Afternoon: 20 September 2019
The Wall Street Journal (Alan Cullison, Rebecca Ballhaus and Dustin Volz) is reporting that in a July phone call with the president of Ukraine, Trump pressured the president “about eight times” to work with Rudy Giuliani on an investigation of Biden. This “according to people familiar with the matter.”
Quote from the Article:
“He told him that he should work with [Mr. Giuliani] on Biden, and that people in Washington wanted to know” if his lawyer’s assertions that Mr. Biden acted improperly as vice president were true, one of the people said. Mr. Trump didn’t mention a provision of U.S. aid to Ukraine on the call, said this person, who didn’t believe Mr. Trump offered the Ukrainian president any quid-pro-quo for his cooperation on any investigation.
John Heilemann, on Nicolle Wallace, noted that this article most probably came from Trump sources and with the framing that the White House wanted to establish. They offered the “around eight times” to get it in the news stream, but are setting up the frame that there’s no wrongdoing because there was no “quid-pro-quo.” In an afternoon tweet, Elizabeth da la Vega (former federal prosecutor) makes the same point.
This is a fascinating example of what looks like the White House selectively leaking information to the media while framing the story in a way that is advantageous to them. It is all fascinating.
It’s the most riveting political drama ever and the stakes are THE WHOLE WORLD.
- Seth Abramson is tweeting that the Ukrainian President said on September 13 that the U.S. not only released $250 million in military aid, but also extended another $140 million. What was that for?
And on other topics:
- MSNBC is reporting that Netanyahu is to be indicted.
- August 12, 2019. An employee within the intelligence community, detailed to the White House, filed a whistleblower complaint. This person witnessed or became aware of an act that was so egregious that s/he felt compelled to file a formal complaint, risking his/her career.
- The press reported that the complaint involved a phone call between Trump and a foreign leader. The conversation involved a “promise.”
- Ned Price, interviewed on MSNBC, remarked that even though Trump has been careless about divulging classified information in the past (for example, to the Russians in the Oval office) this instance seemed to him not likely to be a matter of carelessness, but “closer to betrayal.”
- Various commentators noted that the whistleblower could only have had access to a phone call or the transcript of a phone call if s/he was highly placed. They noted that there were not very many people in the circle of people who would have had access to this information.
- The Trump administration had limited the number of people who had access to the transcripts of phone calls with foreign leaders because of embarrassing information that leaked about such conversations in the past (such as the conversation with the Australian PM).
- In line with the Whistleblower Protection Act, the complaint was filed with the Inspector General (IG) of the intelligence services.
- The IG considered the complaint to be “credible and urgent” and therefore passed it along to the Director of National Intelligence as he is required by law to do.
- The IG deemed the complaint to be credible and determined that it should be passed along to Congress.
- Whistleblower complaints are routinely passed to Congress even those not deemed to be credible by the IG.
- The Director of National Intelligence, Dan McGuire refused to comply with a Tuesday (September 18, 2019) deadline and pass the complaint on to the Congress.
- In a statement issued on September 20, 2019 Nancy Pelosi wrote: “We will continue to follow the facts and explore every possible option…” Right, and that’s all they will do.
Relevant Time Line.
- July 25, 2019. Trump as conversation with President of Ukraine (Volodymyr Zelensky). He later (9/20/19) characterized the call as “beautiful.”
- After the call, the Ukrainian president’s office gave a readout that said that the two talked about “investigations into corruption cases that have hampered interaction between Ukraine and the U.S.A.” (ABC News)
- July 29, 2019. Trump announces that Director of National Intelligence, Dan Coats will resign in August. (WP)
- July 31, 2019. A phone call was initiated by the White House to Putin. The White House put out information that the call had involved a discussion about assistance with Siberian wildfires. According to Ned Price, interviewed by MSNBC, the Kremlin released information that the discussion had been about the reestablishment of bilateral relations between Russia and the U.S. This phone call was two weeks before the whistleblower complaint.
- August 2, 2019. US withdraws from the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russia.
- August 8, 2019. Trump announces Joseph Maguire would take the role of DNI as acting. He bypassed Sue Gordon who had been Coat’s second in command. Gordon would resign.
- August 12, 2019. Whistleblower files complaint.
- September 9, 2019 Letter from DNI IG, Michael Atkinson to House Intelligence Committee. The letter noted that the complaint rose to a level of “urgent concern” and “appeared credible” enough to warrant congressional notification. (ABC News)
- September 13, 2019. Shiff subpoenas Maguire to compel him to disclose the whistleblower complaint.
- September 17, 2019. Maguire says he will not testify or hand over the complaint. Shiff says that Maguire told him he couldn’t “because he is being instructed not to, that this involved a higher authority, someone above.”
- September 19, 2019. Atkinson is scheduled to brief members of the House Intelligence Committee in closed-door session.
- September 20, 2019 Lindsay Graham threatens the whistleblower saying that he will go to prison.
- September 20,2019. Trump denies knowing the identity of the whistleblower, but says that the person is a “partisan.” He adds that this means that it’s a person from “the other party.” He calls the controversy “just another political hack job.” He suggests that somebody should look into Biden. A quote from a White House briefing: “It doesn’t matter what I discuss, but I will say this: Somebody ought to look into Joe Biden’s statement, because it was disgraceful where he talked about billions of dollars that he’s not giving to a certain country unless a certain prosecutor is taken off the case,” Trump asserted. “So somebody ought to look into that. And you wouldn’t, because he’s a Democrat. And the fake news doesn’t look into things like that. It’s a disgrace.” ABC News
- The whistleblower now has an attorney.
And, lest we forget, this week…
- NBC News reported that William Barr “strongly endorsed” a 2017 book accusing colleges and universities of unfairly punishing male students accused of rape.
- Jamie Raskin appeared on Chris Hayes to talk about Trump passing information to a foreign leader and the fact that the Justice Department was preventing whistleblower information from being passed to Congress as is specified in the law. When introduced, Raskin sat staring into the camera with a big grin on his face. Is there not one person in public life who takes their job seriously? Raskin also insulted our intelligence by claiming that the Democrats were doing their jobs and holding Trump accountable.
The Last Word, 20 September 2019
Constitutional law professor, Laurence Tribe, discusses the federal court filing by Trump’s lawyers today. Lawrence O’Donnell asks Tribe if the President’s lawyers are correct that the President cannot be investigated.
Tribe responds: “…the position that his lawyers were taking today in the federal court filing is even more extreme than that. They have taken the position that the President’s company cannot be investigated…that the whole state proceeding must be stopped..”
“…when the judge has to finally rule on this outlandish claim that you cannot investigate criminality….the judge will have the obligation…to dismiss the case…”
Trump’s lawyers are arguing that Trump, his minions and his company cannot be investigated for any act while he is President.
Tribe calls this an “absurd argument” and “astonishing.”
“That cannot be the law in the United States,” says Tribe.
This is a tweet from Elizabeth de la Vega, a former federal prosecutor.
Congress should file a petition for a writ of mandamus ordering the ADNI to turn over the complaint as required by the statute. The IG & the WB can simultaneously jointly file a nearly identical petition, attaching the complaint under seal.
So, why isn’t this being done now?
Congress has the power to conduct oversight of the Executive Branch. If they do not use it, the Executive will become an autocrat. This is exactly what has happened and the question is why? Why won’t the members of Congress do their job?
IMPEACH BRET KAVANAUGH
- According to reporting this morning, not ONE Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee asked Bret Kavanaugh about his finances during the confirmation hearing.
- Who paid off Kavaaugh’s debts?
- How did he maintain membership in a $90,000 a year country club?
- Why did Anthony Kennedy retire (leaving a spot for Kavanaugh) shortly after his son was outed as having gotten a loan for Trump from Deutsche Bank?
- Chris Coons (A DEMOCRAT) arranged a “compromise” with Jeff Flake which helped the Kavanaugh nomination get through the confirmation. This was an agreement about having a limited “investigation.” Why isn’t Chris Coons being called in front of a Senate Committee and asked about the details of that agreement? You can phone and thank Coons for his service to the country and women at this number (202) 224-5042.
- Presidential candidates Warren, Castro, and Harris have come out asking for Kavanaugh to be impeached. All agree that the process which resulted in his confirmation was flawed. That’s a polite term. The process was a set up which succeeded in getting Kavanaugh confirmed with the help of at least one Democrat, Coons.
- Who participated in the investigation of Kavanaugh at the FBI? Who talked to the corroborating witnesses? What are their names? Why aren’t they being called in front of a Senate Committee?
- Who at the FBI gave field agents word that they were not to do a vigorous investigation?
- Who gave the FBI the word that this investigation was to be a pro-forma piece of work.
- According to Joyce Vance, the FBI has refused to allow Congress to look at the 500-page “investigation” of Kavanaugh. They are denying access in response to a FOIA request claiming executive privilege.
- There are also notes that FBI agents filed along with the investigation report. Why aren’t these being subpoenaed?
- During the confirmation hearings, John Cornyn whined and lamented the fact that people wouldn’t come forward publicly with their accusations against Bret Kavanaugh. At that time corroborating witnesses were trying to have the FBI listen to their testimony.
- The FBI, according to these witnesses, assigned low-level staffers to do a cursory interview and then never contacted them again.
- The bottom line is that the Republicans couldn’t care less if the accusations against Bret Kavanaugh are true (financial, sexual any). He is there to advance a right-wing, anti-democratic, kleptocratic agenda. That’s all they care about.
- The Courts (packed with right-wing ideologues) will bring down democracy as fast and as conclusively as any coup.
Some thoughts about the The Wider Significance
- Pro forma investigations (like the Mueller Report) are a well-used way of burying, and denaturing incriminating information. The people who participate in them are part of the cover up (Mueller, Rosenstein, Barr, etc). Democrat Chris Coons is as much a part of the covering up of incriminating information against Kavanaugh and his successful confirmation as any Republican.
- Corroborating witnesses for Blasey Ford were given little attention and investigation and weren’t called upon to testify at the confirmation hearing.
- This is EXACTLY what Joe Biden helped engineer for Anita Hill. There were women willing and ready to go before the committee and give testimony and Biden helped block it along with the Republicans.
- Nobody is asking Biden about this on the campaign trail.
- We must remove the entire leadership class of the Democratic Party. They must go if we are ever going to have a decent country.
- One of the corroborating witnesses coming forward says that he remembers Bret Kavanaugh at another party, not the one where Blasey Ford was raped, where Kavanaugh had his pants down and his friends shoved his penis in the face of a woman. What kind of people participate in a party where men handle and shove another man’s penis in the face of a young woman? What kind of man drops his pants and allows, directs, orders other men to handle his penis and shove it in the face of a young woman? Exactly what level of perversion are we dealing with among the men in this cohort? If this is what’s on the surface, what’s underneath?
- Who are the men at these parties? What are their names? Where are they now? What positions of public trust do they hold? Who is covering up for them?
- Jeffrey Epstein was selling little girls to other men and raping them himself. Think of all the men who covered up for him. What more is there underneath this behavior?
- We still don’t know exactly what role Kavanaugh played in the Bush/Cheney torture program. According to Thom Hartmann, 90% of Kavanaugh’s paperwork on this was never released.
- I would also like to remind you that cheerful, laughing, having a great time covering all this Nicolle Wallace had no moral qualms working in the Bush/Cheney torture administration. She has often on her show, issued self-righteous calls for other members of the Trump administration to resign, but she never did. She worked for a man who lied us into a war and manipulated the legal system to justify torture. But, now, she has her own show on MSNBC and defends the Bushes.
- Trump is tweeting today that the Justice Department should come to Kavanaugh’s rescue. Seems like to me they already have. This, ladies and gentlemen, is your Justice Department – a corrupt organization working for a corrupt president.
Please don’t hold out the notion that we have a functioning democracy any more. This is a kleptocracy masquerading as a government. To do anything about it people are going to have to start realizing that this is a war not a garden party and every person must stop laughing, giggling, making jokes, saying “ain’t he awful,” boosting their careers, white-washing what’s going on.
It no good to bury your heads and complain that discussing politics makes your lunch uncomfortable. “Oh, it upsets me too much.” Upsetting? Damn right it is. What’s going to be more upsetting is living in a country with a totally corrupt political, legal, criminal justice system. Its high time people got upset, protested, went to the streets demanded that politicians act. This nice, polite, oh somebody will sort it out, is not going to work. You can’t be friends with people who are enemies of democracy. You just can’t. Old Scottish song: Which side are you on?
We must continue fighting the Roberts Court.
The U.S. Supreme Court today issued a ruling that would allow the Trump administration to bar most Central American migrants from seeking asylum.
“They’re fleeing from violence and poverty,” notes a representative from the ACLU, referring to the migrants. But, over on Fox News, people seeking asylum are being presented as drug dealers and participants in human trafficking.
The new rules sought by the Trump Administration forbid asylum applications from those who have gone through another country and not been refused asylum in that country. In other words, people who have not sought asylum in the third country.
In July, the Roberts Court allowed Trump to begin using $2.5 billion in Pentagon money to construct a barrier along the Mexican border.
Last year, the Roberts court upheld the ban on travel from several predominately Muslim countries, rejecting the argument that the ban was targeting a religious group.
The Courts did not even come up in the questions asked by the ABC commentators in the Democratic Debate. But, any candidate must come up with a plan for what Democrats propose to do about the packing of the court by the Republicans and the effects of the Roberts Court.