Three Things: One Is Not a Transcript

[NB: Check the byline, thanks! /~Rayne]

“This thing, what is it in itself, in its own constitution? What is its substance and material? And what its causal nature (or form)? And what is it doing in the world? And how long does it subsist?”

— Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, Book VIII, sect. XI

I relied on Marcus Aurelius more than two years ago when looking at what we knew about the relationship between Michael Flynn and Donald Trump.

This same meditation provides a nice starting point after the release of a document purported by many to be a transcript (pdf) of the July 25 phone call by Trump to Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky.

~ 3 ~

What is this thing?

It says right there in black-and-white that it is a memorandum. It is NOT a transcript.

There’s a caveat at the bottom of the same page, too, explaining that it is NOT a transcript:

~ 2 ~

We’re told there was no quid pro quo. But what is this thing?

Zelensky said his country is ready for more military aid, and Trump said he wants a favor, though.

That’s a quid pro quo. It’s right there again, in print, something (like military aid) for something (like a favor).

~ 1 ~

This last thing to be examined is a little more tricky. It does whatever it can to avoid being taken at face value.


This is a member of Trump’s legal team, Rudy Giuliani. He’s been a member since April 2018.

He is not an ambassador to Ukraine. There is no current ambassador as one has not been nominated by Trump and approved with the advice and consent of the Senate according to Article II, section 2 of the Constitution.

Nor is he the Chargé d’Affaires as that role has been filled William B. Taylor, Jr. since June 2018. He is not the Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv; that role has been filled by Kristina A. Kvien since May 2019.

Nor is he a State Department employee in some other capacity besides ambassador.

He is not an employee of the Department of Justice or Federal Bureau of Investigation, which are responsible for criminal investigations. He was not a member of the Special Counsel’s Office.

He is not the White House Counsel; that role has been filled since December 2018 by Pat Cipollone.

Nor is he a member of Congress or a congressional staffer yet he says someone read to him the ‘transcript’ before any member of Congress received it.

Who or what is this thing? What is it doing? How does it subsist?

Because he’s not working for the American public though he’s been pushing for investigations into American citizens overseas.

Because he’s not furthering the investigation into Paul Manafort or the hacking of the DNC in 2016 as part of the Special Counsel’s Office investigation or as an employee of any other U.S. law enforcement.

Because he’s not representing broader American ties with Ukraine, only whatever it is his client and the rest of his legal team have assigned to him.

We can’t rule out that he’s working for Trump’s campaign in some capacity. It’s not clear any news media outlet has asked him if he is.

What is he really?

~ 0 ~

This is an open thread, but bring your comments about the whistleblower complaint and U.S.-Ukraine here.

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144 replies
  1. Peterr says:

    Zelensky appears to have scrupulously followed the Official Foreign Leader Playbook (TM) for dealing with Trump.

    1. Complement Trump right off the bat, as fully as possible. Praise him, describe how you followed his electoral strategy in your own election, and strongly criticize the people Trump criticizes, like Merkel and Macron.

    2. Mention how much you look forward to buying things from the US, like weapons.

    3. When Trump pivots and says “I would like you to do us a favor though . . .” agree to the deal in principle immediately. Do not ask questions, do not prevaricate, just say “yes.” (Don’t worry yet about followup with actual actions, because that’s not exactly Trump’s strong point.)

    4. Mention that you stayed in Trump Tower last time you were in NY.

    The only thing missing was to complement Trump on his wonderful children and the wonderful US economy. Maybe he’ll mention them today at the UN.

    • Marinela says:

      Ya, this is the guy that Ukraine elected to fight corruption.
      I am wondering, what other conversations like this that we don’t know about?

    • Frank Probst says:

      He also agrees with Trump’s trash talk about the former ambassador, which I think the even the former ambassador would agree was shrewd move when it comes to dealing with Trump.

  2. Rayne says:

    It’d break my Three Things format to add one more item. Not sure it would fit the First Principles theme very well, too.

    It’s important that people don’t allow Giuliani and the GOP to conflate two different subjects:

    — the act of a former VP in negotiations as VP with another country about corruption, and

    — the act of a sitting president in negotiations with another country about delivering benefits to aid his personal re-election.

    GOP will paint the first the identical shade as the second.

    I see people grumbling about Hunter Biden doing business in Ukraine and yet where are they about Trump’s kids doing business in China? Seeking financing from Qatar or China? Their past (and possibly ongoing) business relationships in Russia? Even when the issues are much more similar there’s still manipulation of the narratives.

      • Rayne says:

        Yeah, that’s why I wanted to spell it out simply and clearly so stupid gits like Matt Gaetz can’t cloud the issue any more than they already have.

    • Katherine M Williams says:

      “It’d break my Three Things format to add one more item”

      What if this phone call isn’t the actual reason the whistleblower complaint was made? It’s pretty standard Trump, after all. Is the administration using this episode to churn and muddy the waters? They’re very good at that.

      • Rayne says:

        LOL He could be impeached just for this churn alone — he and his lawyer have both admitted to offenses, the memo released today only cinches them. The whistleblower complaint might only add counts at this point. If this was just to muddy the waters they screwed themselves badly.

  3. Nehoa says:

    The media folks need to ask him or otherwise determine who pays Rudy. Trump personally? Trump org? Trump campaign? Other?

      • SelfAbsorbed says:

        Rudy started working as Trump’s personal attorney, pro bono, not that long after his wife filed for divorce, this is from a NYT article

        “A primary issue is Mr. Giuliani’s current income. His wife believes that Mr. Giuliani left his law firm, Greenberg Traurig, in 2018, a month after the divorce was filed, and chose to work for President Trump pro bono in order to reduce any future alimony.” https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/13/nyregion/rudy-giuliani-divorce-judith-nathan.html

        I have a confession to make, the Giuliani Divorce Saga is a guilty pleasure of mine. Wow, it feels so good to get that off my chest! Their divorce has been a ridiculous shit show in court, with the judge openly expressing his frustrations and chastising everyone involved like they were misbehaving children. Another excerpt from the NYT piece:

        [In caustic legal proceedings this summer, the separated couple has battled over things as prosaic as her kitchen renovations and as rarefied as his splurges — $7,131 on fountain pens and another $12,012 on cigars.

        “It is beyond me why either party in this case would have an interest in having all of this done publicly,” Justice Michael Katz said at an appearance last year in State Supreme Court in Manhattan. Settling privately, he advised, “would treat their relationship and marriage with more respect than divulging all our dirty laundry out for public consumption.”]

        It’s gross that I’m interested in how much Rudy spends on pens, but I am and it brings me a lot of joy to read about a judge yelling at him for being a jackass, even if it’s only re: his divorce and not his other legally dubious antics.

    • Mainmata says:

      Almost certainly, it is neither Trump (who is a notorious deadbeat, as Rudy would know) nor the Trump Org., which couldn’t afford Rudy’s really high consultant fees. I would guess the Trump campaign.

  4. harpie says:

    Before noticing this post, I posted the following on the older thread:
    OLC Issues an Opinion About the “Urgent Concern” Determination on the Whistleblower Complaint by the DNI
    https://www.lawfareblog.com/olc-issues-opinion-about-urgent-concern-determination-whistleblower-complain-dni
    September 25, 2019, 11:41 AM

    The Office of Legal Counsel released an opinion detailing the legal rationale for their determination that “the complaint submitted to the ICIG does not involve an ‘urgent concern’” and that the DNI thus has no statutory obligation to give the complaint to the congressional intelligence committees. The memo can be found here.
    https://assets.documentcloud.org/documents/6429158/OLC-Memo-on-Urgent-Concern.pdf /

    Unusual…no?

  5. Terrell says:

    I think you have the qui pro quo backwards. The mark is supposed to not want to do the act without the pressure from not receiving the something. Zelinski says he is going to buy more weapons prior to Trump asking his favor. No where does Trump condition the military aid on the favor. Also, Zelinski seems willing to reopen the investigation into Biden without any pressure from Trump. Unless you have more information on this, it certainly isn’t like what Biden claimed he did when he threatened to withhold billions if the prosecutor wasn’t fired. That is more of a qui pro quo than what Trump did. More information is needed on this one.

    • Rayne says:

      Read the timeline of events leading up to the phone call. What we read in this memo didn’t happen in a vacuum.

      There was aid in the offing before Zelensky was elected; the aid was stalled out not once but twice at Trump’s request after the phone call — was this because Zelensky hadn’t delivered after the call?

      Zelensky had also tried to dismiss Ukraine’s prosecutor general Lutsenko on the same day Trump told news journalist George Stephanopoulos he’d be willing to listen to another country if they wanted to offer help — June 11.

      Further, Zelensky didn’t appear to be doing anything of the sort related to an investigation into Hunter Biden up to the July 25 phone call; former prosecutor general Lutsenko was on his way out the door as of July 21, departing August 29 when Ukraine’s parliament replaced him with Zelensky’s nominee.

      There’s also at least one phone call by Giuliani to Zelensky’s aide two weeks before the July 25 documented in this memo. We have NO idea what was said in that call which may also have included part of the quid pro quo negotiations.

      More information is definitely needed, I’ll grant you that much, and I hope House Intelligence Committee gets it.

    • Peterr says:

      “No where does Trump condition the military aid on the favor.”

      How about this:

      Z: I would also like to thank you for your great support in the area of defense. We are ready to continue to cooperate for the next steps specifically we are almost ready to buy more Javelins from the United States for defense purposes.

      T: I would like you to do us a favor though . . .

      That word “though” screams “CONDITIONS!” as does the word “favor.” It says “you are asking for a big thing from me, and before I would agree to that, I need you to do something for me.”

      But thanks for playing.

    • Frank Probst says:

      The VERY FIRST THING that Trump says after Zelenskyy says he wants to buy more missiles is: “I would like you to do us a favor though…” Trump is referencing “the server” here, but it’s pretty clear that he’s strong-arming Zelenskyy. The whole conversation has all the subtlety of a falling anvil.

    • Matthew Harris says:

      I don’t know if you are posting this in good faith. Whether you are or not, this might be instructive to other readers:

      If I was on a jury, and had agreed to look for proof “beyond a reasonable doubt” of a crime, I would agree that insinuations and tacit understandings might not be enough to convict someone of corruption.

      But in the real world, we don’t need 100% proof to decide that something is fishy. “I would like to do a favor” followed by ellipses, seems to show that there was some expectation of favors, even if it is not explicitly stated as a quid pro quo. We have the right, here, to say that something is corrupt, without needing to prove to a letter that it would be convictable in a court of law.

      I mean, anyone who doesn’t have a sense when things might be fishy, even if they don’t have 100% proof of why, feel free to send me some money via Western Union, so I can pay the fees to transfer some of this billions in Nigerian oil money into your bank account.

      In the real world, we don’t need to confirm to the standards of high school debate club to pedantically prove a scam is a scam.

      • bmaz says:

        I have never sat on a jury, but have argued to many of them. Beyond reasonable doubt is never beyond any doubt. Circumstantial evidence is usually the basis for their decision in most cases. And they are fine with that.

        • Peterr says:

          I *have* sat on multiple juries, civil and criminal, and I think bmaz has it exactly right with respect to circumstantial evidence and how juries treat generally treat it.

        • SelfAbsorbed says:

          I think I heard Joyce Vance say this on TV, but regardless it was a former prosecutor who currently teaches law, & as a layman it really struck me, “A smoking gun is circumstantial evidence”. I know it’s probably not profound to the legal professionals, but to me it was jarring to realize the standard phrase used to refer to irrefutable “proof” is circumstantial evidence. Just kind of erased all of the movie/tv lawyer lines i’d been subconsciously carrying around in my brain about the weakness of circumstantial evidence.

  6. Zinsky says:

    To me, the only debate should be over whether the punishment is life in prison or execution. I lean towards life in prison (for the entire Trump family….).

  7. earlofhuntingdon says:

    “Notetakers: White House Situation Room”

    Is that some newfangled AI-powered room that can take notes about what’s said in it? Or did the White House just buy a Roomba vacuum cleaner without reading the fine print?

    • Molly Pitcher says:

      Earl of Huntingdon, I should know better than to read you while I eat my lunch. I just snorted carrot up my nose, laughing . I appreciate you.

    • Tom says:

      I think it refers to the phrase that Mad magazine used to include on its contributors page: “The Usual Gang of Idiots”.

    • Peterr says:

      I saw an interview with one of the folks who had this role during the Obama administration, who said this was the SOP when he worked there. On his first day, he asked the obvious question: “why don’t we just tape the calls instead of taking all these notes?” upon which he received the equally obvious answer: “Uh, taping things in the White House went out of favor in 1974.”

  8. Vince says:

    Yep. Looks like another ‘Bill Barr Special’. A massaged, edited, oopsed, “transcript”, and nothing to see here folks, move along.

  9. BobCon says:

    Pelosi is pushing a narrow scope fast track impeachment based on Ukraine on the theory that it is easy to understand.

    That is really dumb except as a first salvo.

    Knowing her, she just wants to shut down impeachment and hide for 2020.It is rotten policy AND rotten politics

    • P J Evans says:

      makes me wonder who’s got kompromat on her, and what it is. She should know that the investigation will spread, even if she tries to keep it just Ukraine:
      Barr, and his actions at DOJ
      the OLC, and its actions on the whistle-blower’s complaint
      RudyRudyRudy, and WTF he’s doing in Ukraine claiming to be acting for the State Department
      the FreeDumb Caucus and their shilling for Whatever He Says

      • BobCon says:

        It’s not kompromat. It’s just her. It’s the person who reacts to challenges from her left by running to Maureen Dowd to whine and eat bon bons.

        • Molly Pitcher says:

          I find most of your comments thought provoking, but I am compelled to say that your “eating bonbons” comment is beneath you. Would you say that about Chuck Schumer ? Steny Hoyer ?

          My sources tell me she and Mo Dowd drink Redbull and Everclear shots.

          Your comment belittles both women.

          • Vern says:

            “Would you say that about Chuck Schumer ? Steny Hoyer ?”

            I would. Although in their cases, might more likely be tea with Cokie Roberts (RIP, not a fan) or coffee with Habs and Schmitt.

    • Tom says:

      I think Pelosi is underestimating the public’s ability to understand a complex story line if it’s presented clearly and coherently. If you can spend several years following “Game of Thrones” you can follow a comprehensive impeachment enquiry. All this does is give the public the message that everything else Trump has done and is still doing is off the table because it’s not really that significant. By narrowing their scope, the Dems forfeit the advantage of a multi-front assault on the President’s corruption network and give Trump and the GOP the benefit of having to defend only one avenue of attack.

      • BobCon says:

        Yes, the public can think about more than one thing. Heck, Trump campaigned on more than one thing in 2016.

        There is a meaningful argument to choosing subjects based on impact and the opportunities to present evidence. This is the opposite of that strategy. It’s blinkered risk aversion looking at the shortest possible time frame.

        What is her plan when Trump does something unlawful and awful again?

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      It’s the sort of thing an opponent of impeachment would do. It takes the wind out of the sails of its proponents and of critics who claim Pelosi is not doing her job, merely triangulating to win an election. It is appearance over reality.

      Limiting an inquiry to only this most recent Trump revelation is to ignore not only Al Capone’s bootlegging and murder, but his tax evasion, too, in order to give Scarface a ticket for double parking.

      If this is really Pelosi’s game, it is not even good stage management. It has the look of a fiat. It suggests she was unable to control the inquiry by creating a new select committee or by persuading committee chairs to narrowly structure their investigations. It almost makes me want to reread the Warren Commission Report.

      • 200Toros says:

        I haven’t heard anything about any upcoming vote by the House to start a formal impeachment inquiry, isn’t that how it worked in the past? Is she by-passing that on some pretext?

        • Rayne says:

          The votes weren’t there yet. Pelosi’s statement allowed the fencesitters to come out and announce their support. We’re at 216 right now, just need another 2-3 votes and they could go for an authorizing resolution before the full House.

          In the mean time the statement that the committees will continue their investigations under the aegis of impeachment buys time between letters going out demanding more documentation and the vote being solidified.

          • earlofhuntingdon says:

            If the votes weren’t there, does it not suggest there is no authorization for an impeachment inquiry and that her statement was premature?

            Could not Nadler, for example, and other committee chairs get around that by holding committee votes, at least for purposes of their individual investigations?

            • Rayne says:

              In re Q1 — Clearly about 30-40% of the House Dems are chickenshits who won’t stick their neck out until the Speaker does so, and unlike bmaz I can think of reason why she didn’t want to, including the fact Mueller’s explanation and Barr’s obsfucation damaged odds of a successful vote. The votes are there now *because* of her statement which gave the greenlight.

              In re Q2 — The HJC committee vote was last week (and bmaz thought it was a joke); it could have been contested against the Constitution’s description of Article I powers of impeachment, dragging things out. Could still be contested along with Schiff’s letter he sent to Barr asking for responsive materials but by the time Barr responds negatively a resolution could be passed, moving to a new level of authority.

              Today there was a non-binding resolution about the whistleblower complaint that drew 228 votes — I think that’s the foreshadow of the authorizing resolution for the formal inquiry. IMO these two votes mean the ducks are finally in a row.

              I will be so glad when I can shift focus to hammering on the Senate (which passed a unanimous bipartisan resolution yesterday comparable to the House’s bill).

              • bmaz says:

                Yes, there are always excuses for elected and paid representatives to refuse to do the only thing they are actually sworn to do in their oath of office. And their own political pragmatism is certainly more important than the Constitution they swore to defend. What heroes. Wait, I meant whores.

        • Vince says:

          The Nixon Impeachment Inquiry came out of a vote in the House Judiciary Committee, but Pelosi likely wants to go through the full house so as not to be dragged through the courts by Kevin.

          • Rayne says:

            No.
            — The Senate authorized a special committee dedicated to Watergate in February 1973; this was the beginning investigation.
            — AG Eliot Richardson appointed special prosecutor Archibald Cox in May 1973; this was a second line of investigation.
            — The Senate Watergate Committee wrapped its hearings in August 1973.
            — The Saturday Night Massacre happened in October 1973, heightening the scandal.
            — The White House revealed a gap in the tapes in November 1973.
            — Indictments for the Watergate Seven came down in March 1974; Nixon was named an unindicated co-conspirator.
            — The White House turns over transcripts of tapes in April 1974.
            — The House started impeachment proceedings in May 1974; this was the third line of investigation, relying in part on the work of the Senate Watergate Committee and the special prosecutor.
            — In July 1974 SCOTUS ruled in United States v. Nixon that the White House couldn’t withhold ‘the smoking gun’ tape.
            — Nixon resigned in August 1974 after he was told the votes were there to pass the three of five articles of impeachment approved by the House Judiciary Committee.

            The House’s impeachment inquiry started long after a year’s worth of investigation had already been done.

            • Vince says:

              I wasn’t referencing ‘when’, or who started “investigating” first. One of the Nixon prosecutors told Hayes or O’Donnell that the official Impeachment Inquiry and Articles of Impeachment did not involve a full house vote, but were voted out of the house judiciary committee.

              • Peterr says:

                Nixon resigned after the Judiciary committee voted on impeachment articles, but before a full House vote could be taken on them that would send them to the Senate.

                • Rayne says:

                  Tip O’Neill did the whip in the House and couldn’t get more than 75 votes to support Nixon on August 6, 1974; ‘the smoking gun’ tape peeled away at least 10 GOP votes because the tape made it clear Nixon had lied to the public as well as Congress. The House was hanging onto the full vote knowing the numbers. Senators Goldwater and Rhodes were selected to tell Nixon there were 34 votes or less to support him in the Senate, not enough to stop his conviction and removal.

                  The calculus was different then, but they were much less partisan and far more focused on the ethics involved. If only this were the case today. Just can’t trust the GOP Senate to do the right thing instead of voting to cover their own butts.

            • P J Evans says:

              I remember watching the hearings in July 1974; I was at my grandmother’s house. The then-three TV networks rotated the coverage, so they all got some.

              • Tom says:

                Watergate was so much easier to understand and absorb as it unfolded step by step. You read the daily paper, watched the evening news, read the coverage in TIME once a week, and that was pretty well it. I was working long hours that summer at a local farm and so missed most of the live Watergate hearings. There was none of the 24/7 stream-of-consciousness news cycle we now have.

                • Rayne says:

                  There also wasn’t the deluge of social media and the firehose of disinformation launched with pinpoint accuracy.

                  I remember being stuck in the great white north the summers of 1973 and 1974 where we could only get one or two broadcast television stations depending on the weather. It was the hearings when they aired or Tiger baseball on the radio. I remember a LOT more about Watergate and Nixon than I do baseball though I miss hearing George Kell and Ernie Harwell calling the games.

      • BobCon says:

        She is in this mess because she assumed Trump was going to stop cheating and had no contingency plan if he didn’t.

        She is proceeding as if he is going to stop cheating in the future, and nothing else about his past will turn up.

        This is astonishingly dumb thinking. She’s thinking like she’s on a railroad with a few scheduled track switches ahead. She’s really sailing on the open seas, and has to be prepared for wind changes from any direction.

      • Rayne says:

        Do you use more than one browser? Try both Firefox and Chrome. Not certain if Firefox Focus might also generate separate cookies/sessions.

        • P J Evans says:

          I tried saving it from the URL, not opening it, and got the message about private browser sessions (which it wasn’t) But there are ways….

        • Vern says:

          Tip that works for me:

          I use Firefox with NoScript (free). I can toggle script on and off at will for video clips, etc. that I want to see. I can usually read NYT text and most graphics with complete lockdown on script. I’ve set my browser to remove all cookies upon closure and I restart to DuckDuckGo as a home page and a clean fresh browser. My computer works better/faster too bc it’s not bogged down with extraneous script to run.

          Of course, EmptyWheel is a “trusted” setting in my browser.

          • bmaz says:

            Excellent. Have to note that one of the perks of this site is that we do not run any of that goofy stuff. Old school straight up blog baybee!

      • P J Evans says:

        Extracting the text from the page source…

        The acting Director of National Intelligence threatened to resign over concerns that the White House might attempt to force him to stonewall Congress when he testifies Thursday about an explosive whistleblower complaint about the president, according to current and former U.S. officials familiar with the matter.

        He has at times expressed his displeasure to White House counsel Pat Cipollone and others that the White House had put him in the untenable position of denying the material to Congress over a claim that it did not fall within his jurisdiction as leader of the intelligence community.

        In his only public statement on the matter, issued Tuesday evening, Maguire said, “In light of recent reporting on the whistleblower complaint, I want to make clear that I have upheld my responsibility to follow the law every step of the way.”
        “I am committed to protecting whistleblowers and ensuring every complaint is handled appropriately,” Maguire added. “I look forward to continuing to work with the Administration and Congress to find a resolution regarding this important matter.”

      • SelfAbsorbed says:

        You can delete your history and it starts the “free articles” count over. Also on apple devices, if you turn on reader mode before the web page loads all the way & the “you must subscribe” message pops up, you can read the whole article.

  10. Vicks says:

    I have zero experience with the handling of whistle blowers, but when I read the letters coming from this whistle blower’s lawyers, (for lack of a better word) I felt “heartened,” to me they conveyed a message that was confident, reasonable and unwavering.
    Is this simple legal posturing or should team Trump be worried that this information is going to come out and it is going to come out fast?

  11. X says:

    Pretty crazy interview with Trump and Zelensky. It should clearly establish that Trump is deep into Queeg territory talking about Hillary’s strawberries.

  12. harpie says:

    This morning, Marcy tweeted:
    https://twitter.com/emptywheel/status/1176889877750792195
    9:03 AM – 25 Sep 2019

    So the NatSec side of this is that Trump is trying to get Zelensky to chase some disinfo built into the 2016 operation that involves Ukraine. And I think he’s trying to do it before the Roger Stone trial.

    Ten minutes ago, from WaPo [it’s behind a paywall, so this is all I got:]
    https://twitter.com/washingtonpost/status/1176942995297439744
    12:34 PM – 25 Sep 2019

    Roger Stone barred from contesting Russian role in hacking Democratic emails in 2016 [A judge ruled the longtime Trump confidant’s “irrelevant” attacks on former special counsel Mueller would confuse or distract jurors who will weigh the charges of lying to…” [paywall]]

    • Rayne says:

      First three grafs of that story:

      A federal judge Wednesday barred Roger Stone from contesting Russia’s role in hacking and releasing Democratic emails in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, calling his claims irrelevant to his charged offenses of lying to Congress and witness tampering.

      U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson said government evidence of Russian involvement was “irrelevant to any issue to be decided or the elements of any charge” against President Trump’s longtime adviser, who faces trial Nov. 5.

      “The only conceivable purpose is to confuse or distract the jury,” said Jackson at one of Stone’s last pretrial hearings in federal court in Washington.

    • Vicks says:

      Seriously, they still need to write this shit down?
      I could do it in my sleep.
      I am listening to Step 3 “Trash the messenger…” Trump just said they have information on the whistle blower everyone should find interesting…

      • P J Evans says:

        He shouldn’t know anything about the whistle-blower. Something else to add to the investigation: how did he get information that shouldn’t have gone to either DOJ or the WH?

  13. Jockobadger says:

    Do we finally have someone with the simple moral qualities we’ve needed for a long time? I sure do hope so. JHC

  14. earlofhuntingdon says:

    As bmaz might say, where’s the House vote authorizing an impeachment inquiry? Where’s Nadler’s committee vote?

    Believe what they do, not what they say.

    • Jockobadger says:

      You’re right Earl.

      I’m watching now – seems like someone loaded him up with Xanax or something. I swear he’s stoned.

  15. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Trump is about to hold a formal press conference in NYC. No controllable chopper noise in the background to obscure his answers, drown out questions, or tell him to wrap it up.

    For a guy who hates press conferences, holding one suggests he’s frightened and needs to strike out. Unless, of course, he just wants to fill in what his lawyers’ ellipses have taken out.

    • Peterr says:

      I think NYC Trump is different from WH Trump.

      NYC Trump sees a camera and can’t wait to get in front of it, bask in the lights, and talk as long as he can to get as much attention as he can. John Barron will follow up later to make sure that the best parts get put on the front pages of the local papers. “Mr. Trump is very very important!”

      WH Trump, OTOH, is frustrated and pissed off at the people with the cameras and lights, because they won’t treat him with sufficient respect and obsequiousness. They also won’t take John Barron’s calls.

    • Peterr says:

      His body language at the presser certainly fits with “frightened and needs to strike out.” It also suggests he’s tired and doesn’t know who to strike out at. Even his swipe at the media seemed half-hearted and rote.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Even Trump’s attempts to distract attention to other issues is half-hearted. He’s still reliving the 2016 election. It’s as if he doesn’t believe his own lies. “Radical far-left socialists….”

      Trump takes one question, and a follow-up, and he hands the mike to Pompeo!

      It also looks like there’s a filter obscuring Trump’s hair. That small area hasn’t the same clarity as the rest of the televised image.

  16. Peterr says:

    Trump is starting his presser at the UN, and his demeanor is very very depressed. Someone must have told him how poorly releasing this memo of conversation has been received.

  17. 200Toros says:

    Trump is attacking the WB, calling him the “so-called whistleblower”, attacking Biden, attacking the press. But he does not look panicked – he looks sad, tired and beaten…

    • P J Evans says:

      he’s not getting the reaction he wanted from the media and from congress, and the House is clearly not going to follow him anywhere.

      It may be sinking in that he can’t win this one.

      • BobCon says:

        I do not understand why opponents of impeachment proceedings thought it made sense to free him from this kind of pressure months and monhs ago.

        I also do not understand why people think about lifting the cloud in only 2-3 months, just in time for him to start hitting the campaign trail.

    • Vicki Greenberg says:

      I’m listening on NPR
      He is using that smarmy patronizing voice and all the tells are there.
      I keep trying to imagine who the hell he thinks he is talking to…
      I can’t tell who in the media is asking the questions but WTF?
      Easy for me to say, I’m no journalist on what planet do you allow someone to spew total bullshit and not call them out?

    • Eureka says:

      The saddest thing about that press conference was watching my dog watch that press conference. Unlike other dogs I’ve known, this one regularly watches TV. This is the first time he’s had what could be characterized as a “disturbed” expression.

      I wish I could share the look on his face. Kind of like a cross-between that XX-eyed stinking-drunk version of a non-smiley face, and that little blonde semi-toothless car-seat GIF girl.

      This was a turning point.

  18. Jockobadger says:

    He’s stoned to the bone – Xanax.

    Now he’s talking about the mountain climbers again!

    That wall was tested you know!! Lol

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      I read that the most recent winner of an informal competition – among non-mountain climbers – scaled the new wall in 47 seconds.

    • Vicks says:

      Holy crap I never thought of that.
      It makes perfect sense. His handlers slip something into his diet coke and point to the teleprompter.
      Maybe have him write some large notes with his sharpie to get him engaged.
      I know people who do that with their dogs when they travel.
      I always wondered how he was able to channel that prissy (and very disappointed) school teacher voice.
      It sure triggers me. but I have a history with prissy school teaches, anyone else?

  19. 200Toros says:

    Reporter: Why should the American people be comfortable with the President asking for a foreign power to investigate an American private citizen?

    trump : I won the Electoral College, I won it, and it’s like, it’s like training for a marathon….!

    Oh

  20. AitchD says:

    The Marcus Aurelius passage was re-purposed as voiceover in Terence Malick’s “The Thin Red Line” (maybe in the novel as well).

    I can envision Trump ordering the military to act obviously on his personal behalf, and the officers relying on their oath and refusing the order, and Trump firing them because Truman fired MacArthur even though MacArthur disobeyed Truman. I’m reminded of the 18th-century gentleman who wrote Polonius-like advice to his daughter upon her reaching her majority, that included, “Men are not hanged for stealing horses, but that horses may not be stolen”. Not because Trump is a vile criminal, but because the republic is most important, he should be renditioned to a black site and then confined to gitmo. And all future presidents will promise to always remember the untold millions of boys and always practice an “increased devotion to that [nation] for which they gave the last full measure of devotion”.

  21. Virginia says:

    Has Rudi Guiliani gotten registered as a foreign agent? Sometime back he was not….just curious,bcuz there was trouble w/Flynn?

    [Welcome back to emptywheel. Please use the same username each time you comment so that community members get to know you. This is your second user name. Thanks. /~Rayne]

    • BobCon says:

      I know I’ve seen the speculation here and there, but is there much reason to believe the pressure went beyond investigating Bidens and all the way over to fabrication of evidence?

      • Vicks says:

        I have been a bit paranoid about something along those lines since Barr announced his investigation into the investigators on May 12 followed by, among other things Flynn’s decision to switch from what could have been just a swat on the butt (compared to the lessor slap on the wrist) by leaving things as, is to a full blown MAGA defense on June 12.

      • Tom says:

        IMHO, the most significant sentence in the transcript is on page 4 right after Trump says, for the second time, that he will have Barr and Giuliani call Zelensky to discuss an investigation into the Bidens. By this point in the conversation, the Ukrainian president has already said he wants more Javelin anti-tank missiles and Trump has replied that he wants “a favor” in return. He then tells Zelensky what he thinks about the Mueller investigation (“that whole nonsense”) and his position that its origins were in Ukraine, i.e., it wasn’t the Russians. He then talks about the “horrible” situation involving the Bidens’ activities in Ukraine which he falsely claims were covered up Joe Biden having a “very good” prosecutor removed.

        Trump says he wants Zelensky to investigate these two matters and that he’ll have Barr and Giuliani call him to offer their assistance, after having strongly hinting to Zelensky the results he expects this investigation to find. “I’m sure you will figure it out”, Trump says. In other words, President Zelensky, if you want me to provide you with more military equipment you’ll have to give me damaging information on the Bidens. And if you can’t find any damaging information on the Bidens, well, “I’m sure you will figure it out” and Barr and Giuliani will help you fabricate some lies. That fits in with the description Michael Cohen gave of the oblique way Trump expresses himself when he wants something illegal or unethical done.

  22. Stacey Lyn says:

    I read the memorandum of the conversation, and, um…I saw sharpie marks ALL OVER THE DAMN THING! I didn’t think it sounded like the president of Ukraine buttering up Trump in his own words, I just assumed it was literally written by Trump, the whole thing, both sides of the conversation! Okay, I’ll concede that Trump’s staff wrote it to please him, but absolutely NOT that it was representative of the actual conversation!

    It read like an SNL skit of the conversation as Trump WISHED it was! John Barron style! It sounded like when Tina Fey used to imitate Sarah Palin and people had to remind themselves that Tina Fey wasn’t changing any of the words, that was Sarah Palin herself. This thing read like Trump wrote it himself, the whole fucking thing. (Or someone FOR him, the audience of one pattern) The syntax, the language, the mirroring, all of it. I mean, I can see why a President of Ukraine in need of something from Trump would see how far he can stick his nose up Trump’s ass, until he runs into Hannity up there, at least :-) but unless we were getting this guy’s comic genius sarcasm dialed up to 11, and Trump was too stupid to realize it (which of course he would be) my bet is with Trump wrote that himself and gave it to them to pass out as the memorandum. I mean the guy doesn’t have a large bag of tricks, and this is one of his favorites!

    I just literally didn’t even consider that it was real from the beginning of reading it. That was John Barron’s handiwork, I’d bet large sums of money on it! Who in the WH is going to stand in the way of that at this point?

    WH: we need to release the transcript.
    TRUMP: can we release a summary or restating of the transcript?
    WH: like a read-out? Sure.
    TRUMP: then let’s write one.
    WH: done

    If this were the actual account of an actual conversation with Donald Trump, there would NEVER be the give and take of the ‘talk turns’, for one thing. He doesn’t let the other person talk unless he says something to set them up to begin licking his ass, the way we’ve all seen him do countless times in public! And who on earth has ever heard Donal Trump speak that coherently?! Where’s the incomplete sentence structure of his speech (less so than his writing)? Where’s the 10 squirrels he’s always chasing every time he opens his mouth? Where’s the extraneous meandering through the weeds? If someone else wrote a representation of his actual speech and ‘cleaned it up’ to remove all of that, there would be VERY LITTLE LEFT!!!! When he speaks, it’s all incoherent layers of topics that leap from word associations and never complete themselves, ever! There’s no way this was even a cleaned up version of an actual verbal conversation with Trump!

  23. Peterr says:

    This whole memo and Trump’s belief that this exonerates him goes straight to the Unitary Executive theory pushed by the right wing combined with an expansive reading of the constitution that says only the Executive can deal with foreign policy. Trump has been fed this by Barr et al. (and loves it!), and thus is truly surprised that people don’t think he’s in the clear. “But I’m the president, and the president has the sole ability to do whatever the hell he wants when it comes to foreign policy! No one can question it, countermand it, or declare it illegal!”

    That Trump — and his advisors — believed that this puts him in the clear is a sign of how deeply the UE thinking has inserted itself into the GOP. Whether Trump stays or goes, this thinking will remain part of the GOP.

    That’s what ought to push Dems into acting as forcefully as possible, and make them force their GOP colleagues in the House and Senate to either own it or repudiate it.

  24. Vicks says:

    I take that back.
    Good thing I’m not a reporter.
    It’s not dated, or on letterhead and each page is sized differently.
    Perhaps it’s time to take deep breath and focus on my actual job and leave this to the experts…

    • P J Evans says:

      That “classified” stamp appears to be the kind you have to use with an ink pad – it gets fainter each time, until they re-ink it. I’d think that wherever they did it would have had a stamp that automatically inks itself – it’s not like they’re hard to get. (It’s also a bit bent – notice the curve in the line? – like it should have been tossed years ago.)

      • Vicks says:

        I’ll bite.
        What “classified stamp”?
        I agree on the scanning
        I guess they could have covered the header and footer, that line to the left of the signature could be the edge of whatever they used.
        If real it’s kind of a big deal. According to this, Trump and his pals were working in direct opposition to blow up a problem that were already on the record as solved jointly by some pretty big names including Pompeo.
        I think they will all throw Rudy under the bus.
        Call him a terrible influence (who knew?) and tell Trump he can’t play with him
        anymore

  25. K-spin says:

    Did anyone else hear Rudy G say that he’d had the complaint read to him, before it was even turned over to Congress?
    How does that happen?

    • RWood says:

      Rudy and trump are a lot alike in that regard aren’t they? They both love to play “I know something you don’t know” when the camera is on them.

      Who was it that said “The most dangerous place in the New York is between Rudy and a camera”.

      I want to say it was Comey, but I’m probably wrong.

  26. Eureka says:

    I’m alarmed about further details regarding the set-up of former US Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, who, Trump explains, “[is] going to go through some things.”

    Zelenksy appears eager to help with that (prefatory SIC: either via translator or Zelinksy speech, this passage refers to US Amb. to Ukr, not vice versa as below):

    President Zelenskyy:
    …On top of that, I would kindly ask you if you have any additional information that you can provide to us, it would be very helpful for the investigation to make sure that we administer justice in our country with regard to the Ambassador to the United States from Ukraine as far as I recall her name was Ivanovich. It was great that you were the first one who told me that she was a bad ambassador because I agree with you 100%. Her attitude towards me was far from the best as she admired the previous President and she was on his side. She would not accept me as a new President well enough.

    The President: Well, she’ s going to go through some things. I will.have Mr. Giuliani give you a call and I am also going to have Attorney General Barr call and we will get to the bottom of it. I’m sure you will figure it out. …

    Uh: “It was great that you were the first one who told me that she was a bad ambassador because I agree with you 100%.”

    NB: pasted from PDF, repaired errors as noticed, probable some were missed. Does anyone have a link to the memo from an html page/ in text?

    • Rayne says:

      Something about Yovanovitch in that memo just doesn’t ring right. It’s one point that gives me pause as to whether the content is true to the speaker’s intent.

      Here’s a link to the full pdf from CourthouseNews.

      EDIT: Zelensky was elected on 21-APR but Yovanovitch is removed two weeks later on 07-MAY. How does he know how ‘bad’ she is in the brief two week period he’s president-elect? He’s not inaugurated until 20-MAY.

      • Eureka says:

        Yes, hence the “appears”… also we apparently overlapped and I added a comment about the western universal love language of misogyny, which would work as a variant of the honey(-hate) trap.

        I thought that when we learned on May 7th of her ouster, that she was supposed to stay on until May 20th. Not sure of her actual exit date, though.

        I did note that Trump did not dispute being the one to have told that to Zelensky (and maybe it applies to a stand-in relaying Trump’s word) but Trump failing to issue a denial may bear more on his fixation to his own script.

        Zelensky gave a lot of declarative, concrete speech offers (~ I can tell you/I can say). That stood out to me. I don’t have expertise in how Ukrainian-speaker power-players usually speak in such contexts; all I can say is that none of the English-speaking Ukrainian-Americans I have communicated with or heard speak like that (even in a case of trying to broker a working relationship with a potential power differential).

        I was using the Courthouse News PDF link you had provided, thank you. Every segment I copy and paste comes out like partial wing-dings, lol.

        Adding: link as to departure _scheduled_ for May 20th, unsure if changed (but the point is, Trump clearly had his ear on this):

        U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch is recalled after becoming a political target
        https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2019/05/07/us-ambassador-ukraine-is-recalled-after-becoming-political-target/

        • Rayne says:

          Hold this thought about Yovanovitch. I think there’s two issues here. Trying to write it and something else right now because all hell is breaking loose.

          Lock and load, people. Keep your appendages inside the cabin at all times.

          • Eureka says:

            Our ESPs (pronounced ehhsps) are better-tuned today, then, because I omitted a follow-up suspecting you might have something coming.

            Saved for later & locked & loaded.

  27. BobCon says:

    Ashley Feinberg does her usual awesome work evaluating an alleged pee tape.

    https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2019/09/inside-the-convincing-fake-trump-pee-tape.html

    (Don’t watch at work)

    Her verdict — very possibly filmed on location with a convincing fake Trump, but long after Trump’s trip to Moscow. The tipoff — the room in the video looks extremely close to the current room, but the room underwent a major remodeling after Trump was in Moscow and does not look like it did back then. The video must be a fake made after the remodelling.

    She has no clue who made the video, but notes someone went to a lot of effort to make it.

  28. Yohei72 says:

    I’m a bit amazed that with the attention paid here to Trump’s press conference this evening, no one has mentioned this (unless I’ve missed it): POTUS’s throwing Pence under the bus with a suggestion to check *his* calls. I thought this was possibly the second most stunning moment of a day with plenty of them (behind only the pseudo- transcript and its borderline-smoking-gun “do us a favor” line). Is this not stunning? Am I missing something?

    • Eureka says:

      Just that Trump secretly wants to be dominated by Nancy Pelosi, such that he’d rather have her be POTUS than Pence.

    • Rayne says:

      Nobody wants to get their hands dirty on that dweeb, that’s why. I think he knew something was coming because he’s amped up social media with his wife’s presence on Twitter now. But he’s such a yes man (witness his stupid suckage at the Indianapolis game protesting kneeling athletes) that nobody is surprised he’s been thrown under a moving vehicle.

  29. Dave Noble says:

    What is totally fascinating to me is the fact that Giuliani can get on the air at seemingly any time he wishes, to spout off nasty comments, insinuations, non-sequiturs and endless dissembling manoeuvres.

    I assumed Fox news repeats his comments verbatim and works them into their own version of the conspiracy theory – but I haven’t got the intestinal strength to watch Fox, so that may not be the case.

    I’m particularly fascinated by DNN’s obsession with Giuliani. In his most recent “interview’ where he calmly stated white is black, and no I didn’t say that, I said black is whitethe CNN interviewers and talkngheads work themselves into a froth, al ost spittingat the mike, to show how untrue all of his comments are.

    So we know he’s a sleazy hired mouthpiece whose evident role is to dissemble and confuse, and that he has no legal representational role save what Trump give him (pro bono, we’re told) – so very simply – why do they bother putting him on the air at all

    Just ignore him.

    He’s zero value added, is working at Trump’s behest, and gets only additional credibility by the waving hands in CNN.

    Certainly there should be a special section for his antics as a contribution to the impeachment process papers(please God, please), but no more air time at a minimum

    • Yohei72 says:

      Of course he’s value-added – he gets ratings and clicks. I clicked on a bunch of articles about him (more fool me). We’re talking about him right now.

      [Insert obvious, old-hat observations about the problems with news reporting as just another revenue-generating line of business]

  30. danblaker says:

    Seems to me one obvious interpretation of Trump’s interest in “the server” is that he wants to *see* the contents of the server so he can use it in his presidential campaign.

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