Did Democrats get their smoking gun for impeachment?
October 4, 2019 2:31 PM   Subscribe

"It’s not a pretty picture, but in a sense, it’s Federalist 51 in action." As House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff negotiates over testimony by the anonymous whistleblower whose detailed complaint launched an impeachment inquiry into President Trump, Trump brazenly and openly called for Ukraine and China to investigate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter in a Thursday presser on the White House South Lawn. This was followed by the release of damning text messages between diplomats detailing Trump's pressure on Ukraine, including "it's crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign."

In groundbreaking closed-door testimony on Capitol Hill yesterday, Trump’s former U.S. special envoy for Ukraine, the recently resigned Kurt Volker, told House investigators that he warned President Trump’s personal attorney and freelance international investigator, Rudy Giuliani, that Ukrainian claims of Bidens’ misconduct were not credible (WaPo) He also said Trump described Ukraine as a corrupt country full of “terrible people" who were out to get him (Buzzfeed). In what may be the clearest evidence of quid pro quo yet, Volker texted a Zelensky aide on the morning before Trump’s call with the Ukrainian president, “Heard from White House-assuming President Z. convinces Trump he will investigate / ‘get to the bottom of what happened’ in 2016, we will nail down date for visit to Washington.” Natasha Bertrand decodes the explosive Ukraine text messages as Politico asks, “Did Democrats get their smoking gun for impeachment?”

For today’s Congressional hearings, Michael Atkinson, the inspector general of the intelligence community who alerted Congress to an “urgent concern” raised in the whistleblower complaint, “provided documents to the House Intelligence Committee showing how he attempted to corroborate a whistleblower complaint alleging President Donald Trump solicited foreign interference to dig up dirt on Joe Biden, according to two sources familiar with the matter.” (CNN). “[…] The sources added that Atkinson's testimony mostly covered the process of corroborating the complaint.” And in an explosive development, NBC reveals, “Weeks before the whistleblower's complaint became public, the CIA's top lawyer made what she considered a criminal referral to the Justice Department about the whistleblower's allegations that President Donald Trump abused his office in pressuring the Ukrainian president, U.S. officials familiar with the matter tell NBC News. The move by the CIA's general counsel, Trump appointee Courtney Simmons Elwood, meant she and other senior officials had concluded a potential crime had been committed, raising more questions about why the Justice Department later closed the case without conducting an investigation.”

After Barr, Pompeo, and Pence were revealed to be closely involved in the Ukrainian scandal, the AP reports the Trump White House is preparing a formal objection to the impeachment inquiry. As Trump team tries to throw sand in impeachment gears, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy yesterday demanded that Pelosi suspend the impeachment inquiry—to which Pelosi responded, “I received your letter this morning shortly after the world witnessed President Trump on national television asking yet another foreign power to interfere in the upcoming 2020 elections.”

At the root of the impeachment inquiry is a conspiracy theory that has been the subject of Trump's obsession: the "insurance policy" (NBC News), "a fanciful and unsubstantiated narrative in which the DNC framed Russia for election interference." Trump's belief in the conspiracy, which led him to press Ukraine to investigate the 2016 election, has been cheered on by Russian state media: How a Fringe Theory About Ukraine Took Root in the White House (NYT). In the meantime, the House Judiciary Committee Requests Grand Jury Materials Related to Mueller Investigation (Lawfare), and in its brief, the Committee asserts that the information might be relevant to the House’s investigation of “the President’s solicitation of Ukrainian interference in the 2020 election.”

Now, with Trump's Impeachment Polling Historically Unprecedented (CNN)—“Americans are more eager to impeach Trump now than they were at similar points in the impeachment sagas of Bill Clinton and Richard Nixon.”—Trump’s Impeachment Defiance Spooks Key Voting Blocs (Politico) "“I really don’t like where we are right now,” said one prominent Republican pollster."

For ongoing impeachment hearing developments, The Washington Post has an annotated calendar that will be updated: “What’s next in the Trump impeachment inquiry, and will Trump cooperate with it?”, as well as ongoing reporting and analysis.

Previously and previouslier

Following the Decommissioning of the Megathreads, collaboration on focused topical uspolitics/potus45-related FPPs continues, and draft posts can be found on the MeFi Wiki. • Thanks to katra and zachlipton for helping to create this post.
posted by Doktor Zed (34 comments total)

This post was deleted for the following reason: Unfortunately, this thread is not working; 50% of comments have been flagged and it's generating frustration from people treating it as a megathread and people treating it as not-a-megathread. We'll talk with the poster & others about how we can avoid a similarly problematic outcome as we cope with the news tsunami in a post-megathread world. -- Eyebrows McGee



 
This feels different from the scandals that have come before. Many of which felt different than the ones that came before before. I'm letting little slivers of hope invade my heart but would be much happier if it felt like a more sure thing. This is gonna be a nail biter until its over and then we can either throw a huge party or go back to feeling like nothing will ever change.
posted by macrael at 2:38 PM on October 4, 2019 [4 favorites]


* Rummages through MeFi closet *

* Pulls out "Surely this?" *

* Blows off dust *

* Puts back in closet *
posted by The Bellman at 2:38 PM on October 4, 2019 [35 favorites]


Looks like there may be dirt on Pence, as well. Could be an Agnew/Nixon scenario all over again, if we're lucky enough to get enough damning evidence in front of the Senate.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 2:41 PM on October 4, 2019


There are 320 million Americans. Trump extorting foreign leaders to get them to investigate Joe Biden and son was purely random chance.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 2:44 PM on October 4, 2019 [4 favorites]


Pence also seems up to his eyeballs in it, I guess Pelosi better start interviewing cabinet members ....
posted by mbo at 2:45 PM on October 4, 2019 [1 favorite]


I saw Adam Schiff speak at Northwestern University last night. He made a good point in regards to whistleblowers. When it comes to intelligence agencies, we take them at their word. No other organization fact checks them or reviews their claims. Whistleblowing is the only check against the intelligence community's possible corruption. This being the case, it is paramount we protect them.
posted by xammerboy at 2:47 PM on October 4, 2019 [21 favorites]


The part that makes not a whole lotta sense about the public ask of China is - why would they help? It is not like there is some kind of leader bromance between the 2 nations. Xi helping can't help him within China. And if the news reporting/pundits saying things about how China was just hoping to run out the 4 year clock with Trump in charge is true - how does helping Trump win help China?

Lets say there is some kind of brain damage in China and they give the help being requested - how does that not come back to bite them when the nation is no longer under the loving care of the Trump brand?
posted by rough ashlar at 2:47 PM on October 4, 2019 [2 favorites]


Well, one of the reason they impeached Clinton was that he lied on the stand; I guess if Trump simply truthfully says all the horrible things he's doing, then he dodges that bullet, right?
posted by AzraelBrown at 2:51 PM on October 4, 2019 [2 favorites]


Hi Trump, this is Xi. We'd really like to end those tariffs now please. By the way, off subject, we are mulling over the dirt we gave you on Biden. We're thinking we should go over it again and make sure we didn't make any mistakes in our investigation. Let us know if you have thoughts.
posted by xammerboy at 2:52 PM on October 4, 2019 [3 favorites]


/check's Fox News. Nope, he'll still be with us next November. I want him impeached as much as anyone else here but I don't see it happening unless Fox turns on him. And Fox won't turn unless they have someone equally bad or worse to back instead.

The other shoe's been dangling for so long, we may as well assume it's crazy-glued to the thing that 'other shoes' dangle from before they drop.
posted by simra at 2:53 PM on October 4, 2019 [2 favorites]


Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.
Winston Churchill
posted by kirkaracha at 2:54 PM on October 4, 2019 [3 favorites]


Whistleblowing is the only check against the intelligence community's possible corruption. This being the case, it is paramount we protect them.

How's that working out for Reality Winner? Edward Snowden? William Binney?

In not-intelligence how'd that work out for Bunny Greenhouse? Chelsa Manning?

Given what's happened in the past why should ANYONE who's seen/been a part of the government do anything beyond resign and walk away?
posted by rough ashlar at 2:55 PM on October 4, 2019 [9 favorites]


I was teaching "next to of course god america i" the other day and prior to going into the class I read this guy's response to it, which was essentially that this poem mocks patriotic Americans. I drew him out in class (he was very wary: his wife, he said, forbids him to speak of politics at home) and we talked about the difference between blind patriotism and patriotism and it was a good discussion; he was totally reasonable

and then he said, "and I read the transcript of the call. He said nothing wrong. He said NOTHING wrong."

he was one of two white students in the class: the rest were black Americans and immigrants

the other students started muttering

as I sort of gulped for words, the one other white student decided to yell: "We never talk about politics in my house! I don't vote! Nobody in my family votes!

muttering intensified
posted by angrycat at 2:57 PM on October 4, 2019 [23 favorites]


The part that makes not a whole lotta sense about the public ask of China is - why would they help?

Trump explained why in another phone called leaked from the secret stash. Trump agreed to keep quiet about the unrest in Hong Kong. Two leaders exchanging short term political favors.
posted by JackFlash at 3:00 PM on October 4, 2019 [7 favorites]


Weeks before the whistleblower's complaint became public, the CIA's top lawyer made what she considered a criminal referral to the Justice Department about the whistleblower's allegations that President Donald Trump abused his office in pressuring the Ukrainian president, U.S. officials familiar with the matter tell NBC News.

Former Obama NSC spox Ned Price: “This story has layers. The White House participant on the call with DOJ--which the top CIA lawyer intended to be a criminal referral--was the very same White House lawyer who played a key role locking down the July 25 transcript on the CODEWORD-level NSC computer system.”

NBC’s Ken Dilanian: “When she first called him, we are told, he knew exactly which phone call this complaint was about.”
posted by Doktor Zed at 3:11 PM on October 4, 2019 [11 favorites]


Selling out the country's foreign policy for personal gain....the GOP has to be made to wear their complicity for all time. I never ever want to hear them referred to as the party of foreign policy, security, or anything else remotely protective.
posted by kokaku at 3:15 PM on October 4, 2019 [11 favorites]


Unlike the whistleblower in this situation, neither Snowden nor Manning went through procedures for reporting malfeasance to authorities who could investigate and stop it. Snowden was not a whistleblower, and Manning was a whistleblower. Each committed their own crime rather than even try to report what they thought was criminal through legal channels. The difference is why this whistleblower is highly effective, and people are bending over backward to protect her/him.
posted by haiku warrior at 3:16 PM on October 4, 2019 [4 favorites]


so why should China believe any noise outta the head-hole of Donald Trump?

Oh, I certainly don't think Xi would be dumb enough to believe Trump. I was just commenting on Trump's belief that China owes him a favor for keeping his twitter mouth shut about Hong Kong.
posted by JackFlash at 3:17 PM on October 4, 2019


Trump denies he will tie China trade deal to investigating Biden (Politico)
On Friday, Trump appeared to adopt a new line of defense as he spoke with reporters, repeatedly telling them that his main motivator was rooting out corruption, rather than damaging the electoral prospects of any singular political opponent. Asked by one reporter, however, if he could name any corruption investigations he was pursuing that did not involve a political opponent, the president responded that he “would have to look.”
posted by katra at 3:27 PM on October 4, 2019 [4 favorites]


WSJ: Trump, in August Call With GOP Senator, Denied Official’s Claim on Ukraine Aid—Sen. Ron Johnson asked the president after hearing of potential pressure campaign

USA Today: Senator says he was blocked by Trump from telling Ukraine foreign aid was coming
U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson says he was blocked by President Donald Trump from telling Ukraine's president that U.S. aid was on its way amid accusations Trump was withholding it until the eastern European nation investigated his political rival.

Trump rejected Johnson's request in August after also refusing in May to back new Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, the Oshkosh Republican told reporters Friday.

“I was surprised by the president’s reaction and realized we had a sales job to do,” Johnson said during a constituent stop in Sheboygan. “I tried to convince him (in August) to give me the authority to tell President Zelensky that we were going to provide that. Now, I didn’t succeed."
Sen. Brian Schatz: “The whole Senate knew what was happening, in real time.”
posted by Doktor Zed at 3:28 PM on October 4, 2019 [22 favorites]


Selling out the country's foreign policy for personal gain....the GOP has to be made to wear their complicity for all time.

They already wear this with pride. There is no “country” anymore.
posted by moorooka at 3:29 PM on October 4, 2019 [4 favorites]


I like that this is simple and ironclad enough that even Rachel Maddow can sum it up succinctly.
posted by sjswitzer at 3:31 PM on October 4, 2019 [3 favorites]


Advertising is another front in the Trump admin's effort to derail the impeachment train. The sellers of ad time have choices to make:

CNN won’t run two Trump campaign ads, citing ‘demonstrably false’ claims

Facebook says Trump can lie in his Facebook ads
posted by shenderson at 3:34 PM on October 4, 2019 [12 favorites]




I think it's pretty clear that Trump's appeal to China is by design an attempt to normalize his behavior regarding Ukraine. "If he says it openly on t.v., it must not be that bad." "He says it to everyone, it's not an actual threat." "Just another crazy tweetstorm."

My hunch is that there's some truth to it -- I imagine that Trump rarely has a conversation where he isn't aiming to get something that personally benefits him. He probably asks every world leader to investigate Biden or stay at his very fine hotels. It's normal for him and the people around him.

He's not a patriot and he's not fit to be President.
posted by stowaway at 3:43 PM on October 4, 2019 [4 favorites]


The difference is why this whistleblower is highly effective, and people are bending over backward to protect her/him.

I was going to reply to rough ashlar with something like "because it's the right thing to do", but admittedly, that seems paltry when I weigh it against how many people are happy to continue throwing those other whistlebowers under various rhetorical buses. I do hope today's polish preparation is to your satisfaction.

I really can't imagine what you'd need to believe in order to believe that reporting up the chain of authority is a good course of action for most whistleblowers. People are bending over to protect this one because it suits them. Or do you think the Inspector General of the CIA or some equivalent would have passed Collateral Murder on to the public?
posted by Acid Communist at 3:51 PM on October 4, 2019 [5 favorites]


as Politico asks, “Did Democrats get their smoking gun for impeachment?”

Corporate Media Still Waiting for Trump to Knock Over a Bank
posted by Cezar Golescu at 3:51 PM on October 4, 2019 [6 favorites]


Republican defense will be: "Yeah, he did. So what? You're just trying to criminalize politics"
posted by SoberHighland at 3:51 PM on October 4, 2019 [1 favorite]


I guess if Trump simply truthfully says all the horrible things he's doing, then he dodges that bullet, right?

To say that he's lying would imply that his statements have a truth value, and are not word salad. Him contradicting himself within the same sentence is not the late stages of dementia but an 11-dimensional chess gambit neutralising the possibility of the consequences of lying.
posted by acb at 4:07 PM on October 4, 2019


and then he said, "and I read the transcript of the call. He said nothing wrong. He said NOTHING wrong."

Remember the Frank Wilhoit quote: "There must be in-groups whom the law protects but does not bind, alongside out-groups whom the law binds but does not protect." It's fine with your student if Trump sells the country out for personal profit, because he considers him part of the same in-group. Your student would be spewing rage if a Democrat did exactly the same, of course, because they are part of the out-group, and he'd see no contradiction or feel any shame. Which is why comparing the reactions to the Trump kids' profiteering to the fury over Hunter Biden, or the massive use of private email versus the fury over Hillary's email server never gets anywhere. It's pointless to use logic or consistency with these people.
posted by tavella at 4:11 PM on October 4, 2019 [7 favorites]


I really can't imagine what you'd need to believe in order to believe that reporting up the chain of authority is a good course of action for most whistleblowers.

This doesn't seem that complicated - Snowden and Manning's revelations were in the public interest but not concordant with the interests of agency higher-ups. This case is very different in that the "intelligence community" clearly wasn't too happy about what was going on either. The whistle isn't being blown on them.
posted by atoxyl at 4:11 PM on October 4, 2019 [11 favorites]


Good point, atoxyl. Yeah, depends on who looks bad when info gets exposed.
posted by j_curiouser at 4:17 PM on October 4, 2019


to which Pelosi responded, “I received your letter this morning shortly after the world witnessed President Trump on national television asking yet another foreign power to interfere in the upcoming 2020 elections.”

I mean, all props to Speaker Pelosi for the shade, but I wish the other part of her response was getting more play:
"There is no requirement under the Constitution, under House Rules, or House precedent that the whole House vote before proceeding with an impeachment inquiry."
Because McCarthy is hardly the only one trying to push the "Inquiry is illegitimate because no full House vote" narrative, and that bullshit needs to be shut down HARD. Way too many low-info citizens are gonna think that's a reasonable objection.
posted by soundguy99 at 4:17 PM on October 4, 2019 [8 favorites]


Way too many low-info citizens are gonna think that's a reasonable objection.

They'd think that even if the full House voted every single day to continue the inquiry, if their in-group leaders told them to.
posted by Rykey at 4:23 PM on October 4, 2019 [5 favorites]


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