Nel's New Day

January 31, 2020

‘We Don’t Want to Hear the Truth’

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) said:

“If right doesn’t matter, we’re lost. If truth doesn’t matter, we’re lost. The framers couldn’t protect us from ourselves if right and truth don’t matter.”

On Friday, January 31, 2020 at 5:42 pm, Republicans cast 51 votes in favor of having a trial with no witnesses, no documents, and no debate. Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Mitt Romney (R-UT) voted for witnesses; retiring Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) said he would vote against witnesses because he had heard enough. Like other Republicans, Alexander said that the actions of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) aren’t “impeachable.”

The entire world has now watched Republicans ignore the U.S. Constitution. Even Chief Justice John Roberts has come out as a loser. Despite his measured demeanor, his face fell when Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) asked

“Does the fact that the chief justice is presiding over an impeachment trial in which Republican senators have thus far refused to allow witnesses or evidence contribute to the loss of legitimacy of the chief justice, the Supreme Court and the Constitution?”

Since the beginning of the impeachment inquiry, Democrats gave Republican lawmakers everything that they asked for the process. When Democrats met GOP requirements, Republicans changed their demands. By the end, Republicans resorted to the “so what” decision: DDT did what he was charged with, but his actions, which violated the U.S. Constitution, didn’t go beyond “inappropriate” or “improper.”

The possibility of former national security council adviser John Bolton being called as a witness frightened GOP senators. They wanted “first-hand witnesses” but rejected a person who was present when DDT issued his orders. Reporting has already provided enough information from Bolton’s forthcoming book, The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir, to know that his testimony can make DDT look guilty.

According to Bolton, DDT did try to extort Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky into announcing a Biden investigation in exchange for DDT releasing congressionally-approved military aid to Ukraine—and ordered Bolton to tell Zelensky to meet with DDT’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani to issue the threat last May. Bolton said he didn’t make the call, but his statement adds to the timeline of Ukraine’s knowledge about the withholding of aid. New reporting also cites the presence of acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, White House counsel Pat Cipollone, and Giuliani in the room with Bolton and DDT when the order was given. All four of the officials with DDT would be “first-hand” witnesses.

If Bolton’s narrative is true, Cipollone could be disbarred because he took part as a lawyer in a proceedings where he was potentially a “fact witness,” having observed the events of the trial. The lawyer who is supposed to represent the office of the president and not the person in the Oval Office failed to disclose that he witnessed the crime from which he is defending DDT even after House Managers wrote Cipollone ten days ago demanding that he dislose all first-hand facts and information before the trial.

Bolton’s book has much more about DDT. He called DDT “mentally unstable” and said that DDT would pull the U.S. out of NATO if he is reelected. Bolton wrote about DDT giving favors to autocratic leaders like Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey and Xi Jinping of China. He also wrote that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo knew about the smear effort against Ambassador Yovanovitch, Giuliani’s claims about her being false, and Giuliani’s work on behalf of others. Last September, Bolton asked House Democrats to investigate DDT’s firing of former Ukraine ambassador Marie Yovanovitch in September before the impeachment inquiry, contrary to DDT’s claim that Bolton stayed quiet about his concerns regarding Ukraine.

DDT’s first attempt to shut up Bolton was to tweet about his “nasty & untrue book.” Joined by officials in danger of Bolton’s testimony such as Pompeo and Mulvaney, DDT described Bolton as a departed, disgruntled government employee. Former acting chief of staff John Kelly, however, disagrees: “If John Bolton says that in the book, I believe John Bolton.” DDT’s next step was to block the book from its March 17 release on the basis of “classified information.” Defined broadly, the term could be making DDT’s “job very hard” if foreign leaders find out he doesn’t have a “positive” opinion of them. DDT thinks all information making him look bad is “classified.”

Before GOP senators denied all witnesses, Lev Parnas’ lawyer wrote Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) about Parnas’ evidence regarding DDT’s involvement with the Ukraine debacle: personal knowledge and evidence including text messages, phone records, documentary evidence, and travel records. Parnas’ information directly involves not only those cited by Bolton but also other top Republicans such as VP Mike Pence, AG Bill Barr, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), Nunes’ adviser Derek Harvey, journalist John Solomon, attorneys Joe diGenova and Victoria Toensing, and pro-DDT super PAC America First.

In testimony about DDT’s pressure on Bolton to help push Zelensky into an announcement into investigating Biden, Parnas would testify to:

  • His trips to Ukraine “to directly convey the president’s alleged ‘quid pro quo.’”
  • Times and places where he overheard Giuliani talk to DDT along with Parnas’ direct interaction with DDT.
  • His meeting with a top Zelenskiy aide when Parnas communicated the conveyed the quid pro quo.
  • A conversation between Giuliani and then-Energy Secretary Rick Perry that communicated DDT’s arrangement
  • His trip with Giuliani to Madrid to meet with Zelenskiy aide Andrey Yermak.
  • Coordination during the UN General Assembly in September 2019 when Zelenskiy met with DDT.
  • The origins of his relationships with DDT and Giuliani.
  • His actions “at all times” “at the direction of Mr. Giuliani, on behalf of the president,” and with DDT’s knowledge about these demands on Ukraine.

Alan Dershowitz—Fox contributor, Jeffrey Epstein and O.J. Simpson lawyer, and member of DDT’s legal team, gave Republicans the reason that they will acquit DDT:

“Every public official that I know believes that his election is in the public interest. And if a president does something which he believes will help him get elected in the public interest, that cannot be the kind of quid pro quo that results in impeachment.

“’I want to be elected. I think I’m a great president. I think I’m the greatest president there ever was. If I’m not elected the national interest will suffer greatly.’ That cannot be impeachable.”

Garry Kasparov, Chair of the Human Rights Foundation tweeted:

“Dershowitz is actually making the King Louis XIV argument right now! Trump is good for the country, so anything he does to stay in power is the national interest, even if corrupt or illegal. That’s the language of every king & dictator: I am the end and the means justify me.”

In an attempt for backup, Dershowitz frequently cited Harvard Law School professor Nikolas Bowie as agreeing with Dershowitz’s arguments. Bowie labels his arguments for acquitting DDT as “irresponsible and ludicrous.” Bowie said, “Abuse of power is a crime” and followed up by stating that people are convicted of this criminal offense. Dershowitz’s standard of “national interest” allows DDT to “order the military to start rounding up black people because he’s afraid of losing the next election.” Or a president could promise a federal job to a state election official who selectively suppresses the opponents’ votes or paying people to spread false information. Or withhold tax dollars for his personal gain to push a foreign country into helping him with his reelection.

Acquitting DDT, as GOP senators are wont to do, permits presidents to do all this and more because this trial sets that precedent—at least for DDT. Dershowitz claimed in his book The Case against Impeaching Trump that a president can give Alaska back to Russia without being impeached. A president could even allow Russia to annex the entire United States, according to Dershowitz’s standard.

Dershowitz protested the media coverage of his statements. He tweeted:

“They characterized my argument as if I had said that if a president believes that his reelection was in the national interest, he can do anything. I said nothing like that.”

He claimed that his absence from the trial on the day after his “national interest” speech was because of a prior commitment and that DDT’s legal team “begged me to stay.”

Even the editorial board of the conservative National Review disagrees with Dershowitz, stating “that the Framers did not intend to limit impeachable offenses to certain statutory crimes and their close kin.” With Dershowitz’s standard, “the president could subvert the Constitution itself,” something that the Constitution does not permit.

Senators are scheduled to vote on the two articles of impeachment against DDT on Wednesday, the day after he gives his State of the Union speech. Giuliani must be making plane reservations to Ukraine in order to continue his pressure on Zelensky to investigate Joe Biden. And DDT will be able to do anything he wants.

January 17, 2020

DDT: Week 156 – ‘Trump Knew … What Was Going On’

Another busy, frustrating week for Dictator Donald Trump (DDT), that Kerry Eleveld called a “five-alarm fire” for the White House.

  1. The Government Accountability Office reported that DDT’s administration broke the law freezing congressionally-allocated funding for Ukraine.
  2. Rachel Maddow’s interview with Lev Parnas, associate of DDT’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, revealed the unethical and possibly illegal machinations of DDT, his administrations, and his shadow associates in Ukraine.
  3. Ukraine started a criminal investigation into DDT’s allies.
  4. Seven House “managers” took two articles of impeachment to the Senate for a trial.
  5. GOP senators who vociferously claimed to exonerate DDT swore under oath to “do impartial justice.” Many of the 22 GOP senators up for re-election this year, including appointed Martha McSally from Arizona, search for exists from their dilemma such as lying, avoid facts, and smearing the media.

1. On the same morning that Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts swore in all the senators for DDT’s impeachment trial—senators who may have lied under oath when they swore they would “do impartial justice,”—the non-partisan federal GAO ruled that DDT violated the law in withholding aid designated for Ukraine. The Impoundment Control Act mandates that the Executive Branch cannot make funding changes without asking Congress to reconsider its allocations. Congressional members weren’t even notified of DDT’s decision.

The OMB claimed the freeze was “to determine the best use of such funds” and “necessary to ensure that the funds were not spent ‘in a manner that could conflict with the president’s foreign policy.'” The GAO called that reasoning “impermissible” because the president cannot “substitute his own policy priorities for those that Congress has enacted into law.” The OMB’s claim of the hold being a “programmatic delay” has “no basis in law,” according to the GAO decision.

2. MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow show devoted almost two hours to Maddow’s interview with Parnas as he explained how DDT, Giuliani, and AG Bill Barr directed the extortion of Ukraine’s new president Volodymyr Zelensky to force him into an announcement of an investigation into Joe Biden and his son Hunter for DDT’s political benefit. Parnas has enough texts, documents, and notes to make many of his statements ring true, especially when members of the State Department, such as Gordon Sonderland, made the same testimony. Parnas said:

“President Trump knew exactly what was going on. He was aware of all of my movements. I wouldn’t do anything without the consent of Rudy Giuliani [DDT’s personal secretary] or the president.”

Like DDT’s comments about other people who give damaging information about him, he kept declaring that he doesn’t know Parnas—nine times in two minutes. Multiple photographs of Parnas and DDT together have long been on the internet, and a video of them has also surfaced. Parnas’ phone records also have contacts with Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), who played a key part in defending DDT on the House Intelligence Committee during the impeachment inquiry. A month ago, Nunes couldn’t “recall” Parnas’ name but regained his memory this week although he claimed they were “talking about random things.” [Newly-released documents show extensive contact between Parnas and a Nunes aide to obtain damaging material from Ukrainian prosecutors about Joe Biden.] Despite photographs to the contrary, DDT’s White House aide Kellyanne Conway suffers from the same amnesia as does House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA). Parnas also gave information about VP Mike Pence’s involvement in the Ukrainian scheme, for example, when Pence went to Poland on DDT’s behalf to meet with Zelensky.

Knowing about Parnas’ actions, Barr refused to release Parnas’ documents for three months to the House for its impeachment inquiry. Parnas told Maddow that the DOJ would make corruption charges against Ukrainian oligarch Dmytro Firtash disappear if he would provide damaging information against Joe Biden and that Barr knew about the potential deal. Firtash gave Parnas $1 million, and Parnas retained Giuliani’s firm while working for Giuliani to give attorney-client confidentiality to DDT because Giuliani represented both him and Parnas. Barr ultimately did not intervene in Firtash’s case but met with his lawyers Victoria Toensing and Joseph diGenova. The DOJ refused to answer questions from Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) about why Firtash has not been extradited.

Parnas told Maddow that he is being open about the events to protect himself from Barr. He said:

“[Officials in the Justice Department are] trying to scare me into not talking. My wife is scared. My kids are nervous.”

After claiming that she was putting together a “small” group of senators to vote for witnesses in the impeachment trial, Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) accused the House of doing “an incomplete job” by not addressing evidence from Parnas until after the impeachment articles were released. Information that Barr was suppressing. Since her vote for the tax cuts for the wealthy and Brett Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court, Collins, up for re-election this year, has gone from the most popular GOP senator at 82 percent to the least popular at 42 percent, even below that of the generally-hated Mitch McConnell. Collins walks a very fine line between pleasing DDT to get money from him for her campaign and getting votes from dissatisfied constituents.

3. According to texts from Robert Hyde on Parnas’ phone, the DDT donor was tracking former U.S. ambassador Marie Yovanovitch last March.  A few of his statements:

“They know she’s a political puppet. They will let me know when she’s on the move… They are willing to help if you/we would like a price.”

“Guess you can do anything in Ukraine with money… what I was told.”

These statements fit with DDT’s comments to Zelensky in the July 25 telephone call about Yovanovitch:

“Well, she’s going to go through some things.”

Robert Hyde is a member of conspiracy-theory ridden QAnon, designated by the FBI as a possible domestic terrorism threat.

Yovanovitch’s anti-corruption work threatened pro-Russians working with Parnas, Giuliani, and others. The U.S. ambassador escaped Ukraine last spring after she was notified by a superior during an important ceremony to “get on the next plane to the U.S.” She immediately left the country. After this information became public, Pompeo cancelled a classified congressional briefing about embassy security, a mandatory monthly event.

Ukraine’s national police has asked the FBI for assistance in its new investigation regarding these illegal activities.  According to Ukrainian authorities, an ambassador possibly being “under illegal surveillance and her electronic gadgets … interfered [with] by the private persons at the request of the US citizen” can be a violation of both Ukrainian laws and the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, which protects diplomats on foreign soil.

4. The seven managers from the House to prosecute DDT in the impeachment trial in the Senate delivered two articles of impeachment. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi selected these prosecutors with an emphasis on litigators, comfortable in the courtroom. Six are lawyers; the seventh, Val Deming, served as the first female chief of the Orlando (FL) Police Department. Leaders are Committee Intelligence Chair Adam B. Schiff (D-CA) and Judiciary Committee Chair Jerrold Nadler (D-NY). Pelosi also achieved diversity in her selection: three of the seven (Deming, Garcia, and California’s Zoe Lofgren) are women; Demings and Hakeem Jeffries (NY) are black; and Sylvia Garcia (TX) is Latina. Jason Crow (CO) and Garcia not only provide geographic diversity but also represent the freshmen House class.  

5. The GOP senators have presented two defenses for DDT: what he did wasn’t illegal and so what–known as the “what about it” response. 

DDT first wanted a big show for the trial but now wants the trial dismissed. GOP senators rejected the idea. McConnell first claimed he had enough votes to keep any witnesses or documents from the trial, but a few GOP senators consider joining Democrats to vote for a real trial with witnesses instead of a sham. McConnell plans keep the trial from media reporting and block the trial from being filmed although the House hearings were available for public viewing. He also wants to block media access to senators as they come and go from the chamber and deny access to reporters to and in the elevators.

The “imminent” trial is unhinging DDT. He kept a student audience waiting for an hour to hear about prayer so that he could watch senators sign their oath. After reporters’ questions, he whined and exaggerated his trade deals and furiously talked about the impeaching being a “hoax,” over and over again. Then he shouted in a tweet, “I JUST GOT IMPEACHED FOR MAKING A PERFECT PHONE CALL!” Following that, he begged retiring Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) to vote against witnesses in the trial. His meeting with aides also focused on impeachment. During his ceremony for national champion LSU football team, DDT devolved into swearing about an attempt to impeach him. (He’s already impeached.) Why is he so afraid if he’s done nothing wrong?

The Senate convenes for opening arguments in DDT’s impeachment trial at 1:00 pm on Tuesday, January 21, 2020.

December 13, 2019

Impeachment Heads to House Floor

The House Judiciary Committee approved the two articles of impeachment in a partisan vote of 23-17, Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) unleashed more fury, and the vote goes to the full House next week. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who will swear “under God” that he will be impartial in the impeachment trial, said that there is “no chance” his chamber will vote to remove Trump from office. He’s undoubtedly right because this action would require 67 votes in a Senate with 52 Republicans, but deciding the outcome before the process shows an illegal public rigging of the system.

In his position as jury foreman, McConnell said, “I’m going to take my cues from the president’s lawyers.” At the same time, McConnell bragged and laughed about blocking confirmation of judges for two years until DDT was elected. The White House director of legislative affairs, Eric Ueland, said that he and the White House counsel, theoretically working for the people of the U.S., “are having a lot of good conversations with Senate Republicans.” The White House has been meeting frequently with the GOP senators, who will also be complicit in not following their sworn oaths when they become a jury for the proceedings. This approach to the trial may mean acquittal for DDT but not exoneration.

House Republicans stalled yesterday for over 15 hours of shouting and lying on television during the Judiciary Committee hearing after agreeing with Democrats to hold the hearing to five hours. GOP committee members cared nothing for the U.S. Constitution. For example, Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO) justified opposition to impeachment by saying that  Republican lawmakers were “sent here to obstruct this Congress.”

At the hearing’s 12th hour, Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA) called on GOP representatives to quit, saying, “I have not heard a new point or an original thought from either side in the last three hours.”  He described the hearing as an “institutional embarrassment.” At almost midnight last night, Committee chair Jerry Nadler (D-NY) gaveled the session in adjournment and infuriated ranking member Doug Colling (R-GA) by announcing the vote on the next day. Stunned by not immediately voting, Collins bellowed about how wanted to leave Washington, but Nadler said that he wanted the vote during the light of day.

DDT showed his disregard for protecting the constitution by entertaining Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov while the impeachment articles were published. Although DDT claimed he told Lavrov not to interfere in U.S. elections and resolve Russia’s conflict with Ukraine, Lavrov said they didn’t talk about any interference. Lavrov did deny any Russian interference in the 2016 election when he talked with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. DDT tweeted a photograph of him and Lavrov in the Oval Office.  

Today, DDT met with his private lawyer Rudy Giuliani in the White House in their plotting to “prove” the false conspiracies about Ukraine instead of Russia interfered in the 2016 election and the Bidens’ corruption. Fresh from his trip to Ukraine, Giuliani supposedly said that he found “more than you can imagine,” a meaningless statement like the ones DDT made when he claimed to have proof that President Obama was not born in the United States. DDT continues to use a foreign government to get “dirt” on a political opponent while he may be impeached for the same reason. He also asked Giuliani to tell lawmakers and AG Bill Barr when he found in Ukraine. Leaving DDT in the White House also allows him to continue his illegal approach to smear his political opponents for the 2020 election.

After DDT froze aid to Ukraine, and the OMB scrambled to find a justification. Then they said that it was legal to freeze aid on a “temporary” basis—eight times in August and September to look legal. Now a new memo claims the aid was frozen to study whether the spending complied with U.S. policy. Congress passed the aid, and DDT signed it. No one made a “study” until DDT withheld the aid for his personal benefit. The memo cited times that Congress had withheld aid, but not the executive branch. Jim Jordan (R-OH) tried to defend DDT by saying that the money was released to Ukraine which takes away any problems, but at least $20 million legally owed Ukraine is still sitting in the United States. The biggest irony of Thursday’s “debate” was the desire of GOP House swamp creatures calling for draining the swamp. Where will GOP members of Congress go without a swamp?

DDT claims not to be watching the impeachment hearings, but his 123 tweets yesterday say differently. That number tops his former record of 105 last Sunday.

U.S. prosecutors may investigate corruption in Ukraine by focusing on associates of DDT’s private lawyer Rudy Giuliani and their relationship to Ukrainian state-owned Naftogaz natural gas company that may have violated a law prohibiting paying bribes to foreign officials. Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman offered to make a senior official at Naftogaz the CEO to get business for their own liquified natural gas operation. The two men used ties to Giuliani to try to get U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch fired because she might oppose their plans. The scheme fits a foreign bribery charge that doesn’t require consummation to be a violation. Parnas and Fruman have already been indicted for funneling foreign money into U.S. elections and hiding the source of other donations. Prosecutors are pursuing Giuliani’s involvement, and Ukrainians complained about his trying to change the Naftogaz board while seeking investigations of the Bidens.   

In the midst of impeachment publicity, DDT seems to be trying to put on his best face for his being in the midst of a maelstrom. He claims that he “wouldn’t mind the long process” and that yesterday’s approval of the articles of impeachment has politically benefited him. Before the Senate trial, however, the House must finish its business.

Tomorrow, the House holds a brief pro-forma session; on Sunday, the House Judiciary Committee releases its report to the Rules Committee. Jim McGovern (D-MA), chair of the House Rules Committee, said that the panel would meet Tuesday to debate the rules for the floor debate such as the length of the debate and the number of amendments. The process might be shorter than other committee debates because it has only 13 members, nine Democrats and four Republicans. A hot topic could be no Judiciary Committee hearing with GOP-chosen witnesses. Listeners can expect more repetition of the word “unfair.” Although the House rules require such a hearing, it could be held after the Judiciary Committee votes.

Another decision from the Rules Committee is whether to vote on GOP amendments to the articles of impeachment. Democrats could block them, but Republicans presented five amendments in the Judiciary Committee, including attempts to remove the articles. DDT and House Republicans are still protesting the allegation that DDT withheld a White House meeting and $391 million in military aid until Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky announced investigations into Joe Biden and his son Hunter along with admission of a false debunked allegation Ukraine meddled in the 2016 election. Republicans say that DDT met with Zelensky and released the aid without the announcement; Democrats say DDT released the aid only because his threats became public. About $20 million has also not been released yet.

The second article, obstruction of justice, is based on DDT’s direction for aides and agencies to not comply with congressional subpoenas. Republicans claim that the articles detailed no specific crimes and still maintain, falsely, that impeachment cannot exist without crimes.

Democrats comprise 233 members in the House to the 197 Republicans and independent Justin Amash, who demanded impeachment when he shifted from his earlier GOP registration. Four seats are vacant—two Democratic and two Republican. Several “blue dog” Republicans who earlier said they preferred censure and might not vote for impeachment are moving toward votes for impeachment. If the House approves impeachment, it will pick lawmakers, called managers, to present the case against DDT for the Senate trial.  

The House is expected to impeach DDT on Wednesday, December 18, just one day shy of the 21st anniversary of Bill Clinton’s impeachment. U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts would preside over the trial, and DDT’s legal team could respond to the House managers. Unless the Senate votes on the articles of impeachment immediately after the opening arguments, according to McConnell’s suggestion. He would avoid the trial if the law did not require him to at least vote—after all the senators swear “under God” that they will render “impartial justice.”

Former Florida AG Pam Bondi, who received a questionable donation from DDT’s now-defunct charitable foundation in exchange for quashing an investigation into DDT’s university, is senior legal adviser for DDT’s Senate trial defense. To get this job, she had to quit her job for Ballard Partners, a lobbying firm connected to both DDT and part of the investigation into Giuliani’s associates including Lev Parnas. The company paid Parnas, who referred a client, the Turkish government, to Ballard Partners which is cooperating with New York prosecutors. Bondi, Parnas, DDT, conspiracy theories about Ukraine, extorted investigations into the Bidens, frozen military aid to Ukraine, impeachment, the Senate trial—they’re all tied together, even the Turkish government.

The winner of the DDT’s polarization of U.S. politics? Russia.

November 25, 2019

More Impeachment News

Although the impeachment inquiry may be moving onto writing articles of impeachment, the bad news for Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) continues to pour out.

Lev Parnas, associate of DDT’s private lawyer Rudy Giuliani, has given the House Intelligence Committee audio and video recordings and photographs. Giuliani used Parnas to investigate Joe Biden and his son Hunter. Parnas said he acted as translator as part of a “team” regularly meeting in Washington’s Trump International Hotel about spreading conspiracy theories among key Ukrainians. Team members included Giuliani, journalist John Solomon who spread the conspiracy theories through such media as The Hill, and married attorneys Joe diGenova and Victoria Toensing who appeared on Fox for the same purpose.

Joseph Bondy, Parnas’ lawyer, said that his client worked for over a year with Giuliani to find damaging information about the Bidens while DDT and GOP members of Congress pushed false information that Joe Biden intervened in a Ukrainian criminal investigation and Ukraine meddled to the 2016 election to help Hillary Clinton. After the 2018 election, while Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) was still chair of the Intelligence Committee but before the Democrats took over the House, he visited former Ukrainian prosecutor Viktor Shokin in Vienna who promoted the conspiracy theories. Because they would have to tell House Intelligence Adam Schiff (D-CA), Nunes’ aides called off this year’s trip to Ukraine where he planned to interview two former Ukrainian prosecutors about evidence helping DDT’s reelection campaign. Instead, Parnas set up the meetings with the two men over phone and on Skype.

Nunes is the first congressional member thus far who is directly implicated in the Ukrainian scandal. He first denied any meetings and then said he didn’t want to talk about the situation. Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA), chair of the Armed Services Committee, said that Nunes may face an ethics investigation about the possibility of this meeting. Nunes says that he will file a lawsuit against CNN and The Daily Beast for their articles about his alleged meeting. Mark Sumner has a timeline of Nunes’ sycophantic behavior since DDT’s inauguration.

Western leaders, including then-VP Joe Biden, ousted Shokin in 2016 because Shokin wouldn’t pursue corruption cases. No evidence exists that the Bidens acted inappropriately or that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election.

Almost a year ago at DDT’s Hanukkah party in the White House, DDT met with Giuliani and associates Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman and asked them to undertake “a secret mission” to pressure the Ukrainian government to investigate Joe Biden and his son Hunter. Parnas and DDT have had at least eight meetings since 2014, including photo-ops and attendance at high-dollar fundraisers.

Giuliani’s recent subpoenas list allegations of money laundering as well as obstruction of justice, conspiracy to defraud the United States, making false statements to the federal government, serving as an agent of a foreign government without registering with the Justice Department, donating funds from foreign nationals, making contributions in the name of another person, allowing someone else to use one’s name to make a contribution, mail fraud, and wire fraud. His involvement with Kremlin-connected Russian oligarchs, Dmitry Firtash and Ihor Kolomoisky, led to DDT’s July 25 phone call with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky, perhaps the catalyst for DDT’s impeachment inquiry. Energy tycoon Firtash offered to find dirt on Joe Biden in exchange for fighting extradition to the U.S. on bribery and racketeering. The convoluted relationships among people involved in promoting conspiracy theories is available here. Executives of the Ukrainian state-run gas company are cooperating with Giuliani’s criminal investigation.

Anticipating DDT trying to save himself by rejecting his private lawyer, Giuliani plans to protect himself. For the second time, Giuliani has bragged about having “insurance”:

“I’ve heard things written like he’s going to throw me under the bus. When they say that, I say he isn’t, but I have insurance.”

Giuliani tried to cover up his statement by claiming humor or another type of evidence against the Bidens, but his statement sounds like a threat.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo may also be in trouble after newly released documents implicate him in connection with Giuliani regarding the Ukrainian bribery scam. Almost 100 pages show repeated contacts between Giuliani and Pompeo starting last spring. A lawsuit forced the release of the records showing that Pompeo had at least two phone calls with Giuliani in March during the time that DDT’s private lawyer was trying to oust Yovanovitch. The next month, Pompeo ordered her removal. According to the documents, the State Department sent congressional members a deliberately misleading reply about her departure that “reveals a clear paper trail from Rudy Giuliani to the Oval Office to Secretary Pompeo to facilitate Giuliani’s smear campaign against a U.S. ambassador,” according to Austin Evers, executive director of American Oversight. Earlier, EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland testified, “Everyone was in the loop.”

A federal judge has ordered the Pentagon and White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to release records about DDT’s withholding military aid to Ukraine. The 211 pages include communications between the Pentagon, its comptroller, and OMB. The first half are due by December 12, and the second by December 20.

When DDT became confused about who he should fire on the reality show The Apprentice, producers would engage in “retroactive narrative construction” to justify DDT’s statements. Now his staffers and agency officials face the same dilemma for his actions caused by his alternative realities, recently freezing the military aid to Ukraine with no legal rationale. Hundreds of documents show a frantic search for after-the-fact justification about the legality of the funds’ freeze. 

In Fox, Ken Starr, chief investigator of President Clinton for his impeachment, said:

“We now know that the president in fact committed the crime of bribery…I think articles of impeachment are being drawn up if they haven’t already been drawn up…. I think we’ve known that, it was just confirmed today [on Wednesday].”

Starr also said he wondered if senators would ask DDT to resign “in light of what we’ve heard today” from Sondland.

DDT’s biggest problem with Ukraine is the election of Volodymyr Zelensky for president last spring. The losing candidate, incumbent Petro Poroshenko, had agreed to drop investigations into DDT’s former campaign manager in exchange for anti-tank missiles, the Javelins, from the U.S. Before the Ukrainian election and accompanied by associates Parnas and Igor Fruman, Giuliani met with key Poroshenko official, prosecutor general Yuriy Lutsenko, at least twice. Poroshenko agreed to announcing investigations into the Bidens and Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election for electoral help with a state visit to the U.S. John Solomon started writing articles with false information from Lutsenko in March with these claims and a smear campaign against Marie Yovanovitch, then-ambassador to Ukraine.

Poroshenko lost in a landslide on April 21, and DDT had to find an alternative route for his goals. DDT attacked Zelensky because he thought the new president might really oppose corruption instead of pretending to do so in an effort to please DDT. Without corruption by Poroshenko and Lutsenko, DDT needed a new game plan.

DDT’s latest strategy has been to bribe his jurors, an illegal practice in courts throughout the United States. He started out by transferring money from his campaign to those of four vulnerable GOP senators up for reelection. Then top White House officials secretly met with GOP senators to strategize the limiting of the impeachment trial, comparable to juries meeting accused criminals in their trials. They may have agreed to two weeks, long enough to look honest but short enough to not damage DDT. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has already promised that DDT would be acquitted. Jury tampering also includes free lunches, specifically with Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Mitt Romney (R-UT) who have sometimes been critical about DDT’s actions. Romney went so far as to describe DDT’s asking foreign countries to investigate Joe Biden as “wrong and appalling.”

Upping the ante, acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and other officials hosted over 40 GOP House members for overnight stays at the presidential retreat Camp David before any impeachment vote—at taxpayers’ cost. DDT doesn’t like the rustic setting so he avoided the hiking, bowling, skeet shooting, campfires, and friendly talk, but he called in during the dinners to compliment them. The representatives were impressed. DDT has met with or reached out to over half the GOP House members since the launch of the impeachment inquiry and given 50 of the 53 senators lunch with him.

With the goal of discouraging people who think that DDT should be impeached, Republicans are quoting new polls indicating that the majority doesn’t support his impeachment. Fivethirtyeight.com, which has conservative results, posted that 56.8 percent think that DDT committed an impeachable offense. Even more, 77.3 percent think that DDT asked Ukraine to investigate the Bidens, and 63.5 percent think that the action is inappropriate. Almost 60 percent believe that DDT tried to cover up his actions with Ukraine.

October 25, 2019

‘Quid pro Quo’ Review

About 30 GOP House members, so desperate about evidence against Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) in the impeachment inquiry, behaved like thugs this past week when they pushed into a closed-door committee; forced out Laura Cooper, a top Pentagon official who oversees Ukraine policy who was preparing to testify; illegally compromised sensitive information by using their cellphones; and tried to record the proceedings for DDT. They delayed the proceedings for five hours, ordering they pizza and fast food before leaving a mess to be cleaned up. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), who earlier threatened DDT’s former fixer Michael Cohen if he testified, bragged about leading the group. Like a mob boss, DDT urged them to carry out their illegal activities and then praised them.

GOP representatives claimed that their objection was the secrecy of the process, but 47 of them have access to the closed-door depositions but don’t take advantage of this opportunity. Thus far, not one of them has leaked any positive information about DDT from the testimony—which they would if it were available. When former GOP Rep. Trey Gowdy from South Carolina ran the mostly secret hearings about Benghazi, he said, “Private [hearings] always produce better results.” 

Not a trial, Impeachment inquiry proceedings are comparable to a grand jury, held in secret to determine if a person should be indicted. The Senate holds the trial if the House votes in favor of impeachment; Republicans will then be in charge to call DDT’s witnesses. On Fox & Friends, GOP legal analysis Andrew Napolitano explained to Brian Kilmeade how the Democrats are following congressional regulations:

“I read the House rules. The hearings over which Congressman Schiff is presiding … are consistent with the rules…. They can’t change the rules, they follow the rules. And when were the rules written last? In January of 2015. And who signed them? John Boehner. And who enacted them? A Republican majority.”

In evidence that DDT lied about wanting to combat corruption in Ukraine, he tried to cut foreign aid programs that would combat corruption in Ukraine and other parts of the world. On Fox News Sunday, acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney tried to support DDT’s false claim by claiming that he held up the aid because of rampant corruption in Ukraine although he had earlier claimed that the money was held up for political purposes. That was just before he said he didn’t say that. [visual Mulvaney – Sure we’re crooks cartoon 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) wouldn’t back up DDT’s false claims that McConnell called the DDT’s version of the July 25 extortion telephone call “the most innocent phone call he’s read.” McConnell said he does not remember any conversations with DDT about the Ukraine phone call or the subject of Ukraine.

DDT got lies from Kahyap Patel, a protégé of Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) who formerly chaired of the Intelligence Committee and fed information from hearings to DDT. Fiona Hill, who testified about Ukraine to the House last week, said that DDT thought Patel was in charge of Ukraine policy for the National Security Council instead of Tim Morrison who replaced Hill in early September. Patel’s name has appeared in several depositions about DDT’s shadow foreign policy campaign to get political favors from Ukraine. Nunes’ top staffer, Patel also discredited FBI and DOJ officials investigating Russia’s election interference.

A breakdown of DDT’s quid pro quo:

State Department officials Kurt Volker and Gordon Sondland testified about a May 23 meeting with DDT when he refused to invite Ukraine’s new president, Volodymyr Zelensky to the White House. Sondland said DDT “directed those of us present . . . to talk to Mr. Giuliani . . . about his concerns.”

Volker met with Giuliani on July 19 and testified that “he mentioned both the accusations about Vice President Biden and about interference in the 2016 election.” Giuliani said he wanted “Ukraine to investigate what happened in the past.”

Volker worked with Zelensky top aide Andrey Yermak to set up the July 25 phone call between Zelensky and DDT. On the morning of July 25, Volker texted Yermak to lay out the quid pro quo: “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 visit to Washington. Good luck!” During the call, Mr. Trump requested investigations of both the DNC server hacking and Biden; Zelensky promised to comply in exchange for a visit to the White House.

Giuliani called Volker and Sondland about Zelensky’s pending White House visit. Volker testified that “Mayor Giuliani then said he believed the Ukrainian president needed to make a statement about fighting corruption, and that he had discussed it with Mr. Yermak.” Giuliani said that the Ukrainians’ draft statement about corruption was too “generic” and demanded a “specific reference to ‘Burisma’ and ‘2016.’ ” (Joe Biden’s son Hunter was associated with the gas company Burisma.) Volker changed the statement per Giuliani’s requirements. Yermack accepted the statement but said that the declaration won’t be released until a confirmation of the date for Zelensky’s visit to the White House.

Acting U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, Bill Taylor, testified about the demand for the public statement. Sondland told Taylor he had heard about the requirement directly from DDT and that DDT wanted “everything,” including military aid to Ukraine, tied to the country’s leaders’ commitment to investigate Democrats, the 2016 election, and Burisma. Taylor stated that DDT “wanted President Zelenskiy ‘in a public box’ by making a public statement about ordering such investigations.” Mulvaney declared that he had held up the military aid in exchange for the Ukrainian investigations. Mulvaney may be right that the government exchanges “favors” all the time, but using favors to help just DDT is illegal.

Ukraine learned that the $391 million military aid was being held up in early August although DDT denied it, but pressure on Zelensky started before his election last spring. DDT also delayed trade privileges with Ukraine with former national security adviser John Bolton warning the White House’s trade representative to withdraw any action benefiting Ukraine.

Taylor said that Sondland told him on September 8 about a conversation with Zelensky, based on a talk with DDT, that Zelensky needs to “clear things up” in public to end a “stalemate,” meaning that Ukraine would not get the “much-needed military assistance” to fight Russia. Zelensky said he couldn’t promise investigations of Biden and the Democrats, the statement “was shelved,” and Zelensky’s visit was canceled. The military aid, far earlier authorized by Congress, was released on September 11 after public outcry. The House Democrats announced an investigation into the reasons behind the blocking of the military aid and possible connection to help DDT’s reelection campaign. 

The July 25 phone call between Zelensky and DDT was in the midst of a three-month quid pro quo process with specific, repeated demands to Ukraine for political investigations which were orchestrated by DDT’s personal lawyer. Taylor testified that State Department Mike Pompeo was an integral part of the quid pro quo process. A federal judge gave DDT 30 days to release documents related to Ukraine, including communications between his personal secretary Rudy Giuliani and Pompeo. Giuliani’s communications are subject to public disclosure because he doesn’t work for the government.

Philip Zelikow, a history professor at the University of Virginia, explained DDT’s crimes and cited 18 U.S.C. § 201(b), that any public official who “corruptly demands, seeks, receives, accepts, or agrees to receive or accept anything of value personally or for any other person or entity, in return for… being influenced in the performance of any official act” is breaking the law. Zelikow added that things of value don’t need to be tangible to fit the bribery law.

The Bulwark cited the GOP shifts for DDT defenses: 

  • The quid pro quo wasn’t real because only the U.S. knew it existed.
  • Maybe both sides knew about it, but it was never enforced.
  • Because the quid (withholding military aid) was illegal, then by definition it couldn’t have been an actual thing.
  • Maybe it was illegal and maybe both sides knew about it and maybe it was enforced, but executive authority allows all of this.
  • Maybe executive authority doesn’t actually allow any of this, but the impeachment process in the House was tainted, so whatever the Senate thinks of Trump’s actions, they’re duty-bound to acquit him because they have to think about future precedent.

Because Republicans have no real defense for DDT’s actions, they wail and gnash their teeth about impeachment not being “fair”—although impeachment about Bill Clinton’s affair was fine because he is a Democrat. To understand the GOP definition of fair, think about their behavior toward Democrats for the past four terms.

More information about GOP corruption comes from Giuliani’s “butt dialing.” On October, he was overheard raving about his need for hundreds of thousands of dollars and referring to “Robert” who is in Turkey, possibly Robert Mangas who is a registered agent of the Turkish government and a lawyer at Greenberg Traurig, Giuliani’s former employer. Mangas provided an affidavit in the case of Turkish gold trader Reza Zarrab, charged in the U.S. with laundering money; his lawyer Giuliani had tried to persuade Turkey’s president to release the trader and and then sought help from DDT. In another butt-dial 18 days earlier, Giuliani railed against the Bidens with non-stop false allegations that he used for demanding investigations, a focus for the House impeachment inquiry into DDT.

With associates Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, Giuliani worked with Ukrainian officials to get damaging information about DDT’s targets such as former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, and the Bidens. DDT’s lawyers are now claiming that Parnas has “executive privilege” because Giuliani also works for DDT. At this time, the public doesn’t know whose interests Giuliani represents—or even which country.

If DDT wants to investigate, he should look inward.

October 10, 2019

Corruption Begins at Home

With his current obsession in investigating corruption, which he claimed after the extortion call to Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky, Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) needs to look closer to home.

Today, two men who worked with DDT’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, were arrested as they tried to board a plane to Vienna at Dulles airport near Washington, DC on charges of conspiring to skirt federal laws that prohibit foreign nationals from contributing to US campaigns. They allegedly laundered foreign money with corporate identities and “straw donors” in “secret agreements” to hide the plan from candidates and federal regulators. Parnas and Fruman had one-way tickets, and Giuliani had planned to fly there last night. He refused to comment other than he didn’t plan to meet with them there. DDT said, “I don’t know those gentlemen.” Parnas had posted photos of his dinner with DDT at the White House on May 1, 2018 that have since been pulled. [From left: Vice President Mike Pence, Igor Fruman, Lev Parnas, President Donald Trump, and Trump Lawyer Rudy Giuliani – Miami Herald]

Two other defendants, Andrey Kukushkin and Parnas’ longtime partner David Correia, a longtime business partner of Parnas, were also indicted on the same charges while allegedly working with Parnas and Fruman. Kukushkin was arrested last night in San Francisco. Bill Sweeney, the assistant director in charge of the FBI’s New York field office, said that “this investigation is about corrupt behavior, deliberate lawbreaking.” Paul Manafort’s lawyers are representing Parnas and Fruman.

House Democrats had subpoenaed Parnas and Fruman for documents and testimony after they refused to voluntarily appear before House committees.  Both men are immigrants, Parnas from Ukraine and Fruman from Belarus. Parnas also worked with Guiliani to push falsehoods that Ukraine tried to interfere in the 2016 election on the part of Hillary Clinton.

Parnas’ involvement in the Ukraine scandal seems to go back to the beginning with his job as Giuliani’s fixer, the man who connected Giuliani to Ukrainian prosecutors willing to do bogus investigations on Joe and Hunter Biden. Former Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX), who lost his district in 2018, is also involved with Parnas. Sessions received money from Parnas for his campaign and wrote Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to ask that Ukraine ambassador Marie Yovanovitch be recalled to Washington, DC because she wouldn’t pressure Ukrainians for the investigations. Parnas also donated to campaigns for House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC), and Florida GOP governor Ron Desantis. Sessions had been considering a run for a district 100 miles away from his old one.

Parnas’ company is called Fraud Guarantee.

Another Ukrainian player is Rick Perry, who urged Ukraine to fire the board of state-owned gas company Naftagaz and replace them with big U.S. donors to GOP campaigns. Parnas and Fruman, in partnership with oil magnate Harry Sargeant III, wanted to import natural gas to Ukraine. Sargeant told a senior executive at the gas company that he “regularly meets with Trump at Mar-a-Lago and that the gas-sales plan had the president’s full support.” The executive “perceived it to be a shakedown.” Parnas said that Yovanovitch would be removed, and Giuliani told reporters, “I did play a role in that.” Perry, who plans to resign soon, has been subpoenaed about his involvement in the Ukrainian scandal.

DDT said that if Zelensky wanted to meet with him, they should circumvent official diplomatic channels and go strictly through Giuliani, who created a more direct role than earlier known. Monday, Fiona Hill, DDT’s former Senior Director for European and Russian affairs, plans to testify that Giuliani and EU ambassador Gordon Sondland circumvented the NSC and normal White House process to run a shadow foreign policy in Ukraine. DDT had appointed Sonderland to perform ambassador responsibilities in Ukraine although the nation is not in the European Union and then blocked him from testifying before the House. He tried to do the same for Parnas and Fruman and lied about their working for the White House before he denied knowing them.

Other Corruption Tidbits:

DDT’s former national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, said it was “absolutely not” appropriate for Mr. Trump to seek help from foreign powers for an election.

The eight-page letter written to House Democrats in an attempt to stop impeachment includes more quid pro quo in DDT’s “art of the deal.” Pat Cipollene wrote that if House Democrats “return to the regular order of oversight requests, we stand ready to engage in that process,” and ends by asking House Democrats to “abandon the current invalid efforts to pursue an impeachment inquiry and join the President in focusing on the many important goals that matter to the American people.” Earlier, DDT threatened Congress to shut down legislation, forgetting that if he refuses to either sign or veto a bill, it goes into law.

DDT is finally taking an interest in congressional affairs, calling Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) three times a day in an attempt to lock down GOP loyalty in case of impeachment.  

At least four national security officials raised concerns about DDT’s call with Zelensky that pressured Ukraine in exchange for DDT’s “favors.” Their worries began with Yovanovitch’s recall from Ukraine and continued with Giuliani’s promotion of Ukrainian conspiracies and DDT’s statements in White House meetings that he wanted damaging information on Biden. People who listened to the July 25 telephone call between DDT and Zelensky said that “alarm bells were kind of ringing.”

Former Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), released from Fox network for his plans to join DDT’s legal impeachment team, won’t be part of the group until January—if ever. DDT said that lobby rules prevent Gowdy from joining until next year. NYT Maggie Haberman questions the reason. She tweeted:

 “Someone in West Wing badly wanted a win internally and put out Gowdy before it was a done deal. So it was quickly done yesterday and then had to be undone.”

DDT assigned his politically appointed official Michael Duffey the authority to withhold $391 million in U.S. military aid to Ukraine because career staff questioned the legality of delaying funds.

In an interview with Bob Schieffer, former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson talked about how DDT tried to break the law. In one of the times, DDT pushed Tillerson to persuade DOJ to drop a criminal case against an Iranian-Turkish gold trader, Giuliani’s client for money laundering. Tillerson refused to interfere in the ongoing investigation of Reza Zarrab and reported his objections to then-chief of Staff John Kelly. When asked if he talked to DDT about Zarrab, Giuliani said “So what [if I did].” Asked if he had talked to Tillerson, Giuliani said, “You have no right to know that.”

Zarrab was arrested in 2016 for evading U.S. sanctions against Iran. Former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, who DDT fired, wrote that Zarrab had “facilitated millions of dollars-worth of transactions on behalf of Iran . . . through a global network of companies located in Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.” Bharara added that Zarrab was “engaged in a massive bribery scheme . . . paying cabinet-level [Turkish] governmental officials and high-level bank officers tens of millions of Euro and U.S. dollars” to facilitate his transactions. DDT’s interest in Zarrab ties into his facilitation of the Turkish invasion of the Kurds: the attempt at Zarrab’s release was another way that DDT could do a favor for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Republican lawmakers make themselves complicit by their silence, denial, of arguments that DDT’s behavior is wrong but not impeachable. The laws that DDT have broken could put anyone else in prison. For a start:

18 U.S. Code § 872, “Extortion by officers or employees of the United States”: “Whoever, being an officer, or employee of the United States or any department or agency thereof, or representing himself to be or assuming to act as such, under color or pretense of office or employment commits or attempts an act of extortion, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.”

2 U.S. Code § 192, “Refusal of witness to testify or produce papers”:  punishable by a year in prison.

In a bizarre twist to Turkey news, two Russian pranksters pretending to be Turkey’s minister of defense Hulusi Akar called Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC). Graham said that DDT would try to be helpful “within the limits of his power” to Erdogan on the case. Now criticizing DDT for abandoning “our Kurdish allies,” Graham also told the pranksters that Turkey’s “Kurdish problem is a big problem.” He continued by saying that Turkey needs to be “protected from this threat in Syria” and that both he and DDT are “sympathetic” to the problem. It is a big different from Graham’s criticism of DDT’s pulling the troops as “shortsighted and irresponsible.”

It’s a deep swamp, with many more stories to be uncovered. Republicans need to start their investigations at home.

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