The Significance of Fiona Hill’s Testimony: “Whatever Drug Deal Sondland and Mulvaney Are Cooking Up”

A number of people on Twitter have asked me to elaborate on some comments I’ve made about the significance of Fiona Hill’s testimony before the Ukraine impeachment team yesterday.

It’s unclear whether she shared details of her testimony or whether most of the reporting comes from Jamie Raskin (who notably got the import of the State IG’s urgent briefing utterly wrong). But NYT has thus far offered the key description (citing at least two other people beyond Raskin).

Force Bolton to shit or get off the pot

First, the NYT describes Hill citing the abrasive John Bolton saying two fairly stunning things which were bound to make headlines. First, she described Bolton saying Rudy was a “hand grenade” who would blow everyone up (a quote Rudy has already responded to).

Mr. Bolton expressed grave concerns to Ms. Hill about the campaign being run by Mr. Giuliani. “Giuliani’s a hand grenade who’s going to blow everybody up,” Ms. Hill quoted Mr. Bolton as saying during an earlier conversation.

Then, after a July 10 meeting where it became clear Trump was withholding security assistance for campaign propaganda, according to reports of Hill’s testimony, Bolton asked her to tell Deputy White House Counsel John Eisenberg that he was not part of “whatever drug deal” Trump’s flunkies were pursuing.

“I am not part of whatever drug deal Sondland and Mulvaney are cooking up,” Mr. Bolton, a Yale-trained lawyer, told Ms. Hill to tell White House lawyers, according to two people at the deposition.

It was clear even before the July 25 call that kicked off this whole scandal that Bolton was on the outs. Tellingly, Bolton was specifically excluded from the call.

But since then, Bolton has (like James Mattis) been talking about writing a book, telling his story for history, rather than for the present and the sake of the Constitution.

By including these two quotes in her testimony, Hill not only ensured that Bolton will be the target of Trump’s ire (after all, Hill didn’t say these things, Bolton reportedly did). But it will force Bolton to either deny them (if he’s certain Hill didn’t take contemporaneous notes), or take a stand against activities he clearly recognized were wrong.

And if Bolton testifies in the impeachment inquiry about his concerns, it will represent someone about whom there can be no doubts as to Republican partisan loyalty. If Hill’s inclusion of Bolton’s comments leads Trump’s former National Security Advisor to provide damning testimony to the impeachment inquiry, it will change both the profile of the inquiry and the possible response attacks.

Force Sondland to rewrite his ever-evolving testimony

Hill’s testimony about that July 10 meeting also provided damning testimony about Gordon Sondland, who is scheduled to testify on Thursday.

One of the most dramatic moments she described came in the July 10 meeting in Mr. Bolton’s office that included Mr. Sondland; Kurt D. Volker, then the special envoy for Ukraine; Rick Perry, the energy secretary; and two Ukrainian officials.

The purpose of the meeting was to talk about technical assistance to Ukraine’s national security council. The Ukrainians were eager to set up a meeting between Mr. Trump and Mr. Zelensky, who was elected on a promise to clean up corruption and resolve the country’s five-year war with Russian-armed separatists.

Mr. Bolton was trying to not commit to a meeting, according to Ms. Hill’s testimony. Mr. Sondland got agitated, Ms. Hill testified, and let out that there was an agreement with Mr. Mulvaney that there would be a meeting if Ukraine opened up the investigations the White House was seeking.

Mr. Bolton immediately ended the meeting abruptly. As the group moved toward the door, Mr. Sondland said he wanted them to come down to the ward room next to the White House mess to discuss next steps. Mr. Bolton pulled Ms. Hill aside to instruct her to go to the ward room and report to him what they talked about.

When she got downstairs, Mr. Sondland was talking with the Ukrainians and specifically mentioned Burisma, the Ukrainian energy firm that had Hunter Biden, the former vice president’s son, on its board.

Sondland has already test driven two drafts of his intended testimony, much as Michael Cohen did two years ago before he gave false testimony to Congress. Even the most recent of those drafts appears to be rendered inoperative by Hill’s testimony.

I’m sure Adam Schiff would have preferred that Sondland not get another chance to craft his testimony (and I suspect Sondland’s lawyer is trying to convince him that the possibility of being named Secretary of State is not worth perjuring himself for, which is why he’s probably not yet planning on invoking the Fifth).

But thus far, Sondland doesn’t seem to have discovered a story that he can tell that coheres with the other known testimony.

Hill ties Sondland’s actions to Trump

Hill also provided testimony — testimony we know that is backed by other witnesses — that Sondland was playing the role he was playing because the President wanted him to be.

At one point, she confronted Mr. Sondland, who had inserted himself into dealings with Ukraine even though it was not part of his official portfolio, according to the people informed about Ms. Hill’s testimony.

He told her that he was in charge of Ukraine, a moment she compared to Secretary of State Alexander M. Haig Jr.’s declaration that he was in charge after the Ronald Reagan assassination attempt, according to those who heard the testimony.

According to whom, she asked.

The president, he answered.

This will tie Trump directly to this scheme and make Sondland’s later denials about whether he knew Trump to be lying about a quid pro quo even more obviously false than they already are. This is not Rudy freelancing, or State ordering him to, but Trump ordering everyone to.

Hill implicates John Eisenberg

I noted the central role of John Eisenberg in attempts to cover this quid pro quo up weeks ago (and noted that he succeeded in preventing any record of an early quid pro quo from being being made).

Eisenberg is the guy who decided to put the transcript of the July 25 call on the Top Secret server. Eisenberg had a role in framing the crimes, as described to DOJ, such that they could shunt them to Public Integrity and dismiss them, rather than open up another Special Counsel investigation into the President’s extortion.

But Hill’s testimony makes it clear Eisenberg was told of what Bolton analogized to crimes well before the call.

Ms. Hill went back upstairs and reported the encounter to Mr. Bolton, who promptly instructed her to report the issue to John A. Eisenberg, a deputy White House counsel and the chief legal adviser for the National Security Council, along with his line about the drug deal, which he meant metaphorically.

Mr. Eisenberg told Ms. Hill he would report it up his chain of command, which would typically mean Pat Cipollone, the White House counsel.

Eisenberg (whose FBI 302 from the last Trump criminal investigation DOJ is trying to withhold) would have been on the hook anyway for a clear attempt to cover up Trump’s crime. But the revelation that he had advance warning that a crime was in process — and apparently did nothing to prevent it — changes his exposure significantly.

It was the OMB Director, misappropriating funds, in the National Security Advisor’s office

Finally, Hill puts Mick Mulvaney at the scene of the crime.

As I’ve said before, one part of this scandal that has gotten far too little attention is that, to extort Ukraine, Trump withheld funds appropriated by Congress, funds about which there was bipartisan agreement.

Last week, CNN and WSJ reported that to do this, OMB changed the way the funds were distributed, putting a political flunkie in charge, also a detail that has gotten far too little attention.

Not only does that raise the Constitutional stakes of the Executive’s refusal to spend the funds Congress had duly appropriated, but it shows consciousness of guilt.

And per Hill’s testimony Mick Mulvaney, serving in the dual role of OMB chief and Chief of Staff, knew that those funds were being withheld for a quid pro quo or (as John Bolton described it) a drug deal.

Senate Republicans might not ever convict Trump for demanding foreign countries invent propaganda on his political allies. They might feel differently once it becomes clear that the crime involves refusing to do what Congress, with its power of the purse, told him to, without even telling Congress he was doing so (or why). They may not care about Trump pressing for any political advantage for their party, but they may care about Trump neutering their most important authority.

92 replies
  1. Rita says:

    Didn’t OMB tell the Pentagon and Defense Department to tell lawmakers that the funds were being held up for interagency review? See, for example, TheHill on 9/23/2019.

    So Mulvaney helped construct the false narrative for why the funds were being withheld.

    • harpie says:

      Yesterday evening, ABC reported:
      Democrats seek to question Trump budget chief in Ukraine impeachment probe

      The acting budget director is Russell Vought

      Back in March, when the WH was working to invalidate Obamacare, Eliana Johnson tweeted [at Politico]:
      6:44 PM – 26 Mar 2019

      WH move to invalidate Obamacare on Monday came despite opposition of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Attorney General Bill Barr, me and @burgessev-

      The Obamacare decision was backed by DPC Chief Joe Grogan and acting OMB Chief Russ Vought, both Mulvaney allies, as well as by Mick Mulvaney himself, who pushed Obamacare repeal while in Congress –

      Mulvaney hasn’t tried to restrict access to Trump but rather added allies inside the WH, accumulating a roster of people who share his views who also now have access to POTUS. […]

  2. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Eisenberg had knowledge of a crime while it was being committed when he had a legal responsibility to advise its perpetrators against it. Instead, he helped them cover it up. That makes him a co-conspirator. It would also implicate the crime-fraud exception and remove any A-C privilege protection. Congress’s investigation of one or more crimes, based on probable cause, would seem to remove any executive privilege. That seems to leave no basis to refuse to testify, apart from the 5th Amendment privilege against self-incrimination.

    Sondland can implicate the president as the one directing illegal behavior. But he would not thereby avoid implicating himself, owing to his own independent involvement in it. The “following orders” defense went out some decades ago.

    I would like to think Mulvaney’s conduct makes him no longer a viable voice for the GOP. That should have been true of Bill Barr’s work as AG for George H.W. Bush, but here he is, back for Cover-up 2.0.

    • Rayne says:

      With regard to ‘A-C privilege’ when Eisenberg is the Deputy Assistant to the President, National Security Council Legal Advisor, and Deputy Counsel to the President for National Security Affairs, who is the client? Who could invoke that privilege?

      Eisenberg should be nailed for more than just his role in the Trump-Ukraine conspiracy; he’s got Trump-Russia obstruction, too.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        Good question; I don’t know. Eisenberg’s wearing a lot of hats. But his client is not Trump personally.

        It could be the NSA, as head of the NSC, has standing, since that’s one body he works for. Or the office of the president, another body he works for, which suggests White House Counsel or the AG might have standing.

        It’s a mishmash. It would have to be sorted out in a formal proceeding, if there were non-cooperation owing to an undefined assertion of privilege – the kind that Trump’s administration asserts.

  3. Rugger9 says:

    The question for the Palace and Individual-1 is who would be able to replace Mulvaney / Sondland / Barr now that would be OK with the WH but not run foul of the investigation? We’ve had lower level types promoted, people brought in, etc., but I seriously doubt any more outsiders would willingly join the maladministration. Anyone in the administration is already implicated in something if not necessarily Ukraine or Russia, so even if the “acting” game continues to avoid losing Senate votes, the fully alerted press would rip the Palace for their choices.

    Zuckerberg is a two-faced sucker and Warren was correct to slam him for it, cancel FB.

    Also, I see that there are sanctions being planned against Turkey, a NATO ally, which is one step short of war. Vlad Putin must be so proud his puppet is willing to cause NATO’s destruction from within.

    • Rugger9 says:

      OT but hmmmmmm…… It appears Bakari Sellers tabbed Tulsi Gabbard as a Russian asset on April Ryan’s CNN panel. While Tulsi’s got too much love for Syrian strongmen (Syria is a Russian ally and has been for a long time, that’s why the Soviets used Tartus) Sellers needed a better linkage in my view to make that accusation.

      It will make Tulsi explode, though and maybe she’ll reach 1% in the polling if she plays the victim cards well.

      More OT, what is the plan for Turkey if they push back, in particular Incirlik AB where we have strategic forces to deter the Russians? There is some stuff there we don’t want in the wrong hands.

    • Mainmata says:

      According to reports that I’ve read/heard, some of the sanctions include steep tariffs on Turkish steel but it’s not clear whether the US even buys any Turkish steel. I doubt Trump wants to hurt Turkey very much economically despite his idiotic “destroyed and obliterated” tweet a while back. Trump doesn’t want to hurt Erdogan too much since he has a lot of business interests in Turkey rto protect.

      • P J Evans says:

        I heard that the frame for one of our fighter jets is made in Turkey. (We get knitting yarn from Turkey. My best embroidery hoops are from Turkey, and I can’t find more of them anywhere.)

      • Geoguy says:

        First time comment, long time lurker. We almost certainly import Turkish steel. Most of our steel scrap is exported for recycling around the world to countries including China, India, South Korea and Turkey. According to the statista website Turkey was the largest importer of steel scrap in the world ranked by volume in 2018. I have bought Turkish steel pipe in Home Depot. (the price of the pipe jumped 20% as I worked through a project last year.)

        This website is the best!


      • Molly Pitcher says:

        This morning on Morning Edition, Steve Inskeep interviewed Senator Chris Van Hollen of Maryland about Trump’s sanctions against Turkey, Note what the steel sanctions represent:

        VAN HOLLEN: Well, I support any effort to stop the Turkish incursion and slaughter of our Syrian Kurdish allies. But the reality is that what the president has done so far is, first, green light the Turkish operation to begin with, and now the sanctions he announced yesterday are really pathetic. The steel sanctions represent – steel represents about four-tenths of 1% of all of Turkey’s exports. The president still has a standing invitation to President Erdogan to visit the United States. A lot more is necessary to get the Turks to stop and to protect ourselves from the resurgence of ISIS, which is what’s going to happen. Secretary Mattis and others have predicted that.

  4. Dedalus says:

    Mulvaney will be the first to flip for leniency should the criminal courts get further involved (a big “if” under Barr, I know but at least SDNY still has balls.)

  5. P J Evans says:

    I gathered yesterday evening, not from Raskin, that several of the congresscritters who heard Hill’s testimony were impressed with her, and surprised at what came out.

    • JamesJoyce says:

      You state my sentiments well

      I can disagree with Bolton’s documented mindset.

      Bolton understands guardrails, what is a crime and how payback works.

      Self interest dictates Bolton will claim himself hero, while saying he is not…

      Trust no one but Mom…..

              • punaise says:

                (borderline unacceptable, sorry in advance, especially to Mr. Taylor)
                but little editing needed!:

                You can play the game,
                You can act out the part,
                Though you know
                it wasn’t written for you.
                Tell me how can you stand there
                with your broken heart,
                Ashamed to playin’ a fool?

                When one thing can lead to another,
                it doesn’t take any sacrifice.
                Oh, Mother, oh Mother,
                motel guest a bother,
                If it feels knife,
                Don’t think striife.

                Just shower the people you love with gloves,
                Show them the way that you feel,
                Things are gonna work out fine,
                If you only will…

    • Mooser says:

      When Trump is through Presidenting, he should have a long career in the addiction-cure industry. Seems like anybody can rehabilitate themselves by using Trump.

  6. joel fisher says:

    At some point, it would seem that Trump’s flunkies will start seeing–way better than outside observers–the direction of things. It’s a given that, in general, Trump’s people are of the lowest order so he can’t expect them to be loyal. Their evil nature doesn’t make them the sort of drooling, moronic scum Trump calls his “base”; they’re not stupid and will look for a lifeboat off the sinking ship. Bolton will testify as one of the first rats. Expect more.

    • NorskieFlamethrower says:

      “Bolton will testify as one of the first rats.”

      I agree. And I think if Schiff gets him under oath Bolton will find it hard not to take a preemptive strike at Barr cuz they go waay back in the Bush part of this rolling coup.

    • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

      It’s always seemed that Bolton is obsessed with bombing Iran. He is also said to hold grudges. (But I repeat myself…)

      Recall that Mulvaney, who oversaw a way to screw Congress by withholding payments without notifying them, had earlier served as head of Consumer Financial Protection Agency (CFPB).* His objective there was to gut the agency, and apparently he did his damndest.

      We appear to be seeing one gigantic grudge match playing out, and Bolton clearly has the goods on numerous players. One of them happens to be Mulvaney. Good times.

      * some may recall this agency as the brainchild of Elizabeth Warren, back when she was a Harvard Law Professor and one of the nation’s authorities on bankruptcy and predatory lending.

  7. PSWebster says:

    Wow….this shit is really great. Thank you, Emptywheel for putting this together so well.

    An aside regarding Marcy Wheeler’s work: I was pleasantly surprised and gratified to find a Marcy Wheeler reference in Kissinger’s Shadow regarding illegal torture from a 2009 Salon piece she wrote.

    Great work you all. Thank you.

  8. Vicks says:

    We have been hearing a lot about how attorney-client or executive privilege doesn’t apply if the parties were involved in a crime.
    That makes perfect sense to me, but since we don’t take away the rights of US citizens without some sort of due process it also begs the question:
    “At what point is it established that people in question were involved in a crime and what is the bar for establishing it?”

  9. gmoke says:

    Correct me if I’m wrong but didn’t Fox News immediately call Bolton a “man of the Left” after he left Trmp’s White House? Don’t be so sure that Bolton’s Republican bona fides can’t be pushed down the memory hole by the True Believers in a New York second.

    Besides, we’ve always been at war with EastAsia.

    • Rugger9 says:

      That depends upon how the rest of the MSM covers it. See what Chuck Todd does since he’s a total weathervane.

    • Mooser says:

      Trump is the greatest rehabilitative catalyst ever. He works for everybody. Doesn’t matter what you’ve said, what you’ve done, instant absolution and beautification is yours for repudiating Trump.

  10. CD54 says:

    “And if Bolton testifies in the impeachment inquiry about his concerns, it will represent someone about whom there can be no doubts as to Republican partisan loyalty.”

    Assumes GOP integrity not in evidence.

  11. BobCon says:

    On the final point of OMB messing with congressionally appropriated funds — I don’t think this will be anything the GOP raises more than a whisper about.

    Trump’s raiding DoD funding for his wall would have been the point where they might have done something. But since they meekly let domestic DoD projects get raided, I can’t see them do more than whine a little over Ukraine funding.

    • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

      Things have been ripening.
      Shep Smith finally walked out of Fox, which removes any remaining fig leaves of respectability.
      Civil servants are reacting to WH efforts to muzzle them with an elegant, legalese version of ‘f*ck off, I swore an oath to the Constitution, not to a mafia boss engaged in transnational shakedowns’.
      Congress is finally now back in D.C., some of them daily more exposed as treacherous.

      Just a reminder: according to Glen Miller’s excellent ‘The Apprentice’, in the fall of 2016, when the FBI and CIA presented Mitch McConnell with evidence that Russia was hacking US social media and voting machines, he refused to believe them. He told the FBI and CIA that they were being ‘partisan’.

      Relish the irony that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, complicit in Trump’s rise to the Presidency, now has his Senatorial power eroded by the dark forces that he unleashed. And the way in which Mitch is getting screwed strikes at the core of his so-called political authority: fiscal power. Karma may be a bitch, but she has a wicked sense of irony.

  12. Jenny says:

    Marcy thank you. Great post filling in all the blanks. More to be revealed.
    Three cheers to former Ambassador Yovanovitch and Fiona Hill for testifying.

    A bit off topic; however PBS is again airing Frontline: Supreme Revenge.
    Tonight on PBS at 10 PM EST or go to the link to watch.
    Inside the no-holds-barred war for control of the Supreme Court. From Brett Kavanaugh to Robert Bork, an investigation of how a 30-year-old grievance transformed the court and turned confirmations into bitter, partisan conflicts.

  13. Molly Pitcher says:

    Some bedside reading according to Politico:

    — “Fusion GPS Founders to Publish Book on Trump’s Ties With Russia,” by Slate’s Daniel Politi: “The co-founders of a political research firm who found themselves embroiled in a national scandal and intrigue due to their claims about President Donald Trump’s ties to Russia will be publishing a book next month that promises to be explosive. Crime in Progress: Inside the Steele Dossier and the Fusion GPS Investigation of Donald Trump will be published Nov. 26 co-written by Fusion GPS founders Glenn Simpson and Peter Fritsch.

    “Penguin Random House is billing the book as a ‘An All the President’s Men for the Trump era,’ saying it will tell the ‘inside story of the Steele Dossier and the Trump-Russia investigation.'”

    • P J Evans says:

      Well, part of the story of Trmp-Russia. There’s a lot we still don’t know, and may find out in the next few weeks.

    • drouse says:

      Be interesting to see how they spin the fact that a good chunk of the Steele dossier was disinformation presented as raw intelligence.

    • Molly Pitcher says:

      Thank you for posting that link. It appalls me that Davis would have to write that. I find it heard to believe that it will be heeded

    • timbo says:

      The difference between Follow The Leader and Follow The Constitution needs to be explicitly spelled out from time to time. Hopefully there are people that will acknowledge the difference still around Trump… but is that even likely as this point?

  14. posaune says:

    OT — but deserves attention: Supreme Court turns down appeal on DHS v. Ibrahim.
    Those attorneys deserve every single cent (and more). It’s overwhelming to sit and think about all the work they did in this case, the effectiveness of their argument, and their unbelievable perseverance. What was it — 10+ years? And then to litigate again in order to get paid?

  15. Bay State Librul says:

    We need to pull this rabbit out of the hat

    “And the one pill that mother gives you, won’t do anything at all.”

    Go ask Bolton and Rudy

  16. sand says:

    OT, but it’s disheartening to see that Donald Trump and the Trump Organization seem to have been able to get away with serious tax fraud for about 40 years, so far. The detailed NYT investigation was informative, and I just read ProPublica’s review of NY docs that they NY-FOIA’d.

    Considering the fact that we know real estate investing is used by money launderers and that the Trump Org should have raised every possible red flag, we clearly need an overhaul of state and federal controls. If Trump can claim a $900 million loss in one year while swimming in fraudulent documents without getting himself or his organization indicted, then how can we expect anyone else to be playing fair. The companies that paid their legitimate taxes were probably bankrupted or absorbed by their “smarter” (more corrupt) competitors many years ago. It’s too much of a disadvantage to follow the rules when there’s no enforcement.

    I will be disappointed if all of these stories end with “the statute of limitations has expired.” These seem to be ongoing tax, finance, and investment frauds. When do the authorities show up at Trump Tower unannounced and haul out every document, hard drive, and iPod for imaging? Why hasn’t this happened yet? Are we just asleep at the wheel, waiting for the statutes to run?

    Another way Trump hurts America. If people think the tax system is a joke, compliance goes down and enforcement costs go up. At some point, there’s so much fraud that the system collapses.

    • BobCon says:

      I suppose on the bright side, as long as Trump operates in the US he will be liable for tens of millions, if not more, in fraud. It’s baked into his business model.

      Rayne has had at least one or two good quotes in the pieces on Trump’s golf courses showing examples. Until now he’s faced an indifferent IRS and weak state and local prosecutors like Cy Vance Jr., but I think the political equation has changed.

      I don’t know how tough prosecuters will be — there is going to be constant pressure from other sleazy developers to avoid setting a higher standard. But I don’t think the Trump Org will skate completely, and we’ll see whether they can weather a serious investigation and the associated penalties.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        The data for these four properties in NYC looks systematically, consistently, and willfully fraudulent.

        Trump is not subtle, he learns things slowly and painfully, and sticks to what he knows, repeating it often. He would have learned from Roy Cohn and his dad, for example, that cheating banks and the tax man is essential to making money. It’s making your bones for bigger things ahead.

        If you were to open up ProPublica’s investigation into dozens of Trump properties, the same pattern of tax and bank fraud would likely emerge. That’s beyond the penalty stage. It’s willful and criminal. Manafort and Cohen have gone to jail for less.

        • BobCon says:

          It’s true people have gone to prison for less, but people of influence have also skated for less. I think Trump has screwed himself over by being elected, but we’ll see.

          I can already imagine the deep thinkers in punditland insisting in a year or two that prosecuting Trump will be too divisive….

          Their real fear, though, is that his crimes will spur a new tax system that doubles taxes on the rich. They will be working double time to figure out ways why we need to look away.

          • P J Evans says:

            The reason for raisign taxes on the rich isn’t Trmp – it’s the very high inequality. Which should billionaires pay at a lower rate (and get to use tax havens and cheats) than people in the bottom half?

            • BobCon says:

              Sure, but the political argument is going to hinge to a large extent on real life examples. You will see sob stories from anti-tax forces of some farmer somewhere claiming he has to sell off all of his cute little lambs to deal with mean old Elizabeth or Bernie.

              That’s a much harder sales job when you there are contrasting visuals of a sweaty Trump family on the stand trying explain why they paid no taxes on a property they told a bank was worth a million bucks.

          • earlofhuntingdon says:

            I suspect that people who are as wealthy as Trump claims to be looked on his election the same way. He is so dirty but so inept, he was destined to blow the lid off a good thing. Public employees are subject to standards of behavior – many of them Trump has tried to ax, through his Cabinet choices, for example.

            I agree with PJ, the reason to raise taxes on the wealthy is not to pay for things, as if a currency issuing country’s budget was like a family’s.

            The reason is to restrain their immense power. It is to reduce the predatory ways they make money, because it actively impoverishes the many.

          • Tom says:

            ” … Trump has screwed himself over by being elected …” which again leads me to speculate that (a) Trump never expected to win the 2016 election, and (b) Trump never even wanted to become President: his campaign was just an exercise in self-promotion; he doesn’t enjoy in the least the responsibilities he is now tasked with discharging.

            Also, I used to think that Trump’s chumminess with Putin and other strong-man types was due to his desire to be accepted as one of them, a fellow tough-minded realist who knew the score and understood that nice guys finish last. But given the President’s recent decision on Syria and what we’re learning about his plans to put the screws to Zelensky and possibly sacrifice the Ukrainians to Russian ambitions, I’m starting to wonder whether Putin really does have something devastatingly compromising to hold over Trump’s head. I’m also wondering whether the President’s pandering to Putin may become more blatant in the coming weeks and months. If Putin concludes that Trump’s time in office is coming to an end, he will likely want to wring him dry of his usefulness to Russian interests while there is still the opportunity to do so.

            • Tom says:

              According to the NYT for October 16th (“In Syria, Russia is Pleased to Fill an American Void”), U.S. forces apparently evacuated their base near Manbij is such haste that they left behind stocks of food, equipment, and even items of personal property. This, of course, was as a result of the President’s precipitous decision to withdraw American troops from northern Syria and greenlight the Turkish invasion.

              If I were in Putin’s position and wanted to rub Trump’s nose in his self-made fiasco, I would be mighty tempted to pack up all those left behind stores, equipment, and especially the personal items, and arrange for them to be returned to the nearest American forces with a friendly note stating something to the effect that, “Hey! You forgot something!”

  17. A. Non says:

    I’m wondering if all this focus on getting dirt on Hunter Biden isn’t a smokescreen for something else? The disclosures that Parnas and Furman funnelled $325k to a Trump super-PAC, $20k to Sessions, and $500k to Guliani show that there’s a lot of money being paid to influence events in Ukraine. You don’t need Guiliani to get dirt on Hunter Biden, but you do need him to fire a US ambassador. Who benefits from firing Yovanvitch and shunting US diplomacy out of official State Dept channels? What was the “drug deal” that Sondland and Mulvaney were cooking up? Does this all go back to Manafort’s Ukrainian “peace plan”?

  18. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Trumpy’s two illegal sets of books:

    There can be legitimate reasons for numbers to diverge between tax and loan documents…but some of the gaps seemed to have no reasonable justification. “It really feels like there’s two sets of books — it feels like a set of books for the tax guy and a set for the lender.”

    ProPublica based its story on data for four of Trump’s signature properties in NYC. He has lots more. Trump often litigates his local property tax bill, which is where half this data came from. He also often contests his income tax bill, but that remains private. That’s one reason why Cy Vance Jr’s subpoenas for Trump’s tax returns is so important and why Trump is fighting it so hard to quash them.

    ProPublica’s academic understatement confirms what many critics have long believed: Trump is a career cheat. As with his other crimes, he doesn’t hide it, he brags about getting away with it. These are not mistakes, they are intentional, substantial. and systemic. That makes them criminal bank and tax fraud – prison time.

    • harpie says:

      Here’s more info from Wendy Siegelman:
      4:19 AM – 16 Oct 2019

      Never-before-seen Trump NYC real estate tax docs show major inconsistencies between occupancy and rental income data reported to tax authorities vs reporting to lenders, including data for 2017 […]

      Finally some reporting on Trump creditor Ladder Capital where Trump Org CFO Allen Weisselberg’s son Jack works Trump & Jack Weisselberg had some history – Jack was at UBS in 2006 when UBS loaned Trump $7 million for his piece of Trump Intl Hotel & Tower [screenshot]

      Here’s chart I published in 2017 of Trump’s two main creditors Deutsche & Ladder Capital Finance – including 40 Wall St and Trump Intl Tower & Hotel I’ve been perplexed since at how little coverage has been done on Ladder given their leverage over Trump

      And here’s @mrspanstreppon reporting on Ladder in 2017 including the find that Trump Org CFO Allen Weisselberg’s son Jack worked there [link]

      • harpie says:

        Following that last link: 3:56 PM – 17 Jun 2017
        and further down: 4:17 AM – 17 Jun 2017

        What am I missing? Trump has 4 loans & mtges w/Ladder Capital Finance. A search for “ladder” in ACRIS only shows 40 Wall entries. [follow the thread] […]

        So it appears Ladder gave $7M loan to Trump in 7/16. Loan transferred to Teubow in 7/16 but doc prep date is 12/16.

        Teubow transfers $7m Trump loan to Wells Fargo in 10/16 but doc prep date is 1/23/17.

        Hmm…appears Teubow & Wells Fargo waited until after election to file Trump loan docs. […]

        Is Ladder Capital fronting for Wells Fargo to lend to Trump? […]

        Parking this. In 3/17, someone gave a $500m unsecured loan to Ladder Capital. Per SEC filing.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        That Jack Weisselberg connection seems pregnant with corruption. His dad is the Trump Org CFO. He has a UBS-Trump connection from a decade ago.

        This shit goes way back and is dirty all the way. We just need a prosecutor willing to look at it – or a congressional committee. It was apparently outside Mueller’s remit. Perhaps Cy Vance Jr. smells a trip to Albany as the Many Who Spotted Liberty Trump.

    • P J Evans says:

      At least three sets of books: one for the tax agencies, one for the lenders, and a more honest set which neither tax agencies nor lenders see.

      • BobCon says:

        I’m really curious how consistent they were in the claims they made to the IRS and to other governments. They may have had different books for every state and local government where they paid taxes.

        I know there is supposed to be a lot of data sharing between layers of governments, but I suspect there are a lot of exploitable gaps. Richard Neal’s slow walking of the whistleblower complaint about Trumpies leaning on the IRS to supress an audit seems really bad in this context.

      • Tom says:

        What a hassle that must be! Wouldn’t it be simpler and easier just to be honest? But then, I’ve never really understood the world of Big Business and High (Off the Hog) Finance.

        • BobCon says:

          He would have been vastly richer if he had just taken his inheritance from his dad and grown it incrementally. He could have owned the NFL franchise he always wanted, he even could have dabbled a bit in Manhattan skyscrapers.

          He could have still lived the life of the NY Post gossip column subject, been a reality TV star, had his cameo in Home Alone 2 and gotten endless Vanity Fair and NY Times Style Section puff pieces.

          But he’s an idiot in so many ways.

      • timbo says:

        Two sets of bad books, as long as combined they contain all the pertinent info to construct a good set, might be adequate enough.

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