| Guide to:|
|Hail to the Chief?|
|Persons of interest|
The circumstances surrounding a July 25th phone call between US President Donald Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (Володи́мир Зеле́нський, sometimes transliterated as Zelenskyy) appears to be a major turning point for the Trump Administration that has been mired in scandal since it inauguration. While there have been a series of credible charges and accusations of administrative malfeasance, as well as evidence of self-dealing and general corruption, most Americans, as well as members of the House of Representatives, have been unwilling to support impeaching the President. But after word of a whistleblower complaint being identified as "urgent and credible", legal terms that require the complaint to be reported to the US House and Senate Intelligence committees, was being suppressed by acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire, the House has begun the process of an impeachment inquiry and public support for impeachment has begun to grow.
- 1 Stupid Watergate
- 2 If it ain't broke, don't fix it
- 3 July 25, 2019
- 4 After the call
- 5 It hits the fan
- 6 The complaint
- 7 Impeachment Inquiry Begins
- 8 Testimony
- 9 Official Proceedings Begin
- 10 See also
- 11 Notes
- 12 References
There a host of people responsible for a routine congratulatory call turned into a massive clusterfuck that actually represents a massive threat to the administration. The person deserving of the most blame, is President Trump. Though he has a history of believing and promoting wild conspiracies, as well as peddling in misinformation, he most enjoys conspiracies that paint him in a positive light and target his political opponents. Without Hillary Clinton to use a foil, Trump targeted most of his ire to Robert Mueller III, Republican, Former FBI Director, tasked to investigate the Russian Interference into the 2016 Presidential Election. During the course of the investigation, President Trump attempted to have Mueller removed multiple times, and frequently attacked the investigation, and it's premise that the Russian government interfered in the election to hurt Clinton and benefit Trump. Even though this fact has been confirmed by eight US intelligence agencies, Mueller's investigation and the Senate Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. Trump, has insisted that anyone else could be responsible, he appears to have become enamored with a particularly insane conspiracy theory, that Ukraine actually interfered in the 2016 election on behalf of the Democrats. He has been joined in his belief of this theory by
batboy a walking corpse Dumber Fredo Mayor Stop and Frisk Mayor Broken Windows Rudolph Giuliani. Giuliani, who holds no official position in the Trump administration, has been pursuing evidence of this theory, through unofficial State Department channels. Though this particular conspiracy is related to a DNC server believed to have been whisked to Ukraine by Crowdstrike, it is adjacent to a black ledger that found its way to the US at the height of the 2016 election, detailing private payments by Former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych paid to Paul Manafort. Manafort had previously been a consultant for Yanukovych, rehabilitating his image secure the 2010 Ukrainian election. At the time of the ledgers release, Manafort was serving as the second Trump campaign manager. The details were embarrassing to Manafort, who would resign the position, years later finding himself under scrutiny for his actions with Russian oligarchs, and financial crimes, for which he is currently incarcerated.
If it ain't broke, don't fix it
It is unclear how one conspiracy theory led to another, but Giuliani has also been pursuing another conspiracy theory connected to the Obama Administration, specifically Vice-President Joe Biden. Ukrainian natural gas company Burisma Holdings, added Hunter Biden to their company board in 2014. 2014 was a particularly volatile time in Ukraine, as Yanakovych found himself ousted during the Euromaidan movement. Yanakovych spurned closer relations to the European Union, favoring a closer relationship with Vladimir Putin and Russia. Escaping to Russia, the interim government sought closer ties to the West, which included pursuing aggressive commitment to eliminate corruption. VP Biden was assigned to spearhead this effort. The actions of Burisma to add the younger Biden was clearly an effort to show the administration and the Vice-President himself they were committed addressing corruption. While Biden had no experience in hydro-carbons, his law firm had connections to Burisma. Hunter Biden obviously profited from his family name, but that isn't illegal. In 2016 VP Biden, it his official capacity representing the United States, the European Union, and the International Monetary Fund, visited with Ukranian President Petro Porshenko.The official message being carried by the VP was that Porshenko must remove Viktor Shokin. The prosecutor had been appointed by President Porshenko in 2014, in keeping with the administration's message of a commitment to closer relations to the EU and rooting out corruption. Shokin was not living up to this task, so the VP official message that $1 billion dollars of military assistance would not be provided to Ukraine, currently under assault from Russian forces in the east. Shokin was removed, and the funds were transferred. Shokin was obviously unhappy about losing his position, began stating his removal was because Biden was attempting to protect his son, even though Shokin had closed his investigation in Burisma, Hunter Biden had never been the target of any investigation, and he was fired for not investigating corruption enough. Shokin and Yuriy Lustenko, another Ukrainian prosecutor with a shady record on investigating corruption, made contact with Giuliani, and Giuliani sought more evidence for this baseless charge, admitting that he sought the information to hurt Biden, who is running for the 2020 Democratic Party nomination, and in a variety of head to head polls, has been beating Trump in multiple states.
Fraud Guarantee (No really)
Giuliani's interest in Ukraine, seem to go beyond this initial BS, as he was associated with Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman. These two Soviet-born, Florida based businessmen worked with Giuliani and Parnas paid Giuliani for work he did for a company called, Fraud Guarantee.[note 1] Parnas and Fruman then apparently were assisting Giuliani in his Ukrainian effort, as well as receiving an unprecedented level of access to the administration, functioning as a shadow State Department. Both men have photos with Trump and Trump Jr.,both were at the Election Night party for Trump in 2016, and were special guests of Giuliani at the funeral service for George HW Bush. Amb. Yovanovitch identified that the men likely were calling for her ouster because her support corruption reforms in Ukraine interfered with their business. Parnas and Fruman were arrested October 10, after meeting with Giuliani at Trump's DC Hotel for lunch, at the airport before flying to Latvia, where Giuliani was supposed to meet them the next day. Parnas and Fruman have been charged with campaign finance violations, funneling foreign money into the campaigns of GOP candidates. Among those that have received contributions include Trump's re-election campaign, Ron DeSantis' Gubernatorial campaign in 2018, Pete Sessions (TX-R) Congressional re-election campaign, as well as other unnamed local officials. The Sessions donation is particularly concerning, considering he sent a letter to Sec. Pompeo, calling for Yovanovitch's ouster.
July 25, 2019
At 9:03 EDT, President Trump called President Zelensky from the White House residence,[note 2] with several officials including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and an aide to Vice-President Mike Pence listening in. It is unclear where Pompeo listened to the call, while everyone else likely listened in the Situation Room. This was the second call from Trump to Zelensky, the first was a quick congratulatory call in late June. The call began innocently enough:
[Trump]: Congratulations on a great victory. We all watched from the United States and you did a terrific job. The way you came from behind, somebody who wasn't given much of a chance, and you ended up winning easily. It's a fantastic achievement. Congratulations.
They exchange pleasantries, then things take a turn:
[Trump]: Well it is very nice of you to say that. I will say that we do a lot for Ukraine. We spend a lot of effort and a lot of time. Much more than the European countries are doing and they should be helping you more than they are. Germany does almost nothing for you. All they do is talk and I think it's something that you should really ask them about. When I was speaking to Angela Merkel she talks Ukraine, but she doesn't do anything. A lot of the European countries are the same way so I think it's something you want to look at but the United States has been very very good to Ukraine. I wouldn't say that it's reciprocal necessarily because things are happening that are not good but the United States has been very very good to Ukraine.[note 3]
Now, this is not an uncommon tactic by Trump, there is ample evidence that he respects loyalty above everything (except money and gold electroplating), especially from people he views as his subordinates. To some it may appear unseemly, but remember that Trump operated as a
slum lord racist real estate developer in 80's New York. But anyone that has ever seen The Godfather, Goodfellas or any organized crime movie ever, may also recognize this as the beginning of an ask. Zelensky seemed to pick up on this:
Zelenskyy: Yes you are absolutely right. Not only 100%, but actually 1000% and I can tell you the following; I did talk to Angela Merkel and I did meet with her. I also met and talked with Macron and I told them that they are not doing quite as much as they need to be doing on the issues with the sanctions. They are not enforcing the sanctions.[note 4] They are not working as much as they should work for Ukraine. It turns out that even though logically, the European Union should be our biggest partner but technically the United States is a much bigger partner than the European Union and I'm very grateful to you for that because the United States is doing quite a lot for Ukraine. Much more than the European Union especially when we are talking about sanctions against the Russian Federation. I would also like to thank you for your great support in the area of defense. We are ready to continue to cooperate for the next steps, specifically we are almost ready to buy more Javelins from the United States for defense purposes.[note 5]
Trump takes the conversation to its logical (in his mind) next step:
[Trump]:I would like you to do us a favor though because our country has been through a lot and Ukraine knows a lot about it. I would like you to find out what happened with this whole situation with Ukraine, they say Crowdstrike … I guess you have one of your wealthy people… The server, they say Ukraine has it. There are a lot of things that went on, the whole situation … I think you're surrounding yourself with some of the same people. I would like to have the Attorney General call you or your people and I would like you to get to the bottom of it. As you saw yesterday, that whole nonsense ended with a very poor performance by a man named Robert Mueller, an incompetent performance, but they say a lot of it started with Ukraine. Whatever you can do, it's very important that you do it if that's possible.[note 6]
First, "I would like you to do us a favor though", is a clearly intending to be a favor to benefit himself. Trump never uses "us" to describe the United States, more frequently he is referring to his supporters or himself. Second, this baseless conspiracy theory comes from the dregs of the internet (i.e., 4chan, Breitbart, The Blaze, and Fox News) and is essentially a way to discredit the assessment from US intelligence agencies and the Senate Intelligence Committee, that Russia interfered in the 2016 election to harm Hillary Clinton and support Trump. The "server" Trump is alluding to is a DNC server, that many idiots seem to think contains evidence that Ukraine interfered to benefit the Democrats, or alternatively that the server contains HRC emails. Either way it's absolute bollocks. Again Zelensky seems to definitely pick up where Trump is going:
President Zelenskyy: Yes it is very important for me and everything that you just mentioned earlier. For me as a President, it is very important and we are open for any future cooperation. We are ready to open a new page on cooperation in relations between the United States and Ukraine… I will personally tell you that one of my assistants spoke with Mr. Giuliani just recently and we are hoping very much that Mr. Giuliani will be able to travel to Ukraine and we will meet once he comes to Ukraine. I just wanted to assure you once again that you have nobody but friends around us…[note 7]
Now, an idiot might read this and think, "See, Zelensky is acknowledging the seriousness of this investigation." But Zelensky is playing politics, Trump has a history of responding well to leaders who stroke his ego, and ending agreements and meetings with leaders who don't. And at this point Ukraine is desperately in need of additional lethal assistance (which Zelensky may, but probably didn't, know was being held up at the request of Trump a week before this call) and had been seeking a WH meeting with the two leaders, why not suck up a little bit? Trump keeps on rolling:
[Trump]:Good because I heard you had a prosecutor who was very good and he was shut down and that's really unfair. A lot of people are talking about that, the way they shut your very good prosecutor down and you had some very bad people involved. Mr. Giuliani is a highly respected man. He was the mayor of New York City, a great mayor, and I would like him to call you. I will ask him to call you along with the Attorney General. Rudy very much knows what's happening and he is a very capable guy. If you could speak to him that would be great. The former ambassador from the United States, the woman, was bad news and the people she was dealing with in the Ukraine were bad news so I just want to let you know that. The other thing, There's a lot of talk about Biden's son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the Attorney General would be great. Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it … It sounds horrible to me.[note 8]
Before breaking down everything that is bullshit about this statement, it cannot be stressed more that this is the President of the United States seeking information from a foreign nation to damage a likely election competitor. This would be a campaign finance violation at a minimum, a breach of public trust, and definitely a violation of the oath of office.[note 9] Now there are several things in this ask that are inaccurate. First, the prosecutor Trump is referring to is Viktor Shokin. Shokin was appointed by then-President Porshenko in 2014. Though he talked a big game about fighting and prosecuting corruption, his record was less than stellar. Joe Biden, in his formal capacity as Vice President of the United States, was sent to Ukraine to meet with President Porshenko with a message from the US, the EU and the International Monetary Fund (IMF): sack Shokin. On the 2020 campaign trail he has discussed this incident, specifically telling Porshenko that he would leave the country in one hour, and that one billion dollars of military aid would not be transferred to Ukraine if Shokin was not removed. On the way to the airport, he discovered Porshenko had removed him. Second, this is the second time Giuliani has been mentioned in meeting with members of Zelensky's administration. Giuliani is not a government employee but only Trump's private attorney, and would seem to be in violation of the Logan Act. Additionally the Attorney General, William Barr, is also not a member of the State Department and would seem to be ill-equipped to work on matters of State (especially considering his job is to be the lawyer for America, not the President). Third, the Ambassador to Ukraine, Marie L. Yovanovitch, was removed not for dealing with people that were "bad news", but because she had been maintaining the administration line about corruption, and had resisted efforts by Giuliani to investigate the DNC server and Hunter Biden.
After the call
Advisers and officials listening to, or aware of the details of the call, seemed to appreciate the gravity of the call: President Trump had used his office to seek assistance from the President of Ukraine in finding damaging information on Joe Biden. White House lawyers moved to limit those who had access to the records of the call quickly, directing officials to remove the transcript of the call from the typical system which cabinet level officials had access, to a National Security system where highly sensitive information is stored, even though the call didn't contain any sensitive information from a national security perspective. Apparently this was not the only time "politically" sensitive transcripts had been moved to this system.[note 10] Additionally on July 26 Trump administration officials Kurt Volker[note 11] and Gordon Sondland[note 12] met with President Zelensky, while scheduled before the call, focused on a "deliverable" from the new Ukrainian administration.
It hits the fan
On August 12, a whistle-blower in the intelligence apparatus filed a complaint to Michael Atkinson, Inspector General of the Intelligence Community. Atkinson then investigated claims made in the complaint, then sometime in early September, he referred the complaint to the acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire. We do not yet know details of the investigation, but Atkinson deemed the complaint "urgent and credible". By labeling the complaint as such, the law requires that the DNI transfer the complaint to the chair of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and the chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence within seven days. Maguire however did not do that, instead he sought advice from the White House and the Department of Justice. In keeping with the posture of the administration to stonewall on all investigations, the Office of Legal Counsel submitted a memo that because the complaint dealt with someone "outside the intelligence apparatus" (i.e., the head of the Executive branch) the complaint was not "urgent" and did not need to be relayed to Congress, so Maguire sat on the complaint. Sometime during the third week of September, Atkinson took it upon himself to alert Chairman of the HPSCI Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Chairman of the SSCI Richard Burr (R-NC) to the existence of the complaint. Chairman Schiff reacted to this discovery with outrage, and over the course of the week a slow drip of information began to appear in the media about the contents of the complaint. Democrats who hadn't supported impeachment after the Mueller report, slowly became compelled to support impeachment after the most damaging details emerged. The flood gates opened when Speaker Pelosi announced the formal impeachment inquiry on September 24. Trump reacted incredulously, saying that making the announcement without seeing the readout of the call was a mistake. When the call details were released later that day, they clearly confirmed what all reporting had indicated.[note 13]
Made public September 26, nine-page complaint is written in a succinct and clear fashion that would be expected from an intelligence analyst. Mostly unredacted, the complaint details the events of the call and how they relate to other events concerning the whistle-blower. On the first page is a paragraph that undoubtedly will be echoed by Republicans endlessly until sources are identified:
I was not a direct witness to most of the events described. However, I found my colleagues' accounts of these events to be credible because, in almost all cases, multiple officials recounted fact patterns that were consistent with one another. In addition, a variety of information consistent with these private accounts has been reported publicly.
However, the whistle-blower is a CIA analyst (probably) who has access to much of this underlying information, and additionally identifies the individuals whom they spoke to (though that is held from the unclassified complaint). This type of information sharing is not uncommon as the whistleblower notes, "It is routine for U.S. officials with responsibility for a particular regional or functional portfolio to share such information with one another in order to inform policymaking and analysis." With that, the complaint identifies the threat:
I am deeply concerned that the actions described below constitute "a serious or flagrant problem, abuse, or violation of law or Executive Order" that "does not include differences of opinions concerning public policy matters," consistent with the definition of an "urgent concern" in 50 U.S.C. §3033(k)(5)(G). I am therefore fulfilling my duty to report this information, through proper legal channels, to the relevant authorities.
- I am also concerned that these actions pose risks to U.S. national security and undermine the U.S. Government's efforts to deter and counter foreign interference in U.S. elections.
The first section details the July 25 call, which matches what was discussed above. Additionally the complaint supports this reading of the call with the statement from the Ukrainian government after the call, "Donald Trump expressed his conviction that the new Ukrainian government will be able to quickly improve Ukraine's image and complete the investigation of corruption cases that have held back cooperation between Ukraine and the United States." The only case discussed during the call was about the DNC server and Hunter Biden. Because of the assumed routine nature of the call, multiple people were involved, including T. Ulrich Brechbuhl from the State Department. The whistleblower states they were not the only non-WH official to receive the call readout.[note 14] The second part details the attempt by the administration to limit the exposure from the consequences of the call. The complaint uses the phrase "lock down" to describe the efforts undertaken by WH lawyers, including removing the transcript from one system and moving it to another higher security clearance system.
Sections three and four form the roadmap for the seriousness of the complaint. Section three documents that US Ambassadors discussed the call the next day with Zelensky and his staff. It also details word about an August 2 meeting in Madrid, where Giuliani met with Andriy Yermak, an adviser to Zelenskyy, that was framed as a direct followup of the July 25 call. A week later, the complaint identifies statements made by Trump, that are real weird.[note 15] Going into the fourth section the context is laid bare: Allegations from Yuriy Lutsenko about Vice President Biden pressuring to get the removal of Shokin to protect Burisma (which is debunked above),[note 16] including an accusation that two Ukrainian officials had interfered in the 2016 Presidential election to benefit the Democrats.[note 17] Mr. Lutsenko appears to have begun making these wild accusations because he anticipated being removed by Zelensky from his post after Zelensky defeated President Porshenko in a future run-off election. Lutsenko met Giuliani at least twice, and by April 25, Giuliani had begun making the media rounds bragging about information that would be of interest to the Attorney General. The complaint then details the multiple efforts that Giuliani seemed to engage in with regards to Ukraine. First was the recall of the Ukrainian Ambassador, which Giuliani is on the record as saying "[Ambassador Yovanovitch] was removed… because she was part of the efforts against the President." Second, the aforementioned trip that Giuliani planned in May 2019 where he stated multiple times he was traveling to Ukraine on behalf of President Trump, seeking information on Biden.[note 18] These actions had spooked the State Department so much they spoke to Giuliani to "contain the damage". The last five paragraphs in the complaint tie everything together in a neat little bow:
During this same timeframe, multiple U.S. officials told me that the Ukrainian leadership was led to believe that a meeting or phone call between the President and President Zelenskyy would depend on whether Zelenskyy showed willingness to "play ball" on the issues that had been publicly aired by Mr. Lutsenko and Mr. Giuliani. (Note: This was the general understanding of the state of affairs as conveyed to me by U.S. officials from late May into early July. I do not know who delivered this message to the Ukrainian leadership, or when.)
Shortly after President Zelenskyy's inauguration, it was publicly reported that Mr. Giuliani met with two other Ukrainian officials: Ukraine's Special Anticorruption Prosecutor, Mr. Nazar Kholodnytskyy, and a former Ukrainian diplomat named Andriy Telizhenko. Both Mr. Kholodnytskyy and Mr. Telizhenko are allies of Mr. Lutsenko and made similar allegations in the above-mentioned series of articles in The Hill.
On 13 June, the President told ABC's George Stephanopoulos that he would accept damaging information on his political rivals from a foreign government.
On 21 June, Mr. Giuliani tweeted: "New Pres of Ukraine still silent on investigation of Ukrainian interference in 2016 and alleged Biden bribery of Poroshenko. Time for leadership and investigate both if you want to purge how Ukraine was abused by Hillary and Clinton people."
In mid-July, I learned of a sudden change of policy with respect to U.S. assistance for Ukraine.
That first and last paragraphs are particularly troubling and further detailed in the appendix:
I learned from U.S. officials that, on or around 14 May, the President instructed Vice President Pence to cancel his planned travel to Ukraine to attend President Zelenskyy's inauguration on 20 May; Secretary of Energy Rick Perry led the delegation instead. According to these officials, it was also "made clear" to them that the President did not want to meet with Mr. Zelenskyy until he saw how Zelenskyy "chose to act" in office. I do not know how this guidance was communicated, or by whom. I also do not know whether this action was connected with the broader understanding, described in the unclassified letter, that a meeting or phone call between the President and President Zelenskyy would depend on whether Zelenskyy showed willingness to "play ball" on the issues that had been publicly aired by Mr. Lutsenko and Mr. Giuliani.[note 19]
On 18 July, an Office of Management and Budget (OMB) official informed Departments and Agencies that the President "earlier that month" had issued instructions to suspend all U.S. security assistance to Ukraine. Neither OMB nor the NSC staff knew why this instruction had been issued. During interagency meetings on 23 July and 26 July, OMB officials again stated explicitly that the instruction to suspend this assistance had come directly from the President, but they still were unaware of a policy rationale. As of early August, I heard from U.S. officials that some Ukrainian officials were aware that U.S … aid might be in jeopardy, but I do not know how or when they learned of it.[note 20]
Impeachment Inquiry Begins
Outrage abounds. As of October 8, there are 227 House members who support impeachment. Every single candidate running for the Democratic nomination supports an impeachment inquiry. Two of the three Republicans seeking to oust the President for the Republican nomination support the inquiry. Though Republicans in the House remain steadfast in their denial that the President has done anything wrong, several Senate Republicans have been frustrated with the President's actions and are open to exploring the charges brought by the House. Chairman Schiff has established an aggressive schedule, and a vote on articles of impeachment seems likely before Thanksgiving.
Giuliani has responded more like his client, calling journalists to rage at them on the phone, making the rounds on cable television declaring himself "the Hero", and accomplishing "his mission in life".[note 21] He also has floated the brilliant idea to "sue the swamp", even though legally, Congresspersons are protected from litigation about their actions in office.
Support for impeachment from Americans seems to be trending in the wrong direction for the administration, as following the conclusion the Mueller Investigation, support among Democrats was still mixed, mixed but lower for independents and nil for the GOP. Over the course of three weeks however there has been a substantial increase, with nearly 2 of 10 Republicans supporting removal.
Trump's rage over the investigation reached a new low October 22, with comparisons to the inquiry as a "lynching". Though par for the course for Trump to capitalize on racial resentment, the comparison is particularly disgusting as lynchings were frequently used to terrorize black communities in the South, and now are treated as hate crimes. South Carolina[note 22] Senators Graham and Scott proved that the GOP defense of Trump has no boundaries, with Scott obfuscating the comparison to a death penalty trial, and Graham wholeheartedly agreeing with the comparison.
Official White House Response
After three weeks of letting Trump Tweet and commit additional crimes, the White House released an official response to the inquiry October 8. The eight page document has the signature of White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, but apparently was wholly dictated by the President himself. The letter was directed to Chairs Schiff, Cummings, Engle as well as Speaker Pelosi. From the jump, the letter displays a breathtakingly poor understanding of Constitutional law as well as impeachment as a process:
you have denied the President the right to cross-examine witnesses, to call witnesses, to receive transcripts of testimony, to have access to evidence, to have counsel present, and many other basic rights guaranteed to all Americans. You have conducted your proceedings in secret. You have violated civil liberties and the separation of powers by threatening Executive Branch officials, claiming that you will seek to punish those who exercise fundamental constitutional rights and prerogatives. All of this violates the Constitution, the rule of law, and every past precedent. Never before in our history has the House of Representatives-under the control of either political party-taken the American people down the dangerous path you seem determined to pursue.
First, the process of Impeachment is not a trial, that happens in the Senate. Think of Impeachment like a Grand Jury, where the prosecutors (Committee Chairs) are collecting evidence (the call notes, whistle-blower complaint and text records) and depositions from witnesses (all the ambassadors involved, Giuliani) to create a list of charges (Articles of Impeachment) that the Grand Jury (House Members) vote on. Now Grand Jury proceedings are secret, there is no counsel most times and there is no cross-examinations. Threatening officials in the Executive branch, better known as Congressional Oversight, is essential for the House to actually get all relevant information before addressing Articles of Impeachment. If you fail to comply with a subpoena, that is against the law, and you could go to jail. Additionally, threats of imprisonment are nothing compared to the President talking about executing the whistle-blower and anyone who provided them information. This last bit though is hysterical, considering the previous times in history the House seriously considered Impeachment was when Andrew Johnson was a threat to the efforts of Reconstruction and Richard Nixon was trying to cover-up knowledge of breaking into the Watergate hotel before an election. But the modern GOP dragged Bill Clinton through the mud for a blowjob, they don't really have any room to talk. The ignorance continued:
Put simply, you seek to overturn the results of the 2016 election and deprive the American people of the President they have freely chosen. Many Democrats now apparently view impeachment not only as a means to undo the democratic results of the last election, but as a strategy to influence the next election, which is barely more than a year away...
This is so incredibly stupid, that Cipollone should honestly be sent back to school. Support for impeachment didn't actually gain any significant support until the Mueller Investigation concluded, and even then it was barely half of the Democrats. From the 23rd to 26th of September, more than 70 members supported impeachment, with the largest amount coming immediately before and after Speaker Pelosi announced the inquiry. The Mueller Investigation looked into whether Trump conspired to effect the 2016 election, and it was inconclusive at best. This inquiry began because Trump is actively attempting to interfere in the 2020 election. I think Cipollone is overstating the influence of impeachment versus foreign interference. It continues with "For his part, President Trump took the unprecedented step of providing the public transparency by declassifying and releasing the record of his call with President Zelenskyy of Ukraine..." which is hilarious because it definitely made the situation much much worse. They throw in another conspiracy theory to really nail home their incompetence, "In addition, information has recently come to light that the whistleblower had contact with Chairman Schiffs office before filing the complaint. His initial denial of such contact caused The Washington Post to conclude that Chairman Schiff 'clearly made a statement that was false.'" which is definitely the wrong take, considering Schiff did not engage the whistle-blower personally, was not involved in writing the complaint, and was only made aware that a complaint may be coming by way of a Congressional aide. Schiff didn't know details until Atkinson made him and Chairman Burr aware in September. The rest of the letter is not really worth getting into, but it includes a criminal misunderstanding of Constitutional law, the rights of Congress to act as a check on the Executive and challenges the "fairness" of the inquiry. This is basically the third Article of Impeachment writing itself, and provides Congress with a considerable amount of cover
when if they decide to stop playing nice with the administration.
Biden, Ukraine and China Oh My!
While Republicans struggled to defend the indefensible, October 4 Trump made it even harder, while in front of the White House Trump said that Ukraine should open an investigation in to the Biden family and called for China to open and investigation into them as well. This seems to motivated some Republicans to move from concerned to disturbed (Primarily Mitt Romney (R-UT), Ben Sasse (R-NE), and Susan Collins (R-ME)) and had a host of other Republicans suggest that he was joking. China has issued official statements that they have no intention of getting involved in domestic American politics.
What the F**K is he talking about?
If you thought the Ukraine conspiracy was insane, this China accusation is a doozy. Trump has repeated that Hunter Biden has taken billions out of China.
“When Biden’s son walks out of China with $1.5 billion in a fund, and the biggest funds in the world can’t get money out of China, and he’s there for one quick meeting and he flies in on Air Force Two, I think that’s a horrible thing. I think it’s a horrible thing.”
“Ask how his son made millions of dollars from Ukraine, made millions of dollars from China, even though he had no expertise whatsoever.”
“The son took money from China — a lot of money from China.”
Now, to the surprise of no one, this is false. Biden created a consulting business, that in 2013 created connections for him to serve on the advisory board of a private Chinese equity firm BHR Partners. He was not paid while on the board and received a 10% stake after the fact. Conservative author Peter Schweizer, of Uranium-One fame, wrote that this fund accumulated $1.5 billion, even though evidence indicates it actually raised $4.2 million. Now Biden did travel, with his father in 2013 to China, and did at least attempt to have the Vice-President meet with Jonathan Li. But the evidence of a conspiracy is that Biden waved an ice cream bar(?), and Biden wasn't invested in the firm, he only advised those that were. Now just like the Burisma board, this looks bad and it isn't illegal. Hunter seemed intent on cashing in on the family name. And if any family is doing that, it's the family with Don Jr, Eric, and Ivanka Trump.
From the Intelligence Community Inspector General
The reaction from conservatives and especially Trump and Giuliani appears to have severly pissed of Mr. Atkinson. On September 30, his office released a public statement titled Office of the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community’s Statement on Processing of Whistleblower Complaints. The statement lays bare the statutory requirements of the ICIG in processing a complaint,[note 23] then refutes a talking point frequently used the Right that because this information is "secondhand" it is not credible. An aside, idiots like Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Tim Scott (R-SC) have been saying this information amounts to "hearsay". Legally, this does not meet that definition. And even if it is hearsay there is nothing precluding hearsay from being used to begin an investigation, prosecutors use hearsay all the time in grand juries in order to seek information, then confirm said statements with an investigation. Mr. Atkinson directly shits all over the perceived problem with "secondhand" knowledge:
Mr. Atkinson surely will reinforce this in his testimony behind closed doors to the Intelligence Committee.
The Disclosure of Urgent Concern form the Complainant submitted on August 12, 2019 is the same form the ICIG has had in place since May 24, 2018, which went into effect before Inspector General Atkinson entered on duty as the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community on May 29, 2018, following his swearing in as the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community on May 17, 2018. Although the form requests information about whether the Complainant possesses first-hand knowledge about the matter about which he or she is lodging the complaint, there is no such requirement set forth in the statute. In fact, by law the Complainant – or any individual in the Intelligence Community who wants to report information with respect to an urgent concern to the congressional intelligence committees – need not possess first-hand information in order to file a complaint or information with respect to an urgent concern. The ICIG cannot add conditions to the filing of an urgent concern that do not exist in law. Since Inspector General Atkinson entered on duty as the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community, the ICIG has not rejected the filing of an alleged urgent concern due to a whistleblower’s lack of first-hand knowledge of the allegations.
The Complainant on the form he or she submitted on August 12, 2019 in fact checked two relevant boxes: The first box stated that, “I have personal and/or direct knowledge of events or records involved”; and the second box stated that, “Other employees have told me about events or records involved.”
Accusations of Witness Intimidation
Secretary Pompeo and the chairs of the Intelligence, Judiciary, and Oversight committee traded barbs over accusations of witness intimidation in regards to deposition requests from each of the committees. The State Department issued a statement, accusing the committee chairs of attempting to "strong arm" and intimidate career employees to agreeing to be deposed. The statement includes phrases ripped directly from the talking points the WH distributed to House Republicans, and inadvertently to House Democrats.Each committee chair has responded by accusing Pompeo of intimidating would be employees from being deposed. It's important to note that House Democrats could include this attempt to stop cooperating with investigators as obstruction of justice in an impeachment article (similar to Nixon). Former Ambassadors Volker and Yovanovitch, who are expected to testify in the coming weeks, appear to have been thrown under the bus by Pompeo, and are eager to set the record straight.
While the White House and Pompeo seem to want to stonewall investigators completely, multiple current and former Trump administration officials have made themselves available.
State Department Inspector General Steve Linick, provided details to the committees on October 2, that detailed some of the unsubstantiated claims that likely lead to the removal of Amb Yovanovitch. IG Linick acknowledged that Pompeo had seen these documents, and although they featured official seals, they were likely generated by Giuliani (some the documents feature an address associated with his law offices). Amb Volker has provided the most detailed insight into conversations about the Ukraine situation. Amb Volker seemed to see that the administration wanted to use him as a fall guy, after Giuliani's multiple Fox News appearances. While there wasn't any context for the messages from Giuliani, Volker dropped sixty pages of texts, and
it validated everything Giuliani said it looks fucking awful:
(07/19/2019 19:01) Volker:Good. Had breakfast with Rudy this morning—teeing up call w Yermak Monday. Must have helped. Most impt is for Zelensky to say that he will help investigation—and address any specific personnel issues—if there are any. 
Smoke meet gun. Now there are others included in these text threads, US Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland and Bill Taylor, a former US Ambassador to Ukraine, who at the time was chargé d'affaires for Ukraine. In context , and according to people familiar to these individuals, Volker[note 24] is committed to the mission of helping Ukraine, Sondland is the main conduit between the President Trump and the other ambassadors on the continent,[note 25] and Taylor was primarily concerned with supporting Ukraine in its efforts and against Russian and corruption. [note 26] The text messages also include Yermak, who the entire time, like Zelensky seems to understand that a White House meeting is conditional on being involved in these political investigations. Yermak also confronts Volker directly about the military aid, sending Volker a link to a Politico article from August. Taylor appears to be very uncomfortable with whats coming from the White House:
(09/01/2019 12:08) Taylor: Are we now saying that security assistance and WH meeting are conditioned on investigations?
(09/01/2019 12:42) Sondland: Call Me
To the point he seems to threaten to quit:
(09/08/2019 11:40) Talyor: Gordon and I just spoke. I can brief you if you and Gordon didn't connect. (09/08/2019 12:37) Talyor: The nightmare is they give the interview and don't get the security assistance. The Russians love it. (And I quit.)
The conversation on September 9 is particularly striking, considering Taylor appears to cut through the bullshit and get Sondland to admit the White House line:
(00:31) Taylor: The message to the Ukrainians (and Russians) we send with the decision on security assistance is key. With the hold, we have already shaken their faith in us. Thus my nightmare scenario.
(00:34) Taylor: Counting on you to be right about this interview, Gordon.
(00:37) Sondland: Bill, I never said I was "right". I said we are where we are and believe we have identified the best pathway forward. Let's hope it works.
(00:47 Taylor: As I said on the phone, I think it's crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign.
(05:19) Sondland: I Believe you are incorrect about President Trump's intentions. The President has been clear no quid pro quo's 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 I suggest we stop the back and forth by text If you still have concerns I recommend you give Lisa Kenna or a call to discuss them directly. Thanks.[note 27]
IG Atkinson spoke behind closed doors October 4, to detail how he proceeded with his investigation into the whistle-blower complaint.
Amb Yovanovitch spoke to the inquiry October 11, after the State Department and the White House stopped her from voluntarily appearing October 2, asked her not to comply with the Congressional subpoena. She made quite a theatrical entrance, crossing the rotunda rather than using the traditional entrance. With her opening statement, she directly addressed the accusations that led to her ouster as malicious and capricious. In the course of her testimony she described her tenure in Ukraine, including the unusual nature of her removal, with a cryptic call that her safety was threatened and she needed to be on the next plane to the US. She also expressed frustration about being the subject of a smear campaign, and feeling threatened by statements by the President that she was "going to go through some things".
Former NSC Adviser Fiona Hill testified October 10, making clear that she had grave concerns about the actions being taken by the State Department with Ukraine. She claims to have confronted Amb Sondland directly about Giuliani's involvement. Hill described the scene after a meeting featuring Perry, Volker, Bolton, Sondland and several Ukrainian officials. Bolton attempted to temper expectations of a WH meeting, but Sondland contradicted him, stating that an agreement was already on the table. Bolton apparently ended the meeting immediately, and Sondland met with the Ukrainian officials down near the Situation Room. Bolton told Hill he wanted nothing to do with the "drug-deal" Sondland, Mulvaney and Perry were arraigning, asking Hill to follow, where she walked into a chaotic scene with Sondland describing their agreement. After a confrontation (where the Ukrainians were in the hall outside the Situation Room, not a great idea), Hill took her concerns to NSC lawyer. Bolton apparently further made clear that no one in the NSC talk with Giuliani, who he described as a "hand-grenade that is going to blow someone up". Hill also expressed general frustration with conspiracy theories surrounding the 2016 election. making it clear Ukraine was not involved at all. She also voiced particular support for Amb Yovanovitch, who was the highest ranking State Department employee at the time, and seemed to insinuate that many of the issues she was dealing with were motivated by sexism. Hill also described being the victim death threats and unfounded conspiracy theories, which her lawyer made clear on the record, the Republican counsel found amusing.
Michael McKinley testified to investigators October 16, less than a week after resigning from his post as an adviser to Pompeo. McKinley told investigators he resigned over concern about the treatment of foreign service officers. McKinley, who was in the State Department for 37 years and had served in four diplomatic missions, had been assigned to help Pompeo after the disastrous tenure of Rex Tillerson. McKinley was disturbed about attempts to use foreign governments to help with domestic matters, but the final straw appears to have been the removal of Amb Yovanovitch, and Pompeo not supporting her. McKinley said that he brought up issuing a letter of support to Pompeo three times, after Yovanovitch became the target of attacks from President Trump and Trump Jr. Pompeo thought the better course of action was to keep her out of the news. McKinley resigned after the third attempt, and Pompeo denies completely that he brought up the issue.
Amb Gordon Sonland eventually testified to investigators October 17, attempting to clarify the timeline of events. In his opening remarks, he made clear that he was directed by Trump to coordinate with Giuliani for a "deliverable' regarding corruption. Sondland also made clear the the claim of "No Quid Pro Quo" came directly from a conversation with the President after the text from Amb Bill Taylor. However Sondland seems to claim ignorance that his actions with Giuliani were not approved by the NSC, or that he was aware what Giuliani's true motives were, which seems...unlikely. His testimony is filled with imprecise language and obfuscation, likely to avoid reveling too much, which blew up in his face spectacularly after the opening statement from William Taylor.
Chargé d' Affaires William Taylor gave testimony to the inquiry October 22, and with his fifteen page opening statement blew every single defense of these actions to smithereens. Critically Taylor made clear that his acceptance of this role came only after the unceremonious sacking of Yovanovitch, and assurances from Pompeo that the primary mission for Ukraine was consistent with goals of supporting anti-corruption measures and against aggression from Russia. Taylor describes two channels that guided Ukrainian policy; The regular channel, Taylor had control over with bipartisan support, and an irregular channel which included Volker, Sondland, Energy Secretary Rick Perry and Giuliani. Taylor was a party to this channel, through the texts described above, but it operated outside of the State Department. Both channels sought a WH meeting between Zelenskyy and Trump, but the reasoning for the meeting was different for each channel:
By mid-July it was becoming clear to me that the meeting President Zelenskyy wanted was conditioned on the investigations of Burisma and alleged Ukrainian interference in the 2016 U.S. elections. It was also clear this condition was driven by the irregular channel I had come to understand was guided by Mr. Giuliani.
Taylor then details meeting with Andrei Bohdan and Vadym Prystaiko that they had been in contact with Giuliani, calling into question a future call between the presidents, as well as a July 18 conference call where an OMB staff person stated additional security assistance had been frozen by President Trump, even after an assessment from the Defense Department that the security assistance was effective and should be resumed. Taylor made clear that Bolton was concerned about efforts in the regular channel, while Sondland was concerned about investigations in the irregular channel. Taylor documented multiple times in communications with Volker and Sondland to pump the brakes on the investigation talk, citing concerns from Zelenskyy to get involved in domestic affairs. Taylor, encouraged by Bolton, issued a cable directly to Pompeo about his concerns, which never received an official response. Taylor documented as well the conversation he had with Sondland September 1, after texting his concern (above):
During that phone call, Ambassador Sondland told me that President Trump had told him that he wants President Zelenskyy to state publicly that Ukraine will investigate Burisma and alleged Ukrainian interfernce in the 2016 U.S. election.
Ambassador Sondland also told me that he now recognized that he had made a mistake by earlier telling the Ukrainian officials to whom he spoke that a White House meeting with President Zelenskyy was dependent on a public announcement of investigations--in fact, Ambassador Sondalnd said "everything" was dependent on such an announcement, including security assistance. He said that President Trump wanted President Zelenskyy "in a public box" by making a public statement about ordering such investigations.
Taylor asked Sondland to push back against such a request, especially from Zelenskyy specifically, though they discussed a statement from the Prosecutor General in coordination with the probe led by AG Barr. A week later Sondland reported Trump was adamant the statement come from Zelenskyy. Failure to do so would result in a "stalemate", meaning the funds would not be transferred and would expire September 30. Taylor followed this conversation with a text where he threatened to quit (above). This call also included an asinine assessment of Trump's approach to this issue:
...Ambassador Sondland tried to explain to me that President Trump is a business man. When a businessman is about to sign a check to someone who owes him something, he said, the businessman asks that person to pay up before signing the check.
Sondland would use this analogy a few days later as well. This is bullshit for a plethora of reasons, primarily as Taylor correctly identifies, the Ukrainians don't owe Trump shit. Second, the funds aren't Trump's. They are tax dollars, paid by Americans, and allocated by Congress, who are elected by Americans to allocate on their behalf. The deposition by Taylor disturbed many congresspersons, and made crystal clear that this was a "quid pro quo" no matter what the administration may say.
October 29 saw testimony from Alexander Vindman, a Ukrainian immigrant, naturalized as an American citizen, serving multiple tours in the Army, and for the past 11 years had been employed as a Foreign Area Officer, who was added to the NSC under Bolton and Hill. Vindman was the first person to give testimony who had actually listened to the call. Two weeks before the call, Vindman first voiced his concern after the July 10 meeting at the White House with Bolton, Sondland and Oleksandr Danyylyuk. Vindman said he confronted Sondland directly about the emphasis on investigations and reported his concern to NSC counsel. After the call, Vindman was concerned about the implications of Trump asking about investigating Biden, and again brought his concerns to NSC counsel, where at this point a decision was made move the conversation to the more secure NSC server.
October 31 saw testimony from Tim Morrison, former member of the NSC, brought on by Bolton in 2018. Morrison largely confirmed the testimony from Amb. Taylor and Vindman. Morrison however didn't think there was anything illegal about Trump's request, however just because something isn't illegal, doesn't mean it isn't impeachable.
November 7 saw testimony from Jennifer Williams, a personal aide to VP Pence, who was also on the call. Williams stated she wasn't aware Pence connecting the military aid to a promise of investigations when he later met with Zelenskyy, but she suspected they may be connected from the call. She also found the call informal compared to normal communications between heads of state.
Official Proceedings Begin
October 31, the House voted for the formal rules of impeachment. After 150 minutes of debate, the House approved the rules 232-196, mostly along party lines. Two Democrats did defect, Collin Peterson (MN) and Jeff Van Drew (NJ). Both represent districts carried by Trump in 2016. Justin Amash (I-MI) joined the Democrats, so both parties can claim that they have "bi-partisan support". The text of the resolution is rather straight forward, assigning Chairman Schiff and the Intelligence committee to spearhead the impeachment, and help craft the articles of impeachment with the Judiciary committee.
In keeping with their promise to make the process open, the Intelligence committee has begun releasing the full transcripts from depositions.Most everything in the transcripts confirms the complaint and what has been reported to the press. Most illuminating so far was that Sondland amended his testimony following the testimony from Taylor. Sondland says he was reminded that the request for investigating the Biden's was explicit, directly from Giuliani and Trump. Sondland is not out of the woods yet, as he appears to have perjured himself at least two other times, and Republicans in the House are openly discussing throwing him under the bus with Mick Mulvaney and Giuliani, while claiming the three pursued this course of action without authorization from Trump, despite evidence to the contrary.
Republicans seem to be preparing for impeachment by moving key allies to the Intelligence committee, while Trump seems to not want the hearings open to the public. Schiff plans to begin hearings November 13, starting with Taylor and Kent.
- The writers for this nightmare we are living in must be so fed up with this whole thing, that their just lazy.
- This is apparently highly unusual according to Michael McFaul
- Emphasis added
- An aside, Trump had to be dragged kicking and screaming to implement sanctions Congress that passed in response to Russian election interference.
- Emphasis added
- Emphasis added
- Emphasis added
- Emphasis added
- Can't claim to protect the nation from "...threats foreign and domestic..." while inviting a foreign nation to meddle in the election
- Since this has been brought to the public attention, reports are that this system was upgraded in 2018, after embarrasing leaks of the calls between former Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. Additionally it has been acknowledged that calls from Saudi Crown Prince Mohamad Bin-Salman and Russian President Vladimir Putin were moved to the NSC server for their politically sensitive nature
- U.S. Special Representative for Ukraine Negotiations
- U.S. Ambassador to the European Union
- As an aside, this memo is not a word-for-word transcript, it is assembled via contemporaneous notes taken by those on the call. And this was the best version that the WH chose to release. Also the memo is only five pages for a thirty minute call, so it is not publicly known what else isn't included.
- It is apparently best practice that those officials mentioned and directly involved with materials in a call would receivea readout.
- "I think [President Zelenskyy is going to make a deal with President Putin, and he will be invited to the White House. And we look forward to seeing him. He's already been invited to the White House, and he wants to come. And I think he will. He's a very reasonable guy. He wants to see peace in Ukraine, and I think he will be coming very soon, actually."
- Even Lutsenko walked this back considerably.
- the complaint refutes this really well, "Mr. Sytnyk and Mr. Leshchenko are two of Mr. Lutsenko's main domestic rivals. Mr. Lutsenko has no legal training and has been widely criticized in Ukraine for politicizing criminal probes and using his tenure as Prosecutor General to protect corrupt Ukrainian officials. He has publicly feuded with Mr. Sytnyk, who heads Ukraine's only competent anticorruption body, and with Mr. Leshchenko, a former investigative journalist who has repeatedly criticized Mr. Lutsenko's record."
- Giuliani stated that the President "basically knows what I'm doing, sure, as his lawyer." Giuliani also stated, "We're not meddling in an election, we're meddling in an investigation, which we have a right to do … There's nothing illegal about it. … Somebody could say it's improper. And this isn't foreign policy — I'm asking them to do an investigation that they're doing already and that other people are telling them to stop. And I'm going to give them reasons why they shouldn't stop it because that information will be very, very helpful to my client, and may turn out to be helpful to my government."
- emphasis added
- emphasis added
- A reminder that this man was the Mayor of New York City during 9/11
- a state with a long history of racial terrorism
- The law required that the Complainant be “[a]n employee of an element of the intelligence community, an employee assigned or detailed to an element of the intelligence community, or an employee of a contractor to the intelligence community.” 50 U.S.C. § 3033(k)(5)(A). The ICIG confirmed the Complainant was such an employee, detailee, or contractor. The law also required that the Complainant provide a complaint or information with respect to an “urgent concern,” which is defined, in relevant part, as: “A serious or flagrant problem, abuse, violation of the law or Executive order, or deficiency relating to the funding, administration, or operation of an intelligence activity within the responsibility and authority of the Director of National Intelligence involving classified information, but does not include differences of opinions concerning public policy matters.” Id. § 3033(k)(5)(G)(i). The Inspector General of the Intelligence Community determined that the Complainant alleged information with respect to such an alleged urgent concern. In addition, the law required the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community within 14 calendar days to determine whether information with respect to the urgent concern “appeared credible.” Id. § 3033(k)(5)(B). The Inspector General of the Intelligence Community determined, after conducting a preliminary review, that there were reasonable grounds to believe the urgent concern appeared credible.
- Who importantly is doing this unpaid
- Who bought his position with contributions to Trumps inaugural activities
- George W Bush previously had appointed Taylor to be ambassador to Ukraine, who served from 2007 to 2009, and Pompeop had personally come to him to temporarily replace Yovanovitch.
- There is almost a five hour difference between Taylor outright stating the issue, and Sondland responding with a much changed tone, and using the line that has become the critical administration talking point "no quid pro quo". It has been reported that during this space between texts, Sondland called the White House. Coincidentally, the military aid was released by the administration two days later.
- Memorandum of Telephone Conversation (TELCON) Page 1
- TELCON Page 2
- TELCON Page 2
- TELCON Page 3
- TELCON Page 3
- TELCON Page 4
- Whistle-blower Complaint:Unclassified(WC) Section II Page 3-4
- WC Appendix for Section II Page 8
- WC Pg 1
- WC Pg 1
- WC Pg 1
- WC Pg 3
- WC Pg.7
- WC Appendix Pg. 8-9
- WC Appendix Pg. 9
- Emphasis Added
- Emphasis from the letter