Posts tagged with "Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky"

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

Bolton resisted Ukraine pressure campaign, calling Giuliani ‘a hand grenade’

October 15, 2019

The effort to squeeze Ukraine for political help provoked a head-on battle inside the White House last summer, The New York Times reports.

Indeed, the under-the-radar strong-arm tactics being used by President Donald Trump’s personal attorney, as well as administration officials, so alarmed John Bolton—who was at that time the national security adviser—that he told aide Fiona Hill to alert White House lawyers, House investigators learned on October 14.

Specifically, the Times notes, Bolton got into a tense exchange on July 10 with Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, who was working with Rudy Giuliani, the president’s lawyer, to press Ukraine to provide dirt on Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden and his son Hunter, according to three people who heard the testimony.

The aide, Fiona Hill, testified on Monday that Bolton told her to notify the chief lawyer for the National Security Council about a rogue effort by Sondland, Giuliani, and Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, according to the sources to the Times.

“I am not part of whatever drug deal Sondland and Mulvaney are cooking up,” Mr. Bolton, a Yale-trained lawyer, told Hill to tell White House lawyers, according to two people at the deposition.

It was not the first time Bolton expressed grave concerns to Hill about the campaign being run by Giuliani, the news outlet said. “Giuliani’s a hand grenade who’s going to blow everybody up,” Hill quoted Bolton as saying during an earlier conversation.

According to the Times, “The testimony revealed in a powerful way just how divisive … Giuliani’s efforts to extract damaging information about Democrats from Ukraine on President Trump’s behalf were within the White House. … Hill, the senior director for European and Russian affairs, testified that … Giuliani and his allies circumvented the usual national security process to run their own foreign policy efforts, leaving the president’s official advisers aware of the rogue operation yet powerless to stop it.”

At one point, she confronted Sondland, who had inserted himself into dealings with Ukraine even though it was not part of his official portfolio, according to the Times’ sources

Hill was the first former White House official to testify in the House impeachment inquiry. While she left her post shortly before the now-infamous July 25 telephone call in which Trump pressed Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Democrats, she helped House investigators understand the early months of the pressure campaign.

Research contact: @nytimes

Graham to gather signatures for letter to Pelosi saying GOP won’t impeach Trump over Ukraine call

October 10, 2019

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina)—who has been playing the role of golf partner and crony-in-chief to President Donald Trump—on Wednesday said that he is sending a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) to warn her that Senate Republicans won’t impeach the POTUS over his call with Ukraine, The Hill reported.

In an appearance on the Fox News morning show, Fox & Friends, Graham said that he would ask other Senate Republicans to sign the letter—claiming that GOP lawmakers “do not believe the transcript of the phone call between the president and the Ukraine is an impeachable offense.”

“They’re about to destroy the nation for no good reason,” Graham said, according to The Hill. “And I want Nancy Pelosi to know that Republican senators are not going to impeach this president based on this transcript, so she can stop now before she destroys the country.”

House Democrats are in the early stages of an impeachment inquiry into how and why Trump asked the Ukrainian government to work with his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, as well as with Attorney General Bill Barr, to provide dirt on Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden—while concurrently withholding $400 million in military aid to Ukraine in an effort to get Kiev to launch such a probe.

“There’s a lot of talk about Biden’s son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that; so whatever you can do with the attorney general would be great,” Trump told Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky during the July 25 call.

The White House ramped up the fight over the impeachment inquiry on Tuesday, sending a letter to Pelosi and the House committee chairs overseeing the investigation saying that it would refuse to cooperate further with the probe, The Hill said.

In the letter, the White House argued Democrats were pursuing a “constitutionally invalid” investigation of a duly elected president.

Graham, who is one of Trump’s most vocal allies on Capitol Hill, blasted House Democrats on Wednesday, saying they couldn’t “care less about fairness.”

Research contact: @thehill

Support for Trump impeachment rises 12 percentage points in new poll

September 30, 2019

A new Hill-HarrisX survey released on Friday, September 27, found that support for impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump rose 12 percentage points, following the release of a whistleblower report to Congress and the American people last week—as compared to a similar poll conducted three months ago.

The survey was conducted on September 26 and September 27—just a couple of days after House Democrats announced the launch of a formal impeachment inquiry, specifically to look into Trump’s July phone call to Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky, among other allegedly illegal Oval Office activities.

Trump also released a transcript of that telephone call, during which the POTUS requested that Zelensky provide “oppo research” about Joe Biden, his Democratic opponent in the upcoming 2020 U.S. election; as well as on the former vice president’s son Hunter.

Until that request was acted upon, the U.S. president made it clear that he would not release more Javelins for defense purposes to the Ukraine (and implied that also would wait to release $400 million in Congressionally approved military aid to the eastern European nation).

The poll asked Americans, “Do you support or oppose the decision of House Democrats to start a formal impeachment inquiry on President Trump?”Fully 47% of respondents supported the inquiry, up 12 percentage points from a similar survey in June, which asked whether Democrats should begin impeachment proceedings.

Meanwhile, opposition to impeachment dipped 3 points to 42%, while 11 percent of those polled in the new survey said they weren’t sure or didn’t know.

Support for impeachment grew among Democratic, Republican and Independent voters alike. Democratic support jumped from 59%  to 78%, a 19-point increase. The number of Republicans backing impeachment jumped 5 points to 18 percent.

The number of independents back impeachment doubled to 41 percent.

According to a report by The Hill, the whistleblower, who is believed to be a former CIA official, alleges that Trump tried to persuade Zelensky to launch an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter, to help boast Trump’s reelection chances in 2020.

Trump has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing and the GOP  has largely come to the president defense.

The Hill-HarrisX survey surveyed among 1,001 voters and the margin of error was 3.1 percentage points.

Research contact: thehill

‘No one is above the law.” With Pelosi imprimatur, impeachment inquiry hurtles forward

September 26, 2019

With gravity and solemnity, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California)—who had stood firm as the voice of reason for many months, resisting efforts to launch impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump—said at 5 p.m. on September 24 in an address to the American people, “No one is above the law.”

And with those words, she announced a formal impeachment inquiry on Tuesday, saying that the president’s growing Ukraine scandal marked a “breach of his Constitutional responsibilities,” NBC News reported.

“This week the president has admitted to asking the president of Ukraine to take actions which would benefit him politically,” Pelosi said.

Indeed, several media outlets, including NBC News, reported that, last summer, the president had withheld hundreds of millions in Congressionally approved military aid to the Eastern European nation—using the funds as leverage to get the “oppo research” he wanted on Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son Hunter.

On Monday, The Washington Post and other media outlets reported that Trump, in lockstep with the attorney general, instructed his acting chief of staff to place a hold on about $400 million in military aid for Ukraine in the days before a late July phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

“The actions of the Trump presidency revealed the dishonorable fact of the president’s betrayal of his oath of office, betrayal of our national security, and betrayal of the integrity of our elections,” she continued. “Therefore, today I am announcing the House of Representatives is moving forward with an official impeachment inquiry.”

Pelosi said she was formally directing the House’s six committees that have jurisdiction over impeachment, oversight and other related matters to “proceed with their investigations under that umbrella.”

“The president must be held accountable,” she said. “No one is above the law.”

Pelosi’s change of heart came as dozens of House Democrats—now about 200 members—have come out in support of an impeachment inquiry in the wake of reports that Trump may have withheld aid to Ukraine to pressure officials there to investigate the son of political rival Joe Biden.

Trump responded on Twitter within moments of Pelosi’s announcement, saying, “They never even saw the transcript of the call. A total Witch Hunt!”

He also demeaned the House Speaker, and the chairmen of the House Judiciary, Intelligence, and Financial Services committees—all of whom are expected to collaborate on impeachment charges—tweeting, “Pelosi, Nadler, Schiff and, of course, Maxine Waters! Can you believe this?”

Earlier, Trump told reporters that an impeachment inquiry would help him in the 2020 election but would harm the country.

“If she does that they all say that’s a positive for me in the election. You could also say who needs it, it’s bad for the country,” he said, according to NBC News.

And in an effort to defuse the situation, on Wednesday, he released a transcript of the call to the Ukraine president.

Pelosi reacted to the release of the transcript with a statement on her website:

“The release of the notes of the call by the White House confirms that the President engaged in behavior that undermines the integrity of our elections, the dignity of the office he holds, and our national security. The President has tried to make lawlessness a virtue in America and now

“I respect the responsibility of the President to engage with foreign leaders as part of his job. It is not part of his job to use taxpayer money to shake down other countries for the benefit of his campaign. Either the President does not know the weight of his words or he does not care about ethics or his constitutional responsibilities.

“The transcript and the Justice Department’s acting in a rogue fashion in being complicit in the President’s lawlessness confirm the need for an impeachment inquiry. Clearly, the Congress must act.“As we await the transmittal of the full whistleblower complaint to the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, it is important to note that the complaint was determined by the Inspector General to be a matter of ‘urgent concern’ and ‘credible

“The Intelligence Community has long recognized that whistleblowers constitute a vital part of our national security apparatus and that they must be protected. I reiterate my long-standing call to protect the whistleblower from retaliation.”

While Senate Republicans continue to support the president; once the whistleblower complaint is in the hands of Congress, the inquiry is expected to gain momentum—at least in the House.

Research contact: @NBCNews