Imagine, if you will, President Barack Obama, ready to give a press conference, telling his aides that only people who agree with him completely are to be allowed in. Or, better yet … imagine George W. Bush giving a televised address to the nation after 9/11, but insisting that media companies black out his address […]The 1st Amendment vs Donnie Trump — Filosofa’s Word
How Conservative Activists From Project Veritas Catfished Twitter
By Kashmir Hill
Mo Norai has worked in Silicon Valley for a decade. He’s done stints at Google, Twitter, Facebook, and Apple, but only as a contract worker, meaning he has missed out on the tech giants’ storied perks, benefits and job security. So when he was approached last April by a recruiter from a company called Tech Jobs Box about a full-time job, he was intrigued.
A woman named Kelly Dale contacted him via LinkedIn promising that “salary and benefits would be competitive.”
“It really hooked me,” Norai told me last month.
After a brief phone conversation, Dale said he seemed like a great candidate and set up in-person interviews with her colleague and an investor in the company. Those went well and for four months last year, Norai thought he had a new job. He was in regular communication with his new colleagues, meeting up with them for dinner, drinks, and a baseball game, but they kept pushing his start date back, saying they were securing office space and finalising funding.
But in fact, there was no job. Tech Jobs Box wasn’t a real company. Kelly Dale and the rest of his new “colleagues” were actually operatives for Project Veritas, a conservative investigative group founded by James O’Keefe that specialises in secretly recording people. It’s perhaps best known for catalyzing the downfall of ACORN, a low-income advocacy group that lost its federal funding after Project Veritas released undercover videos of the group’s employees counseling a sex worker and her “pimp” (a disguised O’Keefe).
Project Veritas traditionally targets politicians, government agencies, and media organisations, but decided to go after Silicon Valley last year because of its perceived biases against conservatives. “Big tech companies like Google, Facebook and Twitter have become media monopolies and they are censoring people,” said O’Keefe by phone.
In January, Project Veritas released three videos about Twitter’s content-moderation practices that feature hidden camera footage of nine current and former Twitter employees – one woman and eight men, including Norai. They even secretly filmed Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey by having an operative pose as a homeless person and confront him at a Blue Bottle coffee shop.
The videos don’t contain blockbuster information. The employees reveal that there aren’t a lot of conservatives at Twitter; that Twitter tries to make spammy content less visible on the platform; that many of the sock puppet Twitter accounts banned in the last year posed as Trump supporters; and that Twitter would cooperate, as required by law, in any investigation of President Trump by handing over his private Twitter messages. The most surprising part was a former engineer’s claim that Twitter historically “shadow banned” users. (A “shadow ban” means that a user’s content on a platform can’t be seen and the user doesn’t realise it.)
“The individuals depicted in these videos were speaking in a personal capacity and do not represent or speak for Twitter,” said a Twitter spokesperson by email, pointing me to a page that explains how and why Twitter accounts are censored or made less visible. “Twitter does not shadowban accounts. We do take actions to downrank accounts that are abusive, and mark them accordingly so people can still click through and see this information if they so choose.”
While Project Veritas’s findings weren’t particularly shocking, how they were obtained was. Project Veritas didn’t just fake-recruit its targets, it fake-seduced them. Many of the male employees were secretly recorded while on dates at dimly-lit restaurants, sipping wine. Based on the number of times he appears in the videos in different locations and dress, one security engineer, Clay Haynes, appears to have been enamoured enough with the operative pumping him for information to go out with her at least three times. All of the Veritas operatives’ faces are blurred, but you can see his date’s jangly bracelets and long blond hair. It’s unclear just how far the seduction of Haynes went, but they became serious enough to go on a double date to Morton’s Steakhouse with her friend, a disguised James O’Keefe.
“NO ONE should have to experience this,” said Haynes via Facebook message. Haynes, who is still employed by Twitter, ultimately opted not to talk to me at the company’s request.
Beyond the questionable journalistic ethics of exploiting people’s desires for work and love, Project Veritas’s tactics broke the law, says John Nockleby, a professor who specialises in privacy at Loyola Law School-Los Angeles. While consent laws for recording conversations vary from state to state, California is a two-party consent state, meaning you have to tell someone if you’re recording them, or face up to a year of jail time and a $US2,500 ($3,240) fine. “You’re allowed to do video in a public place without getting consent, but not take audio, unless it’s someone like a politician giving a speech to a crowd,” Nockleby told me by phone. “In California, even in a public place, if you’re audio recording without consent, that’s not legal.” In California, even in a public place, if you’re audio recording without consent, that’s not legal.
O’Keefe, who paid a $US100,000 ($129,600) settlement in 2012 to an ACORN employee who sued him over California’s law against surreptitious recording, expressed the belief that his operatives are allowed to record people in public places, like bars, restaurants or a conference room where a door is open.
“We have a number of lawyers who handle compliance for us. California is a two-party state but we can operate in areas where there are no expectations of privacy,” said O’Keefe by phone. “With the Twitter story, we did not break the law. Period.”
In a follow-up email, a Project Veritas spokesperson pointed to an exception in the law for circumstances in “which the parties to the communication may reasonably expect that the communication may be overheard or recorded.”(Norai says the door to the conference room where his interviews took place was closed.)
The story Silicon Valley likes to tell about itself is that it conquered the world by making it more open and connected, and by getting strangers to trust each other. Project Veritas exploited that ecosystem of connection and trust to wage its year-long investigation, turning the tools that Silicon Valley created against it. In a phone interview, O’Keefe declined to reveal how many undercover journalists were involved or how much it spent on the operation, saying only that it “was very expensive” because travel and lodging in San Francisco “was outrageous.” (Project Veritas doesn’t seem to be having money problems; its budget has nearly doubled every year, according to financial filings. O’Keefe says it raised more than $US7 ($9) million in 2017.) He said he couldn’t talk about his group’s methods because the investigation of tech companies is ongoing. Google and Facebook employees should beware. The investigation of tech companies is ongoing. “We still have active investigators out in the field,” said O’Keefe.
“We still have active investigators out in the field, which is why I can’t reveal the techniques used to gather information,” he told me. “I wish these companies would be honest about what they are doing. Unfortunately, we live in a society where there is so much dishonesty that it requires undercover work.”
In other words, deceit requires more deceit. I was able to unearth some of the group’s methods of deception: It sent targets messages on LinkedIn and dating apps, built false identities on social networks, and operated a fake start-up out of a WeWork blocks from Twitter’s headquarters.
The larger revelation of the project is not that Twitter is biased against conservatives; it’s that Silicon Valley has given strangers who bear you ill will all the tools they need to infiltrate your life. Our identities are scattered across the web on multiple platforms, giving people countless ways to make contact with us as well as dossiers of what we do, whom we like, and where we go.
The Twitter targets, who had been secretly recorded at parties, in bars, on first dates, and during job interviews, only found out about the deception on January 11, when the first Project Veritas video, titled “UNDERCOVER VIDEO: Twitter Engineers To ‘Ban a Way of Talking’ Through ‘Shadow Banning,’ Algorithms to Censor Opposing Political Opinions” went live.
“You’re on the national news talking about Twitter,” a friend told Mo Norai via Facebook message after the first video was published. Norai had no idea what she was talking about at first. “You know I don’t work at Twitter anymore, right?” he sent back.
Then he went to Project Veritas’s site and watched the video. “Oh fuck, this is bad,” he thought.
In the videos, Norai is dressed formally, wearing a tie and a black suit vest, his long hair pulled back in a ponytail. Norai’s experience at tech companies is in content moderation — deciding, essentially, what speech needs to be taken down. He’s removed spam from iTunes and reviewed posts as a contractor for Facebook. He was hired as a contract worker at Twitter after the Paris attacks in November 2015 because terrorism results in increased offensive postings on social networks. “We were warned it was going to be grisly,” Norai told me.
He was there for just three months, and was gone by March 2016, months before Trump became the Republican presidential nominee. Having “Content Review Agent” for Twitter on his LinkedIn résumé, though, made him a target of Project Veritas. Vaporware,a successful strategy for many a start-up in Silicon Valley, also works well for deceptive investigative operations.
Norai had two interviews with the fake start-up, which was allegedly going to make content recommendations to people based on their location and buying patterns. He says he typed the company’s name into a search engine and didn’t find anything. (Vaporware, a successful strategy for many a start-up in Silicon Valley, also works well for deceptive investigative operations.) “It seemed weird but I met the people,” Norai told me. “They said they wanted to start a start-up. It made sense it wasn’t in existence yet.”
Both his interviews were in May. Kelly Dale, the supposed recruiter, said the office was in downtown San Francisco and gave Norai an address on Mission Street. When Norai got there, it turned out to be a WeWork co-working space, which, again, is not that strange. Lots of early-stage start-ups are based out of WeWorks around the country, because they offer easy plug-and-play office space. The WeWork-Civic Center that Project Veritas used rents office space for as little as $US780 ($1,011) per month.
I went to the WeWork last month – it’s a seven-minute walk from Twitter’s headquarters, in a stylish building on an otherwise seedy street in San Francisco’s Tenderloin district – and asked for Tech Jobs Box. The receptionist recognised the name, but said they weren’t there anymore. She wouldn’t say how long they were there or how many people came in to meet with them. WeWork declined to answer any questions about the fake company that rented space from it.
Norai’s interviews were with a doughy-faced guy who introduced himself as Eric Williams. A grey-haired “investor” named Dan, who Norai later discovered was Dan Sandini, a known operative of Veritas, came to the second interview, the one posted online. Dan and Eric said they lived on the East Coast but wanted to recruit talent in the Bay Area.
Norai thought the interview questions were odd. They asked him theoretical questions about how he might have dealt with tweets from aggressive Trump supporters.
“The political questions were strange but I just thought it was because they weren’t from here,” said Norai, a life-long Californian who grew up in the East Bay.
Norai hadn’t worked at Twitter during the bulk of the 2016 campaign, nor had he dealt with Trump-related content moderation. But his theoretical comments were presented as if from experience. Project Veritas’s habit of presenting comments out of context is part of why people question the credibility of their videos. James O’Keefe says Project Veritas recently formulated a code of ethics that includes “not breaking the law” and not deceptively editing videos or “putting words in people’s mouths.”
After Norai’s interview ended, Eric and Dan took him out for celebratory cocktails at two swanky San Francisco bars, Local Edition and the View. They said Norai was hired. At the View, Norai took out his phone to Snapchat the moment. Dan protested and asked Norai not to put it online. “I just thought he didn’t want to look silly because I gave him cat ears,” said Norai. ”Current or prior Facebook or Twitter experience preferred.”
When Eric came back to town in June, he invited Norai to a Giants game with two other men, who said they were Department of Justice lawyers. The four men sat behind home plate, and Eric asked for Norai’s help in recruiting other people for the start-up. Afterwards he sent him job descriptions for two positions: “software engineer, machine learning” and “spam operations.” “Current or prior Facebook or Twitter experience preferred,” the listings read, suggesting Facebook may get the Veritas treatment next. Norai put Eric in touch with two friends who had experience at Twitter and Facebook, respectively.
The night ended at bars again. After drinks at the Starlight Room, Norai got on the train home to the East Bay. “It felt like we’d established a friendship,” said Norai.
He never saw any of them again. At some point, Norai tried to email Kelly Dale and it bounced. Eric told him she’d gotten married and had a new email address, which made little sense given that her email was “email@example.com.” A few months later, Eric’s number stopped working. Dan told him Eric had been let go. Still jobless months later, Norai began to wonder if it had been some kind of scam. He decided to take a contract work position at Facebook last September.
When the Project Veritas video came out in January, he found out exactly what kind of scam it was. The videos didn’t include the two friends he put Eric in touch with.
“I hope it’s over. I really hope it’s over,” Norai told me.
In January, an investigator from Twitter reached out to him to ask if he had known he’d been filmed and asked whether he’d been contacted on Tinder or other dating apps, as others had been. While Norai says he mostly worries about potential professional damage, he also bears psychological scars from the episode. He says he’s paranoid now about meeting new people, and worries when a phone is out during an interview because it could be secretly recording him. He didn’t feel comfortable with me until I showed him my driver’s licence.
He asked me if I’d ever done anything like this before, which was an uncomfortable question, because I have. A couple years ago, I created a nonexistent business — the Freakin’ Awesome Karaoke Express, or F.A.K.E. — and made it a website as well as accounts on Twitter, Facebook and Yelp, in order to explore the fake reputation economy. I do believe that some stories can only be told well by going “undercover,” and while I hate to admit it, part of me is impressed by all the work that Project Veritas put into its Twitter exposé. Many a journalist knows it can be hard to get people who work at tech companies to talk. But their specific tactics were deplorable and cruel. They didn’t go undercover to find out how an industry actually works; they went undercover to exploit people’s vulnerabilities in the pursuit of information that could have been unearthed with a more traditional journalistic approach.
O’Keefe disagrees with that sentiment. “It’s hard to get [tech companies] to be honest on the record. You call them as a journalist and they say they don’t do it. We got tipped off to shadow banning and set out to confirm it. And we basically confirmed it,” he told me by phone from an Uber. “Sometimes that’s when you’re most honest, when you’re being recorded in private.”
Twitter disputes the honesty of the investigation. “We deplore the deceptive and underhanded tactics by which this footage was obtained and selectively edited to fit a pre-determined narrative,” said a spokesperson by email. “Twitter is committed to enforcing our rules without bias and empowering every voice on our platform, in accordance with the Twitter Rules.”
Since the Twitter investigation was published, Project Veritas hasn’t done much to cover its tracks. Kelly Dale’s LinkedIn profile is still up, with over 200 followers and claims that Dale worked at CUNY and went to Pace. Neither have records of her for obvious reasons: She doesn’t exist. According to Nexis’s people search engine, there are no Kelly Dales who live in Massachusetts. The profile photo looks to me like it belongs to Allison Maass, who did not respond to a media inquiry sent via LinkedIn. Maass left Project Veritas last year to work for Circa, an online media group owned by the media behemoth Sinclair Broadcasting, which famously requires its television stations to air conservative news daily, and is currently trying to expand its footprint by acquiring Tribune Media. Project Veritas and Sinclair Broadcasting have collaborated in the past.
Leaving behind the traces of abandoned identities is pretty common for Project Veritas, said Lauren Windsor, an executive producer at the web show Undercurrent who was working at Democracy Partners when the group of political consultants was infiltrated by Project Veritas in 2016. After Democracy Partners realised it had been duped and secretly filmed by an intern named “Angela Brandt,” who was in fact Allison Maass, Windsor began preserving evidence for a million-dollar lawsuit against the group. She realised it would be useful to publish that evidence – photos and details of faked identities — to help others avoid the same fate. In January, she published an online dossier with the photos and known aliases of over 150 Project Veritas operatives.
When shown a photo of “Eric Williams,” Windsor recognised him from another Project Veritas operation and sent me photos of him filming activist group Voces de la Frontera in Milwaukee in 2016.
Many of Project Veritas’s recent stings haven’t gone very well. Investigations into the Washington Post and the Soros Foundation were spectacular failures. But even if Project Veritas’s methods are crude and “amateurish” as the New Yorker‘s Jane Mayer put it, Windsor warns that it is a force to be reckoned with.
“They have gotten a lot of funding. They have been on a recruitment surge to try to staff up before 2018,” she said by phone. “I think they’re a real threat to media and political organisations, and, most importantly, to candidates.”
O’Keefe echoes that. “We have an untold amount of people inside organisations and they don’t know that,” he told me. “We are going from the smash-and-grab to the long con.” We are going from the smash-and-grab to the long con.
Windsor says the group’s techniques are “inhumane.” “They see themselves as being at war with the Left but the [people they secretly film] are real people despite how much Project Veritas dislikes them politically,” she said. “A lot of people [who are infiltrated and secretly filmed] have described the experience to me like psychological rape. It felt like that to me. They’re destroying lives and it’s really important to expose their political espionage as much as possible.”
Windsor has been training liberal groups how to spot a Veritas operative, mainly by thoroughly researching the online identity of anyone who offers free help or dangles the offer of donor money. If their online footprint is thin, it can be a clue. But there are, of course, legitimate reasons why someone might have a thin online footprint, so it’s not a sureproof solution.
I don’t actually have any sureproof solutions for you. We could ask social media companies to try to protect us from deceivers by authenticating people’s identities – Tinder could require users’ driver licenses; LinkedIn could ask for business records in order to list a new workplace — but that would simply invite a different sort of dystopia. We’re never going to be able to completely eradicate fake bots on Twitter or faked videos or con men on dating sites. Trolls will always find a way.
Maybe just keep in mind that, despite Silicon Valley marketing to the contrary, being in a more open and connected world has downsides. Project Veritas may not be particularly great at spycraft, but with enough manpower and enough online information at its disposal and enough hidden cameras in enough places, it will compromise people and organisations in damaging ways, fairly or unfairly. It’s the real-life manifestation of the faceless algorithms and unknown data brokers that scrape our profiles for information and constantly sit in the backgrounds of our browsers tracking everything that we do. Instead of using it to serve you Instagram ads for shoes, they’re trying to take down your organisation. You will just be a casualty along the way.
Judge in Roger Stone case rebukes Trump-backed conspiracies in impassioned stand for ‘truth’ and the rule of law
By Marshall Cohen
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.
And before the end of the day, Trump teased the eventual possibility of pardoning Stone, his longtime friend and political booster.
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.
All of the false statements, Jackson noted, were made “not to some secret anti-Trump cabal,” but to the Republican-controlled House Intelligence Committee in 2017.
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.
‘The American people cared. And I care.’ Top lines from Judge Amy Berman Jackson during the Roger Stone sentencing
By Dan Berman CNN
Washington (CNN)Judge Amy Berman Jackson, as she sentenced Roger Stone to 40 months in prison, gave a lengthy speech extolling truth and the rule of law to a rapt courtroom on Thursday.Jackson appeared to criticize President Donald Trump and others promoting conspiracy theories about the Russia probe. And she decried what she saw as efforts to undercut truth and democracy.Here are some of Jackson’s key lines, as recorded in a court transcript:
On the truth and the foundation to democracy
“At trial, the defense appropriately questioned Randy Credico’s credibility and Rick Gates‘s credibility, but it was largely Stone’s own emails and his own texts that proved the allegations beyond a reasonable doubt. So what did the defense say to the jury on his behalf? So what? So what?”Of all the circumstances in this case, that may be the most pernicious. The truth still exists. The truth still matters. Roger Stone’s insistence that it doesn’t, his belligerence, his pride in his own lies are a threat to our most fundamental institutions, to the very foundation of our democracy.””And if it goes unpunished, it will not be a victory for one party or another. Everyone loses because everyone depends on the representatives they elect to make the right decisions on a myriad of issues — many of which are politically charged but many of which aren’t — based on the facts.
“Everyone depends on our elected representatives to protect our elections from foreign interference based on the facts. No one knows where the threat is going to come from next time or whose side they’re going to be on, and for that reason the dismay and disgust at the defendant’s belligerence should transcend party.”The dismay and the disgust at the attempts by others to defend his actions as just business as usual in our polarized climate should transcend party. The dismay and the disgust with any attempts to interfere with the efforts of prosecutors and members of the judiciary to fulfill their duty should transcend party.”Sure, the defense is free to say: So what? Who cares? But, I’ll say this: Congress cared. The United States Department of Justice and the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia that prosecuted the case and is still prosecuting the case cared. The jurors who served with integrity under difficult circumstances cared. The American people cared. And I care.”
On the need for an independent judiciary
“This case also exemplifies why it is that this system, for good reason, demands that the responsibility falls to someone neutral. “Someone whose job may involve issuing opinions in favor of and against the same administration in the same week, and not someone who has a longstanding friendship with the defendant. Not someone whose political career was aided by the defendant. And surely not someone who has personal involvement in the events underlying the case. The court cannot be influenced by those comments. They were entirely inappropriate, but I will not hold them against the defendant either. “It would be equally improper to be buffeted by the winds blowing from the left, the enthusiastic callers who object to what the defendant stands for. I cannot and will not sentence him for the behavior of those he supports. Sentencing is personal, and it’s based on the evidence.”
On the responsibility of sentencing
“The only people who think this is easy are the ones who don’t have to make the decision. Many people weighed in, formally through letters, informally by calling chambers, pontificating on cable TV, and in blogs, op-eds, and tweets.”
On Stone covering up for Trump
“I have received letters urging me not to silence an important voice in the public arena, but that will not be an element of this sentence in any way. I expect he will keep talking. And as you’ve just heard when I went through the elements of the offense, he was not convicted and is not being sentenced for exercising his First Amendment rights, his support of the President’s campaign or his policies. “He was not prosecuted, as some have complained, for standing up for the President. He was prosecuted for covering up for the President.”
I very much admire everthing that Judge Amy Berman Jackson said in her sentencing of Roger Stone. She absolutely destroyed Stone, Trump and called out both parties. But of course? Traitor Trump did not care about any of this and continued his psychotic tirade on Twitter and at his Klan Rally.
We are in serious trouble with this bozo in the White House. We have to do everything we can to soundly defeat this ass-clown. We all know Russia is gonna go psycho on social media like Fascistbook, whose CEO’s Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandburg have proven they don’t give a flying fuck about honesty and truth on their platform, they are going to allow all the same shit to happen that got Traitor Trump such a fan base of liars and con-artists and scumbags. All Fuckerberg and Sandburg give a shit about is the bottom line of profits, not the truth and they have proven firmly in Traitor Trump’s side. Jack Dorsey of Twittler is allowing that piece of shit to use his platform to spread his lies and bullshit as he too rakes in the billions and goes to live on some isolated place away from all the trouble when the shit does finally hits the fan.
So we all gotta do what we all gotta do. Legally until it comes down to when the Mental Midget Moron Trumpanzees who have been spewing their white supremacist racist bullshit since a real President, Barack Obama was in the White House how they are going to drop their micro nuts and pop off and start their Civil War.
Yeah, it would suck if the mental midget morons did, a whole lot of innocent people have been hurt and even murdered by these psychopaths of Traitor Trump, and a lot more probably will be harmed before these violent, generational inbred, farm animal fucking, deluxe outhouse dwelling, sister and momma marrying shitstains on the underwear of humanity Trumpanzees learn another lesson of loss like their ancestral losers learned in the first Civil War and in WWI and WWII and don’t make a mistake, if they finally drop their micro nuts and pop off? There is going to be a whole lot of problems for us. But I also believe our greatest asset, the US Military and our Federal Law Enforcement are on it and it sure sounds like they are with all the Reich-Wing psychopaths they been rounding up for their crimes of hate, bigotry, misogyny, and pure fucking evil.
But we got to get off our asses. I love ya Bernie, but we need fresh blood and your influence does not go as far as others really. I loved ya when I lived in Burlington Vt when you were mayor. You proved you were a man of your word, though you got a few skeletons in your closet that will prove your own hypocrisy? I think Bernie Bros should sthu and stop their vile bullshit and bullying of others. What the fuck, you idiots act like the Trumpsters and you bring bad shit on Bernie himself. So why don’t you morons grow the fuck up and stop acting like the same mental midget moron Trumpanzees we are fighting? Unless you love being thought of as wasteless assholes???
For me? I am looking more for Mayor Pete, now that would piss off the Righteous Hypocrites ChristoTaliban wouldn’t it? And Traitor Trump and his minions. And I love Mayor Petes policies too and he has a damn good chance to defeat Traitor Trump. I also loved Tulsi Gabbard, both these people, Tulsi and Pete are the kind of leaders we need for our country, especially seeing they actually served in our military honorably and with sacrifice.
Biden is a fool, Bloomberg thinks he can beat Traitor Trump but he is another version of Trump with his misogyny and racism and bullshit and because he is a billionaire, another of those rich fucks who do not care about you or I.
So hold onto your hats ladies and germs, prepare for the occasion if these mental midget moron Trumpsters finally drop their micro nuts and pop off, especially if Traitor Trump does lose re-election, HUGELY!!!!
Trump says he’s the nation’s top cop, a debatable claim
By Mark Sherman
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.
Since the Senate impeachment trial ended with his acquittal, Trump has urged leniency for convicted confidant Roger Stone, pushed impeachment witnesses out of their jobs, verbally attacked a federal judge and complained that a juror who voted to convict Stone was biased.
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.
But Trump said there would have been nothing wrong if he had stepped in. “I’m allowed to be totally involved. I’m actually, I guess, the chief law enforcement officer of the country. But I’ve chosen not to be involved,” he told reporters on Tuesday.
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.
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.
Laurence H. Tribe is a professor of constitutional law at Harvard Law School and co-author of “To End A Presidency: The Power of Impeachment.” Follow him on Twitter: @tribelaw
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.
Lets first look how the law is written before I post from the above story.
11 CFR § 110.20 – Prohibition on contributions, donations, expenditures, independent expenditures, and disbursements by foreign nationals (52 U.S.C. 30121, 36 U.S.C. 510).
§ 110.20 Prohibition on contributions, donations, expenditures, independent expenditures, and disbursements by foreign nationals (52 U.S.C. 30121, 36 U.S.C. 510).
(a)Definitions. For purposes of this section, the following definitions apply:
(1)Disbursement has the same meaning as in 11 CFR 300.2(d).
(2)Donation has the same meaning as in 11 CFR 300.2(e).
(3)Foreign national means –
(i) A foreign principal, as defined in 22 U.S.C. 611(b); or
(ii) An 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,
(iii)Foreign national 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
(iv) The contributor or donor resides abroad.
(6)Solicit has the same meaning as in 11 CFR 300.2(m).
(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 foreign national.
(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.
(2) No 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.
The law 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 Counsel’s investigation)).
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 “value.”
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 “foundational” interest.
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 meetings.
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 reelection campaign.
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 nature.”
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 Clinton.
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.
Mueller’s conclusion that opposition research “could constitute a contribution” under campaign finance law was consistent with my analysis in July 2017, when the Trump Tower story broke and Common Cause filed a complaint with Mueller and the DOJ.
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.
March 2014 – Russian military invasion
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 people.
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 below.)
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 Zlochevskiy:
“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.
Full Text of of Ambassador Pyatt’s speech.
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 terminated.”
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 Times reported 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 Post writes, “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 office.”
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 presented.
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 Ukraine.
July 25, 2017 – President Trump issues a public call for an investigation of the 2016 Manafort revelations in Ukraine
Trump tweets 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 against Ukraine.
Late 2018 — Two Soviet-born Florida businessmen, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, arrange a Skype call between Giuliani and Shokin, according to an investigation by the nonprofit Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) published in BuzzFeed News. The two businessmen also connect Giuliani with then-Prosecutor General Lutsenko. Giuliani invites Lutsenko to his office in New York, a meeting they arrange for January.
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-wing conspiracy theories, 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 Times reports (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 News reports 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 whistleblower wrote.
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 above).
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 political issue.”
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 members.
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. Giuliani.”
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 Post reports. 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 Journal reports (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 scheduled.
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.
Volker 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 whistleblower’s complaint.
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 below).
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 same day.
Sept. 2019 – The Wall Street Journal reports, “Ukrainian officials earlier this month expressed concern to U.S. senators that the aid had been held up as a penalty for resisting that pressure.”
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 Bidens.
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 nearly two 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 Administration officials.”
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 prison.”
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.