"Need to find different words for unprecedented."
September 19, 2019 10:38 AM   Subscribe

The Washington Post breaks the news that the whistleblower complaint at the center of a tense showdown between Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire and the House Intelligence Committee involves President Trump’s communications with a foreign leader that included a “promise” regarded as so troubling, it prompted an official in the U.S. intelligence community to file a formal whistleblower complaint with the inspector general for the intelligence community. The New York Times reports today, "During a private session on Capitol Hill, Michael Atkinson, the inspector general of the intelligence community, told lawmakers he was unable to confirm or deny anything about the substance of the complaint, including whether it involved the president." This morning on Twitter, Trump denied he said anything inappropriate but did not dispute he made such a promise.

According to The Washington Post (reprint), "It was not immediately clear which foreign leader Trump was speaking with or what he pledged to deliver, but his direct involvement in the matter has not been previously disclosed. [...] One former official said the communication was a phone call."
The complaint was filed with Atkinson’s office on Aug. 12, a date on which Trump was at his golf resort in New Jersey. White House records indicate that Trump had had conversations or interactions with at least five foreign leaders in the preceding five weeks.

Among them was a call with Russian President Vladimir Putin that the White House initiated on July 31. Trump also received at least two letters from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during the summer, describing them as “beautiful” messages. In June, Trump said publicly that he was opposed to certain CIA spying operations against North Korea. Referring to a Wall Street Journal report that the agency had recruited Kim’s half-brother, Trump said, “I would tell him that would not happen under my auspices.”

Trump met with other foreign leaders at the White House in July, including the prime minister of Pakistan, the prime minister of the Netherlands, and the emir of Qatar.
NBC's Ken Dilanian confirms: "A former US intelligence official confirms to me that this whistleblower complaint was about a Trump phone call. Need to find different words for unprecedented." NBC News reports today, "A whistleblower complaint by an intelligence official about a private presidential phone call would be an extraordinary development, likely without precedent in U.S. history."

Meanwhile, a Justice Department official tells NBC that "it was the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel that gave advice to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence on whether to disclose the complaint. Asked whether Attorney General Bill Barr was personally involved, the official declined to comment."

While the whistleblower's identity is shielded, Politico's Natasha Bertrand reports that the whistleblower "is being represented by Andrew P. Bakaj, a former CIA officer," and The WaPo reveals, "The individual once worked on the staff of the White House National Security Council, which frequently borrows intelligence community personnel." Bakaj states on Twitter, "While I cannot say a whole lot, I can say this story underscores the importance of both a robust oversight system while protecting sources engaging in lawful, protected activity. It also highlights the importance of a strong, independent, and ethical Office of Inspector General."

In What is the Trump whistleblower complaint about? Here’s a timeline of what we know, WaPo's Aaron Blake writes:
It’s tempting to draw the conclusion that this somehow involves the Russians, for a few reasons: What happened in 2017, the lack of disclosure about the call, and the fact that the Russians alluded to some kind of talks about normalizing relations (which the White House made no mention of). But that’s highly speculative at this point.
In Unpacking the Intelligence Community Whistleblower Complaint, Robert S. Litt at Lawfare writes on September 18:
Late yesterday, two letters from Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) General Counsel Jason Klitenic to Schiff were released. These letters, which appear likely to have been written in conjunction with the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC), clarify certain points and raise additional questions.

First, Klitenic asserts that the whistleblower’s complaint did not constitute an “urgent concern,” as defined in the statute, because it “concerned conduct by someone outside the Intelligence Community and did not relate to any ‘intelligence activity within the responsibility and authority of the DNI.’” As I noted above, the first point appears irrelevant. [...]

Second, Klitenic asserts not only that the statute does not require disclosure to Congress but that the whistleblower (and presumably the ICIG) are prohibited from forwarding the information directly to Congress, because allowing an individual to disclose classified information, even to the intelligence committees, would violate the president’s constitutional authority to control classified information. Klitenic further noted that the ICIG had asked the DNI to transmit the complaint to Congress even if it was not required by statute, but that the DNI could not do so because the complaint “involves confidential and potentially privileged communications by persons outside the Intelligence Community.” As I noted earlier, these positions are consistent with long-held views of the executive branch, with which Congress disagrees.

Klitenic’s letters and Schiff’s responses thus tee up a fundamental conflict between congressional oversight and executive prerogatives. Encouragingly, however, Klitenic states that the ODNI is willing to work with Congress in the accommodation process I described earlier. Given the apparent involvement of the Department of Justice and the White House, and the seemingly sensitive nature of the complaint, however, it remains to be seen whether any such accommodation can be found.
In a September 18 press release, Chairman Schiff Announces Upcoming Committee Events Related to Whistleblower Complaint:
The Intelligence Community Inspector General (IC IG) has agreed to appear before the House Intelligence Committee for a briefing on the handling of the whistleblower complaint tomorrow morning, September 19, in closed session at 9:00 am.
The Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire has agreed to testify in open session before the Committee next Thursday, September 26 at 9:00 am.
The IC IG determined that this complaint is both credible and urgent, and that it should be transmitted to Congress under the clear letter of the law. The Committee places the highest importance on the protection of whistleblowers and their complaints to Congress.
At Just Security: Q&A on Whistleblower Complaint Being Withheld from Congressional Intelligence Committees

From Margaret Taylor at Lawfare: The Mysterious Whistleblower Complaint: What Is Adam Schiff Talking About?

In a September 13 press release, Chairman Schiff Issues Subpoena for Whistleblower Complaint Being Unlawfully Withheld by Acting DNI from Intelligence Committees:
Chairman Schiff stated: [...]

“After Watergate exposed significant intelligence abuses, a critical bargain was struck: in exchange for the Intelligence Community’s willingness to reveal closely guarded national security secrets, the congressional intelligence committees and leadership promised to handle that information responsibly. It was also of vital importance that intelligence officials have a lawful and protected means of bringing misconduct to the attention of Congress and the public. By withholding a credible whistleblower complaint that potentially deals with executive branch wrongdoing, the DNI is in violation of the applicable statute and has made itself a party to the concealment of potentially serious misconduct.”
At emptywheel, ODNI Whistleblower Complaint: Shoes Dropping All Over The Place, updates are anticipated and will appear within the timeline or at the bottom of the text. In addition, CNN is posting updates about the latest on the Trump whistleblower mystery.

Thanks to Doktor Zed and zachlipton for helping to create this post.
posted by katra (576 comments total) 101 users marked this as a favorite
 
He is an imminent danger and must be removed from office and prosecuted. Write and call your representatives. Show up at their offices. Force SOME KIND of consequences. At the minimum start holding those trying to assist in this cover-up on contempt of Congress, fine and jail them to compel their cooperation.
posted by odinsdream at 10:49 AM on September 19 [47 favorites]


Wow - this is an outstanding post. I'm chomping at the bit to find out what exactly what was promised and to whom. As I'm home with a sick first grader today, I'll be checking this out now. (Not to derail, but Radiolab did a great episode on the history of "neither confirm or deny" if you're interested.) Thanks for this - lots to go through!
posted by hilberseimer at 10:50 AM on September 19 [18 favorites]


Great post.

I am proud of this whistleblower. It takes real guts.
posted by sallybrown at 10:51 AM on September 19 [53 favorites]


There is not enough tar, nor are there enough feathers, in the entire world for these motherfuckers.
posted by Sing Or Swim at 10:55 AM on September 19 [40 favorites]


For some highly speculative context for this ongoing scandal, Crooked Media's Brian Beutler has posted this timeline:
Some completely random dates in chronological order:

Jul 31: Trump has shady undisclosed call with Putin about "forest fires." (It was about "normalizing" relations.)

Aug 7: Huntsman resigns

Aug 8: Coats and Gordon out at DNI

Aug 12: Maguire in at DNI

Also Aug 12: Whistleblower complains to ICIG

August 23: Trump goes to G7 and lobbies everyone to let Putin back in {Will Stancil @whstancil}

Aug 28, while we’re at it: Trump holds up Ukraine military aid meant to confront Russia (Politico)

Sept 9: CNN breaks first story about exfiltrated Russian spy in U.S.

Also Sept 9: IC IG transmits the fact of the complaint to Schiff

Sept 10: Bolton resigns

Sept 10: CNN publishes a bizarre follow-up to its exfiltrated spy bombshell which is about how Trump sometimes randomly asserts that he dislikes using foreign spies against adversaries.

And then Sept 12, after Schiff asked for the whistleblower report, the aid to Ukraine was unfrozen by the White House. {KC Murphy @klcmurphy}

Sept 13: Schiff goes public

To drop the coy act, my irresponsible speculation is that Trump promised to hand over that spy we exfiltrated, the outing of the spy was an effort to protect the spy, and Trump’s muttering about his distaste for using spies was laying the predicate to order this one returned.
This scandal is only just beginning to come into focus, but the background for it holds the potential for an absolutely massive scandal by even Trump's standards.
posted by Doktor Zed at 10:56 AM on September 19 [91 favorites]


I wonder if there was a second witness to the same overt act.
posted by Gelatin at 10:57 AM on September 19 [12 favorites]


Indeed, and from the Guardian:
Jon Cooper, a former aide to Barack Obama and prominent New York Democrat, speculated on Thursday that if the vice-president, Mike Pence, was aware of what had happened and, if it was serious, had not raised the alarm, it could spell trouble for him.

Jon Cooper (@joncoopertweets) What are the odds that @VP Mike Pence was aware of the “promise” Trump made to a foreign leader that was so alarming it led to an “urgent, credible” whistleblower complaint from within the intelligence community? If Pence knew but covered it up, he may be in deep trouble himself.
September 19, 2019
posted by katra at 10:59 AM on September 19 [16 favorites]


This scandal is only just beginning to come into focus, but the background for it holds the potential for an absolutely massive scandal by even Trump's standards.

I long for the days when that phrase merely applied to paying off a porn star during the campaign to buy her silence about an affair with Trump.
posted by Gelatin at 11:03 AM on September 19 [20 favorites]


@katra it couldn't have happened to a nicer guy...
posted by hilberseimer at 11:03 AM on September 19 [4 favorites]


Is there any path to this coming to light that doesn't require Republican cooperation in the Senate or the Executive Branch?
posted by Nelson at 11:06 AM on September 19 [19 favorites]


"Need to find different words for unprecedented."

Unpresidented would work for me.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:08 AM on September 19 [105 favorites]


Blessed are the whistleblowers, especially in such an openly hostile administration. What is the punishment or treason and what's the hold up?
posted by GoblinHoney at 11:12 AM on September 19 [8 favorites]


the president’s constitutional authority to control classified information

What does this refer to? I've read the Constitution a couple of times and I don't remember this. Is this case law interpreting the executive's duty for national defense that's been established by SCOTUS, or just an authoritarian interpretation constructed by some attorneys in DOJ to justify refusing to comply with congressional oversight? I thought everything regarding national secrets was covered by federal law, not the Constitution.
posted by biogeo at 11:17 AM on September 19 [12 favorites]


Or we could, you know, use it only for things without precedent—new and previously unheard of or unimagined—instead of as an overused synonym for "noteworthy" or "exciting".

Yeah, yeah, that's not how language works. It has just always irritated me how the word seemed to spring into the mainstream lexicon about 20 years ago and has since had even more overplay than Peter Gabriel's "Sledgehammer" ever did.

I'll show myself out now, but get the hell off my lawn.
posted by phrits at 11:19 AM on September 19 [10 favorites]


At some point the Democrats in power are going to have to start taking aggressive action, optics be damned. Laws unenforced aren't laws at all.
posted by Godspeed.You!Black.Emperor.Penguin at 11:20 AM on September 19 [69 favorites]


What is the punishment [f]or treason

Any man wages war against the United States or or adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort, spends a night in the box.
posted by thelonius at 11:21 AM on September 19 [11 favorites]


Given the post title, I get it. But I'd be curious if anyone who knows their US history than me could say if anything anywhere close to this has happened before (assuming for the sake of argument the Beutler theory is close to true). I can't think of anything, but that doesn't mean much. Most scandals I can think of are either sex or money related, not the straight-up treason variety.
posted by hilberseimer at 11:25 AM on September 19 [3 favorites]


Maybe after Lewandowski's performance some of the Dems will deprioritize their rambling monologues and let actual trial attorneys like Berke grill these fuckers.
posted by benzenedream at 11:26 AM on September 19 [39 favorites]


So Trump promised Putin the deep spy would be withdrawn?
posted by Mei's lost sandal at 11:26 AM on September 19 [4 favorites]


So, that timeline intimates that Trump made such an outrageous promise that the ambassador to Russia, two top DCI officials and John Bolton all resigned as a result. IIRC, not one of those resignations (save Bolton) mentioned disagreements with the president as the reason for leaving.

Don’t get me wrong - I wouldn’t be surprised if it were true BUT as the saying goes, “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”
posted by Big Al 8000 at 11:28 AM on September 19 [8 favorites]


the president’s constitutional authority to control classified information

What does this refer to?


The President is considered to have the right to control the classification of information (that’s how he controls classified information—he can always unclassify it). It isn’t explicit in the Constitution, but is there through the logic of how classification works: those in the federal government who could impose a classification on information work for the Executive Branch, meaning their abilities to do so come from the power of the President. Department of the Navy v. Egan says this power flows from the President’s role as Commander in Chief (because classification is related to national security).
posted by sallybrown at 11:30 AM on September 19 [8 favorites]


@benzenedream, that was a thing of beauty to watch. Not just the precision and competence of the questioning but also Lewandowski's squirming and the GOP crybaby meltdowns. It came after several long hours of infuriating GOP stalling and procedural antics—and outright propaganda spewing—interspersed with mostly ineffectual DNC questioning. My hope in the system had reached its nadir and then Berke tagged in and brought the hammer down like Justice personified. Berke was the adult hippo calmly destroying a particularly stupid and over-bold crocodile that had tried to grab a baby hippo in broad daylight. Glorious.
posted by Godspeed.You!Black.Emperor.Penguin at 11:36 AM on September 19 [14 favorites]


Yeah, I dont want to be a downer or say surelythis, but I'm iffy.

In the second place, getting the info seems to require the Republicans hand it over. Which will never happen and the worse it is the more it will never happen.

But in the first place I think anyone who is still voting Republican is now so far gone that we could have Trump admit that he called up Putin to trade state secrets and a spy for a few million bucks in real estate scams and they'd tell us it just proved Trump was smart and making America great again.

My hope in this is limited to hoping it pushes some non voters into voting if the leaker is willing to actually tell us what happened instead of leaving it all as rumor and vague statements that it was bad.
posted by sotonohito at 11:36 AM on September 19 [19 favorites]


I'd be curious if anyone who knows their US history than me could say if anything anywhere close to this has happened before

When the US was still fighting the Revolutionary War General Benedict Arnold plotted to switch sides to the British and allow them to take control of West Point, which he commanded.

For that reason, his name is synonymous with "traitor."
posted by Gelatin at 11:36 AM on September 19 [15 favorites]


@Gelatin well that's embarrassing. How could I forget? Thanks!
posted by hilberseimer at 11:37 AM on September 19 [1 favorite]


Or we could, you know, use it only for things without precedent

An unshackled Trump finally gets the presidency he always wanted (Politico)
After four national security advisers, three chiefs of staff, three directors of oval office operations and five communications directors, the president is now finding the White House finally functions in a way that fits his personality. Trump doubters have largely been ousted, leaving supporters to cheer him on and execute his directives with fewer constraints than ever before.

“It is a government of one in the same way in which the Trump Organization was a company of one,” said a former senior administration official.

“In the first year in office, President Trump was new to the job. He was more susceptible to advisers and advice. There were more people urging caution or trying to get him to adhere to processes,” the former senior official added. “Now, there are very few people in the White House who view that as their role, or as something they want to try to do, or who even have a relationship with him.” [...]

The transformation of the Trump White House, from its early attempts at a traditional structure to its current freewheeling style, has exacted a heavy toll on his staff. But a steady stream of departures — the highest senior staff turnover of any recent president by far — has also left fewer forces trying to bend the president to the usual process of the top ranks of government.
posted by katra at 11:37 AM on September 19 [13 favorites]


Surely, this.
posted by Karaage at 11:41 AM on September 19 [17 favorites]


While we are making 'highly speculative' timelines and 'extraordinary claims' I'd add this:

Sept 13: Schiff goes public

Sept 14: Saudi oil processing plants crippled by sophisticated drone/missile attack, 'evidence' points to Iran

That's just stochastic noise though, right? There's no way the Trump administration and their Russian allies would have a false flag operation ready to go in case of sudden need for distracting geopolitcal crisis/justification for war. 9/14 truthing is as misguided as 9/11 truthing. Right? Yeah?
posted by soy bean at 11:42 AM on September 19 [23 favorites]


1. THE PRESIDENTIAL COMMUNICATIONS PRIVILEGE

The presidential communications privilege protects from disclosure any communications that are either by the President directly or by his immediate advisors in the Office of the President....
posted by clavdivs at 11:42 AM on September 19


"freewheeling style"?!
posted by Gelatin at 11:43 AM on September 19 [6 favorites]


Yeah, yeah, that's not how language works. It has just always irritated me how the word seemed to spring into the mainstream lexicon about 20 years ago and has since had even more overplay than Peter Gabriel's "Sledgehammer" ever did.

you've gotta stretch your mouth, to let those big words come right out
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 11:49 AM on September 19 [23 favorites]


"Freewheeling style," like a tire hurtling down the wrong side of the freeway at seventy miles per hour.
posted by Faint of Butt at 11:49 AM on September 19 [25 favorites]


clavdivs: "1. THE PRESIDENTIAL COMMUNICATIONS PRIVILEGE

The presidential communications privilege protects from disclosure any communications that are either by the President directly or by his immediate advisors in the Office of the President....
"

OTOH...
Nevertheless, the presidential communications privilege can be overcome by a sufficient showing of need. Indeed, in one of the first judicial recognitions of an executive branch secrecy claim, Chief Justice John Marshall endorsed the idea that the privilege is defeasible. In other words, however well-established the privilege may be, it has never been absolute. Explaining what must be shown to overcome the privilege, the D.C. Circuit has held a litigant must demonstrate that a document contains important evidence and this evidence is not available with due diligence elsewhere.

The Supreme Court also strongly suggested the presidential communications privilege must yield whenever a coordinate branchs constitutional role is at stake. Nixon I concluded that President Nixon had to yield to a subpoena to preserve the function of the courts under Article III, and Nixon II held that Congress could roll back a former presidents privilege in light of the scope of Congress broad investigative power. Thus, Congress ought to be able to overcome the presidential communications privilege in any instance that it exercises its constitutional powers to legislate and conduct oversight.
posted by Rhaomi at 11:53 AM on September 19 [8 favorites]


Yes, the most dispiriting thing about Trump getting elected was realizing we had to fight 99% of Republicans as well as 70% of Dems to get the rule of law reestablished.
posted by benzenedream at 12:04 PM on September 19 [61 favorites]


Is this not exactly what the Founding Fathers were worried about with the presidency? Is this not why they had the emoluments clauses, or create the whole process of impeachment?

At what threshold does the GOP in the Senate say, "yep, he needs to be pulled out?" At what threshold does Trump lose enough support of the GOP voters to make that less risky (because I don't believe we'll get a Profiles in Courage moment anytime soon)? I realize that impeaching the president this late in the game puts holding the White House in 2020 unlikely, but they at least get fifteen months of Pence.

Why are they allowing this to continue?

Who else would go down?

At some point the Democrats in power are going to have to start taking aggressive action, optics be damned. Laws unenforced aren't laws at all.

I know many have argued the Democrats should pull the trigger on impeachment in the House and see if it builds momentum among voters. I won't argue that, but I do understand the risks:
  • They get one shot, so it has to work otherwise...
  • They hand Trump a victory he can use in the election and beyond. "I didn't get convicted on impeachment--it was all a witch hunt." Even though everyone will be aware of it being a political rather than factual exercise, it takes that arrow out of the quiver.
  • There is the risk that impeaching the president when the other party takes the House becomes Just What You Do.
I can understand why Pelosi, et al., want to ensure any impeachment would have a high chance of success and be clearly the Will of the People, and not merely partisan maneuvering.
posted by MrGuilt at 12:06 PM on September 19 [6 favorites]


The longer they keep him in, the more they can heap all the blame on him and claim none for themselves, I suppose? Also, they actually approve of most of the illegal, unethical and disgusting actions he has taken.
posted by Glinn at 12:10 PM on September 19 [2 favorites]


People who have never blown a whistle have no idea the amount of courage it takes to do so when you, the whistleblower, know at your very core that you are doing the right thing, that those you are blowing the whistle on will never be held to account, and that you and possibly your loved ones will suffer harm for speaking out.

I've written around here before about my respect for Snowden, exposing what he did at such great personal cost. I've also written about my own much more minuscule experience in blowing the whistle at my own employer - although a friend with AP told me at the time if I did want to go public it would be world-wide headlines.

You stand to gain absolutely nothing from the experience. No money, no fame (of any good sort), no future prospects of employment or even just networking. You are literally fucking yourself over to try to right a wrong that is being intentionally held secret by its perpetrators. You are signing yourself up for a life of othering at best, ghosting somewhere in the middle, and at worst threat to your personal health and safety. The perpetrators want you gone, so that they can keep getting away with their evil shit.

When I see whistleblower, when I hear the brave people like Blasely speak up - my default is to believe them. Look at a powerful, rich, entitled, angry white man screeching about how he's being falsely accused and tell me you believe him, because what exactly does their accuser stand to gain?

Whistleblowers will never get justice, not in this lifetime. Which is why I respect them so much more than anyone else for being brave in the face of active persecution.

Keep speaking truth to power! May you see justice in this life or the next.
posted by allkindsoftime at 12:11 PM on September 19 [132 favorites]


The GOP and all Republican voters are A-OK with treason, as long as they are on top. It's mind boggling, but it's literally true.
posted by rikschell at 12:15 PM on September 19 [53 favorites]


Thanks for the amazing post, Katra! I was wondering when this would be discussed on Metafilter.

Greg Olear, author of DIRTY RUBLES: AN INTRODUCTION TO TRUMP/RUSSIA, also has a great thread on Twitter about this very thing, and he discusses the timeline here:

Below is a timeline of recent, relevant events (h/t @operativexray & @patricklsimpson for the initial timelines I’m expanding on):

7/28: Dan Coats, the Director of National Intelligence—one of the few grown-ups left in the Trump universe—announces he is resigning soon.

7/31: As wildfires rage in CA, Trump calls Putin to, we’re told, offer help with the wildfires in Russia.

8/2: For no apparent reason, the US pulls out of INF Treaty, because what could be better than allowing Putin to use intermediate-range nuclear missiles?

8/6: Jon Huntsman, the US ambassador to Russia and not an obvious Trump loyalist, resigns.

8/8: Coats advises Sue Gordon, who would replace him as DNI, to follow him out the door.

8/12: The #Whistleblower complaint is filed.

8/15: Coats steps down as DNI. Sue Gordon also resigns.

8/16: Joseph MAGAuire takes over as Acting Director of National Intelligence, attempts to hold on to the hot-potato whistleblower complaint, in brazen defiance of the law that he turn over report to Schiff/House Intelligence.

8/25: At the G7 in Biarritz, Trump insists that Russia be allowed to re-join. In private, his defense of Putin is more vociferous than his public statements, reports say.

9/9: News breaks about the CIA being forced to exfiltrate a Moscow mole in 2017.

9/10: John Bolton, the national security adviser who was at odds with Trump, likely for not kissing the ring on Trump’s puny finger, resigns/was fired/leaves.

9/13: After the whistleblower story breaks, Schiff issues a subpoena to MAGAuire.

9/16: Yahoo breaks Russia/FBI spy story.

9/16: Traitor Ed "Snowjob" Snowden appears on CBS This Morning to promote his book.

9/17: Explosion at Russian smallpox storage facility.

9/17: Lewandowski testifies, marking start of formal impeachment inquiry.

9/18: WaPo breaks the “foreign leader” story about Trump.


Olear adds:

Yes, I know . “Nothing will happen.” “Trump always gets away with it.” “What are they waiting for.”

Spare me, please.

The wheels of justice grind slow, my friends, but they grind absolutely. This time, his teensy hand is caught in the Kremlin cookie jar.

he preparations for impeachment have been made. The I’s are dotted, the t’s are crossed. All we need per Pelosi, is for the public to get onboard.

Trump making secret promises to Putin that run counter to US interests WHILE IN THE OVAL OFFICE is about as damning as it gets.

Replying to
@gregolear
Les jeux sont faits, mother*ckers.

Make NO mistake.

WE SHALL PREVAIL!

[END]

posted by suburbanbeatnik at 12:15 PM on September 19 [11 favorites]


At what threshold does the GOP in the Senate say, "yep, he needs to be pulled out?" ...Why are they allowing this to continue?

There is no threshold. This will only get worse, and no one with an R next to their name will say jack. They have a guy doing all the nastiness conservatives have been dreaming of for decades. Tax cuts, gutting the EPA, Labor, State, etc.. etc. They’ll gladly look the other way and hold their noses as long as the hits keep on coming.

Trump and company have concluded that they can break laws and spit on the Constitution to their black heart’s content with absolute impunity, especially given they have the AG and the Republican party in their pockets.
posted by Thorzdad at 12:23 PM on September 19 [35 favorites]


I pointed this out before.

1. Kim Jong-un's brother, Kim Jong-nam was assassinated by North Korean agents.
2. Kim Jong-nam had been a CIA asset for 14 years.
3. Kim Jong-nam was visiting his CIA handlers at the time he was killed, indicating he was still an asset.
4. Kim Jong-nam was murdered February 10, 2017, three weeks after Trump took office.

He survived 14 years of non-Trump time and 3 weeks of Trump time.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 12:26 PM on September 19 [101 favorites]


Breaking NYT: Whistle-Blower’s Complaint Is Said to Involve Multiple Acts by Trump
A potentially explosive complaint by a whistle-blower in the intelligence community said to involve President Trump was related to a series of actions that goes beyond any single discussion with a foreign leader, according to interviews on Thursday.

The complaint was related to multiple acts, Michael Atkinson, the inspector general for American spy agencies, told lawmakers during a private briefing, two officials familiar with it said. But he declined to discuss specifics, including whether the complaint involved the president, according to committee members.

Separately, a person familiar with the whistle-blower’s complaint said it involves in part a commitment that Mr. Trump made in a communication with another world leader. The Washington Post first reported the nature of that discussion. But no single communication was at the root of the complaint, another person familiar with it said.
posted by Rhaomi at 12:29 PM on September 19 [29 favorites]


I would caution that we have no clue that this involves Russia, given the number of different pies Trump has his fingers in right now. Any theorist on Twitter saying it does, without big flashing caveats, is not a reputable source of info.

It’s also worth noting that the IG who brought this to Congress’ attention is a Trump appointee, Michael K. Atkinson.

I don’t say that to discredit him or frame this as a bad thing—discussions here sometimes miss the nuance that even GOP people, Congresspeople, Trump people, etc have lots of personal and professional motivations and incentives going on in their decision making.
posted by sallybrown at 12:39 PM on September 19 [13 favorites]


CNN: White House stops announcing calls with foreign leaders
The White House has suspended the practice of publishing public summaries of President Donald Trump's phone calls with world leaders, two sources with knowledge of the situation tell CNN, bringing an end to a common exercise from Republican and Democratic administrations.

It's unclear if the suspension is temporary or permanent. A White House spokesman declined to comment.
Official descriptions of the President's calls with foreign leaders -- termed "readouts" in Washington parlance -- offer administrations the chance to characterize in their own terms the diplomacy conducted at the highest levels between countries. While news is rarely contained in the rote, often dry descriptions, they do offer the only official account that a phone call took place. Readouts are still released internally.
posted by Rhaomi at 12:43 PM on September 19 [11 favorites]


*Checks off box on Sliding into Fascism bingo card*

From the NYT article posted by Rhaomi:
Mr. Schiff has said that none of the previous directors of national intelligence, a position created in 2004, had ever refused to provide a whistle-blower complaint to Congress.
posted by katra at 1:01 PM on September 19 [9 favorites]


Here's what's really maddening about the DNI refusing to transmit the whistleblower's report to Congress: under the ICWPA if the IG had not certified that the complaint was urgent and credible and delivered it to the Director, the whistleblower could have taken it straight to Congress! So clearly the intent of the law was to guarantee delivery of the complaint – but Congress never imagined that the Director would just refuse to deliver a complaint the IG said was valid.
If the Inspector General does not find credible under subparagraph (B) a complaint or information submitted under subparagraph (A), or does not transmit the complaint or information to the Director in accurate form under subparagraph (B), the employee (subject to clause (ii)) may submit the complaint or information to Congress by contacting either or both of the intelligence committees directly. 50 U.S.C. §3517 (d)(5)(D)
posted by nicwolff at 1:06 PM on September 19 [26 favorites]


This whistleblower is a true patriot and I hope one day history honors them for what they have done here.
posted by all about eevee at 1:08 PM on September 19 [19 favorites]


This whistleblower is a true patriot and I hope one day history honors them for what they have done here.

I just hope they’ve been able to fall off the grid.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:10 PM on September 19 [13 favorites]


A just-released letter from the IGIC to Congress (link to a tweet) dates 9/17 mentions a few interesting things:

- The ICIG believes he is bound by the DNI’s determination about how to proceed with disclosing or not disclosing the whistleblower complaint to Congress.

- The ICIG disagrees with both DOJ and the DNI that whatever is detailed in the whistleblower complaint “does not concern an intelligence activity within the DNI’s authority, and that the disclosure therefore need not be transmitted to” Congress. In fact, he says, it “relates to one of the most significant and important of the DNI’s responsibilities to the American people.”

- He disagrees with both the DOJ’s analysis of the facts and the conclusions they reached because of that analysis.

- He has asked the DNI for permission to disclose the “general subject matter” of the complaint but has not received it.

- This conflict is affecting his ability to perform two of his most important duties—protecting his employees and informing Congress—and he’s worried the current conflict shows there is a gap in the law about what to do in this situation.
posted by sallybrown at 1:10 PM on September 19 [31 favorites]


Right, I hope this person and their family are safe, whoever they are.
posted by all about eevee at 1:13 PM on September 19 [11 favorites]


Schiff threatens to sue over secret whistleblower complaint (Politico)
Schiff accused the White House and Justice Department of intervening to prevent Maguire from sharing the complaint with Congress, and suggested that the House could go to court to obtain it.

“Someone is trying to manipulate the system,” Schiff told reporters after the briefing, adding that the Justice Department is not providing an explanation about why it recommended withholding the whistleblower complaint from lawmakers. “There is no privilege that covers whether the White House is involved in trying to stifle a whistleblower complaint.”

Schiff added that he hoped a judge would recognize the urgency of the matter and quickly rule in the House’s favor.
posted by katra at 1:18 PM on September 19 [19 favorites]


So the "patriot" guys are chanting, "Lock him up!" right? Right??? The Oath Keepers are defending the Constitution against this domestic threat? RIGHT????
posted by Abehammerb Lincoln at 1:23 PM on September 19 [13 favorites]


I do kind of read the 9/17 letter as the IGIC asking someone to get a judge involved and hash this out.
posted by sallybrown at 1:24 PM on September 19 [1 favorite]


So the "patriot" guys are chanting, "Lock him up!" right? Right??? The Oath Keepers are defending the Constitution against this domestic threat? RIGHT????

Yeah, but they're chanting it about Schiff.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 1:29 PM on September 19 [13 favorites]


Jack Goldsmith (please save your sighs for the end; I'll be condemning him for some of his past sins shortly) wrote a little thing essentially arguing that the President needs to be able to conduct foreign affairs in confidence, so it can't be constitutional to require that the President's classified communications with a foreign leader (or whatever is going on here) be handed over to Congress. He naturally takes this argument to its extreme:
So what is to be done? Imagine that Trump engaged in an act of national treachery: he casually blew a source for no good reason (or a venal one), or he betrayed the nation in a Manchurian Candidate sort of way. I don’t think there is a legal avenue to correct such a betrayal of national trust by the Chief Executive and Commander in Chief. That is one of the accommodations the Constitution makes for the benefits of a vigorous presidency who can conduct foreign policy in secret.
Which...I'm no Constitutional scholar like Goldsmith is, but if your argument is that the Constitution says that it's ok for the President to be a literal Manchurian Candidate, and if someone in the government wants to report that to Congress, it's ok for the President to threaten that person with criminal prosecution, I think you've utterly lost the plot. I mean, I get it: it's not really tenable to have a democracy where the President conducts foreign affairs, and there's a shadowy intelligence cabal that can spy on what's going on and selectively tip off Congress to anything they don't like. It's easy to see how that can be abused by, say, Devin Nunes and a hypothetical Obama-hating intelligence officer. But the existence of the impeachment power is meaningless if the President is empowered to threaten people with prison for trying to report potentially impeachable conduct to Congress. We can't have a whole universe of stuff that Congress is only allowed to know about if the President says its ok.

Or to put it in a more pithy way, @whstancil: "We must allow the president to destroy the system in order to the protect the system" is peak Natsec Lawyer

The ICIG believes he is bound by the DNI’s determination about how to proceed with disclosing or not disclosing the whistleblower complaint to Congress.

There seems to be a fundamental democratic weakness here, probably just the unitary executive theory under another guise: if the entire executive branch, including supposedly independent bodies like the IG, are required to follow DOJ's legal interpretations, and DOJ is stacked with sycophants who will do anything to protect the President, the entire executive branch is turned into a tool to protect the President.

And the thing is, Goldsmith knows this personally. When he wasn't busy arguing that the Constitution somehow says the President can tap everyone's phones without a warrant, he realized that OLC has the power to make and break the law:
"One consequence of [OLC's] power to interpret the law is the power to bestow on government officials what is effectively an advance pardon for actions taken at the edges of vague criminal statutes." OLC has the power, Goldsmith continues, to dispense "get-out-of-jail-free cards."
And yet instead of realizing that this is fundamentally incompatible with the rule of law, Goldsmith does what he always does and shrugs, because with him, it seems like the rule of law or basic concepts like "the President shouldn't be a Manchurian Candidate" always come second to raw executive power.
posted by zachlipton at 1:33 PM on September 19 [20 favorites]


From the new NYT article, the issue in a nutshell:
And it is not obvious how an exchange between Mr. Trump and a foreign leader could meet the legal standards for a whistle-blower complaint that the inspector general would deem an “urgent concern.”

Under the law, the complaint has to concern the existence of an intelligence activity that violates the law, rules or regulations, or otherwise amounts to mismanagement, waste, abuse, or a danger to public safety. But a conversation between two foreign leaders is not itself an intelligence activity.

And while Mr. Trump may have discussed intelligence activities with the foreign leader, he enjoys broad power as president to declassify intelligence secrets, order the intelligence community to act and otherwise direct the conduct of foreign policy as he sees fit, legal experts said.
So there's something there, but it's unclear what it might be.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 1:44 PM on September 19 [3 favorites]


At what threshold does the GOP in the Senate say, "yep, he needs to be pulled out?" ...Why are they allowing this to continue?

My bet is the threshold will be an "immunity from prosecution for light treasons committed" deal with the dems.
posted by srboisvert at 1:46 PM on September 19 [6 favorites]


Proposed Onion headline:

"Republicans Agree to Impeach Trump if Democrats Will Pretend He Never Existed."
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 1:53 PM on September 19 [18 favorites]


At what threshold does the GOP in the Senate say, "yep, he needs to be pulled out?" ...Why are they allowing this to continue?
My bet is the threshold will be an "immunity from prosecution for light treasons committed" deal with the dems.


1. As long as Moscow Mitch doesn't feel compelled to bring forth an impeachment trial, it won't happen, so the rest of the GOP Senators are in the clear there
2. Odds are really good that any threshold in the ballpark of immunity from prosecution for light treasons would probably implicate the VP in some fashion as well.
3. Since there's a snowball's chance in hell that the House would confirm a new VP to Trump or Pence's liking, one way or the other that position would be left empty
4. When you add the preceding up, it's putting the train to President Pelosi on the rails, and the GOP would rather give Putin a cabana in the Rose Garden than let that happen.
posted by splen at 1:56 PM on September 19 [12 favorites]


if the entire executive branch, including supposedly independent bodies like the IG, are required to follow DOJ's legal interpretations, and DOJ is stacked with sycophants who will do anything to protect the President, the entire executive branch is turned into a tool to protect the President

And more dire—the DOJ’s independence from the President is a cultural tradition, not a constitutional or legal right.
posted by sallybrown at 1:57 PM on September 19 [4 favorites]


Someone needs to ask Bolton bluntly if his departure was due to seeing the Thing. If it got Bolton to give up on his Bomb Iran ambitions, it's a horseman of the apocalypse.
posted by Slackermagee at 1:57 PM on September 19 [21 favorites]


As far as I can see, the only way this gets resolved is if the whistleblower comes forward publicly despite the legal consequences, or Schiff/someone else relays their claims on the floor of Congress.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 1:58 PM on September 19 [5 favorites]


if the entire executive branch, including supposedly independent bodies like the IG, are required to follow DOJ's legal interpretations, and DOJ is stacked with sycophants who will do anything to protect the President, the entire executive branch is turned into a tool to protect the President

Indeed. And it doesn't have to end with the president. I seem to recall chatting with a friend around the time of Kellyanne Conway's flagrant Hatch Act violations and realizing that there's a whole bunch of rules and regulations that apply to the Executive Branch but are still ultimately enforced by the Executive Branch itself. I think we realized that if the Executive Branch or, more specifically, the DoJ simply decided not to enforce these regulations, then there doesn't really seem to be any recourse. I'm not even sure if a fully hostile congress would be able to realistically enforce any sanctions.
posted by mhum at 2:44 PM on September 19 [7 favorites]


As far as I can see, the only way this gets resolved is if the whistleblower comes forward publicly despite the legal consequences,

Keep in mind that Trump knows the identity of the whistleblower through his DOJ fixer Barr. The instant the whistleblower leaks any information you can be sure they will be charged and jailed. This threatens the welfare of the whistleblower and their family. Everyone, including the whistleblower, knows that Barr will stop at nothing to protect his client.
posted by JackFlash at 2:51 PM on September 19 [12 favorites]


The Final Lesson Donald Trump Never Learned From Roy Cohn (Politico)
The unrepentant political hitman who taught a younger Trump how to flout the rules didn’t get away with it forever.
Now, less than 14 months out from next year’s election, with Trump facing historic legal and political peril, it’s getting harder and harder not to wonder what he might or might not have gleaned from watching Cohn’s wretched unraveling. Trump is beset by 29 federal, state, local and congressional investigations. Poll after poll shows he’s broadly disliked. He could win reelection, obviously, but it’s true, too, that he’s an unusually endangered incumbent.

Trump, to be sure, is not weakened by physical sickness, and he has not been pursued by prosecutors and other committed antagonists for nearly as long as Cohn was. And as powerful as Cohn was perceived to be at his peak, he was never, it almost goes without saying, the most powerful man in the world. Even so, the question looms: Will Cohn’s most accomplished and attentive mentee ultimately suffer a similar fate?
posted by katra at 2:56 PM on September 19 [6 favorites]


What is the punishment [f]or treason

I hear that gold is an excellent electrical conductor.
posted by acb at 3:35 PM on September 19 [2 favorites]


At what threshold does the GOP in the Senate say, "yep, he needs to be pulled out?" ...Why are they allowing this to continue?

As far as I can tell, that threshold doesn't exist. Any senate with the slightest bit of conscience would have pulled the plug on Trump two years ago but now here we are in late 2019 and Trump has done a hundred-plus things that would get any normal president impeached and/or removed with the 25th amendment and the senate goes on pretending that everything is normal.
posted by octothorpe at 3:40 PM on September 19 [29 favorites]


Which is to say the Senate controlled by Moscow Mitch and Republicans. Not that all Democratic Senators are wonderful but fair is fair.
posted by Bella Donna at 3:55 PM on September 19 [9 favorites]


The problem is that Never Trump Republicans bold enough to do anything think #resistance means delivering one speech and not running for reelection. And the rest just think impeaching Trump means damaging the gop for decades. A corrupt rubber stamp president is less of a liability if they normalize the corruption rather than declare that the dude 90% of their base approves of is a criminal against the nation.

Trump doesn't care about the GOP but the GOP needs Trump after what he's done to their base's expectations. They have no leverage.
posted by ikea_femme at 4:05 PM on September 19 [5 favorites]


and the senate goes on pretending that everything is normal.

I get that but it starts with the House, balls rolling, keep pushing. Country won't survive his re-election, do it before or during election season. Set aside the " not good for the country/ economy" bullshit and do it.
posted by clavdivs at 4:21 PM on September 19 [8 favorites]


I'm no Constitutional scholar like Goldsmith is, but if your argument is that the Constitution says that it's ok for the President to be a literal Manchurian Candidate, and if someone in the government wants to report that to Congress, it's ok for the President to threaten that person with criminal prosecution, I think you've utterly lost the plot.

Further to his argument, Jack Goldsmith opines: "I think the remedies are political and personally risky. If the IG or the USG employee believes the president has engaged in an act of national treachery, they can leak the information, which is a crime, and suffer the consequences."

Lawfare's Susan Hennessey brings this hyperbole back down to earth, "I think it’s important to note that it would almost certainly not be a crime for either the IG or the whistleblower to communicate the substance of the complaint to a gang of eight member in a secured space. They wouldn’t be prosecuted, they’d just be fired."

Part of Team Trump's stonewalling strategy has consistently been to threaten maximum consequences for breaking the rules even as they break them themselves.
posted by Doktor Zed at 4:27 PM on September 19 [18 favorites]


They have all the leverage, they just have no spines. Recent history has amply demonstrated that Republican voters will vote for ANYBODY with an R after their name. What's the racist base going to do, vote blue? A coordinated heel-turn, including Fox News, Congressional Republicans leaders, and various administration officials all announcing how shocked, shocked they are to discover there was treason going on, would absolutely devastate Trump with the base. He'd dry up and blow away so fast it'll make your head spin.

I still kind of suspect they're planning something like this before 2020 if it becomes clear Trump can't win reelection. "Don't worry, everybody, the Party of Decency and Personal Responsibility is back, and we've saved the country by impeaching Trump. Can you believe he was guilty of all that stuff? Wonder why the lamestream media didn't do a better job of exposing him...anyway, it's all better now. Remember to vote for Pastor-President Mike Pence, first of his name, savior of the Constitution!"
posted by The Tensor at 4:30 PM on September 19 [10 favorites]


Wasn't the reason we were supposed to be anxious about "her emails" that we didn't want classified information going into the wrong hands or secret influence from foreign powers? Because I mean I just [sputters, dies]
posted by DirtyOldTown at 4:30 PM on September 19 [22 favorites]


I've had to call the USG ethics hotline and the Army IG over a wee bit of contractor fraud. It is scary. This guy is already a hero in my book. I'm dumbfounded that the ICIG himself won't get the report to Congress.

Russia, if you're listening, we could use that report🙄
posted by j_curiouser at 5:03 PM on September 19 [20 favorites]


This is obviously defeatist and sad of me, but it feels like nothing is going to happen with this because laws and precedence don't apply to those in power. Obviously, if one screw became undone then a cavalcade of lawsuits might start flying out of congress or a myriad of other places, but right now the minority in power seem absolutely bulletproof. Trump wasn't kidding when he said he could shoot someone dead in the street and nothing would change.

The sickening thing is that it feels like the whistleblower stuck their neck out and might lose everything for a collective shrug from the corrupt power structure.
posted by Philipschall at 5:06 PM on September 19 [13 favorites]


Two people have told the New York Times that this involves Ukraine, possibly in some sort of scheme to get the new Ukrainian president to dig up dirt on Joe Biden's son Hunter (who definitely was involved in some dubious stuff over there) in preparation for the 2020 election. Not exactly where I figured this was going.
posted by Copronymus at 5:19 PM on September 19 [10 favorites]


This just in from WaPo, "Whistleblower complaint about President Trump involves Ukraine, according to two people familiar with the matter":
Two and a half weeks before the complaint was filed, Trump spoke with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, a comedian and political newcomer who was elected in a landslide in May.

That call is already under investigation by House Democrats who are examining whether Trump and his attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani sought to manipulate the Ukrainian government into helping Trump’s reelection campaign. Lawmakers have demanded a full transcript and a list of participants on the call.
Huh. Didn't we kind of already know that this was going on? Or is it that we only knew that Giuliani was in contact with Ukraine and not necessarily that Trump himself was on the line, promising God knows what in exchange for election help.
posted by mhum at 5:20 PM on September 19 [5 favorites]


The WaPo confirms: Whistleblower complaint about President Trump involves Ukraine, according to two people familiar with the matter
A whistleblower complaint about President Trump made by an intelligence official centers on Ukraine, according to two people familiar with the matter, which has set off a struggle between Congress and the executive branch.

The complaint involved communications with a foreign leader and a “promise” that Trump made, which was so alarming that a U.S. intelligence official who had worked at the White House went to the inspector general of the intelligence community, two former U.S. officials said.

Two and a half weeks before the complaint was filed, Trump spoke with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, a comedian and political newcomer who was elected in a landslide in May.

That call is already under investigation by House Democrats who are examining whether Trump and his attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani sought to manipulate the Ukrainian government into helping Trump’s reelection campaign. Lawmakers have demanded a full transcript and a list of participants on the call.
posted by Doktor Zed at 5:20 PM on September 19 [7 favorites]


From the NYT Editorial Board:
Three House committees are investigating whether Mr. Trump tried to get the Ukrainian government to investigate business dealings of the son of the former vice president and current presidential candidate Joseph Biden. They have asked for a transcript of a July 25 phone call between Mr. Trump and President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine.
posted by katra at 5:24 PM on September 19 [5 favorites]


So Trump is/was extorting Ukraine by withholding aid against Russian military involvement in return for political help against Biden? Or as Nancy Pelosi will call it "not impeachable."
posted by Justinian at 5:28 PM on September 19 [47 favorites]


Yeah that seems like a total Trump move, some shitty little criminal act of turning aid money into a quid pro quo. I'd be surprised if that's the first time he's done stuff like this, losing some important paperwork in the bureaucracy until some country scratches his back seems like exactly his wheelhouse. Is distribution of foreign aid a State Department thing, with good old loyal Pompeo?
posted by jason_steakums at 5:36 PM on September 19 [3 favorites]


The NYT Editorial Board also has a bit of a head fake with the link at the end of that piece ("In other words, the system isn’t designed to deal with a situation in which a hazard may come from the president himself"), because it leads to the oddly-titled The FBI can’t neutralize a security threat if the president is the threat (Asha Rangappa, WaPo Perspective), which includes a description of the neutralization option that currently appears to be underway:
[...] the possibility that the president is compromised by a foreign power is the ultimate national security threat: The awesome powers of the presidency, which include almost unfettered discretion in foreign affairs and intelligence operations, leave open the potential for him to use those powers to advance the interests of a foreign adversary over those of the United States.

This leaves only one option for neutralization: exposure.
Perhaps the intelligence community is also tired of waiting for Congress to do something about the dangers presented by the Trump administration.
posted by katra at 5:36 PM on September 19 [17 favorites]


This stuff is just going to keep happening with zero accountability. I remember people in the mega threads getting popcorn ready for Trump to be frog marched out of the oval. Our democracy wasn't built to deal with the stress test that Trump is. It's distressing but it's the new normal. The politicians won't save us. Our institutions won't save us.

I keep waiting for general strikes and protestors in the streets but it ain't happening. Not with a new iPhone to buy and all the pumping, dumping and profit taking in the markets. We're on our own.
posted by photoslob at 6:07 PM on September 19 [5 favorites]


This leaves only one option for neutralization: exposure.

Trump insulted a man at his Manchester rally for having a 'weight problem.' He was actually a Trump supporter
Fox News identified Dawson as the person Trump insulted after the rally. Dawson, in an interview, appeared not to mind Trump's criticism and defended the president.

"Everything's good. I love the guy. He's the best thing that's ever happened to this country," Dawson told Fox.
Yeah. These people are going to turn on Dear Leader any day now. They've been turned into cultists. Trump could go full Greg Stillson, using a baby as a shield, and they'd still say the baby was a dick and had it coming.
posted by Your Childhood Pet Rock at 6:08 PM on September 19 [19 favorites]


Yeah that seems like a total Trump move, some shitty little criminal act of turning aid money into a quid pro quo.

It would be very Trump to threaten to withhold aid money he had no intention of giving regardless.
posted by sallybrown at 6:12 PM on September 19 [8 favorites]


I've always kind of wondered about the constitutionality of the president having ultimate discretion over intelligence. The president is commander in chief of the military, sure, and military intelligence would fall under the president's purview, but stuff like Homeland Security and the CIA exist by congressional statute, and could theoretically be made to report directly to Congress or jointly to Congress and the president, and it would just be the president's constitutional duty to suck it up and faithfully execute that. Interestingly, the Attorney General just straight up answered to Congress for a while in the beginning. So while there are legal issues for sure with all of this mess, it seems like ceding an awful lot of power to the president to say that they're constitutionally god of all intel and top cop.
posted by jason_steakums at 6:20 PM on September 19 [2 favorites]


Excellent Twitter thread from lawyer Ryan Goodman finding all the little hints dropped in the past few weeks about this, including a very pointed question from AP reporter Jill Colvin and an odd reply from Pence.
posted by sallybrown at 6:20 PM on September 19 [15 favorites]


Are people really expecting that a president who escaped accountability for striking a bargain for Russian help to undermine his opponent and help get him elected might be undone for striking a bargain for Ukrainian help to undermine an opponent and help him get elected?
posted by DirtyOldTown at 6:20 PM on September 19 [11 favorites]


Just because something is not going to forcibly eject this piece of doodoo from office doesn’t mean it’s not worth reporting and remarking on.
posted by sallybrown at 6:23 PM on September 19 [17 favorites]


Did anyone say it wasn't? Anyone? One person?
posted by DirtyOldTown at 6:25 PM on September 19


Yep, the outline and some of the details are now clear. Trump extorted Ukraine to provide dirt (the truth of which was not important) on Biden, likely to do with the firing of a Ukrainian prosecutor. The stick was withholding many millions of dollars of aid against Russian aggression. Provide dirt? Get the cash. Don't play ball? Das vidaniya, comrade.
posted by Justinian at 6:28 PM on September 19 [3 favorites]


I keep waiting for general strikes and protestors in the streets but it ain't happening.

I get why people say this, but also, there is a worldwide climate strike tomorrow which has been led by children and teenagers. People are in the streets and have been in the streets. It needs to get bigger and more strategic to be effective but folks have been finding ways to call for change and act for change since November of 2016 and many before that as well. It may not be enough but we are trying.
posted by Emmy Rae at 6:29 PM on September 19 [41 favorites]


Giuliani just did an utterly batshit interview on CNN. The President's lawyer is just screaming nonsense on live TV and doing his best Nathan R. Jessup impression. This clip has a sample of it: "you want to cover some ridiculous charge that I urged the Ukrainian government to investigate corruption. Well I did. And I’m proud of it." And here's a clip of him denying that he asked Ukraine to investigate Biden followed immediately by him saying that he did exactly that thing.

Also, here's a fun new fact that would seem to implicate Pence in all this. @anitakumar01: .@VP spoke by phone yesterday with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyyz. Trump plans to meet him next week
posted by zachlipton at 6:35 PM on September 19 [16 favorites]


[Folks, let's try and keep this more toward discussing the concrete stuff there is to discuss and away from just getting into speculation and catastrophizing.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 6:36 PM on September 19 [11 favorites]


Are people really expecting that a president who escaped accountability for striking a bargain for Russian help to undermine his opponent and help get him elected might be undone for striking a bargain for Ukrainian help to undermine an opponent and help him get elected?

It's possible that getting caught literally making the bargain on a monitored call makes it an inexact parallel.
posted by diogenes at 6:37 PM on September 19 [6 favorites]


Well we already have him caught on an iPhone voice recording discussing whether it was better to make the hush money payment by cash or check and it’s the guy who owned the iPhone who is currently in jail for breaking campaign finance law.
posted by notyou at 6:49 PM on September 19 [20 favorites]


Yeah, it's true, when a tipping point occurs, the events prior to the tipping point weren't the tipping point.

(I'm not saying this is definitely the tipping point, but it's the best candidate we've had in a while.)
posted by diogenes at 6:54 PM on September 19 [10 favorites]


jason_steakums I'd be surprised if that's the first time he's done stuff like this, losing some important paperwork in the bureaucracy until some country scratches his back seems like exactly his wheelhouse.

It's worth noting that in the relatively non-corrupt USA we imagine bribery as paying someone to do something they aren't supposed to do. Slipping the maitre d some cash to get a table someone else reserved, or paying off a cop to escape a ticket, and so on.

But what people who have experienced more corrupt circumstances can tell you is that most bribery involves paying someone to do what they're supposed to do anyway. To sign a routine and perfectly legal form, or collect the trash, or pave a road.

Trump refusing to let normal business proceed unless he gets his cut is entirely in line with most forms of bribery.
posted by sotonohito at 7:26 PM on September 19 [54 favorites]


The President's lawyer is just screaming nonsense on live TV and doing his best Nathan R. Jessup impression.

"You're goddamn right I traded arms for dirt on Biden!"
posted by JackFlash at 7:44 PM on September 19 [5 favorites]


Trump administration reinstates military aid for Ukraine: “Republican and Democratic members of the Senate Appropriations Committee said the White House released the money on Wednesday night, hours before the panel was due to debate an amendment to a defense spending bill that would have prevented Trump from such actions in the future.”
posted by sallybrown at 7:50 PM on September 19 [7 favorites]


Giuliani on CNN: "You don't cover corruption by Democrats as much as you cover corruption... [INCREDIBLY AWKWARD PAUSE] corruption by Republicans."
posted by Rhaomi at 7:54 PM on September 19 [39 favorites]


Are people really expecting that a president who escaped accountability for striking a bargain for Russian help to undermine his opponent and help get him elected might be undone for striking a bargain for Ukrainian help to undermine an opponent and help him get elected?

Is there a tape? Then maybe.
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 8:15 PM on September 19 [1 favorite]


The tape, plus polling numbers, plus a backward glance at whatever McConnell might've already gotten out of him compared to what he still expects to gain, plus repeated offenses.

It's vaguely possible that on some level McConnell and other Republicans in Congress don't want to blow up the whole world just to keep this dipshit happy. It's possible they got through the Mueller report and had some sort of backroom conversation along the lines of "Don't do this shit again," and sure enough he's doing it again and it's even sloppier this time.

All that said, I'm not holding my breath. We have only seen the barest examples of the GOP trying to curtail Trump, and even then when Trump blows them off they just shrug and get back to tearing the government apart. They will ignore any whisper of a crime, and then when presented with evidence they will say it's not a big deal.

And any minute now Trump is going to say the Democrats only care about him extorting another country under threat by Russia is because they want to protect Joe Biden.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 8:24 PM on September 19 [6 favorites]


The Senate Republicans don't want to touch Trump because it'll mean a primary shitfight which means spending ridiculous amounts of money to stop themselves from possibly being the next Sanford. Then, if they're in anything but an R+10 state, they have to spend more of that depleted money on the general shitfight which is going to be a referendum on Dear Leader.
posted by Your Childhood Pet Rock at 8:39 PM on September 19 [1 favorite]


Exchange the deep.spy for Snowden. Just a guess.
posted by Oyéah at 8:57 PM on September 19


That Giuliani interview is bananas.
posted by Sterros at 9:08 PM on September 19 [5 favorites]


It's possible they got through the Mueller report and had some sort of backroom conversation along the lines of "Don't do this shit again,"

Nah. McConnell & co. probably told themselves "He knows how close he came to disaster, this whole affair has been really stressful for him. He must know he can't do it again. We don't need to tell him."

Meanwhile, Trump's just thinking "I was right! I won! I'm the greatest!"
posted by ryanrs at 9:47 PM on September 19 [5 favorites]


It's vaguely possible that on some level McConnell and other Republicans in Congress don't want to blow up the whole world just to keep this dipshit happy.

It's really not. Every single last Republican has happily accepted the reality that the US is now a de facto Russian client state because they intend to use Russian cyber warfare against the US as part of their ongoing strategy to maintain power as an absolute minority party in perpetuity. There is literally no treason, up to and including handing direct control of the US nuclear arsenal to Putin, that would cause them to go against Trump.

The entire party is traitorous to a person.
posted by T.D. Strange at 9:48 PM on September 19 [61 favorites]


The key word in my conjecture is "vaguely." I'm inclined to believe your position is more likely, given that it has the benefit of evidence.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 10:34 PM on September 19 [1 favorite]


There's a Lawfare related podcast called Rational Security that has some interesting things to say about why this situation puts the entire security apparatus in peril, since people really aren't going to take "Oh just trust us" if they are busy blatantly propping up the president instead of protecting the country.
posted by Rufous-headed Towhee heehee at 11:28 PM on September 19


As long as Trump keeps nominating extremely right-wing judges that they can ram through confirmation, McConnell and the Senate GOP don’t care what else he does. Although Susan Collins might be somewhat troubled for about five minutes.
posted by SisterHavana at 11:29 PM on September 19 [12 favorites]


Yeah. These people are going to turn on Dear Leader any day now. They've been turned into cultists. Trump could go full Greg Stillson, using a baby as a shield, and they'd still say the baby was a dick and had it coming.

Baby was George Soros plant $1.5B payoff but you always go after Stillson
posted by benzenedream at 11:40 PM on September 19 [2 favorites]


That Giuliani interview...
I could only cope with about 8 minutes of it, but everyone who hasn't clicked the link should do it. I think he suffers from some type of Stockholm syndrome. He needs help.
posted by mumimor at 12:52 AM on September 20 [3 favorites]


I could only cope with about 8 minutes of it, but everyone who hasn't clicked the link should do it.

Where is the "I clicked so you don't have to" part?
posted by thelonius at 1:14 AM on September 20 [2 favorites]


You have to see it, it can't be described
posted by mumimor at 1:42 AM on September 20 [3 favorites]


That Giuliani interview. Impossible to watch all the way through. Did Chris Cuomo get around to asking: The Republicans control the Senate. Why haven't they gotten around to these accusations? Or are they part of the cover-up? Would you be willing to testify under oath to what you just said? The president has had key communications in this matter? Will he testify under oath?
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 4:23 AM on September 20 [2 favorites]


So this isn't the first time that the playbook of "Giuliani goes on TV and goes a batshit interview in which he admits to the crimes that are being committed" has been run. This was successful the last few times. Folks seem to think this was an accident. I don't think that's true. The Trump era has just ratcheted up the content present in a Modified Limited Hangout and contracted batshit Giuliani to be the mouthpiece. It worked before - why won't it work now?
posted by lazaruslong at 6:07 AM on September 20 [20 favorites]


Giuliani's a heater. Suck out all the oxygen in the room so by the time Trump gets around to admitting it the scandal is just smoldering.
posted by Your Childhood Pet Rock at 6:39 AM on September 20 [10 favorites]


It worked before - why won't it work now?

Because past performance is not indicative of future results. I think that's as true in politics as it is in mutual fund investing.

(Just because nothing has mattered for years, that doesn't automatically mean that nothing matters ever again. Sure, it's a reasonable assumption, but we don't know it with any certainty. And since it's all a guess, why not assume that maybe something will matter? I don't know if hope and action will stem the tide, but I do know that despair and resignation won't.)
posted by diogenes at 6:49 AM on September 20 [13 favorites]


I don't mean to suggest that Giuliani's a victim here, but that interview for some reason reminded me of that puppet episode in Angel wherein they go to investigate the evil puppets and the evil puppets made some dead dude talk by sticking their puppet hands into his dead body and animate him. It's like something has got its hands in Rudy, making him talk.

Mostly I'm just puzzled by how healthy Rudy looks in the middle of sounding completely insane. It's like evil is thrumming through his veins, animating him. Isn't he also going through a crazy divorce?
posted by angrycat at 6:52 AM on September 20 [8 favorites]


Isn't he also going through a crazy divorce?

Always.
posted by srboisvert at 7:22 AM on September 20 [25 favorites]


To be "fair" to Giuliani, I think he was trying to split hairs between investigating Joe Biden and investigating Joe's son, Hunter. He was unsuccessful.
posted by SPrintF at 7:36 AM on September 20


Where is Joe Biden's reaction? Is it better for him to be silent? Perhaps he's napping?
posted by Glinn at 7:39 AM on September 20 [1 favorite]


It's awful all the way down, threatens our security and the validity of our democracy, and puts us yet again into a Constitutional crisis. That said, if Biden's campaign gets derailed as a result (without the American public either believing the smear campaign or concluding that Democrats are equally corrupt, which are both big "ifs"), I won't be unhappy.
posted by carmicha at 7:49 AM on September 20 [4 favorites]


Biden's interest is to say nothing. Impeachment undercuts the sole rationale for his campaign that he's the only one that can beat Trump. He has no argument for running against Mike Pence.
posted by T.D. Strange at 7:57 AM on September 20 [5 favorites]


After two years of Guliani verbal chaff and no-you-did-it-first these shows still book him to discuss actual high crimes of import to the Republic. At this point Cuomo et Al. are culpable paticipants in the Kabuki.
posted by benzenedream at 7:58 AM on September 20 [9 favorites]


Op-ed: The Whistleblower Story Looks Horrendous, But It’s More Likely to Help Trump Than End His Presidency (John Ziegler, Mediaite)
We no longer live in a country where facts or truth matter at all. Under this scenario, I can easily see some Democratic voters simply perceiving that Trump and Biden are connected in some sort of scandal and, mostly because they just get tired of hearing about it, and fear that this could harm him in the general election, they slowly move on to some other “safer” candidate.

It would then be POSSIBLE that, in the ultimate maddening injustice, Trump could actually get rid of Biden, by far his toughest general-election opponent, without having needed Ukraine’s direct help to do it and without ever even having to face him. The most likely scenario would then be he takes on Sen. Elizabeth Warren who would be a much easier matchup for him.

Obviously, this is mostly wild — and yes, pessimistic — speculation, and there is a ton more for us to learn about this story. But for now, please do not ever forget that, at least until further notice, nothing, and I mean nothing, really matters in Trump World, even when it absolutely should.
posted by ZeusHumms at 8:07 AM on September 20


Democrats Expect Trump to Turn Over Incriminating Whistleblower Material in Bipartisan Good Faith (LOL) (Ben Mathis-Lilley, Slate)
One explanation for this is that Maguire and the White House have genuine concerns that the complaint involves material that is protected, for national security and/or separation-of-powers reasons, by executive privilege. Another possibility is that the Trump administration has set a policy of ignoring—if not outright belittling—any congressional investigation that could expose its embarrassing or potentially criminal behavior.

The second explanation has the advantage, as an explanation, that it matches everything else that the administration has already done (or refused to do), without requiring anyone to believe that the White House is deciding how to deal with Congress on a case-by-case basis, using different reasons, yet by some wild improbable chance it always keeps reaching the same conclusion. Its disadvantage, as an explanation, is that it would mean that Congress is humiliatingly impotent to do anything about a president who chooses to ignore the law.

So leading congressional Democrats have chosen instead to act as if the first explanation is the likely one. […]
posted by ZeusHumms at 8:19 AM on September 20 [4 favorites]


We no longer live in a country where facts or truth matter at all.

Yeah, no. Maybe all the cool kids are trotting this out as the received wisdom now, but I say that any journalist who acquiesces to this poison should leave the profession.
posted by thelonius at 8:20 AM on September 20 [52 favorites]


Democrats Expect Trump to Turn Over Incriminating Whistleblower Material in Bipartisan Good Faith

I eagerly await Bill Barr's four-page summary.
posted by JackFlash at 8:37 AM on September 20 [7 favorites]


The Whistleblower Story Looks Horrendous, But It’s More Likely to Help Trump Than End His Presidency

Ugh, that op-ed reads like he collected hot-takes from random twitter users and strung them together. I might as well read the comments section on a YouTube video.
posted by diogenes at 8:48 AM on September 20 [24 favorites]


It would then be POSSIBLE that, in the ultimate maddening injustice, Trump could actually get rid of Biden, by far his toughest general-election opponent, without having needed Ukraine’s direct help to do it and without ever even having to face him. The most likely scenario would then be he takes on Sen. Elizabeth Warren who would be a much easier matchup for him.
When you see Biden dropping out as a disaster and a tragedy.
posted by Rust Moranis at 8:51 AM on September 20 [18 favorites]


Even if it were true, it would only help Trump if he can beat Warren but not Biden. Which, yeah, polls right now. But does nobody remember John Kerry? FFS.
posted by rikschell at 8:52 AM on September 20 [2 favorites]


Trump doesn't deny asking world leader about Biden, says conversations are 'always appropriate' (Politico)
President Donald Trump on Friday did not deny that he discussed former Vice President Joe Biden with a foreign leader during a conversation that is reportedly the subject of a whistleblower complaint.

Instead, Trump claimed the allegations against him were lodged by a "partisan" intelligence official — despite acknowledging that he did not know the official's identity — and asserted that his exchanges with world leaders are "always appropriate."

He told reporters in the Oval Office that "it doesn't matter what I discussed" with the foreign leader but went on to say that "somebody ought to look into Joe Biden's statement" regarding Ukraine.

The remarks from the president are sure to escalate tensions between the White House and Democratic members of Congress seeking access to the complaint, which acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire has refused to turn over to lawmakers. [...]

Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani revealed Thursday evening that he had asked Ukrainian officials to investigate Biden, the front-runner in the Democratic presidential primary, telling CNN: “Of course I did.”
posted by katra at 9:18 AM on September 20 [2 favorites]


As long as Trump keeps nominating extremely right-wing judges that they can ram through confirmation, McConnell and the Senate GOP don’t care what else he does.

It's not just judges. In order for the Republicans in Congress or in general to stop backing Trump, he have to stop giving them what they've been asking for.

I get the feeling that people haven't been really paying attention to what Republicans have been saying for the last 25 years, or at least dismissing it as talking points. "Haha, they don't really mea that" drown in a bathtub" thing. Who could want that? " But as long as Trump:
Appoints" Constitutionalist" judges
Gives tax cuts
Dismantles hatred government agencies
Removes industry regulations
Disenfranchises LGBTQ people
Removes funding for Planned Parenthood
Protects "hero cops"
Fights immigration
Fights multiculturalism
Fights feminism
Bullies Europe


To them he's the "good guy", fighting back against everything they hated in the last three decades. And if a foreign power such as Russia helps him, then they are the good guys as well.

So yeah, Giuliani's meltdown, Trump's admission, are unlikely to change anything except harden positions. In fact, Trump is already turning it into an attack in Biden, and the Republicans will say "Well there you have it. He said his conversation was appropriate."

And that's going to be the same next year if Trump refuses to accept the election results.
posted by happyroach at 9:39 AM on September 20 [26 favorites]


I think you forgot: Denies climate change
posted by sour cream at 10:06 AM on September 20 [9 favorites]


Call their bluff. Have Nadler say he's investigating both sides, Biden and Trump. Use trial lawyers on the Democratic side of any questioning, no grandstanding. Just determine facts as truthfully as possible. If Biden has been abusing his power to meddle with an investigation involving his son he needs to be not-President just as much as Trump.

If someone is claiming partisanship, just start dragging out everyone's corpses. We don't want shitty people just because they have a D next to their name.
posted by Your Childhood Pet Rock at 10:13 AM on September 20 [34 favorites]


I think you forgot: Denies climate change

Trump to snub climate summit for religious freedom meeting at UN (Guardian)
A senior UN official confirmed to the Guardian that the White House has booked one of the large conference rooms in the New York headquarters on Monday so that the president can address a gathering on religious freedom.

The move is likely to be seen as a blatant snub to the UN climate summit, to be held in the same building on the same day. Leaders from around the world, including the UK prime minister, Boris Johnson; France’s president, Emmanuel Macron; and India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, are expected at the summit as part of a major UN push to heighten the response to the escalating climate crisis.

UN sources said the booking of the room was relatively last minute and will cause some logistical issues given the major security operation that accompanies the US president wherever he goes. But a senior UN official said they were “not panicked” given the large organizational capacity of the UN general assembly.

“No one was really expecting the president to come to the climate summit,” the official said. It’s understood that senior UN staff have realistic expectations of Trump and do not expect him to engage on the climate crisis, even for a summit held in his home town. Trump has vowed the US will withdraw from the landmark Paris climate agreement.

“He’ll clog up the whole system,” said Mary Robinson, former Irish president and ex-UN high commissioner for human rights. “He won’t go to the climate summit and he wants the distraction factor, I suppose.”
posted by katra at 10:26 AM on September 20 [6 favorites]


UN sources said the booking of the room was relatively last minute and will cause some logistical issues given the major security operation that accompanies the US president wherever he goes.
World leaders need to stop pretending that he's deserving of the theater and pageantry and, yes, the security. He uses it as a bludgeon. He and his people know that they're "caus[ing] some logistical issues". They love it. The UN needs to say "No, sorry, that just isn't possible."
posted by Etrigan at 10:36 AM on September 20 [13 favorites]


"religious freedom" is just codespeak for "Jesus says I have the right to be a bigot", anyway.
posted by Pseudonymous Cognomen at 10:55 AM on September 20 [20 favorites]


"religious freedom" is just codespeak for "Jesus says I have the right to be a bigot", anyway.

At the UN, it also means "I should be allowed to bomb Muslims", but somehow not so much "I should let more Christian refugees into my country."
posted by Etrigan at 10:57 AM on September 20 [12 favorites]


From the Guardian:
Laurence Tribe (@tribelaw)

The House Intell Cmtee chaired by @RepAdamSchiff could ask the DC district court to issue a writ of mandamus compelling Acting DNI Maguire to transmit the whistleblower’s urgent report to his Committee forthwith and issue a subpoena to get Maguire & the whistleblower to testify https://t.co/jKhpcBKpmY
September 20, 2019
Which links to:
BUT: The statute precludes judicial review only of “an action” taken by the DNI or the IG (§3033(k)(5)(F)), not of the DNI’s failure to take the ministerial and purely mechanical act required of him by §(k)(5)(C)(transmitting the report re a matter of “urgent concern”)

Laurence Tribe added, Verified account @tribelaw

The federal whistleblower law’s explicit preclusion of judicial review of actions by the DNI and the IG means that impeachment is the exclusive remedy for defiance of the law’s obligations. @SpeakerPelosi, are you listening?
posted by katra at 11:06 AM on September 20 [9 favorites]


@SpeakerPelosi, are you listening?

She is, and her answer is the same. Impeachment is off the table in all circumstances because white guys in Ohio diners.
posted by T.D. Strange at 11:13 AM on September 20 [22 favorites]


WaPo transcript of Rudy Giuliani’s remarkable Ukraine interview, annotated.

Asha Rangappa in the WaPo, The U.S. has no rules for when the president is a national security threat:
The president’s foreign affairs powers are certainly not absolute, and if the case ends up in court, invoking privilege on these grounds is not a slam dunk for the White House. But the judiciary does not have a precedent for determining the limits of presidential power when the occupant of the office may be using those powers in a way that creates a national security threat. And if Trump wins any litigation, that might mean that even the ultimate check on presidential abuse — impeachment — would be nearly impossible on national security grounds: Congress can’t bring articles of impeachment if it is prevented from obtaining the evidence that would form the basis for them.
posted by peeedro at 11:19 AM on September 20 [4 favorites]


She is, and her answer is the same. Impeachment is off the table in all circumstances because white guys in Ohio diners.

Look, she issued a very stern statement that does nothing to advance any sort of action by anyone, what more do you want? I mean, it's not as if he and his cronies are out here admitting he did it on live television and telling everybody in the media how awesome it is that they're getting away with it.
posted by zombieflanders at 11:27 AM on September 20 [22 favorites]


(NPR 20 minutes ago) - "Nancy Pelosi says she has not changed her mind on pursuing impeachment but she is ready to change the law to restrain presidential power and to make it clear that a sitting president can, in fact, be indicted."

"I do think that we will have to pass some laws that will have clarity for future presidents."
posted by diogenes at 11:58 AM on September 20 [7 favorites]


As far as I can see, the only way this gets resolved is if the whistleblower comes forward publicly despite the legal consequences,

The whistleblower presumably still has the details, and any documentation. This person went through the proper channels, hoping that the sytem would work. If the intelligence committee has a legal right to see the complaint, but Maguire won't share it, what is stopping the original whistleblower from sharing it with the committee?

If I was the whistleblower, and suspected my information was being suppressed, I'd be interested in making it public so as to gain some immunity via sunlight.
posted by TreeRooster at 11:59 AM on September 20 [3 favorites]


We don't want shitty people just because they have a D next to their name. Yeah did you notice the hand-wringing when Al Franken got that treatment?


"I do think that we will have to pass some laws that will have clarity for future presidents."
Great idea! I am sure the POTUS will sign all of those bills.
posted by 922257033c4a0f3cecdbd819a46d626999d1af4a at 12:17 PM on September 20 [10 favorites]


Nancy Pelosi says she has not changed her mind on pursuing impeachment but she is ready to change the law to restrain presidential power and to make it clear that a sitting president can, in fact, be indicted.

So she's not ready to impeach because she knows it won't get past a GOP Senate, but she's ready to change the law on impeachment even though she knows it won't get past a GOP Senate? 'Cause I've lost track at the number of dimensions of chess that we're all supposed to believe this strategy involves.
posted by zombieflanders at 12:19 PM on September 20 [34 favorites]


Nancy Pelosi says she has not changed her mind on pursuing impeachment but she is ready to change the law to restrain presidential power and to make it clear that a sitting president can, in fact, be indicted

...which, if by some miracle Mitch McConnell brings it to a vote in the Senate, Trump would veto faster than he live-tweets Fox News. Say what you will about Pelosi, but she knows full well that this proposal is going nowhere, and that means she knows she isn't actually taking any meaningful action. One wonders who she thinks she's fooling.

Speaking of, if NPR didn't point out that Trump is almost certainly likely to veto such a bill, they do a disservice to their listeners. Again.
posted by Gelatin at 12:22 PM on September 20 [6 favorites]


What's stopping the whistleblower is that they would be immediately arrested for sharing classified information illegally. That's why I said "despite the legal consequences."
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 12:22 PM on September 20 [3 favorites]


Trump denies Hillary Clinton claim he sought foreign help for 2020 election (Guardian)
Trump’s relationship with Ukraine has been the subject of growing scrutiny. In early September, an editorial column in the Washington Post asked: “Is Trump strong-arming Volodymyr Zelensky for political gain?”

The Post editorial board claimed “we’re reliably told” that the president “is attempting to force Mr Zelensky to intervene in the 2020 US presidential election by launching an investigation of the leading Democratic candidate, Joe Biden”. The leader column added: “Mr Trump is not just soliciting Ukraine’s help with his presidential campaign; he is using US military aid the country desperately needs in an attempt to extort it.”

The Democratic heads of three House committees recently announced an investigation into alleged efforts by Trump and his combative lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, to pressure the Ukrainian government for their own political ends, including by withholding US security assistance. They allege that Trump and Giuliani have pressured Kiev to prosecute Ukrainians who provided evidence against Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, and to provide damaging information about Biden’s son. Hunter Biden worked for a Ukrainian gas company beginning in 2014, while his father was vice-president. The Democrats have demanded a full transcript of the Trump-Zelensky call along with a list of participants.

The intrigue deepened on Thursday night when Giuliani was asked by the CNN host Chris Cuomo whether he had asked Ukraine to look into Biden. He initially said: “No, actually I didn’t,” but about 30 seconds later admitted: “Of course I did.” [...]

Zelensky has not spoken publicly about the 25 July call with Trump since it was revealed as a cause for the whistleblower complaint on Thursday. A representative for Zelensky could not immediately be reached for comment.

The Ukrainian president has eagerly sought a face-to-face meeting with Trump to discuss financial aid for the country and support in its ongoing conflict with Russia. Zelensky has met the vice-president, Mike Pence. [...]

The political pressure on Trump looks set to intensify. Ben Rhodes, former national security adviser to Barack Obama, wrote on Twitter: “If Trump was trying to abuse his power of the presidency to solicit foreign help for his campaign, it’s hard to imagine a more impeachable offense.”
posted by katra at 12:34 PM on September 20 [9 favorites]


Speaking of, if NPR didn't point out that Trump is almost certainly likely to veto such a bill, they do a disservice to their listeners. Again.

fwiw, Pelosi also said that there is no actual need for a law:
There is nothing anyplace that says the president should not be indicted," Pelosi told All Things Considered host Ari Shapiro and NPR congressional correspondent Susan Davis on Friday. "That's something cooked up by the president's lawyers. That's what that is. But so that people will feel 'OK, well, if he — if he does something wrong, [he] should be able to be indicted.'"
posted by katra at 12:40 PM on September 20 [7 favorites]


It would then be POSSIBLE that, in the ultimate maddening injustice, Trump could actually get rid of Biden, by far his toughest general-election opponent, without having needed Ukraine’s direct help to do it and without ever even having to face him. The most likely scenario would then be he takes on Sen. Elizabeth Warren who would be a much easier matchup for him.

Nahh
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 12:42 PM on September 20 [1 favorite]


fwiw, Pelosi also said that there is no actual need for a law

The sentences literally right before your excerpt:
"I do think that we will have to pass some laws that will have clarity for future presidents. [A] president should be indicted, if he's committed a wrongdoing — any president.
posted by zombieflanders at 12:46 PM on September 20


WSJ’s Dustin Voltz has a scoop: “NEW: Trump in a July phone call repeatedly pressured the president of Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden's son, urging Volodymyr Zelensky about EIGHT TIMES to work with Rudy Giuliani on a probe, people familiar with the matter say https://www.wsj.com/articles/trump-defends-conversation-with-ukraine-leader-11568993176
posted by Doktor Zed at 12:50 PM on September 20 [15 favorites]


Trump Lawyers Argue He Cannot Be Criminally Investigated (NYT)
Taking a broad position that the lawyers acknowledged had not been tested, the president’s legal team argued in the complaint that the Constitution effectively makes sitting presidents immune from all criminal inquiries until they leave the White House.

The president “cannot be subject to criminal process, for conduct of any kind, while he is serving as president,” the lawyers wrote in the complaint, filed in Manhattan federal court.

While it is unclear how a judge will view the argument, the case is likely to delay the latest attempt to secure Mr. Trump’s financial records. [...]

It is an open question whether sitting presidents are immune from prosecution while in office. The Constitution does not explicitly address the issue, and the Supreme Court has never answered the question.

Federal prosecutors are barred from charging a sitting president with a federal crime, because the Justice Department — in memos written during the Nixon and Clinton administrations — has interpreted the Constitution to implicitly grant presidents temporary immunity while they are in office. Those memos, however, do not bind the hands of state prosecutors.
posted by katra at 12:58 PM on September 20 [7 favorites]


WSJ’s Rebecca Ballhaus has further scoops on Giuliani’s back-channel exploits over the summer: “MORE: Rudy Giuliani met in Paris in June with an official from the Ukrainian prosecutor general’s office. He also met in August with a top aide to Zelensky in Madrid.
https://www.wsj.com/articles/trump-defends-conversation-with-ukraine-leader-11568993176
posted by Doktor Zed at 1:00 PM on September 20 [2 favorites]


Pelosi has one shot and she knows McConnell is going to block it. So her job is to make aiming that shot take as long, garner as much attention, and do as much damage as possible.

But no, go ahead, be mad at her for not wasting her shot.
posted by The Tensor at 1:01 PM on September 20 [13 favorites]


The WSJ article takes pains to point out that one of their sources says they "didn’t believe Mr. Trump offered the Ukrainian president any quid-pro-quo for his cooperation on an investigation," but as Michael Cohen pointed out, Trump doesn't need to offer explicit quids pro quo; everyone just knows it's implied with Trump. The White House was "reviewing" foreign aid to Ukraine soon after this took place, which sure does more than implies the connection.

But there's another detail in the story (emphasis added):
In recent months, Mr. Giuliani has mounted an extensive effort to pressure Ukraine to do so. He told The Wall Street Journal he met with an official from the Ukrainian prosecutor general’s office in June in Paris, and met with Andriy Yermak, a top aide to Mr. Zelensky in Madrid in August. Mr. Giuliani told the Journal earlier this month that Mr. Yermak assured him the Ukrainian government would “get to the bottom” of the Biden matter.

The August meeting came weeks before the Trump administration began reviewing the status of $250 million in foreign aid to Ukraine, which the administration released earlier this month. Mr. Giuliani said he wasn’t aware of the issue with the funds to Ukraine at the time of the meeting.

He said his meeting with Mr. Yermak was set up by the State Department, and said he briefed the department on their conversation later. The State Department had no immediate comment.
That rolls off the tongue so nicely that you have to take a step back and look at it, but why, exactly, was the meeting set up by the State Department? What government purpose is there in setting up a meeting between the President's personal lawyer and a foreign official? There's no possible reason the State Department should be doing this, and I'd be curious to know if anyone is going to investigate whether there are Hatch Act violations in government officials setting up a meeting for partisan political purposes.
posted by zachlipton at 1:02 PM on September 20 [36 favorites]


Trump Lawyers Argue He Cannot Be Criminally Investigated (NYT)

Uh-huh. Where were these schmoes and their theory during Whitewater? Trying to shield Trump from investigation is obviously part of a cover-up and tantamount to admission of wrongdoing.
posted by Gelatin at 1:04 PM on September 20 [8 favorites]


Pelosi has one shot and she knows McConnell is going to block it.

When the Constitution says "The House of Representatives ... shall have the sole Power of Impeachment.", the word "sole" doesn't mean they only get one shot at it. She could have impeached him eight months ago, as the first thing she did with the gavel, on any of a dozen different charges, and then again once the Senate blocked that, and then again, and then again, etc. etc. etc.

The main political lesson of the 20th Century was "It's not the crime, it's the coverup." The main political lesson of the 21st Century (thanks to the rise of the Tea Party) is that your own side gets fired up when you do big things, even if they fail. Pelosi is a 20th Century politician trying to win in the 21st Century.
posted by Etrigan at 1:09 PM on September 20 [37 favorites]


The whistleblower presumably still has the details, and any documentation. This person went through the proper channels, hoping that the sytem would work. If the intelligence committee has a legal right to see the complaint, but Maguire won't share it, what is stopping the original whistleblower from sharing it with the committee?

The whisleblower has currently done everything by the book. This is to protect their own job and legal status. They're protected under the whisleblower laws and are given immunity from prosecution for leaking. If they actually leak outside of channels that would hurt them personally in a career and legal sense. Schiff has offered a similar immunity to the whisleblower if they do in fact decide to come forward directly to his committee, but that's not as sure a thing as the existing whistleblower protection laws.
posted by odinsdream at 1:11 PM on September 20 [5 favorites]


One presumes the whistleblower is also, and I think justifiably, nervous that if they go public in a way that can be deemed illegal they will, at absolute best, be subjected to psychological torture as Chelsea Manning was, and may well find themselves killed in very bad ways by the CIA or possibly Trump's friends the Saudis.

If I was them I'd be worried about that no matter how theoretically legal their whistleblowing is, but the instant they step outside the bounds of law they have to assume that their odds of dying horribly go up tremendously. At the very least they know that in the past the US government has used extended solitary confinement to psychologically torture other whistleblowers.
posted by sotonohito at 1:31 PM on September 20 [6 favorites]


[Let's let the Pelosi five minutes' hate end here, please. It's not new and it's not constructive. ]
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 1:37 PM on September 20 [24 favorites]


Lauren Rosen juxtaposes a pair of dates in the Trump whistleblower timeline that now seems so very significant in hindsight:
wow.
was thinking about the date of Trump call w Zelensky,
July 25.
wondering when Mueller testimony was:
July 24.
Trump felt liberated
posted by Doktor Zed at 1:37 PM on September 20 [20 favorites]


Rep. Jared Huffman: "Colleagues in Congress: if this isn't impeachable abuse of power, what is? I'm sick of the parsing, dithering & political overcalculating. We are verging on tragic fecklessness. Time to do our job!"
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 1:37 PM on September 20 [41 favorites]


The main political lesson of the 21st Century (thanks to the rise of the Tea Party) is that your own side gets fired up when you do big things, even if they fail.

A lesson the Democrats were blind to over the ACA, much to their cost, running away from a signature accomplishment because the right wing media (the NYT, NPR, etc) spread scurrilous Republican lies about the program and Fox was even worse. The ACA is now popular in spite of Democratic fecklessness, as Americans have recognized the benefits it brings, and as a result Republicans have (so far) failed to kill it.

(An outcome that, astonishingly, Bill Kristol correctly predicted back when he wrote an infamous memo advising lockstep Republican opposition -- to Bill Clinton's health care reform plan.)
posted by Gelatin at 1:42 PM on September 20 [14 favorites]


FakeFreyja I think it's another surely this moment. We might get some voter enthusiasm out of it if the Democrats play things properly, we might pick up some non-voters who decide to vote due to the scope of the scandal.

I don't think it'll bring Trump down, or cost him any Republican support. The Republicans already know he's taking foreign help and they seem to think that's totally fine. I think that's a large part of why Giuliani is out there doing what he's doing. We see it as a blunder to admit to crimes, but I think there is a strategy here, and I think we see it in his tone and way of approaching things.

He's not admitting to crimes.

He's **NORMALIZING** those crimes.

Look at his language. "Of course I did" he said, in a condescending, scoffing, tone as if anyone who wouldn't do it was an idiot and anyone who thought there was or should be any question about whether or not it should be done is foolhardy.

That tone is what the Republicans, and far too many of the great non-voting masses, will notice and it is what will settle the matter in their minds. Of course Trump asked Ukraine to smear his opponent, that's just what one does. The Republican loyalists are already primed for this, they love what Trump is doing and clearly the foreign help part pisses orff the libs so therefore it must also be great!

If the Democrats had good messaging and were thundering and pithy in their denunciations it might help, but the Democrats have shitty messaging and they think thundering denunciations are inappropriate.
posted by sotonohito at 1:42 PM on September 20 [25 favorites]


In regards to the whistleblower, don't forget that Reality Winner is in prison for leaking NSA evidence of Russian involvement in electoral mattress.
posted by Dashy at 1:45 PM on September 20 [24 favorites]


Ukraine Pressured on U.S. Political Investigations (NYT)
Mr. Leshchenko and two other Ukrainians, all of them young, Western-leaning politicians and veterans of the 2014 revolution, said in interviews that Mr. Giuliani’s efforts created the impression that the Trump administration’s willingness to back Mr. Zelensky was linked to his government’s readiness to pursue the investigations sought by Mr. Trump’s allies. [...]

Ukrainian officials and intermediaries in touch with the Ukrainian government and Mr. Giuliani tried to find some way to mollify Mr. Giuliani and the Trump administration with an informal meeting or a phone call, Mr. Leshchenko said, but Mr. Zelensky vetoed all their proposals.

Eventually, a State Department official, Kurt D. Volker, the American envoy to settlement talks in the Ukraine war, arranged a meeting between Mr. Giuliani and a senior Ukrainian official in Madrid where the investigations were discussed.

The two presidents spoke by phone on July 25. In the call, Mr. Trump told Mr. Zelensky that Ukraine could improve its reputation and “interaction” with the United States by investigating corruption, according to a Ukrainian government summary.

It is not clear whether Mr. Trump specifically linked United States aid to Ukraine to political help in next year’s election in the United States by investigating his political opponents. Several weeks after the call it was reported that the Trump administration had put a hold on $250 million in Pentagon funding.
posted by katra at 1:46 PM on September 20 [4 favorites]


Kind of makes one wonder how much lawlessness Trump gets away with in his corporation, where there’s no press or congress looking over your shoulder, or that pesky Constitution to hamper you. I have to think this is exactly how he does business. I mean, it’s all he knows how to do, and he’s applying it to government.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:57 PM on September 20 [21 favorites]


The Post confirms WSJ's story: Trump pressed Ukrainian leader to investigate Biden’s son, according to people familiar with the matter, and someone else is implicated in the cover-up:
White House Counsel Pat Cipollone has been engaged in the matter since shortly after the whistleblower action surfaced, officials said, helping to identify legal obstacles to the sharing of information that could be politically damaging to Trump.

Cipollone’s involvement reveals a more direct White House role in the dispute than has previously been reported.
posted by zachlipton at 2:01 PM on September 20 [9 favorites]


Kind of makes one wonder how much lawlessness Trump gets away with in his corporation, where there’s no press or congress looking over your shoulder, or that pesky Constitution to hamper you.

I totally believe this is how he does business, and has done so for years. There are plenty of stories that, if not saying so explicitly, are adjacent to it. To be fair, I suspect he wouldn't be the only one. He had enough money, and enough perceived success, that he got away with it. Shady business dealings could be described as "aggressive." Going out of your way to not just defeat someone but rub their nose in it was "playing hard ball." Any raw exercise of power he could manage simply added to that veneer of success. At worst, his yet men would write them off as eccentricities. Any fines or sanction was merely the cost of doing business.

I long felt winning the presidency was the first time he there truly was potential to be held accountable in his life. He probably knew it, and didn't really want to win. But, he got it, and, if all you have is a hammer...

Now we just need the GOP to, you know, hold him accountable.
posted by MrGuilt at 2:07 PM on September 20 [7 favorites]


> Mr. Trump told Mr. Zelensky that Ukraine could improve its reputation and “interaction” with the United States by investigating corruption, according to a Ukrainian government summary.

Weaponizing "anti-corruption" for corrupt goals, just as fake news became their bluntest, but most effective, tool.
posted by stonepharisee at 2:11 PM on September 20 [4 favorites]


I totally believe this is how he does business, and has done so for years. There are plenty of stories that, if not saying so explicitly, are adjacent to it

For all his life, really.
posted by ZeusHumms at 2:30 PM on September 20 [2 favorites]


I sort of feel like this is a golden opportunity that's being presented to the Democrats in congress. There's a credible whistleblower complaint, filed through formal legal channels, that Trump is using the powers of his presidency to pressure Ukraine into investigating his political opponent, and the administration is brazenly breaking the law in order to cover it up. There's corroboration from multiple credible sources, including the IC Inspector General, a Trump appointee. It's dominating the news cycle. The elements of the narrative are all in place, and compared even to the Mueller report, where Trump's misconduct was sort of obscured behind a bunch of legal mumbo jumbo, this one is crystal clear. If the Democrats are concerned about public support for impeachment being too weak, here's one of the clearest opportunities they've had so far to push the narrative in their favour, if they would just take it.
posted by Dr. Send at 2:47 PM on September 20 [48 favorites]


Well, here's the thing

The GOP isn't willing to do it for the Democrats, so it can't be done

That's it, that's literally the thing
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 3:18 PM on September 20 [8 favorites]


Why the Whistle-Blowing Process Is Breaking Down (Stephen I. Vladeck, NYT Opinion)
The core assumption behind the grand bargain is that the intelligence committees and the FISA Court, operating secretly, can play the role that Congress and the courts play publicly for the rest of the government. But if, as in this case, that secrecy allows the executive branch to effectively stymie those oversight functions, and if the politics of the moment impose no cost to the executive branch for doing so, then the compromise truly has broken down — with alarming consequences for accountability and oversight of the executive branch.

Here, at least, there may be a way out: There are two congressional intelligence committees, and the Senate committee is chaired by a Republican, Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina. If Mr. Burr were to join Mr. Schiff in demanding transmission of the whistle-blower complaint, that would ratchet up the pressure on the White House to at least reach some accommodation with the intelligence committees. Thus far, though, Mr. Burr has been eerily quiet on the subject. If he remains on the sidelines, this episode will demonstrate the weakness of Congress’s oversight function in the foreign intelligence context, and the structural inadequacies of the “grand bargain” made 41 years ago.
posted by katra at 3:35 PM on September 20 [2 favorites]


Congress doesn’t have a lot of options to get this whistleblower complaint (WaPo)
[Molly Claflin, chief oversight counsel at American Oversight, a liberal watchdog group, and a former Senate aide for Democrats] said asking the courts to step in is probably Schiff’s only option. But she was far less certain this would come out well for Congress. “What that looks like and what the outcome would be is so far outside of whatever’s been done before that it is really hard to predict,” she said in a phone interview Friday.

Congress could also try to learn of the complaint through a more roundabout way, by keeping up a public pressure campaign to get Trump to release the transcripts of his July call with the newly elected Ukrainian president. [...]

Trump maintains that he did nothing wrong on the call. So why wouldn’t he release it? That could be the argument Schiff and House Democrats make to try to learn publicly the information they were supposed to learn privately.

That carries with it its own risks that could go far beyond even this: that future government whistleblowers won’t see the point of going through the proper chain of command. Would they stop sharing information at all? Would they share it publicly in a way that could compromise classified information?

Rep. Denny Heck (D-Wash.) warned that could lead future whistleblowers to “consider the Edward Snowden approach” and leak classified information widely instead of to Congress. “I hope nobody does that because the truth is, that can compromise national security procedures,” Heck said. “But this precedent creates a perverse incentive for somebody to consider that. The bottom line is, we’re less safe if this law is not applied.”

Meaning: If Congress can’t persuade the Trump administration to share this whistleblower complaint with them, all the rules about whistleblowing could be blown up.
posted by katra at 3:47 PM on September 20 [6 favorites]


The Dems need to learn from the GOP. They should just flat-out state whatever they believe the most egregious possibility is as bald fact. Just say it publicly on the record. Then when Trump sues them, subpoena the evidence.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 3:59 PM on September 20 [28 favorites]


The Dems need to learn from the GOP. They should just flat-out state whatever they believe the most egregious possibility is as bald fact. Just say it publicly on the record. Then when Trump sues them, subpoena the evidence.

I would pepper the language with random terms like “treason” and “enabling treason” and stuff like that, just to add to the effect.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:05 PM on September 20 [14 favorites]


I heard the original whistleblower complaint was written on the back of Trump's tax returns.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:14 PM on September 20 [5 favorites]


That's why the complaint is so long. It's full of secrets.
posted by Iris Gambol at 4:21 PM on September 20 [5 favorites]


It's an acrostic record of Hillary's emails. If only it were released, the GOP would finally be vindicated.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:26 PM on September 20 [2 favorites]


Biden on Trump Ukraine reports: 'This behavior is abhorrent' (Guardian)
Joe Biden has released a statement following reports that Trump pressured Ukraine’s president to investigate the former vice president’s son, saying, “This behavior is particularly abhorrent because it exploits the foreign policy of our country and undermines our national security for political purposes.” Full statement here:

Henry J. Gomez (@HenryJGomez) NEW: Biden releases statement on reports of Trump's call with Ukraine president. "If these reports are true, then there is truly no bottom to President Trump’s willingness to abuse his power and abase our country." pic.twitter.com/OPKMPV49Wt
September 20, 2019

The 2020 Democratic candidate said “at minimum”, Trump should release the transcript of his call with Ukraine’s president
posted by katra at 4:29 PM on September 20 [2 favorites]


something something self-impeaching
posted by entropicamericana at 4:30 PM on September 20 [10 favorites]


I attended a discussion of the Cuban missile crisis in the nineties with some of those involved in the decision-making, including Mcnamara. This occurred after the fall of the Soviet Union and some Soviet documents were recently declassified. The upshot is that the U.S. found this missile solo and proof of several missiles but what wasn't known at the time was that Cuba had about 130 missiles.

We played brinksmanship with a lot more potential world destruction than we realized.

I'm saying this in relation to how news stories appear versus what is really going on. One incident appears in the radar but in reality most of the time it is not someone acting once and having the bad luck in getting caught. As with Kavanaugh or Franken or the Catholic Church scandal.

As with the reporting in Spotlight, the film about the Catholic Church covering up rape by priests, the breakthrough is when reporters started looking at the directories and noting all of the priests who were mysteriously moved.

An investigation should start by assuming there are more incidences. Might not be true, but if you gather up a dozen potential world leaders whom Trump might to strong arm, there's a good chance you'll find evidence of more. The I got caught in my one bad deed is not probabilistic.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 5:14 PM on September 20 [20 favorites]


Oh, and the Pulitzer for Fahrenthold was entirely built on the premise I mentioned above.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 5:19 PM on September 20 [7 favorites]


At least in Montgomery County in Pennsylvania, one of the most highly praised school districts in the country, kids are excused from discussions labeled uncomfortable. This includes lessons about 9/11 and the Holocaust. I've had kids tell me that there tends to be a mass exodus from these optional classes, as kids being kids, they want to fuck about and not want to learn about genocide and traumatic terroristic events.

My point is, I don't know how prevalent this is in the country, this opting out of difficult subjects, but here's the thing: then you get a populace confronted with, say, Giuliani's thirty-minute insane-a-thon and the fact that people are dying in the camps of the flu and we're withholding flu shots. And somehow these and other stories just poof disappear.

I do fear that we are training people to look away.
posted by angrycat at 5:40 PM on September 20 [14 favorites]


Elizabeth Warren: "By failing to act, Congress is complicit in Trump’s latest attempt to solicit foreign interference to aid him in US elections. Do your constitutional duty and impeach the president."

I wonder who she's talking to? Maybe the leader of the legislative body she mentioned?
posted by diogenes at 6:01 PM on September 20 [30 favorites]


An investigation should start by assuming there are more incidences. Might not be true, but if you gather up a dozen potential world leaders whom Trump might to strong arm, there's a good chance you'll find evidence of more. The I got caught in my one bad deed is not probabilistic.

Yes, the Spotlight priests were an iceberg, but I'm thinking of that Bay of Pigs story.

We played brinksmanship with a lot more potential world destruction than we realized.

Another way of looking at it, with 130 missiles, is that no matter how much the US huffed and puffed, the USSR may have just been yawning and chuckling the whole time. Did they simply allow the US to "win?" What were the actual stakes? Kennedy presses the button and whoopsy we're dead? Give that man an award. Why wasn't this a scandal?

The consequence of it, as I see it, is that no matter how much of a badass you're trying to be, you may have missed the important part and are just squabbling over toaster leavings. "If you put a single missile on that island, we're going to be SO MAD."
posted by rhizome at 6:09 PM on September 20 [1 favorite]


Joe Kennedy III: "This isn’t asking a foreign country for help, this is a scared, power thirsty man begging for it. If we don’t impeach him, he’ll only get worse."

Kennedy has more juice than the average Rep. He's running for Senate, and he gave the response to the State of the Union two years ago.
posted by diogenes at 6:13 PM on September 20 [12 favorites]


I don't want to derail, but the declassified Soviet documents said that Khruschev was scared shitless that Castro would do something crazy and we would have an end of the world scenario.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 6:17 PM on September 20 [2 favorites]


The president “cannot be subject to criminal process, for conduct of any kind, while he is serving as president,” the lawyers wrote in the complaint, filed in Manhattan federal court.

Ulysses S. Grant was arrested as a sitting president. (He was sitting in his horse-drawn carriage. And speeding.)

The Only Way to Find Out If the President Can Be Indicted
Presidential indictment and prosecution is, in a sense, the Schrödinger’s Cat of Article II. We just don’t know, and we won’t know, whether it’s allowed until we open the box—that is, until evidence leads some prosecutor to decide that a sitting president, in the interests of justice and national survival, must face indictment while in office.
A Constitutional Puzzle: Can the President Be Indicted?
However, “whether the Constitution allows indictment of a sitting president is debatable,” Brett ["I Like Beer"] Kavanaugh, who served on the staff of Kenneth W. Starr, the independent counsel who investigated President Bill Clinton, wrote in a 1998 law review article. Mr. Kavanaugh, who is now a federal appeals court judge, also concluded that impeachment, not prosecution, was the right way to address a sitting president’s crimes.
Eric M. Freedman's On Protecting Accountability is a Hofstra Law Review article examining the history of the issue and argues that a sitting president can be indicted.
posted by kirkaracha at 6:43 PM on September 20 [1 favorite]


"I don't want to derail, but the declassified Soviet documents said that Khruschev..."

Not really, good point though after the"Missiles like sausages" speech, the U.S. took U2 pictures of his house down to shingle size on his room.
Fidel is gone and Cuba is opening up. Khruschev feared Suslov and the military.
He feared his missles would be open-faced microwaves after a u.s. attack but.

"Pelosi Says Congress Should Pass New Laws So Sitting Presidents Can Be Indicted"

What the fuck is this come on Nancy. Impeachments... say it with us..Don't grab headlines with hair brain scheme's that have possible Constitutional Consequence's. Oh, let a territory become a state and y'll get more votes, esp. The Senate.
posted by clavdivs at 6:45 PM on September 20 [6 favorites]


The president “cannot be subject to criminal process, for conduct of any kind, while he is serving as president,” the lawyers wrote in the complaint, filed in Manhattan federal court.

The OLC non-binding and never tested in a court memo that now supersedes the Constitution was written in 1973 by Nixon's Justice Department.
posted by T.D. Strange at 6:50 PM on September 20 [9 favorites]


Can the President Be Indicted? A Long-Hidden Legal Memo Says Yes (NYT, July 22, 2017)
A newfound memo from Kenneth W. Starr’s independent counsel investigation into President Bill Clinton sheds fresh light on a constitutional puzzle that is taking on mounting significance amid the Trump-Russia inquiry: Can a sitting president be indicted?

The 56-page memo, locked in the National Archives for nearly two decades and obtained by The New York Times under the Freedom of Information Act, amounts to the most thorough government-commissioned analysis rejecting a generally held view that presidents are immune from prosecution while in office.

“It is proper, constitutional, and legal for a federal grand jury to indict a sitting president for serious criminal acts that are not part of, and are contrary to, the president’s official duties,” the Starr office memo concludes. “In this country, no one, even President Clinton, is above the law.”
posted by katra at 7:01 PM on September 20 [17 favorites]


Trump allies jolt into action to deflect Ukraine-whistleblower scandal (Politico)
“Fox & Friends” host Brian Kilmeade, for example, argued on Thursday morning that the complaint boils down to, “do you like the president's policy on Ukraine,” which he called better “than Barack Obama’s policy ... where you just let the Russians steamroll the whole country and give them blankets to help them out.”

But national security lawyers and whistleblower experts say that’s not possible. Michael Atkinson, the inspector general for the intelligence community, made a determination that the complaint constitutes an “urgent concern” that falls squarely within his purview.

“There is no way on earth this is just a mere policy dispute,” said Bradley Moss, a national security lawyer who specializes in whistleblower cases. “The statute itself specifically and unequivocally excludes mere differences of opinion on public policy matters. So even if the whistleblower had just been disputing a policy, the inspector general would’ve taken that, reviewed it, and not raised it to the level of urgent concern.”

“The IG has determined, though, that this concerns a real, serious abuse of the law relating to the operation of an intelligence activity,” Moss said.

Irvin McCullough, a national security analyst for the Government Accountability Project who focuses on intelligence community and military whistleblowing, agreed, noting that the inspector general has already determined “that this goes far beyond a policy disagreement.”

Still, McCullough acknowledged, the inspector general is now “between a rock and a hard place.” If he went straight to Congress with the substance of the complaint, he could be fired. “But he still needs to retain his independence,” McCullough said. “It’s a completely unprecedented situation.”
posted by katra at 7:04 PM on September 20 [5 favorites]


Is being fired over this really the worst thing in the world? It's not like he's an economically disadvantaged minimum wage Walmart employee who might struggle to find work. Dude was a partner at the most powerful and prestigious law firm in Chicago. And with the high profile nature of such a firing he would have offers lined up around the block.

Lord preserve me from ever suffering such a firing.
posted by Justinian at 9:45 PM on September 20 [6 favorites]


makes one wonder how much lawlessness Trump gets away with in his corporation

Oh FFS, not on you Thorzad as I guess it is just a turn of phrase, but I do not wonder at all! It's been well documented that in Trump's mind, "business" means scamming, cheating, not paying contractors, playing legal games, ignoring things if they do not favour him... Just pure scam and grift and if anything he does is legal, that is just an odd coincidence that probably needs to be rectified because that means he is not stealing enough.

FUCK. THIS. GUY.
posted by Meatbomb at 11:09 PM on September 20 [9 favorites]


And with the high profile nature of such a firing he would have offers lined up around the block.

The last guy to testify against Trump is sitting in jail for participating in a crime Trump ordered. Anyone who publicly crosses Trump will have to deal with the weight of Barr's DOJ, a hostile Supreme Court, and an army of Fox News cultists using them for target practice. I seriously doubt Lisa Page and Peter Strzok's lives are comfortable despite being absolved of wrongdoing.

I hope someone has the courage to expose the crime, but let's not pretend it's risk free.
posted by benzenedream at 11:35 PM on September 20 [15 favorites]


After Manning, Snowden, and Winner any leaker is gonna be crushed like a bug. Also, too, I hope someone leaks it.
posted by j_curiouser at 11:41 PM on September 20 [2 favorites]


Every single last Republican has happily accepted the reality that the US is now a de facto Russian client state because they intend to use Russian cyber warfare against the US as part of their ongoing strategy to maintain power as an absolute minority party in perpetuity. There is literally no treason, up to and including handing direct control of the US nuclear arsenal to Putin, that would cause them to go against Trump.

The entire party is traitorous to a person.


…I mean, yes, 100%, but also:
"You are an old man who thinks in terms of nations and peoples. There are no nations. There are no peoples. There are no Russians. There are no Arabs. There are no third worlds. There is no West. There is only one holistic system of systems, one vast and immane, interwoven, interacting, multi-variate, multi-national dominion of dollars. Petro-dollars, electro-dollars, multi-dollars, reichmarks, rins, rubles, pounds, and shekels. It is the international system of currency which determines the totality of life on this planet. That is the natural order of things today. […] There is no America. There is no democracy. There is only IBM and ITT and AT&T and DuPont, Dow, Union Carbide, and Exxon. Those are the nations of the world today." (Arthur Jensen, Network, 1976)
…In this view, there's no such thing as treason, and this Ukraine stuff is more accurately thought of as creative outsourcing.

I'm pretty much convinced that this IS the "natural order of things" in the eyes of most world leaders—and, not to sound defeatist, but does that not then make it true?
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 2:59 AM on September 21 [8 favorites]


Except its clear that at least one of the prime movers here, Vladimir Putin, does not think that way. He's pretty starkly a Russian nationalist. Yeah his vision of it involves it being an almost personal fiefdom of his but still a manifestly Russian one.
posted by Justinian at 4:40 AM on September 21 [5 favorites]


Why doesn't Pelosi call a press conference, and say:

When another country attempts to interfere in our elections we call that an attack on our democracy. Today we have credible reports that the president strong armed a foreign leader into falsely smearing a candidate for president. If true, the president is a traitor to our country. All Trump has to do to clear his name is hand over his records of a phone call. He refuses.
posted by xammerboy at 5:33 AM on September 21 [29 favorites]


One of the worst side effects of the Trump presidency is the unleashing upon the world of these squinty-eyed, shaved-head, pissy little monsters like Corey Lewandowski and Stephen Miller, providing them a platform where they can spread their hatred of and contempt for decency and democracy and all things right and just well beyond their lonely basements and bedrooms where they had heretofore been confined
posted by growabrain at 5:39 AM on September 21 [5 favorites]


At this point, not only do we have breaking news about the whistleblower scandal, but we also have to backtrack to find out what was going on earlier:

ABC, Sept. 13: Ukraine's President: US Will Give Extra $140 Million in Aid
The Trump administration said Thursday that it has released $250 million in military aid to Ukraine that had been held up. It didn't mention additional funds.

Zelenskiy's deputy chief of staff Kirill Tymoshenko confirmed to The Associated Press after the president's speech that Ukraine is indeed expecting an extra $140 million from the U.S., but he wouldn't give detail on the source or designation of the funds.
WaPo, yesterday: Trump’s Freeze on Ukraine Aid Draws New Scrutiny Amid Push for Biden Investigation
Privately, congressional Democrats are questioning whether the aid, which remained frozen during Trump's call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and for several weeks afterwards, was related to the "promise" that sparked the whistleblower complaint and what Intelligence Community Inspector-General Michael Atkinson told lawmakers constituted an "urgent" and "credible" threat.

One of the people familiar with the exchange said Trump did not raise the issue of military aid during the phone conversation.

According to The New York Times' quoting of two other people briefed on the call, Trump repeatedly told the Ukrainian leader to talk with his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, who had been urging the government in Kiev to investigate Biden and his family.

During August and September, legislators were engaged in what Republican and Democratic aides described as an unprecedented struggle with the administration to release nearly $US400 million ($590 million) in military assistance for Ukraine - $US250 million of it controlled by the Pentagon and $US141 million by the State Department.
It's looking as though Trump used US aid to extort and bribe Ukraine.
posted by Doktor Zed at 7:26 AM on September 21 [12 favorites]


It's looking as though Trump used US aid to extort and bribe Ukraine.

A practice that's consistent with Trump's numerous statements that aid recipients take advantage of the US, that we should get things in exchange for aid, etc.
posted by thelonius at 7:50 AM on September 21 [4 favorites]


All Trump has to do to clear his name is hand over his records of a phone call. He refuses.

The Witness and the Whistleblower: Some Thoughts (Benjamin Wittes, Lawfare)
Here I want to suggest two other approaches Congress could reasonably adopt. Neither is a cure-all or a complete approach in and of itself. But both may have utility, particularly in combination with each other and an aggressive litigation strategy.

The first is that Congress should be clear that it will draw adverse inferences from the assertion of executive privilege on matters pertaining to allegations of presidential misconduct. In the criminal setting, this would be verboten. If Corey Lewandowski were to assert his Fifth Amendment rights before a jury and refuse to answer questions about his conversations with the president, it would be quite improper for that jury to interpret this as an indicator of some impropriety or as evidence of guilt. In fact, it would be unlawful; a criminal defendant is actually entitled to a jury instruction forbidding the jury from giving weight to his or her decision not to testify. But critically, the logic behind this is not that it’s unreasonable intellectually to assume that someone who refuses to answer questions is hiding something. The reason, rather, is that the Fifth Amendment gives the defendant the right to hide such things.

The Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, it bears emphasis, has no application to noncriminal, political judgments. So Congress gets to deploy a different standard here—and in my judgment, it should. With respect to Lewandowski, the president has the power, at least in the short term, to direct him to refuse to answer certain questions. And Lewandowski has the power to resist answering other questions, as he did. In addition to moving to compel him to answer those questions—in other words, contesting the president’s assertions of privilege—the House Judiciary Committee should regard itself as free to read such refusals as effective confirmations of the worst reasonable inferences from the relevant passages of the Mueller report. If Lewandowski refuses to provide information that mitigates the inferences one could reasonably draw about what Lewandowski’s interactions with Trump suggest about the president’s intent, the committee should draw those inferences.

In the case of the whistleblower matter, there is a particular reason for Congress to take this posture: The president’s actions may be doing ongoing damage to crucial foreign policy interests—not to mention the integrity of a coming presidential election and the civil liberties of Americans. Congress, in other words, may have an exigent need to take action and simply be unable to assume that the executive confidentiality being asserted is not enabling illegality. So it needs to adopt the posture that if it cannot get the information it requires to evaluate the situation, it has to assume the worst and act on that assumption. [...]

If you take seriously the idea that Trump has the power to keep such material from Congress, it necessarily follows that Congress must have the power to respond—with measures up to and including impeachment—without necessarily fully understanding the facts. That is, it must have the power to make adverse inferences from the assertion of privilege.
posted by katra at 8:03 AM on September 21 [17 favorites]


Meanwhile, the NYT signals it’s prepared to follow the Trump party line in pursuit of both-sidestep faux objectivity, having learned nothing from their 2016 campaign coverage.

Vox’s Aaron Rupar:
“Here's @kenvogel of the New York Times saying on MSNBC that he views Joe Biden son's work in Ukraine as "a significant liability for Joe Biden."

"There is a story here," Vogel adds, saying "we're going to continue to, sort of, pull that back." (I'm sure Trump is very grateful!)
Judd Legum has a previous example of Vogel carrying water for Team Trump on their Ukraine-Biden spin:
They key to Vogel's first article published in May, was that Biden was pushing for the ouster of a prosecutor to protect his son.

But that article was debunked by Bloomberg. The Ukrainian investigation into Hunter Biden had already gone dormant.

Timeline in Ukraine Probe Casts Doubt on Giuliani's Biden Claim - Bloomberg
And the WaPo’s Max Boot has more on the conspiracy theory: “Some people are pretending that Joe Biden did something genuinely fishy in Ukraine and that it’s legit to investigate. Nope. This is Trumpite nonsense. This ⁦@PostOpinions⁩ article shows why. https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2019/05/08/why-joe-bidens-alleged-ukraine-conspiracy-doesnt-hold-up/
posted by Doktor Zed at 8:43 AM on September 21 [7 favorites]


'Nothing was wrong': Trump hits out at claims he asked Ukraine for Biden dirt (Guardian)
As the weekend rolled in, a new question set Washington abuzz. Did the US president use or attempt to use military aid to Ukraine as leverage in seeking the investigation of a political rival?

Trump and Zelenskiy spoke on 25 July. About a month later, it was reported that $250m in US military assistance to a country fighting Russian-backed separatists was being delayed after Trump requested a review.

“The potentially most explosive issue here is whether the president essentially offered Ukraine a quid pro quo,” Richard Pildes, professor of constitutional law at New York University, told the Guardian. “‘I’ll provide substantial US foreign aid if you provide damaging information concerning Joe Biden or his son.’”

Republican claims about the Bidens and Ukraine concern a visit by the then vice-president in March 2016. The country’s top prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, was fired soon after – an aim of the US, allies, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, which thought Shokin was turning a blind eye to corruption.

An investigation into company for which Hunter Biden worked was dormant at the time. In May this year, Ukraine prosecutor general Yuriy Lutsenko told Bloomberg News “we do not see any wrongdoing” by the younger Biden.

On Saturday, Trump used Twitter to allege it. “The Fake News Media,” the president wrote, “and their partner, the Democrat [sic] Party, want to stay as far away as possible from the Joe Biden demand that the Ukrainian Government fire a prosecutor who was investigating his son, or they won’t get a very large amount of US money, so they fabricate a story about me and a perfectly fine and routine conversation I had with the new President of the Ukraine.

“Nothing was said that was in any way wrong, but Biden’s demand, on the other hand, was a complete and total disaster. The Fake News knows this but doesn’t want to report!” He also tweeted a video on the subject produced by his campaign.
posted by katra at 8:47 AM on September 21 [4 favorites]


Ukraine furore confirms Giuliani as Trump's most off-kilter advocate (Guardian)
A week after Joe Biden launched his presidential campaign, Giuliani blabbed to the New York Times that he had discussed the issue of the Bidens and Ukraine with Trump on “multiple occasions”. He also divulged that he planned to make a trip to Kiev to meet the Ukrainian president.

Under US law, it is categorically illegal for anybody to solicit the help of any foreign national – let alone a government – for a US election. Yet here was Giuliani blithely telling the same newspaper a week later his visit to Kiev was intended to kickstart an investigation into the Bidens that could be helpful in next year’s presidential race.

“There’s nothing illegal about it,” he told the Times. “Somebody could say it’s improper … That information will be very, very helpful to my client.”

Giuliani cancelled his Kiev trip. Instead, he travelled to Madrid in August, where he met a top Ukrainian official whom he “strongly urged” to reopen the investigation into the Bidens.
posted by katra at 8:58 AM on September 21 [11 favorites]


WaPo: How Trump and Giuliani pressured Ukraine to investigate the president’s rivals
Days after the two presidents spoke, Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, met with an aide to the Ukrainian president in Madrid and spelled out two specific cases he believed Ukraine should pursue. One was a probe of a Ukrainian gas tycoon who had Biden’s son Hunter on his board. Another was an allegation that Democrats colluded with Ukraine to release information on former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort during the 2016 election.

“Your country owes it to us and to your country to find out what really happened,” Giuliani said he told the Ukrainian president’s aide, Andriy Yermak, during the Madrid meeting. Yermak, according to Giuliani, indicated that the Ukrainians were open to pursuing the investigations. The aide reiterated the Ukrainians’ plea for a meeting with Trump, a summit that would be an important signal to Russia of Washington’s support for Ukraine.

“I talked to him about the whole package,” said Giuliani, who has been lobbying Ukrainian officials to take up the investigations since the spring. Yermak did not respond to a request for comment.
Susan Simpson: “Giuliani isn't a government employee. He isn't a diplomat. The ONLY reason Zelensky would send a top aide to meet with him is that Zelensky knew damned well Giuliani's real purpose was to speak on Trump's behalf in a way that could be kept secret from Trump's own government.”
posted by Doktor Zed at 9:17 AM on September 21 [16 favorites]


Meanwhile, the NYT signals it’s prepared to follow the Trump party line in pursuit of both-sidestep faux objectivity, having learned nothing from their 2016 campaign coverage.

Isn’t the Washington Post also doing a bit of "but her emails" with this headline on the front page? "Scrutiny over Trump’s Ukraine scandal may hurt Biden’s campaign" - headline changed from "hurt" to "may also complicate" in the article itself. "The issue is inextricably linked to the Democratic front-runner’s son, pushing one of the topics that Joe Biden is least comfortable discussing into the spotlight." But... isn’t it precisely articles with this framing on the front page that are pushing into the spotlight Biden as if he was guilty of something??
posted by bitteschoen at 9:24 AM on September 21 [7 favorites]


If this isn't impeachable behavior nothing is. (the Atlantic).

The president of the United States reportedly sought the help of a foreign government against an American citizen who might challenge him for his office. This is the single most important revelation in a scoop by The Wall Street Journal, and if it is true, then President Donald Trump should be impeached and removed from office immediately.
....
If this in itself is not impeachable, then the concept has no meaning. Trump’s grubby commandeering of the presidency’s fearsome and nearly uncheckable powers in foreign policy for his own ends is a gross abuse of power and an affront both to our constitutional order and to the integrity of our elections.
posted by bluesky43 at 9:26 AM on September 21 [34 favorites]


Isn’t the Washington Post also doing a bit of "but her emails" with this headline on the front page?

Politico is doing it, too: Why Trump’s Ukraine scandal could backfire on Biden
Biden’s campaign co-chair, Rep. Cedric Richmond, dismissed the notion that the new revelations could in any way muddy Biden’s electability argument in the primary. “No. I don’t think so at all,” Richmond said. “In Congress, we work to get the facts out, we will continue to do that. But I think it’s very concerning for Trump that he would ask for help from a foreign government [to investigate] not just the frontrunner, but the guy who’s beating him by double digits in all the polls … the Vice President has said he’s confident he’ll beat Trump. The actions that are revealed now shows that Trump believes [Biden] will beat him.”

Biden’s campaign also appears ready to turn the issue into a referendum about a favorite target: the news media. “The press is playing into Donald Trump’s hands talking about this,” said a top Biden advisor. “Reputable news organizations have concluded there’s nothing here. This is not a Joe Biden problem. This is a Donald Trump problem.”

Trump’s focus on Biden could actually be beneficial, said David Axelrod, Barack Obama’s longtime strategist. “I think, at least in the short run, it’s more likely to identify Biden as the candidate Trump fears and, perhaps, even benefit him among Democrats,” Axelrod told POLITICO.
posted by katra at 9:29 AM on September 21 [2 favorites]


The Daily Beast reports Ukraine is ready to acquiesce to Trump’s demands: Ukrainian Official: Trump Looking for Dirt ‘To Discredit Biden’
Ukraine is ready to investigate the connections Joe Biden’s son Hunter had with the Ukrainian natural gas company Burisma Holdings, according to Anton Geraschenko, a senior adviser to the country’s interior minister who would oversee such an inquiry.

Geraschenko told The Daily Beast in an exclusive interview that “as soon as there is an official request" Ukraine will look into the case, but “currently there is no open investigation.”

“Clearly,” said Geraschenko, “Trump is now looking for kompromat to discredit his opponent Biden, to take revenge for his friend Paul Manafort, who is serving seven years in prison.” Among the counts on which Manafort was convicted: tax evasion. “We do not investigate Biden in Ukraine, since we have not received a single official request to do so,” said Geraschenko.
The AP similarly reports Ukrainian officials are trying to whitewash the July 25th phone call:
In an interview with Ukrainian outlet Hromadske, the foreign minister said his country was not interested in taking sides in U.S. politics, but that Zelenskiy had the right to keep secret the contents of his conversation with Trump.

“I know what the conversation was about and I do not think there was any pressure” from Trump, Vadym Prystaiko was quoted as saying. “There was a conversation, different conversation, leaders have the right to discuss any existing issues. This was a long and friendly conversation that touched on a lot of issues, sometimes requiring serious answers.”
All of which presumably will take off some of the pressure from Trump’s meeting with Zelensky next week.

Axios: Trump to meet Ukrainian president at UN amid whistleblower controversy
The White House has announced President Trump's itinerary for next week at the UN General Assembly, and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is among the world leaders with whom Trump is slated to meet. […]

Administration officials on Friday's briefing call said that in his UN speech, Trump would present the U.S. as an alternative to authoritarianism, while stressing his "commitment to upholding democracy and protecting religious freedom."
posted by Doktor Zed at 9:42 AM on September 21 [1 favorite]


If this isn't impeachable behavior nothing is.

Democrats have made the choice that nothing is impeachable for a Republican president.
posted by T.D. Strange at 9:53 AM on September 21 [28 favorites]


I think Matt Yglesias said it best:
What’s scary is that email-mania wasn’t so much a “problem” with 2016 coverage as a solution to the problem of “how do you generate balanced coverage when the facts don’t support it?”

More such solutions will be found in 2020 and beyond.
posted by Your Childhood Pet Rock at 10:10 AM on September 21 [37 favorites]


The NYer’s Isaac Chotiner interviews nat sec law prof Stephen Vladeck: Can President Trump Be Held Accountable for the Whistle-Blower Complaint?
NYer: Let’s say, pulling two scenarios out of a hat, that the President is only going to follow through on giving aid to a country if the country either investigates his political opponent or pays him a bribe, by, say, spending a night at his resort in Scotland. How would you evaluate those two issues?

SV: I think the latter is a more straightforward legal problem because of anti-bribery statutes and because of a statute called the Foreign Gifts and Decorations Act, which clearly applies to the President. The former is messier, but, to me, this is the big category error everyone is making, which is that, criminal or not, that is certainly impeachable.

Until this episode, I don’t think that anyone has read the intelligence-community statute to be limited to unlawful conduct by the subject of the complaint, or that you have to identify a specific law that the subject of the whistle-blower’s complaint has arguably violated. The question at the bottom of this whole episode is whether what the President allegedly did falls in the scope of something that would give rise to a valid whistle-blower complaint. I think there are a lot of folks who are arguing that the answer is no because the President is allowed to say whatever he wants in this context. I think the statute doesn’t limit whistle-blowing in this context to identifying specific federal statutes that the subject of the complaint has transgressed.[…]

NYer: What is your reading of the intelligence community’s refusal to turn over this information to Congress?

SV: I think it is just wrong. It would be one thing if the reason that they are refusing to turn this over to Congress is because they believe that turning the complaint over to Congress would violate some constitutional privilege. But the actual argument they have made, at least in the two letters they have made public, is a very counterintuitive reading of the statute.

The whole point of the statute is that, once a whistle-blower complaint meets a certain threshold, as determined by the inspector general, the intelligence committees get to find out about it. The reason is that Congress, when it writes whistle-blower statutes, is often worried about the subject of the whistle-blowing being the political head of the agency. If I wanted to blow the whistle on the director of National Intelligence, it wouldn’t make a lot of sense to give the D.N.I. the power to refuse to transmit my report to Congress. And the statute is written that way. The statute says that, once the inspector general makes a credibility determination, the D.N.I. has seven days to forward it to the intelligence communities. Now, the D.N.I. is not bound by the inspector general. The statute allows him to provide his own comments on the report, so the D.N.I. can certainly object to the inspector general’s finding. He just can’t stop the inspector general from submitting it to Congress.
Meanwhile Diane Feinstein has written to Barr to request the whistleblower report, as well as “any advice or guidance that was offered by the Justice Department to the DNI regarding the transmittal of this report.”
posted by Doktor Zed at 10:41 AM on September 21 [5 favorites]


Biden accuses Trump of ‘abuse of power’ in whistleblower scandal (Politico)
Biden grew irate, pointing his finger at a reporter who asked the former vice president if he had ever spoken to his son about his overseas business dealings. Biden said he hadn’t.
posted by katra at 11:27 AM on September 21


If Trump et al are raising a stink because it's terrible that Biden supposedly pressured Ukraine to drop a prosecution (even if the prosecution had already fizzled out years prior), why is it perfectly ok for Trump et al to pressure Ukraine to resume the prosecution?
posted by notsnot at 12:09 PM on September 21 [5 favorites]


If Trump et al are raising a stink because it's terrible that Biden supposedly pressured Ukraine to drop a prosecution (even if the prosecution had already fizzled out years prior), why is it perfectly ok for Trump et al to pressure Ukraine to resume the prosecution?

Accepting their premise -- even to argue with its logic -- is a victory for them. Don't give them that.
posted by Etrigan at 12:41 PM on September 21 [23 favorites]


Pssst hey Mitch, we'll drop Biden if you drop Trump, we'll do it all spy exchange style on a bridge and everything, you get Pence and old guard Dems get to feel sufficiently punished for daring to rock the boat and the media will give everyone involved a medal for the both sidesiest move ever, whaddya say
posted by jason_steakums at 2:05 PM on September 21 [5 favorites]


Congress should launch an impeachment inquiry and ask a judge to order the administration to comply with its request for information today. It's just that simple.
posted by xammerboy at 2:06 PM on September 21 [3 favorites]


Accepting their premise -- even to argue with its logic -- is a victory for them. Don't give them that.

Given on April 1st 2019 thehill.com posted Joe Biden's 2020 Ukrainian nightmare: A closed probe is revived how is the framing "theirs" vs adopting someone elses framing?

Can't both Joe Biden and Donald Trump be the kind of assholes who jerk ya around at the last moment over a check?
posted by rough ashlar at 2:14 PM on September 21 [2 favorites]


Hunter Biden's Work In Ukraine Emerges As A Potential 2020 Scandal (Vanity Fair, May 2, 2019)
In a move sure to trigger 2016 P.T.S.D., The New York Times has published a nearly 3,000-word tale of intrigue involving the Biden family’s various entanglements in Ukraine. In short, the story is this: in the final year of the Obama presidency, Vice President Joe Biden “threatened to withhold $1 billion in United States loan guarantees if Ukraine’s leaders did not dismiss the country’s top prosecutor”—Viktor Shokin—“who had been accused of turning a blind eye to corruption in his own office and among the political elite.” [...] The question the Times raises, but does not answer, is: were Joe’s and Hunter’s overlapping interests in Ukraine coincidental, or corrupt?

The Bidens say Joe acted “without any regard” for the impact on his son, and that Hunter never discussed private business with his father. But of course, that seems unlikely to put this story to rest. [...]

According to the Times, Giuliani has met repeatedly with both the ousted Ukrainian prosecutor and the new prosecutor, and has discussed his findings with Trump—who then suggested he would like Attorney General William Barr to look into the matter. (Perhaps that is why Barr was at a loss for words on Wednesday, when Senator Kamala Harris asked whether “the president or anyone at the White House ever asked or suggested that you open an investigation of anyone.”)

Times reporter Ken Vogel, presumably seeking to pre-empt accusations of water-carrying, explained on Twitter that the paper’s interest in the subject predates Trump. “TO BE CLEAR: Independent of @RudyGiuliani’s efforts, the intersection of @JoeBiden & HUNTER BIDEN in Ukraine warrants scrutiny,” he said, noting that the Times had begun reporting on the Burisma story in 2015.

[...] Giuliani’s accusations against Hunter have a familiar ring, and could resonate with voters for the same reason. There doesn’t need to be a quid pro quo for the ordinary voter to find something sleazy about Clinton’s husband or Biden’s son apparently benefiting from their proximity to power. (Why else does a Ukrainian natural gas company want a Biden on its board?)

Democrats might ignore the whole Biden-Ukraine imbroglio if not for the fact that it has the imprimatur of The New York Times. Considering how the paper damaged Clinton’s candidacy by running 10 front-page stories about her e-mail scandal in the days leading up the election, one wonders if the Hunter Biden scandal has legs, too—and whether Democrats might come to prefer a candidate without his baggage.
posted by katra at 2:28 PM on September 21 [1 favorite]


This should probably disqualify Biden, gods willing, and is totally an impeachable offence. WTF is happening...?
posted by Windopaene at 2:35 PM on September 21 [2 favorites]


The worst part is that this administration has destroyed our idea of what does and doesn't matter politically. So we're stuck with the democrats wondering if impeachment will play well with the public rather than carrying out impeachment because the president abused his office.

These are the dividends of normalizing corruption so much. And since Trump's done more to numb republicans to corruption than democrats, I get the feeling this will hurt Biden more than Trump.

I don't like Biden, and I'm honestly a bit glad if this neutralizes him and secures somebody who supports Medicare for All as the nominee. I'm not so scared of a further left democrat losing, because it's been so long since one has run and quality healthcare is a material concern for most voters. It's an issue Trump can't really brag about, because he's never suggested anything beyond "Obamacare but worse," "Repeal Obamacare and put nothing in its place," or "Something better I'm not going to describe."
posted by ikea_femme at 2:46 PM on September 21 [5 favorites]


This should probably disqualify Biden, gods willing, and is totally an impeachable offence.

But being retired he's beyond impeachment. If there was an actual impeachable offence to a quid-qo-pro of "no check unless you fire this guy". Because that's what Joe's admitted to. If Joe had said "My son had some problems so I said "no check unless you fire this guy"" then that's a different kettle containing fish. Remember the gent who placed George W Bush on their board because George HW Bush was President got reported but was treated as "Meh".

If one is trying to find a 'return to the status quo" Democrat - Joe's the guy that has been picked. Not some young whipper-snapper who might change things. The blood bursting eye, the forgetting Obama's name, the phonograph playing, the bussing, et al should all have been deal-breakers yet the press who gets advertising dollars from people who benefit from the status quo don't write stories that spin thoses as negatives.
posted by rough ashlar at 3:05 PM on September 21 [3 favorites]


Biden accuses Trump of ‘abuse of power’ in whistleblower scandal (Politico)

I've been hoping that Biden is an ablative candidate who is in the mix so as to attract this kind of scandal, maybe as an MVP for entrenched DC practices and nepotism. My hope continues that Biden is not expecting to make it past the primaries (or earlier), but is definitely going to cut Trump down in the public eye.

I come to this via Trump's lack of viciousness toward him: Biden may himself be corrupt in certain ways -- perhaps disqualifying ones beyond his votes -- but he definitely knows what kinds of corruption are possible. Biden has his own fingers in the dike right now, and Trump does not want to start pulling them out. Biden also keeps Trump from commenting on age issues. IANA Campaign Operative.
posted by rhizome at 3:25 PM on September 21 [1 favorite]


Someone needs to explain better what happened. I read the Times story and it just sounded like Biden was fighting corruption in the Ukraine and a side benefit was his son dodged a financial bullet. If you're the sheriff and you take out a crime boss your son owes money to, is that corruption? I don't like that it looks personally motivated, which is not how I want my politicians to operate, but the prosecutor really did seem corrupt. It would only be like Trump in a universe where Trump's self interests aligned with actually doing the right thing?

Anyway, the Biden Ukraine story is as hard to understand as Trump's is easy, so naturally Republicans will latch onto it forever like they did with Clinton and Whitewater.
posted by xammerboy at 3:38 PM on September 21 [3 favorites]


This should probably disqualify Biden, gods willing, and is totally an impeachable offence. WTF is happening...?

What's happening is that people who dislike Biden are latching on to a bullshit story in the same way they latched on to the email story in 2016.
posted by Justinian at 3:41 PM on September 21 [12 favorites]


WaPo fact check on the story. Bloomberg debunking this a few months ago.

Y'all who are entertaining this nonsense because you want Biden to lose the primary are doing the truth a disservice.
posted by Justinian at 3:45 PM on September 21 [28 favorites]


Trump tries to move Ukraine scandal's focus toward Biden (Politico)
In Trump's most direct comments yet on Biden, he amplified allegations that during the Obama administration, the then-vice president threatened to withhold $1 billion in U.S. aid from Ukraine while demanding the firing of a state prosecutor who was looking into a gas company where Biden's son, Hunter, held a board position.

Citing a potential conflict of interest, PolitiFact has rated similar allegations against Biden as "half-true," with the caveat that the accusation overreaches "by assuming that Joe Biden acted to protect the company his son was affiliated with," and noting that the Ukrainian prosecutor had drawn widespread criticism on his record of fighting corruption.
From Politifact's "Key takeaways" section (May 7, 2019):
We found no evidence to support the idea that Joe Biden advocated with his son's interests in mind, as the message suggests. It's not even clear that the company was actively under investigation or that a change in prosecutors benefited it.
posted by katra at 3:54 PM on September 21 [3 favorites]


Why would Biden have pressured Ukraine over firing the prosecutor?

There’s a strong case that Hunter Biden’s position with the company had nothing to do with Biden’s position on Shokin’s ouster. That’s because Western leaders and institutions were largely united in seeking Shokin’s removal, arguing that he was not pursuing corruption cases aggressively.

For instance, in early 2016, International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde said that "it’s hard to see how the I.M.F.-supported program can continue" unless corruption prosecutions accelerate.

Steven Pifer is a career foreign service officer who was ambassador to Ukraine under President Bill Clinton and deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian Affairs under President George W. Bush. Pifer told PolitiFact that "virtually everyone" he knew in the U.S. government and virtually all non-governmental experts on Ukraine "felt that Shokin was not doing his job and should be fired. As far as I can recall, they all concurred with the vice president telling Poroshenko that the U.S. government would not extend the $1 billion loan guarantee to Ukraine until Shokin was removed from office."

Anders Åslund, a resident senior fellow at Atlantic Council, a think tank in Washington, agreed that criticism of Shokin was widespread

Shokin "failed to prosecute anybody of significance, protecting both the Yanukovych circle and the Poroshenko group," Åslund said.

Daria Kaleniuk, the executive director of the Anti-Corruption Action Center, a leading anti-corruption voice in Ukraine, tweeted earlier this month that Shokin’s firing was not about protecting the company Hunter Biden was working for. The firing "was obviously not because the prosecutor wanted to investigate Burisma & Zlochevsky," she wrote.
posted by xammerboy at 4:03 PM on September 21 [7 favorites]


Democrats blast latest Trump crisis. But what will they do? (AP)
For legal scholars and ethics watchdogs, the interaction between Trump and the foreign leader is seen as nothing less than a pressure campaign that cuts to the core of the nation’s public corruption and bribery laws. It came as the White House was holding up $250 million in military aid for Ukraine. Even if there was no quid-pro-quo from the president, the conversation could be seen by legal experts as improper.

“It appears that the president might have used his official powers — in particular, perhaps the threat of withholding a quarter-billion dollars in military aid — to leverage a foreign government into helping him defeat a potential political opponent in the United States,” wrote lawyer George T. Conway III, who is married to a top Trump adviser, and Neal Katayal, a Georgetown University law professor and former acting solicitor general, in an op-ed in The Washington Post. “If Trump did that, it would be the ultimate impeachable act.” [...]

While Sen. Warren and other Democrats say there’s no choice but to start impeachment proceedings, other Democrats have been reluctant to launch a process they say could scare away more moderate and centrist voters, especially for lawmakers in Congress.

Pelosi showed no signs of moving off her position that Congress must continue to investigate the administration and not start impeachment proceedings unless the American public demands it.
Trump has done plenty to warrant impeachment. But the Ukraine allegations are over the top. (George T. Conway III and Neal Katyal, WaPo Opinion)
Trump has already done more than enough to warrant impeachment and removal with his relentless attempts, on multiple fronts, to sabotage the counterintelligence and criminal investigation by then-special counsel Robert S. Mueller III and to conceal evidence of those attempts. The president’s efforts were impeachable because, in committing those obstructive acts, he put his personal interests above the nation’s: He tried to stop an investigation into whether a hostile foreign power, Russia, tried to interfere with our democracy — simply because he seemed to find it personally embarrassing. Trump breached his duty of faithful execution to the nation not only because he likely broke the law but also because, through his disregard for the law, he put his self-interest first.

The current whistleblowing allegations, however, are even worse. Unlike the allegations of conspiracy with Russia before the 2016 election, these concern Trump’s actions as president, not as a private citizen, and his exercise of presidential powers over foreign policy with Ukraine. Moreover, with Russia, at least there was an attempt to get the facts through the Mueller investigation; here the White House is trying to shut down the entire inquiry from the start — depriving not just the American people, but even congressional intelligence committees, of necessary information.

It is high time for Congress to do its duty, in the manner the framers intended. Given how Trump seems ever bent on putting himself above the law, something like what might have happened between him and Ukraine — abusing presidential authority for personal benefit — was almost inevitable. Yet if that is what occurred, part of the responsibility lies with Congress, which has failed to act on the blatant obstruction that Mueller detailed months ago.
posted by katra at 4:53 PM on September 21 [8 favorites]


Having read the New Yorker profile of Hunter is coloring my view of this, but it seems like it fits in with a pattern of Hunter’s to accept various perks that flow from being the son of Joe, which people and companies give in hopes of being able to get on Joe’s good side, but not actually having any influence or impact on his father because their relationship is somewhat strained by Hunter’s relapses and personal problems, and because Joe has made it clear that while Hunter can play Joe Biden’s son for potential employers, Joe’s not actually going to give any handouts or special favors for Hunter.

But it’s not like Joe wants to get up on the national stage and talk about how his only remaining son who is an addict and has a history of relapsing and making bad decisions related to that has spent his professional career trying and failing to ride his dad’s coattails and impress his dad.

Anything related to Hunter makes me sad and I hope he’s still getting help, and that his quickie marriage wasn’t another relapse in the first place, and that this doesn’t become yet another example of “Hunter fucked up” in the Biden family.
posted by sallybrown at 4:54 PM on September 21 [11 favorites]


I wrote this to my useless congressperson, blue dog Democrat Ed Case;

If calling a foreign head of state and threatening to withhold aid unless they dig up dirt on your political opponent isn't an impeachable offense, I don't know what is. A colleague of yours pointed out that the democratic opposition is verging on "tragic fecklessness. " I suggest the actual phrase to describe the party at this time is "dereliction of duty. " Please support impeachment proceedings and urge your colleagues on both sides of the aisle - but most especially Democrats - to support removing this dangerous man from the presidency.

I will almost certainly get another "not enough evidence not the right time" response from this profile in courage in a D+33 district.
posted by Joey Michaels at 5:53 PM on September 21 [4 favorites]


Y'all who are entertaining this nonsense because you want Biden to lose the primary are doing the truth a disservice.

Regardless of the truth, the NYT et al will make this Hunter Biden thing, the thing. They're doing it already. Sure, they'll find some other thing for any other Democratic candidate to bothsides about and do their part again to reelect Trump, but we know now what it is for Biden. It's Ukraine and his son. They'll run 600 straight days of Trump campaign printed propaganda just like they did about EMAILS. Today was day 1 of the next 600. They'll never let this go. They'll never cover Trump equivalently.

It's absolutely an electoral liability for Biden now, on top of many other liabilities. Truth has absolutely zero to do with it.
posted by T.D. Strange at 6:20 PM on September 21 [16 favorites]


I will almost certainly get another "not enough evidence not the right time" response.

And the way to get evidence is to hold impeachment hearings, which are needed to expedite court decisions. Stop screwing around.

Is Warren seriously the only candidate to come out and say we need immediate impeachment hearings? The other candidates should pay attention when the only former law professor candidate speaks to the law.
posted by xammerboy at 6:36 PM on September 21 [16 favorites]


I still don't understand how Biden's demand that this prosecutor be removed financially helped his son. Didn't the prosecutor protect the company his son was a board member of?
posted by xammerboy at 6:39 PM on September 21 [1 favorite]


I just finished listening to the most current episode of Mueller She Wrote, which concludes the meat of the actual report, and I have to say these particular crimes pile up really catastrophically with those described within it. It puts a whole new light on who Trump is and how he operates. It's much more savvy than his public persona would seem to indicate. He is aware of what's going on to a degree that's really disturbing. He's constantly on the phone managing all these multiple criminal enterprises he's got going on. This is the tip of an iceberg and we are not ready.
posted by odinsdream at 6:40 PM on September 21 [12 favorites]


Trump’s Ukraine call reveals a president convinced of his own invincibility (WaPo)
The push by Trump and his personal attorney, Rudolph W. Giuliani, to influence the newly elected Ukrainian leader reveals a president convinced of his own invincibility — apparently willing and even eager to wield the vast powers of the United States to taint a political foe and confident that no one could hold him back. “We haven’t seen anything like this in my lifetime,” said William A. Galston, a senior fellow in governance at the Brookings Institution who graduated from college just before Watergate. “He appears to be daring the rest of the political system to stop him — and if it doesn’t, he’ll go further.” [...]

Giuliani said new scrutiny of Trump’s communications with Zelensky is welcome because it draws attention to Biden and his family’s involvement in Ukraine. [...] Former House speaker Newt Gingrich, a Trump ally, said the president has calculated that there is a political upside to spotlighting Ukraine and a story he believes “would crush Biden if people came to believe it was true.” [...]

“We got progressively desensitized,” said Joyce Vance, a former U.S. attorney in the Obama administration. “We’re learning progressively about wrongs, and one part gets absorbed before the next part gets revealed, so for whatever reason the public doesn’t get excited about it. It’s mystifying.”

One explanation is that Republicans in Congress have almost uniformly fallen in line behind Trump, reacting with instinctive nonchalance and blocking efforts to investigate his actions or hold him accountable.

“What we’re discovering is that the Constitution is not a mechanism that runs by itself,” Galston said. “Ultimately, we are a government of men and not law. The law has no force without people who are willing to enforce it. The ball is now squarely in the court of the Republican Party, and particularly Senate Republicans. Will they ever be prepared to say enough is enough?” [...]

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), a member of the Foreign Relations Committee who recently met with Zelensky in Ukraine, said he and other Democrats are frustrated with the pervasive culture of inaction among congressional Republicans. “If it’s true that the president requested that the president of Ukraine interfere in an American election, we are in really dangerous, brand-new territory,” Murphy said. “That’s absolutely, completely unacceptable in a democracy.”
posted by katra at 6:46 PM on September 21 [15 favorites]


This is really quite worse than the Mueller Report stuff.
posted by odinsdream at 6:50 PM on September 21 [17 favorites]




I still don't understand how Biden's demand that this prosecutor be removed financially helped his son. Didn't the prosecutor protect the company his son was a board member of?

That’s what seems most likely. The prosecutor wasn’t doing anything (part of a larger pattern of not doing anything about corruption), but the guy connected to Hunter Biden (Zlochevsky) almost certainly had a history of corruption. In fact, Hunter connected him to a law firm for a review of potential legal exposure (this is detailed in the New Yorker article, which says an investigator found that Zlochevsky could be at legal risk. So both he and Hunter knew he was worried about a potential prosecution. Meanwhile, silence from the prosecutor. The prosecutor now can claim “well, I was just about to do something and that’s why Joe Biden moved against me at that particular time.” Convenient. But if Joe Biden and the general world community got rid of the prosecutor because they wanted a more aggressive prosecutor in there, it would actually have put Zlochevsky in more danger, if he was indeed at legal risk.
posted by sallybrown at 7:05 PM on September 21 [5 favorites]


It's absolutely an electoral liability for Biden now, on top of many other liabilities. Truth has absolutely zero to do with it.

Just like truth will have absolutely zero to do with the hue and cry over the non-scandal that Trump hammers a non-Biden Democratic nominee with. "What will Trumpists think of this?" should be a non-factor in the Democratic primary. There will always be a "this", even if there isn't a "this".
posted by Etrigan at 8:18 PM on September 21 [18 favorites]


My congressman is a fascist douche, so I send messages to my Senator (Bennett-D-CO)
Subject: Feinstein Supports House ODNI Subpoena

Please join Sen. Feinstein in demanding that the ODNI turn over the whistle-blower report to the House. It will be even more powerful with the voters and the press to also voice support strongly and publicly.
Thanks, j_
Feel free to copy that. Here's the Senate Intelligence Committee's roster, if you want nag anyone.

p.s. etrigan, you are correct.
posted by j_curiouser at 9:01 PM on September 21 [4 favorites]


Kind of makes one wonder how much lawlessness Trump gets away with in his corporation, where there’s no press or congress looking over your shoulder, or that pesky Constitution to hamper you. I have to think this is exactly how he does business. I mean, it’s all he knows how to do, and he’s applying it to government.

You might be interested in a podcast put out by ProPublica, a really good non-profit investigative journalism outlet--titled Trump, Inc. They go over the many legal battles he's been in which stemmed from his business practices, as well as other almost-certainly-illegal stuff he did that never quite made it to court. I recommend starting with the first episode, so you can hear the whole story in chronological order.

Either enter "trump, inc" into your podcast app, or check out: https://www.propublica.org/series/trump-inc
posted by davedave at 9:17 PM on September 21 [8 favorites]


Regardless of the truth, the NYT et al will make this Hunter Biden thing, the thing. They're doing it already.

Yep so much it’s already been translated into a meme.
posted by bitteschoen at 1:52 AM on September 22 [4 favorites]


Trump has whittled the number of people he has attend meetings with foreign leaders down to its bare minimum. He's got to know this was one of about four to five people maximum, right? This also suggests (I think) that the whistleblower is someone very high up, who is truly gunning to take Trump out.
posted by xammerboy at 8:11 AM on September 22


@AOC

It is one thing for a sitting president to break the law. It’s another to let him. The integrity of our democracy isn’t threatened when a president breaks the law. It‘s threatened when we do nothing about it. The GOP’s silence & refusal to act shouldn’t be a surprise. Ours is.
posted by xammerboy at 8:20 AM on September 22 [38 favorites]


Trump goes on offensive over Biden and Ukraine as Schiff ponders impeachment (Guardian)
“Swamp media says Biden corruption disproven,” Rudy Giuliani, the former New York mayor now Trump’s personal attorney, wrote on Twitter. “Typical lie.”

The claims about Ukraine concern Hunter Biden’s work for a gas company in the country and a visit by the then vice-president in March 2016, in which he pressed for the firing of the country’s top prosecutor, an aim of the US, its allies, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. [...]

Giuliani, who has admitted seeking to pressure Ukrainian authorities to investigate the Bidens, claimed on Sunday: “Three Ukrainian prosecutors on tape saying case fixed and dismissed because of Biden pressure. Tapes available to the Swamp media. But there is much more proof. Witnesses, documents, millions in circuitous wire transfers … more to come.”

The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday that in a 25 July call with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy, Trump asked eight times for the Bidens to be investigated. The call is reportedly the subject of an intelligence services whistleblower complaint which the White House is refusing to release to Congress. [...] The former vice-president, who in Iowa on Saturday said “Trump is using this because he knows I’ll beat him like a drum”, has called for the transcript of the call to be released. So have allies of Trump.
Which leads to... Trump allies urge release of transcript at center of whistleblower controversy (Byron York, Wasington Examiner Opinion)
Some key administration officials are urging President Trump to release the transcript of a conversation with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky that is at the center of a growing whistleblower controversy.
And this indication that they know more about the complaint than Congress does at this time, but also have a television lawyer's misunderstanding about the reliability and admissibility of hearsay:
The officials also believe the public should know the circumstances of the whistleblower complaint. The complaint is hearsay because the author did not have direct knowledge of the substance of the complaint but rather heard it from someone else. Being hearsay does not totally invalidate a complaint, but some officials believe it weakens the alleged whistleblower's case.
posted by katra at 8:23 AM on September 22 [3 favorites]


Trump in the latest of his "chopper talks":
KEY TRUMP QUOTE:
"The conversation I had was largely congratulatory, was largely corruption, all of the corruption taking place. It was largely the fact that we don't want our people, like Vice President Biden and his son creating to the corruption already in the Ukraine.“
and with video
Trump, looking very red, basically admits he asked Ukrainian President Zelensky to look into Biden during call that's part of whistleblower complaint: "It was largely [about] fact that we don't want our people like VP Biden & his son creating to the corruption largely in Ukraine"
posted by bitteschoen at 8:52 AM on September 22 [7 favorites]


Trump Didn’t Bribe Ukraine. It’s Actually Worse Than That. (Renato Mariotti, Politico Magazine)
Mislabeling what the president has done could make impeachment more difficult to achieve.
If what Trump is accused of doing is true, it is a kind of corrupt conduct that the criminal system is not equipped to handle. Labeling his behavior with criminal terms such as bribery and extortion not only misunderstands the statutory language, it gives Trump and his supporters ammunition with which to defend themselves, making impeachment—the proper constitutional remedy for presidential corruption—harder to achieve. [...]

Besides, presidents push foreign governments to take official acts all the time. The Constitution contemplates that the president will interact with foreign leaders and use his power to persuade them to do things that help the United States. What is abhorrent about the alleged conduct here is not that Trump is pushing a foreign government to do something, but rather that he might have used his presidential power to get a foreign government to help him win the next election. [...]

What Trump is alleged to have done is not a garden variety crime; it’s worse. It involved misusing $250 million in aid appropriated by Congress for his benefit—the kind of gross misconduct that easily clears the bar of high crimes and misdemeanors set by the Constitution when impeaching a president. Which means the best way to hold Trump accountable for that misconduct isn’t a criminal trial; it’s for Congress to impeach him.
posted by katra at 8:57 AM on September 22 [20 favorites]


It’s been 48 hours and Trump is already up to “I did it, so what?” It’s getting faster. All he really needs to do at this point is just keep Gish galloping scandals.
posted by Your Childhood Pet Rock at 9:11 AM on September 22 [13 favorites]


Since the response of the Democratic Congressional leadership also appears to be "He did it, so what?", I can't really blame him for escalating his brazen disregard for rule of law.
posted by Gadarene at 9:17 AM on September 22 [12 favorites]


I mean, fuck, I say this every time, but:

If Trump and Biden are both doing illegal things, gather the evidence and charge them with their respective crimes. The most maddening thing about all of this is that politicians and the MSM always act like you can only favor justice for one side.
posted by Rykey at 9:29 AM on September 22 [14 favorites]


Adam Schiff: Impeachment 'may be the only remedy' (Politico)
"I have been very reluctant to go down the path of impeachment, for the reason that I think the founders contemplated in a country that has elections every four years, that this would be an extraordinary remedy, a remedy of last resort, not first resort," the California Democrat said on CNN's "State of the Union."

"But if the president is essentially withholding military aid at the same time that he is trying to browbeat a foreign leader into doing something illicit that is providing dirt on his opponent during a presidential campaign, then that may be the only remedy that is coequal to the evil that that conduct represents," Schiff added. [...]

"It may be that we do have to move forward with that extraordinary remedy," Schiff said of impeachment.

Still, he acknowledged, the Republican-controlled Senate would not go along. "There's no chance of us persuading the Senate, the Senate Republicans, in an impeachment trial. They have shown their willingness to carry the president's baggage, no matter how soiled its contents," Schiff said.

"I want to make sure, before we go down this road, that we can persuade the public that this was the right thing to do. And part of persuading the public that impeachment is the right thing to do is making sure that the country understands that this was a last resort," Schiff explained.

"The president is pushing us down this road."
posted by katra at 10:02 AM on September 22 [8 favorites]


WTF Hunter Biden was doing was irrelevant. You don't extort other countries for personal electoral gain ( we have precedent for this with Nixon and Reagan but those MFs should have been impeached for it too).
posted by benzenedream at 10:20 AM on September 22 [14 favorites]


Trump suggests he mentioned Biden in phone call with Ukrainian president (WaPo)
“The conversation I had was largely congratulatory, was largely corruption, all of the corruption taking place, was largely the fact that we don’t want our people, like Vice President Biden and his son, creating to the corruption already in the Ukraine,” Trump told reporters. “And Ukraine, Ukraine’s got a lot of problems.”

Trump has denied that he has done anything untoward in his conversations with world leaders and had previously declined to say whether he spoke with Zelensky about Biden.

The president’s apparent confirmation that he mentioned Biden on the call came as his allies scrambled to deny that he did so.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said there is “no direct evidence” that Trump asked Zelensky to investigate Biden or his family, saying the allegation is “based on hearsay reports.” [...]

Rudolph W. Giuliani, Trump’s personal attorney, said in a phone call with The Washington Post Sunday morning that he has been “working for months for this moment” and this week will “keep pushing and pushing” to highlight the Biden family’s finances. He alluded to new materials he may cite this week, but declined to offer specifics.

When asked if Trump has given Giuliani’s efforts his blessing, Giuliani said, “I don’t do anything that involves my client without speaking with my client.”
posted by katra at 11:06 AM on September 22 [2 favorites]


WaPo: How Trump and Giuliani pressured Ukraine to investigate the president’s rivals

Former US attorney Barbara McQuade points out: “While a sitting President cannot be indicted, Giuliani can. More facts are needed, but if he brokered deal to trade dirt on Biden for foreign aid, he could be guilty of conspiracy to commit bribery. Trump would return to his familiar role as Individual 1.”
posted by Doktor Zed at 12:51 PM on September 22 [16 favorites]


POLITICO Playbook: Impeachment watch: Schiff says ‘we need an answer’
-- MARTHA RADDATZ interviewed SECRETARY OF STATE MIKE POMPEO on ABC’S “THIS WEEK”: [...] POMPEO: “America cannot have our elections interfered with — America cannot have our elections interfered with. And if — if that’s what took place there, if there was that kind of activity engaged in by Vice President Biden, we need to know.

RADDATZ: “There’s no evidence of that yet, but if the conversation was perfectly fine, as President Trump said, why not release the transcript or a portion to the public?” POMPEO: “I’ll have — the White House will have to explain. … We don’t release transcripts very often. It’s the — it’s the rare case. Those are private conversations between world leaders and it wouldn’t be appropriate to do so except in -- in the most extreme circumstances. There’s — there’s — there’s no — there’s no evidence that that would be appropriate here at this point.”

-- CHUCK TODD spoke with Treasury Secretary STEVEN MNUCHIN on NBC’S “MEET THE PRESS”: TODD: “Do you know why the president hasn't gone to the FBI about these allegations?” MNUCHIN: “I don't but let me just say that I wasn't on this call but I've been on many calls with world leaders. So first of all, there are multiple people on these calls. I think it would be highly inappropriate to release a transcript of a call between two world leaders. And I think the bigger story here is really what went on with Biden and his son? He came out over the weekend and said he never spoke to his son. Yet the facts are his son said they had spoken.”

TODD: “I don’t understand how that – I don’t understand how that has anything to with what’s going on in — with this situation. Going back to what you just — why — if the president believes an American is committing — doing something wrong , why didn't he go to the FBI? Why is he outsourcing the investigation to the Ukrainian government?”

MNUCHIN: “I don't know if — I wouldn't know if — I don't believe he did outsource the investigation. I wasn't on the call. And I don't know what conversations the president had — has had — with the Attorney General. He may have had conversations already.”

-- JAKE TAPPER also spoke with MNUCHIN on CNN’S “STATE OF THE UNION”: MNUCHIN: “What I do find inappropriate is the fact that Vice President Biden at the time's son did very significant business dealings in Ukraine. I, for one, find that to be concerning. And, to me, that is the issue perhaps that should be further investigated.” TAPPER: “I don't understand. So it is OK for Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump Jr. to do business all over the world, it's OK for Ivanka Trump to have copyrights approved all over the world while President Trump is president, but while Vice President Joe Biden was vice president, his son shouldn't have been able to do business dealings?”

MNUCHIN: “Again, I don't -- I don't really want to go into more of these details, other than to say…” TAPPER: “Well, you're just setting a precedent that the president is violating. MNUCHIN: “Again, I think there is a significant difference in what you're saying, OK, or what I was saying between Biden and his son's relationship with the Ukraine oligarch and potential business dealings that the Trump Organization has had which predated his presidency.”
posted by katra at 12:58 PM on September 22 [5 favorites]


This all seems like a lot of backpedaling. I'd really like to say "when you've lost Mnuchin, you've lost America," but he's way too slimy to serve as a foundation for anything.
posted by rhizome at 1:21 PM on September 22 [3 favorites]


I didn't see either program but from what was posted above, my take is that Trump will be...displeased... with Mnuchin's inept defense and maybe he ought to be brushing up his resume. One can hope.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 1:51 PM on September 22 [2 favorites]


Trump says he'll consider releasing transcript of call with Ukraine leader (Politico)
President Donald Trump on Sunday said he would consider releasing a transcript of a phone call he had with Ukraine’s leader, even though two of his Cabinet secretaries said only hours earlier that such conversations must remain “private.”

“We’ll make a determination about how to release it, releasing it, saying what we said,” the president told reporters in Houston. “It was an absolutely perfect conversation. The problem is, when you’re speaking to foreign leaders, you don’t want foreign leaders to feel that they shouldn’t be speaking openly and good. … You want them to be able to express themselves without knowing that not every single word is going to be going out and going out all over the world.”
posted by katra at 2:56 PM on September 22 [1 favorite]


It sounds like he would be happy to release the tapes if they weren't under routine audit right now.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 3:01 PM on September 22 [24 favorites]


It probably does take a little while for Barr to transcribe those tapes. I'm sure his transcriptions are as accurate as his summaries.
posted by bcd at 3:29 PM on September 22 [10 favorites]


Trump said a long time ago that he’d accept help from a foreign nation if they had information about his political opponents. He made it seem like it’s something anybody would do. People said this was illegal. Now here he is actively looking for information on his political opponents and threatening or bribing or whatever the foreign government in order to get that information.

Do we really need to work backward here to see what happened with Russia? Probably the same shit.
posted by gucci mane at 4:33 PM on September 22 [10 favorites]


America cannot have our elections interfered with — America cannot have our elections interfered with. And if — if that’s what took place there, if there was that kind of activity engaged in by Vice President Biden, we need to know.

So, I dunno if Pompeo is misspeaking or what, but what the hell is he going on about here? Nobody, as far as I can tell, has accused Biden of election interference. They're accusing Trump of that. I know they're trying to pretend the actions taken by both are equivalent, but Biden, even if we treat his Ukraine indiscretions as equally troubling as Trump's, committed a completely different act of pressure, one that had nothing whatsoever to do with the election.
posted by jackbishop at 5:27 PM on September 22 [2 favorites]


It's Trump's Mirror. The entire Republican party has adopted his playbook of accusing his opponent of the crimes that Trump is committing, because it works, and because they know our media will treat whatever they say as fact regardless.
posted by T.D. Strange at 5:37 PM on September 22 [16 favorites]


I think the democrats are inept at best and compromised at worst. But... I retain a sliver of hope that these people both 1) chose not to impeach after Mueller because they knew something bigger would come along and 2) are really going to full force into impeachment hearings while making it look like they didnt really want to but the crimes are so bad they have to.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 5:45 PM on September 22 [2 favorites]


Ukraine isn’t Washington’s top priority, but it’s sparking another Washington scandal (WaPo)
Kiev already played a major role in the scandal that took down Paul Manafort. Trump’s 2016 campaign chairman earned millions of dollars advising Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych before he was ousted by protests in 2014. A black ledger detailing Ukrainian government payments to Manafort surfaced in August 2016, leading to Manafort’s resignation from the campaign and then contributing to the criminal case that sent him away for seven years for tax and bank fraud. [...]

In Ukraine, Manafort is deeply tied in the public mind to the corruption of the Yanukovych era. When the ledger of payments surfaced in 2016, diplomats in Kiev figured the disclosure was motivated by Ukrainian anger about his work in their political system. Trump was unpopular in Kiev because of his admiration for Putin, but few thought it was part of a broader Ukrainian vendetta against the Trump campaign because no one at the time expected the campaign to be victorious.

But in Trump-era Washington, the president’s backers have portrayed the episode differently, as part of a Ukrainian government conspiracy to interfere in the 2016 campaign.

Giuliani, whose consulting group counts among its clients several prominent Ukrainians, has targeted the former lawmaker Serhiy Leshchenko, who helped publicize the ledger. In a May appearance on Fox News, Giuliani named Leshchenko as one of a group of “enemies of the president, in some cases enemies of the United States,” who were close to newly elected Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Leshchenko says his actions have been distorted. “Instead of applauding me because I have put in jail a criminal, Mr. Manafort, who is found guilty by American judges and American grand juries, they have started attacking me,” he said.

Leshchenko advised Zelensky’s campaign. But he said Giuliani’s vendetta had forced him to leave the new leader’s team to avoid harming relations between Ukraine and the United States. In an opinion piece published Saturday by The Washington Post, he offered to testify before Congress.
Rudy Giuliani accused me of exposing Paul Manafort’s Ukraine deals to help U.S. Democrats. That’s a lie. (Serhiy Leshchenko, WaPo Opinion)
Giuliani's entire approach is built on disinformation and the manipulation of facts. Giuliani has developed a conspiracy theory in which he depicts my revelations about Manafort as an intervention in the 2016 U.S. election in favor of the Democratic Party. In his May interview on Fox, Giuliani even claimed that I was convicted of a corresponding crime.

The facts do not support this allegation. Here’s the truth: The administrative court — which has long had a reputation as the most corrupt in Ukraine — ruled in December 2018 that I had acted illegally by disclosing the payments to Manafort. We appealed, and the verdict was suspended. And in the summer of this year, we won the appeal and the court’s decision was completely annulled. The court concluded that all the charges against me were unfounded, and even obliged my opponents to reimburse me for $100 in legal costs.

But Giuliani continues to quote this court decision even though it never attained legal force. Giuliani also persists in claiming that the “black ledger” is a fake. He stated this most recently just a few days ago in an interview with CNN. In fact, the book is a genuine document. Expert examinations have confirmed the authenticity of the signatures shown in it. [...]

By repeating this lie, Giuliani is not only deceiving American citizens. He is not only intervening in Ukrainian politics, smearing parliamentarians and officials of the presidential administration. He is also trying to drag the new president of Ukraine into an American election, which is absolutely unacceptable.
posted by katra at 6:39 PM on September 22 [20 favorites]


Former CIA official explains why whistleblower has very good reason to fear Trump (Aldous J. Pennyfarthing / Daily Kos via Alternet)

No one who may be impartial is left to handle the complaint.
posted by ZeusHumms at 10:43 PM on September 22 [3 favorites]


This NYT story apparently changed headline three times - from "Biden’s Work in Ukraine: What We Know and Don’t Know" to "Trump, Biden and Ukraine: Sorting Out the Accusations", and there’s a note at the bottom saying "A version of this article appears in print on Sept. 23, 2019, Section A, Page 19 of the New York edition with the headline: Trump Is Pointing Fingers, but Here’s the Rundown on Biden and Son."
posted by bitteschoen at 3:59 AM on September 23 [6 favorites]


Trump is Pointing Fingers, But NYT Editors Are Doing The Heavy Lifting
posted by benzenedream at 7:23 AM on September 23 [21 favorites]


Essential to understanding this scandal is to understand a portion of Trump's mindset. Trump truly believes that his opponents are worse than he is and that this gives him every right to be evil.

Trump wrote a blurb for Roger Stone's book "The Bush Crime Family" about how the Bushes killed JFK (Senior) among others.

Trump wrote a blurb for Roger Stone's book about the Clintons, wherein they go through the Clinton body count and how Bill Clinton killed JFK (Jr.).

(These books are horribly written, if written is a word that could be used to describe them.)

Trump tweeted with a link to the Clinton body count.

He believes he can be a traitor because he believes Biden is the same.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 7:33 AM on September 23 [3 favorites]


Bill Weld Accuses Trump Of Treason | TPM
Former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld (R) accused President Donald Trump of “treason” for his phone call with the Ukrainian President to pressure him into investigating former Vice President Joe Biden’s son.

“Talk about pressuring a foreign country to interfere with and control a U.S. election. It couldn’t be clearer,” Weld said Monday on “Morning Joe.” “And that’s not just undermining democratic institutions — that is treason. It’s treason pure and simple. And the penalty for treason under the U.S. Code is death. That’s the only penalty. The only penalty under the Constitution is removal from office. And that might look like a pretty good alternative to the President if he can work out a plea deal.”

“We don’t have to worry about bribery any more, although I think he’s committed that,” Weld added. “We don’t have to worry about other high crimes and misdemeanors, although I think he’s committed many. He’s such a lawless man. We’ve got treason, and we don’t have to dribble around the court. We can go right for the hoop.”
posted by lazaruslong at 7:35 AM on September 23 [25 favorites]


The narrative all along should have been that Biden went the extra mile to get rid of a crooked prosecutor that was causing damage internationally. He did this despite the fact that the prosecutor shielded a company Biden's son worked for. How does a bold and brave move to root out corruption, lauded internationally and especially by the Ukraine, get reported on so unfairly by the NyTimes?

The NyTimes clearly has a problem. They don't want to appear to have a liberal bias, but have bent over backwards so far in their attempt to appear neutral they continually mislead. Their stories are like the "picks" they highlight in their comments section, half-filled with garbage nonsense, because that's someone's viewpoint. This is a paper so slavishly devoted to being non-controversial they wouldn't even call torture torture, because it might hurt some Americans feelings.
posted by xammerboy at 7:36 AM on September 23 [13 favorites]


The NYT doesn't care about not appearing to have a liberal bias. They want a conservative bias to go along with whatever else they do.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 7:44 AM on September 23 [5 favorites]


The Press Is Embracing False Equivalence—Again (James Fallows, Atlantic)
The problem with Trump is that he is not like anyone else who has ever held the presidency. He lies with abandon; he uses public office for private gain on a scale never before witnessed; and he seems to have no respect for, or even interest in, the institutions of self-government to which all of his predecessors have at least paid lip service.

Thus any of the “normal” procedural rules, applied to such an abnormal figure, can lead to destructive results. To be “fair” in covering him is to be unfair—to the truth, to history, to the readers, to the national interest, to any concept of journalistic purpose. The stuffy way to put this problem is “false equivalence.” The casual way to put it is “But what about her emails?” [...]

As an Atlantic colleague puts it: Journalism is hard; criticizing journalism is easy. In this business we’re all doing our best, and we all make mistakes in real time. But the very difficulty of these calls is why it’s worth noting a similar, as-if-we’d-learned-nothing-from-2016 case of false equivalence, which is unfolding before our eyes. This is “the Ukraine problem.” [...]

From these stories, it looks to me as if the Hunter Biden/Ukraine “scandal” is perhaps invented, and almost certainly exaggerated. But let’s not even go that far. Let’s assume, for argument, that the very worst version of the story is true: that Joe Biden, as sitting vice president, did what he could to pressure a prosecutor in Ukraine who he thought might be interfering with Hunter Biden’s business deals.

Even if that proved true—and the evidence comes nowhere close to that—it would still be in an entirely different category from what Donald Trump appears to have done. [...] You could fairly liken it to questions about whether Ivanka Trump’s clothing brands are receiving favorable trademark treatment from Chinese officials, or whether the Air Force has gone out of its way to have planes land and refuel at a Scottish airport near Donald Trump’s golf resort there.

What you can’t liken it to, or shouldn’t, is what Donald Trump appears to have done in asking the government of Ukraine to interfere in the next election.
posted by katra at 8:33 AM on September 23 [19 favorites]


Judd Legum twitter thread:

A massive Facebook Page called "I Love America" — which has 1.1 million followers — is actually run by Ukrainians

Recently, the page has started pushing caustic pro-Trump propaganda

The Ukrainian "I Love America" page is repurposing memes used by the Internet Research Agency, the Russian group highlighted in the Mueller report that interfered in the 2016 election

The big difference is this operation is MUCH BIGGER

Over the last 90 days, just the major pages in this network has as much reach on Facebook than the New York Times and Washington Post COMBINED

posted by diogenes at 8:49 AM on September 23 [30 favorites]


Schumer demands hearings, subpoena over whistleblower complaint (Politico)
In a letter to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Monday morning, the New York Democrat said the Senate should hold hearings regarding any connection between delayed aid to Ukraine and Trump's reported request that the country probe the son of former Vice President Joe Biden, a leading Democratic contender in next year's presidential election. Schumer also asks McConnell to compel the Senate to issue a subpoena to bring the whistleblower complaint to Congress "as required by law."

Schumer demands "the Senate Republican majority take immediate action to stop President Trump from withholding an Intelligence Community whistleblower complaint that by law must be transmitted to Congress, and to begin an investigation into the administration’s handling of security assistance to Ukraine," the letter reads. "The Republican-led Senate has remained silent and submissive, shying away from this institution’s constitutional obligation to conduct oversight."

Schumer also requests that McConnell lean on the White House to identify any administration officials who delayed $250 million in aid to Ukraine earlier this year and release a transcript of Trump's July 25 conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky "during which President Trump reportedly pressured the government of Ukraine to investigate Vice President Biden and his family," as Schumer put it.
posted by katra at 9:39 AM on September 23 [9 favorites]


Thanks, katra and James Fallows--I almost forgot about the Scottish airport thing (Turnberry previously, previously, previously, previously, previously)
posted by box at 9:44 AM on September 23 [2 favorites]


Giuliani can't say 100 percent Trump didn't threaten Ukraine aid (The Hill)
Giuliani, who is acting as the president's personal attorney, during an interview Monday with Fox Business first said reports that Trump threatened to cut aid was “a false story,” but then backtracked when pressed.

“Did the president threaten to cut off aid to the Ukraine?” Fox Business host Maria Bartiromo asked Giuliani during the interview.

“No, no, that was a false story,” he responded.

“One hundred percent?” the host asked Giuliani.

“Well, I can’t tell you if it’s 100 percent,” Giuliani said.
posted by katra at 10:23 AM on September 23 [5 favorites]


“Well, I can’t tell you if it’s 100 percent,” Giuliani said.

"...because then people would stop inviting me to appear on TV." [/fake]
posted by Gelatin at 10:38 AM on September 23 [5 favorites]


In a letter to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)

I'm cynical about this. Having Shumer demand that McConnell take action seems like an attempt to take pressure off the House. For example, he requests that the Republican Senate "Issue a subpoena to compel the delivery of the whistleblower complaint to Congress." Instead of asking the Republicans to do it in the legislature that Democrats don't control, wouldn't it be more efficient to do it themselves in the legislature that they do control?
posted by diogenes at 10:48 AM on September 23 [5 favorites]


I was curious to see what the media in Ukraine are making of all this, so I went and looked up Ukraine media in English language and found the Kyiv Post and here’s one of their articles on the topic of Trump’s demands to investigate Biden - I found it recaps things rather neatly and I like that it focuses on the fact that:
by the time that Biden intervened, anti-corruption activists in Ukraine led the campaign against Shokin for months, accusing him of sabotage in the investigation of the corruption cases, including the Burisma case involving Zlochevsky. In fact, as early as 2015, the U.S. had wanted Shokin removed and investigated, partly because of obstruction of the Burisma case.
Geoffrey R. Pyatt, U.S. ambassador to Ukraine at the time, took a strong stance on the need to fire Shokin,
And this was quite refreshing to read, and very straightforward - some highlights:
Specifically, Trump wants two investigations, both completely bogus for those of us on the ground in Ukraine who know the facts. [...]

Trump’s willingness to abandon an American ally is motivated by two of his five priorities in life: Getting a second four-year term in office and doing the bidding of Russian dictator Vladimir Putin, who has waged relentless war on Ukraine for more than five years because Ukrainians have the temerity, in his warped view, of insisting on a democratic future for their independent nation. Trump’s other three priorities, in no particular order, are: money, golf and grabbing women by their private parts or paying them off for staying silent about their sexual affairs with him. [...]

In the mob world, Trump’s threats to Ukraine amount to extortion and blackmail, which are crimes. There was a time when Trump’s lapdog lawyer, Rudolph Guiliani, would have prosecuted such organized crime. But now he’s the leading cheerleader for the Godfather in the White House, whose time in office mercifully coming to an end. [...]

The Democrats are right to be morally outraged. Trump’s partisan attacks on Ukraine threaten what has been one of the nation’s most prized achievements: bipartisan support in America. [...]

During the campaign, remember that Trump praised his boss Putin’s military takeover of Crimea and suggested that he might recognize the Kremlin’s illegal takeover of the Ukrainian peninsula. That American public opinion and policymakers stopped him doesn’t excuse Trump’s apologies to Putin.

“The people of Crimea, from what I’ve heard, would rather be with Russia than where they were,” Trump said, displaying his ignorance of what happened.

And then there was the Republican Party’s removal of a party platform to supply lethal weapons to Ukraine. While Trump did eventually supply some Javelins, he’s now held up military aid.

Trump, remember, has never released his tax records and has received millions upon millions of shady dollars from Russian oligarchs in real estate transactions and in loans from Deutsche Bank, a known money launderer for Russian oligarchs.
posted by bitteschoen at 10:51 AM on September 23 [40 favorites]


I'm cynical about this. Having Shumer demand that McConnell take action seems like an attempt to take pressure off the House. For example, he requests that the Republican Senate "Issue a subpoena to compel the delivery of the whistleblower complaint to Congress." Instead of asking the Republicans to do it in the legislature that Democrats don't control, wouldn't it be more efficient to do it themselves in the legislature that they do control?

The US isn't a parliamentary system. I have a feeling if Schumer told the House what to do they'd come back with "bite me". At least this way #moscowmitch keeps trending and it seems that's actually touched one of Yertle's nerves.
posted by Your Childhood Pet Rock at 10:54 AM on September 23 [3 favorites]


Oh forgot this other highlight from the above-linked second article from Kyiv Post (from Sep 10):
It is believable and even likely that Trump put a hold on an Oval Office visit with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, $250 million in military aid, and perhaps other items unless Ukraine’s leaders agree to become attack dogs against Trump’s Democratic opposition to his 2020 re-election campaign. There is talk that Trump might meet Zelensky on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York on Sept. 23, but that would be little consolation.
I’d also recommend this nicely titled piece from Aug 29 - Trump is one big headache for Ukraine
posted by bitteschoen at 11:01 AM on September 23 [6 favorites]


The US isn't a parliamentary system. I have a feeling if Schumer told the House what to do they'd come back with "bite me". At least this way #moscowmitch keeps trending and it seems that's actually touched one of Yertle's nerves.

The Constitution is very poorly written because the Framers would have expected Schumer to have challenged McConnell to a duel when McConnell tried to steal Garland's US Supreme Court seat.
posted by mikelieman at 11:15 AM on September 23 [29 favorites]


There is talk that Trump might meet Zelensky on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York on Sept. 23

Remember when Trump met Putin on the sidelines at Hamburg so that they could coordinate their "no collusion" stories. Trump confiscated his translator's notes.
posted by JackFlash at 11:25 AM on September 23 [3 favorites]


In a letter to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)

I'm cynical about this. Having Shumer demand that McConnell take action seems like an attempt to take pressure off the House. For example, he requests that the Republican Senate "Issue a subpoena to compel the delivery of the whistleblower complaint to Congress." Instead of asking the Republicans to do it in the legislature that Democrats don't control, wouldn't it be more efficient to do it themselves in the legislature that they do control?


I agree about the cynicism. What I thought was that this was a way to take pressure OFF of the House and Pelosi. See, the Dems are actually doing SOMETHING.
posted by bluesky43 at 11:42 AM on September 23 [2 favorites]


I agree about the cynicism. What I thought was that this was a way to take pressure OFF of the House and Pelosi. See, the Dems are actually doing SOMETHING.

Yes, that's what I meant.

The US isn't a parliamentary system. I have a feeling if Schumer told the House what to do they'd come back with "bite me".

Pelosi and Shumer coordinate their every move. They decided that having Shumer write this letter was preferably to Pelosi giving her caucus permission to actually issue the subpoena.
posted by diogenes at 12:21 PM on September 23 [3 favorites]


sorry everyone don’t mean to spam you with the Kyiv Post but as it happens they just published a very comprehensive explainer on the scandal and it contains a lot of details that I haven’t seen so neatly recapped in other explainers so far, so here you go: Trump whistleblower scandal, explained from Ukraine
posted by bitteschoen at 12:21 PM on September 23 [19 favorites]


Wonder if there's any connection between Bill Weld today musing about Trump being executed for treason and Trump saying today that Biden's crimes are deserving of the electric chair.
posted by angrycat at 1:29 PM on September 23




It seems that Trump dispatched Pence to Poland to engage in a little light treason.

Last month when Trump cancelled his trip to Poland because of a hurricane/golf-tee-time, he sent Pence in his place. In addition to the meeting in Poland, there was a meeting between Pence and Ukraine President Zelensky.

In a press conference at the time, a reporter asked Pence if they discussed Biden. Pence denied it but said:

Quid - "we discussed America’s support for Ukraine and the upcoming decision the President will make on the latest tranche of financial support in great detail.''

Pro - "But as President Trump had me make clear, we have great concerns about issues of corruption."

Quo - "and also told him that I would carry back to President Trump the progress that he and his administration in Ukraine are making on dealing with corruption in their country."

As Trump made clear - eight times - in his July talk with Zelensky, "corruption" means "Biden."

Looks like there could be a two-fer-one impeachment.
posted by JackFlash at 2:51 PM on September 23 [21 favorites]


Bill Weld Accuses Trump Of Treason | TPM

BZZT, we're not at war with Ukraine. Nobody pay attention to Bill Weld anymore.
posted by rhizome at 3:28 PM on September 23 [1 favorite]


Trump insists he never pressed Ukraine to dig for Biden dirt (AP)
A person familiar with the matter has told The Associated Press that Trump urged Zelenskiy to investigate Hunter Biden. The person wasn’t authorized to discuss the issue publicly and spoke on the condition of anonymity.
posted by katra at 4:09 PM on September 23


How do you run with a headline like that WHEN HE ADMITTED IT LESS THAN 24 HOURS PRIOR.

Come on, 4th estate. At least pretend to do your damn jobs.
posted by Your Childhood Pet Rock at 4:11 PM on September 23 [19 favorites]


Trump shrugs off impeachment talk over call with Ukraine president (Guardian)
He added what appeared to be an admission that US military aid was at issue: “If you don’t talk about corruption, why would you give money to a country that you think is corrupt?”
posted by katra at 5:29 PM on September 23 [1 favorite]


The intelligence watchdog at the center of Ukraine firestorm (Politico)
The intelligence community’s chief watchdog, Michael Atkinson, is known to his peers and colleagues as a highly cautious “straight shooter” who tends to keep his head down.

So when he sounded the alarm to Congress earlier this month about an “urgent” complaint he’d received from an intelligence official involving Trump’s communications, those who’ve worked with him were surprised — and took it seriously.

“As soon as I saw that it was Atkinson, I thought, ‘Oh shit, this is real,’” said one of Atkinson’s former Justice Department colleagues. “He’s not a political guy. He’s a classic career prosecutor who’s only going to call balls and strikes.”
posted by katra at 6:05 PM on September 23 [13 favorites]


Trump ordered hold on military aid days before calling Ukrainian president, officials say
Officials at the Office of Management and Budget relayed Trump’s order to the State Department and the Pentagon during an interagency meeting in mid-July, according to officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. They explained that the president had “concerns” and wanted to analyze whether the money [$400 million] needed to be spent.

Administration officials were instructed to tell lawmakers that the delays were part of an “interagency process” but to give them no additional information — a pattern that continued for nearly two months, until the White House released the funds on the night of Sept. 11.
posted by sallybrown at 7:15 PM on September 23 [7 favorites]


Seven freshman Democrats: These allegations are a threat to all we have sworn to protect: “We are not career politicians. We are veterans of the military and of the nation’s defense and intelligence agencies. . . . If these allegations are true, we believe these actions represent an impeachable offense.”

Geoff Garin, pollster for House Democrats, tweets: “The horse is out of the barn. Saddle up.”
posted by sallybrown at 7:19 PM on September 23 [25 favorites]


That politico article is (surprisingly) informative about the background of the ICIG. This graf bugged me:
Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire has refused to share the substance of the whistleblower’s complaint with Congress, as is normally required by law after the IG determines that the complaint is of “urgent concern.”
[my bold, ed.]

Just plain-ole 'required by law' fits better, don't you think, anonymous politico editor?
posted by j_curiouser at 7:34 PM on September 23 [18 favorites]


Five additional House Democrats came out in favor of impeachment tonight (on top of the national security seven who wrote the Post op-ed): Phillips, Craig, Larson, DeLaurio, and Dingell. Politico says this brings us up to 154 House Democrats in favor of impeachment. source, source
posted by sallybrown at 7:41 PM on September 23 [6 favorites]


If Trump didn't call for Ukranian muscle against Biden, why did Giuliani say he did?
posted by rhizome at 7:50 PM on September 23 [1 favorite]


There seems to have been a tectonic shift in the Dems' thinking about impeachment. More details in the focused Impeachment FPP.
posted by Doktor Zed at 7:50 PM on September 23 [7 favorites]


Officials at the Office of Management and Budget relayed Trump’s order to the State Department and the Pentagon during an interagency meeting in mid-July, according to officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. They explained that the president had “concerns” and wanted to analyze whether the money [$400 million] needed to be spent.

Giuliani provided the other half of this on TV tonight:
HANNITY: Did our State Dept ask you to go on a mission for them?
GIULIANI: They did.
HANNITY: And you were a good citizen and you went.
GIULIANI: The State Dept called me and said, ‘Would I take a call from [Ukrainian president aide Andriy Yermak]?’
Trump orders the money frozen, and all of a sudden the State Department is arranging calls between Guiliani, who does not work for the US government, and the Ukrainian president's staff?

Quid meet pro quo.
posted by zachlipton at 7:58 PM on September 23 [27 favorites]


Administration officials were instructed to tell lawmakers that the delays were part of an “interagency process” but to give them no additional information — a pattern that continued for nearly two months, until the White House released the funds on the night of Sept. 11.

So administration officials were ordered by Trump to lie to Congress about money Congress had allocated and these administration officials went along with it? For months? In furtherance of corruption? Seems there could be a lot of other heads rolling in the street.
posted by JackFlash at 7:59 PM on September 23 [18 favorites]


Congress is gonna hafta find a better way to get testimony and evidence. Those (turns out) weak-ass subpoenas aren't doing it. Legal peeps, is there any way to speed up the court process? Inherent contempt sounds like the sole option - but it's ridiculous to think Dems would even approach it.
posted by j_curiouser at 8:07 PM on September 23


The FOIAs will be rolling in tonight. I’m shocked this was contained for so long given the large number of people and agencies involved. There have to be a bunch of career civil service people who noticed the weirdness.
posted by sallybrown at 8:08 PM on September 23


There have to be a bunch of career civil service people who noticed the weirdness.

Well, we know for a fact there is at least one.
posted by JackFlash at 8:10 PM on September 23 [6 favorites]


NYT confirming the Post's story, Trump Ordered Aid to Ukraine Frozen Days Before Call With Its Leader with an additional detail (emphasis added):
Mr. Trump has acknowledged that he mentioned the Bidens in a call on July 25 with the new Ukrainian leader, Volodymyr Zelensky, and people familiar with the call have said Mr. Trump repeatedly urged Mr. Zelensky to speak with one of his personal lawyers, Rudolph W. Giuliani. Mr. Giuliani has been pushing Ukraine aggressively to look into the Bidens and the origins of material that implicated Paul Manafort, Mr. Trump’s former campaign chairman, in 2016.
There have to be a bunch of career civil service people who noticed the weirdness.

My question is whether anyone violated the Hatch Act by turning the State Department into a partisan political operation arranging a call between a foreign official and Giuliani for partisan purposes. It's hard to fathom what legitimate governmental purpose anyone at the State Department was fulfilling working with Giuliani.
posted by zachlipton at 8:14 PM on September 23 [13 favorites]


If Giuliani was brought on in a legitimate manner (we all know he wasn’t brought on for a legitimate reason...), there might be paperwork documenting that and related signatures/okays from people at State (which usually come from appointees). We would not see internal debates over what to do, but we’d see someone within the agency put their name on the line for this and perhaps whatever justification they gave for it. For Hatch Act reasons that wouldn’t be political—it might be something like he has unique expertise (eyeroll). I don’t know the particulars but we’ve seen former politicians used in diplomatic missions in the past—Bill Clinton in North Korea—so I’m guessing there’s some formal procedure.
posted by sallybrown at 8:23 PM on September 23


Congress is gonna hafta find a better way to get testimony and evidence. Those (turns out) weak-ass subpoenas aren't doing it. Legal peeps, is there any way to speed up the court process? Inherent contempt sounds like the sole option - but it's ridiculous to think Dems would even approach it.

Discussion about investigations by Congress is happening in the "How Do You Impeach a President?" FPP, including Trump having no problem with Guiliani testifying before Congress, which would certainly speed up the process...
posted by katra at 8:53 PM on September 23 [1 favorite]


we’ve seen former politicians used in diplomatic missions in the past—Bill Clinton in North Korea—so I’m guessing there’s some formal procedure.

Not exactly. The Bill Clinton mission was explicitly as a private citizen and not on behalf of the government. Al Gore was working privately on behalf of the hostages families and negotiated with North Korea for a settlement. After securing an agreement, Gore then asked the White House for permission to have Bill Clinton make the trip. It was a private negotiation and not on behalf of the government, although they needed the White House's permission to get Bill's visa. I'm guessing the State Department was kept informed about the negotiations even though they were not directly involved.

You might also recall that Republicans during the 2016 campaign made a faux scandal over the fact that Bill Clinton had his staff ask the State Department, headed by Hillary, for an extra visa in order for Bill to take one of his staff members with him. Republicans considered this to be a scandalous act of favoritism even though the State Department refused the request and Bill went alone. No good deed goes unpunished by Republicans.
posted by JackFlash at 9:01 PM on September 23 [3 favorites]


Trump Ordered Aid to Ukraine Frozen Days Before Call With Its Leader (NYT)
It soon became clear that the Ukraine aid freeze was different from the hold placed on other programs. Even after other foreign aid was restored, the money for Ukraine remained blocked.

The suspension of the aid caused confusion and frustration in both Washington and Kiev for months. Mr. Zelensky and other Ukrainian officials were mystified and complained to visiting American lawmakers. For five years, Russia has sponsored separatists in eastern Ukraine and the government in Kiev had relied on American and European security aid.

American government officials were left in the dark as well. When staff members at the State Department and Defense Department who work on issues related to Ukraine learned of the holds in July, they were puzzled and alarmed, according to current and former government officials familiar with the situation.
posted by katra at 9:08 PM on September 23 [7 favorites]


I've not spotted the commentary on the morass of laws that support the Executive saying 'Hold up this payment Congress has said to spend' as Biden and Trump have admitted to.

Has that been flogged out someplace? Like it was a brief to a Judge VS the I said this style?

And consider this: Had Joe Biden not bragged in public about the hold the money 'till you comply thing this whole conversation would be different. All Joe would have had to do was keep his mouth shut.

"Joe - you don't need to do this" - B. Obama.
posted by rough ashlar at 2:52 AM on September 24 [1 favorite]


I am having trouble following your comment, rough ashlar. Could you clarify wtf you are talking about? Is that a real Obama quote? Do you have a source for Biden saying Trump had legal authority to suspend congressionally approved payments? Am I missing something here? Because I can't parse this.
posted by lazaruslong at 6:01 AM on September 24 [3 favorites]


The Obama quote comes from an anonymous source but as far as I know it hasn't been disputed.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 6:22 AM on September 24 [3 favorites]


And consider this: Had Joe Biden not bragged in public

Trump uses U.N. meeting to wage domestic political attack on Biden (WaPo)
“We know that Hunter Biden had a sweetheart gig in Ukraine and that Joe Biden has bragged about trying to fire Ukraine’s top prosecutor looking into corruption,” Tim Murtaugh, a Trump campaign spokesman, said in a written statement.
Previously: Fact-checking President Trump’s wild jabs at Joe Biden (WaPo)
posted by katra at 6:41 AM on September 24 [5 favorites]


the Executive saying 'Hold up this payment Congress has said to spend' as Biden and Trump have admitted to.

Biden held up the payments? I'd like to unsubscribe from this newsletter please.
posted by diogenes at 6:42 AM on September 24 [6 favorites]


Biden (as well as Christine Lagarde) threatened to withhold payments to Ukraine for the explicit purpose of forcing Ukraine to fire the allegedly corrupt prosecutor. This was very public and a joint international effort as a way of fighting corruption in Ukraine.

Trump threatened to withhold payments to Ukraine for the alleged purpose of getting Ukraine to open an investigation into Hunter Biden, the son of Trump’s likely election opponent. This was done in secret as a way of trying to influence a US presidential election.

I can see how reasonable people would have problems with both, but they’d be for very different reasons (meddling in another country’s affairs vs meddling in our own election). One is what some would consider bad foreign policy, the other is corruption. And only the second seems like an impeachable offense.
posted by sallybrown at 6:59 AM on September 24 [43 favorites]


Well yes it’s been quoted several times in this thread that Biden did threaten to withhold a $1 billion loan to pressure Ukraine to fire prosecutor Shokin, and he did brag about it, that is not disputed – here’s another quote from the explainer already linked to above:
In 2016, Biden indeed pressured Ukraine to fire its Prosecutor General at the time, Viktor Shokin, threatening to withhold over $1 billion in U.S. loan guarantees if the official wasn’t removed. There is footage of Biden bragging about doing this.*
But Biden was not alone in calling for Shokin’s ouster. He was simply expressing the longstanding consensus in Ukraine’s pro-reform circles and among its partners.
Most importantly, there is no indication that Shokin was investigating Burisma, the company affiliated with Biden’s son.
*couldn’t find other footage than this from RT, unfortunately, you can safely skip the rest and only view that bit. It’s also quoted again in another article I’d already linked to above:
Biden has been public about his involvement in trying to get Shokin fired, which had become the U.S. position. In a book he wrote after leaving office called “Promise Me, Dad.” And, on Jan. 23, 2018, when speaking at an event in Washington D.C. hosted by the Council on Foreign Relations, Biden talked about his role in Shokin’s dismissal. He claimed that back in 2016 he had pressured then-President Petro Poroshenko and then-Prime Minister Arseniy Yatseniuk to sack Shokin, whom he saw as corrupt. Biden, who took the lead in carrying out America’s Ukraine policy under ex-U.S. President Barack Obama, threatened to withhold a $1 billion loan guarantee if Poroshenko kept Shokin.

“I looked at them and said, ‘I’m leaving in six hours. If the prosecutor is not fired, you’re not getting the money.’ Well, son of a bitch. He got fired. And they put in place someone who was solid at the time,” Biden said.
Sure he could have spoken about it in less crass terms than that, but it’s not an issue of Biden "keeping his mouth shut", it was the public position of the US (and the IMF and Ukrainian anti-corruption activists) that the prosecutor had to go. And I’m sure it wasn’t the first time the US had threatened to withhold money to a country to pressure that country to do something. It’s not a beautiful way to do foreign policy but nothing illegal about it.

(On preview - exactly, what sallybrown just wrote above!)
posted by bitteschoen at 7:11 AM on September 24 [7 favorites]


Fact-checking Trump’s latest claims on Biden and Ukraine (WaPo)
This is one of those vast and complex stories that consume Washington but frequently confuse ordinary Americans. The Trump White House appears to be counting on that confusion to offer a fog of claims and allegations to make it appear as if Biden had done something wrong.

On top of that, Trump is arguing that because Biden said he withheld aid from Ukraine in the name of battling corruption, there’s nothing wrong with Trump withholding aid from the same country in the name of fighting corruption (i.e., Biden was involved in supposedly corrupt dealings and should be investigated). [...]

But there is no equivalency here: We fact-checked these allegations in May and found they did not add up. In fact, Biden’s case has gotten stronger with time.
posted by katra at 7:14 AM on September 24 [13 favorites]


Biden: “I will withhold US aide unless you end corruption in your country.”

Trump: “I will withhold US aide unless you help me be corrupt in my country.”
posted by valkane at 7:15 AM on September 24 [36 favorites]


Biden: “I will withhold US aide unless you end corruption in your country.”

It's more than that, really. Viktor Shokin wasn't fixing parking tickets, he was protecting oligarchs who were skimming billions from Ukraine:
The United States and other Western nations had for months called for the ousting of Mr. Shokin, who was widely criticized for turning a blind eye to corrupt practices and for defending the interests of a venal and entrenched elite. He was one of several political figures in Kiev whom reformers and Western diplomats saw as a worrying indicator of a return to past corrupt practices, two years after a revolution that was supposed to put a stop to self-dealing by those in power.
Those billions were flowing into the US and Europe to be laundered, distorting financial and real estate markets. Biden was acting in the interest of US foreign policy because billions in black market dollars floating through the financial system were assumed to be a bad thing by all the recent US administrations, with the exception of the current one.
posted by peeedro at 7:29 AM on September 24 [18 favorites]


Pence defends Trump bringing up the Bidens in call with Ukrainian leader (WaPo)
In his Fox News appearance, Pence characterized Trump’s communication with Zelensky as a “congratulatory call” on an election that he won “built largely on the message of an anti-corruption campaign.” Zelensky had been inaugurated as president on May 20.

“The president spoke to him about our concern, investing hundreds of millions of American taxpayer dollars in seeing him move for a reform agenda,” Pence said. “President Trump made it clear that we’ve got to see reforms.”

“He mentioned Vice President Biden and his son in the context of us wanting to see honest government,” Pence continued. “That’s exactly what the American taxpayer would expect.”
"Defends" doesn't seem like the best word to use for this apparent admission that Trump linked American aid to pressuring Ukraine about the Bidens.
posted by katra at 7:45 AM on September 24 [3 favorites]


NPR doing their best to usher in full fascism with the grossest display of both sidesism I’ve ever seen.

They’ve now changed the headline.
posted by bitteschoen at 7:47 AM on September 24 [3 favorites]


Our papers of record are so far down the both-sides rabbit hole that they really don't seem to be explaining this clearly. In fact, they seem to be going out of their ways to obfuscate whether or not Biden did anything wrong. And that's really starting to upset me.

1) Biden wasn't alone in calling for the ouster of the top prosecutor - other western leaders around the world did so as well
2) The motivation for the ouster was not that the prosecutor was investigating any company in particular, but the fact that he WASN'T going after obvious corruption at many companies
3) The corrupt prosecutor had already dropped the investigation into Burisma (the Hunter Biden-associated company) when Biden called for his firing

In other words, Biden potentially went AGAINST his own family's interests in joining in calls for a new prosecutor. It would have been better for Burisma, and potentially Hunter Biden and Joe Biden, if the corrupt prosecutor who had already dropped the investigation against Burisma had stayed in his place.

JOE BIDEN DID NOT DO ANYTHING WRONG.

And I can't believe it's still the primary and I'm somehow being forced to defend Joe Fucking Biden.
posted by the turtle's teeth at 8:11 AM on September 24 [42 favorites]


Yeah, the White House "counting on confusion" means it is counting on the very media it decries as "fake news" and "the enemy of the people" to take his hogwash seriously enough to muddle the storyline that he tried to cajole a foreign government into interfering in the US election -- again. And much of the media seems to be obliging.
posted by Gelatin at 8:18 AM on September 24 [4 favorites]


It's more than that, really. Viktor Shokin wasn't fixing parking tickets, he was protecting oligarchs who were skimming billions from Ukraine. Those billions were flowing into the US and Europe to be laundered, distorting financial and real estate markets. Biden was acting in the interest of US foreign policy because billions in black market dollars floating through the financial system were assumed to be a bad thing by all the recent US administrations, with the exception of the current one.

Trump was right to be upset at Biden. Some of those laundered billions were flowing into Trump properties. Trump's mirror never fails.
posted by JackFlash at 8:25 AM on September 24 [5 favorites]


Trump confirms he withheld military aid from Ukraine, says he wants other countries to help pay (WaPo)
President Trump confirmed Tuesday that he withheld military aid from Ukraine, saying he did so over his concerns that the United States was contributing more to Ukraine than European countries were.

“My complaint has always been, and I’d withhold again and I’ll continue to withhold until such time as Europe and other nations contribute to Ukraine because they’re not doing it,” Trump told reporters at the United Nations General Assembly.

Trump was responding to reporting by The Washington Post that Trump told his acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney to hold back almost $400 million in military aid for at least a week before Trump spoke to the Ukrainian president.
Unfortunately, no one let Pence know about the abrupt switch in tactics, before he confirmed that targeting Biden was part of 'the context.'
posted by katra at 8:35 AM on September 24 [12 favorites]


Jon Allsop in the Columbia Journalism Review has a few observations about the both-sideism of the media on this scandal – The Trump-Biden-Ukraine story recalls Mueller, and Clinton’s emails. Which path we take is up to us.
…there’s no evidence Biden did anything wrong—he did move to oust the prosecutor, but, as The Intercept (which can hardly be accused of being in the tank for Biden) points out, his actions “made it more rather than less likely” that an oligarch linked to Hunter Biden would be prosecuted. This key context has been elided in some stories on the Trump–Zelensky episode; as a result, reporting that is ostensibly about Trump’s transgressions is tainting Biden by association. “Most people have no idea what this Ukraine scandal is about,” CNN’s Brian Stelter wrote on Friday. “That’s not a knock on them—it’s a knock on the news media machine’s tendency to blow right past the background info.”

…The fear implicit in the emails/Ukraine comparison is one of false equivalence: that the press, as it did in 2016, will obsessively link a top Democrat to allegations of wrongdoing to contrive a sense of balance in its coverage. As James Fallows wrote yesterday in The Atlantic, in 2016, “much of the press presented things that were not similar as if they were”—and Biden/Ukraine looks like the “Patient Zero of the next false-equivalence epidemic.” Trump reportedly is enjoying watching the Ukraine story play out, even though he is the one credibly accused of massive wrongdoing here. If reporters continue to mention “Biden” and “corruption” in the same sentence without offering adequate context, Trump’s enjoyment will continue, too.
posted by bitteschoen at 8:53 AM on September 24 [16 favorites]


Trump threatened to withhold payments to Ukraine for the alleged purpose of getting Ukraine to open an investigation into Hunter Biden, the son of Trump’s likely election opponent. This was done in secret as a way of trying to influence a US presidential election.

I believe it got worse than that as bad orange man actually said (or so the reporting I heard on the radio made it sound like it was an actual Trump statement - one of his 'copter press Q/A's?) that he wanted Joe Biden and Hunter Biden investigated. 'Tis one line to cross to ask 'bout Hunter - a line that might be legally 100% ok to cross. 'Tis another when the documented interactions were in an official capacity as an elected official where strong-arming can be seen as an asshole move but accepted way things get done. And where the legal response if there was an out-of-bounds request made by Joe would have seemingly to have been Joe's impeachment.

Now the veracity of Donald Trump is questionable but if there is audio of Donald's thrashing about where he includes a request to investigate Joe Biden that sounds to me like asking a foreign power to trying to influence a US presidential election..
posted by rough ashlar at 9:14 AM on September 24 [6 favorites]


Trump threatened to withhold payments to Ukraine for the alleged purpose of getting Ukraine to open an investigation into Hunter Biden, the son of Trump’s likely election opponent.

If it's what you say I love it, especially later in the summer.
posted by Gelatin at 9:29 AM on September 24 [6 favorites]


Here’s a timeline of Trump’s latest scandal. It’s damning. (Greg Sargent, WaPo Opinion)
The emerging spin from Trump’s propagandists is that Trump didn’t “pressure” Zelensky to dig dirt on Biden and that there was no explicit quid pro quo involving the military aid.

But this spin is a joke. The already known facts are damning enough. To simplify this story, I created this timeline of it:
posted by katra at 9:29 AM on September 24 [8 favorites]


My very much middle-of-the-road centrist D rep (in a pretty evenly split D/R district) just came out in support of impeachment for the first time. Interesting.
posted by gwint at 9:55 AM on September 24 [14 favorites]


An Unaccountable Office Crafted a Secret Law to Conceal the Whistleblower Complaint (Mark Joseph Stern, Slate)

A look at the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel, which usually keeps the executive branch aligned with the law.
posted by ZeusHumms at 9:56 AM on September 24 [7 favorites]


Which path we take is up to us.

Uh, no. It's up to our oligarch media owners, who definitely want Trump to succeed again (maybe excepting Jeff Bezos). I mean look at the NYT basically microtargeting anti-Biden headlines to the print version, which they know will go out to older/more conservative readers, then running a less misleading headline for the online version.
posted by benzenedream at 10:10 AM on September 24 [8 favorites]


Margaret Sullivan, Trump’s Ukraine-scandal strategy — counterpunch, confuse and con — depends on the media
Granted, most news stories that focus on Trump’s counterpunching have included a sentence or two about the meritlessness of his corruption claims against Biden. But it comes too little and too late. These disclaimers don’t make their way into Biden-focused headlines, which is as far as many news consumers get.

This kind of story framing has been called “privileging the lie” — a longtime media cancer that has metastasized because Trump is such a relentless manipulator and master of reductionist politics: I’m not corrupt; he is.

Instead of snuffing out false and misleading claims, news stories give them oxygen. Then pundits come along to fan the flames — while simultaneously bemoaning what’s happened to our democratic norms. That’s what Trump is counting on. And why shouldn’t he? It’s worked for him every time.
posted by zachlipton at 10:30 AM on September 24 [13 favorites]


Luppe Luppen (@nycsouthpaw) points out something to keep in mind while the media and Dems fixate on the transcript of Trump’s Zelensky phone call:
Based on the reporting of NYT, WaPo, and CNN, [whistleblower's complaint] was not [triggered solely by the Trump-Zelensky phone call]—all have said the complaint describes multiple events.

A lot of commentators are maybe not taking seriously some elements of the reporting:
- the whistleblower complaint is about more than the transcript of the 7/25 call (NYT etc.)
- the ICIG is a professional (Politico)
- the ICIG found the complaint an “urgent concern”(his letters)

That all suggests to me that the whistleblower story is likely to expand beyond the malfeasance we know of today. I also expect something that’s (reasonably speaking) “within the authorities and responsibilities of the DNI” (the statutory scope of an “urgent concern”*).
* From Atkinson’s Sept. 17th letter to Schiff and Nunes:
In a letter sent on today's date to DOJ, a copy of which I provided to the Acting DNI, I outlined my reasons for disagreeing with DOJ's analysis of the facts presented in the instant case and the conclusions reached regarding the same. I set forth the reasons for my concluding that the subject matter involved in the Complainant's disclosure not only falls within the DNI's jurisdiction, but relates to one of the most significant and important of the DNI's responsibilities to the American people. Because of the disagreement that exists between myself, DOJ, and the Acting DNI, I have requested authorization from the Acting DNI to disclose, at the very least, the general subject matter of the Complainant's allegations to the congressional intelligence committees. To date, however, I have not been authorized to disclose even that basic information to you, in addition to the important information provided by the Complainant that is also being kept from the congressional intelligence committees.
Emphases added, because we have to consider not only the known knowns of Trump’s public actions and the known unknowns of whatever he and Giuliani have been telling Ukrainian officials, but also the unknown unknowns of what Trump’s doing that alerted and alarmed the US intelligence community.
posted by Doktor Zed at 11:17 AM on September 24 [8 favorites]


Things are moving very fast.

@RepAdamSchiff: We have been informed by the whistleblower’s counsel that their client would like to speak to our committee and has requested guidance from the Acting DNI as to how to do so. We‘re in touch with counsel and look forward to the whistleblower’s testimony as soon as this week.
posted by zachlipton at 11:30 AM on September 24 [31 favorites]


Trump also just announced he's going to release a complete (?) transcript of the call. Now I'm expecting to find out there was more than one call.

Kevin Kruse throws a wrench in that.
posted by rhizome at 11:37 AM on September 24 [10 favorites]


Sorry to sound unreasonable, but why would we trust Trump's own transcript of the call not to be a Barr-style bowdlerization?

(Upon review: jinx, Kruse!)
posted by wenestvedt at 11:40 AM on September 24 [6 favorites]


Kevin Kruse throws a wrench in that.

Oh, goody -- yet another opportunity for NPR to convey the administration's misleading narrative.
posted by Gelatin at 11:41 AM on September 24 [4 favorites]




Well, and the issue is the whistleblower report. That they'd rather release a transcript of the call says a lot. We don't even know if that's what the whistleblowing is about!
posted by rhizome at 11:43 AM on September 24 [8 favorites]


Nancy Pelosi's deputy chief of staff: Speaker Pelosi will make a statement at 5 p.m. following the House Democratic Caucus meeting. Advisory coming...

Howard Fineman, an NBC reporter: Very solid #Dem House leadership source just confirmed to me that @SpeakerPelosi will announce a formal impeachment inquiry this afternoon and imply that she herself favors impeachment of @realDonaldTrump.

The latter tweet is rumor, not real journalism, but there it is. We'll know in a few hours I guess.
posted by Nelson at 11:43 AM on September 24 [2 favorites]


Finally. Now, hire some staff lawyers. Do this shit right and don't let Richard Neal talk for 5 minutes at a time.
posted by T.D. Strange at 11:45 AM on September 24 [26 favorites]


Yahoo: Senate Intel panel opens bipartisan inquiry on Ukraine whistleblower
Even as the House is ramping up its investigation into the Trump administration’s dealings with Ukraine, the Senate Intelligence Committee has opened its own inquiry and is seeking a quick interview with the whistleblower who filed the initial complaint with the intelligence community’s inspector general, according to a letter obtained by Yahoo News.

A letter seeking to question the still-anonymous whistleblower was sent Tuesday to Andrew Bakaj, the lawyer who represents the official. It was signed by committee chair Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., and Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va. — signifying that the panel is pursuing the politically explosive issue on a bipartisan basis.
Also, Trump’s phone call transcript is a head fake. What’s more important is subpoena’ing Giuliani to find out what he’s been telling Ukrainian officials.
posted by Doktor Zed at 11:47 AM on September 24 [9 favorites]


Do this shit right and don't let Richard Neal talk for 5 minutes at a time.
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 11:51 AM on September 24 [11 favorites]


Another piece on the media responsibility in handling this story, from Parker Molloy for MediaMatters – Mainstream media’s misleading headlines are helping the Trump administration spread propaganda about his Ukraine scandal
posted by bitteschoen at 12:32 PM on September 24 [20 favorites]


[Couple deleted; friendly reminder this isn't a catch-all thread, it's just about the whistleblower. If there's an important story about a different thing the administration did, it's fine to make a separate post about it.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 12:48 PM on September 24 [4 favorites]


WaPo: The Daily 202: A dozen House Democrats just pivoted toward impeaching Trump. Here’s why each is a big deal.
This is interesting, but to be honest, I am mainly posting it because the of the first video, where Melania is standing next to Trump. It could be a clip from a remake of The Manchurian Candidate. I know, I'm shallow in the face of scary history, but I need to laugh, sometimes.
posted by mumimor at 12:57 PM on September 24 [2 favorites]


We’ve Reached the Breaking Point (David Frum, Atlantic)
The breathtaking thing about Trump’s latest abuse is how many people knew about some, or all, of it as it happened.

Vice President Mike Pence personally spoke to the Ukrainian president about the importance of “corruption”—which in Trump-speak means the importance of doing more of it, not less.

Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney relayed the order to block the distribution of congressionally voted-on funds to Ukraine.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo extracted statements from Ukrainian officials, in what seems like an effort to shield Trump from the scandal.

And all of this happened in plain sight. Everybody could see the money being withheld for months after Congress had voted on it. Everybody knew that Trump’s personal emissary Rudy Giuliani had traveled to Ukraine to seek dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden. Giuliani appeared on TV to talk about it!

There’s no mystery; there’s never been a mystery. There’s been only impunity, and there continues to be impunity.
posted by katra at 1:21 PM on September 24 [19 favorites]


There’s no mystery; there’s never been a mystery. There’s been only impunity, and there continues to be impunity.

Following on to a comment I made in the impeachment thread, it's critical to remember that the Republican Party as a whole is responsible for this impunity. Maybe, just maybe, some Republicans who get on the impeachment bandwagon early -- giving it added legitimacy and momentum -- could be forgiven, but once Trump's downfall seems inevitable it'll be too late for these creeps to come out of the woodwork with tales of how they opposed his corruption all along.

To the contrary, they enabled it. Who cares what they felt in their heart of hearts; their cowardice and cynicism let Trump get away with it when they could have done something, anything, to stop him.

After Nixon, after Reagan, after Bush/Cheney, the time to ignore Republican crimes look forward, not backward is over. Democratic messaging must contemptuously dismiss the Republican Party as the party of criminality and corruption until that party does adequate penance. Universal health care and global warming might be a start.
posted by Gelatin at 1:32 PM on September 24 [8 favorites]


"Impunity" is why David Frum himself hasn't been cancelled.
posted by rhizome at 1:32 PM on September 24 [11 favorites]


The Senate just unanimously passed a resolution calling on the administration to release the whistleblower complaint to the intelligence committees. Significant signal, even if symbolic.
posted by sallybrown at 1:44 PM on September 24 [23 favorites]




Do this shit right and don't let Richard Neal talk

If only there was a lawyer with experience staffing an impeachment investigation, and who maybe didn't have a job at the moment.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 1:53 PM on September 24 [12 favorites]




I was worried about Speaker Pelosi during that speech, but she did a great job. Can we agree she did the right thing, waiting for a larger consensus? Because she did that, the jackass did the most blatant thing yet. Or actually probably there's plenty yet to come. But because she waited he did something that can't be ignored. I look forward to his meltdown. I also hope the whistleblower has ample security this week. I sure do hope Pelosi and the freshwomen(?) can become a team. That would be something.
posted by Glinn at 2:34 PM on September 24 [1 favorite]


Remember where you were when you got this news. ./hopeful
posted by Glinn at 2:35 PM on September 24 [1 favorite]


Since we can't re-run the simulation with Pelosi championing impeachment from day 1 we'll never know.

I'm glad she did it but I can't say whether or not it was the best thing she could have done.
posted by VTX at 2:39 PM on September 24 [4 favorites]


The Trump Whistleblower Scandal Is Proving Edward Snowden Right
Now, a whistleblower inside the intelligence community is trying to do what Snowden claimed he couldn’t. So far, that person has been effectively silenced by the Trump administration’s refusal to provide the complaint to Congress as required by law. It’s possible that the administration will eventually comply with its legal obligations. But the political system has already sent a clear signal: Even intelligence community whistleblowers who follow the law can’t be confident their concerns will be heard.
posted by T.D. Strange at 2:41 PM on September 24 [5 favorites]


It's really too early for either hope or victory laps. Be content with cautious optimism and a day that's not hair on fire despair.
posted by T.D. Strange at 2:42 PM on September 24 [8 favorites]


[Hey friends, just a heads up, I've asked in the impeachment thread for people please not to jump into "is Pelosi good now" debating. Thanks.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 2:42 PM on September 24 [7 favorites]


If hope is what people need to cope with shit, then hope is fine. Even if it doesn't work for you, it may work for others.
posted by Too-Ticky at 2:57 PM on September 24 [3 favorites]


New impeachment thread.
posted by Glinn at 3:28 PM on September 24 [2 favorites]


The NYT's Maggie Haberman has a leak from presumably within the Trump WH: White House Drops Objection to Whistle-Blower Speaking to Congress
The White House has determined that it will most likely have to allow the whistle-blower who filed an explosive complaint about President Trump to meet with congressional investigators, two people briefed on the matter said Tuesday.

The meeting could give Democrats a stream of evidence as they consider whether to impeach the president. Such a meeting would allow the whistle-blower to share at least some details of the complaint he filed — which relates to Mr. Trump’s efforts to get the Ukrainian government to investigate former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his son — even if the actual document is not handed over to Congress.
"At least some details" and "even if the actual document is not handed over", as opposed to the whole complaint as required by law, suggests this is Team Trump spin Haberman's laundering through the pages of the Gray Lady.
posted by Doktor Zed at 4:52 PM on September 24 [5 favorites]


[n.b. there is in fact a new thread and it is a thread about impeachment stuff announced today, but this is still the best place to discuss details and specifics about the whistleblower situation itself.]
posted by cortex at 4:52 PM on September 24 [2 favorites]


Did it strike anyone else that the task of "release a transcript" really doesn't need twenty-four hours to accomplish?

They HAVE the transcript. They HAVE a copier. What more do they think we might want?

"Put on a fresh pot of coffee, boys. We're going to be up all night spell-checking this thing."
posted by springo at 5:00 PM on September 24 [2 favorites]


In a good-faith effort, they'd have to figure out if there's anything in there that absolutely must be redacted for national security reasons (running it past multiple security/Defense Department offices in order to ensure there's nothing in there that relates to work the others wouldn't recognize as significant), work out who exactly they're going to release it to, and triple-check both of those. In this administration, Trump probably thinks he has a chance to negotiate with Pelosi to make the whole thing go away and not have to release any of it.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 5:03 PM on September 24 [5 favorites]


Politico meanwhile is hearing slightly different news: White House Preparing to Release Whistleblower Complaint to Congress—Trump has approved releasing the document at the center of his latest standoff with lawmakers, a senior administration official said.
The White House is preparing to release to Congress by the end of the week both the whistleblower complaint and the Inspector General report that are at the center of House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry, according to a senior administration official, reversing its position after withholding the documents from lawmakers.[.…]

The administration official stressed the decision and timing could change over the next few days, but as of Tuesday evening the White House was planning give the information to lawmakers on Capitol Hill. The format of presentation, or process of viewing the documents, remained up in the air. The president has agreed to the move, the official added.
Looks like the admin is going to try to restrict copies and the viewing venue.
posted by Doktor Zed at 5:13 PM on September 24 [2 favorites]


Because that's what you do if you have nothing to hide.
posted by kirkaracha at 5:23 PM on September 24 [1 favorite]


Maybe the delay is giving them time to alter the transcript to match any future doctored recording. Nixon did it. Hell, this White House released altered video just a few months ago.
posted by Nelson at 5:33 PM on September 24 [3 favorites]


BalloonJuice says that the lawyers representing the whistleblower have set up a website. INTELLIGENCE COMMUNITY WHISTLEBLOWER MATTER
posted by kingless at 5:44 PM on September 24 [4 favorites]


Inside Trump world, public defiance vs. private anxiety over impeachment (Politico)
Few in the White House or wider Trump orbit have privately defended Trump’s call with the Ukraine leader in which he reportedly asked eight times about investigating the Biden clan’s business dealings in the country. The incident violates the principle that U.S. officials should never allow or encourage foreign governments to interfere in U.S. elections.

But Trump advisers and senior administration aides instead quickly pivot any discussion of the president’s call and ensuing whistleblower complaint to focus on the Bidens — in an effort to turn the attention to a rival much the way the Trump campaign successfully undercut Hillary Clinton’s candidacy in 2016 by constantly bringing the discussion back to her campaign’s hacked emails. [...]

But for Senate Democrats, the House’s new impeachment inquiry seemed justified.

“This is very serious. I’m not sure [Trump] understands how serious this is,” said Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow, who supports impeachment. “I’m not sure intellectually, he personally understands how serious this is when you’re holding up military assistance passed by Congress in order to extort a political action of a leader in a foreign country.”
posted by katra at 6:01 PM on September 24 [5 favorites]


WaPo, Giuliani pursued shadow Ukraine agenda as key foreign policy officials were sidelined
Several officials described tense meetings on Ukraine among national security officials at the White House leading up to the president’s phone call on July 25, sessions that led some participants to fear that Trump and those close to him appeared prepared to use U.S. leverage with the new leader of Ukraine for Trump’s political gain.

As those worries intensified, some senior officials worked behind the scenes to hold off a Trump meeting or call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky out of concern that Trump would use the conversation to press Kiev for damaging information on Trump’s potential rival in the 2020 race, former vice president Joe Biden, and Biden’s son, Hunter. “An awful lot of people were trying to keep a meeting from happening for the reason that it would not be focused on Ukraine-U.S. relations,” one former official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive matter.
...
But the person who appears to have been more directly involved at nearly every stage of the entanglement with Ukraine is Giuliani.

“Rudy — he did all of this,” one U.S. official said. “This s---show that we’re in — it’s him injecting himself into the process.”
An awful lot of people are rushing to point fingers right now as the mountain of legal bills they're about to be hit with begins to dawn on them.
posted by zachlipton at 6:02 PM on September 24 [8 favorites]


Rudy Giuliani’s Ukrainian adventure, Sep 21, The Economist. This article's a few days old but it's interesting because it was published just before the whole whistleblower / Trump connection came out in public. Instead it's focussed on the President's personal lawyer and all the pressure and manipulation he's been doing in Ukraine. Contains many details that aren't in the more recent reporting, it seems like important background for the larger picture.
posted by Nelson at 6:18 PM on September 24 [5 favorites]


Also there is some very in-depth reporting on the behind the scenes connections between Giuliani and two Ukrainian-American businessmen who are acting as go-betweens for the Trump administration, the GOP, and former and current Ukrainian officials, and oligarchs providing cash:

*Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project: Meet the Florida Duo Helping Giuliani Investigate for Trump in Ukraine
*Buzzfeed: Two Unofficial US Operatives Reporting To Trump’s Lawyer Privately Lobbied A Foreign Government In A Bid To Help The President Win In 2020

These reports don't have much in the way of sources inside the administration and they were compiled before the shake-down phone call, but what they are able to piece together is very impressive. Needless to say, Giuliani is doing very shady things with very shady people.
posted by peeedro at 6:23 PM on September 24 [4 favorites]


Trump confirms he withheld military aid from Ukraine, says he wants other countries to help pay (WaPo)

Trump’s Misleading Defense for Withholding Assistance to Ukraine (NYT)
Mr. Trump is wrong that other countries do not contribute to Ukraine’s efforts to counteract Russian aggression in recent years.

Aid across different countries is difficult to compare, as there is no single publicly accessible source that aggregates all forms of assistance. And some sources of data shows that the European Union has actually provided more aid to Ukraine than the United States. [...]

Countries outside of Europe have assisted Ukraine as well, with Canada providing $785 million and Japan $468 million.
posted by katra at 10:24 PM on September 24


This isn’t just another spat. Trump compromised our security for his gain. (David Ignatius, WaPo Opinion)
Russia has been hacking or jamming Ukrainian military communications since it seized Crimea and began supporting the separatists in 2014.

The United States wanted to help fix this battlefield communications disaster. One item in the $391 million package Congress appropriated is a secure system made by L3 Technologies, a unit of Harris Corp., that could allow the Ukrainians to maintain contact despite Russian interference. The L3 equipment was ready for delivery in July when the company was told no, there was a hold, the equipment couldn’t be shipped, according to a congressional source.

L3 and other companies supplying Ukraine contacted leading Republican members of Congress, such as Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.) to find out why there was a delay. The members of Congress made inquiries and learned that the Office of Management and Budget had stopped the shipments, on orders of the White House, to conduct “due diligence” about corruption and the newly elected Zelensky, according to one knowledgeable source.

But Graham warned the White House: “You can’t send a signal that we’re going to back out of the deal,” the source said, adding, “It’s one thing to do ‘due diligence’ and another that we’re changing our posture.” These national security arguments eventually prevailed, and the Ukraine assistance was finally released on Sept. 11.

[...] [Rep. Chrissy Houlahan (D-Pa.), a former Air Force officer who represents a state where L3 has some of its plants] told me Monday: “I’m alarmed about reports that the provision of military equipment — which Ukraine needs, which Congress supported — was stopped, inexplicably, and then started up again, inexplicably. . . . Ukraine, an ally of ours, is under stress fighting Russian proxies. The idea that this happened with very little reasonable explanation is worrisome.”
posted by katra at 11:13 PM on September 24 [8 favorites]


I completely missed that Buzzfeed piece linked above when it was first published on July 22. Some good glimpses into this story as it was going on: Giuliani was working through two men, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, who themselves have financial interests related to Ukraine. These two stayed at the Trump Hotel (of course), brunched with Don Jr. “and dined with the president himself in Washington,” and also met with and raised funds for GOP Congresspeople including Pete Sessions of TX (now out of office). Contrary to Giuliani’s current claims that he was acting at the official direction of State, this piece says these two were “carrying out their campaign in the US and Ukraine without registering as foreign agents or being vetted by the State Department.” And of course—there is financial impropriety involved:
In one transaction in 2018, more than $1 million was wired to a bank account belonging to Parnas from the client trust account of a Florida lawyer specializing in real estate and foreign investments. Parnas and Fruman then redirected $325,000 to a Trump-supporting super PAC — without declaring the original source of the funds, records and interviews show. The money is now the target of a complaint before the Federal Election Commission (FEC) by a nonprofit watchdog group.
posted by sallybrown at 4:44 AM on September 25 [6 favorites]


Fox News reports Team Trump's tactics to smear the whistleblower: WH to release document showing intel community watchdog found whistleblower had 'political bias,' official says
EXCLUSIVE: A senior Trump administration official told Fox News late Tuesday that the administration will release a document showing the intelligence community inspector general found the whistleblower who leveled an explosive accusation against President Trump concerning his talks with Ukraine had “political bias” in favor of “a rival candidate” of the president.

The official did not identify the name of the rival candidate. Separately, a senior administration official told Fox News the White House has been working as quickly as it can to release to Congress the whistleblower complaint involving President Trump's conversations with the leader of Ukraine, as long as it's legally possible."Legally possible"? Trump's lawyers must still be hoping to find a loophole to suppress the complaint.
posted by Doktor Zed at 6:25 AM on September 25 [1 favorite]


"WH to release document showing intel community watchdog found whistleblower had 'political bias,' official says"

Who else thinks this will turn out to be a single-page note scrawled in Sharpie that says, "Whistelblower is a Demmocrat poopyhead!"?
posted by Nat "King" Cole Porter Wagoner at 7:06 AM on September 25




Transcript of Trump’s call with Ukrainian president shows him offering U.S. assistance for Biden investigation (WaPo, with the .pdf)

Includes such goodies as Trump literally saying "I would like you to do us a favor" and seemingly claiming that Hillary Clinton's email server is in Ukraine, and Zelensky telling Trump that he stayed in Trump Tower once.
posted by box at 7:19 AM on September 25 [6 favorites]


Phone-alert headline choices:

Transcript of Trump's call with Ukrainian president shows him offering U.S. assistance for Biden investigation (WaPo)

A transcript shows President Trump urged Ukraine's leader to contact Attorney General William Barr about opening an inquiry tied to Joe Biden (NYT)
posted by box at 7:25 AM on September 25 [2 favorites]


You know, there was extensive reporting overnight that the “transcript” (which is not a transcript but rather a call summary) wasn’t going to be as explosive as expected, plus it would be rational to have guessed that, given the fact that the administration was preparing and releasing it.

And yet somehow the thing is far worse than I even expected. At least with the Mueller report summary, Barr could pretend that he was making his own decisions about redaction and description and that his motives were related to being careful about national security and longstanding Department precedent. There were fig leaves left for him. And it’s reasonable to believe that someone with a long history and many family members at DOJ has some amount of pride in his work there and an understanding that his actions will have a place in history.

In this summary, the Attorney General of the United States is openly treated as a Presidential lackey. This is hugely humiliating. And now the President is implicated in not just having an outsider mess around in Ukraine, but also directing an arm of the federal government to assist a foreign nation in meddling in a U.S. election.

I don’t understand how anyone thought this would make things look better.
posted by sallybrown at 7:27 AM on September 25 [15 favorites]


Also, any Attorney General who actually cares about our rule of law would resign today and say “I refuse to work for a President who believes he can direct who or what I investigate. I am resigning publicly so the American people know the Attorney General works for them and is not at the President’s beck and call.”
posted by sallybrown at 7:57 AM on September 25 [9 favorites]


I'm confused. WaPo reports:
In late August, intelligence officials referred the matter to the Justice Department as a possible crime, but prosecutors concluded last week that the conduct was not criminal, according to senior Justice Department officials.
And:
As public reports emerged about the call and pressure mounted to impeach the president, prosecutors quietly considered whether they should again investigate whether the president committed a crime. They declined to do so.

[...] As part of their reasoning, Justice Department lawyers determined that help with a government investigation could not be considered “a thing of value” under the law.
Why is it that Barr's DOJ is only willing to consider the prosecution of the President when they decline to find a sufficient basis, but so otherwise ready to invoke the OLC memo that claims "the indictment or criminal prosecution of a sitting President would unconstitutionally undermine the capacity of the executive branch to perform its constitutionally assigned functions"?

Also:
In a statement, Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said [...] that Trump had never [...] talked about “anything related to Ukraine” with Giuliani.
I'm extremely confused about how the DOJ arrived at that conclusion.
posted by katra at 8:02 AM on September 25 [6 favorites]


I can actually believe the DOJ didn’t find anything it could prosecute in Trump’s actions, going by their interpretation of the law they invoked wrt to the Mueller report. That’s why this is a particularly good case for impeachment—it’s so big that it transcends the federal prosecution apparatus. The trouble is now we have to rely on McConnell’s Senate to do something principled.

Also:
In a statement, Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said [...] that Trump had never [...] talked about “anything related to Ukraine” with Giuliani.
I'm extremely confused about how the DOJ arrived at that conclusion.


I was gobsmacked by this as well, but I think it’s a misread of Kupec’s statement, which says that Barr didn’t talk to Giuliani about Ukraine.
posted by sallybrown at 8:06 AM on September 25 [3 favorites]


The NYT does appear to clarify:
The department said that Mr. Barr has never spoken with Mr. Trump about working with Ukraine to investigate anything related to the Bidens and that he has never spoken with Mr. Giuliani about “anything related to Ukraine.”
posted by katra at 8:08 AM on September 25 [1 favorite]


Also, speaking of gobsmacked, can we take a moment and reflect on how we've ended up back at "but her emails"? From the NYT:
Mr. Trump’s suggestion that American law enforcement be directly involved and in contact with Ukraine’s government marks the first evidence that the president personally sought to harness the power of the United States government to further a politically motivated investigation.

Mr. Trump specifically asked his Ukrainian counterpart to come to the aid of the United States by looking into the unsubstantiated theory pushed by Mr. Giuliani holding that Ukrainians had some role in the emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee.
From WaPo:
He seems to suggest Hillary Clinton’s private email server is in Ukraine and asserts that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation started with that country. [...] At the outset of the call, Trump also asks for Ukraine’s help in finding the location of the Democratic National Committee server that U.S. officials say was hacked by Russian intelligence in the run-up to the 2016 election. “The server, they say Ukraine has it,” Trump says according to the transcript. “I would like to have the Attorney General call you or your people and I would like you to get to the bottom of it.”
posted by katra at 8:14 AM on September 25 [2 favorites]


MetaTalk about the distinction between this thread and the impeachment thread.
posted by diogenes at 8:20 AM on September 25


I want to finally use my power to broadcast to the entire country. Ahem. *taps mic*

NOT *clap emoji* A *clap clap* TRANSCRIPT *clap clap clap*

End broadcast. Thank you. The NYT and Post are just garbage with their headlines saying it's a transcript. The document literally says "not a transcript" on it. This world.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 8:23 AM on September 25 [10 favorites]


TPM reports OLC just published a 'fresh' opinion on the ICIG report. Continuing to assert that DNI is 'excused' from forwarding the report to congress for Reasons.

Something exposed in the report is cray cray.
posted by j_curiouser at 8:42 AM on September 25 [3 favorites]


“The server, they say Ukraine has it,” Trump says according to the transcript. “I would like to have the Attorney General call you or your people and I would like you to get to the bottom of it.”

@pwnallthethings

Fun fact: the hacked server is next to the filing cabinet that was broken into during the Watergate robbery in 1972 on display at the DNC HQ.

posted by mikelieman at 8:43 AM on September 25 [10 favorites]


TPM reports OLC just published a 'fresh' opinion on the ICIG report. Continuing to assert that DNI is 'excused' from forwarding the report to congress for Reasons.

IANAL, but I can translate from the legal-ese. That's called a "cover-up."
posted by Gelatin at 8:59 AM on September 25 [7 favorites]


The question of quid pro quo seems pretty clear cut, contrary to the reporting that it doesn’t exist:

POTUS: “ . . . the United States has been very very good to Ukraine. I wouldn't say that it's reciprocal necessarily because things are happening that are not good but the United States has been very very good to Ukraine. . . .”

Pres of Ukraine: “ . . . I'm very grateful to you for that because the United States is doing quite a lot for Ukraine. Much more than the European Union especially when we are talking about sanctions against the Russian Federation. I would also like to thank you for your great support in the area of defense. We are ready to continue to cooperate for the next steps, specifically we are almost ready to buy more Javelins from the United States for defense purposes.”

POTUS, in direct response to the last statement: “I would like you to do us a favor though . . .”

The Javelins are what we have been selling to Ukraine to build up its defenses as a way of preempting Russian aggression toward them. They’re not something Ukraine has been actively using, but rather a way for Ukraine to say to Russia “better not mess with us, we have Javelins.” So Trump was holding hostage our assistance to Ukraine in its tension against Russia.
posted by sallybrown at 9:02 AM on September 25 [7 favorites]


So the White House emailed talking points to House Democrats, then tried to recall the email.
posted by mcdoublewide at 9:28 AM on September 25 [15 favorites]


So the White House emailed talking points to House Democrats, then tried to recall the email.

Tori Q. Symonds is having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.
posted by all about eevee at 9:33 AM on September 25 [2 favorites]


World's smallest violin. If they joined WH staff to be part of this administration, they're probably one of those MAGA chuds that our local papers occasionally run stories on where they complain about how no one wants to fuck them.
posted by zombieflanders at 9:38 AM on September 25 [7 favorites]


@lachlan: Don't miss the part of the call where Zelensky is sure to mention that he stayed at a Trump-owned hotel last time he was in New York.

"Actually last time I traveled to the United States, I stayed in New York near Central Park and I stayed at the Trump Tower."

Just some blatant corruption in plain sight among the even bigger corruption.
posted by zachlipton at 9:44 AM on September 25 [7 favorites]


So the White House emailed talking points to House Democrats, then tried to recall the email.


This is what happens when one hires for ideology rather than competence.

I especially love that by trying to recall the message, they confirmed that these talking points are the genuine article.

No media organization should print or air any Republican flack who reads off this particular cue card, if not for the fact that it's an affront to the practice of journalism -- so-called "access journalists" let that ship sail a long time ago -- then because it breaks kayfabe. There's no way of pretending they aren't reading from a script.
posted by Gelatin at 9:45 AM on September 25 [13 favorites]


I want to point out that, completely aside from the Biden angle, this is yet another action that Trump has taken unilaterally (going against his own advisers as well as the US Congress) that just happens to benefit Putin more than anyone else. He withheld military aid that Ukraine needed in its defense against Russia and Russian-backed separatists.
posted by mbrubeck at 9:47 AM on September 25 [13 favorites]


"Actually last time I traveled to the United States, I stayed in New York near Central Park and I stayed at the Trump Tower."

That's a smoking gun emoluments clause violation. Its entire purpose is exactly so foreign leaders can't curry favor like that.
posted by Gelatin at 9:48 AM on September 25 [28 favorites]


From that Twitter thread:
Monty Boa @MontyBoa99 Replying to Andrew Desiderio @AndrewDesiderio
Oops.

These talking points are contradictory: "POUTS never mentioned aid to Ukraine"/"POUTS only mentioned assistance because..."

And they went out to the Democrats.

Sure they're contradictory, but the deeper point is the Trump Administration seems to have expected interviewers not to notice.

I wish I could say they were wrong in that assumption.
posted by Gelatin at 9:59 AM on September 25 [8 favorites]


No media organization should print or air any Republican flack who reads off this particular cue card, if not for the fact that it's an affront to the practice of journalism -- so-called "access journalists" let that ship sail a long time ago -- then because it breaks kayfabe. There's no way of pretending they aren't reading from a script.

I'd like to see the media people start reciting the talking points along with the flacks, just to hammer it home.
posted by Etrigan at 10:20 AM on September 25 [7 favorites]


@CraigSJ: "The Whistleblower's Complaint" sounds like a Decemberists song
posted by DirtyOldTown at 10:31 AM on September 25 [14 favorites]


It depends on what the meaning of the word "aid" is.
posted by kirkaracha at 10:35 AM on September 25 [1 favorite]


How to read Trump’s wild phone call with Ukraine’s president (Natasha Bertrand, Politico)
Below is our line-by-line analysis of the released memorandum, which shows a freewheeling Trump by turns buttering up his interlocutor, passing along unverified and dubious allegations about Biden and Democrats, and cajoling the Ukrainian leader into doing him a “favor.” [...]

Bringing in Barr
ANALYSIS

This is a new revelation—it hadn’t been previously reported that Trump tried to get Attorney General William Barr involved, which would indicate that the president tried to put the weight of the Justice Department behind an investigation of his biggest political rival. It wouldn’t be the first time—Trump has mused openly about getting the Justice Department to investigate Hillary Clinton, Jim Comey, and various other foes. But it raises more questions about why the Justice Department advised the director of national intelligence to withhold from Congress a whistleblower complaint that reportedly centers around a call in which Barr is explicitly named.
posted by katra at 10:37 AM on September 25 [8 favorites]


There's that word "freewheeling" again. I appreciate the conundrum of having to grope for a word to describe Trump's flailing incompetence that doesn't sound perjorative, but "freewheeling" goes too far in the opposite direction.

Trump is in over his head, as predicted, and the media doesn't dare say so out of some cowardly notion of "balance."
posted by Gelatin at 10:54 AM on September 25 [6 favorites]


Ready for another crazy day at the U.N.? (Politico)
MEETING OF THE YEAR: One source of the chaos will be Trump’s plan to meet this afternoon — around 2:15 p.m. Eastern — with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, the man he’s accused of bullying into investigating the family of Joe Biden, under threat of losing U.S. financial assistance. Ukraine adviser Kurt Volker, American Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland and Mike Pompeo are also slated to attend the sensitive Ukraine meeting.
posted by katra at 11:00 AM on September 25 [2 favorites]




(Tip if the annotations on the link posted above by kirkaracha don’t load: if you have an adblocker you have to whitelist genius.com as well as washingtonpost.com and then it’ll work)
posted by bitteschoen at 11:15 AM on September 25 [2 favorites]




I forget whoever in this thread said that Trump felt freed after Mueller's testimony and then amped up the grift, but there's evidence for that idea in the transcript
posted by angrycat at 11:26 AM on September 25 [5 favorites]


LIVE VIDEO Special report: Trump meets with Ukrainian president (NBC News)

tl;dr "but her emails"
posted by katra at 11:31 AM on September 25 [2 favorites]


Matthew Kupfer from the Kyiv Post has a pretty awesome video explainer (on top of the previously posted awesome written explainer) – Behind the scenes of the Trump/Ukraine scandal (direct link on youtube) – it’s only about 4 minutes long and focuses on Trump’s pressure to investigate Biden’s son, not on the other allegation about Ukraine helping Hillary Clinton in 2016 (and what a great help that was) "because you can only disprove so much conspiracy theory in one video". Makes you wish something this straightforward was produced as explainer by American media. Hopefully in the next days...
posted by bitteschoen at 11:35 AM on September 25


Can I say that the notion of Trump amping up the grift is nonsense? He is always at 110%.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 11:40 AM on September 25 [2 favorites]


WaPo, Acting director of national intelligence threatened to resign if he couldn’t speak freely before Congress
The acting Director of National Intelligence threatened to resign over concerns that the White House might attempt to force him to stonewall Congress when he testifies Thursday about an explosive whistleblower complaint about the president, according to current and former U.S. officials familiar with the matter.

The revelation reflects the extraordinary tensions between the White House and the nation’s highest-ranking intelligence official over a matter that has triggered impeachment proceedings against President Trump.

The officials said that Joseph Maguire, who was thrust into the top intelligence post last month, warned the White House that he was not willing to withhold information from Congress, where he is scheduled to testify in open and closed hearings on Thursday.

The move was in part designed to force the White House to make an explicit legal decision on whether it was going to assert executive privilege over the whistleblower complaint, which centers on a call that Trump made with the leader of Ukraine in late July.
posted by zachlipton at 11:50 AM on September 25 [10 favorites]


LIVE VIDEO Special report: Trump meets with Ukrainian president (NBC News)

For those who missed the live feed, here are some of the highlights as tweeted by Vox’s Aaron Rupar.

If you don’t feel a bit sorry for Zelensky (and Ukraine) you must be... Putin?
posted by bitteschoen at 12:01 PM on September 25 [5 favorites]


Oh. This seems bad. Reuters, In seeking Ukraine favor, Trump was vulnerable to foreign spies: watchdog
U.S. President Donald Trump potentially exposed himself to “serious national security and counter-intelligence risks” when he pressed his Ukrainian counterpart to investigate a leading political rival, Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden, and his son, the intelligence community’s inspector general warned.
...
The legal opinion does not spell out the counter-intelligence risks, but former U.S. officials have expressed fears to Reuters that Russian spies could have obtained detailed knowledge of the call before it was made public and used it to gain leverage over the U.S. president.
posted by zachlipton at 12:15 PM on September 25 [9 favorites]


Politico’s Kyle Cheney: “NUNES confirms that House Intel Committee will see whistleblower complaint at 4 pm today.”

Now why would such a prominent member of Team Trump break this news?

Earlier today, the WaPo’s Ashley Parker reports: “This morning, the White House invited a dozen Republican lawmakers to the White House to review the transcript before it was released to the public -- and to discuss among themselves and ask questions of White house officials. At one point, Trump called in from New York. Among the invited Republican lawmakers: Representatives Liz Cheney, Doug Collins, Matt Gaetz, Jim Jordan, Kevin McCarthy, Mark Meadows, Devin Nunes + Steve Scalise. And Senators Capito, Cramer, Johnson, Perdue + Risch ”

They’re trying to control and contain this news as best they can, obviously, but as always with Trump, the news gets worse the more we learn.
posted by Doktor Zed at 12:21 PM on September 25 [8 favorites]


WaPo, Acting director of national intelligence threatened to resign if he couldn’t speak freely before Congress

@WhiteHouse tweeted:
.@WashingtonPost got it wrong again.

From the statement by Acting DNI Joseph Maguire:
“At no time have I considered resigning my position since assuming this role on Aug. 16, 2019. I have never quit anything in my life, and I am not going to start now."
John Harwood parses this: “more specifically, he denied that he “considered” resigning (which might not rule out threatening it to others)”

Get ready for a lot more such fine distinctions as we dig deeper into the whistleblower complaint…
posted by Doktor Zed at 1:04 PM on September 25 [5 favorites]


They’re trying to control and contain this news as best they can, obviously, but as always with Trump, the news gets worse the more we learn.

And the fact that they're trying so hard shows just how much trouble Trump feels he's in.

It's like Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo said around the 2016 election -- there's an event horizon around Trump; misdeeds that we can't see yet, but whose outlines we can perceive based on the behavior of people in his orbit. And based on how people behave -- then and now -- Trump has done (and continues to do) some terrible things that he and his people don't dare let become public.
posted by Gelatin at 1:06 PM on September 25 [4 favorites]


The rough transcript is devastating. How could Trump not know that? (Max Boot, WaPo Opinion)
The TelCon, far from absolving Trump, greatly strengthens the case for impeachment. If this is supposed to be exculpatory, can you imagine what the inculpatory material contained in the whistleblower’s complaint looks like? What’s truly astonishing is that Trump could have thought anything else. The most devastating aspect of this rough transcript is that Trump didn’t realize how devastating it would be for him.

That shows he literally has no idea of what a president is supposed to do — and not do. Recall that Trump’s former secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, said Trump often made illegal requests. The Trump-Zelensky phone call is Exhibit A.
posted by katra at 1:35 PM on September 25 [10 favorites]


Trump is currently bloviating, lying and sniffing pre-presser at the UN
posted by angrycat at 1:38 PM on September 25 [2 favorites]


As part of their reasoning, Justice Department lawyers determined that help with a government investigation could not be considered “a thing of value” under the law.

So Bill Barr ties the DOJ in knots to claim that Trump didn't violate election law by his solicitation for help from a foreign government because "a government investigation could not be considered a thing of value."

You know, he isn't entirely wrong. There really was no value to the accusations regarding Biden, but that isn't what Barr is saying. Trump certainly believed otherwise when he committed his crime.
posted by JackFlash at 1:39 PM on September 25 [1 favorite]


LOL he's doing a "Sir" story about people at the UN coming up to him fawning over him
posted by angrycat at 1:48 PM on September 25 [4 favorites]


He's like a lobotomized Eeyore.
posted by Your Childhood Pet Rock at 1:52 PM on September 25 [4 favorites]


Trump is currently bloviating, lying and sniffing pre-presser at the UN

Some highlights pertaining to the whistleblower, Ukraine, and Zelensky, via Daniel Dale:
—Trump says the "so-called whistleblower" "didn't have any first-class or first-rate or second-tier information, from what I understand...you'll have to figure that out for yourself."
—Trump seemed to be struggling for the word "secondhand," which he eventually used.
—Trump again criticizes Hunter Biden for his business dealings in Ukraine and with China, saying "I demand transparency." (He tweeted the same a little while ago.) He then notes that Zelensky "wants to end corruption in Ukraine."
—"No push, no pressure, no nothing," Trump says of his call with Zelensky, calling this story a "hoax." He complains that the media is not covering his diplomatic accomplishments.
—Trump is blasting a group of Democrats for a letter criticizing Ukraine's prosecutors for closing investigations. He accuses these Democrats of threatening Zelensky.
—Trump alleges with no evidence at all that it was "all planned" that this controversy would be happening while he was having success at the UN.
Trump sounds like a rambling mess, even by his standards.
posted by Doktor Zed at 1:54 PM on September 25 [8 favorites]


Sasse: Foreign Involvement in U.S. Elections Is ‘Really, Really Bad’ (National Review)
Nebraska Republican senator Ben Sasse is reluctant to say much about allegations that President Trump pressured Ukraine to investigate the son of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden until Congress learns more. [...]

Asked if the mere act of a U.S. president asking a foreign government to investigate the family of his American political rival is an abuse of power, Sasse said: “There’s a lot that we’re hearing about right now that’s leading people to ask a bunch of hypotheticals where we don’t really know all the underlying facts yet. So I don’t think it’s all that useful to speculate about a lot of highly particular hypotheticals. But in general terms, American elections should be for Americans. And the idea that we would have foreign nation-states coming into the American electoral process, or the information surrounding an election, is really, really bad.”
posted by katra at 1:55 PM on September 25 [2 favorites]


Flannery O'Conner couldn't write a redemption arc for DJT. I'm afraid if she'd tried it would break her faith.

Also Trump just called a woman reporter baby twice and I managed to not vomit AMA
posted by angrycat at 2:00 PM on September 25 [8 favorites]


MSNBC’s Kyle Griffin: “Rep. Mike Quigley, a member of the House Intelligence Community Committee, has just read the whistleblower's complaint. He tells CNN that it is "extraordinarily detailed" and "very, very well done." It is "deeply disturbing" & "reinforces the concerns" of what they had previously learned.”

And: “Chairman Schiff: The whistleblower complaint "certainly provides" information to follow-up on with other witnesses and documents. "I want to thank the whistleblower for coming forward."”
posted by Doktor Zed at 2:40 PM on September 25 [11 favorites]


From the statement by Acting DNI Joseph Maguire:
“At no time have I considered resigning my position since assuming this role on Aug. 16, 2019.


Maguire was a Navy officer. He knows the difference between threatening to resign and considering resigning, and he’s hoping that no one else does.
posted by Etrigan at 2:43 PM on September 25 [3 favorites]


Trump alleges with no evidence at all that it was "all planned" that this controversy would be happening while he was having success at the UN.

Assumes success not in evidence.
posted by kirkaracha at 2:56 PM on September 25 [4 favorites]


According to Wikipedia, Zelensky speaks fluent English, so the transcript is quite likely not a translation.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 3:35 PM on September 25


Tristero: "The only way we can be certain that the full whistleblower complaint is delivered to Congress is if the whistleblower swears under oath it's complete."

Word.
posted by j_curiouser at 3:39 PM on September 25 [8 favorites]


Sasse: Foreign Involvement in U.S. Elections Is ‘Really, Really Bad’ (National Review)

Having read the whistleblower complaint, Sasse’s now being selectively quoted to sound like he’s chastising his fellow Republicans when he’s engaging more in all-sides rhetoric. Here’s the full statement via CNN’s Jake Tapper:
We need to slow down. This place is terrible at deliberation. Democrats ought not to be using the word “impeach” before they had the whistleblower complaint or read any of the transcript. Republicans ought not to be rushing to circle the wagons and say there’s no there there when there’s obviously a lot that’s very troubling there. The administration ought not be attacking the whistleblower as some talking points suggest they plan to do. The media, humbly, should not pretend this story is, you know, about something that’s going to be resolved in the next two hours. Done right with lots of deliberation this going to take a long time but there’s obviously some very troubling things here. But I think the partisan tribalism that’s always insta-certain is a terrible idea. There are real troubling things here Republicans ought not just circle the wagons and Democrats ought not be using words like “impeach” before they knew anything about the actual substance. The Senate intelligence committee actually does its work in a deliberative, slow and cautious way, and that’s what the Senate is supposed to do.
But while he’s clearly stalling, he keeps calling the complaint “troubling”.
posted by Doktor Zed at 3:52 PM on September 25 [3 favorites]


ABC News, Ukrainians understood Biden probe was condition for Trump-Zelenskiy phone call: Ukrainian adviser
"It was clear that [President Donald] Trump will only have communications if they will discuss the Biden case," said Serhiy Leshchenko, an anti-corruption advocate and former member of Ukraine's Parliament, who now acts as an adviser to Zelenskiy. "This issue was raised many times. I know that Ukrainian officials understood."
posted by zachlipton at 3:57 PM on September 25 [16 favorites]


According to Wikipedia, Zelensky speaks fluent English, so the transcript is quite likely not a translation.

Yes, but Donald Trump does not, so ...
posted by JackFlash at 4:03 PM on September 25 [5 favorites]


Murray Waas has published a dynamite scoop in the NYRB about Manafort’s role in Ukraine-gate: Trump, Giuliani, and Manafort: The Ukraine Scheme
The effort by President Trump to pressure the government of Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son had its origins in an earlier endeavor to obtain information that might provide a pretext and political cover for the president to pardon his former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, according to previously undisclosed records.

These records indicate that attorneys representing Trump and Manafort respectively had at least nine conversations relating to this effort, beginning in the early days of the Trump administration, and lasting until as recently as May of this year. Through these deliberations carried on by his attorneys, Manafort exhorted the White House to press Ukrainian officials to investigate and discredit individuals, both in the US and in Ukraine, who he believed had published damning information about his political consulting work in the Ukraine. A person who participated in the joint defense agreement between President Trump and others under investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, including Manafort, allowed me to review extensive handwritten notes that memorialized conversations relating to Manafort and Ukraine between Manafort’s and Trump’s legal teams, including Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani.[…]

The records I have reviewed also indicate that on at least three occasions, Rudy Giuliani was in communication with Manafort’s legal team to discuss how the White House was pushing a narrative that the Democratic National Committee, Democratic donors, and Ukrainian government officials had “colluded” to defeat Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential bid. (This story has since been debunked as baseless, though that has not prevented Trump, Giuliani, and other surrogates in conservative media from repeatedly pushing the story.)

In particular, the records show that Manafort’s camp provided Giuliani with information designed to smear two people: one was a Ukrainian journalist and political activist named Serhiy Leshchenko, whom Manafort believed, correctly, of helping to uncover Manafort’s secret payments from Yanukovych; another was Alexandra Chalupa, a Ukrainian-American political consultant and US citizen, whom Manafort suspected, mistakenly in this case, was also behind the exposé. The records also show that Giuliani and attorneys for Manafort exchanged information about the then US ambassador to the Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, who Giuliani believed had attempted to undercut his covert Ukrainian diplomacy and fact-finding; the records are unclear as to whether it was Giuliani or Manafort’s attorney who first initiated their discussion about her.
“He sits motionless, like a spider in the centre of its web, but that web has a thousand radiations, and he knows well every quiver of each of them.”
posted by Doktor Zed at 4:27 PM on September 25 [8 favorites]


He withheld military aid that Ukraine needed in its defense against Russia and Russian-backed separatists.

Including moneys that probably would have been spent in the US to acquire military gear.
posted by ZeusHumms at 4:43 PM on September 25


Guardian: "Elise Stefanik, a republican member of the House intelligence committee who reviewed the whistleblower complaint said it “should be immediately declassified and made public for the American people to read.” [...] But the respresentative [sic] from New York also noted that she does not support impeachment."

Guardian: "Chuck Schumer calls for whistleblower complaint to be declassified [...] The democratic senate minority leader joins a republican member of the House intelligence committee in calling for the complaint to be made public."
posted by katra at 4:46 PM on September 25 [2 favorites]


The leaks commence. NYT, Whistle-Blower Is Said to Allege Concerns About White House Handling of Ukraine Call
The intelligence officer who filed a whistle-blower complaint about President Trump’s interactions with the leader of Ukraine raised alarms not only about what the two men said in a phone call, but also about how the White House handled records of the conversation, according to two people briefed on the complaint.

The whistle-blower, moreover, identified multiple White House officials as witnesses to potential presidential misconduct who could corroborate the complaint, the people said — adding that the inspector general for the intelligence community, Michael Atkinson, interviewed witnesses.

Mr. Atkinson eventually concluded that there was reason to believe that the president may have illegally solicited a foreign campaign contributions — and that his potential misconduct created a national security risk, according to a newly disclosed Justice Department memo.
...
But the two people said the whistle-blower complaint went beyond Mr. Trump’s comments to Mr. Zelensky. It also dealt in part with the unusual manner in which White House officials handled internal records describing the call. The atypical proceeding heightened internal concerns about the content of the call, the two people said.
posted by zachlipton at 5:23 PM on September 25 [9 favorites]


Oh please let this conflagration alight and burn out every last one of them
posted by Gadarene at 5:32 PM on September 25 [6 favorites]


Trump’s Ukraine holdup hit a rudderless Pentagon (Politico)
The leadership vacuum at the top of the Defense Department is just one element in the chain of decisions on the nearly $390 million in Ukraine aid, a freeze that set the stage for a grave political crisis for Trump after POLITICO published the first report on the holdup Aug. 28. It’s also an example of the erosion of institutional checks on the Trump administration, which has installed acting or temporary leaders in a host of crucial leadership positions. [...]

Even the advice of permanent Pentagon leadership might not have swayed the White House on the Ukraine freeze, said the top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, Jack Reed of Rhode Island. Trump and his advisers “weren’t listening to military advice about this decision,” Reed said. "My sense is that this was not a diplomatic, strategic, military decision in any way, shape or form.”
Giuliani draws Pompeo into Ukraine maelstrom (Politico)
Pompeo is mulling a campaign for the Senate from Kansas; he’s also said to be thinking about a future White House run. But his strategy of rarely allowing any public daylight between himself and the president — whatever its effectiveness as a bureaucratic survival strategy — is now proving politically perilous.
posted by katra at 5:54 PM on September 25 [3 favorites]


But the two people said the whistle-blower complaint went beyond Mr. Trump’s comments to Mr. Zelensky. It also dealt in part with the unusual manner in which White House officials handled internal records describing the call. The atypical proceeding heightened internal concerns about the content of the call, the two people said.

They always say "It's not the crime, it's the coverup" -- except in this case it's both.
posted by JackFlash at 6:06 PM on September 25 [4 favorites]




Good lord things are moving fast now.

Whistleblower complaint about Trump declassified and may be released Thursday [CNN]
"Yes, it has been declassified with minimal redactions but not yet released to the public," a separate source familiar with the process told CNN. "We expect that to happen in the morning."
posted by Two unicycles and some duct tape at 9:40 PM on September 25 [7 favorites]


WaPo, Trump offered Ukrainian president Justice Dept. help in an investigation of Biden, memo shows
The whistleblower complaint focuses largely on the July 25 call between Trump and Zelensky, which the whistleblower sees as evidence of Trump’s efforts to pressure the Ukrainian government to investigate his political opponents, according to a person who has read the complaint and spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss its contents. But the complaint also broadly alleges an effort by Trump and his personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, to pressure Ukrainian officials over time, not just on the July 25 call, this person said. The whistleblower paints a picture, also using public news reports, to suggest that Giuliani pressured Ukrainian officials to further Trump’s interest in investigating his political opponents.

The complaint also alleges a pattern of obfuscation at the White House, in which officials moved the records of some of Trump’s communications with foreign officials onto a separate computer network from where they are normally stored, this person said. The whistleblower alleges that is what officials did with Trump’s July 25 call with Zelensky, an action that alarmed the intelligence community inspector general and prompted him to request that the White House retain records of the Zelensky call, the person who read the complaint said.
posted by zachlipton at 11:01 PM on September 25 [11 favorites]


The complaint also alleges a pattern of obfuscation at the White House, in which officials moved the records of some of Trump’s communications with foreign officials onto a separate computer network from where they are normally stored.

This is a big deal. Often in court cases the lawyer does not need to argue whether or not someone committed a crime, because they acted to cover it up. The defendant's actions show they knew the crime was wrong. Part of the reason Trump's been so successful at crime is that he doesn't fit the pattern. He usually just does stuff openly and then argues it's not wrong at all. In this case, Trump tried to hide what he did. He knew it was wrong.
posted by xammerboy at 11:47 PM on September 25 [6 favorites]


In this case, Trump tried to hide what he did. He knew it was wrong.

Unfortunately, I'd strongly suspect this is more a "Working Towards the Führer" thing. There's zero chance Trump has a clue that there are different computer systems designed to compartmentalize different classified data. Ripping up papers when he's done with them is more the level he operates on, and some flunkies implement his desires from there.

Of course, the fact the people with access to move records between systems of that sort are self-motivated Trump flunkies... well that's a whole other mess of corruption that will leave other lasting damage that we can't even guess at yet.
posted by bcd at 12:05 AM on September 26 [12 favorites]


I totally believe that Trump doesn't even really know what a server is, but he was babbling about servers yesterday, right? Honestly, I subjected myself to too much Trump yesterday and it had aspects of a bad LSD trip, so I'm not sure I'm remembering correctly.
posted by angrycat at 1:44 AM on September 26 [3 favorites]


Not sure this has been posted elsewhere already: Military ammunition sale to Ukraine faces year-long delay
The military assistance package to Ukraine that’s at the center of the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry isn’t the only arms transfer to that country that has faced delays as President Trump pushed the Ukrainian leader to investigate the family of former Vice President Joe Biden.

According to sources familiar with the matter, a separate $10 million sale of ammunition has mysteriously remained in limbo for almost a year with no explanation from the Trump administration.

...The Washington Post reported Monday evening that Trump ordered nearly $400 million in military aid to Ukraine withheld just one week prior to that call.

That aid package was released earlier this month and administration officials told the Post it had been delayed because of concerns about “corruption” in Ukraine. The ammunition sale, in the meantime, remains in limbo.
...The delayed $10 million ammunition sale, which has not previously been reported, is for NATO-compliant 7.62 x 51 and 12.7 x 99 ammunition. The deal is a direct commercial sale, which is negotiated between private companies and foreign buyers, but must be licensed by the U.S. State Department.
posted by bitteschoen at 3:47 AM on September 26 [4 favorites]


Here's the unclassified whistleblower complaint:

https://intelligence.house.gov/uploadedfiles/20190812_-_whistleblower_complaint_unclass.pdf
posted by Doktor Zed at 5:52 AM on September 26 [5 favorites]


Whenever I see Gish Gallup I think it must have something to do with the KKK galloping to the rescue of Lillian Gish in Birth of a Nation. (It doesn't--except maybe it does in Trump defenses.)
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 6:25 AM on September 26 [2 favorites]


Nunes grasping those straws extremely tightly.

How he can look at himself in the mirror every morning without breaking down and weeping is beyond my comprehension.
posted by Your Childhood Pet Rock at 6:25 AM on September 26 [1 favorite]


Maguire seems really irritated at Schiff's questioning, doesn't he? He's constantly running his tongue over his teeth and rolling his eyes. Did he not think he was going to be questioned on his behavior?
posted by chainsofreedom at 6:55 AM on September 26


I read the complaint, and to me, it's not a slam-dunk. There's no Watergate-bugging type of action. It's just more of the same, Trumpian "I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go" bullshit.

“He doesn’t give you questions, he doesn’t give you orders, he speaks in a code. And I understand the code, because I’ve been around him for a decade."

This is more of the same tactics that Cohen talked about. Maybe Trump did intend to do something illegal, but he does so in a way that's totally deniable.

And deny they will.

The White House can and will easily spin it to be like what Chris Christie said: "Hey, you just got elected President of the Ukraine, there's a lot of corrupt stuff going on there, like my political opponent, you should look into the corruption, we're giving you a lot of money, after all."

My concern is that, just like Sasse said, the Democrats have already concluded that it's impeachable, the Republicans have already circled the wagons, and everyone's mind is already made up. Trump may be impeached by the House, but Senate won't convict because it's under Republican control.

I'd love to think this will bring Trump and Pence down, but I really don't think it's going to happen. Best hope for that is in 2020.
posted by vitout at 7:11 AM on September 26


You can literally pick a random paragraph and find evidence of impeachable conduct, not to say anything of what the President has already admitted to publicly.

So.
posted by Gadarene at 9:51 AM on September 26 [1 favorite]


he does so in a way that's totally deniable.


At risk of sounding like a big asshole, and without going into detail because I'm busy shedding virus all over this stack of student papers that I must grade in the next thirty minutes, but that's only true if people are ignorant of the facts and/or don't care about them. There's more than just the call, which is damning enough.
posted by angrycat at 10:30 AM on September 26 [7 favorites]


The idea that after freezing aid to the country and having its president call and say he wants to buy more missiles that require White House approval for a purchase, Trump immediately saying "I would like you to do us a favor, though" is deniable as a quid-pro-quo request is bonkers. The GOP will deny it anyway, but it falls into the category of denying that children need soap in order to have "sanitary" conditions -- evidence that they will say anyfuckingthing that suits their interests, rather than of genuine room for good-faith differences in interpretation.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 10:38 AM on September 26 [10 favorites]


(Also, prior to the transcript coming out Chris Christie specifically said that if Trump phrased his desire for a Biden investigation in language like "do me a favor" that would be much worse for him than if he talked more generally about corruption. They see the difference, they just don't want to acknowledge it now that it matters.)
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 10:41 AM on September 26 [5 favorites]


Following Maguire’s questionable public testimony this morning, Marcy Wheeler writes on EmptyWheel.net: The Intelligence Issues the House Intelligence Committee Largely Ignored
[B]ecause both sides (with the very limited exception of Will Hurd) failed to raise the issues regarding the whistleblower complaint that go to the core of Maguire’s own equities, he was largely able to dodge the difficult issues.

Maguire’s own actions implicate whether IC whistleblowers will believe credible complaints will be treated appropriately. As Democrats noted, his first actions when he received a complaint implicating the President and the Attorney General were to refer to lawyers reporting directly to the President and the Attorney General. Maguire even pretended that Bill Barr’s role in this was not a significant part of the complaint to dismiss the worthlessness of referring this complaint to Bill Barr to investigate.

But there were three other key issues Maguire should not have been able to dodge.

First is the allegation that Trump moved the summary of this call to the covert communications system to hide the improper nature of the call. […] This is a clear abuse of the legal status of covert operations dictated by the National Security Act, something for which Maguire has direct responsibility. […] And yet he wasn’t asked how Trump’s actions undermine the legally mandated system of covert communications.

Then there’s the fact that Trump is premising policy decisions not on the best intelligence, but instead on how he can derive personal benefit from them. His doing so is a core abuse of presidential power.[…]

Finally, there’s the allegation that someone without clearance and entirely outside of the intelligence community was being asked to share and act on classified information derived from the intelligence community.
Also:
Three things HPSCI did not do:
1) Ask whether premising policy decisions on personal gain serves US interest
2) Ask whether the abuse of covert communication system affects DNI's ability to do his job
3) Ask whether IC sharing info w/Rudy is under his mandate
Meanwhile, more evidence of a cover-up emerges from the DoJ, reports CNN’s Shimon Prokupecz: “DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel essentially ignored additional allegations from the whistleblower outside the July 25 Trump-Zelensky call when it determined his complaint should be kept in-house, according to a newly unsealed memo from the DOJ policy office. Remember DOJ did not interview any witnesses. As far as we know made no effort to dig deeper into the complaint.”

CNN: Justice Department ignored additional allegations when considering if complaint could be shared with Congress
posted by Doktor Zed at 10:44 AM on September 26 [7 favorites]


I mean, one of the loudest proponents of impeachment has been and still is Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD), who is an actual Constitutional scholar who helped found "a program designed to mobilize talented upper-level law students to teach courses on constitutional law" at some of the most prestigious law schools in the country. I think I'll defer to his opinion on this one.
posted by zombieflanders at 10:46 AM on September 26 [6 favorites]


NYT’s Mike Schmidt has a scoop (i.e. leak): “NEW: The whistle-blower is a C.I.A. officer who had been detailed at some point to the White House. His complaint suggests he has a sophisticated understanding of Ukrainian politics and at least some knowledge of the law.”

NYT: Whistle-Blower Is a C.I.A. Officer Who Was Detailed to the White House “The whistle-blower who revealed that President Trump sought foreign help for his re-election and that the White House sought to cover it up is a C.I.A. officer who was detailed to work at the White House at one point, according to three people familiar with his identity.”
posted by Doktor Zed at 11:00 AM on September 26 [3 favorites]


I appreciate the commitment to investigative journalism but Trump is absolutely going to try to get this man (I assume it's confirmed as a man from NYT's use of pronouns) murdered now.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 11:03 AM on September 26 [6 favorites]


absolutely going to try to get this man murdered now

Trump Attacks Whistle-Blower’s Sources and Alludes to Punishment for Spies.
“I want to know who’s the person who gave the whistle-blower the information because that’s close to a spy,” Mr. Trump said. “You know what we used to do in the old days when we were smart with spies and treason, right? We used to handle it a little differently than we do now.”
Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?
posted by Nelson at 11:15 AM on September 26 [9 favorites]


It looks like there have been slightly different words found for "unprecedented"
Joseph Maguire, the intelligence chief at the center of the fight over a whistle-blower complaint about President Trump’s dealings with Ukraine, said the whistle-blower “acted in good faith” and called the case “unique and unprecedented.”

“I believe everything here in this matter is totally unprecedented,” Mr. Maguire emphasized as he testified before the House Intelligence Committee.
posted by katra at 11:18 AM on September 26


Meanwhile, it sounds like Giuliani is badly rattled, per the Atlantic’s Elaina Plott: “Rudy Giuliani was nearly shouting in my phone call with him. “It is impossible that the whistle-blower is a hero and I’m not. And I will be the hero! These morons—when this is over, I will be the hero,” he told me.”

The Atlantic: Rudy Giuliani: ‘You Should Be Happy for Your Country That I Uncovered This’—President Trump’s personal attorney unleashes in a new phone call with The Atlantic while Trump allies turn on him.”
Giuliani unleashed a rant about the Bidens, Hillary Clinton, the Clinton Foundation, Barack Obama, the media, and the “deep state.” He has spoken freely about all these topics since the moment he became a surrogate in Trump’s 2016 campaign. Giuliani has aired far-right conspiracy theories about Hillary Clinton’s health on national television. He has discussed his convictions about alleged Biden-family corruption with Trump in the White House residence. Still, until the Ukraine scandal broke, Trump’s allies were almost uniformly supportive of Giuliani to reporters, and current and former administration officials would often praise him for his loyalty.

Not until the back-to-back release of the summary of the Trump-Zelensky call and the full whistle-blower complaint did the mood change among this group.

This morning, a former senior White House official told me this “entire thing,” referring to the Ukraine scandal, was “Rudy putting shit in Trump’s head.” A senior House Republican aide bashed Giuliani, telling me he was a “moron.” Both individuals spoke on condition of anonymity in order to be candid.

“They’re a bunch of cowards,” Giuliani told me in response. “I didn’t do anything wrong. The president knows they’re a bunch of cowards.”
posted by Doktor Zed at 11:36 AM on September 26 [7 favorites]


Trump & Giuliani are "Dumb and Dumber"?
posted by ZeusHumms at 11:57 AM on September 26


Politico’s Natasha Bertrand has more on the Trump White House’s use of “S//OC//NF” classification for phone call transcripts: Alleged White House ‘Lockdown’ of Transcript Would be Highly Unusual
[T]he whistleblower alleged that senior White House officials had intervened to “‘lock down’ all records” of that call by removing it from the system where these transcripts are normally stored and uploading it into a separate system “managed directly by the NSC’s Directorate for Intelligence Programs.” They did so because “of the likelihood, in the officials’ retelling, that they had witnessed the president abuse his office for personal gain,” according to the whistleblower.[…]

After 2017, when verbatim transcripts of his conversations with the leaders of Australian and Mexico were leaked to the press, the White House began to restrict the number of officials who had access to the transcripts. One former Trump administration official confirmed that the White House started placing transcripts into the codeword system after those leaks.

ADDITIONALLY: Experts say it would be squarely within whistleblower’s rights to sound the alarm over a potential violation of the 2009 exec order governing classification. That in turn could be why the IC IG considered it to be within the intelligence community’s purview.
n.b. Codeword classified intelligence—the highest security rating it can receive—is exactly what Trump blabbed to Russian officials visiting the Oval Office way back in May 2017.
posted by Doktor Zed at 12:11 PM on September 26 [9 favorites]


Frankly I'm tempted to agree that the whistleblower is a spy: a spy for the people of the USA, and that that's part of what they're supposed to do. This could also be extended to oversight committees and internal affairs offices. The problem Trump has is who the enemy they're spying on is.
posted by rhizome at 12:33 PM on September 26 [5 favorites]




I don't appreciate anything about the New York Times. By this point, I can't keep track of the NYT's feckless, insincere, bad-faith, both-sidesism acts any more. Just yesterday their online headline had the words "both sides". Today it hasn't been eight hours since their portrayal of diehard Trump supporters as "swing voters" [1], and now this. And there was something just last week. And the week before. And the week before. As I said, I lost track.

I'm so angry my thoughts make no sense, and I can't do anything, can't cancel a subscription I don't have. A question about the history of journalism—have major journalistic outlets ever publicly censured one of their number? With editorials and such? Can y'all? Please?

[1] That wasn't an honest mistake. That wasn't an honest anything.
posted by seyirci at 1:11 PM on September 26 [26 favorites]


Meanwhile, the NYT has been catching hell for virtually outing the whistleblower, even from fellow journalists, to such an extent that their executive editor had to issue a mealy-mouthed defense.

The WaPo’s Harry Litman: "Bad misjudgment by NY Times: “Any decision to report any perceived identifying information of the whistle-blower is deeply concerning and reckless, as it can place the individual in harm’s way,” said Andrew Bakaj, his lead counsel. “The whistle-blower has a right to anonymity."
posted by Doktor Zed at 1:28 PM on September 26 [15 favorites]


I'm so angry my thoughts make no sense, and I can't do anything, can't cancel a subscription I don't have.

Boycott their advertisers? Or things they advertise in?
posted by ZeusHumms at 1:35 PM on September 26 [2 favorites]


On Twitter, Julian Sanchez hypothesizes that the NYT's sources are White House people who figured out the whistleblower's identity by narrowing down who had access to materials/people/meetings described in the complaint, and just told the Times what they came up with. If true it makes the actual reporting less dangerous (because Trump would know the whistleblower's identity regardless) but also makes the story waaaaaaaay worse from a journalistic perspective, because it would mean the Times is not just relaying the Trumpies' deductions but passing those deductions off as their own. The story is framed as if NYT reporters sat down with sources, gathered information, and came up with a name. Not to mention that the headline in that case ought to be "White House Uncovers Whistleblower's Identity, Sources Say".
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 1:38 PM on September 26 [19 favorites]


@mattyglesias: A journalistic paradox: If the whistleblower had broken the law and taken his concerns directly to the Times, there’s no way the paper would have identified him in print.
posted by JackFlash at 1:54 PM on September 26 [24 favorites]


Daily KOS take on the Times. Geez it's like they are doing someone a favor. I hope everyone here has canceled any New York Times subscriptions. Can we make that hashtag happen? I canceled back when they hired the idiot climate change denier. Fuckers.
Dean Baquet is sending a clear signal to any other potential whistleblower considering coming forward to reveal a breach as large, or larger, than that pointed out in the Ukraine scandal. The law may insist that a whistleblower’s identity be protected. But The New York Times does not respect that law.

Reports indicate that The New York Times own attorneys advised against releasing this information. That was good advice.
posted by Glinn at 2:35 PM on September 26 [13 favorites]


Schiff says he’s ‘deeply concerned’ about whistleblower’s safety (WaPo)
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) said he is concerned about the safety of the whistleblower who raised the alarm about Trump’s call with Zelensky, citing “repugnant threats” made by the president earlier Thursday.

“I’m deeply concerned about it,” Schiff told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer when asked about the whistleblower’s safety. “And obviously, we’re going to do everything we can … to protect the whistleblower’s identity. But given those real, repugnant threats coming from the president, I have a real concern about this.”
Exasperated Trump's strategy: Flail at Democrats, attack whistleblower, tweet like crazy (Reuters)
The source, who is close to Trump, raised significant concerns about the readiness of his team to prepare for what that person called “the biggest fight of his life.”

“I’m gravely concerned there’s no media operation up and running right now to be pushing back on all this. There’s no plan,” the source said.

[...] His reaction so far has been to flail at Democrats, the media and the whistleblower who raised the Ukrainian issue. He punched out a series of tweets and retweets denouncing them, including House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, whom he branded “liddle Adam Schiff.”

In the span of several hours, Trump fired off about 45 blasts via Twitter, a Reuters count showed, an unusually high number even for him.
posted by katra at 4:13 PM on September 26 [3 favorites]


I canceled back when they hired the idiot climate change denier.

I canceled when they attributed Trump’s decision to bomb Syria to his love for children. The NYT likes to act like people will kill journalism if they unsubscribe. They are a business. They are not the only source of journalism, or great journalism, in this country.
posted by sallybrown at 4:43 PM on September 26 [13 favorites]


Whistleblower report reveals how far Trump’s dubious ethics have spread (Guardian)
What appears to have so alarmed career government ethics and oversight officials, however, is the extent to which the now released complaint reveals that Trump’s ethical rot, as they perceive it, has spread beyond the Oval Office, beyond the White House, beyond the cabinet and through the government.

[...] “Attorney general Barr appears to be involved as well,” the complaint alleges.

Yet while Barr allegedly participated in the Ukrainian plan – although he denies having contacted Ukrainian officials at Trump’s behest, as Trump repeatedly assured the Ukrainian president Barr would – Barr also is actively overseeing justice department inquiries relating to the plan, including one internal inquiry that determined that the plan did not violate campaign finance laws banning campaigns from accepting anything “of value” from foreign sources.

The “complaint makes Barr’s decision to not recuse and [the justice department] decision to not undertake even cursory investigation indefensible,” tweeted Susan Hennessey, executive editor of the Lawfare blog. “Barr had secured a legacy as former [attorney general] & stalwart [justice department] institutionalist. Now his name will forever be associated with the worst degradations of the Department.”
posted by katra at 6:37 PM on September 26 [10 favorites]


If true it makes the actual reporting less dangerous (because Trump would know the whistleblower's identity regardless)

maybe so. but the NYT clearly and explicitly reports that the whistleblower is male. which for all I know is true of everyone in the pool of possible identities. but it was absolutely unnecessary and dangerous to report that detail, especially if it's true, and double especially if that narrows it down -- not even by as much as it would in any normal professional sphere, but if that narrows it down at all.
posted by queenofbithynia at 7:24 PM on September 26 [5 favorites]


New York Times faces backlash after revealing details about whistleblower (Guardian)
Identifying information published in the paper “recklessly narrows that universe of suspected whistleblowers to a very few people,” said Jesselyn Radack, the director of national security and human rights at the Whistleblower and Source Protection Program. “This has a very chilling effect on anyone who is even thinking of blowing the whistle and thinking of doing so through the proper channels.” [...]

The New York Times’ executive editor, Dean Baquet, defended the publication’s decision. [...] “We wanted to provide information to readers that allows them to make their own judgments about whether or not he is credible.”

Danielle Brian, the executive director of the not-for-profit watchdog Project On Government Oversight, argued that the move was unnecessary because the whistleblower’s credibility “was already stabilized by the Inspector General and the Department of National Intelligence”, which recognized the complaint and urgent and credible. “We didn’t need the New York Times to tell us what agency this person came from,” Brian said.

Mark Zaid, an attorney representing the whistleblower, wrote on Twitter: “Publishing details about whistleblower will only lead to identification of someone, whether our client or wrong person, as whistleblower. This will place individual in much more dangerous situation, not only in their professional world but also their possible personal safety.”
posted by katra at 10:04 PM on September 26 [19 favorites]


Can you imagine being a reported for the times, and trying to assure a source that you’d protect their anonymity after this? I’m sure any phone conversation they’d have along those lines would theoretically involve incredulous laughter, a click, and a dial tone.
posted by Ghidorah at 3:23 AM on September 27 [1 favorite]


No but the sad thing is, the NYT does protect its own anonymous sources even while doxing the whistleblower! I still cannot get my head around the fact they thought that outing him as CIA would supposedly add more credibility to his complaint than the whole vetting process that led to the complaint finally getting to the house committee yesterday, not to mention the contents of the complaint itself and it matching the contents of the phone call. Such self-aggrandizing implied there.
posted by bitteschoen at 3:48 AM on September 27 [10 favorites]


I still cannot get my head around the fact they thought that outing him as CIA would supposedly add more credibility to his complaint than the whole vetting process that led to the complaint finally getting to the house committee yesterday

Indeed, but whatever their motivations, they may well have believed that it'd sound like a plausible explanation. The Trump Administration does a lot of horrible things, but they usually bother to claim a reasonable, if transparently bogus, rationale in public (and before the courts, as when they claimed the citizenship question was intended to enhance enforcement of the Voting Rights Act and only proof of the question's true racist origins made it impossible for courts to pretend to believe them).
posted by Gelatin at 7:26 AM on September 27


No but the sad thing is, the NYT does protect its own anonymous sources even while doxing the whistleblower!

This combo also sends a message “you better leak to us, or else we’ll feel free to expose your identity. But we protect our sources.”
posted by sallybrown at 7:31 AM on September 27 [11 favorites]


In White House Knew of Whistle-Blower’s Allegations Soon After Trump’s Call With Ukraine Leader (NYT), there is also this apparent rationale:
The revelation that the White House knew that a C.I.A. officer was expressing concerns before he filed a whistle-blower complaint demonstrates a weakness in a law meant to protect him from reprisals and shows that he was at risk of retaliation.

“I always advise whistle-blowers against going to general counsels because the general counsels have to report the matter,” said Dan Meyer, the former executive director of the intelligence community whistle-blowing program and managing partner at the law firm Tully Rinckey’s Washington office. “They are like tuna in a shark tank.”
Except there's also this:
Ms. Elwood also called John A. Eisenberg, a deputy White House counsel and her counterpart at the National Security Council, according to three people familiar with the matter. He was already aware of vague concerns about the call. [...] Ms. Elwood did not pass on the name of the C.I.A. officer, which she did not know because his concerns were submitted anonymously.
The whistleblower first submitted their concerns anonymously, yet the White House found out about 'vague concerns' before the report was made.

Also, In Ukraine Phone Call, Alarmed Aides Saw Trouble (NYT)
No one bothered to put special limits on the number of people allowed to sit in the “listening room” in the White House to monitor the phone call because it was expected to be routine. By the time the call was over 30 minutes later, it quickly became clear that it was anything but. [...]

The alarm among officials who heard the exchange led to an extraordinary effort to keep too many more people from learning about it. In the days to come, according to a whistle-blower complaint released on Thursday, White House officials embarked on a campaign to “lock down” the record of the call, removing it from the usual electronic file and hiding it away in a separate system normally used for classified information.

But word began to spread anyway, kicking off a succession of events that would eventually reveal details of the call to the public and has now put Mr. Trump at risk of being impeached by a Democrat-led House for abusing his power and betraying his office.
The first article concludes with "[a]fter the call, multiple officials told the whistle-blower that future talks between Mr. Trump and Mr. Zelensky would depend on whether the Ukranians would “play ball” on the investigations," which leaves me unable to understand why so much detail about the whistleblower was identified by the NYT, because they otherwise seemed to have cover due to other people apparently also having concerns (or at least awareness) about wrongdoing.
posted by katra at 8:18 AM on September 27 [3 favorites]


Luppe Luppen (@nycsouthpaw) gives credit to the CIA whistleblower's investigative skills:
The whistleblower, investigating almost entirely at secondhand some of the most sensitive information in the world, absolutely nailed the story. That person didn’t have access to the call summary the White House released and yet the complaint describes it in near perfect detail.

If that investigative account had appeared in a newspaper instead of via the lawful whistleblower process, it would be the surest of sure things—a mortal lock—that it would receive a Pulitzer Prize.
Speaking of whistleblowers, Crooked Media's Brian Buetler contrasts this case with the other one before the House:
.@RepRichardNeal are you actually gonna let this impeachment process expire without releasing this other whistleblower complaint?

There’s a profound lesson here. We are where we are, in very large part, because Adam Schiff got wind of a whistleblower complaint and made the critical decision to make a big public stink about it rather than follow Neal’s lead and go quietly ask a judge to enforce a subpoena.

posted by Doktor Zed at 8:35 AM on September 27 [14 favorites]


Guardian: Trump and his allies are doing everything they can to discredit the anonymous whistleblower who first raised concerns about the president’s Ukraine call. [...]
It’s again worth noting that the White House is attempting to discredit the entirety of the complaint by disparaging the whistleblower himself, rather than denying specific aspects of the complaint.

For example, the White House could address the claim that Trump officials have repeatedly placed politically sensitive information on a separate server meant for highly classified information or that the president tried to solicit election assistance from a foreign country.

But no one from the Trump White House seems to be doing that so far.
posted by katra at 9:10 AM on September 27 [4 favorites]


Guardian: White House officials acknowledge use of separate system to store Ukraine call transcript [...]
Manu Raju (@mkraju) WH is acknowledging for the first time that officials did direct key documents be filed in a separate classified system. Senior White House Official tells @PamelaBrownCNN: “NSC lawyers directed that the classified document be handled appropriately.”
September 27, 2019

The admission could substantiate the whistleblower’s accusation that White House officials quickly moved to conceal details of the Ukraine call by placing it in a codeword system usually reserved for highly classified information.
posted by katra at 9:18 AM on September 27 [2 favorites]


Trump and his allies are doing everything they can to discredit the anonymous whistleblower who first raised concerns about the president’s Ukraine call

...because there's little point in denying the substance of the whistleblower's complaint, as Trump and his allies have already admitted it's essentially true.

Trump wants people to dismiss the accusations because he accuses the whistleblower of being "partisan." That logic cuts both ways; Trump's accusations should very much be taken in the context of a president whose only defense is to smear the source, and journalists -- even Maggie Haberman -- should refuse to participate.
posted by Gelatin at 9:29 AM on September 27 [1 favorite]


Senior White House Official tells @PamelaBrownCNN: “NSC lawyers directed that the classified document be handled appropriately.”

If I were a staff lawyer anywhere in this administration, I'd be writing a contemporaneous account of any conversation I had with anyone. Between this buck-passing and yesterday's committee meeting with its "Well, I'm no lawyer, I'm just an honest man making an honest effort to do things honestly, so I asked the lawyers what to do, and they said...", there's gonna be plenty of JDs under buses.
posted by Etrigan at 9:35 AM on September 27 [2 favorites]


Revenge of the Intelligence Nerds (Mike Giglio, The Atlantic)

The kind of people who work in the intelligence community are more likely to both see relevant problems and report them through official channels. They believe in process and procedures. The complaint is stronger and harder to question as a result.
posted by ZeusHumms at 10:40 AM on September 27 [10 favorites]


Cybersecurity researcher Matt Tait (@pwnallthethings on Twitter) is taking a deep dive into the call notes as a study of how foreign leaders/dignitaries get what they want out of Trump.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 10:58 AM on September 27 [3 favorites]




NBC: Russia has voiced hope that the U.S. administration wouldn't publish private conversations between the two nations' presidents, like it did with Ukraine.

Because then it'd lose its value as blackmail material.

But seriously, it's fascinating that Russia feels it can suggest to the President of the United States what to reveal or not to the American People. Even if Trump is not a wholly owned subsidiary of Moscow, it's a humiliating shot.
posted by Gelatin at 11:23 AM on September 27 [22 favorites]


From the Guardian, otherwise reporting on former director of national intelligence James Clapper describing Trump's whistleblower response as 'witness retaliation'
As pressure continued to mount on Trump, former secretary of defense and CIA director Leon Panetta also suggested the White House’s attempts to conceal Trump’s conversation with his Ukrainian counterpart suggested the administration was “at least thinking of a cover-up”.

[...] “I never experienced the step of isolating the president’s calls,” Panetta told USA Today.

“They were always kept in the same place. This is clearly an indication that they were at least thinking of a cover-up if not, in fact, doing that. It’s a very serious matter because this is evidence of wrongdoing.”
posted by katra at 1:47 PM on September 27 [5 favorites]


White House attorneys directed sealing of phone transcript (AP)
The White House acknowledged that a record of the Trump phone call that is now at the center of the House impeachment inquiry had been sealed away in a highly classified system at the direction of Trump’s National Security Council lawyers.

[...] At the White House, it was a senior administration official who acknowledged that the rough transcript of Trump’s conversation with Ukraine’s Zelenskiy had been moved to a highly classified system maintained by the National Security Council. The official was granted anonymity Friday to discuss sensitive matters.

White House attorneys had been made aware of concerns about Trump’s comments on the call even before the whistleblower sent his allegations to the intelligence community’s inspector general. Those allegations, made in mid-August, were released Thursday under heavy pressure from House Democrats.

All the while, Trump was keeping up his full-bore attack on the whistleblower and the unnamed “White House officials” cited in the complaint, drawing a warning from Pelosi against retaliation.
posted by katra at 2:32 PM on September 27 [4 favorites]


n.b. Codeword classified intelligence—the highest security rating it can receive—is exactly what Trump blabbed to Russian officials visiting the Oval Office way back in May 2017.

Speaking of that meeting… WaPo: Trump told Russian officials in 2017 he wasn’t concerned about Moscow’s interference in U.S. election
President Trump told two senior Russian officials in a 2017 Oval Office meeting that he was unconcerned about Moscow’s interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election because the United States did the same in other countries, an assertion that prompted alarmed White House officials to limit access to the remarks to an unusually small number of people, according to three former officials with knowledge of the matter.

The comments, which have not been previously reported, were part of a now-infamous meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, in which Trump revealed highly classified information that exposed a source of intelligence on the Islamic State. He also said during the meeting that firing FBI Director James B. Comey the previous day had relieved “great pressure” on him.

A memorandum summarizing the meeting was limited to all but a few officials with the highest security clearances in an attempt to keep the president’s comments from being disclosed publicly, according to the former officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive matters.
The coverup has been going on from the start.
posted by Doktor Zed at 6:17 PM on September 27 [10 favorites]


What if news, but too much?
posted by rhizome at 6:55 PM on September 27 [16 favorites]


Who’s who in the whistleblower complaint
A U.S. intelligence official’s whistleblower complaint released publicly Thursday details efforts by President Trump and his personal attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani to pressure Ukrainian officials to investigate Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son Hunter. The complaint also alleges that the White House moved to “lock down” the details of a July 25 call between Trump and his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelensky.

These are the main players and events described in the whistleblower complaint that ultimately led to the start of an impeachment investigation.
posted by kirkaracha at 8:00 PM on September 27 [3 favorites]


Trump's Ukraine call sparks new questions over intelligence chief's firing (Guardian)
The Office of the DNI (ODNI) and its inspector general has the authority to receive whistleblower complaints from across all US intelligence agencies and determine whether they should be referred to Congress.

“We all knew Coats’ departure was coming because he had clashed with the president on several issues. What was weird was the president’s forcefulness in not wanting Sue Gordon to take over as acting director,” said Katrina Mulligan, a former official who worked in the ODNI, the national security council, and the justice department.

“I was hearing at the time that Sue was getting actively excluded from things by the president that she would ordinarily have taken part in, and she was being made to feel uncomfortable,” said Mulligan, now managing director for national security and international policy at the Center for American Progress.

“And then the president tried to install someone who was clearly unqualified,” she added. “Now the timeline of the whistleblower in the White House raises a lot of questions about the Sue Gordon piece of this.”
posted by katra at 11:11 AM on September 28 [5 favorites]


Amateur pro-Trump ‘sleuths’ scramble to unmask whistleblower: ‘Your president has asked for your help’ (WaPo)
The quest to identify the person who crafted the politically explosive complaint against Trump has become a fixation across the most extreme corners of such platforms as Twitter, Reddit and Gab — and has spread onto conservative news sites, radio shows and TV broadcasts.

The president’s scornful portrayal of the whistleblower shaped and stoked the online conversation throughout the week, as it descended into a case study of the Internet at its worst — frenetic, fueled by rumor and frequently racist, misogynistic and crude. [...]

After the complaint was made public Thursday morning, pro-Trump commenters guessed the whistleblower is Hispanic or Jewish or Arab or African American and, many were sure, a woman — though rarely did the commenters use such delicate terms. A top choice soon became Susan M. Gordan, a former deputy director of national intelligence, though others thought a more probable candidate is CIA Director Gina Haspel. [...]

On Friday, the Washington Examiner spread word of a $50,000 reward offered by two pro-Trump political activists known for smear campaigns, who called the scandal a “national disgrace” and said they hoped identifying the whistleblower would help put “this dark chapter behind us.” [...]

The whistleblower has remained anonymous. But should his or her name be publicized through the efforts of Internet sleuths, journalists or others, the consequences probably will be serious given the intensity of the fixation online.

Many people in such spotlights have had their personal information — such as their home addresses, family affiliations and Social Security numbers — published through online “doxing” harassment campaigns. It’s not unusual for figures identified in this way to be confronted in person at their homes or workplaces.
posted by katra at 12:10 PM on September 28 [2 favorites]


The AP backs up CNN’s scoop: Ex-official: Trump’s past phone-call memos also concealed
The White House severely restricted distribution of memos detailing President Donald Trump’s calls with foreign leaders, including Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Saudi Arabia’s Mohammed bin Salman, after embarrassing leaks of his conversations early in his tenure, a former White House official said.[…]

The former White House official acknowledged that other calls were concealed, while casting the decision as part of an effort to minimize leaks, not an attempt to hide improper discussions. The former official was not authorized to discuss the classification system publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.[…]

The contents of the restricted calls with Putin and bin Salman are unknown. But Trump’s relationship with both leaders has been controversial, given Russia’s attack on the 2016 U.S. election on Trump’s behalf and Saudi Arabia’s human rights violations, including the murder of a Washington Post journalist.
While Team Trump is obviously spinning this scandal as merely an overzealous attempt to curb leaks, it’s notable that the countries involved we’re learning about now are all involved in some way with election interference.

In any case, this confirms the whistleblower’s complaint: “According to White House officials I spoke with, this was “not the first time” under this Administration that a Presidential transcript was placed into this codeword-level system solely for the purpose of protecting politically sensitive-rather than national security sensitive-information.”

Amateur pro-Trump ‘sleuths’ scramble to unmask whistleblower: ‘Your president has asked for your help’ (WaPo)

Whether these keyboard commandos come from grassroots or AstroTurf, it wouldn’t be too hard for Team Trump to surreptitiously feed them enough information to uncover the whistleblower (if they don’t want to go through Fox/Breibart/Drudge).
posted by Doktor Zed at 12:23 PM on September 28 [4 favorites]


Right, the "effort to minimize leaks" narrative doesn't work if you look past the surface. Not every call was concealed. Therefore it wasn't a blanket "no leaks" issue, they were making judgment calls about what might be super damaging if leaked. So, yeah, they didn't want leaks... because they were judging that certain calls contained information that would be incredibly damaging if it were leaked.

The fact that they were only moving some calls to the special classification vault shows that it wasn't about leaks-in-general but about specific bad information.
posted by Justinian at 12:53 PM on September 28 [18 favorites]


The fact that they were only moving some calls to the special classification vault shows that it wasn't about leaks-in-general but about specific bad information.

Trump blurs lines between personal lawyer, attorney general (AP)
Justice Department officials insist Barr was unaware of Trump’s comments at the time of the July 25 call.

When Barr did learn of that call a few weeks later, he was “surprised and angry” to discover he had been lumped in with Giuliani, a person familiar with Barr’s thinking told The Associated Press. This person was not authorized to speak about the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity. [...]

Democrats have also called on Barr to step aside from decisions on the Ukraine matter. Those close to Barr, however, have argued there would be no reason to do so because he was unaware of the Trump-Zelenskiy conversation.

The department insists Barr wasn’t made aware of the call with Zelenskiy until at least mid-August.

Barr has not spoken with Trump about investigating Biden or Biden’s son Hunter, and Trump has not asked Barr to contact Ukranian officials about the matter, the department said. Barr has also not spoken with Giuliani about anything related to Ukraine, officials have said. [...]

The Justice Department was first made aware of Trump’s call when a CIA lawyer mentioned the complaint from the unidentified CIA officer on Aug. 14, said a person familiar with the matter who wasn’t authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke anonymously. Some Justice Department lawyers learned about the accusations after the whistleblower filed a complaint with the intelligence community’s internal watchdog.
posted by katra at 3:36 PM on September 28 [1 favorite]


a person familiar with Barr’s thinking

What are the odds that Bill Barr is leaking directly to the Associated Press?
posted by mbrubeck at 4:10 PM on September 28 [3 favorites]


What are the odds that Bill Barr is leaking directly to the Associated Press?

How a Shadow Foreign Policy in Ukraine Prompted an Impeachment Inquiry (NYT)
Mr. Trump was publicly lobbying his own Justice Department for an investigation of Mrs. Clinton and other Democrats. When he got no satisfaction on that score, Mr. Giuliani volunteered to take on the role of independent investigator, empowered by nothing other than Mr. Trump’s blessing.
posted by katra at 4:14 PM on September 28


What are the odds that Bill Barr is leaking directly to the Associated Press?

Probably high. He absolutely knew about those calls because Trump listed him as a go between along with Rudy. Twice he said Barr would be doing the exact same thing as Rudy and we clearly saw that Rudy did exactly was asked. One can infer that either Barr knew about the phone call and didn't go along with it and didn't tell anyone or he was asked to perform a highly questionable act of corruption and didn't tell anybody about it.

Either way, that doesn't make him any less a piece of shit. He needs to be brought into a committee hearing and grilled by a trial lawyer.
posted by Your Childhood Pet Rock at 4:17 PM on September 28 [8 favorites]


Why did it take three days for the AG’s office to leak that he wasn’t involved?
posted by sallybrown at 4:27 PM on September 28


First you have to go through every lie you can tell the media then you have to figure out which is both most believable and most impactful. When you make shit up on the fly you get stuff like Trump and Rudy.
posted by Your Childhood Pet Rock at 4:30 PM on September 28 [9 favorites]


Why did it take three days for the AG’s office to leak that he wasn’t involved?

Some combination of letting Trump take the heat, figuring out a response, and waiting for people to start asking why he didn't do anything back then. He certainly wasn't going to volunteer the fact of his involvement.
posted by rhizome at 5:27 PM on September 28


Why did it take three days for the AG’s office to leak that he wasn’t involved?

In light of this: Source: prosecutor may have fed Trump ally altered information (Guardian) (h/t bitteschoen)
That Giuliani might have been fed information by Ukraine’s then-top prosecutor that was adulterated to make it more appealing to Trump is a startling potential twist in the developing scandal.

According to the Guardian’s source, Lutsenko appeared in conversation with Giuliani to have invented a “don’t prosecute” list he claimed was given to him by the then US ambassador to Kyiv, Marie Yovanovitch – news of which apparently made its way up to Trump.
And the assertion that the DOJ refused to investigate "Clinton and other Democrats," after Trump's "public lobbying" (presumably because, as noted above and elsewhere, the evidence doesn't actually exist), as well as Barr insisting that he was unaware of the July 25 call until "a few weeks later," maybe it's possible that Barr was boxed out of Trump's ongoing efforts to manufacture propaganda against political opponents, and needed several days to get his bearings before leaking information that proclaimed his ignorance. Of course, I can't figure out why he hasn't recused at this point, because it seems obvious that he will be a witness after being implicated by Trump. It doesn't seem possible to have real 'distance' from something like this (CNN):
Indeed, Giuliani's actions alarmed a number of career State Department officials, prompting some of them to keep distance between their work and his, according to multiple sources familiar with the matter. Specifically, they worried that being involved with his efforts would mean they were acting with a partisan political agenda, which as career foreign service officers they were not permitted to do.
posted by katra at 8:09 AM on September 29 [2 favorites]


First you have to go through every lie you can tell the media then you have to figure out which is both most believable and most impactful.

Team Trump continues to leak their anti-leaking defense about the misuse of classification that the whistleblower exposed to friendly media, e.g.:


WSJ: Embarrassing Leaks Led to Clampdown on Trump’s Phone Records
WASHINGTON—The White House moved to clamp down on access to records of presidential phone calls after problematic leaks of sensitive discussions early in the Trump administration, according to people with knowledge of the actions, culminating in the use of a secret national security server which is now central to the impeachment probe.
This is not, of course, how the system works.

Obama NSC advisor Sam Vinograd explains:
The top secret server is not the one in question - that's where readouts are typically stored. The WH moved the Zelensky readout to the codeword server, which is different. @AmbassadorRice said readouts were put on servers based on their classification, not to hide them.

Having served in the Obama Administration at the NSC - to echo what @AmbassadorRice said - we used (vs. abused) these systems based on legitimate classification needs. Not to hide content.
posted by Doktor Zed at 8:40 AM on September 29 [4 favorites]


Lil nazi Stephen Miller tries so hard with the obfuscating, with Chris Wallace. Spouts idiot theories, deep state etc. Wallace with the truth sandwich at Fox. I wonder what else Miller considers "proper and natural". Also wow, he really thinks he's a big shot. Hope it hurts when he falls.
posted by Glinn at 12:35 PM on September 29 [1 favorite]


Giuliani might have been fed information by Ukraine’s then-top prosecutor that was adulterated

Ukraine has an inexperienced president during "the bloodiest European conflict since the wars over the former Yugoslavia in the early 1990s" [CNN], and they're in a lousy, untenable position due in part to our lousy, untenable government with its illegitimate head of state. I have an uncomfortable sense of relief that somebody had the foresight to work up a plan to protect national interests (by drawing in Trump, Putin's waterboy) against Ukraine's putative ally.

BTW, pure speculation: when this dust settles, Jon Huntsman, Jr. will be the next Republican candidate for president.
posted by Iris Gambol at 2:23 PM on September 29 [3 favorites]


This is not, of course, how the system works.

How the Trump White House is Abusing the Record-Keeping System (Samantha Vinograd, Politico Magazine)
Presidents don’t get to pick and choose whether they accurately document their conversations for the record. The Presidential Records Act requires that they do so. Tampering with readouts or failing to file them at all breaks that law.

The process of reading out and documenting presidential conversations isn’t just a matter of upholding the Presidential Records Act, though. It’s critical to ensuring that relevant officials on the U.S. national security team have the information they need to effectively perform their responsibilities. When presidents don’t keep their team in the loop, national security suffers.

Here’s how it’s supposed to work: [...] Once the national security adviser approves the final readout for the record—often called a “MEMCON” or memorandum of conversation—he or she also approves a distribution list. This step is important: It ensures U.S. officials have the information they need to perform their responsibilities, while also making sure those without a need to know what happened don’t.

The distribution list should typically include certain key officials, including the director of national intelligence, CIA director and secretary of State. The list should also include other officials named on the call or who have follow ups from it.

[...] Attorney General William Barr was specifically named to follow up during Trump’s call with Zelensky. Trump told the Ukrainian president that Barr and Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani would call Zelensky. Yet the Department of Justice claims Barr didn’t hear about the call’s contents until weeks after, and that when he did get a readout he was surprised and angry that Trump grouped him with Giuliani. The reported failure to get Barr a readout is a major process foul. For one, he was named as a point of contact for Zelensky’s team. But also, White House officials should have had legal concerns after Trump asked Zelensky to do him a “favor” by looking into Biden. The national security adviser should have flagged these legal concerns to Barr, even if Barr hadn’t been assigned to call Zelensky. [...]

By restricting access to call readouts, not writing them at all, and apparently not even giving relevant Cabinet officials verbal readouts when they were discussed on a presidential call, the president’s team made some major process fouls. But, if this looks like a comedy of errors, it is likely a well-orchestrated one. Only senior White House officials—like the national security adviser, chief of staff or the president himself—have the authority to disturb the process in these damaging ways.
posted by katra at 3:09 PM on September 29 [6 favorites]


CNN's Brian Stelter: "Scott Pelley on CBS just now: "@60Minutes has obtained a letter that indicates" the whistleblower "is under federal protection -- because he or she fears for their safety.""

That's deeply disturbing yet thoroughlyunsurprising, given Trump's behavior and comments.
posted by Doktor Zed at 5:22 PM on September 29 [3 favorites]


The Hearing and the Whistleblower Complaint: L’Affaire Ukrainienne Continues (Scott R. Anderson, Quinta Jurecic, Jacob Schulz, and Margaret Taylor, Lawfare)
It’s not a pretty picture, but in a sense, it’s Federalist 51 in action. Ambition is being made to counteract ambition. And that process is preventing a dangerous concentration of power in a single branch of government. In this case, it has allowed a single career intelligence officer to hold the president of the United States accountable—and congressional pressure has successfully forced his allegations to become public.

The collateral damage may be to the intelligence officer himself, against whom the president now has a vendetta and for whom all the whistleblower protections on the books may prove an inadequate bulwark. The collateral damage may not just be to him and his career but to the edifice designed to protect people like him. Shoring up that edifice will require careful congressional attention in the coming months.
posted by katra at 5:39 PM on September 29 [1 favorite]


Trump Was Repeatedly Warned That Ukraine Conspiracy Theory Was ‘Completely Debunked’
Thomas P. Bossert, who served as Mr. Trump’s first homeland security adviser, said he told the president there was no basis to the theory that Ukraine, not Russia, intervened in the 2016 election and did so on behalf of the Democrats. Speaking out for the first time, Mr. Bossert said he was “deeply disturbed” that Mr. Trump nonetheless tried to get Ukraine’s president to produce damaging information about Democrats.
posted by Nelson at 6:00 PM on September 29 [4 favorites]


Politico's Natasha Bertrand follows up on 60 Minutes:
Here’s the letter to DNI Maguire. Whistleblower attorney @MarkSZaidEsq says 60 minutes “completely misinterpreted” its contents, but letter does say “we appreciate your office’s support thus far to activate appropriate resources to ensure their safety.”

Correspondence-to-HPSCI-and-SSCI-with-Enclosure.pdf

Full comment from @MarkSZaidEsq: “60 Minutes completely misinterpreted the contents of our letter. The letter itself is now published online at . Nor have we reached any agreement with Congress on contact with the whistleblower. Discussions remain ongoing.”
posted by Doktor Zed at 6:50 PM on September 29 [1 favorite]


Moreover, certain individuals have issued a $50,000 “bounty” for “any information” relating to our client’s identity.

Jacob Wohl stepping on the GOP’s dick for them. While he’s out on bail for a felony no less. Priceless.
posted by Your Childhood Pet Rock at 6:48 AM on September 30




Two months. Two fucking months Neal has sat on this whistleblower complaint. Another $25 to Alex Morse goes into the pot. Come primary season I’m heading to Western Mass personally to knock on doors to kick this turncoat out.
posted by Your Childhood Pet Rock at 7:01 AM on September 30 [8 favorites]


Kremlin says disclosure of Trump-Putin phone calls would need Russian consent (Tom Balmforth, Katya Golubkova and Polina Devitt; Reuters)
posted by ZeusHumms at 9:49 AM on September 30


How many whistleblowers does that make?

1) The anonymous one who outed Mike Flynn "communicating directly with his former business colleague about their plan to work with Russia to build nuclear reactors in the Middle East" on Inauguration Day, minutes after Trump was sworn in;
2) Tricia Newbold (the 18-year WH veteran, through 4 administrations):"White House staff member has told House investigators that senior officials have overruled concerns raised about 25 individuals [incl. Jared & Ivanka] whose security clearances were initially denied over a range of disqualifying issues -- such as fears about foreign influence and potential conflicts-of-interests -- warning of the grave implications to national security" (CNN);
3) the whistleblower currently in the headlines; and...
4) oh, right, dozens more (The Atlantic, April 4, 2019), including a few corroborating Newbold's account.
posted by Iris Gambol at 9:55 AM on September 30 [11 favorites]


And... Dear anonymous op-ed writer: Your plan didn’t work (Gregory W. Meeks, WaPo Opinion)
This month marks a year since you published an op-ed in the New York Times claiming that within the Trump administration there exists a defiant resistance, working to curb this president’s worst inclinations and holding together the “steady state.” [...]

And how many of you are left? With each passing day, the Trump administration trades patriots for sycophants who will support anything this president says or does to stay in his good graces.

Those of you who are still there, it is time to come out of the shadows. Our nation does not need covert agents of democracy. It needs intrepid whistleblowers willing to step forward and defend the institutions this president has dragged into the dirt with him.
posted by katra at 10:05 AM on September 30 [18 favorites]




...Which Would Violate Federal Law

As Sarah Kendzior has laid out many times, "The only thing that will stop Trump and his crew are legal consequences. They don't mind being caught: they enjoy flaunting their criminality. They just don't want to be punished. It is critical that people grasp the difference."
posted by rhizome at 10:25 PM on September 30 [23 favorites]


President Trump's Lies Are Finally Called Out in Rare Statement From U.S. Intelligence Community Watchdog (Matt Novak, Gizmodo)
The watchdog for the U.S. Intelligence Community issued a rare statement (pdf) Monday night in an attempt to correct misinformation currently being spread by the President of the United States. The short version from the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community: The rules for whistleblowers were not recently changed to let secondhand information be deemed credible and urgent. But even if the rules had been changed, the whistleblower had both firsthand and secondhand knowledge.
posted by ZeusHumms at 8:27 AM on October 1 [7 favorites]


Grassley breaks with Trump over protecting whistleblower (Politico)
In a statement, the Iowa Republican, who has long fashioned himself a defender of whistleblowers, said the fact that the individual’s knowledge of Trump’s phone call and the White House restricting records came secondhand should not invalidate his reporting.

“This person appears to have followed the whistleblower protection laws and ought to be heard out and protected. We should always work to respect whistleblowers,” Grassley said. “Complaints based on second-hand information should not be rejected out of hand, but they do require additional leg work to get at the facts and evaluate the claim’s credibility.”
posted by katra at 9:22 AM on October 1 [3 favorites]


Politico’s Natasha Bertrand: White House ordered top-secret system upgraded to prevent leaks
The Trump White House upgraded the security of the National Security Council’s top-secret codeword system in the spring of 2018, according to two former Trump White House officials familiar with the matter, as part of an effort to ferret out and deter leaks.

The changes included a new log of who accessed specific documents in the NSC’s system —known as NICE or “NSC Intelligence Collaboration Environment”—and was designed in part to prevent leaks of records of the president’s phone calls with foreign leaders and to find out the suspected leaker if transcripts did get disclosed, one of the former officials said. Prior to the upgrade, officials could only see who had uploaded or downloaded material to the system but usually not who accessed which documents.[…]

If hiding political embarrassing material, rather than protecting national security secrets, was the motivation, experts and former officials said, it would be an abuse of the codeword system. While not necessarily an illegal act, it does run counter to an executive order signed by President Obama in 2009 that says information can’t be classified to “conceal violations of law, inefficiency, or administrative error” or “prevent embarrassment to a person, organization, or agency,” they said.
Bertrand’s sources are trying to spin this scandal as an overzealous effort to avoid embarrassment, especially when it comes to the perfectly innocuous calls with Putin:
The Russian calls “were pretty much what you would expect, you can take the first part of the Zelensky call with all of the over the top effusive praise and basically copy and paste onto pretty much any head of state call with Trump, whether it was Emmanuel Macron or Vladimir Putin,” said the former NSC official. “Every one of them knew to start the call by praising him for the thing that he had just done that week.”

On his calls with Putin, most of the time Trump talked about wanting to put the relationship between the U.S. and Russia on a friendlier footing, but complained that the media and other people in the government were preventing him from doing so.

“They were certainly the type of thing that you would not want in public because they were just really embarrassing from the standpoint of just national pride,” said the official.
Taking bets whether the former NSC source is on Team Bolton or Team McMaster.
posted by Doktor Zed at 12:47 PM on October 1 [3 favorites]


Prior to the upgrade, officials could only see who had uploaded or downloaded material to the system but usually not who accessed which documents.

The system designed to limit access to highly classified material didn't have an access log until 2018? Jesus.
posted by jason_steakums at 12:54 PM on October 1 [15 favorites]


From katra's Politico article on Grassley link, above:

"And despite being on opposite pages with Trump, Grassley made clear in his statement he is not endorsing Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s impeachment inquiry approach, either. Essentially, his message to everyone was to slow down." [bolding mine]

While Grassley co-sponsored H.R. 5920, the Whistleblower Protections for Contractors Act (eventually parts of this bill were enacted in S. 795, signed into law in Dec. 2016; the original was winnowed down from 8 pages to 2 pages: comparison), the man is now 86 fucking years old. He's served 7 terms. Maintaining the status quo or moving at a glacial pace in this matter likely makes this future-not-Chuck's problem.

Also, S. 795, "A bill to enhance whistleblower protection for contractor and grantee employees,” added protections for contractors in almost every area except the intelligence community. Seattle Times, June 12, 2013: Private contractors play key role in U.S. intelligence work:

"Never before have so many U.S. intelligence workers been hired so quickly, or been given access to secret government information through networked computers. In recent years, about one in four intelligence workers has been a contractor, and 70 percent or more of the intelligence community’s secret budget has gone to private firms."

Intelligence Whistleblower Protections: In Brief (Congressional Research Service, October 23, 2014, "prepared for Members and Committees of Congress")
The Intelligence Community and Its Use of Contractors: Congressional Oversight Issues (Congressional Research Service, Aug. 18, 2015, "prepared for Members and Committees of Congress")
posted by Iris Gambol at 1:37 PM on October 1 [4 favorites]


Me and My Whistleblower. A long profile by David Enrich (New York Times) of Val Broeksmit, son of a deceased Deutsche Bank executive who leaked his late father's papers to the press and provided them to the FBI earlier this year.
posted by mbrubeck at 1:53 PM on October 1 [4 favorites]


The system designed to limit access to highly classified material didn't have an access log until 2018? Jesus.

I think the WH is a Windows shop, so what I think they're talking about is auditing. They might have had audits on file operations, but not file access. I'm not sure if it's all or nothing, but if they start auditing file access they can easily see which logged-in user did the thing with the candlestick in the library. Which I'm sure they did...finally, or not. The concept here is "nonrepudiation," or an inability to deny authenticity, so I imagine there is a certain population that would prefer not to be indentifiable when accessing these files.

Thus it should be a scandal that it wasn't happening already, no matter by what method or OS. We own that shit, they shouldn't be treating it so cavalierly. If the issue is the fix I described above, that's like 15min of work.
posted by rhizome at 12:28 AM on October 2 [3 favorites]


'I don't care.' Trump dismisses GOP concern over protecting whistleblower (John Fritze and David Jackson, USA TODAY)
posted by ZeusHumms at 10:46 AM on October 2 [3 favorites]


Of course, the GOP doesn't care either, they just like to make the mouth-noises.
posted by tavella at 11:45 AM on October 2




Since Devin Nunes will be on that panel, there is no way in heaven, earth, or hell that his (or her) cover will not be blown.
posted by sjswitzer at 5:09 PM on October 2 [8 favorites]


Murray Waas has published a dynamite scoop in the NYRB about Manafort’s role in Ukraine-gate: Trump, Giuliani, and Manafort: The Ukraine Scheme

WaPo, yesterday: Giuliani Consulted on Ukraine with Imprisoned Paul Manafort via a Lawyer

Waas is pissed the WaPo recycled his scoop without credit.
posted by Doktor Zed at 10:23 AM on October 3 [2 favorites]


Elsewhere in whistleblowers on Capitol Hill, the IRS whistleblower speaks out against the threats and retaliation aimed at his CIA counterpart in a bombshell WaPo article:
The whistleblower also castigated public officials who he said were making federal employees fearful of reporting wrongdoing. Trump has in recent days said he wants to know the identity of the whistleblower in the Ukraine case.

“I steadfastly refuse to discuss the substance or details of the complaint, but I have some legitimate concerns about reckless statements being made about whistleblowers,” he said. He said such statements “attack the messenger when the focus should be on the facts that were presented. I am concerned also by the relative silence of people who should be repudiating these dangerous attacks in the strongest terms.”
(We’ll see if the IRS whistleblower complaint winds up a big enough scandal by itself to warrant its own focused FPP.)
posted by Doktor Zed at 7:04 AM on October 4 [7 favorites]


Get ready for a second intelligence whistleblower:


NYT: 2nd Official Is Weighing Whether to Blow the Whistle on Trump’s Ukraine Dealings
The official, a member of the intelligence community, was interviewed by the inspector general to corroborate the original whistle-blower’s account.

The official has more direct information about the events than the first whistle-blower, whose complaint that Mr. Trump was using his power to get Ukraine to investigate his political rivals touched off an impeachment inquiry. The second official is among those interviewed by the intelligence community inspector general to corroborate the allegations of the original whistle-blower, one of the people said.
posted by Doktor Zed at 8:13 PM on October 4 [4 favorites]


It’s extremely unusual to come out and go “I may or may not whistleblow and I have more direct info (aka there’s only so many people I could be)” in a national paper in the midst of a huge scandal...what is going on there? Veiled threat? Request for some buddies to take the plunge with? Request to be subpoenaed?
posted by sallybrown at 8:55 PM on October 4 [6 favorites]


what is going on there?

How much more evidence do they really need? From the AP:
“The president was not tasking Ukraine to investigate a political opponent,” Giuliani told The Associated Press on Thursday. “He wanted an investigation into a seriously conflicted former vice president of the United States who damaged the reputation of the United States in Ukraine.”
More likely though, it's the potential impact on their career and personal safety, given what the first whistleblower has already faced.
posted by katra at 9:11 PM on October 4


The attribution according to the paper didn't appear to be from the potential whistleblower's POV. It mentioned that it was from people briefed on the matter so it seems like it would be Congress/DOJ/IC inspector general.
posted by mmascolino at 9:13 PM on October 4 [1 favorite]


If so, it seems pretty crappy that someone who knows a potential whistleblower is going “hey NYT, this guy I know might whistleblow,” when there are a limited number of people who have the pertinent information.
posted by sallybrown at 9:25 PM on October 4 [2 favorites]


Federal whistleblowers would do it again, even after retaliation and ‘professional suicide’ (WaPo)
Whistleblowers are often punished, even as federal officials say they support the right of workers to report wrongdoing.

“As a rule, whistleblowing is an act of professional suicide,” said Tom Devine, legal director of the Government Accountability Project that defends whistleblowers. The threat of retaliation “exponentially increases when Trump calls you a spy.”

It’s not just government retaliation that concerns Danielle Brian, executive director of the Project on Government Oversight, which [A. Ernest] Fitzgerald helped found. “I’m frankly terrified for his personal safety,” she said, citing Trump’s words. She’s also worried because of the $50,000 reward for “information relating to the identity of the ‘Trump Whistleblower’ ” offered by Jack Burkman and Jacob Wohl, according to the Washington Examiner, which previously branded them “right-wing smear merchants.”

Like Fitzgerald, who died in January, more recent federal employees felt the whip of retribution for exposing government wrongdoing. We contacted three former national security whistleblowers whose stories of official revenge are a frightful warning to the CIA staffer. Yet all three would do it again, in service to their country.
posted by katra at 8:19 AM on October 5 [4 favorites]


Not sure why we are seeing a sort of test balloon of a second whistleblower in the NYT before it potentially comes out.

"Guys, I made these 'I Blew The Whistle 2019' t-shirts but there's a 10 shirt order minimum, I'm gonna need some commitments before I order, I don't want these to wind up with all the Infrastructure Week t-shirts in storage."
posted by mike_honcho at 8:55 AM on October 5 [9 favorites]


Yeah, the second-whistleblower story is weird. Maybe the second dude saw how the NYT is trying to doxx the first dude so went to them first in order to become a "source" and thus worthy of protection.
posted by Justinian at 2:40 PM on October 5 [11 favorites]


It's scary how likely that sounds.
posted by Tabitha Someday at 3:07 PM on October 5 [10 favorites]


Meet the Ukrainian Ex-Prosecutor Behind the Impeachment Furor (NYT)
When Mr. Lutsenko sat down with Mr. Giuliani in New York in January, he recalled, his expectations were confirmed: The president’s lawyer wanted him to investigate former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his son Hunter.

[...] a detailed look at Mr. Lutsenko’s record shows how Mr. Trump and his allies embraced and relied on a Ukrainian prosecutor with no formal legal training and a long history of wielding the law as a weapon in his personal political battles, disregarding the concerns of senior diplomats who said he wasn’t credible. [...]

When Mr. Lutsenko’s name appeared in a whistle-blower complaint released last week — which accused Mr. Trump of soliciting foreign interference in the 2020 election — the former prosecutor dismissed the account as “filled with multiple lies.”

But in private messages to a Ukrainian anti-corruption campaigner, Mr. Lutsenko gloated about one important part of the complaint: his role in ending Ms. Yovanovitch’s career in Kiev.

In the exchange — with Daria Kaleniuk, the head of Ukraine’s Anticorruption Action Center — Mr. Lutsenko used mafia slang to rejoice at how the American ambassador’s removal had undercut activists campaigning against corruption in Ukraine. Mr. Lutsenko told Ms. Kaleniuk that he had “eliminated your roof.”

“Roof,” a term derived from Russian mafia slang, is used throughout the former Soviet Union to designate a protector or guardian. The “roof” in this instance, Ms. Kaleniuk said, was Ambassador Yovanovitch.
posted by katra at 8:36 PM on October 5 [4 favorites]


Mounting evidence buttresses claims in whistleblower complaint (WaPo)
The description of a July 25 phone call between Trump and the president of Ukraine, which formed the heart of the complaint and was still secret at the time the claim was filed in mid-August, matches a rough transcript of the call that the White House released a day before the complaint was made public.

The whistleblower’s assertion that records related to the phone call were transferred to a separate electronic system intended for highly classified material has since been confirmed by White House officials.

And the whistleblower’s narrative of the events that led up to the call — including a shadow campaign undertaken by Trump’s personal attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani and the attempts of State Department officials to navigate his activities — have been largely confirmed by the text messages of three diplomats released Friday, as well as Giuliani himself in media interviews.

Independent evidence now supports the central elements laid out in the seven-page document. Even if they disregarded the complaint, legal experts said, lawmakers have obtained dramatic testimony and documents that provide ammunition for the whistleblower’s core assertion: that the president of the United States used “the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country in the 2020 U.S. election.”

“Everything we’ve found to date validates the information. . . . It’s brilliantly effective. It really does function almost as a one-stop shop, investigative road map,” said Harry P. Litman, a former U.S. attorney in Pennsylvania who has represented other government whistleblowers.
posted by katra at 9:07 PM on October 5 [7 favorites]


Whistleblower lawyer Andrew P. Bakaj has big news:
IC WHISTLEBLOWER UPDATE: I can confirm that my firm and my team represent multiple whistleblowers in connection to the underlying August 12, 2019, disclosure to the Intelligence Community Inspector General. No further comment at this time.
posted by Doktor Zed at 6:23 AM on October 6 [10 favorites]


ABC has further details, confirming a second whistleblower: 2nd whistleblower comes forward after speaking with IG: Attorney
Mark Zaid, the attorney representing the whistleblower who sounded the alarm on President Donald Trump's dealings with Ukraine and triggered an impeachment inquiry, tells ABC News that he is now representing a second whistleblower who has spoken with the inspector general.

Zaid tells ABC News' Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos that the second person -- also described as an intelligence official -- has first-hand knowledge of some of the allegations outlined in the original complaint and has been interviewed by the head of the intelligence community's internal watchdog office, Michael Atkinson.
n.b. "Zaid says he does not know if the second whistleblower he represents is the person identified in the Times report."
posted by Doktor Zed at 6:39 AM on October 6 [3 favorites]


House Republican Chris Stewart 'not at all' concerned about second whistleblower (Politico)
"It does not matter. This person is going to come forward and say, 'Yep. The president had this phone call and, yep, that's the transcript,'" Stewart said, referring to a July phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky [...]. "I mean, why should I care at all what his perspective or his opinion or judgment of this transcript is? You and I can read it."
What Putin Got From the Trump-Zelensky Phone Call (Molly K. McKew, Politico Magazine)
This whole tent revival is a spinoff of a longer play, the script of which is ribboned with conspiracy narrative actively hawked and amped by the Kremlin’s disinformation machinery. In this drama, of course, poor Russia — despite documentation of their operations by U.S. and Dutch intelligence; financial records, personnel and travel records; lists of accounts and content archived from social media; high-level sources inside the Kremlin; and more — is a blameless bystander in the 2016 attacks on American election systems and the aggressive information operations that targeted and polarized American society. And the actual villain, totally conveniently, happens to be Ukraine, the nation the Kremlin has been working to smear and dismantle since 2013. [...]

By embroiling Ukraine in scandal, by politicizing support of Ukraine among the American audience, by linking Ukraine to the conspiracy nexus that underlies all thinking in Trump world — and by minimizing the existential threat that Ukraine and Ukrainians face every day from the Russian assault on their nation — Trump is advancing core Kremlin objectives. He has made the president of Ukraine an accomplice in that effort, or maybe just a companion in the same trap. [...] Every time Trump guts an institution, diverts money to his personality projects, labels an internal enemy, violates a norm, secures a job for a corrupt and unqualified appointee, ignores the law, asks a foreign leader to “do him a favor” — every time he breaks a rule and pays no price, he provides illustration for Putin’s expanding primer on “the hoax” of democracy and “the people.”
posted by katra at 9:44 AM on October 6 [9 favorites]


Erratic Trump struggles to control message as impeachment threat grows (Guardian)
But the efficacy of Trump’s efforts to keep Republicans onside in his defense was also visible at the weekend, with Pompeo telling reporters in Athens that it was the government’s “duty” to investigate a conservative conspiracy theory placing Ukraine instead of Russia at the heart of 2016 election tampering. That conspiracy theory, which been debunked thoroughly, contradicts US intelligence assessments. Pompeo is a former director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

Another Republican senator, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, scrambled on Sunday to make amends for his admission on Friday that he had heard the state department was trying to put together a deal in which military aid for Ukraine would be tied to Zelenskiy’s cooperation in Trump’s alleged conspiracy against Biden.

Johnson used an appearance on NBC News’ Meet the Press to become adamant about how Trump had personally told him there was no such linkage, and then, to the intense frustration of host Chuck Todd, Johnson peddled the Ukraine election tampering conspiracy. “What happened in 2016?” said Johnson. “Who set him up? Did things spring from Ukraine?” [...]

Despite Trump’s efforts, message discipline among Republicans was imperfect. Colin Powell, the former secretary of state under George W Bush, called the whistleblower a “patriot” in an appearance on CNN.
posted by katra at 10:40 AM on October 6 [2 favorites]


House Democrats consider masking identity of whistleblower from Trump’s GOP allies in Congress (Rachael Bade, Greg Miller, Ellen Nakashima and Karoun Demirjian; WaPo)
House Democrats eager to protect a whistleblower who raised alarms over President Trump pressuring a foreign leader to investigate a political rival are considering testimony at a remote location and possibly obscuring the individual’s appearance and voice — extraordinary moves to prevent Trump’s congressional allies from revealing the identity, according to three officials familiar with the discussions.

Democratic investigators are concerned that without such rare precautions, Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee could learn and then leak the identity of the whistleblower, who has agreed to answer questions before the intelligence committees in both the House and Senate. […]

The discussion underscores the toxicity between Republicans and Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee, which was once considered among the most bipartisan, as the panel spearheads the divisive investigation that could lead to Trump’s impeachment. One individual familiar with the discussions said this is the first time the panel has had to take such extraordinary measures to protect a witness.
posted by ZeusHumms at 1:35 PM on October 7 [5 favorites]


Despite Trump’s efforts, message discipline among Republicans was imperfect. Colin Powell, the former secretary of state under George W Bush, called the whistleblower a “patriot” in an appearance on CNN.

I think Colin Powell has been persona non grata in the GOP since he endorsed Obama in 2008.

I’m pretty confident he doesn’t get copied on any of the “WhAt DiD UkRaInE dO iN 2016!?!?!?!?” talking points.
posted by Big Al 8000 at 2:21 PM on October 7


The discussion underscores the toxicity between Republicans and Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee,

This sentence illustrates the failures of "balanced" reporting. Let's see. on the one hand, you had Republican Devin Nunes openly acting as a Trump advocate when Republicans were in charge of the committee -- that is, advocating for the Executive Branch instead of his own.

And you have the Democrats pointing to Trump's own admission that he's a crook.

This so-called "toxicity" is based on the same thing that causes everyone and their mother to presume, correctly, that Senate Republican will likely vote in lockstep to keep Trump in office no matter how many impeachable acts he admits to or commits in public. Republicans' excessive partisanship puts party over country, and in the absence of anything close to an equivalent example to point to in the Democrats, the reporters just chalk it up to "toxicity." Feh.
posted by Gelatin at 2:37 PM on October 7 [16 favorites]


Trump’s attacks fuel alarm that whistleblower protections fall short (Politico)
It’s not clear whether the president knows the whistleblower’s name. His confidants are certainly interested; one person close to the president said he would like to find out the whistleblower’s identity, describing him as “a political operator” who seems to be part of “a coordinated campaign.”

But if Trump learned the name, he could choose to release it in the name of “transparency” if he wishes, said [Irvin McCullough, a national security analyst for the Government Accountability Project who focuses on intelligence community and military whistleblowing]. “It’d be a gross attack against the intelligence oversight system, especially given the chilling effect that release would create, but it’s within his power to launch that attack.”

There’s little stopping Trump’s congressional allies from revealing it, either. Members of Congress can be held accountable for violating congressional rules—for example, a member of the House Intelligence Committee illicitly disclosing information gleaned by that panel could be censured by the House. But lawmakers “can’t be legally held accountable for their official actions by any other tribunal,” said Kel McClanahan, executive director of the National Security Counselors law firm. [...]

Substantively, the whistleblower’s identity and claims about his political agenda may not matter much — not only did the White House release a rough transcript of the president’s call with Ukrainia’s Volodymyr Zelensky that confirmed his account in detail, but the president in subsequent days went on to openly call on the government in Kiev to investigate Joe Biden, one of his chief 2020 rivals.

Politically, however, Republicans perceive an opening. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California, House Intelligence Committee ranking member Devin Nunes and House Oversight Committee ranking member Jim Jordan, have repeatedly questioned the whistleblower’s credibility and motivations for coming forward, and the RNC has sent out press releases highlighting his attorneys’ alleged ties to Democrats.
posted by katra at 4:26 PM on October 9 [2 favorites]


We’re going to impeach Trump’s sorry ass — thanks to a few brave citizens (Lucian K. Truscott IV, Salon)
America is in debt to one whistleblower and a pair of foreign service officers, Bill Taylor and Marie Yovanovitch
posted by ZeusHumms at 1:03 PM on October 12 [4 favorites]


Understanding the two types of whistleblowers (Jefferson Morley, Salon)
While “whistleblowing” is generally seen as a good thing, it actually refers to two fairly different actions […]

So while “whistleblowing” — calling attention to hidden offenses — is generally seen as a good thing, it actually refers to two fairly different actions. In the words of Tom Devine, legal director of the non-partisan Government Accountability Project (GAP) in Washington, there are “legal” whistleblowers and “civil disobedience” whistleblowers. “We respect both,” he said in a phone interview.

Legal whistleblowers work within the system seeking to make the government work better. Civil disobedience whistleblowers go outside the system (and the law) seeking to change or disrupt government policy. With their very different perspectives on power, the two tribes of whistleblowers aren’t necessarily all that friendly.
posted by ZeusHumms at 8:40 AM on October 15 [1 favorite]


The Whistleblower Should Not Have to Testify (Robert S. Litt, Lawfare)
The whistleblower’s testimony will almost certainly add nothing to what we already know—just as Special Counsel Mueller’s testimony added nothing substantive to his written report. The whistleblower’s written complaint is comprehensive and detailed. And as the president’s supporters repeatedly note, the whistleblower has no first-hand knowledge of the events. There seems little reason to ask the whistleblower to repeat orally what he was told by others.

Moreover, by now almost everything in the whistleblower’s complaint has been verified by documents or individuals with first-hand knowledge. The committees have the memorandum reflecting President Trump’s call with Zelensky, which closely tracks the whistleblower’s description. They have testimony from State Department and National Security Council officials describing the president’s insistence on pressing Ukraine to investigate both the Bidens and the Clinton email server, and his sidelining of career officials who declined to do his bidding in favor of a shadow foreign policy run by political loyalists and his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani. And we have the admission by Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, since unconvincingly recanted, that there was, in fact, a quid pro quo—that military aid would not be delivered unless Ukraine agreed to open an investigation for the president’s personal political benefit.

Given all this, there is no point in having the whistleblower testify. It will not add to our knowledge, but will merely provide an opportunity for overt or subtle attacks on the whistleblower and his or her credibility, of the sort that the president’s defenders have already been making.

And that’s the problem. Protection of lawful whistleblowers is important for the country, for the government as a whole, and particularly for intelligence agencies. It is essential that intelligence officers who observe what they believe to be fraud, or illegality or abuse, believe that they can safely report through channels.
posted by katra at 10:14 AM on October 19 [4 favorites]


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