Posts tagged with "Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky"

Rudy to the rescue? Giuliani’s current Ukraine jaunt freaks out Trump’s team—and he doesn’t care

December 9, 2019

Forget Carmen Sandiego. Where in the world is Rudy Giuliani?  The president’s personal attorney’s decision to travel to multiple European countries last week—during the height of an impeachment probe involving his client—was so out of left field that senior administration officials and national security brass began tracking his movements in an effort to get a read on his objectives abroad, The Daily Beast reports.

Indeed, officials in the West Wing and numerous Trump associates learned about Giuliani’s latest foreign escapade, which included a stop in Ukraine, by reading the news, the news outlet said.

Many of them expressed exasperation at the thought of Giuliani—himself reportedly in the crosshairs of federal investigators—continuing to cause headaches for the White House. Others feared he would cause tangible damage to U.S. foreign policy.

 “I do not see why [any] lawyer would see this as serving the best interests of their client,” a senior White House official told The Daily Beast. “Especially now.”

Senior U.S. officials in the State Department and on the national security team were concerned that Giuliani was speaking with politicians in both Budapest and Kiev who have interests in domestic American politics.

According to five Daily Beast sources with knowledge of the situation, there is renewed fear that the president’s lawyer is still shopping for dirt about former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter as well as speaking with foreign officials who, against all evidence, have promoted the idea that Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in the 2016 presidential election. In fact, there are rumors that he is taping a documentary.

The concerns about Giuliani’s trip to Kiev were so pronounced that they reached officials close to Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky, who were advised by Americans and politicians in Ukraine not to meet with Giuliani when he was in town, according to an individual familiar with those conversations.

The president’s attorney, who has been defiant in the face of criticism for his prior efforts to target the Bidens, was similarly unmoved by the idea that his current expedition was both unseemly and unwise, the news outlet said.

“I would hope they have more important things to do than intrude on the work being done by a lawyer defending his client against another set of false and contrived charges,” Giuliani told The Daily Beast last Wednesday, while still overseas.

Research contact: @thedailybeast

Pelosi to participate in CNN Town Hall as House weighs impeachment

November 25, 2019

When Nancy Pelosi speaks, the American people and their president listen.  The House Speaker is widely recognized as one of the strongest and smartest leaders inside the Beltway—and as the savvy architect of the current impeachment inquiry.

Now CNN has announced, Pelosi will participate in a town hall broadcast from Washington, D.C., moderated by Jake Tapper at 9 p.m. (ET) on December 5. As part of the CNN format, the House Speaker will take questions directly from a cross-section of voters.

According to the cable news network’s publicity for the event, “Pelosi has been critical of Trump’s presidency — from his policy initiatives to his personal conduct as commander-in-chief. Earlier this week, the Speaker told CBS that she warned Trump to refrain from intimidating the “whistleblower”—whose complaint about the President’s call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky prompted the impeachment inquiry.”

While impeachment proceedings will dominate the headlines in December, Congress will be facing a deadline on funding for the federal government, and mounting pressure to pass a massive trade deal; and to approve legislation to lower the costs of prescription drugs.

The town hall will air exclusively on CNN, CNN International, CNN en Español, CNN.com’s homepage, across mobile devices via CNN’s apps for iOS and Android, via CNNgo apps for Apple TV, Roku, Amazon Fire, Chromecast and Android TV, SiriusXM Channels 116, 454, 795 and the Westwood One Radio Network.

Research contact: @CNN

Lt. Colonel Vindman testifies: ‘I did this out of a sense of duty’

November 20, 2019

Lt. Colonel Alexander Vindman—the principal White House adviser on Ukraine to the national security staff and the to the president—said in his opening statement in the impeachment inquiry on November 19 that he “was concerned” as he personally listened to President Donald Trump phone call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky on July 25.

As he sat in the Situation Room along with White House colleagues and heard firsthand the conversation between the two leaders, Vindman told the House Intelligence Committee, “…what I heard was improper.”

He clarified, “It is improper for the President of the United States to demand a foreign government investigate a U.S. citizen and political opponent. It was also clear that, if Ukraine pursued an investigation into the 2016 election, the Bidens, and Burisma, it would be interpreted as a partisan play. This would undoubtedly result in Ukraine losing bipartisan support; undermine U.S. national security; and advance Russia’s strategic objectives in the region.”

He said he never expected to testify about the president’s words and actions, but he did so out of a “sense of duty.”

Indeed, according to a report by NBC News—which obtained a copy of the opening statement and posted it—Vindman’s account is significant because Republicans have attempted to paint previous witnesses as unreliable given their second- or third-hand knowledge about the pressure campaign. Vindman said that he witnessed EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland ask Ukrainian officials to open the investigation in order to get the aid — a meeting then-national security adviser John Bolton cut short. He also said that the July 25 call was “inappropriate” and he reported his concerns immediately

What’s more, he noted, he continued to support the foreign policy objectives of the administration, even after he reported his concerns—both on July 10 about Ambassador Sondland’s message detailing what was expected from Ukraine in return for the nearly $400 million in military aid—and on July 25 about the president’s dialog with Zelensky.

“When I reported my concerns,” Lt. Colonel Vindman said, “my only thought was to act property and to carry out duty. Following each of my reports [to National Security Council attorney John Eisenberg, who placed the transcript of the phone call on a classified server]… I immediately returned to work to advance the President’s and our country’s foreign policy objectives. I focused on what I have done throughout my career, promoting America’s national security interests.”

NBC News reported that Vindman —whose loyalty to the United States has come under attack from some in conservative media—excoriated the “reprehensible” and “cowardly” attacks on career foreign service officers and others who have appeared or were expected to do so, saying they do this work out of patriotism and not partisanship.

In a powerful close, Vindman thanked his father for deciding to emigrate to America from Ukraine, saying his testimony was proof it was the right decision. “Do not worry, I will be fine for telling the truth,” he said looking into the camera directly at his dad.

Research contact: @NBCNews

Repudiate or remove? 70% of Americans say Trump’s demands to Ukraine were ‘wrong’

November 19, 2019

A majority of Americans think they have Donald Trump’s number—and that’s not good news for the president. An overwhelming 70% of Americans believe that he was “wrong” to ask a foreign leader to investigate his political rival, an ABC News/Ipsos poll conducted November 16-17 has found.

A slim majority of Americans,(51%) believe Trump’s actions were both wrong and he should be impeached and removed from office. But only 21% of Americans say they are following the hearings very closely.

In addition to the 51%, another 19% think that Trump’s actions were wrong, but that, at worst, he should either be impeached by the House and not removed from office. The survey also finds that 25% of Americans think that Trump did nothing wrong.

Still,about one-third (32%) say they made up their minds about impeaching the president before the news broke about Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, in which Trump urged his Ukrainian counterpart to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter.

The poll asked Americans how closely they were following the first week of public impeachment hearings in the House, their assessments of Trump’s actions; and whether those actions warranted impeachment and removal from office. The survey also asked Americans when they decided on the matter.

ABC News notes that House Democrats are investigating whether the administration withheld nearly $400 million in aid and promised a White House summit between the two leaders in exchange for an investigation into the president’s political rival, Biden, and his son, for his place on the board of Ukrainian energy company Burisma.

Overall, the poll found, 58% of Americans say they are following the hearings very closely or somewhat closely (21% and 37%, respectively); and 21% say they made up their minds about impeachment after the first week of public hearings. Among those who said this, 60% think that Trump should be impeached and removed from office.

Of those following the House impeachment hearings very closely, 67% think Trump’s actions were wrong and he should be impeached and removed from office.

Among Democrats, 41% say they made up their minds about impeachment before Trump’s actions related to Ukraine became public. And 41% of those who support Trump’s impeachment and removal from office say they made up their minds before the matter came to light.

The unfolding political drama between congressional Democrats and the White House reveals a polarized populace, with Democrats more united in their belief that Trump should be impeached and convicted than Republicans are in their belief that the president has committed no wrongdoing: 85% and 65%, respectively.

Research contact: @ABCNews

Is Nikki Haley positioning herself to replace Mike Pence on Trump’s 2020 ticket?

November 13, 2019

She is one of the few Trump Administration headliners who has departed while still on good terms with the president. And on her current book tour, Nikki Haley, the former ambassador to the United Nations, has characterized the POTUS as “truthful.”

Now, political pundits are asking, does Haley have an agenda? And more specifically, is she angling to replace Mike Pence on the 2020 GOP ticket as vice president?

Less than three months ago, Yahoo News pointed out on November 12, Haley shut down speculation that she was seeking to replace VP Mike Pence.

“Enough of the false rumors,” she tweeted on August 21. “Vice President Pence has been a dear friend of mine for years. He has been a loyal and trustworthy VP to the President. He has my complete support.”

But the speculation has resumed during Haley’s promotional tour for her new book, which some observers—including the hosts of MSNBC’s Morning Joe, Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough—believe is doubling as an audition for the role of Trump’s running mate.

Haley’s book, entitled With All Due Respect: Defending America With Grit and Grace, which was released on Tuesday, November 12, is respectful toward Trump and dismissive of some of his other cabinet members, including former White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and ex-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, whom she says tried to recruit her to “save the country” by undermining Trump, Yahoo reports.

She writes, “Kelly and Tillerson confided in me that when they resisted the president, they weren’t being insubordinate, they were trying to save the country. ‘We are doing the best we can do to save the country,’ they said. We need you to work with us and help us do it.”

Both Kelly and Tillerson have denied that they were on a mission to undermine Trump. (Kelly told The Washington Post that if providing the president “with the best and most open, legal and ethical staffing advice … is ‘working against Trump,’ then guilty as charged.”)

Haley says she refused to go along with the idea. “Go tell the president what your differences are, and quit if you don’t like what he’s doing,” Haley described her response to CBS News anchor Norah O’Donnell.  “But to undermine a president is really a very dangerous thing.”

In an interview with NBC’s “Today” show, the former South Carolina governor said she told Trump about Kelly and Tillerson’s back-door approach.

In the same interview, Yahoo reports, Haley defended Trump’s requests for Ukraine to investigate his political rivals in exchange for military aid — the basis of the House Democrats’ ongoing impeachment inquiry.

While she refused to say whether she agreed with Trump that his July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was “perfect,” Haley echoed a White House talking point that there was no pressure put on Zelensky.

Research contact: @YahooNews

Taylor ties Trump directly to Ukraine quid pro quo

October 24, 2019

It was a shakedown, pure and simple. There were audible gasps in the room on October 22, when the top U.S. envoy to Ukraine told House impeachment investigators that President Donald Trump sought to withhold $400 million in critical military aid to Ukraine—and to refuse a White House meeting with the country’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky—unless he pursued politically motivated investigations into Trump’s rivals.

The diplomat, William Taylor, painted a damaging portrait of events that directly tied Trump to a quid pro quo with Ukraine, according to his prepared remarks obtained by Politico and his responses to questions as described by sources in the room for the closed-door testimony.

Indeed, the 50-year veteran of government service “systematically dismantled Trump’s repeated denials that he sought to leverage American military and diplomatic might to coerce an ally into a coordinated campaign to damage his potential 2020 rival,” Politico reported.

 Trump himself and his congressional allies did not attempt on Tuesday to dispute the substance of Taylor’s claims, which were based on copious notes. Instead, White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham attacked Taylor personally, saying he was part of a band of “radical unelected bureaucrats waging war on the Constitution.”

In his opening statement, Taylor said Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, told him that “everything” — including military assistance to Ukraine and a meeting between Trump and the Ukrainian leader — was contingent on the Ukrainians publicly announcing investigations into Trump’s political opponents. He told impeachment investigators that a White House budget official said on a secure phone call in July that Trump had personally directed that the military aid be withheld.

“It is a rancorous story about whistle-blowers, Mr. Giuliani, side channels, quid pro quos, corruption and interference in elections,” Taylor said according to Politico, referring to Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, who was deeply involved in the shadow effort.

Taylor also testified that Sondland said Trump personally told him that he wanted Ukraine to “state publicly” that it would open such probes, before the U.S. would release the aid, which is viewed as critical for combating Russia’s aggression in the region.

“The body language of the people hearing it was, ‘holy s—’ — seriously,” Representative Harley Rouda (D-California), a member of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, told Politico in reference to Taylor’s opening statement.

Representative Stephen Lynch (D-Massachusetts), a senior member of the Oversight panel, characterized the testimony as a “sea change” that “could accelerate” the impeachment inquiry..

Representative Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), the president’s lead defender in the room, was tight-lipped as he emerged from the closed-door deposition for a lunch break. He praised what he described as GOP lawyers’ effective questioning of Taylor but declined to say whether it yielded exculpatory information.

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

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