Yesterday marked the day when even Donald Trump’s own people placed him squarely at the center of the impeachment inquiry into his efforts to extort Ukraine for personal political gain.
White House acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney made a stunning admission of a quid pro quo by confirming that President Donald Trump froze nearly $400 million in U.S. security aid to Ukraine in part to pressure that country into investigating Democrats.
Mulvaney told reporters that Trump wanted the government in Kyiv to investigate a debunked conspiracy theory that a hacked Democratic National Committee computer server was taken to Ukraine in 2016 to hide evidence that it was that country, not Russia, that interfered in the presidential election.
“Did [Trump] also mention to me in the past the corruption related to the DNC server?” he said. “Absolutely, no question about that. But that’s it, and that’s why we held up the money.”
Later, after Trump’s lawyer and other Republicans distanced themselves from Mulvaney, the White House scrambled to walk back his comments, issuing an official statement blaming the media for misconstruing his words “to advance a biased and political witch hunt against President Trump.”
“Let me be clear,” Mulvaney’s written statement said, “there was absolutely no quid pro quo between Ukrainian military aid and any investigation into the 2016 election. There was never any connection between the funds and the Ukrainians doing anything with the server . . . there was never any condition on the flow of the aid related to the matter of the DNC server.”
Yeah. We were misconstruing his words that he said on tape for all to see.
In all seriousness, thinks took a turn yesterday when Mick Mulvaney concocted the worst cover story in the history of mankind.
Somehow, the president has been convinced that CrowdStrike is a Ukrainian company, founded by a Ukrainian, financed by a different rich Ukrainian and that they have secretly shipped a solitary server to Ukraine that holds evidence that Ukraine was responsible for hacking the DNC.
None of this is true, but this did not prevent Trump from putting his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, in charge of an effort to prove that these things are true. To accomplish this, Giuliani, who is not a government employee and holds no security clearance, was put in charge of America’s foreign policy in Ukraine. State Department employees were forced to do his bidding and an esteemed ambassador was defamed and then unceremoniously recalled from Kiev because she wasn’t a team-player.
This is supposed to be a defense for the president. It’s all okay because it wasn’t about winning the 2020 election.
Except, that’s also a lie.
That was the worst of Mulvaney’s explanation, but he went further by admitting that Trump held up military aid to Ukraine in an effort to extort the new administration in Kiev. People were kind of stunned that Mulvaney copped to the most egregious and highest of the crimes and misdemeanors that have been alleged, but the president initially said he was happy with his chief of staff’s comments. Now he is privately saying otherwise. As for Mulvaney, he had to try to put the toothpaste back in the tube, but we all know how that works out in the end.
Several Fox News hosts embarked on a large cleanup effort Thursday night.
“I just think half these people — Republicans, too. What is Mulvaney even talking about?” Fox News host Sean Hannity, who also acts as an informal adviser to the president, said on his radio show. “I just think he’s dumb. I really do. I don’t even think he knows what he’s talking about. That’s my take on it.”
“I guess the truth is complicated. This is what — you know, this is why, I think, some of these people are so stupid . . . You don’t need a chief of staff’s idiotic interpretation of things,” he added.
Laura Ingraham, the “Ingraham Angle” host, who is also one of the president’s most outspoken media defenders, argued that Mulvaney’s remarks should not be taken seriously because he is not a lawyer. (In fact, Mulvaney is a lawyer.)
“But when you have a legal issue before a lot of people who aren’t lawyers, the last thing you want to do is try to get out there and say a whole bunch of things really fast and then say, ‘Well, the context was, and going back and the reach back was,’ — and then there’s not enough of a pause between one thought and another, and then they could say, ‘Aha, see, you did,’ and then have to go back and clean it up afterward,” she continued.
That’s all they got. Mulvaney is s stoopid poopy-head.
In other impeachment news, Gordon D. Sondland, the United States ambassador to the European Union, told House impeachment investigators on Thursday that Trump delegated American foreign policy on Ukraine to his personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani, a directive he said he disagreed with but nonetheless followed.
Mr. Sondland, a Trump campaign donor who has emerged as a central figure in the Ukraine scandal, testified under subpoena that he did not understand until later that Mr. Giuliani’s goal may have been an effort “to involve Ukrainians, directly or indirectly, in the president’s 2020 re-election campaign.”
According to a copy of his opening statement to investigators, Sondland said Trump refused the counsel of his top diplomats, who recommended that he meet with the new Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, without any preconditions. The president said the diplomats needed to satisfy concerns that both he and Mr. Giuliani had related to corruption in Ukraine, Sondland asserted.
“We were also disappointed by the president’s direction that we involve Mr. Giuliani,” Sondland said. “Our view was that the men and women of the State Department, not the president’s personal lawyer, should take responsibility for all aspects of U.S. foreign policy toward Ukraine.”
There are two possibilities here. Either Sondland was wildly, almost inconceivably ignorant about what was going on around him, or in trying to salvage his reputation, he just lied to Congress.
By May 23, everyone knew that Giuliani wanted the Ukrainians to investigate Joe and Hunter Biden. On May 9, The New York Times ran an article headlined, “Rudy Giuliani Plans Ukraine Trip to Push for Inquiries That Could Help Trump,” which described his search for dirt on the Bidens. (“There’s nothing illegal about it,” Giuliani told The Times. “Somebody could say it’s improper.”) The next day a CNN piece was headlined, “Giuliani Defends Going to Ukraine to Press for Investigations Connected to Biden.”As the controversy grew, Giuliani canceled the trip.
So while it may be a mistake to overestimate the acuity of Trump appointees, it’s probably safe to say that Sondland knew exactly what he was involved with.
It should be remembered that once Trump won the election, Sondland donated $1 million to his inauguration to buy himself his ambassadorship, and then worked slavishly for the president’s approval
George Kent, a deputy assistant secretary of state, testified yesterday as part of the House impeachment inquiry that he had raised concerns in 2015 about then-Vice President Joe Biden’s son being on the board of a Ukrainian energy company but was turned away by a Biden staffer, according to the Washington Post.
All told, the wheels are off the bus. Here is a University of Maryland poll, taken before the Mulvaney statement:
So, while two thirds of respondents say the offense of asking foreign leaders to intervene in our election is impeachable, only 52 percent agree the president committed such an offense. But there is reason to believe this gap will continue to narrow, including among Republicans and Independents. In fact, Independents are more than four times as likely as partisans to express uncertainty about whether the president invited foreign interference into a U.S. election.
So people are changing their mind based on new evidence. Especially Republicans.
But most haven’t read the memo of the telephone conversation:
The good news is… those that have see a clear quid pro quo.
That includes Republicans:
Overall, those who had either read the memo or extensively followed coverage of the scandal, were also more likely to have a worsening opinion of President Trump, whereas those with less familiarity were less likely to have a change in opinion.
And that includes some Republicans.
This gives some relief to Dems. In fact, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is circulating a memo saying, in effect, not to worry.
“The numbers do not back up Republicans’ posture that impeachment worsens the political environment for House Democrats,” a pollster for the House Democrats’ campaign arm wrote. “National polling conducted by the DCCC finds voters back a Democrat who supports an impeachment investigation over a Republican who opposes an impeachment investigation by 11 points. Even in the 57 most competitive battleground districts, moving the inquiry forward is slightly favorable at 49-48. Additionally, Democrats’ lead in the generic ballot remains steady in national polling (+8 average) and in battleground districts (+3 average).”
In swing districts, those numbers might feel uncomfortably tight.
An hour ago, the House announced it has postponed testimony in the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry,perhaps because fallout might be coming from the acting White House chief of staff’s on-again, off-again quid pro quo admission.
John Kasich just told CNN he’s “across the Rubicon” and that President Trump should be impeached. “I say it with great sadness.”— Amanda Carpenter (@amandacarpenter) October 18, 2019
He says if he were a House member and asked to vote for impeachment to move forward he would be a “yes”. He adds that he wants to read articles and how Democrats make their case in regards to removal.
BREAKING: GOP Congressman Francis Rooney announces support for impeachment inquiry, citing Mulvaney’s disastrous press conference: “I want to get the facts and do the right thing. Because I’ll be looking at my children a lot longer than I’m looking at anybody in this building.”— Scott Dworkin (@funder) October 18, 2019
Another update — FINALLY, we are getting into the courts:
NEW: A federal court has called a hearing next Wednesday in our lawsuit seeking the release of Ukraine records from the State Department, including senior officials’ emails with Giuliani or discussions of the effort to pressure Ukraine: https://t.co/0HPyzipzQ4— American Oversight (@weareoversight) October 18, 2019
I’m not sure the plaintiff, American Oversight, has standing, but this is the right move.
UPDATE: The Trump campaign is actually embracing what Mulvaney said (his “Get over it”) comment. This is real merch…
The new “lock her up”??
Going to be a symphony of sycophancy as Trump crowds alternate between "Lock her up!" and "Get over it!" https://t.co/ItPTtva8gC— LOLGOP (@LOLGOP) October 18, 2019