Nel's New Day

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.

November 26, 2019

Impeachment Worsens for DDT Despite False Defenses

Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) pardoned his turkey and left town for Mar-a-Lago, but the impeachment inquiry goes on. The House Judiciary Committee holds its first hearing about the impeachment inquiry on December 4, and Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) and his lawyer have been invited to attend and question witnesses. They have until December 1 to respond.

Last week, DDT said he seriously considered answering written questions about the inquiry, and he has complained about what he perceived as House leaving him out of the process. His excuse for blocking all current and past aids and officials from subpoenaed testimony and documents is to protect future presidents. Using documents from the White House’s office of Management and Budget, the House Budget Committee prepared a timeline showing that the military aid was withheld while DDT pressured Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky. Details about the committee’s report is here.

Mark Sandy, the only OMB official to testify in the impeachment inquiry, said that two OMB officials resigned over concerns about DDT’s freezing the aid to Ukraine. One who worked in the legal division disagreed with OMB’s decision because of the Impoundment Control Act limiting the executive branch from changing congressional spending decisions. Sandy said he also expressed concerns about OMB following the law so DDT’s political appointee signed the documents holding up the money for Ukraine.

In other testimony, Sandy said that acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney emailed him on July 12, telling him that DDT ordered a freeze on Ukraine’s military aid. EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland also testified that DDT told him and other administration officials to keep pressure on Ukraine. In addition to holding the money so that it would not be released before the end of the fiscal year, DDT also refused to give Congress a formal rescission notice which would provide the reason for withholding congressionally approved funds.

DDT’s private lawyer Rudy Giuliani has also gotten into more trouble. When he met with Zelensky’s top aid in August during a trip to Madrid with Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, Giuliani stayed with Venezuelan energy executive Alejandro Betancourt López in a luxurious estate, purchased through money laundering and bribery. A month later, Giuliani helped represent López in a meeting with the head of DOJ’s criminal division and other federal attorneys, arguing that he should not face criminal charges for his $1.2 billion money-laundering case in Florida. According to the complaint, López and other top officials of the state-owned oil company conspired with business leaders and bankers to steal from the Venezuelan company and launder the money through Florida real estate.

Giuliani has other problems. In late 2018, Judith Nathan’s court filings in her divorce from Giuliani stated that he paid Maria Rosa Ryan, his also married mistress, $286,536 over six months. In that time, he also spent $447,938 on activities “for his own enjoyment” and $165,165 on travel.

A judge has ruled that Don McGahn, former White House top lawyer, must testify to Congress about his time with DDT. In a scorching decision, U.S. District Court Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson said that McGahn cannot hide behind DDT’s false claim of “absolute immunity.” House Democrats will move closer to new testimony concerning Robert Mueller’s evidence about obstruction of justice if the appeals don’t block them. Jackson wrote that DDT is not a king and doesn’t have unchecked powers. According the ruling, no one is above the law.

Jackson’s opinion can help the impeachment inquiry investigation because it removes DDT’s claim of absolute immunity. Former national security adviser John Bolton and his deputy Charles Kupperman have suggested that they will obey subpoenas if a court so orders. Acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney also said he would go to court to see if he had to testify. Other officials may decide to disobey DDT’s orders to ignore subpoenas with this court ruling. Executive privilege may still allow witnesses who refuse to answer questions.

In recent protection for DDT, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) wants an investigation into Joe Biden and son Hunter. He tweeted:

“If a Republican was in the same position, they’d certainly be investigated!”

Several people, including Sen. Sean Maloney (D-NY), is taking Graham up on his offer. Maloney responded that he was delighted “to talk about how the kids of powerful people benefit from their parents’ officeholding,” including “Donald Trump Jr., Eric, Jared and Ivanka.” Others chimed in with names such as Andrew Giuliani, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the Bush offspring, and Bill Barr’s daughter and son-in-law.

Anti-impeachment advocates are pleased by a recent CNN poll showing that only half the country thinks that DDT should be not only impeached by the House but also removed from office by the Senate. In 1998, the highest polling to remove Bill Clinton from being president was 29 percent, and the House GOP majority voted to impeach that year. Twenty percent more of the population think that DDT should be removed. The percentage of people wanting Richard Nixon removed didn’t climb to 57 percent until the Supreme Court ordered him to give up his audio tapes. 

Only recently have a few documents about DDT’s actions toward Ukraine begun to dribble out. Republicans, many of them terrified to cross DDT, repeat Russian propaganda even when some Fox news hosts correct them. They continue to stand by their false defenses for DDT’s criminal actions of bribery and extortion. 

1. Trump’s July 25 call with Ukraine’s president was appropriate.—Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-OH)

2. There was no quid pro quo.—Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX) although all the testimony to the House disagreed

3. The July 25 call was inappropriate but not impeachable.—Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX) who also said that DDT commits these kinds of actions all the time 

4. Trump was expressing his opinion on the July 25 call.—Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-ND)

5. Even if there was a quid pro quo, it wasn’t a “corrupt” quid pro quo.—Sen. John Neeley Kennedy (R-LA) who also echoes Russian propaganda arguing points.

6. Even if there was a quid pro quo, this happens in foreign policy.—Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) who ignored that the “quid pro quo” was for DDT’s personal benefit and not for that of the United States

7. Trump was unaware of the quid pro quo.—Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) although the testimony showed he is wrong

8. Trump is incapable of a quid pro quo.—Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-SC), a position that he got from the Wall Street Journal editorial board

9. Trump’s public call for Ukraine and China to investigate the Bidens was not serious.—Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) although DDT didn’t say he was “joking”

10. Interpreting Trump’s actions amounts to “differences of opinion.”—House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA)

11. The whistleblower complaint was based on hearsay.—Graham, despite all the first-hand testimony

12. The whistleblower complaint was inaccurate.—House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA), despite testimony from people who heard the July 25 call

13. The whistleblower has a political bias.–Scalise

14. The whistleblower is part of the “deep state.”—Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) although the intelligence IG declared it credible.

15. The impeachment inquiry is a secret and unfair process.—Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) about the process passed by Republicans in 2015

16. Trump has no due-process rights.—Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) although impeachment does not guarantee these rights and DDT hasn’t been charged with anything

17. Ukraine said there was no pressure.—Rep Jim Jordan (R-OH) about a country afraid of not receiving vital aid

18. Ukraine did not agree to any investigations.—Jordan ignoring the facts

19. Ukraine did not know the security aid was held up.—Jordan, disproved by testimony and documents

20. Ukraine ultimately got the security aid.—Scalise refuting the fact that attempted actions are impeachable

21. Impeachment is a coup d’etat.—McCarthy about constitutional procedures

22. Democrats wanted to impeach Trump as soon as he was inaugurated.—Rep. Michael R. Turner (R-OH) lying about the fact that a majority of House Democrats didn’t support impeachment until after the July 25 call

23. Sondland never directly heard Trump mention Ukrainian security aid.—Turner, despite Sondland’s testimony that there was a quid pro quo

24. It’s the media’s fault.—Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), ignoring DDT’s actions

25. It’s Obama’s fault.—Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) although President Obama gave Ukraine hundreds of millions of dollars in military support 

26. DDT told Giuliani to run a shadow policy team because he’s “ a great crime fighter” and a “friend.”—DDT  

DDT said he fired Marie Yovanovitch as ambassador to Ukraine because she “wouldn’t hang my picture in the [U.S.] embassy [in Ukraine].” Her legal team explained, “The Embassy in Kyiv hung the official photographs of the president, vice president, and secretary of state as soon as they arrived from Washington, D.C.” A report in 2017 stated that pictures of DDT and Pence weren’t being displayed because the Government Publishing Office did get images from the White House. The White House said that DDT and Pence hadn’t decided when to sit for the portraits.

The two major “fake” defenses: the impeachment isn’t fair, and DDT isn’t impeachable.

November 18, 2019

Open Impeachment Inquiry Hearings: Week One

Open House impeachment inquiry hearings, instigated by a whistleblower, began last week with new revelations about the attempts of Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) to use his office for his personal benefit. 

Highlights of the week:

DDT’s furious tweets impugning witnesses Marie Yovanovitch and Jennifer Williams that DDT calls “free speech” but resemble witness tampering, a conviction for Roger Stone: Marie Yovanovitch, former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, described DDT’s smear and intimidation campaign  against her for the past six months, one which made her seek safety in the U.S. and which DDT continued in tweets at the same time that she testified. His goal was to replace her in Ukraine with someone who would carry out his investigation into conspiracy theories to destroy a political opponent. DDT tweeted nothing about George Kent, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, and Bill Taylor, U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, instead falsely attacking only two women. While GOP representatives readied themselves to leave the hearing, Yovanovitch (center right) left to thunderous applause and a standing ovation. DDT claimed he “mostly never heard of” Williams, VP Mike Pence’s special adviser on Europe and Russia, although he called her a “Never Trumper.” She heard DDT’s phone call, but he told her to read the transcript. Williams, a career foreign service official, called DDT’s requests to Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky unusual and inappropriate, especially when he specifically referred to investigations into the Bidens and mentioned the Burisma gas company.

Direct knowledge of DDT’s corruption in closed-door hearings: After Republican attacked the testimony of Bill Taylor and George Kent for mere hearsay, more witnesses testified about direct knowledge of DDT’s demands for investigation and holding up military aid. Taylor’s staffer David Holmes overheard DDT talk about the investigations in a Kiev restaurant where Gordon Sondland, U.S. ambassador to the DU, called DDT on his cell phone. The call began with Sondland’s comment to DDT that Zelensky “loves your ass” and continued with DDT asking if Zelensky was “gonna do the investigation.” Sondland answered in the affirmative and said that Zelensky will do “anything you ask him to.” Holmes heard DDT’s end of the conversation because he was so loud that Sondland held the phone away from his ear. After the call, Sondland said that DDT didn’t “give a sh*t about Ukraine,” only the “big stuff” that benefits himself such as the “Biden investigation” that Giuliani was pushing. Holmes also told about being asked to take notes for a meeting with Sondland and Zelensky’s aide Andriy Yermak before he was not allowed in the room because they didn’t want any note-taker.

Another staffer, Suriya Jayanti, also reported overhearing Sondland’s phone conversation with DDT. Bill Taylor had testified that the reference was to the Bidens and that Sondland told DDT that the Ukrainians “were ready to move forward.”

Senior White House budget official Mark Sandy also testified last week about DDT freezing the military aid to Ukraine. Laura Cooper, the Defense Department official who oversees military aid to Ukraine, had already testified that a senior OMB official had announced this hold on July 18 after all departments and agencies except OMB had signed off on the aid. Receiving no reason for the freeze, Sandy was told to sign the first of several letters freezing the funds for Ukraine, starting on July 25, the same day as DDT’s call with Zelensky. All the other letters were signed by Sandy’s boss, political appointee Michael Duffey, who said he wanted to learn more about the apportionment process. Duffey said on July 26 that the hold “relates to the President’s concerns about corruption.”

Release of new transcripts: Advisers to U.S. envoy Kurt Volker, Catherine Croft and Christopher Anderson, testified that DDT pushed his shadow foreign policy to pressure Ukraine into investigating political opponents. Laura Cooper added that Volker demanded an investigation into specific U.S. citizens, a violation of civil liberties because it’s not based on a suspected crime but pushed by a politician. DDT went beyond an investigation into insisting on prosecutions even if evidence did not warrant them. The testimony shows that, contrary to Volker’s claims, he knew about the links of the quid pro quo as well as the Ukrainians knowing about the ultimatum before Sondland delivered it.

The transcript of Tim Morrison’s testimony describes Sondland’s actions and statements, confirming Sondland’s amendment to his original testimony after he decided he should tell the truth. Gordon Sondland, EU ambassador, operated at DDT’s request and talked to a Ukrainian about exchanging military aid for political investigations to benefit DDT. He told Yermack that if his country did not announce the investigations into the Bidens that DDT would withhold the military aid. Immediately after his conversation with Yermack, Sondland told Morrison that the prosecutor general should publicly announce he was opening the Burisma investigation. Hunter Biden had served on the company’s board while his father was working on Ukraine policy for the Obama administration. Morrison said that he didn’t remember the name “Burisma” mentioned in the July 25 phone call, but Williams, who heard the July 25 call, said that Zelensky referenced the name of the gas company. Morrison said that he told the administration to “restrict access to the package” after hearing the call between DDT and Zelensky but moving the call transcript to a highly classified system was a “mistake.”

Williams’ transcript filled in some details of Pence’s involvement in which she reported on DDT’s phone call with Zelensky and Zelensky’s concern about DDT’s withholding the military aid. She also told Pence about how DDT’s demands would benefit him far more than the country.

Today, the House released two more transcripts, those from David Holmes and David Hale, Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs. 

Trying to look innocent, DDT released a transcript of his first phone call with Zelensky, which Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), read into the House record. It illuminates more of DDT’s lies. The readout of the call: DDT promises to work with Zelensky to “implement reforms that strengthen democracy, increase prosperity, and root out corruption.” The call: DDT’s brief congratulation for Zelensky’s election followed by a discussion of DDT’s ownership of Miss Universe and a vague invitation to the White House. Missing: Mention of general “corruption” or anti-corruption efforts and a time for the invitation. DDT refused to attend Zelensky’s inauguration, instead sending Energy Secretary Rick Perry to cut a business deal benefiting GOP donors in the U.S.

Federal prosecutors are investigating DDT’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani for potential campaign-finance violations; failure to register as a foreign agent; crimes with Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman who are charged with conspiracy, falsification of records, and lying to the FEC about political donations; participation in removing Yovanovitch from Ukraine because she obstructed Giuliani’s efforts to investigate Biden; and maybe other crimes. Giuliani is also in the midst of a divorce with his wife of 15 years, Judith Giuliani, who said, “I’m sad to know that the hero of 9/11 has become a liar.” A trial is set for January because Giuliani is concealing his income.

An overview of Republicans’ attempts—and lies—to defend DDT:  

  • Ukraine interfered to help Democrats in the 2016 election.
  • Ukraine eventually got the military aid so there was no crime.  
  • Joe Biden is a bad person.
  • Witnesses aren’t credible because they don’t have firsthand information, but they want the whistleblower who didn’t have firsthand information.
  • The direct testimony isn’t related to the inquiry.
  • The impeachment is only about the July 25 phone call, and there’s nothing there.
  • Public hearings are a “sham.”
  • Hearings are boring.
  • The hearings are too hard to understand
  • The Mueller investigation was a fraud. 
  • DDT is too dumb to carry out the corruption.

Nothing on the substance of the inquiry. 

Witnesses in the upcoming week’s open hearings: Gordon Sondland, Jennifer Williams, Lt. Col. Alexander S. Vindman (top National Security Council expert on Ukraine), Kurt D. Volker, Tim Morrison, Laura Cooper, David Hale, and Fiona Hill (a former National Security Council official with expertise in Russia). Mark Sandy will testify if he receives a subpoena. Russell Vought, acting OMB director, and Michael Duffey, OMB’s national security chief, refuse to appear of turn over documents as does acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney.

Unhappy with State Department Secretary Mike Pompeo for months, DDT is now furious because the people Pompeo hired are testifying against DDT. A new Cabinet member may be on the horizon.

Today DDT said that he will “strongly consider” testifying in writing as part of the impeachment inquiry. If DDT can’t tell the truth, he should stay quiet: House investigators are looking into whether he lied to Robert Mueller in his written responses.  

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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