Posts tagged with "Transcript"

Current White House official plans to testify at impeachment probe, if subpoenaed

October 29, 2019

Tim Morrison, a  top expert on Russia and Europe who serves on the National Security Council—and who has been identified as a witness to one of the most explosive pieces of evidence unearthed by House impeachment investigators—plans to testify, even if the White House attempts to block him, Politico reports.

“If subpoenaed, Mr. Morrison plans to appear for his deposition,” his attorney, Barbara Van Gelder, said.

He joined the NSC in July of 2018 following former Nation Security Adviser John Bolton’s appointment. His testimony is expected to be so significant because Morris is said to have listened to the July 25 call between Trump and the Ukrainian leader, CNN reported earlier this month.

Indeed, Morrison is one of the few witnesses who was on the phone to hear everything that was said between the two leaders during their full half-hour phone call. A transcript of the call was released by the White House but was not a full verbatim.

Already, several high-profile witnesses have defied White House, State Department, and Pentagon orders not to cooperate with the impeachment probe. In each case, lawmakers have issued a subpoena, which the officials have relied on to justify testifying over the administration’s objections.

Morrison was also a crucial figure identified Tuesday by Trump’s ambassador to Ukraine, William Taylor, as a witness to Trump’s effort to withhold military aid from Ukraine in order to bend President Volodymyr Zelensky to his will.

According to the Politico report, Taylor testified that on September 1, Morrison told him about a conversation he witnessed between Trump’s E.U. Ambassador Gordon Sondland and a senior Ukrainian government official. In that conversation, Taylor said Morrison told him, Sondland informed the official that hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. military aid to Ukraine were dependent on the opening of political investigations.

Taylor also said Morrison spoke to him on Sept. 7 about another conversation with Sondland. In that conversation, per Taylor’s recounting, Sondland revealed he had spoken directly with Trump about Ukraine and that Trump insisted that Zelensky should publicly declare the political investigations himself, rather than leaving it to subordinates. According to Taylor, Morrison said he then relayed details of the call to then-national security adviser John Bolton as well as NSC lawyers.

Van Gelder declined to comment on a CNN report that indicated Morrison would corroborate the key details of Taylor’s testimony. “We will not be commenting on what he will say to the committees,” she said.

Research contact: @politico

White House opens internal review of Ukraine call, as insiders run for cover

October 17, 2019

The cat is investigating who ate the canary. President Donald Trump has for weeks sought to unmask the whistle-blower who revealed his Ukraine dealings. Now, administration attorneys have begun a “fact-finding review” on the actions leading up to the current impeachment inquiry— and some White House denizens fear that it is really a hunt for a scapegoat, according to sources tapped by The New York Times.

Specifically, the news outlet reports, the legal investigators are seeking to understand White House officials’ actions around Trump’s July 25 call with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, which is central to the whistle-blower’s allegation that the POTUS abused his power.

The lawyers are particularly interested in why one of their colleagues, National Security Council Legal Advisor John A. Eisenberg, placed a rough transcript of the call in a computer system typically reserved for the country’s most closely guarded secrets. The president later directed that a reconstructed transcript be released amid intensifying scrutiny from House Democrats.

According to the Times, “The review shows how quickly the impeachment inquiry escalated tensions in a West Wing already divided over the publication of the transcript, and it appears to be the latest example of administration officials rushing to protect themselves in the Ukraine scandal.”

For his own part, Eisenberg has reacted angrily to suggestions that he is under scrutiny, according to two people told of his response. He has said he limited access to the transcript over concerns about leaks, according to a person familiar with his actions. He declined through a National Security Council spokesman to comment.

It was not clear who sought the review. The Acting White House Chief of Staff, Mick Mulvaney, is said to have encouraged it, and his aides are helping the White House Counsel’s Office, led by Pat Cipollone, sources said. Aides in the two offices have otherwise been at odds since the transcript was released, according to administration officials.

The existence of the review could threaten the president’s narrative that his call with Zelensky was “perfect.” Instead, the review underscores the evidence that he bent foreign policy to his personal advantage by pressing Zelensky to open investigations that could damage his political opponents.

Research contact: @nytimes

Kushner is flummoxed on interview questions about Trump’s racism

June 4, 2019

When you work for the family business, loyalty isn’t just a nicety; it’s a rigorous job requirement. So, we weren’t expecting any big reveals from presidential son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner during his June 2 interview with National Political Reporter Jonathan Swan of Axios on HBO.

Indeed, when pressed by Swan about whether current POTUS, Donald Trump, could be characterized as a racist—judging by his no-holds-barred birther campaign against his predecessor Barack Obama—Kushner was briefly flummoxed, according to a report by The Washington Post.

Here’s a quick transcript, obtained from the news outlet:

SWAN: Have you ever seen him say or do anything that you would describe as racist or bigoted?

KUSHNER: So, the answer is un— uh, no. Absolutely not. You can’t not be a racist for 69 years, then run for president and be a racist. What I’ll say is that, when a lot of the Democrats call the president a racist, I think they’re doing a disservice to people who suffer because of real racism in this country.

SWAN: Was birtherism racist?

KUSHNER: Um, look I wasn’t really involved in that.

SWAN: I know you weren’t. Was it racist?

KUSHNER: Like I said, I wasn’t involved in that.

SWAN: I know you weren’t. Was it racist?

KUSHNER: I know who the president is, and I have not seen anything in him that is racist. So, again, I was not involved in that.

SWAN: Did you wish he didn’t do that?

KUSHNER: Like I said, I was not involved in that. That was a long time ago.

That’s 4-0, The Washington Post noted—Four instances in which Kushner emphasized that he hadn’t personally participated in Trump’s effort to question the legitimacy of the nation’s first black president, and zero instances in which he denied the entire effort was racist.

Kushner’s insistence that this “was a long time ago” is also pretty difficult to digest. For those who might have forgotten the 2016 campaign, Trump’s birtherism charge made a comeback and lingered for weeks before he eventually backed off — kind of, the news outlet said. But not before he had appealed repeatedly to his base.

Michelle Obama reserved some of the harshest words in her 2018 autobiography, Becoming, for this saga. “The whole [birther] thing was crazy and mean-spirited, of course, its underlying bigotry and xenophobia hardly concealed,” she said. “But it was also dangerous, deliberately meant to stir up the wingnuts and kooks.”

According to the Post, “He showed the GOP base, much of which embraced the bogus theory, that he was willing to stick by a birther campaign that riled them up and drove the establishment crazy. It was the first big conspiracy theory of his conspiracy theory-laden political career.”

And that first big success has led to Trump’s more recent disparagement of Muslims, Gold Star parents, Hispanics, Haiti and Africa as “shXthole countries,” “people who were captured in the war,” and even Meghan Markle.

With that in mind, Jonathan Swan’s questions are effectively answered.

Research contact: @jonathanvswan

House puts spotlight on secret Trump-Putin summits

February 19, 2019

What happened—in Hamburg in July 2017 and in Helsinki in July 2018—will remain there, if it’s up to the two global leaders who participated in those meetings: Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Donald Trump.

Apparently there are secrets that the American president has gone to great lengths to suppress—confiscating his translator’s notes of the Hamburg meeting; and allowing no detailed records of his private Helsinki sit-down , according to a recent report by Politico.

But with that silence comes an opportunity for coercion by Putin, who holds Trump’s secrets close at a cost: Intelligence officials fear that Putin may have compromised the American president, who could be following the Russian’s dangerous agenda out of fear of exposure and reprisals.

Now, all that is about to change, as House Democrats prepare to take their first meaningful steps to force Trump to divulge information about those private conversations.

The chairmen of two powerful congressional oversight panel—Representative Adam Schiff (D-California) of the Intelligence Committee and Representative Eliot Engel (D-New York) of the Foreign Affairs Committeetold Politico late last week that “they are exploring options to legally compel the president to disclose his private conversations with the Russian president.

The two lawmakers told the political news outlet that they are “actively consulting” with House General Counsel Douglas Letter about the best way to legally compel the Trump administration to come clean.

“I had a meeting with the general counsel to discuss this and determine the best way to find out what took place in those private meetings — whether it’s by seeking the interpreter’s testimony, the interpreter’s notes, or other means,” Schiff, told Politico in an interview.

According to the February 16 story, the move underscores the seriousness with which Democrats view Trump’s conciliatory statements and actions toward Moscow; and its place as a top House priority as the party pursues wide-ranging investigations into the president and his administration.

Specifically, Politico reported, Democrats want a window into the Helskini meeting last summer, during which Trump put himself at odds with the U.S. intelligence community and declared—while standing next to the Russian president—that the Kremlin did not interfere in the 2016 elections.

“I don’t see any reason why [Russia would interfere with the 2016 election],” he said at the extraordinary news conference following the private confabulation.

Trump’s remark prompted Democrats to call for Marina Gross, the State Department translator who was the only other American present for the Trump-Putin meeting, to share her notes with Congress and testify in public.

Getting Gross’s notes and testimony may be a challenging task, Schiff admitted—noting possible legal roadblocks, including executive privilege.

“That’s a privilege that, based on first impression, is designed to facilitate consultations between the president and members of his staff and Cabinet — not to shield communications with a foreign leader,” Schiff said. “But that’s just a preliminary take. And once we get the studied opinion of the general counsel, then we’ll decide how to go forward.”

For his part, Engel told Politico, “I’m not saying that I’m in favor of interpreters turning over all their notes, but I do think that it shouldn’t be up to the president to hide the notes.”

The White House is expected to fight divulging the details of the discussions every step of the way.

Research contact: @desiderioDC