The President’s Joint Defense Agreement with the Russian Mob

If we survive Trump and there are still things called museums around that display artifacts that present things called facts about historic events, I suspect John Dowd’s October 3 letter to the House Intelligence Committee will be displayed there, in all its Comic Sans glory.

In it, Dowd memorializes a conversation he had with HPSCI Investigation Counsel Nicholas Mitchell on September 30, before he was officially the lawyer for Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, now placed in writing because he had since officially become their lawyer. He describes that there is no way he and his clients can comply with an October 7 document request and even if he could — this is the key part — much of it would be covered by some kind of privilege.

Be advised  that Messrs. Parnas and Fruman assisted Mr. Giuliani in connection with his representation of President Trump. Mr. Parnas and Mr. Fruman have also been represented by Mr. Giuliani in connection with their personal and business affairs. They also assisted Joseph DiGenova and Victoria Toensing in their law practice. Thus, certain information you seek in your September 30, 2019, letter is protected by the attorney-client, attorney work product and other privileges.

Once that letter was sent, under penalty of prosecution for false statements to Congress, it became fact: Parnas and Fruman do work for Rudy Giuliani in the service of the President of the United States covered by privilege, Rudy does work for them covered by privilege, and they also do work for Joseph Di Genova and Victoria Toensing about this matter that is covered by privilege.

Dowd might be forgiven if he immediately adopted the strategy that worked so well in guiding Trump through the Mueller investigation: just engage in a 37-person conspiracy to obstruct justice and name it a Joint Defense Agreement. Indeed, there are even similarities with current events. Then, John Dowd, Jay Sekulow, and Rudy Giuliani offered things of value to the others in the JDA — pardons — in exchange for their silence or even lies. Conspicuously, Toensing represented two people that — the Mueller Report seems to suggest — weren’t entirely candid in their testimony, Erik Prince (who managed to lose texts that explained why he was taking back channel meetings with Russians) and Sam Clovis (who sustained his lack of memory of being told that Russians were offering emails long enough for George Papadopoulos to change his mind on that front). Papadopoulos even managed to call Marc Kasowitz, when he still represented the President, to ask if he also wanted to represent a coffee boy with an inclination to lie to the FBI. The strategy all built to its successful crescendo when, instead of cooperating with prosecutors as he signed up to do, Paul Manafort instead figured out what they did and didn’t know, lied to keep them confused, and reported it all back through his own attorney, Kevin Downing, and Rudy to the President.

It was never really clear who was paying the lawyers (aside from the RNC paying Hope Hicks’ lawyers and some other key staffers). And as details of Manafort’s lies came out, it became clear there was some kind of kick-back system to keep the lawyers paid.

Still, Mueller never tied Manafort’s trading of campaign strategy for considerations on Ukraine and payment by Ukrainian and Russian oligarchs to the President. And so it may have seemed sensible for Dowd, in a bit of a pinch, to adopt the same strategy, with Rudy representing everyone, Dowd representing the Ukrainian grifters, and Kevin Downing even filling in in a pinch.

It all might have worked, too, if Parnas and Fruman hadn’t gotten arrested before they managed to flee the country, headed for what seems to have been a planned meeting a day later with their sometime attorney Rudy Giuliani in Vienna, just one day after a lunch meeting with him at Trump Hotel across the street from the Department of Justice that was busy inking an indictment against the Ukrainians even as they paid money to Trump Organization for their meal.

I mean, it still could work. Trump is still the President and DOJ, at least, will give some consideration to the attorney-client claims, so long as Rudy and Trump can maintain the illusion that Rudy is and was really doing legal work for the President.

But something that Dowd may not have considered, before he sent a letter to Congress laying out an incestuous nest of ethical atrocities, is that by the time he sent the letter, DiGenova and Toensing were on the record as representing Dmitry Firtash, a Ukrainian oligarch who was named in some of the early search warrants targeting Paul Manafort. And in March, Rudy Giuliani went on the record to explain that Firtash was, “one of the close associates of [Semion] Mogilevich, who is the head of Russian organized crime, who is Putin’s best friend.” Yesterday, Reuters closed the circle, making it clear that Parnas and Fruman work for Firtash, the former as a translator for DiGenova and Toensing’s representation of Firtash.

Firtash, by the way, is in Vienna, where Parnas and Fruman attempted to flee and where the President’s lawyer was planning to meet them a day later.

Thus, when Dowd wrote Congress, explaining that Rudy worked for both Trump and the Ukrainian grifters, and the Ukrainian grifters worked for DiGenova and Toensing, he was asserting that the President is a participant in an ethical thicket of legal representation with a mob-linked Ukrainian oligarch fighting extradition (for bribery) to the United States. And all of that, Dowd helpfully made clear, related to this Ukraine scandal (otherwise he could not have invoked privilege for it).

In other words, the President’s former lawyer asserted to Congress that the President and his current lawyer are in some kind of JDA from hell with the Russian mob, almost certainly along with the President’s former campaign manager, who apparently gets consulted (via Kevin Downing) on these matters in prison.

If that weren’t all overwhelming enough, there’s one more twist.

The reason Rudy was emphasizing the mob ties of his current partner in crime lawyering, Dmitry Firtash, back in March is because the President’s former former lawyer, Michael Cohen, shared a lawyer at the time with Firtash, Lanny Davis. Davis, the Democratic version of Paul Manafort, is every bit as sleazy as him (which should have been a huge red flag when Davis was parading Cohen around as a big hero). Curiously, at a time when Davis was also representing Firtash and Cohen was furiously trying to come up with some incriminating evidence he could tell prosecutors that might keep him out of jail, Cohen apparently didn’t mention Ukraine at all. Now, the lawyer that Cohen used to but no longer shares with Firtash claims he has some insight onto these Ukrainian dealings. That’s likely just a desperate effort to stay relevant. But who knows?

Until then, John Dowd’s desperate attempt to make this scandal go away the same way he made the Russia scandal go away (if you pretend they’re not actually all the same scandal and thus even the past JDA strategy may end up failing) at the same time involved admitting, in a letter to Congress, that his former client and his then current not-yet-but-soon-to-be-indicted clients are in a Joint Defense Agreement with the Russian mob.

Don’t take my word for it. Take John Dowd’s legal representation to Congress.

135 replies
  1. obsessed says:

    Quick legal question: As the Mueller debacle progressed, it seemed like the smart lawyers here were hoping for a charge of “ConFraudUS” as the best way to indict the many malicious players in the 2016 election. With Fruman and Parnas, that’s what they’re charged with, right? How promising is this? How easy/likely is it that this could be the hub of something much more significant?

  2. TooLoose LeTruck says:

    ‘Joint Defense Agreement With The Russian Mob’…

    Jesus… I almost spit out my mouthful of coffee when I saw that headline…

    And then I thought, “well… why not? There are undoubtedly some very fine people on both sides of that issue…”

    I used to think I’d need to learn to speak Chinese going forward…

    Now I’m beginning to think I better brush up on my Russian while I’m at it…

    Zdrastvui, komerads!

    • P J Evans says:

      It looks like many of Trmp’s business dealings are na lyevo (“on the left”, meaning grey/black market).

      • TooLoose LeTruck says:

        I did take two semesters of Russian in college, quite some time ago… got an A for the first semester, then a B+, and then lost interest…

        In hindsight…

    • JVO says:

      My sons are in high school – may of the kids joke about current political affairs by speaking in Russian accents and paying homage to Putin. I’m advocating for them to consider getting dual citizenship – lots of extended family in Belgium.

  3. Peterr says:

    If that weren’t all overwhelming enough, there’s one more twist. . . .

    The more this whole thing unfolds, the more it sounds like an epic Ken-Burns-documentary-length late night infomercial. “How much would you pay for this wonderful product? Don’t answer yet!”

    And I don’t know why I was surprised when the twist was Lanny Davis.

    • TooLoose LeTruck says:

      Ya sure got that right…

      I’m reaching the point where I feel I need some sort of score card or guidebook just to keep track of the players…

      I feel like I’m stuck endlessly binge-watching season after season of The Sopranos at this point…

      Perhaps it’d be easier to try and figure out who, if anyone, is NOT guilty of something In Trump World…

      • P J Evans says:

        It would almost have to be a book, any more. (I’m thinking something like a biographical dictionary. Loose-leaf. One page per person, for a start, add pages as necessary.)

      • Raven Eye says:

        How much colored yarn, how many stick pins and Post-Its, and how big of a cork board would we need?

        Oh yeah…And ladders.

        • P J Evans says:

          Something like the girls’ gym at my HS: rectangular, straight walls about 25 feet high, no bleachers. You’d have to take the baskets down, but that’s just hardware.

          • Cranny says:

            One report has it that Rude was intending to fly to Austria at the time that he lunched with Parnas and Fruman prior to their trippng to their arrest at Dulles. Well, he soon changed his mind. How’d that go down?

            Perhaps JabbaSaurus told him he’d better not flee, that doing so would make himself, Jabba, look very bad, and if he, Rudy, were to do so, he, Jabba, would intervene with Vlad and he, Rudy, would be disappeared, be put up against the wall and never be seen again.

            There was nowhere in Russia that Rude could spend the rest of his life hiding underground protected by whomever, if Jabba were to intervene with Vlad. Nowhere.

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

              • Peterr says:

                Here’s the story from Elaina Plott in The Atlantic

                Last night, when Rudy Giuliani told me he couldn’t get together for an interview, his reason made sense: As with many nights of late, he was due to appear on Hannity. When I suggested this evening instead, his response was a bit more curious. We would have to aim for lunch, Giuliani told me, because he was planning to fly to Vienna, Austria, at night. He didn’t offer any details beyond that.

                Giuliani called me at 6:22 p.m. last night—around the same time that two of his associates, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, were arrested at Dulles Airport while waiting to board an international flight with one-way tickets. As The Wall Street Journal reported this afternoon, the two men were bound for Vienna. The Florida businessmen, who are reported to have assisted Giuliani in his alleged efforts to investigate Joe Biden and his family ahead of the 2020 election, were charged with campaign-finance violations, with prosecutors alleging that they had conspired to funnel money from a Russian donor into Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

                But Giuliani, when confirming today that Parnas and Fruman were heading to Vienna on matters “related to their business,” told the Journal that he himself only had plans to meet with them when they returned to Washington. By this logic, Giuliani was also planning to fly to Vienna within roughly 24 hours of his business associates, but do no business with them while all three were there.

                More at the link.

                {Thanks, Peterr. I was trying to encourage an infrequent commenter to cite sources instead of leaving a “somebody said” drive-by comment. :-) /~Rayne]

      • rosalind says:

        heh. an EW tweet from earlier: “Steal this idea: If I had a graphic artist I’d put together a decision tree showing how all the decisions made and about to be made end up making the case for criminal conspiracy, with that Dowd letter the key turning point.”

        (and love your moniker)

  4. Zinsky says:

    The Democrats should refer to the GOP as “the pro-Russian GOP” every chance they get. In fact, every day and very loudly and explicitly when there is a Republican within earshot.

  5. Mark says:

    They weren’t just meeting with Giuliani in Vienna. They were meeting with Firtash who Giuliani, Toensing, and Parnas were all also working for.

    He was footing the bill. Toensing is Firtash and Trump’s lawyer.

    Giuliani, Parnas, and Toensing can all be seen at the table at Trump International. Aram Roston of associated press snapped their photo on September 20th, six days before Solomon uploads Shokin’s affidavit. They were all working for both Trump and Firtash and coordinating their efforts.

    They are trying to hide behind attorney client privelage.

    In the end, Zelensky winning the presidency is what prevented their plan from working because he replaced Ukrainian prosecutor Lutsenko who met with Giuliani and discussed the Bidens (and Giuliani called Trump during the meeting) in January.

  6. drouse says:

    I’m curious. If Rudy gets indicted, attorney-client and work product goes out the window with respect to the henchmen, leaving pretty much executive privilege only. How would that affect the JDA? Could the loss of privilege be contagious? What if Rudy has to cough up stuff that would normally be privileged that shows some of the other lawyers were up to their eyeballs in the conspiracy also.

    • bmaz says:

      No. It does NOT automatically do any such thing. Seriously, the atty/client privilege issue is far deeper than questions on a blog post comment section, or people thinking they know the magic answer, can cover.

      There is not a magic answer, and when someone tells you there is, run from that. There are tons of challenges, and you make them in court.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      I see bmaz might need to do a primer. [Or, see above.]

      The A-C privilege is the client’s, not the lawyer’s. If Rudy is indicted, any privilege to which he is subject remains intact. It’s there to protect the client, not Rudy.

      Privileged information can be made non-privileged in several ways. One is the crime-fraud exception, in which the lawyer and client are involved in a conspiracy to commit a future crime (on top of the conspiracy, a separate crime). That does not expose all privileged information Rudy might have obtained, only the information related to the joint crime.

      Prosecutors would need to obtain hard evidence, corroborated by witnesses, to prove their claim that information once privileged is no longer so. That’s a tough hurdle. But these guys are not careful – who buys one-way tickets that suggest flight? – so prosecutors might make that happen.

      • drouse says:

        One of the reasons I asked was that, to me, it wasn’t entirely clear whether Parnas and Fruman were clients of Rudy or associates or some weird hybrid.

        • bmaz says:

          It was a business transaction by all appearances. But, again, such is complicated, and cannot be answered outside of a full testimonial record, much less here. I know it is not a satisfying answer, but that is it.

          Also, too, people need to quit focusing on JDA’s. They are as good as the weakest member, and the last action by anyone. And that is if they were not crackable to start with. Seriously, please, don’t buy into this bunk.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          That ambiguity is part of Rudy and Don’s performance art.

          They assume that pugnacity and delay substitute for winning on the merits. They also avoid the disclosure of facts required for a winning legal argument in court that would survive an appeal.

  7. BobCon says:

    Dumb question from a non-lawyer — how do challenges to attorney-client privilege work?

    I see a number of articles like this one challenging Giuliani’s assertions as being ridiculously broad

    but what I haven’t seen yet is a good timetable for what steps the House would need to take and how long it would likely take to enforce a demand.

    I realize that this can get tangled up with other claims, such as executive privilege, but I’m trying to get a sense whether there is a clear path to at least a partial resolution.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Coming from Rudy or Trump, they would be. Trump waives “privilege” the way he does his little hands. It’s an all-purpose magic spell, a schtick he probably picked up from Roy Cohn.

      This is bmaz territory. But briefly, privilege must have been created and maintained for it to bar disclosure without a client’s consent.

      There are many elements to privilege. Rudy would have to establish, for example, that he had an attorney-client relationship with a specific client, and that he learned about privileged information while providing legal services to that client.

      He has to show that the information was, in fact, privileged – it was exchanged confidentially – and that the privilege has not been lost, for example, through non-confidential disclosure. Other challenges are available to prosecutors, such as the crime-fraud exception.

      • BobCon says:

        I recognize that it’s complicated, and I’m lacking basic knowledge of how challenges even work.

        For example, is the burden of proof on the attorney and client to show they have a relationship? Or does the other party have to offer convincing evidence that they do not?

        Are arguments made in a hearing? Or do both sides basically submit papers to the judge who decides by themself?

        I recognize that there are established tests for what qualifies, but I don’t have a good sense how clear cut those tests are.

        Lots of mysteries….

  8. Savage Librarian says:

    As that old joke goes, “Did you hear about the 3 holes in the ground?…Well, well, well…”

    So, I’m sad to hear Lanny Davis is a Democrat (rotten apple time, I guess) but appreciate knowing that fact.

    I’m glad Dowd appears to have inadvertently sealed some nasty fates.

    And I’m delighted to see such poetic language (“letter to Congress laying out an incestuous nest of ethical atrocities,” and “he was asserting that the President is a participant in an ethical thicket of legal representation with a mob-linked Ukrainian oligarch fighting extradition”) in EW’s ever effervescent missives.

  9. Mazzirat says:

    I bet my bottom dollar this is a Quid-Pro-Quo with Trump getting his fabricated Ukrainian attack against Biden and Firtash getting a get out of jail Free card. I bet you a pizza, They were here dropping bribes to get Firtash off for bribing Indian titanium mines. He’s perfectly positioned to create an entire fake controversy, with all the bells and whistles in the Ukraine.

  10. Reader 21 says:

    Another great post, thanks EW!

    Relatedly, I’d urge folks to read the deathbed testimony (defintionally exempt from the hearsay rule under the FRE) of the poisoned KGB whistleblower Litvenenko, who ties Vlad Putin to not only the Moscow apartment bombings and other corrupt and nefarious deeds but also to Semyon Mogilovech himself, while explaining Putin’s mysterious plateauing in the KGB (hint: it seems Vladimir Vladimirovitch is himself susceptible to all sort of kompromat—particularly the underage variety).

  11. mospeck says:

    Dumb question from a non-lawyer–the Kurds, our allies (who lost 10,000) in the ISIS fight are busy dying and becoming refugees, with their generals now looking to Russian air power. All while we sort out the (granted v important) legal details concerning our corrupt president.(who nevertheless still controls the facts on the ground). Law is so slow and the GRU so fast.

  12. DevilsAcrobat says:

    What’s the likelihood that Trump has already pressured his admin to interfere with Firtash’s extradition? This is Reza redux.

  13. misteranderson says:

    If the effort to get fake exculpatory material for a Manafort pardon fails (i.e. the Ukranian plot) will this make it possible to get Manafort to flip on Trump? Is this a realistic possibility?

  14. punaise says:

    a lesser effort:

    Rudy’s Reprise

    Look what they’ve done to my throng, mob
    Look what they’ve done with my bong
    Well, it’s the only thing I could do (half-wit)
    And it’s turning out all wrong (sob)
    Look what they’ve done to my throng

    Look what my brain’s done to me, mob
    Looks like my brain’s done to me
    Yeah, they pickled it like a frickin’ drone           
    And they think I’m half insane, mob
    Looks like my brain’s done to me

    (h/t to someone who mentioned this song recently)

  15. Jas says:

    We should not forget that Pete Sessions is the son of former FBI director William Sessions (1983-1997). A few years after returning to private practice, William Sessions had no qualms representing Semion Mogilevich, who at the time was on the FBI’s 10 most wanted list. Interestingly Mogilevich also hired Richard Crane Jr. former head of the US Dept of Justice, organized crime division for Western US to represent him as well. Bob Dole also had represented a Russian oligarch with lobbying. Haley Barbour’s lobbying firm has represented Russian business interests. How lovely and convenient is it that in USA you don’t really need to do all of your dirty work in the dark, like in Russia. All you have to do is hire well connected former politicians, high power law enforcement and such under the premise of “lobbying” and legal representation.
    Lets not forget that Pete Sessions was one of the strongest vocal opponents of sanctions on Russia for their election interference. Mitch McConnell has reportedly taken several millions of dollars from Russian Oligarchs in the last few years for his Republican Senate PAC.
    Barack Obama was correct when he stated in a State of The Union address that the US Supreme Courts Citizen United decision would open up (an already wide open) flow of foreign money into the US political system. There needs to be a 28th Constitutional Amendment banning and and all dark money, especially dark money. Money is NOT speech and corporations are NOT PEOPLE!

  16. Eureka says:

    AP has some new details today related to the clamp-down on POTUS-foreign leader call access. Like the CNN* article on the inappropriately-SCI’d calls two Fridays ago where someone said Bolton’s name– ~? just to say it, and the mention was placed adjacent to what seemed like WH-practices apologia– a source ties an intermediate-ish restricted practice to the spring 2018 timeframe of Bolton as NSA:

    Anatomy of the phone call now imperiling Trump’s presidency

    One of the two people familiar with how foreign leader calls are handled in the Trump White House said putting a document classified only as “secret” into a server holding very highly classified information is not against any rule, but is a means of “leak prevention.”

    That person also said it wasn’t common practice to put telcons into the more restrictive server, but that around the same time Bolton became national security adviser in the spring of 2018, it became standard not to share the telcons with the State Department, the national intelligence director and the Pentagon.

    Those officials were told that if they wanted to see them, they could read them the next time they were at the White House, the individual said.

    *link forthcoming; the same snippets I’d perseverated about at the time

  17. Rugger9 says:

    What this does is make the question I had raised a couple of threads ago more important. If the arrest of these two blew the lid off the Ukraine arm of the “Russia thing”, why did Barr allow that to happen when he was in NYC on a “routine” visit for the Palace? Barr had been aware of them since February, so what action / timeline made them try to leave now (other than they were fleeing, but who told them to leave and why, was it Rudy)?

    Given how much jet-setting has been done tying up loose ends by Barr and his otherwise effective purge of dissidents in the DOJ, to let these otherwise unknown conspirators get rolled up publicly (as opposed to the Putin way) was odd. One thing is clear: Barr holds Rudy’s future in his hands, waiting for Individual-1 to give him the thumb as the emperors did in the arena.

    Speculation: Either they’re the patsies or there is a faction in DOJ / FBI that wants Barr out.

    • Marinela says:

      Don’t know how Barr was able to influence the Mueller report release but not able to interfere in this investigation.

      One possibility could be that Barr had no time to play interference here, too busy running around the world playing FBI field agent. Barr could also be worried of whistle blowers, if he does anything unethical here.
      Geoffrey Berman news conference is probably allowing SDNY to be publicly protected, but who knows?
      What I don’t know, how much independence Berman office has from DoJ pressures.

      • drouse says:

        I watched a clip of the presser that the SDNY held about the arrests. I had the impression that he took no little satisfaction in tossing a grenade in Trump’s lap. Particular emphasis on election integrity. Or maybe he just hates Rudy.

        • uppercut says:

          Former law partner of Rudy’s, so maybe not and per NYTimes Rudy supported Berman’s appointment…was interviewed by Trump for the job..
          Will be interesting to see if Guiliani is indicted by his old SDNY office led by his former law partner. To quote the great philosopher Lloyd Bridges from the classic movie Airplane, “irony can be pretty ironic sometimes.”

      • Peterr says:

        It’s one thing to hold onto a report and dictate its release, and quite another to step into an investigation and stop it.

        If Barr had tried, the outrage would have been monumental — and might have inspired folks at SDNY to investigate WHY Barr might have tried to do this, leading to even greater problems for Barr and Trump. Even if Barr had wanted to do it, the likely blowback would have made him think twice.

    • clairence says:

      Relatedly, I’ll ask the very smart folk here a question about the Impeachment proceedings.

      One Republican talking point is that this entire investigation is not legitimate/official because there has not been a full House vote. It seems there are no specific descriptors on how such an investigation is initiated, so they are focused on recent precedents.
      Is this line of argument legitimate and could it actually be taken to court on procedural grounds? Does the Speaker have final say in how it proceeds, so the R arguments don’t matter?

      Further, have there been actual rules drawn up for the Impeachment investigation/proceedings? Do they, as has been complained, exclude Republicans from participating?

        • clairence says:

          Thanks. It seems that the House Impeachment Process pdf is focused entirely on an Impeachment investigation undertaken by Judiciary Committee. In today’s instance, wrt Ukraine and foreign influence, it’s being done by HPSCI, which is not mentioned in that document.

            • clairence says:

              Ah, you mean Pelosi’s letter. She says the rules allow Committees to investigate their subject matter, including Impeachment. The pdf only says that Impeachment is handled by Judiciary or Rules.

              Am I to read paragraph five of the pdf to mean that the Intelligence investigation is an “outside” investigation?

              “”In recent decades, it has been more common than not that the Judiciary Committee used information provided from another outside investigation.””

              • Rayne says:

                I think you’re trolling. A House Committee can use whatever resources it wants to conduct an investigation; using resources from another law enforcement investigation like the Special Counsel’s investigation doesn’t make the House Committee’s investigation itself ‘outside’.

                Have you not been paying attention at all? This bit from Pelosi’s September 24 statement to the nation is key:

                … Therefore today, I’m announcing the House of Representatives moving forward with an official impeachment inquiry. I am directing our six committees to proceed with their investigations under that umbrella of impeachment inquiry. …

                Emphasis mine. SIX committees. Not one, though Schiff may be the point man, and other committees’ work may eventually be included under the umbrella.

                I expect that when one or more committees have reached a point where they feel they have enough to draft an article of impeachment, the HJC will do the leg work of consolidation and ensuring the final article(s) will be Constitutional before they vote to approve it for release to the full House. But check the CRS report and House Rules.

                  • Rayne says:

                    They do. They have. The problem was yet more obstruction. If Bill Barr hadn’t grossly misrepresented the Special Counsel’s report to the public we could have impeached Trump already. That single effort combined with ineffective messaging on the part of House Dems prevented a caucus-wide commitment.

                    The question is whether they will now pursue obstruction in addition to bribery/extortion and campaign finance violations.

      • Peterr says:

        The constitution is clear that the two chambers each set their own rules, and that the House has the task of voting articles of impeachment and the Senate sits in judgment on those articles. How the House arrives at those articles is up to the House. There is no requirement ANYWHERE that there must be a full House vote to begin an impeachment investigation. There is no possible avenue for a legal challenge to the approach the House has chosen for approaching impeachment.

        And there’s no way in which the GOP is excluded from participating in what the House is doing. They can’t override procedural decisions by the Democrats. such as when hearing are held, but in those hearings they have as much time to make their points as the Democrats. They were present during the behind-closed-doors Intelligence committee testimony by the former ambassador to the Ukraine, and presumably their staff could ask questions as well as the staff for the majority.

        • Wm. Boyce says:

          Just as there was no requirement for Mr. McConnell to hold hearings on Merrick Garland, there is no requirement for Ms. Pelosi to have the House vote on holding an impeachment inquiry. They can just go ahead and do it.

          • bmaz says:

            There may not be a formal requirement for resolution to be voted on, but it is idiotic of Pelosi to not do one anyway. And, yes, it would streamline things in courts. She has been derelict from the start on impeachment, and she still is.

            • BobCon says:

              The smart thing to do is come up with a comprehensive measure which authorizes the investigation and also addresses any other procedural, funding, or rules issues all at once. There is a risk that this stuff will run up against time pressures later, so strike now while the iron is hot.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        Of late, Republicans complain about what gets Donald Trump’s attention. Rarely does that intersect with reality, except to hide it.

      • P J Evans says:

        If the GOP-T says it, it’s probably projection. (They were the ones who impeached Clinton over a consensual blowjob. They couldn’t find anything to impeach Obama for, but I’m sure they looked.)

    • Eureka says:

      …always the Corsi copycat.

      (Sighing) He is such a prick. (<— I'm going to have to leave this on the clipboard for redeployment.)

  18. PhoneInducedPinkEye says:

    One would think a person capable of evaluating risk vs reward would have stopped with the corrupt acts when they skated consequences the first time.

    Of course this is the same guy who dyes his face orange and surrounds himself with people who apparently don’t or won’t tell him it makes him look like a bloated mango, so who knows…

    I can’t help but suspect almost every foreign policy decision T makes is tainted by malign influence or a desire to cover up past misconduct, regardless of consequences. Consequences like this:

    • P J Evans says:

      Bad spray tan, bad dyed comb-over, and fat – and he still sees himself as if he were the 24-year-old guy cruising NYC clubs.

  19. e.a.f. says:

    Its like some one sat down to figure out how to all get out of this mess and up came the strategy of, lets use the same lawyer. Client/lawyer discussions, etc. are privilege , but what if a bunch of them used it as a scheme, would it be a conspiracy? What would take priority? Could the strategy be used in other criminal cases?

  20. Reader 21 says:

    Yeah, let Individual-1 and Roody Cooludy try to claim privilege on some of this stuff—any honest judge will pierce the shite outta that veil in a heartbeat; to not do so would “perpetrate a fraud upon the court”, per the crime-fraud exception.
    You can’t hide behind ACP to further an ongoing criminal conspiracy, as Rudy’s pals appear to be attempting here. *Rubs fingers.*

  21. Wm. Boyce says:

    I too, would like to thank EW for her analysis of this letter. One of the things I think I’ve gleaned by reading about the reaction to Mueller report is that there were lies aplenty coming from the investigated parties, and Mueller’s people simply couldn’t get past some of them to the truth.
    This time, let’s hope there is too much to overcome by lying some more. The people in the executive branch have absolutely no boundaries as to how much they will say and do to remain in power and out of the jail cells they should be occupying.

    • Rayne says:

      Can we stay grounded in reality? Yeah, the US betrayed both its Kurd allies and its troops. That’s true.

      But the 25th Amendment has no fucking chance in hell as long as the current cabinet members continue to serve, all with GOP-led Senate’s imprimatur. Do you think for a moment Wilbur Ross, Steve Mnuchin, Elaine Chao, Bill Barr, Mike Pompeo, or Betsy DeVos will vote to remove Trump? Rick Perry and Kevin McAleenan are stepping down leaving yet more Acting Secretaries and the 25th Amendment makes no allowance for Acting Secretaries who are not Senate approved.

      Reality is that we are fucked, all the holes in our democracy are being exposed including the lack of imagination on the part of those who wrote the Constitution and subsequent Amendments.

      • mospeck says:

        Rayne, agree with you that the 25th amendment is a no hoper. Trouble is that the courts and impeachment are way too slow. So in the interim, before he is either removed by ballot or by senate, our corrupt president will be able to do a lot of damage. For Putin he will do his best to destroy rule of law, US Foreign policy and Western security alliances.
        However, I don’t agree with you “that we are fucked.”
        What is fast? The press is fast. What is trump’s skill? How did he rise to power? He is a charismatic con, a disruptor with personality that we all love to hate (personally, I wake up at 2 AM to see what terrible new things he has done).
        His talent is his bully pulpit. So, take it away. There are no laws that require the white house press corps to cover his (ridiculous) helicopter pressers, his white house lawn gaggles, his two-chairs head of state oval office meetings. They form a big part of his bully pulpit. Late night comics like Colbert (funny as he is) contribute to his bully pulpit. So stop the trump jokes, good papers stop printing pictures of the guy print and online, and stop referencing his twitter comments. Protest posters take his face out of play and depersonalize the man. Make him a nonentity. Remove him from the lime light. The main stream press does have to cover US Government policy, but does not need to grant trump any personal form of legitimacy with its coverage. Instead, refer to White House policy or presidential directives. Of course “Fox News,” OANN, Epoch Times, and other dead beats will cover his pressers. So trump will still be a star. But we can make him an off off-Broadway one. Let’s see how he does as a potted plant in the shade.

        • bmaz says:

          Both of you are right, the 25th is a non-starter, no reason to waste oxygen discussing it. As to the speed of courts, I would note that the House Democrats have been completely lame and moving at the speed of hardening molasses. Much of the problem is squarely on them, and Pelosi/Hoyer. They waited forever to start filing things thatyould have started in late January, and hav e done little, if anything, to speed things up once they actually went to court. That is on the Dems, not the courts. You can accelerate things in federal courts, especially if you are a governmental entity.

        • Rayne says:

          However, I don’t agree with you ‘that we are fucked.’

          We’ll agree to disagree. Ask our troops in Syria if we’re fucked. Ask the family of Atatiana Jefferson and other innocent Americans of color killed needlessly by police if we’re fucked. Ask Dreamers if we’re fucked. Ask the Puerto Rican survivors of Hurricane Maria if we’re fucked. Ask the people around last year’s Woolsey Fire and the Camp Fire if we’re fucked. Ask voters of color in Wisconsin if we’re fucked, or Native American voters in the Dakotas if we’re fucked. Ask poor women of childbearing age in Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Mississippi, Ohio where they’ve passed highly restrictive abortion laws if we’re fucked. Ask the children in cages and families in concentration camps, the 700 women carted off to unspecified locations whether we’re fucked. I could keep going but I think you get the gist.

          We’re fucked. The question is for how long and what will we commit to our unfucking?

  22. earlofhuntingdon says:

    MagHabs laments that the Russians are apparently bombing hospitals in Kurdish areas of Turkey.

    Did she lament when Americans bombed hospitals in Afghanistan?

    Does she lament the violence Trump greenlighted when he authorized his American troop withdrawals?

    And what of human rights activist Hevrin Khalef, dragged from her transport along with her driver and murdered? That’s another war crime assisted by Donald Trump.

    • P J Evans says:

      Is she also lamenting the Turks and ISIS killing Kurds? (I know a bunch of Armenians. They have very strong opinions on the Turks, and I’d bet they’re steaming.)

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Meanwhile, Don and Rudy have lunch together at his club in Virginia, presumably to get their stories straight.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Khalaf and her driver were murdered by Turkish-allied mercenary forces. As a Kurdish politician and leader of the Future Syria party, Khalaf was presumably on a Turkish list of leaders to be assassinated.

      As a method, it is as old as the Middle East. The US has used it in Vietnam, in Indonesia in 1965, and throughout Latin America. That it would be used in any large-scale Turkish invasion of Kurdish-controlled northern Syria would have been obvious even to Trump’s NSC.

    • BobCon says:

      As usual, Osita Nwanevu has excellent analysis in his piece here about the miserable state of the NY Times political coverage:

      “the walls the press has erected between what gets called news and the often speculative stuff of opinion have proven to be porous—a large share of campaign coverage, even at the major newspapers, seems to occupy a liminal space between between just-the-facts reporting and punditry. The latter, which we might call “repunditry” for the lack of a better term, is nevertheless routinely packaged as, or embedded within, the former.”

      Nwanevu highlights the bizarre logic of the Times and DC political reporters establishing fantastically rigid standards that soft pedal proven facts about racism and other ugly truths, but gives free rein to wild, unprovable speculation about future impacts of current events.

      Trump’s policies over the past 2 1/2 years can’t be called racism, but reporters are free to offer any kind of wild speculation about might happen to Warren over right wing reporting about her pregnancy.

      Haberman feels free to repeat a fact in isolation, knowing full well to honor the rule that the only time she can make a connection to a larger thesis is when she speculates about a Democrat’s ability to be appealing.

  23. Reader 21 says:

    Yep Rudy Colludy and Individual-1 lunching in VA to get stories straight / trade info—with yet another grossly misleading NYT / Vogel headline, “Trump
    Standing by Rudes in public show of support”—oh yeah then why’d they do it in private and you have to scoop it Kenny boy. How long must they be his mouthpiece?

    Also @Rayne —I don’t know if it’s the Constitution I think it’s the dishonest RW judges who’ve been saying it says things it doesn’t. Plus a propaganda network polluting our public discourse. And some serious extortion.

  24. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Have the police given up knocking on the front door to ask whether anyone is home, when they respond to a neighbor’s call to check on another neighbor’s welfare? The average, untrained adult might think their neighbor is home, but perhaps slow and unwell. Not so the trained police officer. He does things differently.

    Despite the apparent lack of probable cause to believe a crime has been committed, he does not announce himself. He circles the house silently, sees movement, draws his weapon, orders the person inside their own home to put up their hands, and then fires through a closed window. All that apparently before the homeowner can process a shouted demand from an unknown white male outside her back window. One bullet is fatal. The homeowner is African American.

    A gun was later “found inside the home.” No one has confirmed whether, if true, that weapon belonged to the homeowner, and whether she had it near her when the police fired. Nor have they commented on why – in Texas – it would be the least bit inappropriate of a homeowner to greet a silent unknown armed intruder, shouting at her from her own backyard, with a loaded weapon.

    If this sort of thing happened more than once in a blue moon, one might wonder what sort of recruitment and training is going on in local law enforcement. And why not much seems to have changed in Dallas-Ft. Worth, despite a lengthy local trial about another white officer. She somehow mistook a neighbor’s apartment for hers, somehow entered it, and somehow thought it appropriate to shoot him dead while he was watching tv and eating ice cream.

    • P J Evans says:

      A lot of cops seem to be trained to think of themselves as warriors against evil, to think that all POC are enemies, regardless of gender, age or actual size, and to think that shooting is better than trying to find out what’s going on or even de-escalating the situation.
      This isn’t even what soldiers are trained to do – this is training them to be killers, and nothing else.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        Imperial policing methods – surveillance, violence, and control – come home to roost.

        – Alfred McCoy, Policing America’s Empire.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      He has weakened his own state and its allies, and sold out its people, in favor of Russia and making a quick buck. All that while becoming the undisputed leader of a party that made its Cold War bones hating Russia.

      • Tom says:

        That’s what I continue to find so flabbergasting. Whatever happened to the folks that used to proclaim, “Better dead than red”?

  25. I Never Lie and am Always Right says:

    Below is an anonymous posting from an attorney in Washington DC, seen somewhere on the web……….


    I think that I shall never see
    A poem lovely as a fee.
    A fee whose awesomeness and power
    Grows ever larger by the hour.
    A fee that’s paid by Trump all day
    And lifts my bank account — Hooray!
    A fee that may in summer grow
    As well as in the sleet and snow.
    A fee so large that Trump’s in pain,
    Each month a bill ! And with no shame.
    These posts are made by fools like me,
    But only Trump can pay my fee.

    • Savage Librarian says:

      I think that I shall never see
      A poem lovely as democracy.
      Democracy whose hungry mouth is prest
      Against the sweet earth’s flowing breast;
      Democracy that looks at life all day,
      And lifts her open arms to pray;
      Democracy that may in summer wear
      A nest of freedom in her hair;
      Upon whose bosom wars have lain;
      Who intimately lives with pain.
      Poems are made by fools like me,
      But only We can set us free.

  26. Vince says:

    NBC reporting that when Sondland testifies this week, he will say his text back to Taylor, that said the position of Racist Donnie was “no quid pro quo”, was not to his knowledge or even his opinion but dictated by Racist Donnie during the phone call within that five-hour delay.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Don probably doesn’t write that stuff, which means one of his lawyers did.

      Generally, when you put your name on it, like Sondland, you own it, regardless of where it came from or who agrees with you about it. To say your aide or your boss wrote something, but you signed it, is no “out” at all.

      • P J Evans says:

        I can see Trmp using the phrase, though, even if he doesn’t understand all that’s involved. He picks up that kind of stuff and uses it like a mantra.

        • Vince says:

          I agree. He says it like someone taught him how to pronounce it, as you would if you were teaching someone to phonetically pronounce a French phrase, and he’s been methodically practicing it since.

  27. Yohei72 says:

    The fact that the president of the United States is sharing lawyers with a Ukrainian oligarch/gangster is the kind of crap that ought to make front page headlines in all the MSM papers and websites, if they were paying attention to details the way they ought to be (and the way EW does). Although I gather Maddow is hitting it pretty hard.

  28. misteranderson says:

    Why would Lanny Davis work for D Firtash & then work for Michael Cohen? This stinks to high heaven. By the time of Cohen’s legal troubles it would seem that his interests directly conflict w/ Firtash’s. Someone please explain.

    • bmaz says:

      Lawyers, even assholes like Lanny Davis, defend criminals and other people in trouble. What exactly is so hard to understand?

      • misteranderson says:

        I am a little slow, I apologize for that. But would it suggest that Lanny Davis would’ve given him deliberately inferior legal service or that Chen held back in some way? That’s where my mind goes.

        • bmaz says:

          You are not slow in the least. And I do not know any better than you. But lawyers come into cases for any number of reasons, some may be obvious, some may not be. Frankly, I do not know how much Davis helped Cohen; I would argue not much at all. If he was not a net negative (which I think he was).

          Davis did no real traditional lawyering though, he was PR face. Why was he there for that? No clue, but Cohen is almost certainly going to talk more later in a book. Perhaps we will find out at some point. Bottom line though, Davis did not help Cohen in the long run, so it seems more of a sidelight than real issue.

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