The report from Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz on the origins of the investigation into collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia in 2016 has still not been released, though every indication is that the core report was completed weeks, if not months, ago. But while that report is still getting some final edits around the DOJ, one thing it’s apparently not getting is any information on the conspiracy theory that has kept William Barr and his hand-picked prosecutor, John Durham, on a round-the-world tour. Because it seems there is no information to add.
AsThe Washington Post reports, when Horowitz contacted Durham to see if there was anything he wanted inserted into the report concerning the business that had him and Barr hopping across European capitals, he got back … nothing. Which means that, unless Barr and Durham are deliberately keeping their findings from everyone else in their own department, the biggest—and most ridiculous—conspiracy theory Republicans have been pushing about the 2016 election has come up absolutely dry.
In Wednesday’s hearing before the House Judiciary Committee, Republican Sylvia Garcia took mock umbrage at the idea that Donald Trump’s “I want to ask you a favor, though” comment to the president of Ukraine had anything to do with Joe Biden. She proceeded to read the lines following that one in the “transcript” to prove that Biden wasn’t mentioned—which she accomplished by stopping her recitation right before Biden was mentioned. But what Garcia did read right through, without any apparent concern, was Trump’s demand that Ukraine look into “the 2016 election” and specifically “CrowdStrike.”
This request is not some amorphous concern about Ukrainian officials who wrote sternly worded op-eds and or made mean posts on their Facebook page.
CrowdStrike is as much a demand for smearing Hillary Clinton as requests for an investigation into Burisma is a demand for smearing Joe Biden. It is just as much an attempt to attack a political opponent for personal gain as anything else Trump was pressing on Ukraine.
CrowdStrike is exactly why Barr has been in Australia, and Rome, and London in his efforts to support a theory that exonerates Russia and puts the blame for 2016 hacking back on Clinton.
Also, getting less attention, Inside Defense published yet another debunking of one of the central Republican defenses of Trump’s actions regarding Ukraine by pointing out that the Defense Department, back in May of this year, certified that Ukraine had made sufficient progress in fighting corruption so that the defense assistance funds designated for Ukraine could be released. Once they later learned that the White House had blocked the funding, they never got a good explanation:
The senior Pentagon official who certified in May that Ukraine should receive $250 million in U.S. military aid because it had made sufficient progress combating corruption said today he never got a “very clear explanation” from the White House as to why the funds were delayed over the summer.
“In the weeks after signing the certification I did become aware that the aid had been held,” John Rood, the under secretary of defense for policy, told reporters this morning.
“I never received a very clear explanation other than there were concerns about corruption in Ukraine,” he continued.
Rood was the person in charge of determining whether Ukraine had made sufficient progress:
Rood said he learned of the White House hold on the aid, which was part of a larger $400 million assistance package, “significantly after May,” when he certifiedthat Ukraine had made sufficient anti-corruption progress to receive the aid.
“It was a requirement under the law that we certify that and I was the person that certified it,” he said.
Despite the fact that this has been widely known for months, Republicans continued to claim that Trump was very concerned about corruption in Ukraine and that was the only reason he withheld the aid.
And yet, also around the time the hearing started, we also learned of yet another foreign trip for Rudy Giuliani in his world tour aimed at protecting Trump against impeachment. As usual, Marcy was way ahead of this move, asking yesterday if Yuriy Lutsenko, Viktor Shokin, and Konstantin Kulyk were the three former Ukrainian prosecutors who had provided statements to John Durham in Bill Barr’s “investigations” aimed at protecting Trump. In what can only be seen as confirmation of her suggestion, the New York Times told us this morning that Rudy met Lutsenko yesterday in Budapest and was in Kiev today to meet with Shokin and Kulyk:
Even as Democrats intensified their scrutiny this week of Rudolph W. Giuliani’s role in the pressure campaign against the Ukrainian government that is at the heart of the impeachment inquiry, Mr. Giuliani has been in Europe continuing his efforts to shift the focus to purported wrongdoing by President Trump’s political rivals.
Mr. Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, met in Budapest on Tuesday with a former Ukrainian prosecutor, Yuriy Lutsenko, who has become a key figure in the impeachment inquiry. He then traveled to Kyiv on Wednesday seeking to meet with other former Ukrainian prosecutors whose claims have been embraced by Republicans, including Viktor Shokin and Kostiantyn H. Kulyk, according to people familiar with the effort.
Even Ken Vogel, who had the lead byline on this story, has to admit that these former prosecutors are corrupt:
The former prosecutors, who have faced allegations of corruption, all played some role in promoting claims about former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., a former United States ambassador to Ukraine and Ukrainians who disseminated damaging information about Mr. Trump’s campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, in 2016.
Isn’t that interesting? We are being asked to believe that Trump withheld aid Ukraine desperately needed in its war with Russia because of his concerns about corruption. And yet, as Team Trump is doing its best to protect him, they feel that his best defense lies with some of the most corrupt of those Ukrainian officials who have been removed from office. They have provided statements that Bill Barr is likely depending on in his investigation and we learned in today’s Times article that Rudy was also traveling with a team from a wingnut media organization to film a “documentary” providing a “Republican alternative to the impeachment hearings”.