Nel's New Day

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.  

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