Donald Trump and his allies have continually railed about how the “Deep State” of unelected national security bureaucrats has quietly worked to undermine the Trump presidency.
But the new allegations in a book by former national security adviser John Bolton turn that formulation on its head. If Bolton is to be believed — Trump calls him a liar — plenty of career diplomats, soldiers and spies kept quiet as they watched Trump abuse his office.
In Bolton’s telling, members of the so-called Deep State, including senior intelligence and defense officials, knew about actions by Trump that were unethical if not illegal — and said nothing. That would mean the press, the public, and House impeachment investigators were kept in the dark.
The reason more insiders didn’t speak out are complex, according to a former senior national security official who served for years in the Trump administration and faced the choice on a near daily basis. But broadly, the official said, unelected national security bureaucrats tend to give great deference to the president’s policy choices, and the line between bad decisions and abuse of office is not a clear one.
“Sometimes you ask yourself: Is that malfeasance, or is that just something so dumb that you know it’s not going to happen?” said the former official.
The American system of government “has developed to give the president tremendous leeway to set policy,” said John Gans, author of a book about the White House National Security Council. “Those in the executive branch are expected to kind of nod their heads and say, ‘Okay.’ There really isn’t a whistleblower system at the White House.”
Officials senior enough to be in meetings with the president don’t tend to use formal whistleblower channels anyway. Such people have long deployed anonymous leaks to the news media to flag decisions or behavior they deemed problematic. During the Trump administration, many current and former government officials have anonymously recounted startling episodes to journalists and authors, such as Trump providing classified information to Russian officials in the Oval Office, or his calling military leaders “losers” in reference to the war in Afghanistan. Once-senior officials, including former chief of staff John Kelly and former Defense Secretary James Mattis, have recently publicly questioned the president’s fitness for office, though their decisions to do so came long after they departed.
But Bolton makes a very specific case, alleging a pattern of behavior by Trump to use his presidential power in foreign affairs to further his private interests — exactly the charges in an impeachment proceeding narrowly focused on Ukraine. Bolton says the pattern went well beyond one country.
During face-to-face meetings, Trump asked the Chinese president to help get him re-elected, Bolton writes, and promised the Turkish president that he would “take care of” a Justice Department investigation deemed harmful to Turkey when he could replace Obama-appointed prosecutors with “his people.” If those exchanges happened, Bolton could not have been the only official aware of them. (Trump and one of the officials present at the summit with Chinese President Xi JinPing, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, dispute Bolton’s account.)
Bolton says Trump was willing to waive penalties on a Chinese firm, ZTE, to help with trade talks that he believed would help him politically. He writes of briefing Attorney General William Barr on Trump’s “penchant to, in effect, give personal favors to dictators he liked.”
Trump hasn’t spoken to the specifics, but he has denied exploiting his office for personal gain.
Bolton also asserts that people across the government knew that the central premise of the impeachment case against Trump was true — that the president indeed had conditioned aid to Ukraine on that government’s willingness to do him a political favor by announcing an investigation into his opponent, an allegation of quid pro quo that Trump denies.
“I think Secretary [of State Mike] Pompeo understood,” Bolton said this week to ABC News. “I think the Pentagon understood. I think the intelligence community understood. I think people in the White House understood.”
Yet in the end, only a handful of national security officials were willing to testify to that during impeachment proceedings. Only one — the whistleblower — came forward voluntarily, before the process began. Spokespersons for the CIA, Director of National Intelligence and State Department declined to comment.
In his book, Bolton faults House impeachment managers for failing to investigate Trump’s “ham-handed involvement in other matters — criminal and civil, international and domestic — that should not properly be subject to manipulation by a president for personal reasons (political, economic, or any other).” He calls that “impeachment malpractice.”
That criticism sidesteps the fact that the impeachment inquiry was kicked off when a lone junior CIA officer decided to file a written complaint to an inspector general about Trump’s alleged extortion of Ukraine. No similar whistleblowing efforts have come to light about Trump’s conduct with China or Turkey.
Bolton himself kept quiet for nearly two years, declining to testify in the impeachment hearing. He seeks to justify that by arguing that Democrats mishandled impeachment proceedings and that his testimony in the Senate wouldn’t have changed anything.
Critics are unconvinced.
“I think what Bolton did was shameful,” said Brian Katullis, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, a left-leaning think tank. “He sat on this information for two years so he could write a book.”
If others besides Bolton are uncomfortable with what they have witnessed inside the Trump White House, why haven’t they come forward with specifics?
Look no further than what has happened to the few who have done so, experts say. Lawyers for the CIA whistleblower said publicly that he had to be protected by a security detail after the president and his Republican allies called him a traitor and a spy. Trump allies in Congress sought to put his name into the public record.
Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, who testified against Trump during the impeachment hearings, was dismissed from his job at the White House, has found his promotion to full colonel in limbo as the Pentagon worries the White House will oppose it, two defense officials told NBC News.
“You see what happens to the people who speak up,” said the former senior national security official.
“This whistleblower followed the law every step of the way and look at what they got for it,” said Liz Hempowicz, director of public policy at the Project on Government Oversight, a good government advocacy group. Hempowicz says the already weak federal whistleblower system has disintegrated under Trump, noting that the board that rules on employee disputes with management has never had enough members to make such rulings during the Trump administration.
But even for those with courage enough to brave the personal repercussions, there often is another dilemma: Whether they can do more good by truth-telling or remaining in their jobs.
“Clearly people made calculations: Do you want to keep serving a president and keep our institutions intact? Or does behavior that’s so outlandish cause you to resign and report it?” said Marc Polymeropoulos, a retired CIA officer who served in senior agency roles during the first part of the Trump administration.
“There was a lot of angst about POTUS interactions with any head of state — foreign visits or phone calls,” he said.
CIA Director Gina Haspel, for one, is seen by former colleagues and Congressional observers as someone who is trying at all costs to remain at the helm of a powerful spy agency that she believes could suffer severe damage in the wrong hands.
“Thankfully, CIA has remained stable in this and that will be Gina’s legacy,” Polymeropoulos said.
Haspel was criticized for failing to speak out when Trump was bashing the CIA’s Ukraine whistleblower. But she appears to have helped defuse what has been an extremely contentious relationship between Trump and the intelligence community.
“Haspel has figured out how to not to p*** off the president and keep the agency from running off the rails,” added a Congressional aide who works on intelligence matters. “Everyone recognizes it’s a very difficult position she is in.”
Haspel’s general counsel made what she believed was a criminal referral after the CIA whistleblower brought his complaints to her, but the agency avoided becoming entangled in the impeachment proceedings. That’s in part because Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., the intelligence committee chair who presided over impeachment in the House, believed it was important to keep the intelligence agencies away, as much as possible, from what turned into a vicious partisan battle, according to a person familiar with his thinking. He wanted to keep the focus on the president’s alleged abuse of office, the person said.
But if Bolton is correct that Trump broadly sought to leverage foreign policy for political gain, it’s hard to imagine the intelligence agency leaders did not become aware of it. They not only sit in high-level White House meetings — they spy on foreign officials who discuss what the American government is saying and doing.
“If the CIA learns of something that is an illegal act by a government official, it has an obligation to forward that information to the Department of Justice,” said former CIA Director John Brennan, an NBC News contributor. “If it’s an issue of ethics and appropriateness and one’s moral compass, then it’s more of a personal choice. Fortunately, as director, I never had to make this choice.”
It’s difficult from the outside to judge how senior officials are dealing with the turmoil inside the Trump administration, said John McLaughlin, a former deputy CIA director who served under Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.
“What you’re going to get when this administration is over is a tidal wave of memoirs, the theme of which will be, ‘You don’t know how much worse it would have been if I hadn’t been there,'” he said.
“The question is, at what point are you enabling it more so than preventing bad things from happening?”
Washington (CNN)The judge who decided Roger Stone’s fate made an impassioned plea for the truth and the rule of law at his sentencing hearing Thursday, a direct rebuke of President Donald Trump amid the deepening crisis over his interference in the Justice Department.
But federal Judge Amy Berman Jackson’s intense appeal Thursday in a packed Washington courtroom quickly collided with the reality of Trump’s presidency.
Before, during and after the sentencing hearing, Trump promoted some of the same conspiracy theories that Jackson methodically dismantled while explaining her decision to send Stone to prison for more than three years.
For about 50 intense minutes on Thursday, Jackson highlighted Stone’s crimes and condemned the scorched-earth politics that he and Trump championed for years, most recently in 2016.
Along the way, she debunked no fewer than five conspiracy theories that have found a home on Trump’s Twitter feed, conservative media outlets and Stone’s allies on the fringes of the Internet.
First, Jackson said it’s “beyond debate” that the Kremlin interfered in the 2016 election, citing conclusions from across the US government. But Trump has never unequivocally accepted these findings, and has publicly embraced denials from Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Then, Jackson added, “This case did not arise because Roger Stone was being pursued by his political enemies,”, or because of Stone’s ties to Republicans, as Trump has alleged. Instead, Stone was charged because he told “flat-out lies” to Congress about his contacts with WikiLeaks during the 2016 campaign, then threatened a witness who could expose his lies.
This zinger was a clear shot at Trump’s claim that a “deep state” in the US government has tried to take him down.
The courtroom was hushed while Jackson summed up Stone’s crimes: “He wasn’t prosecuted for standing up for the President. He was prosecuted for covering up for the President.”
The split-screen day highlights how Trump knows the rules of the game and bends them to his own advantage. Jackson’s comments were uttered in a closed courtroom, where cameras are banned, with about 150 people listening. But Trump’s comments are broadcast live on national TV and amplified to his 72 million followers.
Tension in the courthouse
Inside the courtroom, as Jackson tore into the unfounded theories, Stone’s family, friends and supporters grew sullen. His stepdaughter leaned forward and pressed her clasped hands to her face. One friend hunched over in his seat, staring down at the floor. Another friend silently cried.
Jackson grew more intense as she defended the Justice Department prosecutors who tried the case but quit last week after Trump and Attorney General William Barr criticized their original sentencing recommendation, which asked that Stone serve seven to nine years in prison.
“Any suggestion the prosecutors did anything … improper or unethical is incorrect,” Jackson said, even though Trump repeatedly claimed they were “rogue” and “corrupt,” smearing their reputations because some of them worked on special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.
“The truth still exists. The truth still matters,” Jackson said, echoing a passionate and persuasive refrain that one of the now-sidelined prosecutors made during closing arguments in November.
The jury convicted Stone of lying to Congress when he said he didn’t talk about WikiLeaks with anyone on the Trump campaign. The evidence showed that he discussed it with senior officials like Paul Manafort and Steve Bannon, and even Trump himself, Jackson noted.
Later Thursday, Trump falsely insisted that “Roger was never involved in the Trump campaign for president.
“The jury also found Stone guilty of tampering with a key witness, radio host Randy Credico, and pressuring him to plead the Fifth Amendment when he was asked by the House to testify. The pressure included profane language and violent threats against Credico and his beloved dog.
But Trump downplayed Stone’s conviction at an event in Nevada, aptly about criminal justice reform. He said it wasn’t as bad as the movies, where mobsters put “guns to people’s heads.”
“Maybe there was tampering (by Stone), and maybe there wasn’t,” Trump said.
The disgust over Stone’s brazen lies to Congress and efforts to impede an investigation into critical national security issues “should transcend party,” Jackson said repeatedly at the hearing.
After the proceedings wrapped up, Stone was spotted at a ritzy Washington restaurant watching Trump’s speech.
In today’s mind-numbingly polarized climate, which in many ways was engineered by Stone himself, Jackson’s appeals to America’s most basic virtues fell flat.
At the Palm steakhouse, Stone appeared calm, with his jacket off, and surrounded by his supporters and loved ones. He ate chicken paillard and watched on a cell phone while the President talked about his case.
Asked if he was expecting clemency from his ally, Stone responded: “I don’t know, that’s why we’re watching. The President is speaking right now.”
CNN’s Katelyn Polantz, Nicolle Okoren, Evan Perez and Shimon Prokupecz contributed to this report.
President Donald Trump asserts that he is the nation’s top cop, a title more typically accorded the attorney general.
Even the Trump-cheerleading White House website sides with the attorney general, describing him as the “chief law enforcement officer of the federal government.”
But the president’s claim is consistent with the robust view of executive power that Trump and his supporters have put forth since he took office in 2017. And some conservative legal minds think Trump is right, but that it’s better public policy to keep law enforcement at arm’s length.
Several veterans of President Barack Obama’s administration described Trump’s assertion as dangerous and simply wrong on the law.
The president has denied that he intervened to force the Justice Department to withdraw a recommendation of seven to nine years in prison for Stone. Attorney General William Barr has backed Trump up, saying he did not consult with the president before ordering a call for a shorter prison term.
That’s essentially the same message Trump’s lawyers sent special counsel Robert Mueller in January 2018, as they offered to provide written answers to Mueller’s questions to the president about possible obstruction of the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
“It remains our position that the President’s actions here, by virtue of his position as the chief law enforcement officer, could neither constitutionally nor legally constitute obstruction because that would amount to him obstructing himself, and that he could, if he wished, terminate the inquiry, or even exercise his power to pardon if he so desired,” Trump lawyer John Dowd wrote.
John Yoo, a University of California at Berkeley law school professor and Justice Department lawyer during President George W. Bush’s administration, said the Constitution gives the president the power Trump claims.
“But while the President is in charge constitutionally, as a matter of good policy, presidents have kept law enforcement at arms length. Neutrality in law enforcement is important if the government is to have the credibility and integrity to convince judges and juries, who are the ones who ultimate render the verdict,” Yoo wrote in an email.
Josh Blackman, a South Texas College of Law professor, agreed with Yoo about Trump’s authority over criminal prosecutions. “The President can delegate that power to the AG, but ultimately the President has the final call,” Blackman wrote in an email.
But the latest actions by Trump drew condemnation from more than 2,400 former Justice Department officials who served in Democratic and Republican administrations. In an open letter, they said that the department’s rule book for its lawyers calls for impartial decision-making that is insulated from political influence.
“All DOJ lawyers are well-versed in these rules, regulations, and constitutional commands. They stand for the proposition that political interference in the conduct of a criminal prosecution is anathema to the Department’s core mission and to its sacred obligation to ensure equal justice under the law,” the department alumni wrote.
Martin Lederman, a Georgetown law professor and former Obama Justice Department official, said on Twitter that Congress, not the president, gives the authority to prosecute to the attorney general. It’s also the attorney general’s responsibility, Lederman said, to stand up to a president who charts an unlawful course, “knowing that it might … lead to removal.”
Chris Lu, who managed Obama’s Cabinet in his first term, said the Obama White House followed its predecessors in adhering to strict rules on who could communicate with the Justice Department and on what topics.
“What Trump is suggesting is at odds with this longstanding precedent and dangerous to the principle of impartial justice,” Lu said.
The Republican Party, we have noted, has gone from a conservative party to an authoritarian one. With a total of 11 pardons and commutations of rich, corrupt and utterly undeserving men, President Trump has completed the transition from the law-and-order party to the crime-mob party.
President Trump on Tuesday used his sweeping presidential pardon powers to wipe away the crimes of a list of boldface names, including disgraced politician Rod R. Blagojevich, convicted junk bond king Michael Milken and former New York police commissioner Bernard Kerik.
Trump pardoned or commuted the sentences of seven convicted white collar criminals at the center of federal anti-corruption and tax fraud cases spanning decades, alongside four women whose cases were not as well known. …
Also on Trump’s pardon list … [was] Edward DeBartolo Jr., the billionaire former owner of the San Francisco 49ers football team, who pleaded guilty two decades ago to charges related to his role in a corruption case against former Louisiana governor Edwin W. Edwards (D).
While appearing on television (Trump’s connection to the outside world — or, rather, the outside world that the right-wing media would like to exist) was a popular means of getting Trump’s attention, it was no surprise that some of the beneficiaries seemed to have ponied up money to elect Trump. The Daily Beast reported:
For those who didn’t receive the Fox News treatment, it appears that in at least one case, cold hard cash did the talking. Paul Pogue, a construction company owner who pleaded guilty to underpaying his taxes by $473,000 and received three years probation, was issued a full pardon and clemency by the president.
According to FEC filings, Pogue’s family has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars in direct contributions and in-kind air travel to the Trump Victory Committee. Beginning in August 2019, Ben Pogue—CEO of Pogue Construction and son of Paul Pogue—and his wife Ashleigh made over $200,000 in contributions to the campaign.
Trump, the corrupt and entitled white male who perceives himself as the perpetual victim, must feel a connection to other privileged, corrupt figures. If they are victims of a rigged or unfair system, he must be, too. (One can now fully appreciate how ludicrous was the defense in the impeachment trial that Trump was motivated by a heartfelt desire to root out corruption. Republicans who parroted this nonsense should be voted out of office.)
Worse still, there is widespread suspicion that this is simply a prelude to pardons for cronies Michael Flynn, Roger Stone, Paul Manafort and others. Trump wants vindication and secrecy, so what better way than to direct senators not to hear evidence of his own misdeeds, delegitimize the convictions of his associates and then, by pardon, obtain their silence and gratitude?
Mimi Rocah, a former prosecutor, tells me: “The pardon power is supposed to be about correcting injustices. There is no reasonable argument that the people pardoned today — all of whom corrupted our financial and political systems in massive ways — were subject to a miscarriage of justice.” She adds, “To the contrary, they are powerful, connected white men who had the benefit of good defense lawyers. It also sends a message to Stone, Giuliani, Manafort and Flynn — that Trump has their back because white collar crime doesn’t count.”
Do his supporters even care that the swamp he promised to drain is more fetid than ever? Are Republicans who emboldened him with an acquittal in his impeachment trial just a tad embarrassed by the normalization, the celebration even, of corruption? Probably not. They have long since discarded any semblance of concern for the rule of law, let alone for decency and propriety.
“President Trump knows voters think he’s corrupt,” says Ian Bassin, executive director of Protect Democracy. “But many of his voters stick with him because they think, ‘They’re all corrupt, so I’ll take my corrupt guy over the other one.’ But whatever flaws American democracy has had over the years, we all agreed we wanted a Republic, and not a King.” He adds, “Trump’s bet is that voters will forget that. It’s our job to make him lose that bet.”
In case one needed further evidence of the urgency of removing Trump at the ballot box and sending his Republican enablers packing as well, this last descent into self-serving veneration of corruption should remind us we are well on the way to banana-republic territory.
Former Justice Department spokesman Matthew Miller notes, “Trump has consistently made clear who he believes deserves mercy and who he believes deserves the full weight of federal law enforcement. If you’re a connected Republican, someone whose family can manage to appear on Fox, or someone who commits crimes against the people Trump despises, then he will go to bat for you.” However, Miller says, “if you’re one of the 13,000 whose clemency petition is pending at the Justice Department, and you don’t have anything to offer the president, then good luck.”
The latest outrage should also serve as a wake-up call for Democrats: Choose the candidate who can deliver a victory, a commanding victory, over Trump and his ethically degenerate party. Do not get distracted by fundraising methods or ideological purity. Win. Just win. Our democracy (not to mention our collective sanity) depends on it.
If President Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, George W Bush, or any other President has done what Traitor Trump has done? I would also call it High Treason and demand he face the music for his crimes.
Because Traitor Donald J Trump decided it was more important to get dirt on Joe Biden Jr and his son so he could maybe win the re-election? He did in fact? Commit High Treason against the United States. And his little lawyer troll Ghouliani? Is also guilty of committing High Treason against the United States. And? Attorney General William Barr? Is guilty of being an accessory to the crime of High Treason against the United States. Any member of Trump’s cabinet who participated in this? Or helped in the cover-up of it? Are guilty of the crime of being accessories to, or accessories after the fact, to the crime of High Treason against the United States.
ANY Republican Senator or House Member, who stands up and defends Traitor Trump and his actions? Are in fact? Guilty of obstruction of justice and being accessories to the crime of Treason Against the United States. From Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Rick Santorum, Joni Earnst, to any other Republican who has betrayed their oath of office and sides with these treasonous and traitous actions against this country perpetrated by Donald J Trump or his administration or Rudy Giuliani.
ANY PUNDIT from Fox News, Breibart or anywhere else, including Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, et al? Who stands up and defends Donald J Trump and his treasonous actions against the United States? Are guilty of the crimes of being accessories to Treason against the United States. If they push the bullshit proven lies about Biden etc? Then they are guilty of obstruction of justice and other crimes.
LET’S SEE THE TRUTH AND THE FACTS HERE SHALL WE THAT PROVES THAT TRUMP AND THE REST HAVE COMMITTED HIGH TREASON AGAINST THE UNITED STATES.
The whistleblower complaint at the center of Congress’ impeachment inquiry alleges that President Donald Trump abused the power of his office to “solicit interference from a foreign country” in next year’s U.S. election. The White House then tried to “lock down” the information to cover it up, the complaint says.
The 9-page document released Thursday fleshes out the circumstances of a summertime phone call in which Trump encouraged his Ukraine counterpart to help investigate a political rival, alleges a central role for one of the president’s personal lawyers and a suggests a concerted White House effort to suppress the exact transcript, including by relocating it to a separate computer system.
From: Whistleblower: White House tried to ‘lock down’ call details
Trump’s impeachment is the only option after Ukraine call transcript
Laurence H. Tribe, Opinion contributor
Let us count the ways. The White House readout of President Donald Trump’s phone conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky
shows that the American president has committed a multitude of high
crimes and misdemeanors, all of them impeachable. Even without
considering the many prior offenses that were surfaced in the Mueller
report and in the special counsel’s prosecutions
of numerous Trump allies and associates, including in the Southern
District of New York, this readout — which must be the least
incriminating version the White House could compose despite its
remarkable skills at shading the truth or falsifying it altogether — is
The “high crimes and misdemeanors” that the readout reveals — to use the Constitution’s term for impeachable offenses beyond “treason” and “bribery” (both of which the readout comes close to establishing) — begin with Trump abusing the foreign policy powers entrusted to the president by Article II in order to serve his own political interests rather than the interests of the American people.
Ukraine pressed by Trump, Russia
Those interests were defined here by a bipartisan decision of the Congress we elected to represent us in world affairs using its Article I spending power: Congress decided that it was in our nation’s security interest to provide nearly $400 million in aid to the beleaguered patriots of an American ally fighting a bloody battle with an American adversary. The ally was Ukraine. The adversary was Russia, which had — not so coincidentally — tried to help Trump win office in 2016.
Even if this action weren’t payback to Russian President Vladimir Putin and yet another indication of how beholden Trump is to that brutal dictator — which it may well have been — it was a blatant usurpation of Congress’ Appropriation Clause authority for Trump to withhold the aid the Ukranians needed. When asked by Ukraine’s president in this July 25 phone call to purchase more Javelin missiles from the United States for defense purposes, Trump responded that he would gladly do so, although — he actually used the word “though” — he would greatly appreciate that foreign president’s aid in, among other things, gathering evidence to effectively help prosecute Trump’s main rival for the presidency in the forthcoming election.
Imagine the outrage, not to mention the judicial rebuke, that would have followed if Congress had overtly conditioned aid to a country being overrun by Russia
upon that country’s agreement to apparently advance the political
ambitions of the incumbent president! That this plainly unconstitutional
condition was instead subtly interposed by Trump himself only makes the
matter more egregious.
Campaign finance law is clear
In addition, despite the Department of Justice’s conclusion to the contrary, the campaign assistance that Trump sought in implicit exchange for his releasing the funds Congress had appropriated and Ukraine desperately needed clearly violates the same federal laws governing our elections that the president arguably violated to get himself elected in the first place — namely, the statutes making it illegal for a candidate in an American election to solicit or accept anything “of value” from a foreign source.
Making Trump’s lawlessness all the more egregious was his enlisting William
Barr, the nation’s attorney general, to work with Trump’s own
consigliere, Rudy Giuliani, in digging up dirt in Ukraine on former Vice
President Joe Biden, a leading candidate for the opposing party’s
presidential nomination, and Biden’s surviving son, Hunter.
Never mind the cruelty and vindictiveness of selecting this particular target for his rage. Sadism is not an impeachable offense. Never mind the odds that the president’s hatred for his predecessor, President Barack Obama, probably drove his obsession with hurting Obama’s handpicked vice president. Envy isn’t impeachable either.
And never mind that there is no credible evidence that Biden or his son violated any law. Even if they had, for a president to conscript the highest law enforcement official in the land, one paid by and legally bound to serve the American people, to do his personal and political bidding in an effort not only to smear but to also criminally prosecute a political foe is the stuff of novels about banana republics, not of the America I know and whose Constitution and laws I have spent a lifetime defending.
The least of it is that using personnel paid by American taxpayers, whether civilians like Barr or military personnel like the pilots involved in landing at the Scottish airfield near Trump’s failing golf course, is a way of supplementing his congressionally fixed compensation in violation of the Domestic Emoluments Clause of Article II.
Worse than that is any president’s very decision to turn the Department of Justice into his personal law firm and weaponizing it against his political opponents, one of many violations of the president’s Oath of Office.
Whatever other evidence the House impeachment inquiry launched by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday might uncover, we already know enough to say:
Donald J. Trump has committed high crimes and misdemeanors against the United States and must be impeached.
From Trump’s impeachment is the only option after Ukraine call transcript Opinion piece by Professor Laurence H. Tribe.
Campaign Finance Law: When “Collusion” with a Foreign Government Becomes a Crime by Bob Bauer.
Former White House Counsel to President Obama (2010-2011). Professor of Practice and Distinguished Scholar in Residence at New York University School of Law.
*Bloggers note. This is just the first part, in a three part series essay written by Bob Bauer. This one I posted so you can get an idea of what kinds of violations Traitor Trump did during the 2016 campaign with Russia and Putin and gives the backdrop to what he has now done in the Ukrainian scandal and treasonous actions.
You can find part two and three if you follow the link and then the sub links there.
individual who is not a citizen of the United States and who is not
lawfully admitted for permanent residence, as defined in 8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(20); however,
shall not include any individual who is a citizen of the United States,
or who is a national of the United States as defined in 8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(22).
(4)Knowingly means that a person must:
(i) Have actual knowledge that the source of the funds solicited, accepted or received is a foreign national;
(ii) Be aware of facts that would lead a reasonable person to conclude that there is a substantial probability that the source of the funds solicited, accepted or received is a foreign national; or
(iii) Be aware of facts that would lead a reasonable person to inquire whether the source of the funds solicited, accepted or received is a foreign national, but the person failed to conduct a reasonable inquiry.
(5) For purposes of paragraph (a)(4) of this section, pertinent facts include, but are not limited to:
(i) The contributor or donor uses a foreign passport or passport number for identification purposes;
(ii) The contributor or donor provides a foreign address;
(iii) The contributor or donor makes a contribution or donation by means of a check or other written instrument drawn on a foreign bank or by a wire transfer from a foreign bank; or
(7)Safe Harbor. For purposes of paragraph (a)(4)(iii)
of this section, a person shall be deemed to have conducted a
reasonable inquiry if he or she seeks and obtains copies of current and
valid U.S. passport papers for U.S. citizens who are contributors or
donors described in paragraphs (a)(5)(i) through (iv) of this section.
No person may rely on this safe harbor if he or she has actual knowledge
that the source of the funds solicited, accepted, or received is a
(b)Contributions and donations by foreign nationals in connection with elections.
A foreign national shall not, directly or indirectly, make a
contribution or a donation of money or other thing of value, or
expressly or impliedly promise to make a contribution or a donation, in
connection with any Federal, State, or local election.
(c)Contributions and donations by foreign nationals to political committees and organizations of political parties. A foreign national shall not, directly or indirectly, make a contribution or donation to:
(1) A political committee of a political party, including a national party committee, a national congressional campaign committee, or a State, district, or local party committee, including a non-Federal account of a State, district, or local party committee, or
(2) An organization of a political party whether or not the organization is a political committee under 11 CFR 100.5.
(d)Contributions and donations by foreign nationals for office buildings. A foreign national shall not, directly or indirectly, make a contribution or donation to a committee of a political party for the purchase or construction of an office building. See11 CFR 300.10 and 300.35.
(e)Disbursements by foreign nationals for electioneering communications. A foreign national shall not, directly or indirectly, make any disbursement for an electioneering communication as defined in 11 CFR 100.29.
(f)Expenditures, independent expenditures, or disbursements by foreign nationals in connection with elections.
A foreign national shall not, directly or indirectly, make any
expenditure, independent expenditure, or disbursement in connection with
any Federal, State, or local election.
(g)Solicitation, acceptance, or receipt of contributions and donations from foreign nationals.
No person shall knowingly solicit, accept, or receive from a foreign
national any contribution or donation prohibited by paragraphs (b)
through (d) of this section.
(h)Providing substantial assistance.
(1) No person shall knowingly provide substantial assistance in the solicitation, making, acceptance, or receipt of a contribution or donation prohibited by paragraphs (b) through (d), and (g) of this section.
person shall knowingly provide substantial assistance in the making of
an expenditure, independent expenditure, or disbursement prohibited by
paragraphs (e) and (f) of this section.
(i)Participation by foreign nationals in decisions involving election-related activities.
A foreign national shall not direct, dictate, control, or directly or
indirectly participate in the decision-making process of any person,
such as a corporation, labor organization, political committee, or
political organization with regard to such person’s Federal or
non-Federal election-related activities, such as decisions concerning
the making of contributions, donations, expenditures, or disbursements
in connection with elections for any Federal, State, or local office or
decisions concerning the administration of a political committee.
(j)Donations by foreign nationals to inaugural committees. A foreign national shall not, directly or indirectly, make a donation to an inaugural committee, as defined in 11 CFR 104.21(a)(1). No person shall knowingly accept from a foreign national any donation to an inaugural committee. [67 FR 69950, Nov. 19, 2002, as amended at 69 FR 59780, Oct. 6, 2004]
Now onto the story:
Commentary on Russian intervention in the 2016 elections has included
one confidently expressed and perhaps growing view: that there may be a
scandal there, but no conceivable crime. It is claimed that the Trump
campaign could wink and nod at Russian hacking, and derive the full
benefit, but that without considerably more evidence of direct
involvement, there is no role for criminal law enforcement. The matter
is then left to Congress to consider whether new laws are needed, and
the public, of course, will render its judgment in opinion polls and in
elections still to come.
This view is flawed. It fails to consider the potential campaign
finance violations, as suggested by the facts so far known, under
existing law. These violations are criminally enforceable.
It would not be the first time Congress wrestled with these questions
of foreign interference with the US electoral process. Following the
1996 elections, the Republican Party concluded that the victorious Bill
Clinton had benefited from foreign intervention in his election. Its
Senate majority organized hearings, chaired by the late Senator Fred
Thompson, who opened them with the declaration
that high-level Chinese officials had committed substantial sums of
money to influence the presidential election. The ensuing investigation,
which included a parallel criminal inquiry, did not live up to Senator
Thompson’s most dramatic claims, but Congress later amended the law to
tighten the long-standing prohibition against foreign national spending
in federal elections. On this point, there was bipartisan unity: that
the law should stand clearly and without gaping loopholes against
foreign interference in American elections.
Then the issue made a dramatic return in this last presidential
election, but with a major difference. This time, there is no doubt
that a foreign state, Russia, devoted resources to influence the outcome
of the 2016 election. But unlike 1996, the manner of this
intervention—the hacking of emails, the dissemination of fake news—has
directed much of the legal discussion to computer security and espionage
statutes. The controversy has not had the “feel” of a classic case
about political spending. It has come across in press reporting and
public discussion as a tale of 21st century cyber-crime and foreign
intelligence service skullduggery—more sophisticated international
intrigue than Watergate’s “third-rate burglary” and associated cover-up.
“Unlike the Watergate investigation, which began with a break-in,” the
New Yorker’s and CNN’s Jeffrey Toobin has written,
“it is not immediately clear what crimes may have been committed.” And
even if there might be criminal wrongdoing somewhere in this Trump
campaign-Russia relationship, commentators have tended to doubt that there is yet sufficient hard evidence of it.
Yet even on the information so far available, there are solid grounds
for paying close attention to the potential campaign finance
violations. The case is more or less hiding in plain sight.
prohibits foreign nationals from providing “anything of value … in
connection with” an election. The hacking of the Podesta emails, which
were then transmitted to Wikileaks for posting, clearly had value, and
its connection to the election is not disputed. None other than the
Republican nominee said so publicly, egging on the Russians to locate
and publish Clinton emails to aid his campaign. He famously declared:
“I will tell you this, Russia: If you’re listening, I hope you’re able
to find the 30,000 emails that are missing.” One well known Trump
confidante, Roger Stone, is among those backing the President’s
candidacy who offered similar contemporaneous statements
about the value placed on these disclosures (and who, having intimated
that he had inside information about when the materials would be
released, now faces inquiries from the Congress (and from the Special
There is a fair question of what sort of involvement beyond vocalized
glee would subject Americans to liability for these foreign
intelligence activities. The relevant regulation
suggests that something more is required: at least “substantial
assistance” to the foreign spender in providing this “thing of value.”
Does a presidential campaign render this substantial assistance to a
foreign national engaged in influencing an election by endorsing the
specific activity and confirming its strategic utility? When the
Federal Election Commission (FEC) promulgated this ban on “substantial
assistance,” it said little about its scope. It did make clear
that the term was to be broadly construed. It offered the concrete
example of a U.S. citizen acting as a “conduit or intermediary” for
foreign spending, but noted that this was provided as only one example.
It expressly left open other possibilities.
The President and others associated with the campaign made no bones
about the value to them of the purloined email communications. The
President told a rally of supporters he “loved” Wikileaks and read from the hacked communication to support his attack
on his opponent for “a degree of corruption at the highest levels of
our government like nothing we have ever seen as a country before.” He
drew on the emails in the debates
with Secretary Clinton. Notably, when he was asked during the debates
to acknowledge the Russian program of interference and given the
opportunity to openly oppose the actions, he wouldn’t do so. He also
mentioned Wikileaks 124 times
in the last month of the campaign. The Russians could only have been
strengthened in the conviction that their efforts were welcome and had
value. That covers the evidence in plain sight.
Of course, investigators will examine whether there were Trump
campaign communications or private assurances to foreign
nationals—including Russians and associates of Wikileaks acting as their
“agents”—to encourage them or help coordinate the dissemination of
these materials. Coordination at this level could well trigger the
application of other provisions of the rules directed at the political
campaign’s acceptance or receipt of the Russian assistance, or even its
direct solicitation of it. But the “substantial assistance” prong would
cover the more indirect of the Trump campaign activities—including
public statements—that were conducted at more of a distance, and yet
still intended to signal the Russians that help was needed and of
A Trump defense may include the claim that he and his campaign cannot
be constitutionally subjected to legal liability for any public
statements on the campaign trail. They may try to frame their statements
as rough-and-tumble political commentary on Russian behavior that,
while helpful to the Republican nominee, neither Trump nor his
associates clearly requested or for which they can be held responsible.
This First Amendment defense is at least at the mercy of whatever facts
are still uncovered about the extent of any “collusion.” But even with
just a little more in the way of fact, with the addition of detail to an
already well-established outline, the Trump campaign’s position is
precarious. How strongly does the First Amendment protect a presidential
nominee’s mobilization of foreign government support for his
candidacy—support achieved through illegal activities?
A test of this constitutional defense is whether it relies somehow on
the fact that Trump and his campaign were open and notorious in
courting Russian assistance. Presumably, had they pursued this
assistance behind closed doors, few would question the legal
significance of the understanding reached with a foreign government
supporter. It would be remarkable to maintain that this appeal for help
is converted into constitutionally protected speech because the speaker
has chosen to have much or all of the conversation in public.
Recent developments in the law speak clearly to the strength of the
government’s interest in an expansive enforcement of the ban on foreign
national involvement in U.S. elections. In 2012, in Bluman v. Federal Election Commission,
a federal appellate court ruled, and the Supreme Court affirmed, that
lawful resident aliens had no First Amendment right to contribute to
American candidates and political committees. More importantly, the
court emphasized that foreign national political intervention implicated
a principle “fundamental to the definition of our national political
community,” which is that “foreign citizens do not have a constitutional
right to participate in, and thus may be excluded from, activities of
democratic self-government.” At stake was “part of the sovereign’s
obligation to preserve the basic conception of a political community.”
It will be no minor feat for Trump campaign lawyers, relying on Donald
Trump’s free speech rights, to overcome what the court called this
The law as written already treats speech as a factor in potential
violations of the ban on foreign national political spending. A foreign
national may not “participate,” or “control” or “direct” decisions on
contributions or expenditures. This is a speech-centered restriction. So
a foreign national working for the foreign parent of a US corporation
(let alone a foreign national resident in the United States) may not
discuss with an American PAC Director plans for making contributions or
expenditures, and it is immaterial for this purpose that the revenues on
which the PAC will draw for the contribution was generated within the
United States. And it is not only a question of the foreign national’s
speech (to which, of course, no First Amendment protection attaches).
The American PAC Director’s own speech is relevant to a finding of
illegal “participation,” if the conversation indicates that the PAC
Director is seeking permission, yielding control over the decision, or
merely soliciting the foreign national’s opinion on how to spend the
money. A statement like Donald Trump’s that he “loves WikiLeaks,” or
that he hopes that more will be done to bring to light Clinton emails,
would be evidence in such a conversation that his foreign national
interlocutor was “participating” in a decision on political spending in
connection with the election.
Trump and his campaign might argue that the hacking and dissemination
of the emails were not political spending—not, in a technical sense,
“contributions” nor “expenditures”—covered by the federal campaign
finance law. Perhaps so, but they were something of value, and the
statute and related regulations of the FEC separately prohibit any
value given by a foreign national. Of course, the Trump campaign might
take up the fight on this issue and litigate it. It would then have
the thankless task of persuading a court that a presidential candidate
can invite, then warmly accept and exploit, the activities of a foreign
intelligence service because it is a particular kind of “value,” not a
conventional contribution or expenditure. The campaign will have an
even harder time if it is established that Russians distributed
information through online bots, the creation of DC Leaks in the United
States, or the payment for online advertising.
What is also exceptional about the Trump case, distinguishing it from
other forms of national electioneering, is the absence of any question
about intent, or state of mind. In the most recent round of revisions to
its rules, the FEC went to some lengths to allow a candidate or
political committee to establish that it did not reasonably know about
the foreign source of the contribution or expenditure or other value
received. (11 C.F.R. § 110.20 (a)(4),(7)). This is no help to the Trump campaign which certainly had every reason to know that, as widely reported and declared officially
by the US government, Russia was behind the hacking. Trump, on the
campaign trail, said as much in inviting Russia to release more. At
other times he suggested that perhaps Russia was not behind these
activities, that no one could know: but, remarkably, he allowed for the
possibility that another foreign power, China, might have been
responsible. And once again, there are other parts of the public record
bearing on intent that will receive close investigative scrutiny, like
Trump’s close confidante Roger Stone’s repeated statements about his communications with Wikileaks and Julian Assange.
Whether prosecutors choose to interpret the law aggressively in these
circumstances is bound to be affected, and not to Trump’s advantage, by
the well-established identity of the foreign actor: a state, operating
through its own intelligence services. This is not the typical foreign
national case. In recent years, after Citizens United, the FEC
has been preoccupied with debates over political spending by
corporations. It has pondered how expansively the regulations should
treat campaign activities of the USA subsidiary of a foreign
corporation, or by a corporation with a significant percentage of
foreign national shareholders. The Commission could not agree on
tightening the rules, and the reason, in part, was the difficulty that
three of the Commissioners perceived in defining when a business could
be deemed to represent “foreign” interests. These complications are not
present in a case involving a foreign government.
And, at the same time, it is because of this clear involvement of a
foreign state actor that the Trump case will be pivotal in determining
the efficacy of the ban on foreign national electioneering. The campaign
finance laws have as their core purpose preventing corruption of
government, or its appearance, but the provision prohibiting foreign
political spending is uniquely concerned with corruption of a different,
even higher order, that strikes at national security. The Bluman
court cited the high importance of preserving of the “basic conception
of a political community” in holding that two individuals—one a Canadian
and the other holding dual Canadian and Israeli citizenship—could not
make simple, every-day contributions to political organizations. In the
Trump case, which involves active foreign intervention in a political
campaign that is welcomed and encouraged by one of the candidates, this
“basic conception” is even more—it is fair to say, acutely—at stake.
As the case unfolds, other instances of Russian support for the
campaign might still surface, as I have indicated. The investigators
will look into unconfirmed reports that the Russians may have attempted
through intermediaries to buy ads placed for the benefit of Trump on
social media platforms. Should there be any evidence that the Trump
campaign colluded in this advertising activity, a straightforward
campaign finance violation—a massive illegal contribution to the
campaign—would be added to the one built on hacking and WikiLeaks
distribution. The same holds true for any collusion over use of microtargeting techniques, which congressional investigations are reportedly now also probing.
But, as a major issue of foreign national involvement under the
campaign finance law, the hacking episode may prove more than sufficient
to sustain the current criminal investigation, and it could wind up
being central to it.
The Iceberg’s Tip: Ukraine Phone Call and the Months-Long Conspiracy to Violate Federal Campaign Finance Laws
The absurdity of the Justice Department’s refusal to investigate
Essay By Paul Seamus Ryan: Vice President of Policy & Litigation at Common Cause.
Earlier this week the White House released a rough transcript
of President Donald Trump’s July 25 phone conversation with Ukraine’s
President Volodymyr Zelensky. Understandably, there’s been much scrutiny
of the transcript. Is the transcript complete? What exactly did Trump
ask Zelensky for? Was there a “quid pro quo” exchange? To be clear, the
transcript is incriminating on its face. But this narrow and granular
analysis on one conversation risks missing the big picture.
The most important takeaway from the call transcript and the now-public whistleblower complaint
is that President Trump seemingly orchestrated a months-long conspiracy
to obtain Ukrainian government assistance in his 2020 reelection
campaign—in violation of federal campaign finance laws and, perhaps,
other statutes. The Department of Justice (DOJ) decision not to
investigate these violations has no basis in law. And it turns out
Attorney General William Barr had no business being involved in the
matter, as he is implicated both in the whistleblower complaint and by
the transcript of President Trump’s call with the Ukrainian president.
July 25 Phone Call Only the Tip of the Iceberg
To be certain, President Trump solicited a political contribution
from President Zelensky during the July 25 call—asking President
Zelensky to “look into” Joe Biden—but that was neither the first nor the
last time President Trump, either directly or through his agents,
solicited a political contribution from the Ukraine government. Trump’s
illegal efforts to gain Ukraine’s assistance in his 2020 reelection
campaign date back at least to January and continued after his July 25
call with Zelensky.
On September 23, Common Cause filed a complaint
with DOJ and the Federal Election Commission (FEC) alleging reason to
believe that President Trump, Rudy Giuliani and at least three other
Trump allies (Victoria Toensing, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman) violated
the federal law ban on soliciting, or substantially assisting the
solicitation of, a political “contribution” from a foreign national
through numerous meetings and phone calls with Ukrainian officials.
Back in May, the New York Times reported
that Giuliani was planning a trip to Ukraine to meet with
recently-elected President Zelensky “to urge him to pursue inquiries
that allies of the White House contend could yield new information about
two matters of intense interest to Mr. Trump”: the “origin of the
special counsel’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016
election” and the “involvement of former Vice President Joseph R. Biden
Jr.’s son in a gas company owned by a Ukrainian oligarch.”
Giuliani’s planned trip was reportedly
“part of a monthslong effort” by Giuliani and “a small group of Trump
allies working to build interest in the Ukrainian inquiries. Their
motivation is to try to discredit the special counsel’s investigation;
undermine the case against Paul Manafort …; and potentially to damage
Mr. Biden.” Over the course of several months, Giuliani and his allies
had numerous telephonic and in-person meetings with Ukrainian officials to advance President Trump’s personal political agenda.
The New York Times’ report was followed by a late July BuzzFeed News deep dive
into the months-long effort by Giuliani and “[t]wo unofficial envoys
reporting directly” to him to obtain Ukraine’s assistance in Trump’s
2020 reelection efforts. BuzzFeed News wrote:
In a whirlwind of private meetings, Lev Parnas and Igor
Fruman—who pumped hundreds of thousands of dollars into Republican
campaigns and dined with the president—gathered repeatedly with top
officials in Ukraine and set up meetings for Trump’s attorney Rudy
Giuliani as they turned up information that could be weaponized in the
2020 presidential race.
Parnas and Fruman reportedly
“helped arrange meetings in New York between the [Ukraine’s top
prosecutor Lutsenko] and Giuliani in January” and in “February, Giuliani
and Parnas met privately again with Lutsenko” on the sidelines of a
meeting “that included US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the Russian
President Vladimir Putin.” Then in May, Parnas and Fruman “flew to
Paris, where they joined Giuliani in talks with” another Ukrainian
prosecutor, Nazar Kholodnytsky.
In April, within hours of President Zelensky’s election, President
Trump called him and, according to several sources, urged him to
coordinate with Giuliani and “pursue investigations of ‘corruption,’” as
revealed this week by the New York Times.
Days after President Trump’s July 25 call with President Zelensky, on or about August 2 according to the whistleblower complaint,
Giuliani “met with an aide to the Ukrainian president in Madrid and
spelled out two specific cases he believed Ukraine should pursue,” an
investigation of Joe Biden and his son, and an investigation of whether
Democrats colluded with Ukraine to release information on Paul Manafort
during the 2016 election. The complaint notes that Giuliani had
“privately reached out to a variety of other Zelenskyy advisers” and
that some of these advisors “intended to travel to Washington in
mid-August.” The whistleblower complaint goes on to note many of these
Rudy Giuliani is referenced five times in the rough transcript
of the July 25 call, with President Zelensky first bringing up Giuliani
and mentioning that one of his assistants “spoke with Mr. Giuliani
recently” and that he hoped “very much that Mr. Giuliani will be able to
travel to Ukraine and we will meet once he comes to Ukraine.” President
Trump then noted three times that he would have Giuliani call President
Zelensky, saying: “If you could speak to him, that would be great.”
Giuliani is Trump’s personal attorney, not a diplomat. Giuliani has stated: “My only client is the president of the United States[.] He’s the one I have an obligation to report to, tell him what happened.” He has also said that his Ukraine efforts have the full support of Trump, and that Trump “knows what I’m doing, sure, as his lawyer.” Giuliani also made clear that his work with Ukrainian officials “isn’t foreign policy” and that he’s urging investigations of Biden “because that information will be very, very helpful to my client, and may turn out to be helpful to my government.”
Giuliani was representing the interests of candidate Trump, not the
interests of the American people. Giuliani was taking direction from his
client, President Trump, and keeping Trump fully informed of his
actions. Together, they conspired for months to violate federal campaign
finance laws by soliciting Ukrainian support for Trump’s 2020
DOJ Decision Not to Investigate Campaign Finance Violations Has No Basis in Law
In the complaint Common Cause filed Monday with the DOJ and FEC, and in a piece I wrote earlier this week for Just Security,
I explained in detail how Trump and Giuliani seemingly violated the
campaign finance law prohibition on soliciting, or substantially
assisting solicitation of, a “contribution” from a foreign national in
connection with a U.S. election.
We now know that the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community reached the same conclusion
in August, when considering the whistleblower complaint. And we know
that some White House lawyers recognized the implications of the July 25
call because they soon thereafter took steps to severely restrict
access to the transcript of the call by moving it from the computer
system where it would typically be stored to a separate system reserved
for certain types of classified materials of “an especially sensitive
Remarkably, the DOJ said this week
that the Department “explored whether the July call merited opening a
criminal investigation into potential campaign finance violations by the
president” and “concluded it did not—that the information discussed on
the call didn’t amount to a ‘thing of value’ that could be quantified,
which is what the campaign finance laws require.” This determination by
the DOJ flies in the face of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s
interpretation of the same provision of law.
As I explained in a summary of a section of the Mueller Report that I wrote for Just Security,
Special Counsel Mueller considered charging Donald Trump Jr., Paul
Manafort and Jared Kushner with violating ban on soliciting a
contribution from a foreign national for their June 2016 meeting with
Russians at Trump Tower to receive opposition research on Hillary
Mueller began an overview of the ban on soliciting a contribution
from foreign nationals by quoting now-Supreme Court Justice Brett
Kavanaugh’s lower court decision in Bluman v. FEC,
upholding the foreign contribution ban against First Amendment
challenge: “[T]he United States has a compelling interest … in limiting
the participation of foreign citizens in activities of democratic
self-government, and in thereby preventing foreign influence over the
U.S. political process.”
In explaining the “threshold legal question” of whether providing
“documents and information” to a campaign would constitute a
“contribution,” Mueller noted the “foreign contribution ban is not
limited to contributions of money.” It includes a contribution of “money
or other thing of value.’” According to Mueller, “[t]he
phrases ‘thing of value’ and ‘anything of value’ are broad and inclusive
enough to encompass at least some forms of valuable information.”
[C]andidate-related opposition research given to a
campaign for the purpose of influencing an election could constitute a
contribution to which the foreign-source ban could apply. A campaign can
be assisted not only by the provision of funds, but also by the
provision of derogatory information about an opponent. Political
campaigns frequently conduct and pay for opposition research. A foreign
entity that engaged in such research and provided resulting information
to a campaign could exert a greater effect on an election, and a greater
tendency to ingratiate the donor to the candidate, than a gift of money
or tangible things of value.
In the end, however, Mueller decided not to prosecute Trump Jr.,
Manafort and Kushner because of the difficulty he believed he would have
proving beyond a reasonable doubt that (1) they knew that solicitation
of a contribution from a foreign national was illegal; and (2) the
information they solicited was worth at least $2,000 (for a federal
misdemeanor) or $25,000 for a felony.
Mueller concluded that opposition research could constitute a “thing
of value” for the purposes of campaign finance law, but the DOJ
concluded in Ukrainegate it could not. What might explain these
conflicting interpretations of the law?
We don’t yet know. But one very troubling aspect of the DOJ’s
handling of the whistleblower complaint is Attorney General Barr’s
involvement. Barr is named on the first page of the complaint as
“involved,” yet reportedly was briefed
on the matter as soon as the DOJ learned of the complaint. In President
Trump’s July 25 phone call with President Zelensky, Trump asked
Zelensky to work with both Barr and Giuliani to investigate Joe Biden.
Trump referred to Barr being the point person, alongside Giuliani, four
times in the thirty-minute conversation. Barr is implicated in Trump’s
campaign finance violations—at a minimum, Barr is a witness. Barr should
have recused himself entirely from the DOJ’s handling of the
whistleblower complaint and the ensuing conflict between the White
House, DOJ and Congress over this matter. Instead, Barr is at the center
of it all.
Representative Jerrold Nadler, chair of the House Judiciary Committee, has called on Barr to recuse himself from the matter going forward. Ultimately, the investigation may lead to Barr’s impeachment and potentially the impeachment of others complicit in these campaign finance violations, their coverup, and other abuses of the office of the President.
For now, DOJ should reverse its decision not to investigate Trump,
Giuliani and others implicated in the whistleblower complaint. If Barr
and the DOJ will not do so, Congressional impeachment proceedings are
the last hope for the rule of law. The whistleblower complaint provides a
roadmap for the congressional impeachment investigation as it seeks to
uncover the full extent of the criminal violations that have occurred.
The phone call between President Trump and President Zelensky is only
one action in a systematic plan to manufacture opposition information
from Ukraine to influence the outcome of the 2020 election.
Timeline: Trump, Giuliani, Biden, and Ukrainegate
From Timeline: Trump, Giuliani, Biden, and Ukrainegate (updated)
By Viola Geinger and Ryan Goodman Updated on Sept 26,2019.
Russian forces invade Crimea and stage an illegal and dubious
referendum and declare their annexation of the peninsula. That month,
the United Nations General Assembly votes to condemn Russian actions, including the referendum.
April 2014 – Russian and pro-Russian forces invade
the regions of Donetsk and Luhansk in eastern Ukraine and take control,
starting a war that continues today and has killed more than 13,000
April 2014 – Hunter Biden joins Ukrainian firm Burisma
Joe Biden’s younger son, Hunter Biden, joins the board of Burisma Holdings, the largest
private oil and gas extracting company in Ukraine, controlled by
founder Mykola Zlochevskiy, who had served as a Cabinet minister under
former pro-Russian Presidents Leonid Kuchma and Yanukovych. Both
administrations had been suspected of corruption, and once they were
ousted, successor administrations pledging reforms targeted previous
officials, including Zlochevskiy, for investigation. Allegations against
Zlochevskiy center on the funding schemes he used to form the company
in 2002. But cases against him stall in each instance.
An American business partner of Hunter Biden, Devon Archer, also
joins the board. The company issues a press release about the Biden
appointment in May (see below). The appointment draws criticism for the potential perception of a conflict of interest with Vice President Biden’s role as the White House’s point man on Ukraine. News reports
later in 2014 reveal that Hunter Biden had been discharged from the
Navy in February for testing positive for cocaine (clearly just months
before the Burisma board appointment).
April 16, 2014 – U.K. investigates Burisma owner Mykola Zlochevskiy
The U.K.’s Serious Fraud Office blocks accounts
of Burisma’s majority shareholder, Mykola Zlochevskiy. A British court
conducts a hearing on Dec. 3-5, 2014, and unblocks the accounts in a
Jan. 21, 2015 judgment, (full text),
finding that none of the evidence “establishes reasonable grounds for a
belief that his assets were unlawfully acquired as a result of
misconduct in public office.” (In September 2015, U.S. Ambassador to
Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt heavily criticizes the Office of Prosecutor
General Viktor Shokin in a public speech for not cooperating
sufficiently with and even undermining the British investigation. See
May 12, 2014 – Burisma Holdings issues a press release
saying Hunter Biden has joined its board, and that he will be “in
charge of the Holdings’ legal unit and will provide support for the
company among international organizations.” The release cites his
then-current positions as counsel to New York-based law firm Boies,
Schiller & Flexner LLP and co-founder and a managing partner of
investment advisory firm Rosemont Seneca Partners, where he also served
as board chairman.
Aug. 5, 2014 – Ukraine investigation of Burisma
Ukrainian Prosecutor General Vitaly Yarema opens an investigation of Burisma owner Mykola Zlochevskiy on suspicion of “unlawful enrichment.” (The investigation is referenced in the January 2015 U.K. court judgment, which concludes that the Ukrainian probe might have been started as a result of a misinterpretation of the British account freeze.) Zlochevskiy’s American lawyer, John Buretta, a former U.S. deputy assistant attorney general, says in a 2017 Q&A on the Burisma website that a court in Kyiv ordered the case closed in September 2016 because no evidence of wrongdoing had been presented. While suspicions remain over how Zlochevskiy obtained his wealth and what happened to taxpayer money while he held public office, the British judge in the January 2015 U.K. judgment observed, “Allegations of corruption against political opponents appear to have been a feature of Ukrainian political life at this time.”
Oct. 14, 2014 – Ramping up Ukraine anti-corruption forces
Ukraine’s Parliament passes a law establishing the National Anti-Corruption Bureau (NABU), a priority of anti-corruption campaigners who’d helped lead the revolution and of the U.S. government (led by Biden) and other international backers of Ukraine. The bureau, which is to include a special prosecutor for certain corruption cases, was created in part because of the recognized ineffectiveness and corruption of the Prosecutor General’s Office and the country’s judiciary. The country’s anti-corruption plans also include a special High Anti-Corruption Court, which Poroshenko and Parliament slow-rolled until domestic and foreign advocates again exerted pressure over the past year. In fact, the U.S. and Europe required the Ukrainian government to fund NABU in exchange for financial aid. NABU’s early years are an uphill battle in the face of documented efforts by Parliament and the Prosecutor General’s Office to undermine its work.
NABU later becomes a target of Giuliani’s (see Aug. 14, 2016 item below).
Feb. 10, 2015 –Viktor Shokin takes office as Ukraine’s prosecutor general, replacing Yarema.
Sept. 24, 2015 – U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt excoriates Prosecutor General Shokin’s office for stymying anti-corruption investigations, including those involving Burisma
Pyatt’s speech was part of a regular drumbeat by U.S. and other
Western leaders, including Vice President Biden, and a swath of
Ukrainian civil society seeking to pressure President Poroshenko to
force his officials, especially in the Prosecutor General’s Office (PGO)
to crack down more, not less, on corruption. “Corruption
kills,” Pyatt said in the address to the Odesa Financial Forum for
business leaders. “It kills productivity and smothers inspiration. Ideas
are lost in its shadow. Innovation and entrepreneurship lag under the
weight of bribery, back room dealing, and bullying.”
While giving Shokin a last chance to shape up (Pyatt says, “We want
to work with Prosecutor General Shokin so the PGO is leading the fight
against corruption.”), the ambassador criticizes “officials at the PGO’s
office” for not providing documents that were needed for the British
investigation of Burisma owner Zlochevskiy and effectively allowing
Zlochevskiy to transfer $23 million of what Pyatt says were Ukrainian
taxpayer assets to Cyprus. In other words, Pyatt is critical of the
prosecutor’s office for not aiding in investigations of
Burisma’s owner, which was in line with Biden’s criticism that the
office was blocking corruption investigations. Pyatt
specifically called for the investigation and removal of officials who
were involved in the failure to help the British authorities investigate
“We have learned that there have been times that the PGO not only did not support investigations into corruption, but rather undermined prosecutors working on legitimate corruption cases.
For example, in the case of former Ecology Minister Mykola Zlochevsky, the U.K. authorities had seized 23 million dollars in illicit assets that belonged to the Ukrainian people. Officials at the PGO’s office were asked by the U.K to send documents supporting the seizure.
Instead they sent letters to Zlochevsky’s attorneys attesting that
there was no case against him. As a result, the money was freed by the
U.K. court and shortly thereafter the money was moved to Cyprus.
The misconduct by the PGO officials who wrote those letters should be
investigated, and those responsible for subverting the case by
authorizing those letters should – at a minimum – be summarily
Fall 2015 – Biden, along with the EU, publicly calls for ouster of Prosecutor General Shokin for failure to work on anti-corruption efforts.
John E. Herbst, U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine under George W. Bush, later testified before Congress:
“By late fall of 2015, the EU and the United States joined the chorus of those seeking Mr. Shokin’s removal as the start of an overall reform of the Procurator General’s Office. U.S. Vice President Joe Biden spoke publicly about this before and during his December visit to Kyiv.”
Dec. 8, 2015 – Vice President Biden makes a speech to Ukraine’s Parliament urging the country to step up anti-corruption measures.
In a speech covered widely in news media,
Biden implores Ukrainian lawmakers to move more quickly to fight the
country’s “historic battle against corruption” and “make real the
Revolution of Dignity.” (Many of the lawmakers themselves were former
businessmen and suspected of corruption and therefore that much less
interested in fighting graft.) He says, “The only thing worse than
having no hope at all is having hopes rise and see them dashed
repeatedly on the shoals of corruption…Not enough has been done yet.”
Specifically citing Shokin’s Office of the General Prosecutor for
lagging on corruption investigations, he continues:
“It’s not enough to set up a new anti-corruption bureau and establish a special prosecutor fighting corruption. The Office of the General Prosecutor desperately needs reform. The judiciary should be overhauled. The energy sector needs to be competitive, ruled by market principles — not sweetheart deals. It’s not enough to push through laws to increase transparency with regard to official sources of income. Senior elected officials have to remove all conflicts between their business interest and their government responsibilities. Every other democracy in the world — that system pertains.
Oligarchs and non-oligarchs must play by the same rules. They have to pay their taxes, settle their disputes in court — not by bullying judges. That’s basic. That’s how nations succeed in the 21st century.
Corruption siphons away resources from the people. It blunts the economic growth, and it affronts the human dignity. We know that. You know that. The Ukrainian people know that. When Russia seeks to use corruption as a tool of coercion, reform isn’t just good governance, it’s self-preservation. It’s in the national security interest of the nation ….
The United States is with you in this fight…We’ve stepped up with official assistance to help backstop the Ukrainian economy. We’ve rallied the international community to commit a total of $25 billion in bilateral and multilateral financing to support Ukraine. It includes $2 billion in U.S. loan guarantees and the possibility of more.
Yesterday I announced almost $190 million in new American assistance to help Ukraine fight corruption, strengthen the rule of law, implement critical reform, bolster civil society, advance energy security. That brings our total of direct aid to almost $760 million in direct assistance, in addition to loan guarantees since this crisis broke out. And that is not the end of what we’re prepared to do if you keep moving.
But for Ukraine to continue to make progress and to keep the support of the international community you have to do more, as well. The big part of moving forward with your IMF program — it requires difficult reforms.”
Jan. 21, 2016 – Vice President Biden meets with
Ukrainian President Poroshenko and discusses “the need to continue to
move forward on Ukraine’s anti-corruption agenda,” according to a readout on the website of the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv.
Feb. 11, 2016 – Vice President Biden speaks with Poroshenko by phone. A U.S. Embassy statement said the two agreed “that it is essential for Ukraine to continue to take action to root out corruption and implement reforms.”
Biden later boasts about the pressure he exerted on Ukraine during that time to address corruption. In a Jan. 23, 2018, Q&A following a speech at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) in Washington, Biden touts his tough stance with Ukraine in 2016. He says he told Ukrainian leaders that the U.S. would withhold $1 billion in loan guarantees unless they fired Prosecutor General Shokin.
President Trump and Rudy Giuliani have cited that boast repeatedly as proof that Biden admitted pushing for Shokin’s firing, even though Biden was calling for the prosecutor to be fired because he wasn’t pursuing corruption cases vigorously enough.
In the CFR appearance, Biden makes the comments in the context of expressing his concern that Ukraine still was not getting tough enough on corruption. “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. (Laughter.) He got fired. And they put in place someone who was solid at the time.” Biden continued, “So they made some genuine substantial changes institutionally and with people. But … there’s now some backsliding.”
“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 practice,” the New York Timesreported at the time.
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. He told PolitiFact that “virtually everyone” he knew in the U.S. government “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.”
Note: Investigation of Burisma laid dormant at the time
Vitaliy Kasko, a former deputy prosecutor general who had worked
under Shokin and resigned in frustration at his stymying of corruption
investigations, told Bloomberg News (in a May 2019 interview) that the
office’s probe into Burisma Holdings had been long dormant
by the time Joe Biden issued his ultimatum in 2016. “There was no
pressure from anyone from the U.S. to close cases against” Burisma owner
Zlochevskiy, Bloomberg quoted Kasko as saying. “It was shelved by
Ukrainian prosecutors in 2014 and through 2015,” Kasko said.
“Shokin was not investigating. He didn’t want to investigate
Burisma,” Daria Kaleniuk a leading Ukrainian anti-corruption advocate, told the Washington Post.
“And Shokin was fired not because he wanted to do that investigation,
but quite to the contrary, because he failed that investigation.”
Feb. 16, 2016 – Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin resigns, then returns to office before finally being ousted
Ukrainian news media report on Feb. 16 that Viktor Shokin resigned
as Prosecutor General after months of intense criticism for failing to
adequately pursue any major corruption cases. But wait … despite
President Poroshenko’s public call that day that Shokin resign and the
apparent submission of a resignation letter on Feb. 19, media
cited a prosecutor in Shokin’s office on March 16 saying the chief
prosecutor was back after a “long leave.” Finally, on March 29, the
Parliament voted overwhelmingly to approve Poroshenko’s recommendation to dismiss Shokin.
The European Union issued a statement hailing his departure. The respected English-language Kyiv Postwrites,
“By the end of his term, he was likely one of the most unpopular
figures in Ukraine, having earned a bad reputation for inaction and
obstructing top cases.” The paper also says it “wasn’t able to find any
public comments that Shokin made about [Burisma] during his 14 months in
Feb. 18 and 19, 2016 – Vice President Biden speaks by phone with Ukrainian President Poroshenko. The Feb. 19 U.S. Embassy statement
says Biden again urged the Ukrainian leader to “to accelerate Ukraine’s
efforts to fight corruption, strengthen justice and the rule of law,
and fulfill its IMF requirements.”
April 14, 2016 – Vice President Biden speaks with Ukrainian President Poroshenko by phone, emphasizing
“the urgency of putting in place a new Prosecutor General who would
bolster the agency’s anti-corruption efforts and strongly support the
work of its reformers.” Biden does the same in a call the same day with newly elected Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman.
Aug. 14, 2016 – Evidence surfaces of payments to Paul Manafort
Paul Manafort by this time was Trump’s campaign chairman, and the
evidence appeared to show off-the-books payments by the discredited,
pro-Russian former Ukrainian President Yanukovych when Manafort served
as his political consultant. The payments were recorded in a “black
ledger” of Yanukovych’s political party that was turned over to
Ukraine’s National Anti-Corruption Bureau (NABU). On Aug. 19, 2016, days
after the New York Times
reported the story, Serhiy Leshchenko, a member of Ukraine’s Parliament
who had been swept into office with the 2014 revolution, holds a news
conference to discuss the ledger and criticize the payments to Manafort.
Rudy Giuliani has cited the revelations as evidence that certain Ukrainians, supported by the Obama administration at the time, were colluding with Hillary Clinton’s campaign to reveal information tainting Manafort and, by association, Trump, in order to influence the election. Giuliani in May 2019 accused Leshchenko personally on Fox News of colluding with Democrats.
Sept. 2016 – Case against Burisma closed
In a 2017 Q&A on the Burisma website,
Zlochevskiy’s American lawyer, John Buretta, a former U.S. deputy
assistant attorney general, says that a court in Kyiv ordered a case
closed in September 2016 because no evidence of wrongdoing had been
June 8, 2017 – Giuliani meets with Ukrainian leaders
Giuliani, who has had business of his own in Ukraine in the past,
meets with President Petro Poroshenko and Prosecutor General Lutsenko,
among other officials, during a visit to Kyiv, hosted by the foundation of billionaire Ukrainian metals magnate Victor Pinchuk, for a lecture on democracy and the rule of law. The meetings are cited
in the joint U.S. House committee investigation launched later in
September 2019 (see below) into Trump and Giuliani’s efforts to pressure
July 25, 2017 – President Trump issues a public call for an investigation of the 2016 Manafort revelations in Ukraine
a reference to what he calls “Ukrainian efforts to sabotage Trump
campaign — `quietly working to boost Clinton.’ So where is the
investigation A.G.,” he writes, referencing then-Attorney General Jeff
Sessions and tagging Fox News host Sean Hannity. The tweet was referenced
in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on possible obstruction of
justice by the U.S. president to block the investigation into Trump
campaign collusion with Russia’s 2016 election interference. It also is
cited in the September 2019 joint U.S. House committee letter (see
below) on the investigation into Trump and Giuliani’s pressure campaign
January 2019 — Giuliani and Lutsenko meet in New York over the space of two days. They discuss “the Ukrainian political situation and the fight against corruption,” Bloomberg News reports,
paraphrasing Lutsenko. “Giuliani asked him about investigations into
the owner of Burisma, Mykola Zlochevsky, as well as whether the U.S.
Ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, was `not loyal to President
Trump,’” the article says.
Mid-February 2019 — Giuliani meets with Lutsenko again in Warsaw, according to the OCCRP/BuzzFeed report.
March 20, 2019 – The Hill’s conservative opinion writer John Solomon publishes an interview with Ukrainian Prosecutor General Lutsenko, who by this point has been widely criticized as ineffective and likely corrupt.
Note: Solomon and Fox News’s Sean Hannity
are among a constellation of conservative media figures who regularly
help spread Trump and Giuliani’s Biden and Manafort theories as well as
other right-wingconspiracytheories, such as Uranium One, which have been debunked and shown to exclude vital information. Solomon was moved to the opinion section at The Hill, and announced Sept. 18, 2019, that he was leaving the publication.
The full video wasn’t available at this publication, but the text
accompanying it says Lutsenko alleged that U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine
Marie Yovanovitch, who took office in August 2016, gave him a “do not
prosecute” list at their first meeting. The State Department says the
claim was “an outright fabrication.” The article says Lutsenko was
examining Ukrainian civil society activists who he suspected were
misusing U.S. aid funding they had received, but he says Yovanovitch
told him the U.S. Embassy is confident the funding was secure.
Lutsenko also reportedly says he would investigate the head of NABU
for the 2016 Manafort disclosure. Ukraine expert Melinda Haring of the
Atlantic Council says Lutsenko is “woefully unqualified (he doesn’t have a law degree), has dragged his feet on
every serious anti-corruption case since being installed, and protected
his friends, including Poroshenko.” She continues, “Sean Hannity made
Solomon the star of his prime-time show that evening. Trump watches
Hannity, reportedly speaks with him multiple times daily, and tweeted the title of Solomon’s story. More than 25,000 retweets later, the Ukrainian collusion narrative went viral.”
March 24, 2019 – Donald Trump Jr. tweets criticism of U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Yovanovitch,
calling her a “joker” and linking to a conservative media outlet’s
article about calls for her ouster. The two incidents are part of a
pattern of conservative attacks against the ambassador. Within less than
two months, Yovanovitch is recalled to Washington.
March 31, 2019 —
First round of Ukraine’s presidential election, which results in runoff
between Zelenskyy and Poroshenko scheduled for April 21.
April 1, 2019 – The Hill newspaper publishes another article online by the same conservative investigative columnist John Solomon that advances the Trump-Giuliani story about Biden.
(See entry on March 20 about Solomon and conspiracy theories.) The
article reports that Shokin had said in written answers to questions
that he had planned an investigation of Burisma before he was fired,
including questioning all executive board members. The article says
Lutsenko, Shokin’s successor, and “a case file” indicate that the
Prosecutor General’s Office had handled three cases related to Burisma,
and that the “most prominent” case was transferred to the National
Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU), which Solomon describes
suggestively as “closely aligned with the U.S. Embassy in Kiev,” even
though it had long been public knowledge that Western supporters of
Ukraine and Ukrainian anti-corruption activists strongly backed the
bureau. The article says NABU closed that case.
April 2019 – Hunter Biden leaves the board of Burisma Holdings, as his father announces his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination.
April 21, 2019 – New Ukrainian President elected on anti-corruption agenda
Volodymyr Zelenskyy is elected president of Ukraine, to succeed Petro Poroshenko. He ran on a “zero tolerance” anti-corruption agenda.
April 21, 2019 – First Trump-Zelenskyy Phone Call
President Trump calls to congratulate him, their first known direct communication. Trump “urged Mr. Zelensky to coordinate with Mr. Giuliani and to pursue investigations of ‘corruption,’” the New York Timesreports (on Sept. 25, 2019).
April 25, 2019 – Joe Biden formally announces campaign for President.
April 25, 2019 – President Trump tells Fox News’s
Sean Hannity that Attorney General Bill Barr is considering allegations
that Ukrainians sought to help Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential
campaign by revealing damaging information about Paul Manafort. “I would
imagine [Barr] would want to see this. … I would certainly defer to the
attorney general, and we’ll see what he says about it,” Trump said. “He
calls ’em straight” (transcript). Fox Newsreports
that “Trump echoed his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, who wrote on
Twitter on Wednesday [April 24]: `Keep your eye on Ukraine.’”
On or about April 29, 2019 — “U.S. officials with direct knowledge of the situation” told the whistleblower that U.S. Ambassador Yovanovitch was being “suddenly recalled” to Washington for “consultations” and “would most likely be removed from her position.” The State Department announced on May 6 that she would be ending her assignment.
They said it was “as planned,” but in fact, her assignment had been
curtailed because of Lutsenko’s allegations. Giuliani told a Ukrainian
journalist in an interview published May 14 that Yovanovitch was
“removed…because she was part of the efforts against the President,” the
Around the same time, the whistleblower
writes that he “learned from a U.S. official that `associates’ of Mr.
Giuliani were trying to make contact with the incoming Zelenskyy team.”
He didn’t know whether the associates were the same two businessmen
(Parnas and Fruman (see entry under “late 2018”) who connected Giuliani
with Shokin and Lutsenko.
May 1, 2019 —
Attorney General William Barr stumbles and appears to try to avoid
answering U.S. Senator Kamala Harris during a Senate Judiciary Committee
hearing when she asks,
“Has the President or anyone at the White House ever asked or suggested
that you open an investigation of anyone?” He finally states in his
answer, “I don’t know.”
May 9, 2019 – Giuliani plans trip to Kyiv as part of pressure campaign
Giuliani tells the New York Times
he plans to travel to Kyiv and meet with President-elect Zelenskyy to
urge him to investigate the Bidens as well as Ukrainians who might have
worked with Hillary Clinton’s campaign to reveal the Manafort
information. “We’re not meddling in an election, we’re meddling in an
investigation, which we have a right to do,” Giuliani tells the
newspaper. “There’s nothing illegal about it,” he said. “Somebody could
say it’s improper.”
The newspaper notes the trip is “part of a months-long effort
by the former New York mayor and a small group of Trump allies working
to build interest in the Ukrainian inquiries. Their motivation is to try
to discredit the special counsel’s investigation; undermine the case
against Paul Manafort, Mr. Trump’s imprisoned former campaign chairman;
and potentially to damage Mr. Biden, the early front-runner for the 2020
Democratic presidential nomination.” The news ignites a firestorm of bipartisan condemnation that Giuliani is improperly seeking the help of a foreign government to benefit Trump’s re-election campaign.
In a later editorial for the Washington Post (on Sept. 21, 2019), former Ukrainian anti-corruption activist and member of Parliament Serhiy Leshchenko writes:
“Giuliani attempted to visit Ukraine in May 2019 with the
express purpose of involving Zelensky [cq] in this process. His aim was
quite clear: He was planning to ask Zelensky to intervene in an
American election on the side of Trump.
I had been helping Zelenksy’s team since January
As a person who has had direct experience of many of these events, I
express my readiness to testify to the U.S. Congress about what has been
happening for the past six months.”
May 9, 2019 – Giuliani, in an interview with Fox News,
raises his theory of Ukrainian collusion with Hillary Clinton’s
campaign in 2016 to smear Trump with Manafort payments allegations.
Giuliani says he received such information “about three or four months ago.” Giuliani also discusses his theory about the Bidens in Ukraine, and he tries to implicate the U.S. Embassy in both.
May 10, 2019 – President Trump says in an interview with Politico,
“Certainly it would be an appropriate thing” for him to ask Attorney
General Barr to open an investigation on Biden. “I have not spoken to
him about it. Would I speak to him about it? I haven’t thought of that,”
he adds. Trump says he sees Biden as the
clear front-runner in the Democratic race and likens it to his own surge
toward the Republican nomination in 2016. He also says he will speak
with Giuliani about the former mayor’s planned trip to Ukraine and that
they hadn’t discussed it “at any great length.”
May 11, 2019 – Giuliani cancels trip to Ukraine
Giuliani tells Fox News
he called off his trip to Ukraine because he believes he would be
“walking into a group of people that are enemies of the president, and
in some cases, enemies of the United States,” a particularly harsh
reference that sounds like it is meant for Ukrainian anti-corruption
reformers who are rejecting his and Trump’s conspiracy theories. The
decision follows bipartisan backlash in the United States over
Giuliani’s seeking foreign support for Trump’s re-election (see May 2
Former Ukrainian member of Parliament Serhiy Leshchenko
and former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine John Herbst say Zelenskyy
actually had declined Giuliani’s request for a meeting, which could
explain Giuliani’s tone of rejection. Herbst commented,
“My understanding is that the president-elect’s party and his group
said that the President-elect [Zelenskyy] sees no reason to have a
meeting about an issue which is so transparently an American domestic
On or about May 14, 2019 —
President Trump instructs Vice President Mike Pence “to cancel his
planned trip to Ukraine to attend President Zelenskyy’s inauguration.
Secretary of Energy Rick Perry led the U.S. delegation instead,” writes
the whistleblower, who cites unnamed “U.S. officials.” “According to
these officials, it was also `made clear’ to them that the President did
not want to meet with Mr. Zelenskyy until he saw how Zelenskyy `chose
to act,’” the whistleblower wrote.
May 14, 2019 – Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Lutsenko tells Bloomberg News that he has “no evidence of wrongdoing” by either of the Bidens
and that neither Hunter Biden nor Burisma were the focus of any current
investigation. He said he planned to give U.S. authorities information
about Burisma board payments, so that the U.S. could check whether
Hunter Biden had paid taxes on his income, though there were no
restrictions in Ukraine on how much a company could pay to its board
May 20-24, 2019 – Zelenskyy is inaugurated as president, taking over from Poroshenko. Shortly
afterwards, the whistleblower writes, “it was publicly reported that
Mr. Giuliani met with two other Ukrainian officials: Ukraine’s Special
Anticorruption Prosecutor, Mr. Nazar Kholodnytskyy, and a former
Ukrainian diplomat named Andriy Telizhenko.” (Public reports of these
meetings included Ukrainian and US media
outlets.) Both, the whistleblower continues, “are allies of Mr.
Lutsenko and made similar allegations” in a series of articles in The Hill. The two businessmen Parnas and Fruman who connected Giuliani with Shokin and Lutsenko (see entry for “late 2018”) reportedly join the meeting with Giuliani and Kholodnytskyy in Paris.
Mid May to early July – According
to the whistleblower’s complaint, in this period, “multiple U.S.
officials told me that the Ukrainian leadership was led to believe that a
meeting or phone call between the President and President Zelenskyy
would depend on whether Zelenskyy showed willingness to ‘play ball’ on
the issues that had been publicly aired by Mr. Lutsenko and Mr.
June 11, 2019 – Zelenskyy sends a motion to Parliament asking that it dismiss sitting Prosecutor General Lutsenko.
June 13, 2019 –– President Trump says he would accept dirt on his political rivals from a foreign government, a statement noted by the whistleblower, whose complaint references the relevant interview of the president with ABC News’s George Stephanopoulos.
June 21, 2019 — Giuliani tweets,
“New Pres of Ukraine still silent on investigation of Ukrainian
interference in 2016 election and alleged Biden bribery of Pres
Poroshenko. Time for leadership and investigate both if you want to
purge how Ukraine was abused by Hillary and Obama people.”
Early to mid-July – Trump orders suspension and review of U.S. aid to Ukraine
President Trump tells his acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, to hold back almost $400 million in aid to Ukraine at least a week before his phone call with Ukraine’s President Zelenskyy, the Washington Postreports. The decision was communicated by OMB to State and Defense department officials on July 18. The Post includes details of internal processes, including that “besides Bolton, several other administration officials said they did not know why the aid was being canceled or why a meeting was not being scheduled.”
About July 19, 2019 — Andriy Yermak, a top aide to Zelenskyy, reportedly
requests assistance from the State Department’s special representative
for Ukraine negotiations, Kurt Volker, to be put in touch with Giuliani.
On July 19, Volker sends a text message to Giuliani saying, “Mr.
Mayor—really enjoyed breakfast this morning. As discussed, connecting
you here with Andrey Yermak, who is very close to President Zelensky.”
Yermak speaks with Giuliani
for the first time by phone. They discuss the Trump-Giuliani demands
for investigations and the new Ukrainian leader’s desire for a White
House meeting to affirm continued U.S. support for Ukraine. “Mr.
Giuliani in television appearances over the summer had repeatedly
singled out Ukraine over corruption, putting pressure on Mr. Zelensky’s
new administration. Yermak called Mr. Giuliani to ask him to tone it
down, according to a person familiar with the call. Mr. Giuliani in
response suggested that Ukraine investigate Hunter Biden’s relationship
with Burisma,” the Wall Street Journalreports (on Sept. 26).
July 23-26, 2019 —
“During interagency meetings on 23 July and 26 July, OMB officials
again stated explicitly that the instruction to suspend this assistance
had come directly from the President, but they still were unaware of a policy rationale,” the whistleblower wrote.
July 25, 2019 — Trump and Zelenskyy speak by phone for the first time since the call on May 20.
The two presidents have their second conversation. An English-language press release issued by Zelenskyy’s office about the call says:
“Donald Trump is convinced that the new Ukrainian government will be able to quickly improve [the] image of Ukraine, complete investigation of corruption cases, which inhibited the interaction between Ukraine and the USA. He also confirmed continued support of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine by the United States and the readiness of the American side to fully contribute to the implementation of a Large-Scale Reform Program in our country.”
The two presidents “agreed to substantively discuss practical issues
of Ukrainian-American cooperation during the visit of the Ukrainian head
of state to the United States,” the release continued.
Zelenskyy had been hoping for a warm reception from the U.S.
president and a White House meeting as an important signal to affirm
continued American support for Ukraine’s war against Russian forces
controlling the country’s east and for comprehensive reform and economic
development efforts. Ukraine advocates in the U.S. also had thought a
White House invitation would be forthcoming any day, but it was never
An intelligence community whistleblower complaint revealed in
September that reportedly involves the Trump-Zelenskyy July 25 call
prompts a flurry of revelations about the conversation until the
declassification of a transcript of the call.
Before the release of the transcript, Trump admits he discussed Biden
on the call (see Sept. 22 below) and says U.S. funding for Ukraine is
at stake (see Sept. 22-23 below).
July 26, 2019 — U.S. Special Representative for Ukraine Negotiations Kurt Volker meets with Zelenskyy in Kyiv.
was accompanied by U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon
Sondland. The two advised the Ukrainian leader on “how to `navigate’ the
demands that the President had made of Mr. Zelenskyy,” according to the
July 28, 2019 – Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats submits his resignation, effective Aug. 15.
One of President Trump’s longest-serving Cabinet members, Coats also
stirred his boss’s ire at times with his policy disagreements and
lukewarm endorsements of the President’s positions.
July 31, 2019 – Giuliani meets
in New York with Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko, who is in a power
struggle with Zelenskyy over a second title he holds as head of the
city’s administration. Giuliani and Klitschko have known each other for years
– the former Ukrainian boxing champion hired the former New York mayor
as a consultant on his Kyiv mayoral campaign in 2008. On Sept. 4,
Zelenskyy stripped Klitschko of the head of administration post, apparently in a move to restore checks-and-balances in the capital.
On or about Aug. 2, 2019 – Giuliani meets in Madrid with Andriy Yermak, a top aide to Zelenskyy.
Having been rebuffed in June for a meeting in Kyiv with Zelenskyy
personally, Giuliani flies to Madrid to press the new Ukrainian
president’s aide, Yermak, for an investigation of the Bidens as well as a
probe of the allegation that Ukrainians conspired with Hillary
Clinton’s campaign in 2016 to release damaging information about Paul
Manafort. The Madrid meeting was a
“`direct followup’” to the July 25 Trump-Zelenskyy phone call and
specifically to their discussion of the cases the U.S. president raised
in that conversation, according to the whistleblower’s complaint. From Madrid, Giuliani resurfaces his allegations against the Bidens in a tweet on Aug. 3.
Giuliani has said Yermak seemed open to considering the
investigations, but also pressed for a Trump-Zelenskyy meeting as a sign
of continued U.S. support to Ukraine in its war against Russia and its
economic development and internal reform efforts. “I talked to him about the whole package,” Giuliani told the Washington Post.
The Post reported that “U.S. officials and members of the Trump
administration wanted the meeting [between the two Presidents] to go
ahead, but Trump personally rejected efforts to set it up, according to
three people familiar with the discussions.”
Aug. 12, 2019 – A whistleblower files a complaint to Intelligence Community Inspector General (ICIG) Michael Atkinson related to an alleged “urgent concern” that
news reports later reveal likely centers on activities involving
President Trump and Ukraine. The ICIG determines the complaint meets the
definition of an “urgent concern” and is credible, and forwards it on
Aug. 26 to Acting Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Joseph
Maguire, who under the law was required to transmit the complaint to the
congressional intelligence committees within seven days. The Justice Department,
however, takes the position that the statute does not apply on the
ground that the complaint does not involve “an intelligence activity
within the responsibility and authority of the Director of National
Intelligence.” The complaint remains under wraps until House
Intelligence Committee Chairman reveals its existence on Sept. 13 (see
Aug. 15, 2019 – DNI Coats leaves office. Principal Deputy Director Sue Gordon resigns too, after it became clear that Trump would not select her to succeed Coats.
Aug. 26, 2019 – The Inspector General forwards the intelligence community whistleblower complaint to Acting DNI Maguire.
Aug. 28, 2019 – Then-U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton becomes the first high-level Trump administration official to visit Kyiv since President Zelenskyy’s inauguration. Bolton says the two discussed a possible meeting between the two presidents during a trip Trump planned at the time to Poland.
Aug. 28, 2019 – Politico breaks the news
that President Trump was delaying the distribution of $250 million of
fiscal 2019 security assistance that Ukraine needs to fight its war with
Russia on its eastern flank, by asking his administration to
review how it was being spent. The hold on the aid package at the same
time as Trump and Giuliani were agitating publicly for Ukraine to
investigate Biden raises the specter that the U.S. president was using
congressionally appropriated taxpayer dollars as leverage to coerce a
foreign government to investigate his potential rival in the 2020
election. The hold also constitutes a reversal of the Trump
administration’s stance toward Ukraine, after having approved lethal
defensive weapons sales in 2017, a move the Obama administration had
resisted. It is unclear exactly when the review was ordered, but the
suspension pending review was in place during the July 25 call. The
Department of Defense determined that the support should continue and
informed the White House of its recommendation, according to Politico and CNN.
National Security Adviser John Bolton also wanted to release the funds
to help Ukraine curtail Russian aggression, the Washington Post reports.
Aug. 29, 2019 – Zelenskyy appoints
lawyer and former Deputy Minister of Justice Ruslan Riaboshapka as the
new prosecutor general, replacing Yuriy Lutsenko, who steps down the
Sept. 2019 – The Wall Street Journalreports,
“Ukrainian officials earlier this month expressed concern to U.S.
senators that the aid had been held up as a penalty for resisting that
Sept. 2, 2019 – Vice President Mike Pence, a day after meeting with the new Ukrainian president, doesn’t directly answer a reporter’s question
about whether he can assure Ukrainians that the delay in $250 million
of U.S. security assistance for Ukraine is unrelated to President
Trump’s and Rudy Giuliani’s pressure on Ukraine to investigate the
Sept. 5, 2019 — New Prosecutor General Ruslan Riaboshapka brings Vitaliy Kasko back to the office as First Deputy Prosecutor General, a move that promises to help restore integrity to the office. Kasko is the former deputy of Shokin’s who had quit out of frustration.
Sept. 9, 2019 Inspector General for the Intelligence
Community Michael Atkinson informs House Intelligence Committee Chair
Adam Schiff and Ranking Member Devin Nunes of the whistleblower
complaint’s existence (full text of the Inspector General’s letter)
Sept. 9, 2019 – Three U.S. House committees launch probe into Trump and Giuliani pressure campaign
The House Foreign Affairs, Intelligence and Oversight and Reform
committees announce a joint investigation of Trump and Giuliani’s
alleged efforts to strongarm Ukraine into pursuing two investigations
for the president’s political gain, including by threatening to withhold
$250 million in security assistance. The joint press release says public records show the efforts have continued “for nearlytwo years” and were conducted “under the guise of anti-corruption activity.”
Sept. 11, 2019 – Trump releases the hold on U.S. security assistance to Ukraine
State Department notifies
Congress that it will provide Ukraine with $141.5 million of military
equipment and other assistance under its “Foreign Military Financing”
program that is available for a number of countries. The news emerges
the next day, Sept. 12, at the same time that U.S. Senator Lindsey
Graham says the administration has released its hold on the separate
$250 million of military assistance for Ukraine from the Defense
Department under a program known as the Ukraine Security Assistance
Initiative. President Trump gave permission
to the OMB’s acting director, Russell Vought, to release the funds. The
timing of the news on both aid packages leads to speculation that the
Trump administration was topping up its bribe/extortion of Ukraine, but
the Foreign Military Financing likely had been in the works for months, possibly a year.
Sept. 13, 2019 – Intelligence community whistleblower complaint revealed
House Intelligence Committee Chair Schiff announces
that he has issued a subpoena to Acting DNI Maguire to obtain a
complaint from a whistleblower filed under the Intelligence Community
Whistleblower Protection Act (ICWPA) that, under the law,
should have been provided to the congressional intelligence committees.
Schiff says he is concerned the complaint is being withheld “to cover
up serious misconduct” and “to protect the President or other
Sept. 17, 2019 – The Inspector General for the Intelligence Community sends letter
to House Intelligence Chairman Schiff and Ranking Member Nunes
outlining his disagreement with the administration’s decision to
withhold the whistleblower’s complaint from the congressional
intelligence committees. The Inspector General’s letter states, “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.”
Sept. 18, 2019 – Vice President Pence speaks with
Ukrainian President Zelenskyy by phone, discussing a scheduled meeting
between the two presidents during the United Nations General Assembly
meetings in New York the following week. Pence “commended President
Zelenskyy’s administration for its bold action to tackle corruption
through legislative reforms, and offered full U.S. support for those
efforts,” according to a U.S. Embassy statement.
Sept. 20, 2019 – A senior advisor to Ukraine’s
Interior Minister challenges Trump to make official U.S. government
request if he wants an investigation of Biden. The adviser, Anton
Geraschenko, told The Daily Beast
that “currently there is no open investigation.” He adds, “Clearly,
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
Sept. 22, 2019 – After days of insisting there was nothing inappropriate about his telephone call with Zelenskyy, President Trump acknowledges
discussing Joe Biden with the Ukrainian leader during their July 25
phone call. “The conversation I had was largely congratulatory, with
largely corruption, all of the corruption taking place and 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,” Mr. Trump told reporters.
Sept. 22 and 23, 2019 – Trump himself connects phone call on Biden to US aid to Ukraine
President Trump, in two sets of remarks to reporters asking about his July 25 phone call with Zelenskyy, appears to confirm a connection between U.S. financial assistance for Ukraine and his pressure for the country’s leaders to pursue the investigations he wants.
On Sept. 22 Trump says, “Certainly I’d have every right to [raise
Biden with the Ukrainian President] if there’s corruption and we are
paying lots of money to a country.”
Trump has repeatedly referred to what he falsely claims the Bidens to
have done as “corruption.” “It’s very important to talk about
corruption,” Trump tells the
reporters on Sept. 23. “If you don’t talk about corruption, why would
you give money to a country that you think is corrupt?…It’s very
important that on occasion you speak to somebody about corruption.”
Sept. 23, 2019 – The chairmen of the three House
committees conducting the joint investigation into Trump and Giuliani’s
efforts to pressure the Ukrainian government write Secretary of State Pompeo demanding he turn over the documents the committees had requested on Sept. 9. The letter
characterizes Trump’s actions as “seeking to enlist a foreign actor to
interfere with an American election,” and says, “if press reports are
accurate, such corrupt use of presidential power for the President’s
personal political interest – and not for the national interest – is a
betrayal of the President’s oath of office and cannot go unchecked.” The
chairmen note the earlier deadline of Sept. 16 to produce the material
had passed and give a new deadline of Sept. 26 to notify the committees
whether the State Department intends to comply.
Sept. 25, 2019 – Trump and Zelenskyy are scheduled to meet for the first time
The two presidents are scheduled to meet on the sidelines of the
opening sessions of the United Nations General Assembly in New York. The
meeting between the presidents has been delayed since
the Ukrainians began requesting it in early summer, and still doesn’t
equate to an invitation for a formal meeting at the White House that
Zelenskyy has sought as an important signal of continued U.S. support
for Ukraine’s war against Russia and its battle against corruption.
SO IN CONCLUSION TO ALL OF THE ABOVE INFORMATION
Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani again went and asked a foreign government to interfere in our elections, knowing this was against the law.
Trump withheld financial, military and security funds and equipment to our ally the Ukraine, that was already approved by Congress. He states it was because of corruption, but we all know better.
Trump then used this to hang over the head of the President of the Ukraine as a tool to get him to conduct an illegal investigation against Joe Biden, his political opponent and to find out who ratted out his criminal conspirator Manafort. This would have been used to his political advantage in smear campaigns to further his chances of getting re-elected.
Trump even admits he made this phone call.
Giuliani has been doing the same in aiding him in furtherance of this.
Attorney General William Barr is a co-conspirator in covering up these crimes and protecting this criminal and treasonous president.
Trump has also threatened the whistleblower and the people who gave the information to the whistleblower, which is intimidation of witnesses, and obstruction of justice.
TREASONOUS ACTS BY TRUMP:
Traitor Trump withheld the funds, approved by Congress for the Ukraine to fight against Putin and Russian invasion and proxy war to hold over the head of the President of the Ukraine as a stick to get him to investigate Biden, Biden Jr and find out who leaked the info about Manafort.
Trump has stalled the release of weapons, ammo, secure communications to the Ukraine.
Trump did all this to hold over the President of the Ukraine to do his bidding in investigating Biden and the Manafort deal.
In doing so? Trump gave aid and comfort to our enemy Putin and Russia. By denying the Ukranians the funds and weapons and ammo and communications they need to fight Russia? He has in fact? Given aid and comfort to our enemy Putin and Russia.
Giving aid and comfort to our enemy? Is called Treason.
The penalty for Treason is death.
Traitor Trump even stated in his threat against the whistleblower and those who gave them the information? Were spies and traitors and he wishes that we could do to traitors what we used to do to them.
Trump is a traitor and I agree, we should do to Traitors what we used to do to them.
Trump and Giuliani should be arrested and prosecuted for Treason against the United States. Their actions sure prove this.
Attorney General William Barr at the very least? Should be impeached. At the most? He should be charged with crimes of this cover up, obstruction of justice and being an accessory to the crime of High Treason against the United States.
Any of Trump’s circle who had a hand in this, or in the cover up? Should be arrested and prosecuted.
ANYONE WHO STANDS UP AND DEFENDS THESE ACTIONS? SHOULD BE PUT IN PRISON BECAUSE THEY BELIEVE THAT TREASON AGAINST THE US? IS ALRIGHT.