Posts tagged with "Ukraine"

Trump tied Ukraine military aid to political inquiries on Bidens, Bolton book says

January 28, 2020

Someone has leaked the manuscript of former National Security Adviser John Bolton’s new tell-all book—and the revelations are damaging to President Donald Trump’s defense, as the Senate impeachment inquiry goes into its second week.

Indeed, according to the unpublished manuscript, the president told Bolton in August—just about one month before the adviser’s resignation—that “he wanted to continue freezing $391 million in military assistance to Ukraine until officials there helped with investigations into Democrats including the Bidens,” The New York Times reports.

The president’s statement, as described by Bolton, makes it crystal clear that any release of military aid was contingent on Ukraine announcing investigations into Trump’s political enemies—including former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter, who had worked for a Ukrainian energy firm while his father was in office.

According to the Times, Bolton’s explosive account of the matter at the center of Trump’s impeachment trial, the third in American history, was included in drafts of a manuscript he has circulated in recent weeks to close associates. He also sent a draft to the White House for a standard review process for some current and former administration officials who write books.

Multiple people told the news outlet about Bolton’s personal, written account of the Ukraine affair. The book presents an outline of what the former advsier might testify to, if he is called as a witness in the Senate impeachment trial, the people said.

Or not: The White House could use the pre-publication review process, which has no set time frame, to delay or even kill the book’s publication or omit key passages.

Just after midnight on Monday, January 27, the president denied telling Bolton that the aid was tied to investigations. “If John Bolton said this, it was only to sell a book,” he wrote on Twitter, reprising his argument that the Ukrainians themselves felt “no pressure” and falsely asserting that the aid was released ahead of schedule.

Over dozens of pages, Bolton described how the Ukraine affair unfolded over several months until he departed the White House in September. He described not only the president’s private disparagement of Ukraine but also new details about senior cabinet officials who have publicly tried to sidestep involvement.

For example, the Times reported, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo acknowledged privately that there was no basis to claims by the president’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani that the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine was corrupt.

As for Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, he was present for at least one phone call durng which the president and Giuliani discussed the ambassador, Bolton wrote. Mulvaney has told associates he would always step away when the president spoke with his lawyer to protect their attorney-client privilege.

Bolton’s lawyer blamed the White House for the disclosure of the book’s contents, the Times said. “It is clear, regrettably, from The New York Times article published today that the pre-publication review process has been corrupted and that information has been disclosed by persons other than those properly involved in reviewing the manuscript,” the lawyer, Charles Cooper, said Sunday night.

The White House has ordered Bolton and other key officials with firsthand knowledge of the president’s dealings not to cooperate with the impeachment inquiry. Bolton said in a statement this month that he would testify if subpoenaed.

Research contact: @nytimes

Parnas: Trump gave the orders on Ukraine; Giuliani, Pence, and Barr were ‘on the team’

January 17, 2020

The White House reeled as more damning evidence on the Ukraine plot emerged this week, even as the House voted to release its two articles of impeachment to the Senate.

Lev Parnas—the indicted associate of the president’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, who has been implicated in an alleged attempt to coerce Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky—told Rachel Maddow of MSNBC in an exclusive and explosive interview aired on January 15, “… Trump knew exactly what was going on.”

“He was aware of all my movements. I wouldn’t do anything without the consent of Rudy Giuliani or the president. I have no intent, I have no reason to speak to any of these officials,” Parnas revealed.

“I mean, they have no reason to speak to me. Why would President Zelenskiy’s inner circle or Minister Avakov or all these people or President Poroshenko meet with me? Who am I? They were told to meet with me. And that’s the secret that they’re trying to keep. I was on the ground doing their work,” Parnas said.

Zelenskiy was elected president in April, defeating incumbent Petro Poroshenko. Arsen Avakov is Ukraine’s interior minister, NBC News reported.

On Tuesday, the network said, House Democrats released records as part of the evidence that attorneys for Parnas turned over to House impeachment investigators, which show that Giuliani requested a private meeting with Zelenskiy, then the president-elect, with Trump’s “knowledge and consent.”

The evidence appears to bolster Democrats’ argument that Giuliani was doing Trump’s bidding by trying to dig up dirt on Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and the Democratic National Committee.

In response to Parnas’ interview, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said Thursday morning, “These allegations are being made by a man who is currently out on bail for federal crimes and is desperate to reduce his exposure to prison.”

“The facts haven’t changed — the president did nothing wrong and this impeachment, which was manufactured and carried out by the Democrats has been a sham from the start,” Grisham said.

In a statement to “The Rachel Maddow Show” while the program was airing, Giuliani denied that he told Ukrainian officials that Parnas spoke on behalf of Trump.

“Never,” Giuliani responded when asked whether Parnas was speaking for Trump.

Asked whether he believed Parnas was lying, Giuliani said, “All I can say is the truth.” Giuliani said of Parnas, “He’s a very sad situation.”

The president, himself, continued to stick to the same script, tweeting, “Cryin’ Chuck Schumer just said, “The American people want a fair trial in the Senate.” True, but why didn’t Nervous Nancy and Corrupt politician Adam “Shifty” Schiff give us a fair trial in the House. It was the most lopsided & unfair basement hearing in the history of Congress!”

The impeachment articles against Trump center on an alleged campaign by Trump to pressure Zelenskiy to announce investigations into Biden and his son Hunter, who served on the board of the Ukrainian energy company Burisma in 2014 until he left last year.

“Yeah, it was all about Joe Biden, Hunter Biden, and also Rudy had a personal thing with the Manafort stuff. The black ledger,” Parnas told Maddow.

Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign manager, is serving a 7½-year prison sentence for tax evasion and violating federal lobbying laws after having been charged

Parnas also told the MSNBC anchor that Vice President Mike Pence’s planned trip to attend Zelenskiy’s inauguration in May was canceled because the Ukrainians did not agree to the demand for an investigation of the Bidens. “Oh, I know 100% . It was 100%,” he said.

Asked whether Pence was aware of a “quid pro quo” around the visit, Parnas replied by quoting Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, who said during the House impeachment inquiry: “Everybody was in the loop.”

Maddow said her show asked for comment from Pence and had not received a response.

Parnas said Attorney General William Barr was also likely aware of what was going on. Parnas said that he never spoke with Barr but that “I was involved with lots of conversations” that Giuliani and another person had with Barr in front of him.

“Mr. Barr had to have known everything. I mean, it’s impossible,” Parnas told Maddow. “Attorney General Barr was basically on the team.”

Asked about Trump’s denial that he knows him, Parnas said, “He lied.”

Parnas said he wants to testify in the Senate impeachment trial. “I want to get the truth out,” he said, “because I feel it’s important for our country.”

The impeachment trial has been scheduled to start on January 21.

Research contact: @NBCNews

Democrats set to impeach Trump for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress

December 11, 2019

President Donald Trump—aka Teflon Don—has managed to sidestep every scandal in his campaign and administration over the past three years. But now it’s time for him to show his base some really fancy footwork: House Democrats on Tuesday unveiled two articles of impeachment against Trump—accusing him of abusing his office for personal political gain and all but guaranteeing that he will become just the third president in the nation’s history to be impeached, The Hill reported.

Democrats are bringing two charges against Trump, which they say rise to the level of high crimes and misdemeanors: that he abused the power of his office and that he obstructed Congress in its impeachment inquiry. 

Both of the charges, the news outlet noted, are related to the unfolding controversy surrounding Trump’s efforts to pressure Ukraine’s government to conduct a pair of investigations that might have helped him politically: one into Trump’s political rivals—including former Vice President Joe Biden—and another into the debunked theory that Ukraine, not Russia, meddled in the U.S. elections of 2016.

The historic move, which follows weeks of closed-door and public hearings on Trump’s dealings with Ukraine, carries far-reaching implications for a fiercely divided country that’s split roughly in half on whether Trump should be removed from office and ensures that the impeachment debate will carry far into an election year, The Hill noted.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California)—who had resisted moving for impeachment for most of the year—struck a somber tone when announcing the articles in the Capitol, saying Trump’s handling of foreign policy in Kyiv had left Democrats no alternative.

“On this solemn day, I recall that the first order of business for members of Congress is the solemn act to take an oath to defend the Constitution,” she said aat a press conference situated in the august, wood-paneled Rayburn Room adjacent to the House chamber. 

“It is an impeachable offense for a president to use the powers of his office to seek a personal benefit,” House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-New York) said in introducing the first article. 

“And when he was caught, when the House investigated and opened an impeachment inquiry, President Trump engaged in unprecedented, categorical and indiscriminate defiance of the impeachment inquiry,” Nadler continued, pointing to the second article of obstruction of Congress.

The Judiciary chairman said his committee would vote on the articles later this week — likely Thursday, according to several sources —setting up a vote of the full House as early as next week, before Congress leaves Washington for the winter holidays.

Forecasting a nasty battle to come, Trump quickly took to Twitter to attack Democrats’ decision, complaining “To impeach a President who has proven through results, ioncluding producing perhaps the strongest economy in our country’s history, to have one of the most successful presidencies eer, and most importantly, who has done NOTHING wrong, is sheer Political Madness! #2020Election.” 

However, Democrats allege, Trump withheld nearly $400 million in U.S. security aid to Ukraine and dangled a White House meeting with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky to pressure the country’s leader to publicly announce an investigation into Biden and his son Hunter, who worked on the board of the Ukrainian energy firm Burisma Holdings.

This, they warned, makes clear that Trump believes he is above the law, and will continue this pattern of misconduct if he remains in office.

We stand here today because the president’s continuing abuse of his power has left us no choice,” said Representative Adam Schiff (D-California), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, which led the weeks-long investigation into the Ukraine affair. “To do nothing would make ourselves complicit in the president’s abuse of his high office, the public trust and our national security.”

But Republicans  argue this is a “sham” impeachment inquiry designed by Democrats to remove a president they cannot defeat at the ballot box.

The articles were announced one day after a Democratic staff counsel, going over the evidence produced by Schiff’s Intelligence Committee, said Trump represented “a clear and present danger” to the nation’s national security, and to fair and free elections, The Hill reported.

Democrats described the move as a hard, but necessary—one they must make to protect the country from a lawless president. “It is rather a question of duty,” Schiff said at the conclusion of the press conference. “The president’s oath of office appears to mean very little to him but the articles put forward today will give us a chance to show that we will defend the Constitution and that our oath means something to us.”

Research contact: @thehill

John Oliver: Lindsey Graham’s defense of Trump is he’s a ‘dumb baby’

November 12, 2019

This has not been a good week so far for “Baby Trump”—either the balloon or the POTUS, The Daily Beast reported on November 11.

On November 9, as the balloon version of Baby Trump floated over throngs of college football fans in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, it was attacked, slashed, and brought to ground. (The perpetrator has since been arrested.)

Then, comedian John Oliver opened his Sunday night, November 10, broadcast of HBO’s Last Week Tonight by taking aim at South Carolina GOP Senator Lindsey Graham’s latest defense of President Donald Trump in the impeachment inquiry—which, The Daily Beast said, Oliver likened to Graham calling Trump an “idiot.”

Describing the Ukraine scandal at the heart of impeachment as “Stupid Watergate II: The Scandal That’s Like Getting a Rubber Chicken Stuck in Your Ass,” Oliver first joked about the president seemingly discovering who’s really to blame for everything by playing a clip of Trump during a recent White House lawn press gaggle.

“It’s called the swamp,” Trump yelled. “And you know what happened? And you know what I did? A big favor. I caught the swamp. I caught them all. Let’s see what happens. Nobody else could have done that but me.”

Laughing, the HBO host said this could actually be “Donald Trump at his Donald Trump-iest” as it showed the president shouting something nonsensical before bragging about how great he was at doing it.

“Nothing there made sense,” Oliver declared. “And yet you just know in two days his website will be sold out of ‘I Caught the Swamp’ hats ’cause that’s the f**king world we live in right now.”

“But that wasn’t even the most desperate defense of the president employed this week,” he added. “That honor must go to Lindsey Graham—a man whose very face looks like a nana who just found out what ‘throuples’ are.”

Graham, as Oliver noted, recently insisted that the president was “incapable of forming a quid pro quo” when it came to dangling military aid in return for Ukraine investigating his political rivals, claiming it was because the Trump policy toward Ukraine was “incoherent.”

“So wait, to be clear here, Graham’s defense has gone from ‘there was no quid pro quo’ to ‘Trump is too dumb to do one?’” Oliver wondered aloud.

The comedian quipped that the South Carolina senator is essentially saying “the president’s an idiot” before explaining why Graham’s argument was “terrifying.”

“He’s like a baby, stumbling around aimlessly in a diaper full of his own boom-boom,” Oliver concluded. “And that is why he must stay in office and retain access to the nuclear codes!”

Research contact: @thedailybeast

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

Democrats deploy new impeachment plan of attack after White House refuses to cooperate

October 11, 2019

House Democrats are now saying that they don’t need any help from the White House to make a case for impeachment, NBC News reports.

To circumvent Executive Branch efforts to impede and obstruct the House impeachment inquiry, Democrats have launched a fresh offensive: They intend to inundate the White House with subpoenas; as well as requests for interviews with people who no longer work in the administration.

Democrats issued additional subpoenas for testimony and relevant documents on October 10 to Igor Fruman and Lev Parnas —two associates of the president’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, both of whom are alleged to have helped Giuliani dig for dirt on the Bidens in Ukraine. They were requested to appear for depositions this Thursday and Friday before Congress, but before they could appear on Capitol Hill, they were arrested Wednesday night on charges tied to campaign finance violations, NBC News says.

Since House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) formally announced the impeachment inquiry last month, Democrats have so far issued eight subpoenas—including those to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Rudy Giuliani, White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, Defense Secretary Mark Esper, Office of Management and Budget Acting Chief Russell Vought, and U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland In addition, they have requested documents from Vice President Mike Pence.

However, few, if any, of the current administration leaders are expected to respond to the Democrat’s subpoenas and requests. Just this week, Ambassador Sondland declined to testify, on orders from the State Department and President Donald Trump.

Therefore, the Democrats are targeting former officials,  who are now private citizens, and would not fall under the White House ‘s claims of executive privilege. Kurt Volker, who recently resigned as U.S. special envoy to Ukraine, testified before Congress last week, several days after he left the administration.

On Monday, Trump’s former Russia adviser Fiona Hill, volunteered to meet in a closed-door session with several congressional committees. A letter addressed to Hill, obtained by NBC, requested that she turn over several documents that date back to January 2017.

Congress returns next week from a two-week recess and Democrats are expected to speed up their investigation that could lead them filing articles of impeachment against the president. Two sources told NBC News that Pelosi will hold another caucus-wide conference call on Friday afternoon, so rank and file members can receive an update about the impeachment inquiry.

Research contact: @NBCNews

FEC chair states unconditionally that accepting ‘oppo research’ from a foreign national is illegal

October 7, 2019

We told him so: Federal Election Commission (FEC) Chair Ellen Weintraub on October 4 stated unconditionally that accepting any kind of “opposition research” from a foreign national or government is illegal under U.S. elections law.

In an appearance on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” Weintraub again refuted President Donald Trump’s position that there is nothing wrong with listening to foreign intelligence about his 2020 political opponents.

As far back as June 16, in an exclusive interview with ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos, the president reacted to a question about whether he would accept information from foreigners—such as China or Russia—for his reelection campaign, or choose to hand it over to the FBI, by saying, “I think maybe you do both.”

He added at the time, “I think you might want to listen; there isn’t anything wrong with listening. If somebody called from a country, Norway, [and said] ‘we have information on your opponent.’—oh, I think I’d want to hear it.”

And this week, he called on China publicly to provide that information.

“The law is pretty clear,” Weintraub said to co-host Willie Geist. “It is absolutely illegal for anyone to solicit, accept or receive anything of value from a foreign national in connection with any election in the United States.”

“I don’t want to comment on the specifics,” Weinstein added of Trump’s call for Biden to be investigated by foreign governments, including Ukraine, the UK, and China. “I’m just here to explain the law. That’s part of my job, and I think this is a moment in America where it’s really important that the American people understand what the law is.”

According to a report by The Hill, the FEC chief has weighed in on social media in the past on statements made by Trump, including earlier this year when Trump talked to ABC.

“Is this thing on?” Weintraub tweeted at the time.

Research contact: @thehill

Trump’s impeachment tantrums disengage key 2020 supporters

October 4, 2019

Women across the nation are viewing President Donald Trump’s impeachment-incited tirades with consternation and concern, Politico reports. And they do not represent the only key voting bloc that has backed off since the whistleblower report was released to Congress in late September.

Indeed, nearly a half-dozen polls conducted since September 24—when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) announced the official launch of an impeachment inquiry—have found female voters rallying behind her call to action; intensifying concerns among White House allies that the white women who helped carry Trump to victory in 2016 can no longer be counted on next November.

Specifically, 57% of registered female voters strongly or somewhat approved of impeachment in a CBS survey released September 30; and  62% of women in a Quinnipiac University survey released Monday said they thought “Trump believes he is above the law.”

The development comes, according to Politico, just as two more key demographics—Independent voters and college-educated whites—are exhibiting ever-larger “fault lines” in their resistance to impeachment.

What’s more, the allegations against Trump—that he leveraged U.S. aid to Ukraine, holding back funding unless the eastern European nation agreed to supply “opposition research” on Joe Biden, a Democratic frontrunner in the 2020 presidential election—also are changing the dynamics on Capitol Hill.

Should impeachment gain the support of an undeniable majority of likely voters, Republicans legislators who previously declined to distance themselves from the president could quickly change their calculus, the news outlet says—setting Trump on the same lonely course that led to President Richard Nixon’s Watergate-era resignation in August 1974.

“From my point of view as a Republican pollster, the president’s base has been solid so far,” Micah Roberts, a partner at Public Opinion Strategies, which oversaw an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll conducted last week, told Politico during an interview. “But college-educated whites have electoral significance for us in the suburbs and can completely shift the dynamic and the conversation just by virtue of shifting the overall numbers.”

In some cases, that shift already has started: Fifty percent of college-educated whites in an NPR/Marist College survey said they approved of House Democrats’ decision to launch the formal impeachment inquiry into Trump. That compares to a narrower margin of support for the move (45-43) in a Politico/Morning Consult poll released Wednesday.

“If you look at college-educated whites, those are probably some of the most engaged voters. They are a big and important chunk of the electorate and they have shifted the most resolutely toward impeachment so far,” Roberts said.

“I really don’t like where we are right now,” said one prominent Republican pollster.

To be sure, Politico says, some of the same polls include evidence suggesting impeachment could become a political risk for Democrats as they head into a heated election year. And the rapid-pace environment in which the impeachment process has already unfolded, combined with varying levels of understanding of the process itself, mean a lot of voters are still in “wait-and-see mode,” according to Roberts.

Finally, some polls have underscored mixed feelings among voters toward the former vice president, which would be a positive sign for the president. For example, 42% of voters in a Monmouth survey said Biden “probably exerted pressure on Ukrainian officials to avoid investigating” his son during his time in office; but only 26%t of voters in a Reuters/Ipsos poll said they believe Biden is attempting to conceal a potential scandal ahead of 2020.

With Elizabeth Warren already ahead by several percentage points in key primary and caucus areas, the opinions on Biden may, in the end, be moot.

Research contact: @politico