Democratic governors, including Andrew Cuomo, are grappling with a coronavirus-related fear: piss off the president and risk losing his support.
As the coronavirus pandemic has deepened, Democratic governors bearing the heaviest burdens are increasingly wary that if they complain too loudly about the federal response they will anger Donald Trump and risk losing critical support during a life-or-death crisis.
The latest evidence of the delicate, sometimes impossible line that these governors have been forced to walk came Tuesday, when the president took swipes at New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo during a televised town-hall-style program on Fox News.
“He had a choice… He refused to order 15,000 ventilators,” Trump said, referencing a recent column by Betsy McCaughey, a hardened Trump supporter and longtime health-care policy crusader on the right. “It says that he didn’t buy the ventilators in 2015 for a pandemic, established death panels and lotteries instead.”
Trump would go on to insist he was not blaming Cuomo. But the magnanimity was short-lived. “It’s a two-way street,” Trump said of having the feds help states with a coronavirus response policy. “They have to treat us well, too.”
Under normal circumstances, such a screed would be cast aside as a classic bit of Trumpian shit-talking and thin-skinness. But these aren’t normal times. And Trump’s comment resonated not only for how callous it seemed but also for how manufactured the evidence was that he was citing.
A source on Gov. Cuomo’s team told The Daily Beast they believed McCaughey was referencing a 2015 New York government health report on ventilator guidelines for her column. The report’s data on ventilator need was based on numbers gathered for the 1918 influenza pandemic. The report’s guidelines went on to say that it was “not possible to accurately calculate the impact of a severe pandemic, including ventilator need” and that it is “likely that the approach used overestimates the number of ventilators that would be needed during a severe pandemic.”
President Trump “obviously didn’t read the document he’s citing—this was a five-year-old advisory task-force report, which never recommended the state procure ventilators—it merely referenced that New York wouldn’t be equipped with enough ventilators for a 1918 flu pandemic,” said Dani Lever, director of communications for Cuomo. “No one is, including Mr. Trump.”
For Trump, it was just the latest in an on-again, off-again relationship that has developed between him and the governor of the state he used to call home. The relationship between the two has changed from week to week, if not day to day, vacillating from gracious words to open hostility, depending on the news cycle. Such work-relationship dysfunction may seem abnormal, especially in the midst of a deadly, economy-tanking pandemic. But for those close to the president, it was standard operating procedure.
“If you’re good and respectful to [Trump], he will treat you the same—it’s that simple,” said one senior White House official. “The president has always said that he fights back when he needs to, and the situation with [Cuomo] is no different. If you keep that in mind, their sort of seesaw relationship during [coronavirus] doesn’t come as a surprise.”
Another person who had spoken to the president earlier this month recounted that one day Trump had mentioned in a meeting how well Cuomo was behaving and handling the crisis, only to, two days later, start bashing the governor in a different private conversation as “nasty.”
A source on the New York governor’s team said that Cuomo has tried to shrug off these temperamental swings over the last two weeks, saying Trump’s mood changes so often that it is hard to keep track. Another individual familiar with the relationship said it’s become expected that the pair will collaborate one day and the president will take a swipe at the governor for not doing enough the next, usually in the hours after the governor’s morning press conference.
Cuomo, the individual close to the governor noted, has praised the White House in addition to criticizing it on occasion. For example, when the administration facilitated the construction of hospitals and sent the Army Corps of Engineers to the state to help, Cuomo was gracious. And in press conferences, he has repeatedly thanked the president and noted that he and Trump speak often about what New York needs to battle the public-health epidemic. At other times, though, Cuomo has blasted the federal government, not necessarily Trump himself, for the delay and lack of much-needed essential medical supplies that health-care workers need to treat coronavirus patients.
That was true on Tuesday, when Cuomo said the state is in need of 30,000 ventilators and was getting insufficient help from the federal government to acquire more. The Trump administration said later that it was in the process of shipping about 4,000 ventilators to New York. But the governor’s office is still desperate for more and has called on the president to implement the Defense Production Act and order private companies to make more for the open market.
That Cuomo has made sharper demands than others is not lost on the White House. Nor is it lost as to why. His state has faced the brunt of the coronavirus crisis. And on Tuesday evening, Deborah Birx, a key member of Trump’s coronavirus task force, said at a White House press briefing that people who’ve left New York City recently should self-quarantine for 14 days. “To everyone who has left New York over the last few days, because of the rate of the number of cases, you may have been exposed before you left New York,” Birx said. “Everybody who was in New York should be self-quarantining for the next 14 days to ensure that the virus doesn’t spread to others.”
Trump, who was at the briefing, declined to say if he’d given Cuomo advance warning about the pronouncement. “We’re talking to them about it,” the president told reporters at the White House.
But while Trump’s attention seems to be focused on parrying with Cuomo, other Democratic governors have felt the pressure to not get on his bad side as well. One of those governors has been Jay Inslee of Washington, whose state preceded New York in having to deal with a massive wave of coronavirus infections and deaths. This month, the president called Inslee a “snake” and even instructed his vice president “not to be complimentary” of him. For weeks, the governor and president did not speak, though Tara Lee, a spokesperson for Inslee, told The Daily Beast that they connected over the weekend for the first time, during which Trump told Inslee that he was not getting a medical boat he had requested but would be “getting field hospitals.”
For Democrats working for governors on the frontlines of the crisis, the lesson taken from that episode and from Cuomo is that there are two administrations to navigate: the one doing the actual crisis response, and the one that is responsive to Trump’s id.
“It is really unclear how many decisions are made by Trump versus the actual team there. Everyone is negotiating the challenge of telling the federal government where they are falling behind versus making sure we meet the needs of our citizens by getting federal help, knowing that you risk it if you anger Trump,” said an aide to a Democratic governor involved in handling the coronavirus spread. “It’s a balance that all governors are dealing with right now. Well, not all governors. Democratic governors.”
As they deal with that balance, Democrats say they can already see potholes ahead. Trump has said in recent days that he wants to “re-open” the economy soon—perhaps by Easter—in hopes of avoiding an economic depression. But there is little the president can do to compel states to end their decrees that people stay in place or that all non-essential businesses close. Should they not bow to Trump’s demands, the fear goes, it will set up a situation in which he may once again use the bully pulpit to, well, bully.
“He’s been trying to kick the blame to the states… and I think this maneuver [to re-open the economy] is the same,” said one Democratic operative who works on gubernatorial campaigns. “It’s him being able to say: ‘Hey, I opened it up, it’s not my decision that your state kept the economy closed. It’s not on me that you lost your job. Blame your governor.’”
On Friday, as coronavirus infections rapidly multiplied aboard a cruise ship marooned off the coast of California, health department officials and Vice President Mike Pence came up with a plan to evacuate thousands of passengers, avoiding the fate of a similar cruise ship, the Diamond Princess, which became a petri dish of coronavirus infections. Quickly removing passengers was the safest outcome, health officials and Pence reasoned.
But President Donald Trump had a different idea: Leave the infected passengers on board — which would help keep the number of U.S. coronavirus cases as low as possible.
“Do I want to bring all those people off? People would like me to do it,” Trump admitted at a press conference at the CDC later on Friday. “I would rather have them stay on, personally.”
“I don’t need to have the numbers double because of one ship that wasn’t our fault,” Trump added, saying that he ultimately empowered Pence to decide whether to evacuate the passengers.
For six weeks behind the scenes, and now increasingly in public, Trump has undermined his administration’s own efforts to fight the coronavirus outbreak — resisting attempts to plan for worst-case scenarios, overturning a public-health plan upon request from political allies and repeating only the warnings that he chose to hear. Members of Congress have grilled top officials like Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Centers for Disease Control Director Robert Redfield over the government’s biggest mistake: failing to secure enough testing to head off a coronavirus outbreak in the United States. But many current and former Trump administration officials say the true management failure was Trump’s.
“It always ladders to the top,” said one person helping advise the administration’s response, who noted that Trump’s aides discouraged Azar from briefing the president about the coronavirus threat back in January. “Trump’s created an atmosphere where the judgment of his staff is that he shouldn’t need to know these things.”
Interviews with 13 current and former officials, as well as individuals close to the White House, painted a picture of a president who rewards those underlings who tell him what he wants to hear while shunning those who deliver bad news. For instance, aides heaped praise on Trump for his efforts to lock down travel from China — appealing to the president’s comfort zone of border security — but failed to convey the importance of doing simultaneous community testing, which could have uncovered a potential U.S. outbreak. Government officials and independent scientists now fear that the coronavirus has been silently spreading in the United States for weeks, as unexplained cases have popped up in more than 25 states.
“It’s a clearly difficult situation when the top wants to hear certain answers,” said one former official who’s briefed the White House. “That can make it difficult for folks to express their true assessment — even the most experienced and independent minds.”
While Trump last week allowed hospitals and labs to start developing their own coronavirus tests, wrongly blaming Obama administration regulations for a delay, the same move could have been made weeks ago had the president and his advisers felt it was necessary, said two officials.
The White House press office declined to comment on the record, referring questions to HHS.
The health department said that Trump had been responsive to the department’s concerns and understood the seriousness of the coronavirus threat from the first day he was briefed.
“The President took early and decisive actions like instituting travel restrictions and utilizing the quarantine authority” to protect Americans from the outbreak, an HHS spokesperson said.
HHS also stressed that Azar and Trump had a good working relationship.
“The Secretary always offers the President his honest assessment, and always insists when briefing the President on public health issues that the relevant experts participate,” the spokesperson said.
Trump-inspired disorganization plagues early response
As the outbreak has grown, Trump has become attached to the daily count of coronavirus cases and how the United States compares to other nations, reiterating that he wants the U.S. numbers kept as low as possible. Health officials have found explicit ways to oblige him by highlighting the most optimistic outcomes in briefings, and their agencies have tamped down on promised transparency. The CDC has stopped detailing how many people in the country have been tested for the virus, and its online dashboard is running well behind the number of U.S. cases tracked by Johns Hopkins and even lags the European Union’s own estimate of U.S. cases.
After senior CDC official Nancy Messonnier correctly warned on Feb. 25 that a U.S. coronavirus outbreak was inevitable, a statement that spooked the stock market and broke from the president’s own message that the situation was under control, Trump himself grew angry and administration officials discussed muzzling Messonnier for the duration of the coronavirus crisis, said two individuals close to the administration. However, Azar defended her role, and Messonnier ultimately was allowed to continue making public appearances, although her tone grew less dire in subsequent briefings.
Trump’s defenders can point to many coronavirus crises that, so far, have been failures of bureaucracy and disorganization. The president didn’t lock out a government scientist from CDC. He didn’t know that officials decided to fly back coronavirus-infected Americans aboard planes with hundreds of others who had tested negative, with Trump bursting in anger when he learned the news.
But Trump has added to that disorganization through his own decisions. Rather than empower a sole leader to fight the outbreak, as President Barack Obama did with Ebola in 2014, he set up a system where at least three different people — Azar, Vice President Mike Pence and coronavirus task force coordinator Debbie Birx — can claim responsibility. Three people who have dealt with the task force said it’s not clear what Birx’s role is, and that coronavirus-related questions sent to her have been rerouted to the vice president’s office.
In response, Pence’s office said it has positioned Birx as the vice president’s “right arm,” advising him on the response, while Azar continues to oversee the health department’s numerous coronavirus operations.
Trump on Friday night also shook up White House operations, replacing acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney with Rep. Mark Meadows, a longtime ally. The long-expected ouster of Mulvaney was welcomed in corners like the health department, given that Mulvaney had been one of Azar’s top critics. But the abrupt staff shuffle in the middle of the coronavirus outbreak injects further uncertainty into the government’s response, said a current official and two former officials. It’s not yet clear what Mulvaney’s departure will mean for his key lieutenants involved in fighting the outbreak, like Domestic Policy Council chief Joe Grogan, for instance.
“Every office has office politics — even the Oval Office,” said one individual. “You’d hope we could wait to work it out until after a public health emergency.”
Health officials compete for Trump’s approval
The pressure to earn Trump’s approval can be a distraction at best and an obsession at worst: Azar, having just survived a bruising clash with a deputy and sensing that his job was on the line, spent part of January making appearances on conservative TV outlets and taking other steps to shore up his anti-abortion bona fides and win approval from the president, even as the global coronavirus outbreak grew stronger.
“We have in President Trump the greatest protector of religious liberty who has ever sat in the Oval Office,” Azar said on Fox News on Jan. 16, hours after working to rally global health leaders to fight the United Nations’ stance on abortion rights. Trump also had lashed out at Azar over bad health-care polling that day.
Around the same time, Azar had concluded that the new coronavirus posed a public health risk and tried to share an urgent message with the president: The potential outbreak could leave tens of thousands of Americans sickened and many dead.
But Trump’s aides mocked and belittled Azar as alarmist, as he warned the president of a major threat to public health and his own economic agenda, said three people briefed on the conversations. Some officials argued that the virus would be no worse than the flu.
Azar, meanwhile, had his own worries: A clash with Medicare chief Seema Verma had weakened his standing in the White House, which in December had considered replacements for both Azar and Verma.
“Because he feels pretty insecure, about the feuds within his department and the desire to please the president, I don’t know if he was in the position to deliver the message that the president didn’t want to hear,” said one former official who’s worked with Azar.
The jockeying for Trump’s favor was part of the cause of Azar’s destructive feud with Verma, as the two tried to box each other out of events touting Trump initiatives. Now, officials including Azar, Verma and other senior leaders are forced to spend time shoring up their positions with the president and his deputies at a moment when they should be focused on a shared goal: stopping a potential pandemic.
“The boss has made it clear, he likes to see his people fight, and he wants the news to be good,” said one adviser to a senior health official involved in the coronavirus response. “This is the world he’s made.”
President swayed by flattery, personal appeals
Trump’s unpredictable demands and attention to public statements — and his own susceptibility to flattery — have created an administration where top officials feel constantly at siege, worried that the next presidential tweet will decide their professional future, and panicked that they need to regularly impress him.
The most obvious practitioner of this strategy is Azar, who became Trump’s second health secretary after the first, Tom Price, failed to bond with Trump and was ousted over a charter-jet scandal. Azar decided early in his tenure to have “zero daylight” with the president, said three individuals close to him, and the health secretary routinely fawns over the president in his TV appearances on Fox News. “No other president has had the guts, the courage to take on these special interests,” Azar told Fox News host Tucker Carlson in December after Trump pushed new price transparency on the health care industry.
Azar’s team also has insisted upon using background photos for his Twitter account that always show him with the president — sometimes silently standing behind Trump while he speaks. Azar is alone among Cabinet members in this practice; secretaries like HUD’s Ben Carson, Transportation’s Elaine Chao and Treasury’s Steven Mnuchin opted for bland Twitter backgrounds that show their headquarters.
“The Secretary respects the President and values their strong relationship,” said an HHS spokesperson, when asked about Azar’s approach to working with Trump and use of Twitter photos.
Other health officials have modeled similar behavior as Azar. Asked by Trump if he wanted to make a “little statement” on Friday, CDC Director Redfield responded by praising the president’s “decisive leadership” and visit to CDC headquarters amid the outbreak. “I think that’s the most important thing I want to say,” Redfield said.
At least one health official has offered a more subtle reminder of her loyalties. Verma wore an Ivanka Trump-brand pendant to some meetings and events with the president, before it was stolen in 2018.
Health officials also have to guard their words and predictions, worried that the president will fixate on the wrong data point or blurt out damaging information in public. Trump on Friday told reporters that he’d initially scrapped a trip to the CDC because of a possible coronavirus case at the agency. The announcement came as a surprise to CDC staff, including those preparing for Trump’s visit, because they hadn’t been briefed on the potential coronavirus case, POLITICO first reported.
I just got off the phone with the President. He told me that his administration will not be sending any victims of the Coronavirus from the Diamond Princess cruise ship to Anniston, Alabama. Thank you, @POTUS, for working with us to ensure the safety of all Alabamians.— Richard Shelby (@SenShelby) February 23, 2020
Meanwhile, Trump’s political allies have tried to circumvent the policy process, causing further headaches for the overwhelmed health department. Alabama Republicans prevailed upon Trump to scrap an HHS contingency plan to potentially quarantine some coronavirus-infected Americans at a facility in their state last month.
“I just got off the phone with the President,” Sen. Richard Shelby tweeted on Feb. 23. “He told me that his administration will not be sending any victims of the Coronavirus from the Diamond Princess cruise ship to Anniston, Alabama.”
But Democrats in a California city facing a similar situation failed to get a similar guarantee, leading them to file a lawsuit that accused the administration of political favoritism.
“California must not have the pull to get taken off the list,” attorney Jennifer Keller, representing Costa Mesa, Calif., reportedly said during a court hearing last month. “Alabama does.” A federal judge later halted plans to transfer coronavirus-stricken patients to a facility in the city.
Meanwhile, the president has allowed feuds to fester and spill into public view. Azar, for instance, has battled with White House officials and Verma for months over policies, personnel and even seats aboard the presidential airplane. Those fights have been reignited amid the coronavirus crisis, when Azar clashed with longtime rivals like Grogan over funding the response and whether enough coronavirus tests were being performed.
They’ve also cast a long shadow over strategy, like Azar’s decision not to push for Verma to be added to the coronavirus task force that he oversaw for nearly a month. Verma instead was added to the task force on March 2, several days after Pence took over leading the effort. While Azar said he asked for Verma to join the task force, and an HHS spokesperson pointed to the secretary’s public statement, two people with knowledge of task force operations said that the White House officials had raised questions about her omission.
Officials call the original decision to exclude Verma from the task force short-sighted at best, given the virus’ potential threat to the elderly patients covered by the Medicare program and residents living in nursing homes that are regulated by Verma’s agency.
With Trump unwilling — or unable — to put a stop to the health department’s fights, they’ve occupied and gripped Washington during relative peacetime. When at war against a potential pandemic, there’s no room for these distractions, officials say.
“If this sort of dysfunction exists as part of the everyday operations — then, yes, during a true crisis the problems are magnified and exacerbated,” said a former Trump HHS official. “And with extremely detrimental consequences.”
For three long years the world has been treated to the sick joke of Donald Trump’s presidency. Some days were more sick than others. But now the joke is over.
So is the entire facade of the Trump White House: the gold-plated veneer of power and grift will be stripped bare by a global pandemic and recession.
Of all the obituaries we’ll read in the next several weeks, every one will be more meaningful than the political end of a former reality-TV star.
But make no mistake. The humanitarian crisis about to unfold will consume what’s left of this president and the Republican party that surrendered its self-respect and sense of duty to flatter his ego and avoid his angry tweets.
Trump was right about one thing, and only one thing, as the coronavirus started to spread across the world. The sight of thousands of dead Americans will hurt him politically. It will also hurt many thousands of Americans in reality.
Multiple reports have detailed how Trump did not just ignore the growing pandemic; he actively sought to block his own officials’ attempts to track and stop it. Why has there been such a disastrous lack of testing? Because the president didn’t want to know the answer, and because his staff were too busy fighting each other to do the right thing.
“The boss has made it clear he likes to see his people fight, and he wants the news to be good,” Politico reported one Trump health adviser saying. “This is the world he’s made.”
Never mind a world turned upside down by fear and death. Trump’s world is upended by his gobsmackingly childish comments about how the whole thing will blow over. “It’s going to disappear,” he told one reception inside the White House just two weeks ago. “One day, it’s like a miracle, it will disappear.”
The only miracle of this presidency is that it’s taken so long for this country to wake up to the catastrophe.
How could we have known that Trump would deny the resources to deal with a disaster, deny the truth about the death toll, and denounce anyone daring to tell the truth?
It wasn’t hard to know. After Hurricane Maria devastated the American island of Puerto Rico in September of his first year in office, Trump gave himself a 10 for his response to the devastation. He also said he couldn’t keep the military in Puerto Rico forever, which was news to the national guard.
At the very time he was bragging about his response and trashing his own citizens, more than 3,000 Americans were dying on the island because of Trump’s botched response to the hurricane. Those Americans were our most vulnerable citizens: the sick and elderly, who lost power, lacked medicine or needed a hospital bed when the hospitals were stricken.
Those are the same Americans who face the greatest peril in the coming weeks from the same toxic mix of callousness and incompetence from the same sociopathic president.
This is everyone’s catastrophe and one man’s calamity. For Trump, there is no escaping the stench of failure that seeps through every unmade decision, every fumbled response, and every unhinged tweet.
This is a president who can’t formulate a coherent coronavirus policy, and can’t even read the words written for him on a prompter.
One paragraph from Wednesday’s disastrous Oval Office address managed to only worsen the political pathogen that is his presidency.
“There will be exemptions for Americans who have undergone appropriate screenings,” he explained about his new travel ban from Europe, ignoring the reality that he limited all testing so there are no appropriate screenings.
“And these prohibitions will not only apply to the tremendous amount of trade and cargo, but various other things as we get approval,” he added, wiping out many billions in transatlantic trade – and various other things – with one flap of his lips.
“Anything coming from Europe to the United States is what we are discussing,” he explained in case anyone had any doubt about his economic stupidity.
“These restrictions will also not apply to the United Kingdom.” Ah yes, the British immunity to coronavirus is a well-documented medical fact. British people who play golf on a Trump course are especially healthy individuals.
If Trump was trying to reassure the markets, he failed, like he always does. Even the Federal Reserve magicking $1.5tn out of thin air could not stop the stock market from suffering its worst single day since the 1987 crash.
“This was the most expensive speech in history,” one investment strategist told the Financial Times.
There is hope amid the horror: an election in just eight months when Americans can vote for a return to the once-normal life of a competent government. Joe Biden’s response on Thursday was a stark reminder of what presidents and vice-presidents used to sound like.
“We’ll lead with science,” the former vice-president said. “We’ll listen to the experts. We’ll heed their advice.” It all sounded so shockingly novel. “We’ll build American leadership and rebuild it to rally the world to meet global threats that we are likely to face again. And I’ll always tell you the truth.”
The truth: it’s getting harder to remember a time when we expected our leaders to say such things.
In the meantime, before January 2021, the world faces two deadly diseases: a pandemic and a pathetically incompetent president.
On Thursday, as schools shut down and troops took to the streets of a New York suburb, Trump of course bragged about himself in ways that made you wonder about his own medical condition.
“I mean, think of it: the United States, because of what I did and what the administration did with China, we have 32 deaths at this point,” he said in the Oval Office. “Thirty-two is a lot. Thirty-two is too many. But when you look at the kind of numbers that you’re seeing coming out of other countries, it’s pretty amazing when you think of it.”
And you know what? Instead of thinking about preparing thousands of new hospital beds, or millions of virus tests, Trump has probably committed the largest part of his brain to thinking about that number. That very tiny number, so small compared to the rest of the world, that represents the full measure of his compassion.
The minute Traitor Donald J Trump withheld the Congressional approved funds and military weapons to the Ukraine, in order to use as a carrot to dangle in front of the President of the Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, to do his bidding and dig up dirt on the Bidens, Burimsa and find out about the bogus claims of Crowd Strike and the DNC server and it being the Ukraine that interfered in his election to the Presidency, not the proven fact it was Russia and Putin and their troll bots who did so? He committed High Treason Against the United States. And ANY Republican who defends and supports the actions of Donald J Trump? Have also committed High Treason Against the United States.
I shall reveal his and the Republicans High Treason Against the United States by posting three news stories and nine video links that back up my assertions and my own comments after posting those stories and videos.
Story One: Impeachment Day 3: Republicans Continue Their Attack on Reason and Reality
Lt. Colonel Alexander Vindman’s testimony was devastating. So GOP lawmakers resorted to spin and conspiracy theories.
By David Corn, Washington DC Bureau Chief, Mother Jones
On Tuesday, the third day of the House impeachment hearings, the Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee were confronted by witnesses, particularly Lt. Colonel Alexander Vindman, a National Security Council official, who presented unambiguous evidence that President Donald Trump used his office to pressure Ukrainian officials to launch investigations to produce dirt on Joe Biden and prove a debunked conspiracy theory that absolved the Russians of hacking the 2016 US election.Vindman and Jennifer Williams, a State Department official assigned to Vice President Mike Pence’s office, each told the committee that Trump, during his July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, pressed the Ukrainian to initiate these two inquiries and that Burisma—the Ukrainian energy company that Hunter Biden, the former vice president’s son, worked for—was referenced by name.(The reconstructed transcript of the call released by the White House, for some not-yet-explained reason, did not mention “Burisma.”) Vindman also testified about a July 10 White House meeting with Ukrainian officials in which Ambassador Gordon Sondland, who was working with the private channel overseen by Rudy Giuliani, piped up and said that before Zelensky could get a much-desired meeting with Trump, the Ukrainians had to “deliver specific investigations.” Other witnesses have told the committee that the release of nearly $400 million in security assistance that Trump put a hold on was also tied to Ukraine pursuing investigations of the Bidens and the conspiracy theory that holds that Ukraine, not Russia, intervened in the US election.
So it’s as clear as the sky is blue: Trump was muscling the Ukrainians to help him influence the 2020 election and to clear Moscow. The quasi-transcript of the July 25 call even shows Trump saying that if Zelensky wants more Javelin anti-tank weapons, he will have to do Trump the “favor” of kicking off these investigations.(And as Vindman said, considering the power disparity between the two men, this was not a polite request that could be turned down—it was a “demand.”)Yet when Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), the pro-Trump bulldog recently placed on the intelligence committee by the GOP leadership, had his chance to ask questions of Vindman and Williams, he seized his moment in the sun to declare the sky is green. Or purple. Or whatever. There is no evidence of “linkage,” he thundered. “The transcript shows no linkage…to an investigation.”
But that’s exactly what the transcript shows. You want Javelins? Then we have this favor for you to do—investigations. This is brazen linkage. And there’s now a mountain of testimony linking a White House meeting and the release of the security assistance to Ukraine opening the political investigations Trump craved. But…still…nevertheless, the Republicans on the committee won’t accept this basic reality.
Instead, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), the top Republican on the committee, Jordan, and their party-mates have forged an alternative reality in which this controversy is no more than a “hoax” concocted by Democrats and the media and that the focus should be not on Trump’s action but on the whistleblower who initiated the Trump-Ukraine scandal and on the involvement of Hunter Biden in Burisma and the fact-free allegation that his dad took action to thwart an investigation of the firm.
In his opening statement, Nunes depicted a wide-ranging conspiracy of Democrats and mainstream media outlets that first cooked up “the Russia hoax” and then, when that scandal did not lead to Trump’s ouster, devised a whole new bogus Ukraine scandal. In this world, Russia’s attack on the 2016 election (which was mounted partly to help Trump win) does not exist. Rather, Ukraine was somehow the true meddler. (Republicans have repeatedly cited the public anti-Trump statements of a few Ukrainian officials who in 2016 were worried about Trump—and justifiably so, after Trump had said that perhaps Russia should be allowed to keep Crimea, the chunk of Ukraine that Vladimir Putin seized in 2014.) The Republicans were hardly slowed by Vindman’s reality-based statement that the Ukraine-meddled accusation “is a Russian narrative that President Putin has promoted.”
Nunes even exclaimed that the Democratic media conspiracy against Trump included “a concerted campaign” of journalistic organizations “smearing” John Solomon, the writer for The Hill who published a series of stories that disseminated unfounded allegations about the Bidens and former ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch. In a bizarre twist, Nunes pointed to the fact that The Hill is now reviewing Solomon’s articles as proof of this sub-conspiracy and an indication this despicable cabal would go to any lengths to prosecute its evil plan.
Nunes declared that what most needed exposing was the whistleblower’s contacts with the media and the Democrats on the committee. He did not explain the relevance of this. But Nunes was suggesting that the whole Ukraine business was manufactured by the Ds and the press—and the whistleblower is the key to uncovering this diabolical plot. The whistleblower’s lawyers have denied on the record that their client has been talking to the media or coordinating with Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), chair of the intelligence committee, or other Democrats.
Nunes also promoted the never-will-die innuendo that Joe Biden pushed for the dismissal of a corrupt Ukrainian prosecutor to protect his son and Burisma. And there were other insinuations hurled by the Republicans. At one point, they dwelled on an anecdote—a Ukrainian official once asked Vindman if he wanted to serve as defense minister for Ukraine, and Vindman dismissed the offer as a joke—to hint that Vindman, who was born in Ukraine when it was part of the Soviet Union, possessed dual loyalties.
The Rs have concocted a dark world in which Trump is an innocent victim. In their view, he was the target of foreign intervention in 2016, not the beneficiary; there was nothing to the Russia investigation. (Don’t mention the convictions of his campaign manager, his national security adviser, his longtime political adviser, and others.) And the Ukraine scandal—based on a suspect whistleblower (disregard all the testimony from known officials)—is merely another front in the unrelenting war the Democrats have been waging against Trump because, as Jordan yelled on Tuesday, “the Democrats have never accepted the will of the American people.”
Toward the end of Vindman’s and Williams’ time before the panel, Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.) asked Vindman to read aloud the last paragraph of the prepared testimony he delivered at the start of the hearing: “Dad, [that] I’m sitting here today in the US Capitol talking to our elected officials is proof that you made the right decision forty years ago to leave the Soviet Union and come here to the United States of America in search of a better life for our family. Do not worry, I will be fine for telling the truth.” Maloney asked why he reported Trump’s phone call to lawyers at the National Security Council. “Because that was my duty,” Vindman replied.
With his testimony, Maloney told Vindman, “You were putting yourself up against the president of the United States.” (Trump and his henchmen have viciously attacked Vindman.) Maloney asked the colonel, “Why did you have confidence you can do that?” Vindman, a recipient of the Purple Heart, answered, “Because, Congressman, this is America. This is the country I have served and defended…And here right matters.” The audience responded with loud applause. The Republicans on the panel looked glum. Moments later, when Nunes had the chance to make a concluding statement, he snorted, “Act One of today’s circus is over.”
Story Two: Impeachment hearings reveal the extent of the damage Trump’s inflicted on our national security
The GOP is trying to use the broken national security system to discredit and undermine the officials who are testifying, rather than fix it.
By Brett Bruen, former director of global engagement in the Obama White House. Brett Bruen was the director of global engagement in the Obama White House and a career American diplomat. He currently runs crisis communications agency the Global Situation Room and teaches crisis management at Georgetown.
We are in real danger. There are certainly many conclusions to be drawn from the recent days of detailed testimony by officials on the National Security Council and at the State Department in the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump. But beyond the political points scored and the possibility of removing a president, there’s an even more unsettling feeling that I can’t shake. These hearings have laid bare just how crippled the staff, systems and structures designed to protect our country really are.
This troubling state of insecurity ought to jolt even the most jaded member of Congress into sitting up straight and starting to think about how to straighten it out really fast. But instead of trying to address the damage to our defenses, Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee, which is conducting the inquiry, opt to exacerbate matters. They are trying to use this broken system to discredit and undermine the witnesses who are testifying to Trump’s bad behavior.
Repeatedly, these members of Congress have asked the public servants testifying— who have information about Trump allegedly pressuring Ukraine into investigating a major political rival, Vice President Joe Biden, and his son in exchange for aid and a White House visit — whether they themselves had ever met the president. The implication they hope will be drawn from their answers that they never once met him is that these individuals lack the stature and direct knowledge to be credible.
Trump himself cast the same aspersion Tuesday, specifically about the top National Security Council expert on Ukraine, Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, who that day provided devastating testimony about the president’s impropriety in a now-infamous July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy. Vindman and other staff had listened in on that call from a separate room.
At the hearing, Ohio Rep. Michael Turner asked Vindman directly: “You’ve never met the president of the United States, right?” And then followed up with, “So you’ve never advised the president of the United States on Ukraine?”
Vindman said he advised him “indirectly,” through preparing calls and
materials for him without having met him, Walked rejoined: “But you’ve
never spoken to the president of the United States and told him advice
on Ukraine?” Vindman conceded, “That is correct.”
The problem with putting down Vindman and other witnesses because they never met Trump is that it shows the president’s gross negligence in handling national security rather than the inadequacy of those testifying on impeachment. The lack of contact and communications between the National Security Council and the Oval Office, especially on critical issues such as Ukraine and ISIS, should set off alarm bells; we are precariously close to a catastrophic crash.
When I was on the National Security Council under President Barack Obama, the staff interacted fairly regularly with the big boss. Depending on the portfolio, someone at Vinman’s level could see him every week.
It was our job, as advisers on the White House
body devoted to gathering information and forming policy on
international and security issues, to brief President Barack Obama
before key calls and meetings. So even though I wasn’t particularly
senior, I occasionally spent up to two and a half hours meeting with
him, where there would be opportunities to both present and answer his
questions. Obama was notorious for calling on those sitting on the back
benches to get different views on key issues.
This president is flying blind. I was struck in listening to the testimony over the past week how few of his advisers are consulted on major policy decisions. Sure, we have long known about his tendency to freelance. Yet, there’s a difference between dismissing or discounting advice and never getting it in the first place. I was shocked that Trump had never spoken to either of our top diplomats in Ukraine prior to halting aid and endangering the country.
There are two primary effects of this
disconnect. First, as we have clearly seen in the testimony, our people
have no clue what they are supposed to do. They play an elaborate and
elusive game of telephone, trying to figure out how the heck they should
steer the ship through rough waters. Messages get relayed through
multiple layers in the Trump administration, often passed by external,
The second effect is that those who know national security best are unable to warn the president about potential risks or unintended consequences. Trump’s sudden decision to pull our troops out of northern Syria is a prime example of such impulsive and ill-informed decisions. Without the benefit of GPS, we regularly find ourselves driving far off course, as has been the case with North Korea. There is then the challenge of the president taking counsel directly from unscrupulous actors who often drive him into minefields, such as Rudy Giulliani and Lev Parnas, as they did on Ukraine.
Trump has gone even further. The president and the White House have
tweeted against Vindman and Vice President Mike Pence’s aide on Ukraine,
Jennifer Williams. During Vindman’s testimony, Trump tweeted that his boss “had concerns about Vindman’s judgment.” And he slammed Williams
as a Never Trumper “who I don’t know.” Attacks like these don’t just
shatter the confidence of Williams and Vindaman but also shake the
confidence of everyone working on the National Security Council.
country is endangered when those responsible for the most serious
threats we face have to worry about personal threats from our leaders.
And the number of those interested in taking on this difficult if
important work will only decrease. Service on this National Security
Council was already fairly unpopular these days. I know from speaking
with friends that many are already shunning the previously prestigious
positions at the White House. The developments of the last few weeks
will make it untenable for many of those who are best qualified for
We will end up in a
situation where the most important jobs for protecting our country are
going to be occupied by second- and third-string players. Again, this
creates massive vulnerabilities that should alarm lawmakers and those
responsible for the defense of our country.
What happens when the next person sees
something of concern? After having witnessed the fierce political
attacks to which we now subject whistleblowers and those such as
Williams and Vindman who reluctantly speak up publicly, many will be
simply too afraid to come forward. Instead, they will allow problems to
fester and dangerous decisions to go unchallenged. This again places our
nation in a very serious situation. Fraud, waste and abuse will spread,
eating away at the pillars of stability and security on which our way
of life has depended for so long.
Some may argue that I’m overdramatizing the risks. But the testimony has brought to light some of the dark developments of the last several years. Our national security officials now have little contact with an isolated and erratic president. They don’t have clear guidance or even a basic plan for how to execute our foreign policy. Many of them are overly afraid for their jobs, their colleagues and even their safety. It is exceptionally hard to keep America safe when you’re in the dark, alone and afraid.
Story Three: Does Ukraine have the DNC server like Trump says? We fact checked that.
During a nearly
hourlong phone interview with “Fox & Friends,” Trump defended his
administration’s freeze on military aid to Ukraine this year as well as
his July 25 call with the Ukrainian president that prompted a whistleblower complaint, saying he was simply trying to root out corruption in the country.
lot of it had to do, they say, with Ukraine,” he began, before alleging
that the country has the DNC server that was hacked in 2016.
“The FBI went in and they told them get out of here, we’re not giving it to you. They gave the server to CrowdStrike … which is a company owned by a very wealthy Ukrainian, and I still want to see that server,” Trump said of the DNC’s actions upon learning that it had been hacked in the run-up to the election. “You know, the FBI has never gotten that server. That’s a big part of this whole thing. Why did they give it to a Ukrainian company?”
Almost none of these claims are remotely true.
CrowdStrike is the California-based cybersecurity firm hired by the DNC to investigate a breach that turned out to be a Russian hack aimed at sowing discord and disrupting the U.S. election. It’s not owned by a wealthy Ukrainian — it’s publicly traded on the Nasdaq. Its largest shareholder is Warburg Pincus, a private equity firm with ties to Trump himself. One of CrowdStrike’s founders, Dmitri Alperovitch, is a Russian-born American citizen, which may be what Trump is getting at. But Alperovitch frequently consults with the U.S. government on cybersecurity, Esquire reported.
It is true that the FBI was not given the DNC’s physical computer equipment, but there’s no evidence that the Democratic Party held anything back from U.S. law enforcement investigating the breach. During investigations, it’s common for physical servers to be digitally copied and preserved as evidence, as Robert Johnston, a cybersecurity expert who led the investigation into the DNC hack in 2016, explained to NBC News earlier this year.
There’s also not just one server, as Trump seems to think. The DNC has said they decommissioned 140 servers and rebuilt 11, to be specific, related to 2016. One of them is on display at the DNC’s office in Washington, next to a filing cabinet broken into by Watergate burglars, according to this 2016 photo in The New York Times.
With those claims, Trump made clear Friday
that he is holding fast to the broader, debunked conspiracy that Ukraine
was responsible for interfering in the 2016 election. Republicans on
the House Intelligence Committee, which is leading the impeachment
inquiry, framed much of their questioning around this idea, so much so
that Trump’s former Russia expert, Fiona Hill, targeted it in her
testimony Thursday for a thorough dismantling.
“Some of you on this committee appear to believe that Russia and its security services did not conduct a campaign against our country — and that perhaps, somehow, for some reason, Ukraine did. This is a fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves,” Hill said. “In the course of this investigation, I would ask that you please not promote politically driven falsehoods that so clearly advance Russian interests.”
“These fictions are harmful even if they are deployed for purely domestic political purposes,” she said.
The broader conspiracy of Ukraine election
interference Trump hints at in his interview purports that the
Democratic Party orchestrated, with that nation’s help, the hacking of
their own systems and framed Russia in order to discredit a Trump
The president has for years been alluding to this baseless theory — the origins of which NBC News’ Ben Collins traced back
to far-right message boards as early as March 2017 — though he does not
spell it out, perhaps because it’s quite a stretch to suggest that
Democrats ran a massive, international conspiracy to lose the election.
Behind closed doors, Trump has claimed Ukraine tried to stop him from winning.
Ukraine “tried to take me down,” Trump said in a meeting with his advisers, according to the impeachment inquiry testimony of U.S. ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, and Kurt Volker, then-U.S. special envoy to Ukraine.
Despite being repeatedly
dismissed by Trump’s own intelligence community and advisers, the theory
appears to have been a motivating factor behind the efforts of his
personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, to run a highly unusual shadow policy
team with the goal of pressuring the Ukrainian government to announce
investigations into the 2016 election and Burisma Holdings — the
Ukrainian gas company that Hunter Biden joined as a board member in
Fox News’ Steve Doocy on Friday pressed the president on whether he was “sure” about the claims.
“Are you sure they did that? Are you sure they gave it to Ukraine?” he asked of the DNC server.
“Well, that’s what the word is,” Trump said.
what I asked actually in my phone call, if you know. I mean I asked it
very point blank, because we’re looking for corruption. There’s
tremendous corruption. We’re looking for — why should we be giving
hundreds of millions of dollars to countries when there’s this kind of
The foreign aid to Ukraine
that the Trump administration held up for 55 days is one aspect of the
Democratic-led impeachment inquiry, as witnesses have alleged that there was an effort
to condition the release of that aid on public assurances that Ukraine
would launch the politically advantageous investigations Giuliani and
Video One: Ukrainian forces at risk as Trump admin. withheld military aid
The lives of Ukrainian troops fighting a hot war against Russian forces were on the line as the Trump administration withheld aid now at the center of the Trump impeachment inquiry. Retired U.S. Navy Adm. James Stavridis reacts.
Video Three: It doesn’t matter if Trump committed a crime. He should still be impeached.
With impeachment depositions set to begin soon, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Democrats have narrowed the focus of the impeachment inquiry to Trump’s Ukraine call and the subsequent whistleblower complaint. Corey Brettschneider, professor of political science and policy at Brown University, joined THINK to explain why he thinks that’s a mistake.
Video Five: Day 1,037: Trump floats Russian conspiracy theory on Ukraine on FOX News
After Fiona Hill blasted lawmakers on the Hill for sharing a Russian-created conspiracy theory about Ukraine hacking the 2016 U.S. election, Trump went on FOX News and again repeated the bogus allegation.
Video Six: Russia expert Fiona Hill blasts ‘fictional narrative’ of Ukraine election interference
President Trump’s former top Russia advisor Fiona Hill testified on the fifth day of public impeachment hearings, blasting Republicans for unfounded theories of Ukrainian election interference and taking aim at the president’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani. Embassy aide David Holmes also testified, detailing a cell phone conversation he says he overheard between Ambassador Gordon Sondland and Trump.
Video Nine: ‘I don’t know what the hell Jim Jordan is doing’: Congressman says
Rep. Adam Smith discusses the impeachment inquiry hearings this week and the Republican defense of President Trump. Smith says about Rep. Jim Jordan, “I don’t know what the hell he is doing. He is obviously sticking to this narrative that is untrue.”
House Republicans make it clear they feel Trump has done nothing wrong
Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., talking to reporters at the
GOP House leadership press conference, was asked by a reporter if he
would say Trump has done nothing wrong.
“A very clear
yes,” he responded. The cadre of House GOP leaders standing behind him
yelled in affirmation as McCarthy responded.
to a subsequent question, McCarthy claimed Republicans in Congress will
vote on impeachment — if and when articles are formally introduced —
“based on the facts.”
“Show us the truth. We always vote based on the facts,” he said.
Rep. Jim Jordan: Americans ‘will not tolerate this’
House leaders, speaking at their post-vote press conference, continued
their criticism of House Democrats, accusing their rival party’s leaders
of going against the wishes of the American people
American people see this for what it is,” Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, the
ranking Republican on the House Oversight and Reform Committee, said.
“They will not tolerate this.”
Rep. Michael McCaul, a
member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, claimed the Democrats’
procedural approach to the impeachment inquiry “defies historic
Rep. Dingell ‘very disturbed by the undue influence’ being put on Republicans
Rep. Debbie Dingell, R-Mich., said Friday that she was “very
disturbed” by the pressure she said is being put on Republican
lawmakers to toe the line during the House impeachment inquiry.
on Fox News whether Democrats should move forward with impeachment
without GOP backing, Dingell responded, “First of all, I don’t know that
there is no Republican support. I have talked to a number of people who
are deeply disturbed, and they’re being very cautious in their words.
Their arms are being broken, and I’m very disturbed by the undue
influence I’m seeing put on Republicans too.”
said what she heard in testimony over the last two weeks “deeply
disturbed” her and would accurately be described as bribery.
is very clear that the Ukrainian president was — the word ‘bribe’ does
work with being told you are not going to get this aid that you need
unless you agree to do this investigation, and you do it publicly,” she
said. “And we do have evidence that money was held up.”
congresswoman added that the Intelligence Committee was already
drafting its report, after which the Judiciary Committee will make its
recommendations, and she would wait to see those before coming to any
conclusions about impeachment.
Dingell also weighed in on
the debunked conspiracy theory Trump and his allies have been chasing
that it was really Ukraine, not Russia, that interfered in the 2016
election — which former top Russia expert Fiona Hill called a “fictional narrative” that echoed Russian propaganda during her testimony on Thursday.
of the things we do know and one of the reasons why I have been fearful
about impeachment, but I am getting madder and madder … is that we do
know, there were Republican Cabinet members that testified that Russia
interfered in our last elections. Russia is trying to divide us as a
country. That’s documented in the Mueller report. Intelligence agency
after intelligence agency around the world is saying that they’re trying
to destabilize democracy.
“We need a president that’s
going to protect the United States of America, not help destabilize
democracies around the world,” she said.
DONALD J TRUMP, RUDY GUILIANI, WILLIAM BARR, RICK PERRY, MIKE POMPEO, MITCH MCCONNELL, LINDSEY GRAHAM, MICK MULVANEY, DEVIN NUNES, JIM JORDAN, AND THE REST OF THE REPUBLICANS WHO SUPPORT AND DEFEND DONALD J TRUMP? HAVE ALL COMMITTED HIGH TREASON AGAINST THE UNITED STATES.
Treason is an act of disloyalty or betrayal of trust to a person’s own government. Examples include assassination of a state figure, fighting against his or her own nation in a war, assisting enemy combatants, or passing vital government information to the enemy. Historically, this crime has been severely punished, because an act of treason can destroy a nation. In the modern day, a conviction is accompanied at a minimum by a long jail sentence and a heavy fine, and may merit the death penaltyunder certain circumstances.
Whoever, owing allegiance to the United States and having knowledge of the commission of any treason against them, conceals and does not, as soon as may be, disclose and make known the same to the President or to some judge of the United States, or to the governor or to some judge or justice of a particular State, is guilty of misprision of treason and shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than seven years, or both. (June 25, 1948, ch. 645, 62 Stat. 807; Pub. L. 103–322, title XXXIII, § 330016(1)(H), Sept. 13, 1994, 108 Stat. 2147.)
While we may not be officially at war with Russia and Putin, we are in a proxy war with them through the Ukraine. The Ukraine is an ally of ours. We are supporting and helping them because of the Russian invasion and annexation of Crimea and their proxy war, using Russians, to overtake the Ukraine. We are in essence? In a proxy war, defending the Ukraine against Russia and Putin against their invasion of the Ukraine.
This would be similar to what Traitor Trump just did in helping his disgusting, dicktater buddy Erdogan in Turkey and Syria and his now allowing the Kurds to be slaughtered by the Russian backed and supported Turkish government.
By Traitor Trump withholding the funds and the military weapons that were to go to the Ukraine, under the rules and laws of Congress, that approved these funds and military weapons for the Ukraine to fight the Russian invasion and Putin? All so he could have the Ukrainians dig up dirt on Biden and all the bullshit con of the DNC server? He immediately gave aid and comfort to his Puppet Master, Putin and Russia and by his actions? Caused Ukrainians to be killed. This again? Is giving aid and comfort to our enemy Russia and Putin.
Russia’s Crimea plan detailed, secret and successful
The annexation of Crimea was the
smoothest invasion of modern times. It was over before the outside world
realised it had even started.
And until Tuesday 18 March, when a
group of pro-Russian gunmen attacked a small Ukrainian army base in
Simferopol, killing one officer and injuring another, it was entirely
For much of February, thousands of extra soldiers were
quietly sent in to the bases which Russia was permitted by treaty to
own in Crimea. Civilian “volunteers” moved in too. The plan was carried
out secretly and with complete success.
The first obvious sign that Crimea was being taken over was on Friday 28 February, when checkpoints were established at Armyansk and Chongar – the two main road crossings from mainland Ukraine to the Crimean peninsula.
cut-off points were controlled by men wearing a variety of uniforms:
Ukrainian army, Ukrainian police, as well as camouflage without national
insignia. Several wore civilian clothes.
When I tried to get
through the Armyansk checkpoint on Saturday 1 March, together with a BBC
cameraman, these men were hostile and threatening.
They stole the
bags containing our body armour from the boot of our taxi, and went
through our suitcases aggressively, pulling out the things inside and
dropping some of them on the road. They took our camera away and filched
the expensive electronic recording cards from it, together with the
They knew exactly what they were looking for.
There were more bags containing body armour piled up at the side of the
road, where other journalists had tried to get through before us.
men at the checkpoint were stopping everyone except local people from
passing through. I found it hard to work out what was going on.
It was only when one of them, wearing a police uniform, called out “Welcome to Russia!” that I understood – their uniforms might be Ukrainian, but they were sealing off Crimea on behalf of Moscow.
By the next day, Sunday 2 March, it was all over. The outside world
was still expecting Russian ships to arrive and capture Crimea. But it
had already happened by stealth.
On Sunday and Monday the
Ukrainian military bases were taken over by tough-looking soldiers. They
carried the latest Russian military weapons, but their uniforms had
neither national or unit markings, nor badges of rank.
them were the “volunteers” – usually older men, many of whom had
apparently come in from Russia itself. Some wore bits and pieces of
uniform, others plain clothes. They lined up outside the Ukrainian bases
and prevented anyone getting too close.
Presumably they were
Russian reservists. They were tough and aggressive, but they obeyed the
orders of their superiors. Many were obviously heavy drinkers, and at
night a few were openly drunk.
Yet their discipline held. There was no looting, and although their behaviour was threatening they did not attack civilians.
In the days that followed, other groups appeared. These were genuine volunteers, who had come from Moscow to join what they saw as the liberation of Crimea. I spoke to three members of an ultra-nationalist group whose uniforms bore the colours of an extreme royalist organisation.
They were all from Moscow, and they all planned to move on from Crimea to the mainly Russian-speaking cities of Kharkiv and Donetsk. Why? To show solidarity, they said.
Later I came across a
group of seven or eight bikers wearing leathers with badges of rank on
them – president, vice-president and so on. They had also come down from
Moscow, and were planning to head off to Kharkiv and Donetsk. “It’s a
great day,” the “president” said.
But these were
Johnny-come-latelys – amateurs who just wanted to join the fun. There
was absolutely no sign the Russian government had sent them.
modern times, Moscow has staged three major invasions: Hungary in
November 1956 and Czechoslovakia in August 1968, when the Communist
governments there began showing dangerously Western tendencies; and
Afghanistan in December 1979, when the pro-Communist regime was on the
point of collapse.
These were huge and brutal operations, involving large numbers of tanks, and sometimes great bloodshed.
takeover of Crimea has been completely different. This was an
infiltration, not an invasion. And unlike in Hungary, Czechoslovakia and
Afghanistan it was welcomed by a large proportion of the local
According to a well-known opponent of Mr Putin’s, the
vote in Crimea to join the Russian Federation was “a referendum under
the Kalashnikov”. But it wasn’t. The outcome was what the vast majority
of Russian-speakers in Crimea really wanted, and there was little need
for Kalashnikovs in the streets.
Those who wanted to keep Crimea a part of Ukraine were far too shocked and intimidated to resist.
entire operation was very cleverly planned and carried out. But there
is absolutely no doubt what it was – a remarkable, quick and mostly
bloodless coup d’etat.
How U.S. military aid became a lifeline for Ukraine
The U.S. provided about $1.5 billion in military aid to Kiev between 2014 and this past June, according to a Congressional Research Service analysis.
The military aid scandal that spawned
the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump has a very different
significance for Ukraine, where years of U.S. assistance have just
begun to turn a ragtag army into a better-armed and professional force to counter Russian aggression.
The U.S. has provided about $1.5 billion in military support to Kiev between 2014 and this past June, according to an updated analysis by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service. And Trump’s temporary cut off of the aid represented a significant setback for the country.
“Ukraine would never be where it is without that support from the United States,” said Ash Carter, who served as President Barack Obama’s defense secretary from 2015 to 2017. “Everything we were doing there to train their military forces, their National Guard, to improve the professionalism and reduce corruption in the defense ministry … all that was critical.”
Before the aid influx, “the
Ukrainian military was in woeful shape,” said Mariya Omelicheva, a
professor of national security strategy at the Pentagon’s National
Defense University who specializes in the region.
“There has been a tangible, measurable impact,” added Omelicheva, who visited the Ukrainian training center in March. And beyond that, she said, the help created “an immeasurable, psychological impact — that the U.S. has our back.”
Now Trump’s aborted aid cutoff — first reported by POLITICO in late August
— has mushroomed into a titanic political fight, centered on
allegations that the president was using the military assistance as
leverage to push Ukraine’s government to investigate former Vice
President Joe Biden and his son Hunter. House oversight committees are
demanding more data from the White House Office of Management and Budget
on when and how the decision to sever the aid arose, including
requesting that some documentation be delivered to Capitol Hill by
The military aid program has steadily
shifted American support in recent years much more heavily toward
security after economic development, loan guarantees and anti-corruption
programs defined much of the support following Ukraine’s independence
from the Soviet Union in 1991.
The U.S. bumped up its military support in 2014, soon after a popular uprising ousted President Viktor Yanukovych, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, and Russian troops annexed the Crimean peninsula while fomenting a separatist uprising in eastern Ukraine’s Donbass region.
The vast majority of the funds, approved with bipartisan support in Congress, has financed items such as sniper rifles; rocket-propelled grenade launchers; counter-artillery radars; command and control and communications systems; night vision goggles; medical equipment; as well training and logistical support.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is especially interested in buying more Javelin anti-tank missiles to combat Russian tanks and other armored vehicles — a topic he broached during his July 25 telephone call with Trump that is at the center of the impeachment inquiry .
“Mr. Trump brought up American aid to
that country — without explicitly mentioning that he had just frozen a
military aid package of hundreds of millions of dollars — and then
pressed the Ukrainian leader to investigate Mr. Biden,” says the unclassified
copy of the whistleblower complaint that the Trump administration
released last week. “White House officials believed they had witnessed
Trump abuse his power for personal political gain.”
The call came a week after Trump ordered his acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, to instruct OMB to halt the remainder of $390 million in military aid appropriated by Congress this year in the Pentagon and State Department budgets. The administration released the aid earlier this month after demands from Congress.
Even before the current furor,
questions of how much or how little to help Ukraine’s military counter
Russian aggression have embroiled Washington for years.
Nowhere was it more pointed than the Ukrainians’ request, as far back as 2014, to purchase the advanced Javelin anti-tank missiles.
The Javelin issue “became fetishized
and it became a litmus test: ‘Will you stand up to Putin or will you
kowtow to him?’” said Samuel Charap, a former senior adviser at the
State Department specializing in Russia and Eurasia. “It was like a
“It had nothing to do with the merits
of the Javelin or the question of what would actually be most effective
and important for helping Ukraine,” added Charap, who is now a senior
political scientist at the government-funded Rand Corp.
The Obama administration agonized over
the issue but never approved the sale out of fear of escalating the
conflict — despite entreaties from Carter, who served in several top
Pentagon positions at the time.
The aim was to “do everything we could within the boundaries of what was wise without baiting the Russians into doing something worse,” recalled Chuck Hagel, the former Republican senator who was Obama’s secretary of defense from 2013 to 2015.
The Javelins also helped spur a controversy over the Republican Party’s platform in 2016, after Trump’s campaign succeeded in watering down anti-Russia language and ensuring it would not call for “providing lethal defensive weapons” to Ukraine.
Yet once Trump was in office , the Ukrainian government and its allies in Congress kept pushing the request.
Finally, in 2018, long after the
Russian tanks pulled back from the front, the State Department finally
approved a foreign military sale of 210 Javelin missiles, along with
launchers and training, for $47 million.
Charap said the missiles’ military value was limited — they “ended up on the other side of the country from where the conflict is and under lock and key.” But they held significant value in eastern Ukraine, where retired U.S. Army Maj. Gen. John Gronski credits the missiles with helping to stabilize the military crisis by “deterring the separatists from bringing armor into the region.”
The Ukrainians “really appreciate the
Javelins,” said Gronski, who served as the deputy commanding general of
U.S. Army Europe until June of this year.
Michael Kofman, a senior research
scientist at CNA, a government-funded think tank, also called the
Javelins an “insurance policy” against Russian escalation.
But in Carter’s view, “its political significance was greater than its military significance.”
However, the less controversial military aid — including some of the $390 million dollars slated to go to Ukraine this year from the Pentagon and State Department — has come to represent a lifeline for the Ukrainian military, which has achieved key milestones in recent months.
And Trump’s recent assertion that the
aid initiated under Obama has merely provided “sheets and pillows” is
directly refuted by those who oversaw it.
The Pentagon, which opposed cutting off the
aid this summer, told Congress in May that efforts to help reform the
country’s military and armaments industry, which has historically been
notoriously corrupt, have paid major dividends.
“Through these engagements, the United
States has effectively helped Ukraine advance institutional reforms
through a number of substantial actions to align Ukraine’s defense
enterprise more closely with NATO standards and principles,” John Rood,
the undersecretary of Defense for policy, told oversight committees.
He certified that Ukraine’s military
“has taken substantial actions” to tackle corruption, improve
accountability and is “sustaining improvements to combat capability
enabled by U.S. assistance.”
That applies especially to the
U.S.-financed military training, which takes place at the Yavoriv
training center in western Ukraine near the border with Poland.
Initially, American, Polish,
Lithuanian and Canadian troops conducted the training of Ukrainian
forces — first for smaller, company-sized units of several hundred
soldiers and then up to the level of a brigade, which can include
thousands of troops.
But now, battle-experienced Ukrainian troops are conducting most of the training, Gronski said, leaving the U.S. forces “in more of an observer role.”
And U.S. instruction in combat
medicine has had a direct impact on the battlefield in the east, Gronski
said. “Several times, across several visits, Ukrainian battalion
commanders told me that those kits and that training absolutely saved
So here we see that Traitor Trump, in his actions, gave aid and comfort to our enemy Russia and his Puppet Master Putin, in his withholding the funds and military weapons to the Ukraine to fight the Russians annexation of Crimea and their proxy war against the Ukraine. And this costed Ukrainians lives by his actions.
And by Traitor Trump and the Republicans spreading the bullshit story that it was the Ukraine and not the Russians and Putin who interfered in the election of Traitor Donald J Trump? They are all giving aid and comfort to the enemy Russia and Putin.They are spreading the bullshit propoganda of Putin and Russia on Ukraine everywhere to defend the actions of this treasonous scumbag Donald J Trump.
While we are in essence a peacetime and not at officially declared war with Putin and Russia? Historical prosecution of people who have been arrested, tried and convicted and executed for Treason against the United States during peacetime? Is the case of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg.
Julius Rosenberg and Ethel Rosenberg, Ethel Rosenberg née Ethel Greenglass, (respectively, born May 12, 1918, New York, New York, U.S.—died June 19, 1953, Ossining, New York; born September 28, 1915, New York City—died June 19, 1953, Ossining), the first American civilians to be executed for espionage and the first to suffer that penalty during peacetime.
The Rosenbergs were charged with espionage and brought to trial on March 6, 1951; Greenglass was the chief witness for the prosecution. On March 29 they were found guilty, and on April 5 the couple was sentenced to death. (Sobell and Gold received 30-year prison terms, and Greenglass, who was tried separately, was sentenced to 15 years in prison.) For two years the Rosenberg case was appealed through the courts and before world opinion. The constitutionality and applicability of the Espionage Act of 1917, under which the Rosenbergs were tried, as well as the impartiality of the trial judge, Irving R. Kaufman—who in pronouncing sentence had accused them of a crime “worse than murder”—were key issues during the appeals process. Seven different appeals reached the Supreme Court of the United States and were denied, and pleas for executive clemency were dismissed by Pres. Harry Truman in 1952 and Pres. Dwight Eisenhower in 1953. A worldwide campaign for mercy failed, and the Rosenbergs were executed in the electric chair at Sing Sing Prison in Ossining, New York. Ethel became the first woman executed by the U.S. government since Mary Surratt was hanged in 1865 for her alleged role in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.
If Julius and Ethel Rosenberg can be prosecuted for High Treason against the United States, during peacetime? Then the same rules and laws can be used that prosecuted them, 18 U.S. Code § 2381. Treason , and sedition: 18 U.S. Code § 2384. Seditious conspiracy for the treasonous actions on the crimes of Donald J Trump, Rudy Guiliani, William Barr, Mick Mulvaney, et al and their withholding Congressionally approved funds and military weapons to go to the Ukraine, to fight the Russians and Putin’s invasion of and annexation of Crimea and their war against Ukraine, who are our ally. This gave aid and comfort to our enemy, Russia and Putin.
Any Republican Senator or Congressperson who stands up and defends Traitor Trump and spreads the bullshit lies that it was the Ukraine that interfered in our elections and not the Russians, as has been proven? Then they are in fact? Guilty of 18 U.S. Code § 2382. Misprision of treason. Such as Senators Lindsey Graham, Mitch McConnell, and Congressmen Devin Nunes, Jim Jordan and many others.
This is a great read on the disaster that is Donald J Trump.
Anti Trump Meme Slideshow
Yeah, I can admit I hate Donald J Trump and many of these memes exposes this scumbag piece of shit, this Putin Puppet Traitor, this sell out to our country, this racist bigot, this misogynist pig, this pervert pedophile, this incestual prick, this disgusting low life sub human troglodyte, this pathological liar.
And if you do not hate his ass? Then I call you a Traitor to this Country.
If President Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, George W Bush, or any other President has done what Traitor Trump has done? I would also call it High Treason and demand he face the music for his crimes.
Because Traitor Donald J Trump decided it was more important to get dirt on Joe Biden Jr and his son so he could maybe win the re-election? He did in fact? Commit High Treason against the United States. And his little lawyer troll Ghouliani? Is also guilty of committing High Treason against the United States. And? Attorney General William Barr? Is guilty of being an accessory to the crime of High Treason against the United States. Any member of Trump’s cabinet who participated in this? Or helped in the cover-up of it? Are guilty of the crime of being accessories to, or accessories after the fact, to the crime of High Treason against the United States.
ANY Republican Senator or House Member, who stands up and defends Traitor Trump and his actions? Are in fact? Guilty of obstruction of justice and being accessories to the crime of Treason Against the United States. From Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Rick Santorum, Joni Earnst, to any other Republican who has betrayed their oath of office and sides with these treasonous and traitous actions against this country perpetrated by Donald J Trump or his administration or Rudy Giuliani.
ANY PUNDIT from Fox News, Breibart or anywhere else, including Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, et al? Who stands up and defends Donald J Trump and his treasonous actions against the United States? Are guilty of the crimes of being accessories to Treason against the United States. If they push the bullshit proven lies about Biden etc? Then they are guilty of obstruction of justice and other crimes.
LET’S SEE THE TRUTH AND THE FACTS HERE SHALL WE THAT PROVES THAT TRUMP AND THE REST HAVE COMMITTED HIGH TREASON AGAINST THE UNITED STATES.
The whistleblower complaint at the center of Congress’ impeachment inquiry alleges that President Donald Trump abused the power of his office to “solicit interference from a foreign country” in next year’s U.S. election. The White House then tried to “lock down” the information to cover it up, the complaint says.
The 9-page document released Thursday fleshes out the circumstances of a summertime phone call in which Trump encouraged his Ukraine counterpart to help investigate a political rival, alleges a central role for one of the president’s personal lawyers and a suggests a concerted White House effort to suppress the exact transcript, including by relocating it to a separate computer system.
From: Whistleblower: White House tried to ‘lock down’ call details
Trump’s impeachment is the only option after Ukraine call transcript
Laurence H. Tribe, Opinion contributor
Let us count the ways. The White House readout of President Donald Trump’s phone conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky
shows that the American president has committed a multitude of high
crimes and misdemeanors, all of them impeachable. Even without
considering the many prior offenses that were surfaced in the Mueller
report and in the special counsel’s prosecutions
of numerous Trump allies and associates, including in the Southern
District of New York, this readout — which must be the least
incriminating version the White House could compose despite its
remarkable skills at shading the truth or falsifying it altogether — is
The “high crimes and misdemeanors” that the readout reveals — to use the Constitution’s term for impeachable offenses beyond “treason” and “bribery” (both of which the readout comes close to establishing) — begin with Trump abusing the foreign policy powers entrusted to the president by Article II in order to serve his own political interests rather than the interests of the American people.
Ukraine pressed by Trump, Russia
Those interests were defined here by a bipartisan decision of the Congress we elected to represent us in world affairs using its Article I spending power: Congress decided that it was in our nation’s security interest to provide nearly $400 million in aid to the beleaguered patriots of an American ally fighting a bloody battle with an American adversary. The ally was Ukraine. The adversary was Russia, which had — not so coincidentally — tried to help Trump win office in 2016.
Even if this action weren’t payback to Russian President Vladimir Putin and yet another indication of how beholden Trump is to that brutal dictator — which it may well have been — it was a blatant usurpation of Congress’ Appropriation Clause authority for Trump to withhold the aid the Ukranians needed. When asked by Ukraine’s president in this July 25 phone call to purchase more Javelin missiles from the United States for defense purposes, Trump responded that he would gladly do so, although — he actually used the word “though” — he would greatly appreciate that foreign president’s aid in, among other things, gathering evidence to effectively help prosecute Trump’s main rival for the presidency in the forthcoming election.
Imagine the outrage, not to mention the judicial rebuke, that would have followed if Congress had overtly conditioned aid to a country being overrun by Russia
upon that country’s agreement to apparently advance the political
ambitions of the incumbent president! That this plainly unconstitutional
condition was instead subtly interposed by Trump himself only makes the
matter more egregious.
Campaign finance law is clear
In addition, despite the Department of Justice’s conclusion to the contrary, the campaign assistance that Trump sought in implicit exchange for his releasing the funds Congress had appropriated and Ukraine desperately needed clearly violates the same federal laws governing our elections that the president arguably violated to get himself elected in the first place — namely, the statutes making it illegal for a candidate in an American election to solicit or accept anything “of value” from a foreign source.
Making Trump’s lawlessness all the more egregious was his enlisting William
Barr, the nation’s attorney general, to work with Trump’s own
consigliere, Rudy Giuliani, in digging up dirt in Ukraine on former Vice
President Joe Biden, a leading candidate for the opposing party’s
presidential nomination, and Biden’s surviving son, Hunter.
Never mind the cruelty and vindictiveness of selecting this particular target for his rage. Sadism is not an impeachable offense. Never mind the odds that the president’s hatred for his predecessor, President Barack Obama, probably drove his obsession with hurting Obama’s handpicked vice president. Envy isn’t impeachable either.
And never mind that there is no credible evidence that Biden or his son violated any law. Even if they had, for a president to conscript the highest law enforcement official in the land, one paid by and legally bound to serve the American people, to do his personal and political bidding in an effort not only to smear but to also criminally prosecute a political foe is the stuff of novels about banana republics, not of the America I know and whose Constitution and laws I have spent a lifetime defending.
The least of it is that using personnel paid by American taxpayers, whether civilians like Barr or military personnel like the pilots involved in landing at the Scottish airfield near Trump’s failing golf course, is a way of supplementing his congressionally fixed compensation in violation of the Domestic Emoluments Clause of Article II.
Worse than that is any president’s very decision to turn the Department of Justice into his personal law firm and weaponizing it against his political opponents, one of many violations of the president’s Oath of Office.
Whatever other evidence the House impeachment inquiry launched by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday might uncover, we already know enough to say:
Donald J. Trump has committed high crimes and misdemeanors against the United States and must be impeached.
From Trump’s impeachment is the only option after Ukraine call transcript Opinion piece by Professor Laurence H. Tribe.
Campaign Finance Law: When “Collusion” with a Foreign Government Becomes a Crime by Bob Bauer.
Former White House Counsel to President Obama (2010-2011). Professor of Practice and Distinguished Scholar in Residence at New York University School of Law.
*Bloggers note. This is just the first part, in a three part series essay written by Bob Bauer. This one I posted so you can get an idea of what kinds of violations Traitor Trump did during the 2016 campaign with Russia and Putin and gives the backdrop to what he has now done in the Ukrainian scandal and treasonous actions.
You can find part two and three if you follow the link and then the sub links there.
individual who is not a citizen of the United States and who is not
lawfully admitted for permanent residence, as defined in 8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(20); however,
shall not include any individual who is a citizen of the United States,
or who is a national of the United States as defined in 8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(22).
(4)Knowingly means that a person must:
(i) Have actual knowledge that the source of the funds solicited, accepted or received is a foreign national;
(ii) Be aware of facts that would lead a reasonable person to conclude that there is a substantial probability that the source of the funds solicited, accepted or received is a foreign national; or
(iii) Be aware of facts that would lead a reasonable person to inquire whether the source of the funds solicited, accepted or received is a foreign national, but the person failed to conduct a reasonable inquiry.
(5) For purposes of paragraph (a)(4) of this section, pertinent facts include, but are not limited to:
(i) The contributor or donor uses a foreign passport or passport number for identification purposes;
(ii) The contributor or donor provides a foreign address;
(iii) The contributor or donor makes a contribution or donation by means of a check or other written instrument drawn on a foreign bank or by a wire transfer from a foreign bank; or
(7)Safe Harbor. For purposes of paragraph (a)(4)(iii)
of this section, a person shall be deemed to have conducted a
reasonable inquiry if he or she seeks and obtains copies of current and
valid U.S. passport papers for U.S. citizens who are contributors or
donors described in paragraphs (a)(5)(i) through (iv) of this section.
No person may rely on this safe harbor if he or she has actual knowledge
that the source of the funds solicited, accepted, or received is a
(b)Contributions and donations by foreign nationals in connection with elections.
A foreign national shall not, directly or indirectly, make a
contribution or a donation of money or other thing of value, or
expressly or impliedly promise to make a contribution or a donation, in
connection with any Federal, State, or local election.
(c)Contributions and donations by foreign nationals to political committees and organizations of political parties. A foreign national shall not, directly or indirectly, make a contribution or donation to:
(1) A political committee of a political party, including a national party committee, a national congressional campaign committee, or a State, district, or local party committee, including a non-Federal account of a State, district, or local party committee, or
(2) An organization of a political party whether or not the organization is a political committee under 11 CFR 100.5.
(d)Contributions and donations by foreign nationals for office buildings. A foreign national shall not, directly or indirectly, make a contribution or donation to a committee of a political party for the purchase or construction of an office building. See11 CFR 300.10 and 300.35.
(e)Disbursements by foreign nationals for electioneering communications. A foreign national shall not, directly or indirectly, make any disbursement for an electioneering communication as defined in 11 CFR 100.29.
(f)Expenditures, independent expenditures, or disbursements by foreign nationals in connection with elections.
A foreign national shall not, directly or indirectly, make any
expenditure, independent expenditure, or disbursement in connection with
any Federal, State, or local election.
(g)Solicitation, acceptance, or receipt of contributions and donations from foreign nationals.
No person shall knowingly solicit, accept, or receive from a foreign
national any contribution or donation prohibited by paragraphs (b)
through (d) of this section.
(h)Providing substantial assistance.
(1) No person shall knowingly provide substantial assistance in the solicitation, making, acceptance, or receipt of a contribution or donation prohibited by paragraphs (b) through (d), and (g) of this section.
person shall knowingly provide substantial assistance in the making of
an expenditure, independent expenditure, or disbursement prohibited by
paragraphs (e) and (f) of this section.
(i)Participation by foreign nationals in decisions involving election-related activities.
A foreign national shall not direct, dictate, control, or directly or
indirectly participate in the decision-making process of any person,
such as a corporation, labor organization, political committee, or
political organization with regard to such person’s Federal or
non-Federal election-related activities, such as decisions concerning
the making of contributions, donations, expenditures, or disbursements
in connection with elections for any Federal, State, or local office or
decisions concerning the administration of a political committee.
(j)Donations by foreign nationals to inaugural committees. A foreign national shall not, directly or indirectly, make a donation to an inaugural committee, as defined in 11 CFR 104.21(a)(1). No person shall knowingly accept from a foreign national any donation to an inaugural committee. [67 FR 69950, Nov. 19, 2002, as amended at 69 FR 59780, Oct. 6, 2004]
Now onto the story:
Commentary on Russian intervention in the 2016 elections has included
one confidently expressed and perhaps growing view: that there may be a
scandal there, but no conceivable crime. It is claimed that the Trump
campaign could wink and nod at Russian hacking, and derive the full
benefit, but that without considerably more evidence of direct
involvement, there is no role for criminal law enforcement. The matter
is then left to Congress to consider whether new laws are needed, and
the public, of course, will render its judgment in opinion polls and in
elections still to come.
This view is flawed. It fails to consider the potential campaign
finance violations, as suggested by the facts so far known, under
existing law. These violations are criminally enforceable.
It would not be the first time Congress wrestled with these questions
of foreign interference with the US electoral process. Following the
1996 elections, the Republican Party concluded that the victorious Bill
Clinton had benefited from foreign intervention in his election. Its
Senate majority organized hearings, chaired by the late Senator Fred
Thompson, who opened them with the declaration
that high-level Chinese officials had committed substantial sums of
money to influence the presidential election. The ensuing investigation,
which included a parallel criminal inquiry, did not live up to Senator
Thompson’s most dramatic claims, but Congress later amended the law to
tighten the long-standing prohibition against foreign national spending
in federal elections. On this point, there was bipartisan unity: that
the law should stand clearly and without gaping loopholes against
foreign interference in American elections.
Then the issue made a dramatic return in this last presidential
election, but with a major difference. This time, there is no doubt
that a foreign state, Russia, devoted resources to influence the outcome
of the 2016 election. But unlike 1996, the manner of this
intervention—the hacking of emails, the dissemination of fake news—has
directed much of the legal discussion to computer security and espionage
statutes. The controversy has not had the “feel” of a classic case
about political spending. It has come across in press reporting and
public discussion as a tale of 21st century cyber-crime and foreign
intelligence service skullduggery—more sophisticated international
intrigue than Watergate’s “third-rate burglary” and associated cover-up.
“Unlike the Watergate investigation, which began with a break-in,” the
New Yorker’s and CNN’s Jeffrey Toobin has written,
“it is not immediately clear what crimes may have been committed.” And
even if there might be criminal wrongdoing somewhere in this Trump
campaign-Russia relationship, commentators have tended to doubt that there is yet sufficient hard evidence of it.
Yet even on the information so far available, there are solid grounds
for paying close attention to the potential campaign finance
violations. The case is more or less hiding in plain sight.
prohibits foreign nationals from providing “anything of value … in
connection with” an election. The hacking of the Podesta emails, which
were then transmitted to Wikileaks for posting, clearly had value, and
its connection to the election is not disputed. None other than the
Republican nominee said so publicly, egging on the Russians to locate
and publish Clinton emails to aid his campaign. He famously declared:
“I will tell you this, Russia: If you’re listening, I hope you’re able
to find the 30,000 emails that are missing.” One well known Trump
confidante, Roger Stone, is among those backing the President’s
candidacy who offered similar contemporaneous statements
about the value placed on these disclosures (and who, having intimated
that he had inside information about when the materials would be
released, now faces inquiries from the Congress (and from the Special
There is a fair question of what sort of involvement beyond vocalized
glee would subject Americans to liability for these foreign
intelligence activities. The relevant regulation
suggests that something more is required: at least “substantial
assistance” to the foreign spender in providing this “thing of value.”
Does a presidential campaign render this substantial assistance to a
foreign national engaged in influencing an election by endorsing the
specific activity and confirming its strategic utility? When the
Federal Election Commission (FEC) promulgated this ban on “substantial
assistance,” it said little about its scope. It did make clear
that the term was to be broadly construed. It offered the concrete
example of a U.S. citizen acting as a “conduit or intermediary” for
foreign spending, but noted that this was provided as only one example.
It expressly left open other possibilities.
The President and others associated with the campaign made no bones
about the value to them of the purloined email communications. The
President told a rally of supporters he “loved” Wikileaks and read from the hacked communication to support his attack
on his opponent for “a degree of corruption at the highest levels of
our government like nothing we have ever seen as a country before.” He
drew on the emails in the debates
with Secretary Clinton. Notably, when he was asked during the debates
to acknowledge the Russian program of interference and given the
opportunity to openly oppose the actions, he wouldn’t do so. He also
mentioned Wikileaks 124 times
in the last month of the campaign. The Russians could only have been
strengthened in the conviction that their efforts were welcome and had
value. That covers the evidence in plain sight.
Of course, investigators will examine whether there were Trump
campaign communications or private assurances to foreign
nationals—including Russians and associates of Wikileaks acting as their
“agents”—to encourage them or help coordinate the dissemination of
these materials. Coordination at this level could well trigger the
application of other provisions of the rules directed at the political
campaign’s acceptance or receipt of the Russian assistance, or even its
direct solicitation of it. But the “substantial assistance” prong would
cover the more indirect of the Trump campaign activities—including
public statements—that were conducted at more of a distance, and yet
still intended to signal the Russians that help was needed and of
A Trump defense may include the claim that he and his campaign cannot
be constitutionally subjected to legal liability for any public
statements on the campaign trail. They may try to frame their statements
as rough-and-tumble political commentary on Russian behavior that,
while helpful to the Republican nominee, neither Trump nor his
associates clearly requested or for which they can be held responsible.
This First Amendment defense is at least at the mercy of whatever facts
are still uncovered about the extent of any “collusion.” But even with
just a little more in the way of fact, with the addition of detail to an
already well-established outline, the Trump campaign’s position is
precarious. How strongly does the First Amendment protect a presidential
nominee’s mobilization of foreign government support for his
candidacy—support achieved through illegal activities?
A test of this constitutional defense is whether it relies somehow on
the fact that Trump and his campaign were open and notorious in
courting Russian assistance. Presumably, had they pursued this
assistance behind closed doors, few would question the legal
significance of the understanding reached with a foreign government
supporter. It would be remarkable to maintain that this appeal for help
is converted into constitutionally protected speech because the speaker
has chosen to have much or all of the conversation in public.
Recent developments in the law speak clearly to the strength of the
government’s interest in an expansive enforcement of the ban on foreign
national involvement in U.S. elections. In 2012, in Bluman v. Federal Election Commission,
a federal appellate court ruled, and the Supreme Court affirmed, that
lawful resident aliens had no First Amendment right to contribute to
American candidates and political committees. More importantly, the
court emphasized that foreign national political intervention implicated
a principle “fundamental to the definition of our national political
community,” which is that “foreign citizens do not have a constitutional
right to participate in, and thus may be excluded from, activities of
democratic self-government.” At stake was “part of the sovereign’s
obligation to preserve the basic conception of a political community.”
It will be no minor feat for Trump campaign lawyers, relying on Donald
Trump’s free speech rights, to overcome what the court called this
The law as written already treats speech as a factor in potential
violations of the ban on foreign national political spending. A foreign
national may not “participate,” or “control” or “direct” decisions on
contributions or expenditures. This is a speech-centered restriction. So
a foreign national working for the foreign parent of a US corporation
(let alone a foreign national resident in the United States) may not
discuss with an American PAC Director plans for making contributions or
expenditures, and it is immaterial for this purpose that the revenues on
which the PAC will draw for the contribution was generated within the
United States. And it is not only a question of the foreign national’s
speech (to which, of course, no First Amendment protection attaches).
The American PAC Director’s own speech is relevant to a finding of
illegal “participation,” if the conversation indicates that the PAC
Director is seeking permission, yielding control over the decision, or
merely soliciting the foreign national’s opinion on how to spend the
money. A statement like Donald Trump’s that he “loves WikiLeaks,” or
that he hopes that more will be done to bring to light Clinton emails,
would be evidence in such a conversation that his foreign national
interlocutor was “participating” in a decision on political spending in
connection with the election.
Trump and his campaign might argue that the hacking and dissemination
of the emails were not political spending—not, in a technical sense,
“contributions” nor “expenditures”—covered by the federal campaign
finance law. Perhaps so, but they were something of value, and the
statute and related regulations of the FEC separately prohibit any
value given by a foreign national. Of course, the Trump campaign might
take up the fight on this issue and litigate it. It would then have
the thankless task of persuading a court that a presidential candidate
can invite, then warmly accept and exploit, the activities of a foreign
intelligence service because it is a particular kind of “value,” not a
conventional contribution or expenditure. The campaign will have an
even harder time if it is established that Russians distributed
information through online bots, the creation of DC Leaks in the United
States, or the payment for online advertising.
What is also exceptional about the Trump case, distinguishing it from
other forms of national electioneering, is the absence of any question
about intent, or state of mind. In the most recent round of revisions to
its rules, the FEC went to some lengths to allow a candidate or
political committee to establish that it did not reasonably know about
the foreign source of the contribution or expenditure or other value
received. (11 C.F.R. § 110.20 (a)(4),(7)). This is no help to the Trump campaign which certainly had every reason to know that, as widely reported and declared officially
by the US government, Russia was behind the hacking. Trump, on the
campaign trail, said as much in inviting Russia to release more. At
other times he suggested that perhaps Russia was not behind these
activities, that no one could know: but, remarkably, he allowed for the
possibility that another foreign power, China, might have been
responsible. And once again, there are other parts of the public record
bearing on intent that will receive close investigative scrutiny, like
Trump’s close confidante Roger Stone’s repeated statements about his communications with Wikileaks and Julian Assange.
Whether prosecutors choose to interpret the law aggressively in these
circumstances is bound to be affected, and not to Trump’s advantage, by
the well-established identity of the foreign actor: a state, operating
through its own intelligence services. This is not the typical foreign
national case. In recent years, after Citizens United, the FEC
has been preoccupied with debates over political spending by
corporations. It has pondered how expansively the regulations should
treat campaign activities of the USA subsidiary of a foreign
corporation, or by a corporation with a significant percentage of
foreign national shareholders. The Commission could not agree on
tightening the rules, and the reason, in part, was the difficulty that
three of the Commissioners perceived in defining when a business could
be deemed to represent “foreign” interests. These complications are not
present in a case involving a foreign government.
And, at the same time, it is because of this clear involvement of a
foreign state actor that the Trump case will be pivotal in determining
the efficacy of the ban on foreign national electioneering. The campaign
finance laws have as their core purpose preventing corruption of
government, or its appearance, but the provision prohibiting foreign
political spending is uniquely concerned with corruption of a different,
even higher order, that strikes at national security. The Bluman
court cited the high importance of preserving of the “basic conception
of a political community” in holding that two individuals—one a Canadian
and the other holding dual Canadian and Israeli citizenship—could not
make simple, every-day contributions to political organizations. In the
Trump case, which involves active foreign intervention in a political
campaign that is welcomed and encouraged by one of the candidates, this
“basic conception” is even more—it is fair to say, acutely—at stake.
As the case unfolds, other instances of Russian support for the
campaign might still surface, as I have indicated. The investigators
will look into unconfirmed reports that the Russians may have attempted
through intermediaries to buy ads placed for the benefit of Trump on
social media platforms. Should there be any evidence that the Trump
campaign colluded in this advertising activity, a straightforward
campaign finance violation—a massive illegal contribution to the
campaign—would be added to the one built on hacking and WikiLeaks
distribution. The same holds true for any collusion over use of microtargeting techniques, which congressional investigations are reportedly now also probing.
But, as a major issue of foreign national involvement under the
campaign finance law, the hacking episode may prove more than sufficient
to sustain the current criminal investigation, and it could wind up
being central to it.
The Iceberg’s Tip: Ukraine Phone Call and the Months-Long Conspiracy to Violate Federal Campaign Finance Laws
The absurdity of the Justice Department’s refusal to investigate
Essay By Paul Seamus Ryan: Vice President of Policy & Litigation at Common Cause.
Earlier this week the White House released a rough transcript
of President Donald Trump’s July 25 phone conversation with Ukraine’s
President Volodymyr Zelensky. Understandably, there’s been much scrutiny
of the transcript. Is the transcript complete? What exactly did Trump
ask Zelensky for? Was there a “quid pro quo” exchange? To be clear, the
transcript is incriminating on its face. But this narrow and granular
analysis on one conversation risks missing the big picture.
The most important takeaway from the call transcript and the now-public whistleblower complaint
is that President Trump seemingly orchestrated a months-long conspiracy
to obtain Ukrainian government assistance in his 2020 reelection
campaign—in violation of federal campaign finance laws and, perhaps,
other statutes. The Department of Justice (DOJ) decision not to
investigate these violations has no basis in law. And it turns out
Attorney General William Barr had no business being involved in the
matter, as he is implicated both in the whistleblower complaint and by
the transcript of President Trump’s call with the Ukrainian president.
July 25 Phone Call Only the Tip of the Iceberg
To be certain, President Trump solicited a political contribution
from President Zelensky during the July 25 call—asking President
Zelensky to “look into” Joe Biden—but that was neither the first nor the
last time President Trump, either directly or through his agents,
solicited a political contribution from the Ukraine government. Trump’s
illegal efforts to gain Ukraine’s assistance in his 2020 reelection
campaign date back at least to January and continued after his July 25
call with Zelensky.
On September 23, Common Cause filed a complaint
with DOJ and the Federal Election Commission (FEC) alleging reason to
believe that President Trump, Rudy Giuliani and at least three other
Trump allies (Victoria Toensing, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman) violated
the federal law ban on soliciting, or substantially assisting the
solicitation of, a political “contribution” from a foreign national
through numerous meetings and phone calls with Ukrainian officials.
Back in May, the New York Times reported
that Giuliani was planning a trip to Ukraine to meet with
recently-elected President Zelensky “to urge him to pursue inquiries
that allies of the White House contend could yield new information about
two matters of intense interest to Mr. Trump”: the “origin of the
special counsel’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016
election” and the “involvement of former Vice President Joseph R. Biden
Jr.’s son in a gas company owned by a Ukrainian oligarch.”
Giuliani’s planned trip was reportedly
“part of a monthslong effort” by Giuliani and “a small group of Trump
allies working to build interest in the Ukrainian inquiries. Their
motivation is to try to discredit the special counsel’s investigation;
undermine the case against Paul Manafort …; and potentially to damage
Mr. Biden.” Over the course of several months, Giuliani and his allies
had numerous telephonic and in-person meetings with Ukrainian officials to advance President Trump’s personal political agenda.
The New York Times’ report was followed by a late July BuzzFeed News deep dive
into the months-long effort by Giuliani and “[t]wo unofficial envoys
reporting directly” to him to obtain Ukraine’s assistance in Trump’s
2020 reelection efforts. BuzzFeed News wrote:
In a whirlwind of private meetings, Lev Parnas and Igor
Fruman—who pumped hundreds of thousands of dollars into Republican
campaigns and dined with the president—gathered repeatedly with top
officials in Ukraine and set up meetings for Trump’s attorney Rudy
Giuliani as they turned up information that could be weaponized in the
2020 presidential race.
Parnas and Fruman reportedly
“helped arrange meetings in New York between the [Ukraine’s top
prosecutor Lutsenko] and Giuliani in January” and in “February, Giuliani
and Parnas met privately again with Lutsenko” on the sidelines of a
meeting “that included US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the Russian
President Vladimir Putin.” Then in May, Parnas and Fruman “flew to
Paris, where they joined Giuliani in talks with” another Ukrainian
prosecutor, Nazar Kholodnytsky.
In April, within hours of President Zelensky’s election, President
Trump called him and, according to several sources, urged him to
coordinate with Giuliani and “pursue investigations of ‘corruption,’” as
revealed this week by the New York Times.
Days after President Trump’s July 25 call with President Zelensky, on or about August 2 according to the whistleblower complaint,
Giuliani “met with an aide to the Ukrainian president in Madrid and
spelled out two specific cases he believed Ukraine should pursue,” an
investigation of Joe Biden and his son, and an investigation of whether
Democrats colluded with Ukraine to release information on Paul Manafort
during the 2016 election. The complaint notes that Giuliani had
“privately reached out to a variety of other Zelenskyy advisers” and
that some of these advisors “intended to travel to Washington in
mid-August.” The whistleblower complaint goes on to note many of these
Rudy Giuliani is referenced five times in the rough transcript
of the July 25 call, with President Zelensky first bringing up Giuliani
and mentioning that one of his assistants “spoke with Mr. Giuliani
recently” and that he hoped “very much that Mr. Giuliani will be able to
travel to Ukraine and we will meet once he comes to Ukraine.” President
Trump then noted three times that he would have Giuliani call President
Zelensky, saying: “If you could speak to him, that would be great.”
Giuliani is Trump’s personal attorney, not a diplomat. Giuliani has stated: “My only client is the president of the United States[.] He’s the one I have an obligation to report to, tell him what happened.” He has also said that his Ukraine efforts have the full support of Trump, and that Trump “knows what I’m doing, sure, as his lawyer.” Giuliani also made clear that his work with Ukrainian officials “isn’t foreign policy” and that he’s urging investigations of Biden “because that information will be very, very helpful to my client, and may turn out to be helpful to my government.”
Giuliani was representing the interests of candidate Trump, not the
interests of the American people. Giuliani was taking direction from his
client, President Trump, and keeping Trump fully informed of his
actions. Together, they conspired for months to violate federal campaign
finance laws by soliciting Ukrainian support for Trump’s 2020
DOJ Decision Not to Investigate Campaign Finance Violations Has No Basis in Law
In the complaint Common Cause filed Monday with the DOJ and FEC, and in a piece I wrote earlier this week for Just Security,
I explained in detail how Trump and Giuliani seemingly violated the
campaign finance law prohibition on soliciting, or substantially
assisting solicitation of, a “contribution” from a foreign national in
connection with a U.S. election.
We now know that the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community reached the same conclusion
in August, when considering the whistleblower complaint. And we know
that some White House lawyers recognized the implications of the July 25
call because they soon thereafter took steps to severely restrict
access to the transcript of the call by moving it from the computer
system where it would typically be stored to a separate system reserved
for certain types of classified materials of “an especially sensitive
Remarkably, the DOJ said this week
that the Department “explored whether the July call merited opening a
criminal investigation into potential campaign finance violations by the
president” and “concluded it did not—that the information discussed on
the call didn’t amount to a ‘thing of value’ that could be quantified,
which is what the campaign finance laws require.” This determination by
the DOJ flies in the face of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s
interpretation of the same provision of law.
As I explained in a summary of a section of the Mueller Report that I wrote for Just Security,
Special Counsel Mueller considered charging Donald Trump Jr., Paul
Manafort and Jared Kushner with violating ban on soliciting a
contribution from a foreign national for their June 2016 meeting with
Russians at Trump Tower to receive opposition research on Hillary
Mueller began an overview of the ban on soliciting a contribution
from foreign nationals by quoting now-Supreme Court Justice Brett
Kavanaugh’s lower court decision in Bluman v. FEC,
upholding the foreign contribution ban against First Amendment
challenge: “[T]he United States has a compelling interest … in limiting
the participation of foreign citizens in activities of democratic
self-government, and in thereby preventing foreign influence over the
U.S. political process.”
In explaining the “threshold legal question” of whether providing
“documents and information” to a campaign would constitute a
“contribution,” Mueller noted the “foreign contribution ban is not
limited to contributions of money.” It includes a contribution of “money
or other thing of value.’” According to Mueller, “[t]he
phrases ‘thing of value’ and ‘anything of value’ are broad and inclusive
enough to encompass at least some forms of valuable information.”
[C]andidate-related opposition research given to a
campaign for the purpose of influencing an election could constitute a
contribution to which the foreign-source ban could apply. A campaign can
be assisted not only by the provision of funds, but also by the
provision of derogatory information about an opponent. Political
campaigns frequently conduct and pay for opposition research. A foreign
entity that engaged in such research and provided resulting information
to a campaign could exert a greater effect on an election, and a greater
tendency to ingratiate the donor to the candidate, than a gift of money
or tangible things of value.
In the end, however, Mueller decided not to prosecute Trump Jr.,
Manafort and Kushner because of the difficulty he believed he would have
proving beyond a reasonable doubt that (1) they knew that solicitation
of a contribution from a foreign national was illegal; and (2) the
information they solicited was worth at least $2,000 (for a federal
misdemeanor) or $25,000 for a felony.
Mueller concluded that opposition research could constitute a “thing
of value” for the purposes of campaign finance law, but the DOJ
concluded in Ukrainegate it could not. What might explain these
conflicting interpretations of the law?
We don’t yet know. But one very troubling aspect of the DOJ’s
handling of the whistleblower complaint is Attorney General Barr’s
involvement. Barr is named on the first page of the complaint as
“involved,” yet reportedly was briefed
on the matter as soon as the DOJ learned of the complaint. In President
Trump’s July 25 phone call with President Zelensky, Trump asked
Zelensky to work with both Barr and Giuliani to investigate Joe Biden.
Trump referred to Barr being the point person, alongside Giuliani, four
times in the thirty-minute conversation. Barr is implicated in Trump’s
campaign finance violations—at a minimum, Barr is a witness. Barr should
have recused himself entirely from the DOJ’s handling of the
whistleblower complaint and the ensuing conflict between the White
House, DOJ and Congress over this matter. Instead, Barr is at the center
of it all.
Representative Jerrold Nadler, chair of the House Judiciary Committee, has called on Barr to recuse himself from the matter going forward. Ultimately, the investigation may lead to Barr’s impeachment and potentially the impeachment of others complicit in these campaign finance violations, their coverup, and other abuses of the office of the President.
For now, DOJ should reverse its decision not to investigate Trump,
Giuliani and others implicated in the whistleblower complaint. If Barr
and the DOJ will not do so, Congressional impeachment proceedings are
the last hope for the rule of law. The whistleblower complaint provides a
roadmap for the congressional impeachment investigation as it seeks to
uncover the full extent of the criminal violations that have occurred.
The phone call between President Trump and President Zelensky is only
one action in a systematic plan to manufacture opposition information
from Ukraine to influence the outcome of the 2020 election.
Timeline: Trump, Giuliani, Biden, and Ukrainegate
From Timeline: Trump, Giuliani, Biden, and Ukrainegate (updated)
By Viola Geinger and Ryan Goodman Updated on Sept 26,2019.
Russian forces invade Crimea and stage an illegal and dubious
referendum and declare their annexation of the peninsula. That month,
the United Nations General Assembly votes to condemn Russian actions, including the referendum.
April 2014 – Russian and pro-Russian forces invade
the regions of Donetsk and Luhansk in eastern Ukraine and take control,
starting a war that continues today and has killed more than 13,000
April 2014 – Hunter Biden joins Ukrainian firm Burisma
Joe Biden’s younger son, Hunter Biden, joins the board of Burisma Holdings, the largest
private oil and gas extracting company in Ukraine, controlled by
founder Mykola Zlochevskiy, who had served as a Cabinet minister under
former pro-Russian Presidents Leonid Kuchma and Yanukovych. Both
administrations had been suspected of corruption, and once they were
ousted, successor administrations pledging reforms targeted previous
officials, including Zlochevskiy, for investigation. Allegations against
Zlochevskiy center on the funding schemes he used to form the company
in 2002. But cases against him stall in each instance.
An American business partner of Hunter Biden, Devon Archer, also
joins the board. The company issues a press release about the Biden
appointment in May (see below). The appointment draws criticism for the potential perception of a conflict of interest with Vice President Biden’s role as the White House’s point man on Ukraine. News reports
later in 2014 reveal that Hunter Biden had been discharged from the
Navy in February for testing positive for cocaine (clearly just months
before the Burisma board appointment).
April 16, 2014 – U.K. investigates Burisma owner Mykola Zlochevskiy
The U.K.’s Serious Fraud Office blocks accounts
of Burisma’s majority shareholder, Mykola Zlochevskiy. A British court
conducts a hearing on Dec. 3-5, 2014, and unblocks the accounts in a
Jan. 21, 2015 judgment, (full text),
finding that none of the evidence “establishes reasonable grounds for a
belief that his assets were unlawfully acquired as a result of
misconduct in public office.” (In September 2015, U.S. Ambassador to
Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt heavily criticizes the Office of Prosecutor
General Viktor Shokin in a public speech for not cooperating
sufficiently with and even undermining the British investigation. See
May 12, 2014 – Burisma Holdings issues a press release
saying Hunter Biden has joined its board, and that he will be “in
charge of the Holdings’ legal unit and will provide support for the
company among international organizations.” The release cites his
then-current positions as counsel to New York-based law firm Boies,
Schiller & Flexner LLP and co-founder and a managing partner of
investment advisory firm Rosemont Seneca Partners, where he also served
as board chairman.
Aug. 5, 2014 – Ukraine investigation of Burisma
Ukrainian Prosecutor General Vitaly Yarema opens an investigation of Burisma owner Mykola Zlochevskiy on suspicion of “unlawful enrichment.” (The investigation is referenced in the January 2015 U.K. court judgment, which concludes that the Ukrainian probe might have been started as a result of a misinterpretation of the British account freeze.) Zlochevskiy’s American lawyer, John Buretta, a former U.S. deputy assistant attorney general, says in a 2017 Q&A on the Burisma website that a court in Kyiv ordered the case closed in September 2016 because no evidence of wrongdoing had been presented. While suspicions remain over how Zlochevskiy obtained his wealth and what happened to taxpayer money while he held public office, the British judge in the January 2015 U.K. judgment observed, “Allegations of corruption against political opponents appear to have been a feature of Ukrainian political life at this time.”
Oct. 14, 2014 – Ramping up Ukraine anti-corruption forces
Ukraine’s Parliament passes a law establishing the National Anti-Corruption Bureau (NABU), a priority of anti-corruption campaigners who’d helped lead the revolution and of the U.S. government (led by Biden) and other international backers of Ukraine. The bureau, which is to include a special prosecutor for certain corruption cases, was created in part because of the recognized ineffectiveness and corruption of the Prosecutor General’s Office and the country’s judiciary. The country’s anti-corruption plans also include a special High Anti-Corruption Court, which Poroshenko and Parliament slow-rolled until domestic and foreign advocates again exerted pressure over the past year. In fact, the U.S. and Europe required the Ukrainian government to fund NABU in exchange for financial aid. NABU’s early years are an uphill battle in the face of documented efforts by Parliament and the Prosecutor General’s Office to undermine its work.
NABU later becomes a target of Giuliani’s (see Aug. 14, 2016 item below).
Feb. 10, 2015 –Viktor Shokin takes office as Ukraine’s prosecutor general, replacing Yarema.
Sept. 24, 2015 – U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt excoriates Prosecutor General Shokin’s office for stymying anti-corruption investigations, including those involving Burisma
Pyatt’s speech was part of a regular drumbeat by U.S. and other
Western leaders, including Vice President Biden, and a swath of
Ukrainian civil society seeking to pressure President Poroshenko to
force his officials, especially in the Prosecutor General’s Office (PGO)
to crack down more, not less, on corruption. “Corruption
kills,” Pyatt said in the address to the Odesa Financial Forum for
business leaders. “It kills productivity and smothers inspiration. Ideas
are lost in its shadow. Innovation and entrepreneurship lag under the
weight of bribery, back room dealing, and bullying.”
While giving Shokin a last chance to shape up (Pyatt says, “We want
to work with Prosecutor General Shokin so the PGO is leading the fight
against corruption.”), the ambassador criticizes “officials at the PGO’s
office” for not providing documents that were needed for the British
investigation of Burisma owner Zlochevskiy and effectively allowing
Zlochevskiy to transfer $23 million of what Pyatt says were Ukrainian
taxpayer assets to Cyprus. In other words, Pyatt is critical of the
prosecutor’s office for not aiding in investigations of
Burisma’s owner, which was in line with Biden’s criticism that the
office was blocking corruption investigations. Pyatt
specifically called for the investigation and removal of officials who
were involved in the failure to help the British authorities investigate
“We have learned that there have been times that the PGO not only did not support investigations into corruption, but rather undermined prosecutors working on legitimate corruption cases.
For example, in the case of former Ecology Minister Mykola Zlochevsky, the U.K. authorities had seized 23 million dollars in illicit assets that belonged to the Ukrainian people. Officials at the PGO’s office were asked by the U.K to send documents supporting the seizure.
Instead they sent letters to Zlochevsky’s attorneys attesting that
there was no case against him. As a result, the money was freed by the
U.K. court and shortly thereafter the money was moved to Cyprus.
The misconduct by the PGO officials who wrote those letters should be
investigated, and those responsible for subverting the case by
authorizing those letters should – at a minimum – be summarily
Fall 2015 – Biden, along with the EU, publicly calls for ouster of Prosecutor General Shokin for failure to work on anti-corruption efforts.
John E. Herbst, U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine under George W. Bush, later testified before Congress:
“By late fall of 2015, the EU and the United States joined the chorus of those seeking Mr. Shokin’s removal as the start of an overall reform of the Procurator General’s Office. U.S. Vice President Joe Biden spoke publicly about this before and during his December visit to Kyiv.”
Dec. 8, 2015 – Vice President Biden makes a speech to Ukraine’s Parliament urging the country to step up anti-corruption measures.
In a speech covered widely in news media,
Biden implores Ukrainian lawmakers to move more quickly to fight the
country’s “historic battle against corruption” and “make real the
Revolution of Dignity.” (Many of the lawmakers themselves were former
businessmen and suspected of corruption and therefore that much less
interested in fighting graft.) He says, “The only thing worse than
having no hope at all is having hopes rise and see them dashed
repeatedly on the shoals of corruption…Not enough has been done yet.”
Specifically citing Shokin’s Office of the General Prosecutor for
lagging on corruption investigations, he continues:
“It’s not enough to set up a new anti-corruption bureau and establish a special prosecutor fighting corruption. The Office of the General Prosecutor desperately needs reform. The judiciary should be overhauled. The energy sector needs to be competitive, ruled by market principles — not sweetheart deals. It’s not enough to push through laws to increase transparency with regard to official sources of income. Senior elected officials have to remove all conflicts between their business interest and their government responsibilities. Every other democracy in the world — that system pertains.
Oligarchs and non-oligarchs must play by the same rules. They have to pay their taxes, settle their disputes in court — not by bullying judges. That’s basic. That’s how nations succeed in the 21st century.
Corruption siphons away resources from the people. It blunts the economic growth, and it affronts the human dignity. We know that. You know that. The Ukrainian people know that. When Russia seeks to use corruption as a tool of coercion, reform isn’t just good governance, it’s self-preservation. It’s in the national security interest of the nation ….
The United States is with you in this fight…We’ve stepped up with official assistance to help backstop the Ukrainian economy. We’ve rallied the international community to commit a total of $25 billion in bilateral and multilateral financing to support Ukraine. It includes $2 billion in U.S. loan guarantees and the possibility of more.
Yesterday I announced almost $190 million in new American assistance to help Ukraine fight corruption, strengthen the rule of law, implement critical reform, bolster civil society, advance energy security. That brings our total of direct aid to almost $760 million in direct assistance, in addition to loan guarantees since this crisis broke out. And that is not the end of what we’re prepared to do if you keep moving.
But for Ukraine to continue to make progress and to keep the support of the international community you have to do more, as well. The big part of moving forward with your IMF program — it requires difficult reforms.”
Jan. 21, 2016 – Vice President Biden meets with
Ukrainian President Poroshenko and discusses “the need to continue to
move forward on Ukraine’s anti-corruption agenda,” according to a readout on the website of the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv.
Feb. 11, 2016 – Vice President Biden speaks with Poroshenko by phone. A U.S. Embassy statement said the two agreed “that it is essential for Ukraine to continue to take action to root out corruption and implement reforms.”
Biden later boasts about the pressure he exerted on Ukraine during that time to address corruption. In a Jan. 23, 2018, Q&A following a speech at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) in Washington, Biden touts his tough stance with Ukraine in 2016. He says he told Ukrainian leaders that the U.S. would withhold $1 billion in loan guarantees unless they fired Prosecutor General Shokin.
President Trump and Rudy Giuliani have cited that boast repeatedly as proof that Biden admitted pushing for Shokin’s firing, even though Biden was calling for the prosecutor to be fired because he wasn’t pursuing corruption cases vigorously enough.
In the CFR appearance, Biden makes the comments in the context of expressing his concern that Ukraine still was not getting tough enough on corruption. “I looked at them and said: I’m leaving in six hours. If the prosecutor is not fired, you’re not getting the money. Well, son of a bitch. (Laughter.) He got fired. And they put in place someone who was solid at the time.” Biden continued, “So they made some genuine substantial changes institutionally and with people. But … there’s now some backsliding.”
“The United States and other Western nations had for months called
for the ousting of Mr. Shokin, who was widely criticized for turning a
blind eye to corrupt practice,” the New York Timesreported at the time.
Steven Pifer is a career foreign service officer who was ambassador to Ukraine under President Bill Clinton and deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian Affairs under President George W. Bush. He told PolitiFact that “virtually everyone” he knew in the U.S. government “felt that Shokin was not doing his job and should be fired. As far as I can recall, they all concurred with the vice president telling Poroshenko that the U.S. government would not extend the $1 billion loan guarantee to Ukraine until Shokin was removed from office.”
Note: Investigation of Burisma laid dormant at the time
Vitaliy Kasko, a former deputy prosecutor general who had worked
under Shokin and resigned in frustration at his stymying of corruption
investigations, told Bloomberg News (in a May 2019 interview) that the
office’s probe into Burisma Holdings had been long dormant
by the time Joe Biden issued his ultimatum in 2016. “There was no
pressure from anyone from the U.S. to close cases against” Burisma owner
Zlochevskiy, Bloomberg quoted Kasko as saying. “It was shelved by
Ukrainian prosecutors in 2014 and through 2015,” Kasko said.
“Shokin was not investigating. He didn’t want to investigate
Burisma,” Daria Kaleniuk a leading Ukrainian anti-corruption advocate, told the Washington Post.
“And Shokin was fired not because he wanted to do that investigation,
but quite to the contrary, because he failed that investigation.”
Feb. 16, 2016 – Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin resigns, then returns to office before finally being ousted
Ukrainian news media report on Feb. 16 that Viktor Shokin resigned
as Prosecutor General after months of intense criticism for failing to
adequately pursue any major corruption cases. But wait … despite
President Poroshenko’s public call that day that Shokin resign and the
apparent submission of a resignation letter on Feb. 19, media
cited a prosecutor in Shokin’s office on March 16 saying the chief
prosecutor was back after a “long leave.” Finally, on March 29, the
Parliament voted overwhelmingly to approve Poroshenko’s recommendation to dismiss Shokin.
The European Union issued a statement hailing his departure. The respected English-language Kyiv Postwrites,
“By the end of his term, he was likely one of the most unpopular
figures in Ukraine, having earned a bad reputation for inaction and
obstructing top cases.” The paper also says it “wasn’t able to find any
public comments that Shokin made about [Burisma] during his 14 months in
Feb. 18 and 19, 2016 – Vice President Biden speaks by phone with Ukrainian President Poroshenko. The Feb. 19 U.S. Embassy statement
says Biden again urged the Ukrainian leader to “to accelerate Ukraine’s
efforts to fight corruption, strengthen justice and the rule of law,
and fulfill its IMF requirements.”
April 14, 2016 – Vice President Biden speaks with Ukrainian President Poroshenko by phone, emphasizing
“the urgency of putting in place a new Prosecutor General who would
bolster the agency’s anti-corruption efforts and strongly support the
work of its reformers.” Biden does the same in a call the same day with newly elected Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman.
Aug. 14, 2016 – Evidence surfaces of payments to Paul Manafort
Paul Manafort by this time was Trump’s campaign chairman, and the
evidence appeared to show off-the-books payments by the discredited,
pro-Russian former Ukrainian President Yanukovych when Manafort served
as his political consultant. The payments were recorded in a “black
ledger” of Yanukovych’s political party that was turned over to
Ukraine’s National Anti-Corruption Bureau (NABU). On Aug. 19, 2016, days
after the New York Times
reported the story, Serhiy Leshchenko, a member of Ukraine’s Parliament
who had been swept into office with the 2014 revolution, holds a news
conference to discuss the ledger and criticize the payments to Manafort.
Rudy Giuliani has cited the revelations as evidence that certain Ukrainians, supported by the Obama administration at the time, were colluding with Hillary Clinton’s campaign to reveal information tainting Manafort and, by association, Trump, in order to influence the election. Giuliani in May 2019 accused Leshchenko personally on Fox News of colluding with Democrats.
Sept. 2016 – Case against Burisma closed
In a 2017 Q&A on the Burisma website,
Zlochevskiy’s American lawyer, John Buretta, a former U.S. deputy
assistant attorney general, says that a court in Kyiv ordered a case
closed in September 2016 because no evidence of wrongdoing had been
June 8, 2017 – Giuliani meets with Ukrainian leaders
Giuliani, who has had business of his own in Ukraine in the past,
meets with President Petro Poroshenko and Prosecutor General Lutsenko,
among other officials, during a visit to Kyiv, hosted by the foundation of billionaire Ukrainian metals magnate Victor Pinchuk, for a lecture on democracy and the rule of law. The meetings are cited
in the joint U.S. House committee investigation launched later in
September 2019 (see below) into Trump and Giuliani’s efforts to pressure
July 25, 2017 – President Trump issues a public call for an investigation of the 2016 Manafort revelations in Ukraine
a reference to what he calls “Ukrainian efforts to sabotage Trump
campaign — `quietly working to boost Clinton.’ So where is the
investigation A.G.,” he writes, referencing then-Attorney General Jeff
Sessions and tagging Fox News host Sean Hannity. The tweet was referenced
in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on possible obstruction of
justice by the U.S. president to block the investigation into Trump
campaign collusion with Russia’s 2016 election interference. It also is
cited in the September 2019 joint U.S. House committee letter (see
below) on the investigation into Trump and Giuliani’s pressure campaign
January 2019 — Giuliani and Lutsenko meet in New York over the space of two days. They discuss “the Ukrainian political situation and the fight against corruption,” Bloomberg News reports,
paraphrasing Lutsenko. “Giuliani asked him about investigations into
the owner of Burisma, Mykola Zlochevsky, as well as whether the U.S.
Ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, was `not loyal to President
Trump,’” the article says.
Mid-February 2019 — Giuliani meets with Lutsenko again in Warsaw, according to the OCCRP/BuzzFeed report.
March 20, 2019 – The Hill’s conservative opinion writer John Solomon publishes an interview with Ukrainian Prosecutor General Lutsenko, who by this point has been widely criticized as ineffective and likely corrupt.
Note: Solomon and Fox News’s Sean Hannity
are among a constellation of conservative media figures who regularly
help spread Trump and Giuliani’s Biden and Manafort theories as well as
other right-wingconspiracytheories, such as Uranium One, which have been debunked and shown to exclude vital information. Solomon was moved to the opinion section at The Hill, and announced Sept. 18, 2019, that he was leaving the publication.
The full video wasn’t available at this publication, but the text
accompanying it says Lutsenko alleged that U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine
Marie Yovanovitch, who took office in August 2016, gave him a “do not
prosecute” list at their first meeting. The State Department says the
claim was “an outright fabrication.” The article says Lutsenko was
examining Ukrainian civil society activists who he suspected were
misusing U.S. aid funding they had received, but he says Yovanovitch
told him the U.S. Embassy is confident the funding was secure.
Lutsenko also reportedly says he would investigate the head of NABU
for the 2016 Manafort disclosure. Ukraine expert Melinda Haring of the
Atlantic Council says Lutsenko is “woefully unqualified (he doesn’t have a law degree), has dragged his feet on
every serious anti-corruption case since being installed, and protected
his friends, including Poroshenko.” She continues, “Sean Hannity made
Solomon the star of his prime-time show that evening. Trump watches
Hannity, reportedly speaks with him multiple times daily, and tweeted the title of Solomon’s story. More than 25,000 retweets later, the Ukrainian collusion narrative went viral.”
March 24, 2019 – Donald Trump Jr. tweets criticism of U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Yovanovitch,
calling her a “joker” and linking to a conservative media outlet’s
article about calls for her ouster. The two incidents are part of a
pattern of conservative attacks against the ambassador. Within less than
two months, Yovanovitch is recalled to Washington.
March 31, 2019 —
First round of Ukraine’s presidential election, which results in runoff
between Zelenskyy and Poroshenko scheduled for April 21.
April 1, 2019 – The Hill newspaper publishes another article online by the same conservative investigative columnist John Solomon that advances the Trump-Giuliani story about Biden.
(See entry on March 20 about Solomon and conspiracy theories.) The
article reports that Shokin had said in written answers to questions
that he had planned an investigation of Burisma before he was fired,
including questioning all executive board members. The article says
Lutsenko, Shokin’s successor, and “a case file” indicate that the
Prosecutor General’s Office had handled three cases related to Burisma,
and that the “most prominent” case was transferred to the National
Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU), which Solomon describes
suggestively as “closely aligned with the U.S. Embassy in Kiev,” even
though it had long been public knowledge that Western supporters of
Ukraine and Ukrainian anti-corruption activists strongly backed the
bureau. The article says NABU closed that case.
April 2019 – Hunter Biden leaves the board of Burisma Holdings, as his father announces his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination.
April 21, 2019 – New Ukrainian President elected on anti-corruption agenda
Volodymyr Zelenskyy is elected president of Ukraine, to succeed Petro Poroshenko. He ran on a “zero tolerance” anti-corruption agenda.
April 21, 2019 – First Trump-Zelenskyy Phone Call
President Trump calls to congratulate him, their first known direct communication. Trump “urged Mr. Zelensky to coordinate with Mr. Giuliani and to pursue investigations of ‘corruption,’” the New York Timesreports (on Sept. 25, 2019).
April 25, 2019 – Joe Biden formally announces campaign for President.
April 25, 2019 – President Trump tells Fox News’s
Sean Hannity that Attorney General Bill Barr is considering allegations
that Ukrainians sought to help Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential
campaign by revealing damaging information about Paul Manafort. “I would
imagine [Barr] would want to see this. … I would certainly defer to the
attorney general, and we’ll see what he says about it,” Trump said. “He
calls ’em straight” (transcript). Fox Newsreports
that “Trump echoed his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, who wrote on
Twitter on Wednesday [April 24]: `Keep your eye on Ukraine.’”
On or about April 29, 2019 — “U.S. officials with direct knowledge of the situation” told the whistleblower that U.S. Ambassador Yovanovitch was being “suddenly recalled” to Washington for “consultations” and “would most likely be removed from her position.” The State Department announced on May 6 that she would be ending her assignment.
They said it was “as planned,” but in fact, her assignment had been
curtailed because of Lutsenko’s allegations. Giuliani told a Ukrainian
journalist in an interview published May 14 that Yovanovitch was
“removed…because she was part of the efforts against the President,” the
Around the same time, the whistleblower
writes that he “learned from a U.S. official that `associates’ of Mr.
Giuliani were trying to make contact with the incoming Zelenskyy team.”
He didn’t know whether the associates were the same two businessmen
(Parnas and Fruman (see entry under “late 2018”) who connected Giuliani
with Shokin and Lutsenko.
May 1, 2019 —
Attorney General William Barr stumbles and appears to try to avoid
answering U.S. Senator Kamala Harris during a Senate Judiciary Committee
hearing when she asks,
“Has the President or anyone at the White House ever asked or suggested
that you open an investigation of anyone?” He finally states in his
answer, “I don’t know.”
May 9, 2019 – Giuliani plans trip to Kyiv as part of pressure campaign
Giuliani tells the New York Times
he plans to travel to Kyiv and meet with President-elect Zelenskyy to
urge him to investigate the Bidens as well as Ukrainians who might have
worked with Hillary Clinton’s campaign to reveal the Manafort
information. “We’re not meddling in an election, we’re meddling in an
investigation, which we have a right to do,” Giuliani tells the
newspaper. “There’s nothing illegal about it,” he said. “Somebody could
say it’s improper.”
The newspaper notes the trip is “part of a months-long effort
by the former New York mayor and a small group of Trump allies working
to build interest in the Ukrainian inquiries. Their motivation is to try
to discredit the special counsel’s investigation; undermine the case
against Paul Manafort, Mr. Trump’s imprisoned former campaign chairman;
and potentially to damage Mr. Biden, the early front-runner for the 2020
Democratic presidential nomination.” The news ignites a firestorm of bipartisan condemnation that Giuliani is improperly seeking the help of a foreign government to benefit Trump’s re-election campaign.
In a later editorial for the Washington Post (on Sept. 21, 2019), former Ukrainian anti-corruption activist and member of Parliament Serhiy Leshchenko writes:
“Giuliani attempted to visit Ukraine in May 2019 with the
express purpose of involving Zelensky [cq] in this process. His aim was
quite clear: He was planning to ask Zelensky to intervene in an
American election on the side of Trump.
I had been helping Zelenksy’s team since January
As a person who has had direct experience of many of these events, I
express my readiness to testify to the U.S. Congress about what has been
happening for the past six months.”
May 9, 2019 – Giuliani, in an interview with Fox News,
raises his theory of Ukrainian collusion with Hillary Clinton’s
campaign in 2016 to smear Trump with Manafort payments allegations.
Giuliani says he received such information “about three or four months ago.” Giuliani also discusses his theory about the Bidens in Ukraine, and he tries to implicate the U.S. Embassy in both.
May 10, 2019 – President Trump says in an interview with Politico,
“Certainly it would be an appropriate thing” for him to ask Attorney
General Barr to open an investigation on Biden. “I have not spoken to
him about it. Would I speak to him about it? I haven’t thought of that,”
he adds. Trump says he sees Biden as the
clear front-runner in the Democratic race and likens it to his own surge
toward the Republican nomination in 2016. He also says he will speak
with Giuliani about the former mayor’s planned trip to Ukraine and that
they hadn’t discussed it “at any great length.”
May 11, 2019 – Giuliani cancels trip to Ukraine
Giuliani tells Fox News
he called off his trip to Ukraine because he believes he would be
“walking into a group of people that are enemies of the president, and
in some cases, enemies of the United States,” a particularly harsh
reference that sounds like it is meant for Ukrainian anti-corruption
reformers who are rejecting his and Trump’s conspiracy theories. The
decision follows bipartisan backlash in the United States over
Giuliani’s seeking foreign support for Trump’s re-election (see May 2
Former Ukrainian member of Parliament Serhiy Leshchenko
and former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine John Herbst say Zelenskyy
actually had declined Giuliani’s request for a meeting, which could
explain Giuliani’s tone of rejection. Herbst commented,
“My understanding is that the president-elect’s party and his group
said that the President-elect [Zelenskyy] sees no reason to have a
meeting about an issue which is so transparently an American domestic
On or about May 14, 2019 —
President Trump instructs Vice President Mike Pence “to cancel his
planned trip to Ukraine to attend President Zelenskyy’s inauguration.
Secretary of Energy Rick Perry led the U.S. delegation instead,” writes
the whistleblower, who cites unnamed “U.S. officials.” “According to
these officials, it was also `made clear’ to them that the President did
not want to meet with Mr. Zelenskyy until he saw how Zelenskyy `chose
to act,’” the whistleblower wrote.
May 14, 2019 – Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Lutsenko tells Bloomberg News that he has “no evidence of wrongdoing” by either of the Bidens
and that neither Hunter Biden nor Burisma were the focus of any current
investigation. He said he planned to give U.S. authorities information
about Burisma board payments, so that the U.S. could check whether
Hunter Biden had paid taxes on his income, though there were no
restrictions in Ukraine on how much a company could pay to its board
May 20-24, 2019 – Zelenskyy is inaugurated as president, taking over from Poroshenko. Shortly
afterwards, the whistleblower writes, “it was publicly reported that
Mr. Giuliani met with two other Ukrainian officials: Ukraine’s Special
Anticorruption Prosecutor, Mr. Nazar Kholodnytskyy, and a former
Ukrainian diplomat named Andriy Telizhenko.” (Public reports of these
meetings included Ukrainian and US media
outlets.) Both, the whistleblower continues, “are allies of Mr.
Lutsenko and made similar allegations” in a series of articles in The Hill. The two businessmen Parnas and Fruman who connected Giuliani with Shokin and Lutsenko (see entry for “late 2018”) reportedly join the meeting with Giuliani and Kholodnytskyy in Paris.
Mid May to early July – According
to the whistleblower’s complaint, in this period, “multiple U.S.
officials told me that the Ukrainian leadership was led to believe that a
meeting or phone call between the President and President Zelenskyy
would depend on whether Zelenskyy showed willingness to ‘play ball’ on
the issues that had been publicly aired by Mr. Lutsenko and Mr.
June 11, 2019 – Zelenskyy sends a motion to Parliament asking that it dismiss sitting Prosecutor General Lutsenko.
June 13, 2019 –– President Trump says he would accept dirt on his political rivals from a foreign government, a statement noted by the whistleblower, whose complaint references the relevant interview of the president with ABC News’s George Stephanopoulos.
June 21, 2019 — Giuliani tweets,
“New Pres of Ukraine still silent on investigation of Ukrainian
interference in 2016 election and alleged Biden bribery of Pres
Poroshenko. Time for leadership and investigate both if you want to
purge how Ukraine was abused by Hillary and Obama people.”
Early to mid-July – Trump orders suspension and review of U.S. aid to Ukraine
President Trump tells his acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, to hold back almost $400 million in aid to Ukraine at least a week before his phone call with Ukraine’s President Zelenskyy, the Washington Postreports. The decision was communicated by OMB to State and Defense department officials on July 18. The Post includes details of internal processes, including that “besides Bolton, several other administration officials said they did not know why the aid was being canceled or why a meeting was not being scheduled.”
About July 19, 2019 — Andriy Yermak, a top aide to Zelenskyy, reportedly
requests assistance from the State Department’s special representative
for Ukraine negotiations, Kurt Volker, to be put in touch with Giuliani.
On July 19, Volker sends a text message to Giuliani saying, “Mr.
Mayor—really enjoyed breakfast this morning. As discussed, connecting
you here with Andrey Yermak, who is very close to President Zelensky.”
Yermak speaks with Giuliani
for the first time by phone. They discuss the Trump-Giuliani demands
for investigations and the new Ukrainian leader’s desire for a White
House meeting to affirm continued U.S. support for Ukraine. “Mr.
Giuliani in television appearances over the summer had repeatedly
singled out Ukraine over corruption, putting pressure on Mr. Zelensky’s
new administration. Yermak called Mr. Giuliani to ask him to tone it
down, according to a person familiar with the call. Mr. Giuliani in
response suggested that Ukraine investigate Hunter Biden’s relationship
with Burisma,” the Wall Street Journalreports (on Sept. 26).
July 23-26, 2019 —
“During interagency meetings on 23 July and 26 July, OMB officials
again stated explicitly that the instruction to suspend this assistance
had come directly from the President, but they still were unaware of a policy rationale,” the whistleblower wrote.
July 25, 2019 — Trump and Zelenskyy speak by phone for the first time since the call on May 20.
The two presidents have their second conversation. An English-language press release issued by Zelenskyy’s office about the call says:
“Donald Trump is convinced that the new Ukrainian government will be able to quickly improve [the] image of Ukraine, complete investigation of corruption cases, which inhibited the interaction between Ukraine and the USA. He also confirmed continued support of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine by the United States and the readiness of the American side to fully contribute to the implementation of a Large-Scale Reform Program in our country.”
The two presidents “agreed to substantively discuss practical issues
of Ukrainian-American cooperation during the visit of the Ukrainian head
of state to the United States,” the release continued.
Zelenskyy had been hoping for a warm reception from the U.S.
president and a White House meeting as an important signal to affirm
continued American support for Ukraine’s war against Russian forces
controlling the country’s east and for comprehensive reform and economic
development efforts. Ukraine advocates in the U.S. also had thought a
White House invitation would be forthcoming any day, but it was never
An intelligence community whistleblower complaint revealed in
September that reportedly involves the Trump-Zelenskyy July 25 call
prompts a flurry of revelations about the conversation until the
declassification of a transcript of the call.
Before the release of the transcript, Trump admits he discussed Biden
on the call (see Sept. 22 below) and says U.S. funding for Ukraine is
at stake (see Sept. 22-23 below).
July 26, 2019 — U.S. Special Representative for Ukraine Negotiations Kurt Volker meets with Zelenskyy in Kyiv.
was accompanied by U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon
Sondland. The two advised the Ukrainian leader on “how to `navigate’ the
demands that the President had made of Mr. Zelenskyy,” according to the
July 28, 2019 – Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats submits his resignation, effective Aug. 15.
One of President Trump’s longest-serving Cabinet members, Coats also
stirred his boss’s ire at times with his policy disagreements and
lukewarm endorsements of the President’s positions.
July 31, 2019 – Giuliani meets
in New York with Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko, who is in a power
struggle with Zelenskyy over a second title he holds as head of the
city’s administration. Giuliani and Klitschko have known each other for years
– the former Ukrainian boxing champion hired the former New York mayor
as a consultant on his Kyiv mayoral campaign in 2008. On Sept. 4,
Zelenskyy stripped Klitschko of the head of administration post, apparently in a move to restore checks-and-balances in the capital.
On or about Aug. 2, 2019 – Giuliani meets in Madrid with Andriy Yermak, a top aide to Zelenskyy.
Having been rebuffed in June for a meeting in Kyiv with Zelenskyy
personally, Giuliani flies to Madrid to press the new Ukrainian
president’s aide, Yermak, for an investigation of the Bidens as well as a
probe of the allegation that Ukrainians conspired with Hillary
Clinton’s campaign in 2016 to release damaging information about Paul
Manafort. The Madrid meeting was a
“`direct followup’” to the July 25 Trump-Zelenskyy phone call and
specifically to their discussion of the cases the U.S. president raised
in that conversation, according to the whistleblower’s complaint. From Madrid, Giuliani resurfaces his allegations against the Bidens in a tweet on Aug. 3.
Giuliani has said Yermak seemed open to considering the
investigations, but also pressed for a Trump-Zelenskyy meeting as a sign
of continued U.S. support to Ukraine in its war against Russia and its
economic development and internal reform efforts. “I talked to him about the whole package,” Giuliani told the Washington Post.
The Post reported that “U.S. officials and members of the Trump
administration wanted the meeting [between the two Presidents] to go
ahead, but Trump personally rejected efforts to set it up, according to
three people familiar with the discussions.”
Aug. 12, 2019 – A whistleblower files a complaint to Intelligence Community Inspector General (ICIG) Michael Atkinson related to an alleged “urgent concern” that
news reports later reveal likely centers on activities involving
President Trump and Ukraine. The ICIG determines the complaint meets the
definition of an “urgent concern” and is credible, and forwards it on
Aug. 26 to Acting Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Joseph
Maguire, who under the law was required to transmit the complaint to the
congressional intelligence committees within seven days. The Justice Department,
however, takes the position that the statute does not apply on the
ground that the complaint does not involve “an intelligence activity
within the responsibility and authority of the Director of National
Intelligence.” The complaint remains under wraps until House
Intelligence Committee Chairman reveals its existence on Sept. 13 (see
Aug. 15, 2019 – DNI Coats leaves office. Principal Deputy Director Sue Gordon resigns too, after it became clear that Trump would not select her to succeed Coats.
Aug. 26, 2019 – The Inspector General forwards the intelligence community whistleblower complaint to Acting DNI Maguire.
Aug. 28, 2019 – Then-U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton becomes the first high-level Trump administration official to visit Kyiv since President Zelenskyy’s inauguration. Bolton says the two discussed a possible meeting between the two presidents during a trip Trump planned at the time to Poland.
Aug. 28, 2019 – Politico breaks the news
that President Trump was delaying the distribution of $250 million of
fiscal 2019 security assistance that Ukraine needs to fight its war with
Russia on its eastern flank, by asking his administration to
review how it was being spent. The hold on the aid package at the same
time as Trump and Giuliani were agitating publicly for Ukraine to
investigate Biden raises the specter that the U.S. president was using
congressionally appropriated taxpayer dollars as leverage to coerce a
foreign government to investigate his potential rival in the 2020
election. The hold also constitutes a reversal of the Trump
administration’s stance toward Ukraine, after having approved lethal
defensive weapons sales in 2017, a move the Obama administration had
resisted. It is unclear exactly when the review was ordered, but the
suspension pending review was in place during the July 25 call. The
Department of Defense determined that the support should continue and
informed the White House of its recommendation, according to Politico and CNN.
National Security Adviser John Bolton also wanted to release the funds
to help Ukraine curtail Russian aggression, the Washington Post reports.
Aug. 29, 2019 – Zelenskyy appoints
lawyer and former Deputy Minister of Justice Ruslan Riaboshapka as the
new prosecutor general, replacing Yuriy Lutsenko, who steps down the
Sept. 2019 – The Wall Street Journalreports,
“Ukrainian officials earlier this month expressed concern to U.S.
senators that the aid had been held up as a penalty for resisting that
Sept. 2, 2019 – Vice President Mike Pence, a day after meeting with the new Ukrainian president, doesn’t directly answer a reporter’s question
about whether he can assure Ukrainians that the delay in $250 million
of U.S. security assistance for Ukraine is unrelated to President
Trump’s and Rudy Giuliani’s pressure on Ukraine to investigate the
Sept. 5, 2019 — New Prosecutor General Ruslan Riaboshapka brings Vitaliy Kasko back to the office as First Deputy Prosecutor General, a move that promises to help restore integrity to the office. Kasko is the former deputy of Shokin’s who had quit out of frustration.
Sept. 9, 2019 Inspector General for the Intelligence
Community Michael Atkinson informs House Intelligence Committee Chair
Adam Schiff and Ranking Member Devin Nunes of the whistleblower
complaint’s existence (full text of the Inspector General’s letter)
Sept. 9, 2019 – Three U.S. House committees launch probe into Trump and Giuliani pressure campaign
The House Foreign Affairs, Intelligence and Oversight and Reform
committees announce a joint investigation of Trump and Giuliani’s
alleged efforts to strongarm Ukraine into pursuing two investigations
for the president’s political gain, including by threatening to withhold
$250 million in security assistance. The joint press release says public records show the efforts have continued “for nearlytwo years” and were conducted “under the guise of anti-corruption activity.”
Sept. 11, 2019 – Trump releases the hold on U.S. security assistance to Ukraine
State Department notifies
Congress that it will provide Ukraine with $141.5 million of military
equipment and other assistance under its “Foreign Military Financing”
program that is available for a number of countries. The news emerges
the next day, Sept. 12, at the same time that U.S. Senator Lindsey
Graham says the administration has released its hold on the separate
$250 million of military assistance for Ukraine from the Defense
Department under a program known as the Ukraine Security Assistance
Initiative. President Trump gave permission
to the OMB’s acting director, Russell Vought, to release the funds. The
timing of the news on both aid packages leads to speculation that the
Trump administration was topping up its bribe/extortion of Ukraine, but
the Foreign Military Financing likely had been in the works for months, possibly a year.
Sept. 13, 2019 – Intelligence community whistleblower complaint revealed
House Intelligence Committee Chair Schiff announces
that he has issued a subpoena to Acting DNI Maguire to obtain a
complaint from a whistleblower filed under the Intelligence Community
Whistleblower Protection Act (ICWPA) that, under the law,
should have been provided to the congressional intelligence committees.
Schiff says he is concerned the complaint is being withheld “to cover
up serious misconduct” and “to protect the President or other
Sept. 17, 2019 – The Inspector General for the Intelligence Community sends letter
to House Intelligence Chairman Schiff and Ranking Member Nunes
outlining his disagreement with the administration’s decision to
withhold the whistleblower’s complaint from the congressional
intelligence committees. The Inspector General’s letter states, “the
subject matter involved in the complainant’s disclosure not only falls
within the DNI’s jurisdiction, but relates to one of the most significant and important of the DNI’s responsibilities to the American people.”
Sept. 18, 2019 – Vice President Pence speaks with
Ukrainian President Zelenskyy by phone, discussing a scheduled meeting
between the two presidents during the United Nations General Assembly
meetings in New York the following week. Pence “commended President
Zelenskyy’s administration for its bold action to tackle corruption
through legislative reforms, and offered full U.S. support for those
efforts,” according to a U.S. Embassy statement.
Sept. 20, 2019 – A senior advisor to Ukraine’s
Interior Minister challenges Trump to make official U.S. government
request if he wants an investigation of Biden. The adviser, Anton
Geraschenko, told The Daily Beast
that “currently there is no open investigation.” He adds, “Clearly,
Trump is now looking for kompromat to discredit his opponent Biden, to
take revenge for his friend Paul Manafort, who is serving seven years in
Sept. 22, 2019 – After days of insisting there was nothing inappropriate about his telephone call with Zelenskyy, President Trump acknowledges
discussing Joe Biden with the Ukrainian leader during their July 25
phone call. “The conversation I had was largely congratulatory, with
largely corruption, all of the corruption taking place and largely the
fact that we don’t want our people like Vice President Biden and his son
creating to the corruption already in the Ukraine,” Mr. Trump told reporters.
Sept. 22 and 23, 2019 – Trump himself connects phone call on Biden to US aid to Ukraine
President Trump, in two sets of remarks to reporters asking about his July 25 phone call with Zelenskyy, appears to confirm a connection between U.S. financial assistance for Ukraine and his pressure for the country’s leaders to pursue the investigations he wants.
On Sept. 22 Trump says, “Certainly I’d have every right to [raise
Biden with the Ukrainian President] if there’s corruption and we are
paying lots of money to a country.”
Trump has repeatedly referred to what he falsely claims the Bidens to
have done as “corruption.” “It’s very important to talk about
corruption,” Trump tells the
reporters on Sept. 23. “If you don’t talk about corruption, why would
you give money to a country that you think is corrupt?…It’s very
important that on occasion you speak to somebody about corruption.”
Sept. 23, 2019 – The chairmen of the three House
committees conducting the joint investigation into Trump and Giuliani’s
efforts to pressure the Ukrainian government write Secretary of State Pompeo demanding he turn over the documents the committees had requested on Sept. 9. The letter
characterizes Trump’s actions as “seeking to enlist a foreign actor to
interfere with an American election,” and says, “if press reports are
accurate, such corrupt use of presidential power for the President’s
personal political interest – and not for the national interest – is a
betrayal of the President’s oath of office and cannot go unchecked.” The
chairmen note the earlier deadline of Sept. 16 to produce the material
had passed and give a new deadline of Sept. 26 to notify the committees
whether the State Department intends to comply.
Sept. 25, 2019 – Trump and Zelenskyy are scheduled to meet for the first time
The two presidents are scheduled to meet on the sidelines of the
opening sessions of the United Nations General Assembly in New York. The
meeting between the presidents has been delayed since
the Ukrainians began requesting it in early summer, and still doesn’t
equate to an invitation for a formal meeting at the White House that
Zelenskyy has sought as an important signal of continued U.S. support
for Ukraine’s war against Russia and its battle against corruption.
SO IN CONCLUSION TO ALL OF THE ABOVE INFORMATION
Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani again went and asked a foreign government to interfere in our elections, knowing this was against the law.
Trump withheld financial, military and security funds and equipment to our ally the Ukraine, that was already approved by Congress. He states it was because of corruption, but we all know better.
Trump then used this to hang over the head of the President of the Ukraine as a tool to get him to conduct an illegal investigation against Joe Biden, his political opponent and to find out who ratted out his criminal conspirator Manafort. This would have been used to his political advantage in smear campaigns to further his chances of getting re-elected.
Trump even admits he made this phone call.
Giuliani has been doing the same in aiding him in furtherance of this.
Attorney General William Barr is a co-conspirator in covering up these crimes and protecting this criminal and treasonous president.
Trump has also threatened the whistleblower and the people who gave the information to the whistleblower, which is intimidation of witnesses, and obstruction of justice.
TREASONOUS ACTS BY TRUMP:
Traitor Trump withheld the funds, approved by Congress for the Ukraine to fight against Putin and Russian invasion and proxy war to hold over the head of the President of the Ukraine as a stick to get him to investigate Biden, Biden Jr and find out who leaked the info about Manafort.
Trump has stalled the release of weapons, ammo, secure communications to the Ukraine.
Trump did all this to hold over the President of the Ukraine to do his bidding in investigating Biden and the Manafort deal.
In doing so? Trump gave aid and comfort to our enemy Putin and Russia. By denying the Ukranians the funds and weapons and ammo and communications they need to fight Russia? He has in fact? Given aid and comfort to our enemy Putin and Russia.
Giving aid and comfort to our enemy? Is called Treason.
The penalty for Treason is death.
Traitor Trump even stated in his threat against the whistleblower and those who gave them the information? Were spies and traitors and he wishes that we could do to traitors what we used to do to them.
Trump is a traitor and I agree, we should do to Traitors what we used to do to them.
Trump and Giuliani should be arrested and prosecuted for Treason against the United States. Their actions sure prove this.
Attorney General William Barr at the very least? Should be impeached. At the most? He should be charged with crimes of this cover up, obstruction of justice and being an accessory to the crime of High Treason against the United States.
Any of Trump’s circle who had a hand in this, or in the cover up? Should be arrested and prosecuted.
ANYONE WHO STANDS UP AND DEFENDS THESE ACTIONS? SHOULD BE PUT IN PRISON BECAUSE THEY BELIEVE THAT TREASON AGAINST THE US? IS ALRIGHT.
THE CEO OF TWITTER, JACK DORSEY AND THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS OF TWITTER, SHOULD BE ARRESTED AND PROSECUTED FOR THE PROMOTION OF HATE CRIMES AND MURDER
Congress has called out both Facebook and Twitter for the promotion of hate speech and even terroristic acts.
While it appears that Facebook is now putting a stop to white supremacists on Facebook and the spreading of their hate? It seems the CEO of Twitter Jack Dorsey and the Board of Directors of Twitter will never do the same to stop the spread of hate and white supremacy and their racist bullshit on Twitter. Why? Because it turns out of they actually went after the White Supremacists spreading hate on Twitter? Why they would be having to ban a whole lot of Republican Politicians, including that proven bigot, racist, misogynist pig, treasonous Cock Sucker for Putin, Donald J Trump and the rest of his white supremacist cunts Trumpanzees whose tweets would violate those algorythyms that show white supremacists spreading hate on Twitter.
Why can’t Twitter stop Trump’s hateful tweets about Ilhan Omar?
Congresswoman received death threats following video Trump posted – but he didn’t technically violate the rules
The rules just aren’t the same for Donald Trump as they are for the rest of us. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey apparently admitted as much this week on a phone call with Minnesota representative Ilhan Omar.
As reported by the Washington Post,
Dorsey, often criticized for his inaction when it comes removing
hateful and threatening content from the platform, was asked by Omar why
he hadn’t taken down a video posted by Trump earlier in the month. The
video, which spliced together misleading and out of context comments
from Omar about the issue of Islamophobia with footage of the 9/11
attacks, was clearly targeted harassment to anyone who saw it.
Indeed Omar said she saw a sharp uptick in death threats after it was posted. But since it came from Trump, and not an average Twitter user, there was nothing Dorsey could do, he said. The tweet didn’t technically violate the rules in any case, he added. (Anyone who has used Twitter will understand the frustration at trying to parse what exactly those rules are.)
The call with Omar came the same day Dorsey met with Trump in the
White House, a meeting in which the president is said to have largely
complained about his follower count.
“During their conversation, [Dorsey] emphasized that death threats, incitement to violence and hateful conduct are not allowed on Twitter,” the social media platform said in a statement to the Post. “We’ve significantly invested in technology to proactively surface this type of content and will continue to focus on reducing the burden on the individual being targeted.”
Dorsey has said in the past that the public interest value of Trump’s tweets outweigh the harm of his occasional calls for violence or threats against foreign governments or members of the media
“Blocking a world leader from Twitter or removing their controversial
tweets would hide important information people should be able to see
and debate,” the company explained in statement last year. “It would also not silence that leader, but it would certainly hamper necessary discussion around their words and actions.”
More recently Dorsey declined to say whether a hypothetical direct call from Trump to murder a journalist would be grounds for his banishment.
The permissive double standard applied to Trump on Twitter hasn’t stopped him from regularly suggesting that he is himself being treated unfairly. This week Trump tweeted that Twitter doesn’t “treat me well as a Republican. Very discriminatory…”
In fact it seems more probable that Republicans such as Trump are given much more leeway than others.
A recent story from Motherboard reported that one of the reasons Twitter has had trouble removing white supremacist content from the platform, as they have largely done with the Islamic State, is that the algorithms they use might end up affecting Republican politicians.
“When you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything,” Trump once said in a prescient boast.
When it comes to his behavior as reported in the Mueller report, as
well as his social media habits, it seems like Trump behaves like he can
get away with anything. So far he’s right.
Why Won’t Twitter Treat White Supremacy Like ISIS? Because It Would Mean Banning Some Republican Politicians Too.
A Twitter employee who works on machine learning believes that a proactive, algorithmic solution to white supremacy would also catch Republican politicians.
At a Twitter all-hands meeting on March 22, an employee asked a blunt
question: Twitter has largely eradicated Islamic State propaganda off
its platform. Why can’t it do the same for white supremacist content?
executive responded by explaining that Twitter follows the law, and a
technical employee who works on machine learning and artificial
intelligence issues went up to the mic to add some context. (As
Motherboard has previously reported, algorithms are the next great hope for platforms trying to moderate the posts of their hundreds of millions, or billions, of users.)
every sort of content filter, there is a tradeoff, he explained. When a
platform aggressively enforces against ISIS content, for instance, it
can also flag innocent accounts as well, such as Arabic language
broadcasters. Society, in general, accepts the benefit of banning ISIS
for inconveniencing some others, he said.
In separate discussions verified by Motherboard, that employee said Twitter hasn’t taken the same aggressive approach to white supremacist content because the collateral accounts that are impacted can, in some instances, be Republican politicians.
The employee argued that, on a technical
level, content from Republican politicians could get swept up by
algorithms aggressively removing white supremacist material. Banning
politicians wouldn’t be accepted by society as a trade-off for flagging
all of the white supremacist propaganda, he argued.
There is no
indication that this position is an official policy of Twitter, and the
company told Motherboard that this “is not [an] accurate
characterization of our policies or enforcement—on any level.” But the
Twitter employee’s comments highlight the sometimes overlooked debate
within the moderation of tech platforms: are moderation issues purely
technical and algorithmic, or do societal norms play a greater role than
some may acknowledge?
Twitter has not publicly explained
why it has been able to so successfully eradicate ISIS while it
continues to struggle with white nationalism. As a company, Twitter
won’t say that it can’t treat white supremacy in the same way as it
treated ISIS. But external experts Motherboard spoke to said that the
measures taken against ISIS were so extreme that, if applied to white
supremacy, there would certainly be backlash, because algorithms would obviously
flag content that has been tweeted by prominent Republicans—or, at the
very least, their supporters. So it’s no surprise, then, that employees
at the company have realized that as well.
This is because the
proactive measures taken against ISIS are more akin to the removal of
spam or child porn than the more nuanced way that social media platforms traditionally police content,
which can involve using algorithms to surface content but ultimately
relies on humans to actually review and remove it (or leave it up.) A
Twitter spokesperson told Motherboard that 91 percent of the company’s
terrorism-related suspensions in a 6 month period in 2018 were thanks to
internal, automated tools.
The argument that external experts made to Motherboard aligns with
what the Twitter employee aired: Society as a whole uncontroversially
and unequivocally demanded that Twitter take action against ISIS in the
wake of beheading videos spreading far and wide on the platform. The
automated approach that Twitter took to eradicating ISIS was successful:
“I haven’t seen a legit ISIS supporter on Twitter who lasts longer than
15 seconds for two-and-a-half years,” Amarnath Amarasingam, an
extremism researcher at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, told
Motherboard in a phone call. Society and politicians were willing to
accept that some accounts were mistakenly suspended by Twitter during
that process (for example, accounts belonging to the hacktivist group Anonymous that were reporting ISIS accounts to Twitter as part of an operation called #OpISIS were themselves banned).
That same eradicate-everything approach, applied to white supremacy, is much more controversial.
“Most people can agree a beheading video or some kind of ISIS content should be proactively removed, but when we try to talk about the alt-right or white nationalism, we get into dangerous territory, where we’re talking about [Iowa Rep.] Steve King or maybe even some of Trump’s tweets, so it becomes hard for social media companies to say all of this ‘this content should be removed,’” Amarasingam said.
going to be controversy here that we didn’t see with ISIS, because
there are more white nationalists than there are ISIS supporters, and
white nationalists are closer to the levers of political power in the US
and Europe than ISIS ever was.”
In March, King promoted an open white nationalist on Twitter for the third time. King quote tweeted Faith Goldy, a Canadian white nationalist. Earlier this month, Facebook banned Goldy under the site’s new policy banning white nationalism; Goldy has 122,000 followers on Twitter and has not been banned at the time of writing. Last year, Twitter banned Republican politician and white nationalist Paul Nehlen for a racist tweet he sent about actress and princess Meghan Markle, but prior to the ban, Nehlen gained a wide following on the platform while tweeting openly white nationalist content about, for example, the “Jewish media.”
Any move that could be perceived as being anti-Republican is likely to stir backlash against the company, which has been criticized by President Trump and other prominent Republicans for having an “anti-conservative bias.” Tuesday, on the same day Trump met with Twitter’s Dorsey, the President tweeted that Twitter “[doesn’t] treat me well as a Republican. Very discriminatory,” Trump tweeted. “No wonder Congress wants to get involved—and they should.”
JM Berger, author of Extremism and a number of reports on ISIS and far-right extremists on Twitter, told Motherboard that in his own research, he has found that “a very large number of white nationalists identify themselves as avid Trump supporters.”
down on white nationalists will therefore involve removing a lot of
people who identify to a greater or lesser extent as Trump supporters,
and some people in Trump circles and pro-Trump media will certainly
seize on this to complain they are being persecuted,” Berger said.
“There’s going to be controversy here that we didn’t see with ISIS,
because there are more white nationalists than there are ISIS
supporters, and white nationalists are closer to the levers of political
power in the US and Europe than ISIS ever was.”
Twitter currently has no good way of suspending specific white
supremacists without human intervention, and so it continues to use
human moderators to evaluate tweets. In an email, a company spokesperson
told Motherboard that “different content and behaviors require
“For terrorist-related content
we’ve a lot of success with proprietary technology but for other types
of content that violate our policies—which can often [be] much more
contextual—we see the best benefits by using technology and human review
in tandem,” the company said.
Twitter hasn’t done a particularly good job of removing white supremacist content and has shown a reluctance to take any action of any kind against “world leaders” even when their tweets violate Twitter’s rules. But Berger agrees with Twitter in that the problem the company is facing with white supremacy is fundamentally different than the one it faced with ISIS on a practical level.
ISIS, the group’s obsessive branding, tight social networks and small
numbers made it easier to avoid collateral damage when the companies
cracked down (although there was some),” he said. “White nationalists,
in contrast, have inconsistent branding, diffuse social networks and a
large body of sympathetic people in the population, so the risk of
collateral damage might be perceived as being higher, but it really
depends on where the company draws its lines around content.”
But just because eradicating white supremacy on Twitter is a hard problem doesn’t mean the company should get a pass. After Facebook explicitly banned white supremacy and white nationalism, Motherboard asked YouTube and Twitter whether they would make similar changes. Neither company would commit to making that explicit change, and referred us to their existing rules.
has a responsibility to stomp out all voices of hate on its platform,”
Brandi Collins-Dexter, senior campaign director at activist group Color
Of Change told Motherboard in a statement. “Instead, the company is
giving a free ride to conservative politicians whose dangerous rhetoric
enables the growth of the white supremacist movement into the mainstream
and the rise of hate, online and off.”
Twitter and YouTube Won’t Commit to Ban White Nationalism After Facebook Makes Policy Switch
Following a Motherboard investigation, Facebook banned white nationalism and white separatism. But Twitter and YouTube, two platforms with their own nationalism problems, won’t commit to following Facebook’s lead.
Keegan Hankes, a research analyst for the Southern Poverty Law Center’s (SPLC) Intelligence Project, told Motherboard in a phone call Tuesday “I think there is absolutely a need for other platforms to adopt similar policies” to Facebook. “Both YouTube and Twitter have been amongst the worst at getting this content dealt with on their platforms,” Hankes added.
Hankes added the SPLC does have a relationship with YouTube, but with Twitter not nearly as much.
“They’ve been very, very stubborn and basically unwilling to ban people
that are outright white supremacists from their platform,” he added.
When they do ban people, they’re happy to play a game of whack-a-mole,
instead of having a systematic approach, he added.
“They’re still basically at square one for the most part,” Hankes said.
Tech Platforms Obliterated ISIS Online. They Could Use The Same Tools On White Nationalism.
Before killing 50 people during Friday prayers at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, and injuring 40 more, the gunman apparently decided to fully exploit social media by releasing a manifesto, posting a Twitter thread showing off his weapons, and going live on Facebook as he launched the attack.
gunman’s coordinated social media strategy wasn’t unique, though. The
way he manipulated social media for maximum impact is almost identical
to how ISIS, at its peak, was using those very same platforms.
While most mainstream social networks have become aggressive
about removing pro-ISIS content from the average user’s feed, far-right
extremism and white nationalism continue to thrive. Only the most
egregious nodes in the radicalization network have been removed from
every platform. The question now is: Will Christchurch change anything?
A 2016 study by George Washington University’s Program on Extremism shows that white nationalists and neo-Nazi supporters had a much larger impact
on Twitter than ISIS members and supporters at the time. When looking
at about 4,000 accounts of each category, white nationalists and
neo-Nazis outperformed ISIS in number of tweets and followers, with an
average follower count that was 22 times greater than ISIS-affiliated
Twitter accounts. The study concluded that by 2016, ISIS had become a
target of “large-scale efforts” by Twitter to drive supporters off the
platform, like using AI-based technology to automatically flag
militant Muslim extremist content, while white nationalists and
neo-Nazi supporters were given much more leeway, in large part because
their networks were far less cohesive.
The answer to why this kind of cross-network deplatforming hasn’t happened with white nationalist extremism may be found in a 2018 VOX-Pol report
authored by the same researcher as the George Washington University
study cited above: “The task of crafting a response to the alt-right is
considerably more complex and fraught with landmines, largely as a
result of the movement’s inherently political nature and its proximity
to political power.”
But tech companies and governments can easily agree on removing violent
terrorist content; they’ve been less inclined to do this with white
nationalist content, which cloaks itself in free speech arguments and
which a new wave of populist world leaders are loath to criticize.
Christchurch could be another moment for platforms to draw a line in the
sand between what is and is not acceptable on their platforms.
Moderating white nationalist extremism is hard because it’s drenched in
irony and largely spread online via memes, obscure symbols, and
references. The Christchurch gunman ironically told the viewers of his
livestream to “Subscribe to Pewdiepie.” His alleged announcement post on
8chan was full of trolly dark web in-jokes. And the cover of his
manifesto had a Sonnenrad on it — a sunwheel symbol commonly used by
And unlike ISIS, far-right extremism isn’t as centralized. The
Christchurch gunman and Christopher Hasson, the white nationalist Coast
Guard officer who was arrested last month for allegedly plotting to
assassinate politicians and media figures and carry out large-scale
terror attacks using biological weapons, were both inspired
by Norwegian terrorist Anders Breivik. Cesar Sayoc, also known as the
“MAGA Bomber,” and the Tree of Life synagogue shooter, both appear to
have been partially radicalized via 4chan and Facebook memes.
It may now be genuinely impossible to disentangle anti-Muslim hate speech
on Facebook and YouTube from the more coordinated racist 4chan meme
pages or white nationalist communities growing on these platforms.
“Islamophobia happens to be something that made these companies lots and
lots of money,” Whitney Phillips, an assistant professor at Syracuse
University whose research includes online harassment, recently told BuzzFeed News. She said this type of content leads to engagement, which keeps people using the platform, which generates ad revenue.
A spokesperson from Twitter provided BuzzFeed News with a copy of its
policy on extremism, in regards to how it moderates ISIS-related
content. “You may not make specific threats of violence or wish for the
serious physical harm, death, or disease of an individual or group of
people,” the policy reads. “This includes, but is not limited to,
threatening or promoting terrorism.” The spokesperson would not comment
specifically on whether using neo-Nazi or white nationalist iconography
on Twitter also counted as threatening or promoting terrorism.
Like the hardcore white nationalist and neo-Nazi iconography used by the
Christchurch gunman, the more entry-level memes that likely radicalized
the MAGA bomber, and the pipeline from mainstream social networks to
more private clusters of extremist thought described by the Tree of Life
shooter, ISIS’s social media activity before the large-scale crackdown
in 2015 had similar tentpoles. It organized around hashtags, distributed
propaganda in multiple languages, transmitted coded language and
iconography, and siphoned possible recruits from larger mainstream
social networks into smaller private messaging platforms.
Twitter CEO Jack Patrick Dorsey should in fact, along with the Board of Directors of Twitter be held responsible for any acts of violence, or any acts of murder committed by Twitter White Supremacist Users, or encouraged by Donald J Trump or any White Supremacist.
As we can see from the stories above? Twitter CEO Jack Patrick Dorsey and the Twitter Board of Directors: Omid Kordestani, Patrick Pichette, Martha Lane Fox, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, David Rosenblatt, Brett Taylor, Robert Zoellick and Twitter’s CFO Ned Segal, should be held accountable for all the hate, all the bigotry, all the misogyny, all the shit that Donald J Trump spews on a daily basis to his psychotic, white supremacist twitter followers, to all the white supremacists, all the Republican racists, who also spew racist, bigoted, misogynist bullshit on Twitter. This also includes all the hate, all the bigotry and all the lgbtphobia spewed by White Supremacist Christians who use Twitter to spread their hate and bigotry.
These actions of Trump and his racist punks are in fact, responsible for some of the mass murders and the incredible high murder counts of lgbts in the US and across the world.
If Twitter’s CEO Jack Patrick Dorsey, and the Board of Directors Kordestani Pichette, Fox, Okonjo-Iweala, Rosenblatt, Taylor, Zoellick and CFO Segal are going to rake in millions of dollars in profits, and place the revenue of advertisers, that Racist Trump and his white supremacists bring into the coffers, bank accounts and pockets of these people? And if these actions of hate spewed by these white supremacists by Donald J Trump or by ChristoTaliban Fascists on Twitter caused a death? Then they should be held responsible for it.
BECAUSE QUITE FRANKLY AND HONESTLY? TWITTER CEO JACK PATRICK DORSEY, CFO NED SEGAL, AND THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS OF TWITTER, ALONG WITH TWITTER STOCKHOLDERS?
SHOULD NOT PROFIT FROM THE SPREAD OF HATE, THE SPREAD OF BIGOTRY, THE SPREAD OF MISOGYNY, THE SPREAD OF WHITE SUPREMACY OR OTHER FORMS OF HATE, SIMPLY BECAUSE THEY ARE PERPETRATED BY THE SUPPOSED PRESIDENT, DONALD J TRUMP, OR WHITE SUPREMACISTS WHO HAPPEN TO BE REPUBLICAN, OR CHRISTIAN WHO SPEW HATE AND DEATH AND BIGOTRY ON TWITTER AND HIDE IT BEHIND A RELIGIOUS RIGHT.
AND AS SUCH? JACK DORSEY, NED SEGAL AND ALL THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS OF TWITTER SHOULD HAVE TO PAY FOR THEIR CRIMES.