors the day of the arrest. Prosecutors might also tell Barr what kind of high profile people had been caught up on the grifters’ encrypted texts. It is virtually certain that Hannity was caught in the surveillance of the grifters, even if contacts between him and Rudy weren’t already obtained.
It looks bad, but given how much Barr has mainlined Fox propaganda over the last two decades, it wouldn’t be surprising if Barr attempted to protect the propaganda channels’ top entertainer — hence the meeting with Murdoch.
Barr has a lot of explaining to do:
- Why is Barr, and not Durham, the point man on the so-called “Durham investigation” to get to the roots of the Trump-Russia scandal?
- When Durham was following up Ukrainian leads, was the just crap from Rudy’s goons and Shokin, and to what extent was Barr aware of that?
- Why did Barr try to bury the whistleblower complaint?
- Why was Barr mentioned on Trump’s call to Zelensky?
It certainly looks like the Rudy goons’ influence campaign, Barr’s own wild goose chase with foreign governments, and the President’s extortion of Ukraine are not independent pieces of corruption, but rather, one massive conspiracy — and it may have ensnared Sean Hannity and/or Rupert Murdoch as either dupes or willing co-conspirators.
And Barr knows a lot more than he is saying…. which is nothing.