Three Things: Complaint Declassified, Ambassa-doored, Scripted Call? [UPDATE]

[NB: Note the byline. This contains some speculation. Update at bottom of post. /~Rayne]

I’m writing this on the fly, publishing before I have this post fully written because the whistleblower complaint situation is moving faster than a pyroclastic flow.

Bear with me and watch for the rest of the things to appear down the page as I update. Thanks!

~ 3 ~

The reason I am publishing before I’m done writing is this:

The complaint isn’t being circulated until sometime Thursday morning, and Rep. Stewart isn’t going to be a reliable source for it as he tag-teamed with Rep. Jim Jordan on Fox earlier to cover the GOP’s behind.

Rep. Jackie Speier’s reaction mirrors those I’ve seen all evening as members of Congress read the complaint inside a SCIF.

The House and Senate both voted to release the whistleblower complaint earlier in the day Wednesday. The bill passed unanimously in the Senate on a bipartisan basis; it passed with 228 votes in the House.

~ 2 ~

From an ABC News report earlier this evening:

… “It was clear that [President Donald] Trump will only have communications if they will discuss the Biden case,” said Serhiy Leshchenko, an anti-corruption advocate and former member of Ukraine’s Parliament, who now acts as an adviser to Zelenskiy. “This issue was raised many times. I know that Ukrainian officials understood.” …

You’ll recall in August 2016 Leshchenko was responsible for revealing the secret payments outlined in the ‘black ledger of the Party of Regions’ showing payments made by the former pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych to Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

What’s not clear from ABC’s report or Leshchenko’s remarks is how Ukrainian officials came to know Trump’s expectations in advance of communications.

However, Rudy Giuliani had two meetings with Ukranian officials before key events including the July 25 call at the heart of the whistle blower complaint.

~28-MAR-2019 —  Exact date TBD. In ‘early 2019’, Giuliani met with Ukraine’s prosecutor general Yuriy Lutsenko in New York.

This meeting took place before the first run-off election in Ukraine, narrowing the field down to the incumbent Petro Poroshenko and Volodymyr Zelensky.

A congratulatory phone call from Trump occurred immediately following the April 21 presidential election in which Zelensky was the victor.

~11-JUL-2019 — Date TBD. On or about this time, Giuliani had a phone meeting with Zelensky’s adviser, Andriy Yermak.

This meeting took place approximately two weeks before Ukraine’s parlimentary elections when Zelensky’s Servant of the People party won the majority on July 21.

Another congratulatory phone call by Trump took place days later on July 25.

Giuliani claimed the phone meeting with Yermak had been set up by State Department; State denied this, saying, “Mr. Giuliani is a private citizen and acts in a personal capacity as a lawyer for President Trump. He does not speak on behalf of the U.S. Government.”

There was at least one other contact between Giuliani and a Ukrainian official in June, believed to be in Paris.

Did Giuliani “brief” former prosecutor general Lutshenko and newly-appointed adviser Yermak about Trump’s anticipated calls?

Did Giuliani go so far as to offer talking points or a script for a successful call with Trump?

~ 1 ~

Community member Eureka and I both found the mention of former Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch in the July 25 call memo a bit odd or off. Recall these three events pertinent to her from the whistleblower complaint timeline:

05-MAR-2019 — U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch criticized Ukraine’s record on corruption; she noted the country’s high court’s decision weakens Ukraine’s National Anti-Corruption Bureau (NABU).

20-MAR-2019 — The Hill’s John Solomon interviewed Ukraine’s prosecutor general Yuriy Lutsenko; Lutsenko claimed Amb. Yovanovitch gave him a do-not-prosecute list during their first meeting. State Department denied this claim in an email to Radio Free Europe.

07-MAY-2019 — Amb. Yovanovitch was recalledremoved from her position.

It’s important to these events to recall that Ukraine’s president Zelensky ran on an anti-corruption platform and is a supporter of NABU’s work.

Giuliani announced May 9 he was going to visit Ukraine just days after Yovanovitch made her critical remarks about corruption, though he canceled his trip the next day when the Senate started nosing into his planned trip.

And Giuliani had at least one meeting with prosecutor general Lutsenko between the ambassador’s remarks about corruption and her departure from her role.

Another key event was Zelensky’s election on April 21  roughly two weeks before Yovanovitch was recalled, which was another two weeks before Zelensky was inaugurated.

Here’s the bit that bothered Eureka and myself from the memo:

There’s the odd remark by Trump, “Well, she’s going to go through some things,” which is very unsettling, particularly when coming from a man with a history of assault complaints, most of a sexual nature.

But not noted in the context of this memo is that Yovanovitch incorrectly called Ivanovich by Zelensky or incorrectly recorded by the note taker was recalled early, before her three-year assignment was complete in July, after a campaign of character assassination via social and commercial media had been launched against her. One of the participants was Donnie Jr. himself, according to the Washington Post and Newsweek.

Who and what triggered the character attacks? It appeared to begin with Lutsenko’s claim on Hill.TV in the US in early March that Yovanovitch gave him a Do-Not-Prosecute list. In April he admitted his claim was false too late to undo the damage and stop the right-wing pile on.

Is the subsequent abuse-via-media what Trump was referring to in his creepy remark, or was there something else?

Eureka noted that Trump didn’t refute being the one to tell Zelensky about Yovanovitch. She also noted Zelensky’s language seemed more declarative than her past experience with Ukrainian-Americans.

This clicked with my question about Zelensky’s statement, which seemed really pat for a new president only weeks into his role: did someone feed Zelensky some or all of his remarks to Trump before the July 25 phone call? Was Zelensky told to affirm Trump’s position on issues including Yovanovitch’s removal in advance of the call, perhaps using a scripted response?

It would explain the puzzling certainty Zelensky has about Yovanovitch’s work given the narrow two-week time frame between his election and her recall from Ukraine. How would he have had enough time to get to know her work that well in two weeks?

And why would a president who was committed to anti-corruption efforts find a like-minded diplomat from the U.S. to be a “bad ambassador” in that short amount of time?

~ 0 ~

This is an open thread. I know you’re going to have a lot to say about all of this.

And at nearly 2:00 a.m. here I am finally heading for bed. Whew.

UPDATE — 10:20 A.M. 26-SEP-2019 —

The whistleblower complaint has been released. It can be read here:

https://intelligence.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=708

Note the links at that page to open the complaint.

Joseph Maguire the Acting Director of National Intelligence, is appearing before the House Intelligence Committee right now. The hearing began at 9:00 a.m. EDT.

Brandi Buchman at CourthouseNews has a live tweet thread of the hearing in progress – start here: https://twitter.com/BBuchman_CNS/status/1177196206675701760

Be sure to check Marcy’s tweets though she’s still on her epic road trip: https://twitter.com/emptywheel

Check the feed at my Trump-Russia list because they’re all focused on the complaint and hearing: https://twitter.com/raynetoday/lists/trump-russia

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198 replies
  1. Webshredder says:

    While eagerly waiting for the report, I’m going to bother for a guess:

    Putting 2 and 2 together, it sounds like trump was mobilizing resources of the federal government to smear Biden. The Ukraine scandal is likely but one piece of a broader conspiracy to politically assassinate trump’s rival.

  2. P J Evans says:

    Stewart says it isn’t enough to justify impeachment. The Democrats who have seen it say it’s more than enough.

    Aaron Rupar @atrupar 1 hour ago
    [email protected] to Maddow on the whistleblower complaint: “I can describe that complaint as nothing short of explosive. It is so much more than the summary of the telephone call that has been presented by the White House … I can tell you that I was stunned.”
    https://twitter.com/atrupar/status/1177044090476793857

  3. Sandwichman says:

    Rep. Chris Stewart appears to be taking the lead in framing the push back, along with Gym Jordan on the Laura Ingraham show. His “breaking news” with no link may have been designed to draw attention to his narrative that there is “nothing new” in the WB complaint.

    A low Barr.

  4. P J Evans says:

    CNN has a story about the complaint, but not much additional information. Good quotes from the Ds who have seen it, though:

    “I found the allegations deeply disturbing,” said House Intelligence chairman Adam Schiff, D-California. “I also found them deeply credible and I understand why the inspector general found them credible.”
    Illinois Democrat Rep. Mike Quigley, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, called the whistleblower complaint “troubling, disturbing” and “reinforces our concerns.” He also said he thought the complaint was “very well done.”
    “Having read the documents in there, I’m even more worried about what happened than I was when I read the memorandum of the conversation,” said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.
    California Democrat Rep. Eric Swalwell said the whistleblower “invokes other witnesses to the disturbing conduct” in the complaint, and lays out “a lot of other documents.”

    • timbo says:

      Exactly. The OLC is simply creating rules and theories to thwart laws passed by Congress and obvious and explicit laws at that. The OLC needs to be constrained by law to stop it from making up its own laws to protect itself and the Executive branch from oversight or, in fact, having to honor the laws that Congress passes and the Constitution that supposedly they have sworn to honor but seem to have a hard time seeing fit to do so.

  5. Vicks says:

    I see J Jordan on the floor of a jail cell surrounded by a heap of recycled old electronic crap someone told him was HILLARY’S! server, shout whispering to W Barr (in the next cell) that he’s going to get them all out (except Rudy) he just needs to find an outlet.

  6. greengiant says:

    When the GOP turns on Trump/Pence it will only take hours.
    I hope the US does not make Trump/Pence the disposable lightening rod for the 0.1 percent. Trump is but a footnote in the capture of the US government branches, congressional, executive and judicial. The destruction of America by hatred and divisiveness is just a hedge fund game. Keep the 99.99 percent attacking each other while all the monies go offshore.

    • Katherine M Williams says:

      Looks like the GOP made a deal with Pelosi not to block impeachment -so long as the House only impeaches over the phone call. That’s what she’s asking for and its what the Senate voted in favor of.

      I suppose investigating and trying Trump for his other, worse, crimes might involve the GOP people who enabled Trump in his treason, theft and creation of concentration camps. Maybe they’re worried they haven’t appointed enough Fed judges to protect them, yet.

        • Katherine M Williams says:

          She was adamant that she had to have republicans agreement before impeachment. And she must have made a deal of some kind with Bush/Cheney.

        • BobCon says:

          Yes, it’s going to be critical to ask for evidence for this kind of thing. There is a real risk that getting hung up on some phantom deal obscures much deeper institutional and intellectual faults at play.

      • greengiant says:

        If the GOP is not going to impeach in the Senate, this is all kabuki theater to mess up the Democrats. Given the level of corruption in congress the GOP may be just toying with the Democrats. The deal they give Pelosi is we will vote on impeachment, and or not vote to impeach Pence then the GOP has not turned on both Trump/Pence.

  7. I Never Lie and am Always Right says:

    Does William Barr view John Mitchell as his role model? As bad as this is for Trump and Pence, which appears to be very, very bad, it could be even worse for Barr, as a practicing attorney. We can only hope that the whistleblower has multiple documents with Barr’s fingerprints on them. We need Barr outta there. Now.

    Rudy has effectively confessed to having taken actions which constitute prima facie evidence of criminal activity, but at least he has a putative insanity defense, based on how he has acted while in the public eye.

    Who is the whistleblower? I’m too tired to speculate intelligently.

    • Rayne says:

      Barr’s actions alone, fingerprints or no, merit impeachment. He should have recused himself too many times already and made some bad (read: corrupt) decisions not to the benefit of the nation but Trump.

      At a minimum he needs to recuse himself from anything to do with this whistleblower complaint.

      • I Never Lie and am Always Right says:

        No argument from me re recusal or impeachment. But in order to send him to Club Fed a prosecutor will need documents with his fingerprints..

          • milestogo says:

            Rayne, I’ve been reading a while but am new commenting here. The question of pardons has been interesting to me for some time yet is unclear. Could not Trump pardon basically everyone including Barr if this really steam roles towards successful impeachment and likely removal? I recognize the potential loss of 5th amendment protection but at that point, it wouldn’t matter as much.

            • BobCon says:

              There are a lot of legal angles I can’t pretend to be qualified to answer. But one critical point to remember is something EW has brought up. Trump not only has to defend himself, he has to defend his businesses. Pardons are of very limited value when he is out of office and the auditors come calling, and may hurt more than they’re worh.

    • Geoff says:

      Id put my money on Coats as the whistleblower, at this point, esp given the nature of his and Gordon’s resignation.

  8. Vicks says:

    Our local news is doing a good job of covering events.
    Yay,
    NBC opened with the story and has a vote counter and breaking news section set up on their website and said they are covering the testimonies live tomorrow, and, except for Fox (who just mumbled something about Pelosi and a whistle blower) all the stations had “experts” explaining how impeachment works,
    I’m not sure how the media works but our lawmakers better figure out a way to get in front of cameras that aren’t from a cable news station, they aren’t going to change a single mind of anyone watching those channels they need to figure out a way to engaged the REST of the country. Americans need to know and feel that they have a stake in this.

  9. Eureka says:

    Merci muchos, Rayne– you have the hardest gig in town keeping up with and ahead of this *impending impeachment* (as everyone sourcing from MSM well knows). That would be another way it might be nice to have the Nixon-era back — pace!

    Also harpie I missed you last night, but wanted to thank you as well for all of the updates. Everyone’s comments, links, and updates have been so helpful.

    To be continued, it’s late; just dropping back by to note observations re memo length vs what a transcript might look like (apologies if this has been discussed elsewhere and I missed it):

    Annie Linskey: “The biggest clue that the Ukraine conversation has been condensed is on the first page: It’s a 30 min convo that’s been conveyed in just five pages.… ”
    https://twitter.com/AnnieLinskey/status/1176865680089649152

    In the replies:

    “As a court reporter that transcribes audio, I can tell you this … a 30-min conversation — not court proceeding – averages about a page a minute. Trump talks fast and repeats himself — which would jump the page per minute to possible 40 pages for. 30-minute conversation.”
    https://twitter.com/mumsie1994/status/1176873079718502400
    “2/ I ask about the interpreter, if there was one and was it simultaneously translated or was there a pause for interpretation. If there was a pause for each translation you could cut that transcript in half; so the average would be 15/20 pages. Simu stays the same at one ppm”
    ….

    • Eureka says:

      Gah, this is how tired I am– I’d forgotten my own experience speaking with pages-per-minute — plenty of folks with that experience! Different than a convo, surely, so I’d say conservatively– and if that PDF is spaced singly to 1.5-spaced– that were it a transcript it might be 1.5x the length of the memo, or even approach double the length. (It really depends on the lengths of the pauses, and I’d love to know those, too. And how much over-talking by Trump.)

      LOL, has anyone play-acted-out this memorandized convo for a length test? Maybe Trump kept Zelensky on hold so he could rehearse, cutting into the time.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        Putin speaks better English than Trump.

        Even so, translators are still normally used. They are a witness, which normal governments want. They help observe protocol, they confirm the accuracy of communications, and give politicians time to respond.

      • Eureka says:

        Sure, and someone in Zelensky’s position would have wanted to speak English to Trump to establish a more direct appeal and relationship (the quoted court reporter was covering all bases).

        But towards a point of the post and adding to EoH’s comment, contrast Zelensky’s fluency, gesticulations, and reaching/looking to his staff for words in this somewhat planned/anticipatable speech (first video, with Trump in NYC yesterday) with his perfect American English, resembling how his speech is represented in the memo, in this scripted speech (second video, a commercial selling Ukraine to investors).

        WATCH: Ukraine president said ‘nobody pushed me’ to investigate Biden
        (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eZVxMS3CWT8)
        There’s enough in the first four-ish minutes to cover this; press Q about “pressure” comes about 3:21 length.

        Zelensky appeals to foreign investors in English, – video, full text
        (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YeFjGxVeMOo)

        Some degree of smoothing (“uh”s, perhaps articles) would have been done by the USG memo transcriber-translators, even from English to English, and for both speakers.

  10. Dave Noble says:

    (Apologies if this is duplicate – I tried editing my first sentry and it disappeared somewhere – may pop up again.)

    I cannot fathom how Giuliani can get on the air seemingly at any time he wishes, and is given the time to spout his half-truths or outright lies, nasty innuendo, and masterly dissembling motions.

    Fox News may give this trip credibility and weave it into their Conspiracy Theory of the Day – but I haven’t the strength to watch Fox so I can’t say for sure.

    But why does CNN grant him such excessive air time? They must know what he’s going to do, but charge ahead and then spend endless hours frothing at the mouth disproving in detail everything he has said – which surely they know ahead of time is falsehoods.

    Just ignore him.

    He has no official capacity to enter into this debate implying he speaks for Trump – although we all suspect he works directly at Trump’s behest – and pro bono at that.

    I imagine if no-one reacted to his calls for interviews, and left the lights and cameras off, the air would clear rapidly in a number of ways.

  11. Frank Probst says:

    I need to start keeping notes on where I’m seeing different things, but I think I read this morning that there was a prior call before the one we’re seeing now, which occurred in between the Ukraine’s first election and the runoff. I sounds like Trump was trying to get Giuliani and Zelensky to meet with that first phone call.

    • BobCon says:

      The Post article a few days ago suggested that Trump had Mulvaney put Ukraine aid on hold February 28, which could imply the pressure campaign began at least by that date.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      And it’s damning. It implicates Bill Barr as much as Donald Trump.

      The people involved here abused the record-keeping related to these communications from the get-go. Everyone knew they were involved in possible crimes while they were witnessing them.

      The IC IG knows who the so far unnamed White House officials are who participated in these acts. The criminal defense bar’s popularity just went up a notch.

      • Thebuzzardman says:

        Based on no other information other than that which commonly circulates – the above twitter, everything written on here, stuff at lawfare, the Nymag article, the whistleblower is the former ambassador?

        “White House officials with direct knowledge of the call informed me…”

        Sounds like the ambassador. I don’t care who it is. Bravo any which way.

        And maybe Bolton and Coats providing some of the corroborating information?

        Anyway, just taking a stab at it.

    • harpie says:

      Kyle Griffin:
      https://twitter.com/kylegriffin1/status/1177202123769090050

      From the complaint: “I have received information from multiple U.S. government officials that the President of the United States is using the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country in the 2020 U.S. election.”

      “The President’s personal lawyer, Mr. Rudolph Giuliani, is a central figure in this effort. Attorney General Barr appears to be involved as well.”

      “I am deeply concerned that the actions … constitute a ‘serious or flagrant problem, abuse, or violation of law or Executive Order’ that ‘does not include differences of opinions concerning public policy matters,’ consistent with the definition of an ‘urgent concern.'”

    • harpie says:

      https://twitter.com/lrozen/status/1177203842649415681
      5:50 AM – 26 Sep 2019

      WB says Trump had Pence cancel May 14 trip to attend Zelensky inauguration, told delegation led by Rick Perry did not want to see Z until / he saw how Mr. Zelensky “chose to act” in office.

      On July 18, OMB informed departments president earlier that month suspended aid to Ukraine [screenshots]

    • harpie says:

      https://twitter.com/shaneharris/status/1177206156978196481
      5:59 AM – 26 Sep 2019

      “According to WH oficials I spoke with, this was ‘not the first time’ under this Administration that a Presidential transcript was placed into this codeword-level system solely for the purpose of protecting politically sensitive — rather than national security sensitive — info.”

      Me talking here: This is a really key point (above). Highly classified systems like this do not exist to obscure or conceal politically sensitive (or potentially incriminating/embarrassing) communications. The WB is alleging a WH pattern of obfuscating the president’s remarks.

  12. orionATL says:

    but yuriy lutsenko is the known–to-be corrupt prosecutor general that president zelensky eventually was able to fire.

    consider then that president trump has a history of personally selecting corrupt and/or criminal individuals with whom to work, e.g., m.cohen, p.manafort, r.stone, and mayor guiliani to name some of the better known.

    is it not in keeping with his past behavior that trump or one of his messengers would work with lutsenko. when countering trump this history of his of using corrupt individuals needs to be emphasized strongly.

    here is a precis on ambassador yovanovitch. if she is the whistleblower and that person has been said by the ig to have some “partisan leanings”, note that she is career state and first became an ambassador in 2005, a presidential appointment that requires senate approval:

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marie_L._Yovanovitch

    into the future attempts to justify smearing her should be routinely connected to trump’s long history of repeatedly choosing shady or criminal persons to work with.

    [FYI, corrected one word because of unfortunate typo using letter ‘b’./~Rayne]

    • Thebuzzardman says:

      They’ve already tried to paint one of her (or whoever’s) lawyers as “partisan” for having ties to “the democrats”

      http://nymag.com/intelligencer/2019/09/trump-whistleblowers-lawyer-once-interned-for-democrats.html

      “Yesterday evening, Fox News breathlessly broke an “EXCLUSIVE” report, which began: “A senior Trump administration official told Fox News late Tuesday that the administration will release a document showing the intelligence community inspector general found the whistle-blower who leveled an explosive accusation against President Trump concerning his talks with Ukraine had ‘political bias’ in favor of ‘a rival candidate’ of the president.”

      “Here’s the story. It reveals that the whistle-blower has a legal team including one member who once worked as an intern for Chuck Schumer and Hillary Clinton. In 2001. That is literally the entirety of the finding.”

      I know it’ll sell with the Forever Trumpsters, but hopefully not too many other people

      • orionATL says:

        this is the kind of profoundly dishonest crap that needs to be shoved back down trump’s throat – repeatedly.

        but holding trump prrsonally responsible (even in the face of his dishonest denials) is not enough. the media who promote this propaganda have to be challenged for their professional dishonesty and enabling behavior. fox news has been allowed to get away with too much socially destructive propaganda for too long.

    • orionATL says:

      the guiliani money quote from the newsweek article rayne cites:

      “…”My interest is really to get everybody to focus on the conspiracy between the Ukrainians, the [Democratic National Committee], and the embassy, including our ambassador who was just fired,” Giuliani told Newsweek. “She was using her embassy to dig out negative political shit on Trump, on [former Trump campaign manager Paul] Manafort, and possibly others.”…”

    • harpie says:

      A series of tweets from Rep Tom Malinowski, D-NJ-07:
      [1] https://twitter.com/Malinowski/status/1176868163453169669
      7:36 AM – 25 Sep 2019
      Amazing. This confirms exactly what’s been reported. He urged the president of Ukraine to investigate his political opponent. / He also throws our ex ambassador to Ukraine under the bus, and says zilch about our interest in defending Ukraine against Russia.

      [2] https://twitter.com/Malinowski/status/1176884221824122881
      8:40 AM – 25 Sep 2019
      I would like to know if @SecPompeo stands by the president’s trashing of our ex Ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovich. Asking for the men and women of the Foreign Service.

      [3] Malinowski/status/1176924086607503368
      11:19 AM – 25 Sep 2019
      I was an Assistant Secretary of State when this happened. All of us working on Ukraine wanted this prosecutor gone, because he was NOT prosecuting corruption. So did the Europeans. So did the IMF. This didn’t come from Joe Biden – he just delivered our message.

      • orionATL says:

        thanks, harpie.

        great. state folks are fighting back against this slander by means of an ex-ambassador now a congressman. trump better be careful when he fucks with these career people. they are a very proud and competent army.

  13. earlofhuntingdon says:

    The first page of the complaint directly implicates Barr. From page one, paragraph two: “Attorney General Barr appears to be involved as well.”

    Once involved, Barr, of course, refused to recuse himself. But why would anyone involved in this process purposely include him, rather than seek to work around him, because he is implicated in a “credible” and “urgent” allegation of criminal wrongdoing? Engel at OLC has mud all over himself too.

    • BobCon says:

      The House has to order Barr to testify. He’ll fight it. At which point there will be a ton of pressure coming from House leadership to meet a deadline and let him offer some kind of limited form of non-answers and bogus document production. Likewise for Giuliani, Pence, Mulvaney and the rest of the sick crew.

      Giving in would be a disaster. They are going to need to steel themselves for court battles on a scale of US vs. Nixon. The House has every reason to demand that it can get evidence on a par with Nixon’s personal office recordings. There is no way to deal with this fight halfheartedly, and Pelosi ought to accept that she needs to stafff up and prepare for a long fight.

      I don’t know if she has the spine to do it. I also truly doubt she has the vision to think through the implications of her short term decisions.

  14. harpie says:

    I have a previously scheduled appointment and will unfortunately NOT be able to be around for the hearing this morning. :-(
    …looking forward to reading all the pithy conversation, here!

  15. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Devin Nunes characterizes all this as the Democrats’ special warfare campaign. Ginning up a fake story. It’s the Dems who threaten national security with their false stories and fake news. It’s another Steele Dossier. Hopeless politicizing by the Dems, who are destroying the WB process. No wonder he’s suing a cow.

    An impeachment inquiry, if ever there is one, threatens the entire GOP. They have gone all-in on Trump and all his works. Wherever Trump goes, so goes the GOP. The Goopers must be scared shitless.

    • harpie says:

      THIS!:

      An impeachment inquiry, if ever there is one, threatens the entire GOP. They have gone all-in on Trump and all his works. Wherever Trump goes, so goes the GOP. The Goopers must be scared shitless.

      #RIPGOP Good bye and good riddance!

      • BobCon says:

        Don’t jump to any conclusions. The Democrats have to avoid the temptation of settling for a few weeks of bad press for Trump and the GOP and no other real damage.

        Trump is fighting for his survival. What is the House leadership fighting for? A couple of pats on the back from Frank Bruni in the Sunday Opinion section of the NY Times? Or are they actually aware of the risks and opportunities at play?

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          Joe Maguire appears to be a straight shooter. High-pressure situations are whole milk to him. Attempting to embarrass him is a non-starter.

          Schiff, however, is trying to get sound bites from him, to get him to agree to characterizations regarding Donald Trump’s behavior.

          That’s a foolish tack. Maguire is going to stick to his role and the facts. Schiff should, too.

      • Molly Pitcher says:

        As much as I hate the current Republican party, I can not cheer for it’s death. That our democracy has come to this is a tragedy of historic proportions.

        A democracy requires many voices to represent the citizens. I may hate the current Republican Party member’s dishonesty and craven disregard for the Constitution, but I mourn the loss of a functioning political process.

        We are a wounded nation, currently unable to govern ourselves.

  16. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Joe Maguire is a retired three-star admiral. He is the former commander of Naval Special Warfare. He’s a tough cookie. But you don’t rise to that rank and earn those commands without being politically astute.

    His comment that he is not “political” needs clarification. The DNI is a cabinet-level appointment, subject to nomination by the president and confirmation by the Senate. The office reports directly to the president and is subject to his political demands. Joe Maguire became a politician when he accepted that post.

    • orionATL says:

      this seems fair to me. the top is just different from everywhere below.

      former defense secretary james mattis wrote in his new book that, for all his experience as a general, he learned a new set of skills (political i assumed) when he went to work for the joint chiefs of staff.

  17. earlofhuntingdon says:

    It is self-defeating for Schiff to try to embarrass Maguire or to get him to use Schiff’s vocabulary.

    Schiff would be better off selling his position that the IC IG has authority to determine what amounts to “credible” and “urgent,” and that the OLC, while its authority is broad, does not have authority to second-guess the IG’s determination.

  18. earlofhuntingdon says:

    See. Nunes allowed Maguire to say, in effect, that the OLC does have authority to review the IC IG’s determination of urgent and credible. Schiff’s questioning rated about a “C”.

    • orionATL says:

      maybe so. but the ig act is also establishes a congressional bond with ig’s.

      i seriously doubt either devin nunes, of all congressmen, or ig mcguire have any particular competence to determine whether the olc has any such power.

      more importantly, since the administration of the lesser bush and the devil’s disciple, the olc has repeatedly been no more than a serf with a collar for a willfully illegal president.

  19. RWood says:

    Schiff wasted his time and ours.

    Forget about McGuire’s role, we’ll get to that later. Move on to the meat of the subject. Quote the report and then get his clarification on things tying the party’s involved to it. Establish the roles of trump, Barr, Rudy, and Pence into everything.

    In other words get some frickin evidence into the record.

  20. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Nunes’s questioning, typically for him, is weak and flailing. He’s attacking the IC for leaking comms by Donald Trump.

    Maguire corrects him by saying that at least a dozen people were in the loop on this call. Nunes, trying to recover, says he’s quite sure no one in the WH leaked this. What planet is he from, and when was the last time he reported his position to the men in black?

    Nunes, tired and deflated, ends his questioning by telling Maguire to be careful what he says, a guy who has been keeping secrets for twice as long as Nunes has been in government.

    • Pdaly says:

      Nunes’ comment came off more as a threat than friendly advice that the acting director’s comments could be taken out of context.

  21. H. Candace gorman says:

    Maybe it is the lawyer in me but I found this very telling:
    To the best of my knowledge, the entirety of this statement is unclassified when separated from the classified enclosure. I have endeavored to apply the classification standards outlined in Executive Order (EO) 13526 and to separate out information that I know or have reason to believe is classified for national security purposes. *

    * If a classification marking is applied retroactively, I believe it is incumbent upon the
    classifying authority to explain why such a marking was applied, and to which specific
    information it pertains.

    Clearly this person was being extremely careful and was not going to let this complaint be buried as “classified” and if anyone was going to try they better explain it upfront…

  22. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Maguire is a lot of things, but he seems to be a straight-up guy. The Dems questioning should take advantage of that rather than trying to trip him up with word play. He’s not gonna play that game.

  23. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Is there no coordination among Dems regarding their questioning of the DNI in the midst of a purported impeachment inquiry?

    Ms. Sewell is concerned about general WB protections. She’s not eliciting facts and information from Maguire.

    Schiff steps in, asking in clearer, less emotional language for clarification from Maguire. It works.

    Sewell goes back to general WB act implementation. Too generic, her questions are a blunt sword rather than a sharp scalpel.

  24. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Per Steve Vladeck, https://twitter.com/steve_vladeck

    If you’re focusing on the propriety of the whistleblower complaint, the specific role of the whistleblower or the ICIG, or the strange process that led to this disclosure – and not the stunning, alarming pattern of official misconduct it describes – you’re doing it very, very wrong.

    Schiff’s committee is doing it very, very wrong.

    It’s trying to trip up Maguire and lament problems with WB process rather than focus on the substance of the complaint. Maguire is almost begging them to focus on the complaint. As Butch kept saying to Sundance, “Who are those guys?”

    • BobCon says:

      I’m not as down as you are about what has happened so far, but I think it’s obvious that carrying over this type of hearing format to an impeachment inquiry is completely inadequate.

      Furthermore, trying to build a public case for impeachment on Ukraine alone with testimony like this, followed by a vote in a few weeks or months, is really stupid. They need to give up on the single track strategy ASAP, or they will be in a mess the next time Trump gets caught.

        • bmaz says:

          And this is why I started screaming about the scope of inquiry the second the “Seven freshman former intelligence representatives” issued their op-ed and started talking about it. A “laser focused” narrow investigation scope is insane. Seize and use the fucking power while you can. Dopes.

  25. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Rep. Wenstrup is bemoaning that a credible complaint is not the same as a charge proven in a court of law. Self-evidently true and a nonsense argument.

    Per Wenstrup, executive privilege is not waiverable. Hahaha. Maguire had to correct him that he’s not the one who could waive it. That is, were it ever to exist and apply to these communications.

    [Privilege is a judicially-created concept. There are various kinds, with different levels of protection, depending on the subject of the communications. It can be waived by the holder; it can be broken for reasons of public concern, or more frequently, found not to apply.]

    My observation is that foreign leaders are not newly cautious about communicating with Trump because whistleblowers might out their talks. They are cautious because Trump is a blundering self-absorbed incompetent, who never keeps a promise.

  26. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Ms. Speier is sticking to what must have been agreed talking points, focusing on Maguire’s support for the WB. Like other Dems before her, she yielded her time early in the process. It’s hard to take this process seriously.

    The Republicans such as Mr. Stewart are focusing on Maguire’s honor and integrity. Maybe so, but there’s not a lot of that that applies to others in this process, starting in the WH.

  27. earlofhuntingdon says:

    The committee’s clock apparently isn’t working. Emblematic of the Democrats’ conduct of this hearing so far.

    If Adam Schiff has a problem with the OLC opinion second-guessing the IC IG’s determinations, perhaps Schiff should interrogate OLC head Steven Engel about it, Bill Barr, and the WH counsel that pursued that stonewalling process, rather than Maguire.

    • Geoff says:

      I guess when your motto is “snatching defeat from the jaws of victory”, you simply do what you always do. This is painful to watch. They are completely tone deaf. You finally get the public to pay attention by bringing up impeachment, and you start with this, a technicality snoozer that will turn everyone off. Talk about a massive fail. You need to get the hook set first, and his fish is now trying to wriggle off the line. What do you end up with here, just another Nunes toady show. They need to switch gears asap.

  28. Sandwichman says:

    It’s almost as if the Democrats are trying to stuff the genie back in the bottle with their lackluster questioning.

  29. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Maguire does not know whether Rudy Giuliani has a security clearance.

    Maybe that’s part of what should be investigated following this complaint. Who is doing that?

  30. 200Toros says:

    I’m slowly working my way through the WB complaint. One of the things that sticks out is Ukrainian Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko’s actions, producing all kinds of political dirt on both Ukrainian and American officials in March of 2019, shortly after meeting with Giuliani twice – once in New York in January, and once in Warsaw in mid-February. If anyone thinks that’s a mere coincidence….

  31. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Republican Ms. Stefanik is doing a better job than her Democratic counterparts. She’s asking questions based on the text of the complaint.

    One response to her is that the IC IG’s determinations relate to urgent and credible. In effect, he determined that there was probable clause to conduct a full investigation. He did not make a final determination as to its claims.

    One thing that questioning makes clear is that the IC IG should be at this hearing. The House should focus on having conducted a full investigation of the allegations in the complaint. It’s likely to be one thread in a large tapestry of similar behavior.

  32. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Gooper and former CIA employee Mr. Hurd’s standard response to Maguire’s answers is, “Good copy.” Hurd must think his job is to construct a legend, not establish facts.

  33. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Castro’s questioning is the best so far for the Dems.

    Texas GOP Rep. John Ratcliffe, OTOH, is fumbling. I think he’s confusing DoJ “ethics lawyers” with the OLC. He’s confusing evidence sufficient to conclude probable cause exists with the higher standard of evidence sufficient for a criminal conviction. He’s confusing self-exonerating claims from people named in the complaint, Bill Barr, for example, with established facts. Ratcliffe’s resume falsehoods seem to be catching up with him.

    • Geoff says:

      Didn’t help the Republicans that they sent everyone their talking points. And now, as you watch them try to push them, you see how ridiculous they sound when coming out of the mouths of toads like Nunes and Ratcliffe, guys with absolutely zero credibility. And even with talking point, they end up trailing off at the end, sounding flat, rather than indignant, because they know their spin looks pathetic and patently false this time around.

      • Geoff says:

        You gotta wonder though if whoever it was that send that out didnt do it by accident. ;-) Sort of a not so passive aggressive PA slam. I mean, it is theoretically possible that some people in the white house could eventually come to their senses that they work for a mob boss and maybe might want to rethink that choice.

    • Rayne says:

      Remember that Ratcliffe had been a nominee to replace Coats but he withdrew his name after a week. Consider what he’s said/asked in that light — was he selected by Trump for a specific reason? (Rhetorical question, that.)

  34. earlofhuntingdon says:

    I asked upthread who is responsible for investigating this complaint. It’s Bill Barr’s shop, which I think has already said no case to answer.

    That’s an invitation for Congress to pick up the thread. Because there’s a big hole in the tapestry somewhere and a lot of wind is blowing through it.

  35. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Rep. Demings (D) of Florida is a decent questioner.

    Maguire mispoke when he said that if others stepped up their support, Ukraine might become, in effect, less corrupt and more independent of Russian pressure. I think he’s forgetting >$500 million in support from other European governments.

  36. earlofhuntingdon says:

    WH Counsel lawyers apparently directed WH staff to hide the Ukraine call records in a different, codeword-protected database normally reserved for national security-related communications. The rationale was that it was politically sensitive, not that it was national security related.

    If an unspoken rationale was that it was evidence of a crime, then there’s no privilege and, further, WH Counsel lawyers are implicated in that law-breaking.

    • bmaz says:

      Yes. That said, I am not so sure that calls with foreign leaders are entitled to privilege in the first place. It is not an executive branch person. Not privileged.

  37. OmAli says:

    I think the House Democrats wasted almost this entire hearing. The DNI was treated as a hostile witness, when he seemed more than willing to openly testify. He clearly was following the statute as he understood it. I think he understood that he made bad decisions in going to the WH and DOJ. I think they squandered their time and missed the opportunity of enlisting a witness who seemed actually very sympathetic to the Dems. I was embarrassed, frankly. I hope congresspeople are not allowed to question witnesses in impeachment hearings if this was any indication of how they will proceed.

    Jeebus. I want to impeach the MF. The House looks likely to screw it up.

  38. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Schiff’s ending questions are lame. He is being argumentative with the wrong witness. He’s droning on, and repeating a line of questions that are not producing the answers he wants. Maguire is not a lawyer, he’s not in charge of US foreign policy, he’s not going to give Schiff the legal conclusions or characterizations he wants.

    Schiff is still trying to get Maguire to give him a sound bite – and to give him permission to investigate a complaint that Bill Barr’s DoJ has said there’s nothing to see, move along.

    Barr’s position is entirely self-serving and not credible. But it’s Schiff’s job to investigate where Barr will not. He looks weak in seeking, in effect, approval from Maguire. He’s not even listening to his answers. He just keeps repeating his to do list, as if it were the same as Maguire’s.

    • klynn says:

      He was not asking for permission. He was pointing out this process did not honor the whistleblower and nearly ended up buried.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        Witnesses are like horses: You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make ’em drink.

        You can set up a witness perfectly, but if they won’t give you the answer you want, at some point, you have to move on. Otherwise, it looks like you’re the problem, not the witness. Schiff knows that.

      • klynn says:

        Getting the order of seeking clarification from the conflict of interest parties named in the WB report was valuable. There’s that.

  39. RWood says:

    Now Schiff is just pissing me off.

    He sits there repeatedly asking McGuire if “this should be investigated”, while for months, no years, he and the rest of his party have had a mountain of evidence that they could have used to launch an impeachment inquiry.

    They are going to blow it if they keep this up. I can’t watch anymore, and doubt that I even need to.

  40. OmAli says:

    Will they ever f**king learn to coordinate their questions to create a linear narrative? It is actually pretty simple. I start here. I want to finish, there. Here is the path I need to follow.

    I am pulling my hair out.

    • Geoff says:

      Brutal innit? I had to turn it off. I started with turning off Republican talking points, but then realized I was more infuriated by the utter ineptitude of the democratic questioning. Just recently, they should have learned, with Corey L that they need a legit lawyer to do their questioning for them. Schiff just made a fool out of himself. All this pomp and ceremony in the intro, then falls flat on his face. JFC I am pissed.

      • OmAli says:

        The Republicans had nothing. They were demoralized and sinking. The Dems should have thanked them and moved on, but instead they threw them a big, fat life ring.

    • BobCon says:

      It’s not going to happen as long as they stick to the current format for hearings. A team of attorneys on a major case will have months to prep and a ton of support staff. A typical US rep got the hearing notice not long ago and is juggling a thousand other tasks like dealing with a sewer overflow back in their district, prepping for other hearings, and of course the multiple hours of fundraising, with maybe one staffer working part time on this hearing.

      The Democrats need a large, dedicated professional staff, a deeply experienced attorney leading them, and the time to develop a serious investigation that can cover a lot of bases. The reps can listen and vote.

      This should have happened months ago, and it’s unclear if Pelosi will ever bother. What’s so infuriating is that so much of the background work could have been happening since the start of the year without garnering the press and public attention to impeachment that she seems to fear. This is a major tell that she wasn’t waiting for public opinion to change — she never wanted it happen at all.

      • P J Evans says:

        I agree that they should have been putting together the staff from about the beginning of February. I have no idea why Pelosi is acting like she’s afraid of impeaching someone – or several someones – who have been obviously committing “high crimes and misdemeanors” for more than two years. She – or her staff – should have a binder full of notes on what they’ve been doing that’s impeachable.

        • BobCon says:

          Acting reluctant for the cameras may have had some political value. Genuinely being reluctant was stupid. That meant she thought she knew the future. There was no meaningfult downside to being much more prepared.

        • Rayne says:

          Fortunately there are places Pelosi could go to for a starter kit on impeachable offenses — like he folks at Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, or my History’s Rhyme series.

          • P J Evans says:

            She could talk to Speier, who was, IIRC, there for Watergate; so was Hillary. Or she could have read the House report on their investigation. (I did – back then.)
            Dammit, it’s not like there’s no records of how it’s been done.

          • Eureka says:

            Your History’s Rhyme series — and NYT swooping up your framing, extensive work, and expertise– was one of the examples I had in mind commenting last nt. (And I never checked there to see how they might have reframed, btw, or if it was a genuine public educ. effort on their part.)

            As you indicate, better it be used by the citizenry and the House on behalf of us.

  41. pdaly says:

    The Democrats were mostly consistent using the phrase ‘he or she’ when referring to the whistleblower. Maguire not so much. Maguire referred to the whistleblower by the pronoun “he” while claiming not to know anything about the identity of the whistleblower.

  42. punaise says:

    Josh Marshall:

    “According to Murray Waas writing in the New York Review of Books, Rudy’s excellent Ukraine adventure began not as an effort to damage Joe Biden but to discredit the case against Paul Manafort and lay the groundwork for a pardon. […]
    But in terms of piecing together just what’s going on here, how this all happened, the Manafort part is where to look. Waas reports that Giuliani was trying to discredit the prosecution of Paul Manafort to lay the predicate for a Presidential pardon. […]
    I continue to believe that the best way to see this Ukraine collusion/extortion isn’t as a new effort, a reckless effort to get yet another country to intervene in US elections. It’s really much more a continuation of the Russia story, an effort to discredit the Mueller probe, spring Manafort and turn fire on Democrats and the “Deep State.” “

  43. earlofhuntingdon says:

    I think Maguire is professionally qualified to be DNI. He would have done well under President Obama, who knew how to use talented staff, and how to ask them do do things within the scope of their competence.

    But Maguire is no Barr, Lewandowski, or Mulvaney. He does not seem to have the amoral political chops to handle this corrupt incompetent president, who is blind to any interest but fattening his own pocketbook, and the resulting heavily politicized White House, in which facts are irrelevant and obsequious loyalty to Trump is all.

    As an honorable man, after a reasonable passage of time, he should resign. Otherwise, he becomes a throwaway patsy.

    • OmAli says:

      I agree, eoh. It pained me to see him in that position. Dems shot themselves in the collective foot by not making clear to him that they understood just what you stated.

    • Molly Pitcher says:

      I wish I could agree with you, but I think Maguire is out of his league in this acting position. He is a fine and honorable sailor/seal but he is the sort of military man who lacks the vision to see when it is incumbent upon one to not follow the rules.

      He should have brought this directly to Congress after the IC IG weighed in. But he has spent his entire adult career obeying those above him in the line of command.

      You didn’t see Patton or MacArthur do that. He was afraid to make an executive decision because he worked for the Commander in Chief. I do agree that he should resign after a bit.

      • OmAli says:

        Can’t really argue with that, but godsdamn that sob in the WH who makes cannon fodder without a second thought.

        Rick Wilson is right. Everything Trump touches, dies.

      • pdaly says:

        Agree. “[Maguire] is the sort of military man who lacks the vision to see when it is incumbent upon one to not follow the rules.”

        Or to see that a higher rule applies: “I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic”

        Maguire stated he was primarily concerned with maintaining his advisory role with the Office of the President. Tattling on the President seemed like a step too far for him and thus he was satisfied with a job well done after letting the WH lawyers, AG Barr and the OLC hide the WB complaint from Congress.

        • klynn says:

          Mcguire did not take steps to protect the Constitution. That is his failing. A sad one for such a decorated veteran.

      • Jenny says:

        I agree Molly. He followed the “chain of command.” It took him a long time to finally answer the question as to who he went to first with this material. He danced around then finally stated he went to the WH first.

        Schiff questioning why he went to the WH for advice considering Trump is the subject of the complaint and did not follow the law giving the complaint to congress was spot on in my book. Maguire went directly to the problem with the material. Trump is the problem.

        • Tom says:

          If Maguire had forwarded the WB complaint directly to Congress, any blowback from Trump could have been answered and defended against by pointing out that he was simply obeying the law. As it is, Maguire has shown Trump that he is malleable. Wonder if he would do things differently next time if another WB comes forward?

      • General Sternwood says:

        A telling moment was when he lamented his bad luck in being appointed to the position when the whistleblower complaint was in the pipeline. He said Coats had better timing.

        It was just so naive — Coats and Gordon had been removed so that a neophyte like Maguire could be put in the position and more easily manipulated. To say Coats had good timing marks him as someone who just punches their time-card and works hard at doing what the boss says to do.

  44. 200Toros says:

    This morning I bet Maguire was looking back over his 35-year career in the Navy, fondly remembering the worst battlefield hellhole he’d ever found himself in, and wishing he was there….

  45. harpie says:

    1] https://twitter.com/AlanFisher/status/1177266491726749696
    9:59 AM – 26 Sep 2019

    Trump at private breakfast: “Who gave the whistle-blower the information? Because that’s almost a spy” [LA Times link]

    2] https://twitter.com/HayesBrown/status/1177305061438959616 [Via Quinta Jurecic]
    12:32 PM – 26 Sep 2019

    LAT has dropped the audio and yeesh. [link]

    It MUST be heard, but here’s a transcript:

    Trump: Basically, that person never saw the report, never saw the call, he never saw the call—heard something and decided that he or she or whoever the hell it is – they’re almost a spy.

    I want to know who’s the person, who gave the whistleblower
    Who’s the person who gave the whistleblower the information?
    Because that’s close to a spy.

    You know what we used to do in the old days when we were smart? Right? The spies and treason, we used to handle it a little differently than we do now. [laughter] ]

    Yes, truly…laughter.

  46. Mooser says:

    I keep on wondering how it must feel for the poor Ukrainian Pres., squeezed between Putin and Trump. For all he knows, Putin may be in it with Trump.

  47. harpie says:

    1] Julia Davis in May:
    https://twitter.com/JuliaDavisNews/status/1128141760117510145
    8:35 PM – 13 May 2019

    #Russia’s state TV shamelessly lies that Rudy Giuliani was going to travel to #Ukraine for President-elect Volodymyr Zelensky’s inauguration, but Trump personally directed him & any other official U.S. representatives not to attend the inauguration.
    So many lies, so little time.

    2] Julia Davis this morning:
    https://twitter.com/JuliaDavisNews/status/1177234658058285056
    7:53 AM – 26 Sep 2019

    Oh my, the Russians weren’t lying. They knew what was taking place behind-the-scenes.
    The #WhistleblowerComplaint revealed that Trump personally instructed Pence not to attend the inauguration.

  48. P J Evans says:

    In other political news (yes, there is some) one of the two dairies that David Valadao’s family owned has been sold to pay its debts. Valadao claims he wasn’t really involved with it – but between 2013 and 2019 he signed for $6 million in bank loans. And they owe $325K to employees that they haven’t paid yet.

  49. Cynthia Perez says:

    The republicans are nothing if not devious. What if they have decided to dump Trump — they would have to discredit him in a huge way to preserve their base. What if the whistleblower is John Bolton?

    The republicans would have their hero of the day and their candidate for 2020.

    • Rayne says:

      LOL Gabbard’s primary opponent Kai Kahele has been kicking her in the ōkole about impeachment. I don’t think she had a choice but to yield. Rather pathetic it’s taken this long and this much betrayal of the Constitution before she got on the right side of this.

      I don’t think anybody really needs me to explain what an ōkole is. LOL

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