How Trump Put Volodymyr Zelensky in a Public Box, After All

Some weeks ago, I predicted museums would one day display a copy of John Dowd’s letter describing how Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman — who was arraigned the other day, with the latter being represented by Paul Manafort’s lawyer in his NY State case — were in a nest of ethically ridiculous conflicts with Rudy Giuliani, the President, and Dmitry Firtash’s lawyers. Another document that will be displayed as a key record of history, I think, is William Taylor’s statement to Congress Monday, which WaPo managed to obtain and republish.

The whole thing is worthwhile. But I want to pay particular attention to what Taylor said about Trump’s demand that Volodymyr Zelensky state on the record his willingness to investigate the 2016 election and Joe Biden, because it changes the import of Trump’s decision to release the call transcript.

As Taylor describes it, he first learned of Trump’s demands regarding investigations on June 27, when Gordon Sondland told him about it. The next day, Sondland went to some lengths to prevent any contemporaneous transcript of a call with Zelensky, at which Sondland explained Trump wanted “cooperation on investigations to ‘get to the bottom of things'” (a line Trump would use in the July 25 call). Taylor would learn on July 19 that at a July 10 meeting (the one after which John Bolton accused Mick Mulvaney and Volker of setting up a drug deal), Sondland tied “investigations” to an Oval Office meeting with Trump. The same day he learned that, Sondland participated in a 3-way WhatsApp chat where Volker said that on an upcoming call, Zelensky should “say that he will help investigation–and address any specific personnel issues–if there are any” (another line that would appear in the July 25 call, this time parroted, though not as exactly, by Zelensky). The next day, Sondland told Taylor he had scripted Zelensky to say, “I will leave no stone unturned” on investigations (this particular line did not make it into the final call).

All that scripting (as well as more scripting from Sondland for Trump immediately beforehand) happened before the July 25 call.

In the call that Zelensky surely expected would remain private, he repeated much of what the back channel advisors had cued him to say. In addition to scolding Europe for not supporting Ukraine as well as the United States and providing assurances that he would and already had made personnel changes Trump wanted to see, Zelensky repeatedly agreed to cooperate on investigations.

I also plan to surround myself with great people and in addition to that investigation, I guarantee as the President of Ukraine that all the investigations.will be done openly and candidly. That I can assure you.


I wanted to tell ·you about the prosecutor. First of all I understand arid I’m knowledgeable about the situation. Since we have won the absolute majority in our Parliament; the next prosecutor general will be 100% my person, my candidate, who will be approved, by the parliament and will start as a new prosecutor in September. He or she will look. into the situation, specifically to the company that you mentioned in this issue. The issue of the investigation of the case is actually the issue of making sure to restore the honesty so we will take care of that and will work on the investigation of the case. 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 Ivanovitch. It was great that you were the first one who told me that she was a bad ambassador because I agree with you 100%.


I also wanted to thank you for your invitation to visit the United States, specifically Washington DC. On the other hand, I also wanted to ensure you that we will be very serious about the case and will work on the investigation.

These assurances came in response to clear demands from Trump. First he asked for an investigation into 2016.

I would like you to do us a favor though because our country has been through a lot and Ukraine knows a lot about it. I would like you to find out what happened with this whole situation with Ukraine, they say Crowdstrike … I guess you have one of your wealthy people… The server, they say Ukraine has it. There are a lot of things that went on, the whole situation. I think you are surrounding yourself with some of the same people. I would like to have the Attorney General call you or your people and I would like you to get to the bottom of it. As you saw yesterday, that whole nonsense ended with a very poor performance by a man named Robert Mueller, an incompetent performance, but they say a lot of it started with Ukraine. Whatever you can do, it’s very important that you do it if that’s possible.

Then he made several demands that Zelensky investigate Biden.

The other thing, There’s a lot of talk about Biden’s son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the Attorney General would be great. Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it … It sounds horrible to me.

He then seems to demand that Zelensky reinstate Viktor Shokin, the corrupt prosecutor Biden (and much of international community) called to be fired.

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. I heard the prosecutor was treated very badly and he was a very fair prosecutor so good luck with everything.

In the following weeks, as Trump’s Attorney General made at least four efforts to cover up a whistleblower complaint about this call, Trump made increasingly alarming (to Taylor) demands from Zelensky, even after he had provided the assurances he thought Trump wanted in this private call.

On August 16 — by which point DOJ had learned of the outlines of the whistleblower complaint from John Demers’ review of the transcript — Taylor learned that Andriy Yermak wanted to ask DOJ to make a formal request that Ukraine investigate Burisma (and, presumably, Hunter Biden).

Then, on September 1, after DOJ had already received the formal whistleblower complaint and as the risk of security cooperation initially withheld in mid-July would become permanent, Mike Pence refused to release it, instead renewing a request that Ukraine “do more to fight corruption.” Taylor also learned that Sondland had told Yermak that security assistance would not be released until Zelensky “committed to pursue the Burisma investigation.”  That’s when Sondland told Taylor that,

President Trump had told him that he wants President Zelenskyy to state publicly that Ukraine will investigate Burisma and alleged Ukrainian interference in the 2016 U.S. election.

Ambassador Sondland also tole me that he now recognized that he had made a mistake by earlier telling the Ukrainian officials to whom he spoke that a White House meeting with President Zelenskyy was dependent on a public announcement of investigations–in fact, Ambassador Sondland said, “everything” was dependent on such an announcement, including security assistance. He said that President Trump wanted President Zelenskyy “in a public box” by making a public statement about ordering such investigations.

That was one day before Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire should have transmitted the whistleblower complaint to Congress. It was two days before OLC would write a memo, which it overclassified as Top Secret, claiming Maguire could ignore the law and withhold the complaint.

On September 8, Taylor would learn that even after (on Taylor’s request) Sondland tried to push back on Trump’s demands for a public statement from Zelensky, Trump sustained them, and so Sondland passed on that demand.

He said he had talked to President Trump as I had suggested a week earlier, but that President Trump was adamant that President Zelenskyy, himself, had to “clear things up and do it in public.” President Trump said it was not a “quid pro quo.” Ambassador Sondland said that he had talked to President Zelenskyy and Mr. Yermak and told them that, although this was no a quid pro quo, if President Zelenskyy did not “clear things up” in public, we would be at a “stalemate.” I understood a “stalemate” to mean that Ukraine would not receive the much-needed military assistance. Ambassador Sondland said that this conversation concluded with President Zelenskyy agreeing ot make a public statement in an interview with CNN.


Ambassador Sondland tried to explain to me that President Trump is a businessman. When a businessman is about to sign a check to someone who owes him something, the businessman asks that person to pay up before signing the check.

Taylor, of course, immediately saw the game and laid a record. “nightmare is they give the interview and don’t get the security assistance. The Russians love it.”

Taylor, apparently without even knowing about the brewing fight over the whistleblower complaint, sent a text the next day, September 9, making it clear he understood this to be a quid pro quo. “I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign.”

That same day, after three bipartisan Congressional requests had already been made to release the assistance, the Committees on Intelligence, Foreign Affairs, and Oversight wrote to the White House requesting documents related to “the actual or potential suspension of security assistance to Ukraine,” (which would heighten the impoundment risk).  And the next, September 10, Adam Schiff sent the first letter making it clear he knew of the whistleblower complaint DOJ was so actively suppressing.

On September 11, Trump released the funds.

Taylor spent the next several days trying to get assurances from Ukrainians that they would not follow through on the CNN interview they had agreed to, which Oleksandr Danyliuk agreed to on September 13.

And that’s where everyone seems to believe it ended, with Taylor managing to prevent Trump from getting what he wanted, a public announcement from Zelensky that he would carry out Trump’s dirty work, but was doing so willingly.

But that’s an entirely incorrect understanding of what happened. Indeed, Taylor alludes to as much when he describes what happened when Trump — under gathering pressure about the complaint — chose to release the transcript of the call. As Taylor described, it happened as Zelensky went into his meeting with Trump at the UN, and Ukraine got no notice Trump was going to do so.

On September 25, at the UN General Assmebly session in New York City, President Trump met President Zelenskyy face-to-face. He also released the transcript of the July 25 call. The United Staes gave the Ukrainians virtually no notice of the release, and they were livid.

While they were at the UN, Danyliuk, who’d been central to these negotiations, got fired.

The first question at the joint presser after their meeting was about the call, and Zelensky had little choice but to claim, dishonestly, that Trump had put no pressure on him.

We had good phone call. It was normal. We spoke about many things. I think, and you read it, that nobody pushed, pushed me.

By staging it that way — by responding to Congressional demands the way he did — Trump got what he wanted in the first place, and got it in a way that got far more publicity than a CNN interview. By putting Zelensky in this position, Zelensky had not choice but to agree that both the investigations Trump wanted — into 2016 and 2020 — were legitimate investigations and not, themselves, abject corruption.

Corrupt hacks like Trump and Putin make great efforts to undermine any claim that others — the West, the pre-Trump — have greater moral standing than they do. And by ensuring that within months after taking power, someone who won on a platform of reform was publicly humiliated into embracing corruption, it normalizes corruption and undercuts Zelensky’s independent base of authority.

And it was not just Zelensky that Trump displayed as a corrupt hack, either. Bill Barr has spent the last month denying that his own corrupt effort to undermine the Barr investigation had any tie to this call and the President’s extortion. With Barr, it likely doesn’t matter. He would have happily done that anyway. Barr’s effort aims to do precisely what Trump did in that presser, to paint a legitimate investigation into Russian organized crime as, itself, corrupt, all the while undermining the rule of law in this country. But by implicating Barr in his extortion attempt, Trump eliminated Barr’s ability to distance himself from the larger corrupt enterprise.

This was not, as many people imagine, about getting Zelensky to led credence to the claims about Biden, though that’s a side benefit. It was about upending the very notion of corruption.

And Trump got that, without even needing that CNN interview.

103 replies
  1. TooLoose LeTruck says:

    “But by implicating Barr in his extortion attempt, Trump eliminated Barr’s ability to distance himself from the larger corrupt enterprise.”

    Sooo… I wonder how Barr is feeling about all of this behind closed doors…

    Is he beginning to regret signing onto this soggy, decomposing mess?

    Or is he, himself, such a blind, devoted apparatchik that he’s okay w/ Donnie dragging him deeper and deeper into the quagmire that is the Trump Administration?

    Either way, it looks like Barr will go down with the ship if, hopefully, and when that time comes…

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Don’t confuse Bill Barr with the idiot incompetents surrounding Trump.

      Barr is very smart, very experienced, exceptionally conservative. He has a plan and people to back him up. Imposing legal consequences on him would be much harder than on Trump.

      • OldTulsaDude says:

        Every morning at Justice you could see him arrive
        stood 5 foot 4 and nearly as wide
        kind of round in the tummy
        and surly of lip
        everybody knew he was Donald’s pet. Bill Barr
        Bill Barr, Bill Ba-ar
        AG Barr
        Bill Barr

        Then came that day when Mueller was through
        And someone said, Don, it’s the end of you
        And they clawed and scrambled
        to find new gigs
        except for one man who liked rolling with pigs, Bill Barr
        Bill Barr, Bill Barr
        AG Barr
        Bill Barr

        Through the words and the colons and the footnotes, too
        came a reader of law that everyone knew
        grabbed a theory and turned it that way and this
        not guilty of nothing, he said full of bliss, Bill Barr
        Bill Barr, Bill Ba-ar
        AG Barr
        Bill Barr

        Called the press to come listen
        while he gave a speech
        and the White House grew hopeful
        when he said, OLC
        twenty aides scrambled from a life of spin
        now there’s only one left to make sure he wins, Bill Barr
        Bill Barr, Bell Ba-ar
        AG Barr
        Bill Barr

        With Fox and And Sinclair he made his move
        to cover and twist with subterfuge
        But truth’s right cross landed oh so sweet
        and everyone knew he was out on his feet, Bill Barr
        Bill Barr
        Bill Ba-ar
        AG Barr
        Bill Barr

      • Molly Pitcher says:

        Earl of H, I am interested in your take on just what Barr’s plan is. I know that he is very conservative and a follower (? member ? believer? not sure the correct term is here) of Opus Dei. What is the ultimate goal that motivates him to get in bed with a craven fool like Trump ? How any truly religious person could tolerate Trump is mind-boggling to me.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          I don’t have a clue what his plan is. But diametrically opposed to Trump, who burns every bridge he’s ever crossed, Barr has been for decades a superb networker among very loyal, conservative peers.

          He has conservative friends among CEOs, lawyers, academics, religious figures, politicians, and people he has mentored. That’s a helluva safety net.

          He has probably carefully structured his legal decisions to give him outs and reasonable doubt. He probably knows a lot of dirt on his opponents. He could harness his safety net against all but the staunchest attacks. It would be a war of attrition.

          Trump doesn’t have a fraction of that defense, and much of what he does have is bluster.

        • Stacey says:

          Aren’t Opus Dei members into self-punishment, flagging themselves? That seems to be a coherent answer to why Bill Barr would sign on with Trump.

          I thought Tony Schwartz’s take on Trump’s self-loathing, self-fulfilling self-torturing world view he discussed on The Beat earlier today was pretty spot on! Maybe self-flagging is something they all sort of go in for? I know if their arms get tired, I’d be fine with pinch-hitting!

  2. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Do you mean the call “memorandum,” or the “transcript?”

    The affair illustrates, too, the witless, abject corruption of the President of the United States, which benefits only Putin.

    • Vicks says:

      That’s the maga magic at work.
      Enough repetitions by Trump and his team and a “memorandum of a phone call” that is reportedly only 10 minutes when spoken aloud becomes the “transcript” that Trump readily handed over in the name of transparency.

      • Vicks says:

        I went back to re-read “It” again with the new knowledge they were feeding Zelensky scripts and how important it was to Trump for Zelensky to announce his intention to investigate Biden publicly.
        Zelensky wasn’t pandering, he was groveling.
        Trump is a monster

        • Stacey says:

          Folks may recall that I wrote regarding the initial release of this ‘transcript’ that it hit me as not remotely natural in terms of a conversation with Trump. I want to double-down on that, in light of what Marcy is saying and Trump’s releasing it when he did. One of my reasons for thinking it was completely unnatural as a spoken conversation with Trump is that Zelensky got to talk WAY TOO MUCH!

          Well, why would Trump unnaturally let someone else talk WAY TOO MUCH, because there were things he WANTED that man to say!

          The other thing that’s bothered me a great deal about Trump’s claiming this was a ‘perfect call’, which sounds odd and no one talks that way about a phone call, has always been that because it sounded ‘scripted’, as in ‘your line…my line’, like a performance, that would make it a ‘perfect call’ in Trump’s eyes. And now what Marcy’s pointing out is that it was apparently a ‘perfect call’ in terms of lifting the load Trump wanted it to lift for him–putting Zelensky in the public box.

          One way I’ve realized is useful to listen to Trump is by knowing that he says things ALL the time that only sound crazy because we think he’s talking to us and not realizing he’s talking TO someone else, or at least ABOUT something else we don’t realize is in the mix. When you put the glasses on that give you the lens of asking ‘who’s he talking to?’ or ‘what else is he talking about?’ or a fun one to ask is ‘in what small way is he telegraphing a truth in the middle of his lie?’ You get a whole new perspective on what he’s saying and usually it points to a new place in the back yard to dig for the body. He almost ALWAYS cuts his eyes toward the otherwise invisible “X” painted in the yard marking the spot!

          Trump is like a living, breathing Edgar Allan Poe character being driven crazy by the ever-increasing beating heart of the dead guy under the floor boards!!!!

          • sand says:

            Great point on the “perfect call” phrase. That means something specific to Trump more than just not criminal. He’s repeated it 100 times. He doesn’t say “beautiful call” or at least not as much, and that phrase would seem more normal for him. His brain imaging should be in the museum exhibit with the call memo, Dowd letter, WB complaint, and Taylor testimony. Narcissus at Work.

            I suppose there should be a parallel exhibit with a wax figure of Stormy, a rolled up Forbes, and Shinzo Abe’s golden putter.

          • Tom says:

            Except the Poe character has a conscience and I don’t think Trump really does, or else he works hard to suppress it.

          • Savage Librarian says:

            Thanks, Stacey. I’ve been thinking about Poe and the Telltale Heart for the past 2 months. Just because he is a malignant narcissist doesn’t mean Trump is not subject to subconscious behavior driven by guilt and shame. When you look at it that way, you can start to articulate discrepancies in his actions and speech.

          • Vicks says:

            You worded much of what I have been sensing far better than I ever could but I would like to add that I think what we are observing in Trump may be what happens when you spend an entire life in a constant state of extreme cognitive dissonance.
            As a great teacher of mine once said “if you don’t manage your shit, your shit will start managing you”
            At some point Trump seems to have disconnected from any sort of willingness to process or think at a higher level and seems to be relying on a limited amount of information and coping strategies he was able to accumulate before that time.

            • Stacey says:

              Yes, exactly, and as he decompensates further under stress, he will get more and more “Telltale Hearty” :-)

              Shame and guilt are funny things, I don’t think he is incapable of feeling either of them. I actually think he lives inside of those realities on more than an emotional level. That black hole where his soul was supposed to be is the guilt and shame of the ‘not good enough’ that has ALWAYS defined this man. He’s been this kid even his mother didn’t love, from the OUTER boroughs of NY his whole life, always trying to eat his way out of his own story. And he projects that guilt and shame onto EVERYONE around him 24/7–everything he says he sees outside of himself he is really seeing in a mirror he doesn’t know he’s looking in, but thinks it’s a window he’s looking through.

  3. Frank Probst says:

    Zelenskyy looked so physically ill at that press conference I think anyone watching would realize that he was (still) under a great deal of pressure from Trump to play ball. He may be a political novice, but I think he’s held up as well as he could here. And it doesn’t appear, at least from this side of the it thus far, that he or any of his people did much (if anything) to either investigate Burisma or chase the imaginary server around the country. His administration may still be getting up to speed, so it’s entirely possible that he would have done everything Trump wanted. And after watching the Kurds get sold up the river, he’d probably be thanking his stars that he made the right decisions and saved his country from the Russians.

    • drouse says:

      It might be a little premature to say he saved it from the Russians. He has to fend off both the Russian military and the Russian mob. And now he has Trump basically telling him that resistance is futile. He wouldn’t be the first reformer to be rode roughshod over.

  4. BG says:

    It looks like Barr has a deep (state) bench, Rudy Noun Verb 9-11 notsomuch. For lawyers who should know better, they have really put it all on the line. Each must think their hand cannot be beat. But Rudy is hedging his bets, it seems. Barr, holding.

  5. klynn says:

    Re Barr on the run…

    Let’s remind him the Netherlands have tapes…the Russians did it.

    Maybe Zel should reach out to the Netherlands, then he would not be so boxed in.

  6. Savage Librarian says:

    The problem with putting things in boxes is legendary. Myths immortalize this. One example that comes to mind is Pandora who inevitably released hope. Another is the trickster, Raven, who unintentionally released the sun, moon and stars. So, light was cast on everything.

    We have already seen some rays of hope emanate from this twisted dictate to “Put in a public box” a valued ally. This does not sound like a phrase that originated with Trump. Who whispered this in his ear? What does it sound like? Oh, I know! “Putin: a public box.”

  7. ivaluemyprivacy says:

    So, now Durham’s DOJ probe into the origins of the Russia investigation is now a criminal investigation, according to the NYT….

    • Rugger9 says:

      My read on that is as a shot across the bow for anyone else thinking they will buck the Palace on talking to the impeachment committees. After all, in terms of actual charges the Palace couldn’t make anything stick on Strzok, Page or Comey for criminal charges, so other staff should be a little encouraged to see it as the empty threat that it is.

      • ivaluemyprivacy says:

        well, its hard not to see this as part of a WH response to the impeachment inquiry; now the WH apologists can say, “See. The President was just trying to help get to the bottom of what happened in 2016.” The announcement could be politically motivated, but the change in status not be. Lots of things could have turned up. Maybe Durham found someone violating the Federal Records Act. haha.

      • Frank Probst says:

        It sounds like they’re trying to go after the people in the CIA who were “on the ground” in terms of the Russia investigation and at least expose them (and their identities) to public scrutiny. As I’ve said before, I don’t think this will end well for Team Trump. And the reason is still Gina Haspel. The current CIA director has over 30 years experience at the CIA. Rank and file CIA employees are going to be furious at this investigation, and they reportedly respect and trust her, as opposed to a standard political appointee. You don’t want to piss off the CIA. You ESPECIALLY don’t want to piss off the CIA when it has a competent leader. And the last head of the CIA was Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, so he’s now in a REALLY awkward position.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        I agree. The pressure from potential whistleblowers now probably exceeds the high pressure that existed toward the end of the BushCheney regime.

        Team Trump must be worried that if the dam breaks, it will be inundated with credible witnesses and evidence of its many abuses and crimes. So, shot across the bow.

        Another important front it is fighting on is 2020. It needs fodder for its attacks on Dems. It also needs to muddy the water to protect against claims relating to 2016. A few of those might still be actionable in January-February 2020.

  8. J R in WV says:

    As much as I hate Trump and his minions, I can’t blame the Ukrainians for doing what they must do to continue receiving military aid from the US. Staying independent of Russia and Putin is paramount to them, obviously, and should be!

  9. Lazlow K. Hud says:

    Don’t want to be a wet blanket here but if the shoez on the other foot, Taylor’s testimony is nothing more than conjecture and opinion. When I first read it my reaction was here’s a guy that’s no longer in the ‘in-group’ with the cool kids and he’s pissed.

    Regardless, numbers count; if Schiff can get a number of Taylor’s fellow travellers to repeat these claims the PR battle is won. Schiff’s doing a great job of somehow getting these narratives in the media – 😏 – and driving that Trump approval national survey down. A perception the nation’s bailed on Trump will empower more than the NeverTrumpers in the Senate to stick it to the Orange One.

    Now granted the next president’s just going to get us into more wars but that’s what weRe built for. Just have to make sure it doesn’t escalate into something we cannot control.

    • Rugger9 says:

      A few things for you from the reality-based world, and I hope the Palace paid you up front since we all know Individual-1 stiffs his contractors routinely:

      Wars defy containment and spiral out of control almost all of the time. That is in addition to the expectation well known by those of us who have served that plans rarely execute completely or smoothly.

      Taylor is a witness that provided objective evidence for his claims as noted by prior press coverage, and we should all be aware that only the opening statement has been released by the WashPo so the rest of the testimony is still under wraps. WHat has been said was that it was pretty brutal, and the attempt by the Rs to storm the SCIF yesterday made it clear they know it too.

      I should also note that the snide comment about the “access to the press” ignores Faux News’ pipeline to the Palace and that in all cases I’ve seen so far it was the GOP that leaked, not the Ds, so perhaps you and your fellow MAGA trolls should stop trying to project your “leader” onto people who have much more honor than he ever will.

      The Palace needs a war to take the attention off of the latest scandal of so many. Just like Shrub needed a war, and Reagan cut a deal with the Iranians to hold the hostages to beat Carter and cut another one for supplying the Contras in direct violation of the law.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Your assessment of Taylor’s testimony seems uninformed. What we know of it makes Sondland’s an embarrassingly obvious cover-up.

  10. Chaparral says:

    I’ve been curious about why Marie Yovanovitch was fired. Granted, the Trump administration has turnover like a fast food joint. But Yovanovitch was generally agreed to be doing a good job and, unlike some others in the State Department, had shown the remarkable restraint to not call the boss a “fucking moron’. Turns out, it was more about the almighty dollar.

    A little snippet of an NPR interview sent me off on the trail. It was the presentation of a plan by Parnas and Fruman, the guys arrested trying to leave the country.

    “What was so troubling was it was basically the presentation of the intent to take the gas sector back to where it was during the Yanukovych regime.
    One part of the plan Parnas and Fruman described at this meeting was to replace the head of Ukraine’s state-run gas company. Another part was to replace the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch.
    I had never seen anybody in any part of the world where I’ve worked – and I’ve worked in some 30 different countries – never seen a business person to claim that they could see an ambassador removed.”

    The meeting was at a Houston energy conference(likely the internationally attended CERAWeek) in march 2018. this plan the replace the Naftogaz CEO and board along with the removal of the US ambassador was presented by Parnas, Furman, and Harry Sargent. Sargent was the past finance chair of the Florida Republican party. $100,000 to the trump Victory fund.

    More than just hot air, this plan has actually been implemented. I was surprised to see the former Texas governor, Rick Perry so heavily involved. I didn’t think he had it in him.

    “A second meeting during the trip, at a Kyiv hotel, included Ukrainian officials and energy sector people. There, Perry made clear that the Trump administration wanted to see the entire Naftogaz supervisory board replaced, according to a person who attended both meetings. Perry again referenced the list of advisers that he had given Zelenskiy, and it was widely interpreted that he wanted Michael Bleyzer, a Ukrainian-American businessman from Texas, to join the newly formed board, the person said. Also on the list was Robert Bensh, another Texan who frequently works in Ukraine, the Energy Department confirmed.

    Gordon D. Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, and Kurt D. Volker, then the State Department’s special envoy to Ukraine, were also in the room, according to photographs reviewed by AP.”

    • Chaparral says:

      I seem to have hit a vein here. Naftogaz is the real story in the Ukraine deal. Rudy and the prez just got sidetracked with their conspiracy theories. The phone call, requested by Rick Perry, that set off the impeachment inquiry was supposed to be about gas contracts. Makes me wonder about the real motive for the funds hold.

      Naftogas is the nationalized oil and gas company of Ukraine. They are the chokepoint in natural gas transmission between Russia and the EU. They are involved in along series of suits and countersuits and rate disputes. They have traditionally been a thoroughly corrupt organization. Their current executives and board has made some progress toward untangling that web of corruption.

      It seems this was an opportunity to install a more American form of corruption. Might be one of the few moves this our current administration has made that is not clearly advantage Russia. But this one is more clearly motivated by money rather than politics. These a couple of good compilations of what we know so far from the gas angle. What they are not clear about is the timeline. We know that original presentation of this plan was March 2018. This has been in the works for a long time.

      There are a few questions that come up here. Why did the ambassador(from the beginning of the plan) have to go? Was the corruption of the original plan going to be that obvious? The three stooges at the Houston meet didn’t have the juice to change the board of directors, let alone the ambassador. Who really set this up in the first place? If this was really about the gas supply, why the hold on defense funds? What was business angle? If you’re selling LNG there are easier bigger markets. How were they going to make the money? And why was it a Russian supplying the money for the political buys?

      I see a rabbithole in my future.

      • Chaparral says:

        The inside line from the Ukraine is that the current CEO of Naftogaz, Andriy Kobolev, like most CEOs, has a natural succession plan. His ally and chosen successor seems to be none other than Andriy Favorov. The same Favorov that thought the Houston proposal to replace Kobolev and install him, Favorov, as CEO was a scam. Considering the influence and veto power the G7 and US have over Naftogaz executive selection, why go to all this trouble for something looked like it was going to happen naturally?? Or is this another case of the gang who couldn’t shoot straight just blasting away?

          • Chaparral says:

            “Ukraine’s Cabinet of Ministers has rejected the idea of changing the head of the board of the NJSC Naftogaz, national oil and gas company of Ukraine, and extended the contract with its CEO Andriy Kobolev for another year. The decision was made under pressure from the ambassadors of the G-7 countries, who had previously met to discuss this issue with PM Volodymyr Groysman. On the one hand, having achieved the displacement of Kobolev, as our sources say, Groysman could play to at least four centers of influence, behind which well-known oligarchs and politicians who have an interest Naftogaz stand. On the other hand, it would be awkward for the PM to quarrel with influential representatives of the international community.”

            My presumption is that they are exerting influence both to tamp down the originally bizarre oligarch levels of corruption and to insure a continued gas supply to the EU.

            • P J Evans says:

              Interests are one thing – control is another. The US doesn’t buy gas from Ukraine. In fact, the problem involved guys trying to sell US gas *to* Ukraine in return for putting in US-approved management. Which is corrupt in itself.

      • Rayne says:

        Just catching on, huh? Ukraine’s always been about fossil fuels and in particular, about natural gas — but even saying it’s about fossil fuels is simplistic.

        It’s about controlling the EU via asymmetric warfare and siphoning off huge amounts of money from fossil fuels at the same time.

        Your next tunnel in the warren is Nordstream2. Consider what the implications are for our NATO allies.

        • Naargh Nargo says:

          Rayne, I’m learning so much from you and the others on this site during these confusing times, and I feel like a frog on a hot griddle jumping around all the links. The “asymmetric warfare” one above (to your 20 Sept “Minority Report” piece on Ukraine’s place in the petro-wars), led to another aha moment (actually, a series of them). Thank you for helping me get up to some semblance of speed.
          A quick query if I may: Rachel Maddow’s just-published *Blowout* appears to cover similar ground, if obviously at much greater length. I’ve not had time to read it yet, but have you, and if so have you formed any opinions on it? Thanks…

        • Chaparral says:

          Even though we are up to our ass in alligators let’s not lose sight of why we came here. Who was behind this plan to expel the American ambassador and takeover Naftogaz?

          Following Rayne’s excellent suggestion, I went down the pipeline path. Soon found it forked into EU supply and domestic Ukrainian supply. There are a lot of moving parts here, some really fascinating areas to explore(did you know that the rich Ukrainine shale gas deposits[Ukraine has the 3rd largest gas reserves in Europe] were once physically joined to the Pennsylvania Marcellus gas shale?), and I’ve talked to several very interesting people. The level of corruption in the Ukraine is incredibly deep and complicated.

          In the midst of this swirl, one name kept coming back. Dmytro Firtash. He is the bull goose oligarch in the Ukraine. Also, reputedly a made man in the Russian mafioso. He is currently under house arrest is Vienna Austria for Austrian corruption charges. (Same place Rudy and the stooges were headed) The federal court in Chicago has been trying to extradite him for 4 years on US corruption charges. A bribery scheme in India to supply titanium to Boeing. Anybody have more on the Austrian charges? Or an inside line on the Chicago case? The work of the Chicago court will determine when this mobster shows up on US soil.

          That’s the nut of it. As the week goes on I’ll try to tell more of the Euro gas story. It’s been a great hunt.

  11. Tom says:

    Chuck Rosenberg was on the Rachel Maddow Show last night, apparently trying to see the bright side of the Durham review turning into a criminal investigation. Rosenberg said that he knows, likes, and admires John Durham–“I trust him”–and that he was certain Durham would do a careful and methodical job, even if it took years. Rosenberg also thought it might be a good thing for Durham to be able to empanel a grand jury and subpoena witnesses, implying that a thorough investigation might be the means to finally put a stake through the heart of all those conspiracy theories floating around about the 2016 election.

    But Rosenberg was also supportive of Bill Barr’s appointment as AG, a matter on which he later admitted he had been mistaken. And I highly doubt that Barr (or Trump) will be content to have Durham beavering away in the background on his investigation for the next several years–they’re going to want results and fast.

    • dude says:

      So if Durham spins out an investigation in the background as impeachment inches forward, and Bill Barr is declassifying CIA secrets to help Durham “review” things, does any of this give Barr grounds to re-classify evidence in impeachment as “national security” until Durham gets finished? (Seems like this re-classifying trick was done before.) Can’t he gag public testimony (and make the public depend solely on the testimony of Democrats interpreting other witness testimony)? Do we assume the released testimony is really so peerless that there will be sideshow fault-finding by Republicans to blow more smoke into everyone’s eyes? I know the transcript of the phone call should be enough to settle the matter, but even the Dems aren’t relying on it as sufficient–they are spending time developing the context to make the offense more understandable to average people like me. It seems to me the fog is about to get thicker and I do not see big fans being set up to blow it all away.

      • Tom says:

        And is Barr planning on ‘summarizing’ whatever Durham comes up with in the same way he falsely represented the findings of the Mueller Report? Matt Miller vouched for Durham on The Last Word last night as well, but I don’t see Barr’s goal as being anything other than to undermine the Russian investigation in favour of his pet conspiracy theories, no matter how bizarre and unlikely. I also think he’ll use that as the basis to further excuse and rationalize Trump’s trampling on democratic norms, including the Ukraine scandal, on the grounds that the President was “frustrated and angered” by the now debunked (according to what Barr plans to demonstrate though with what evidence, who knows?) Russia probe.

  12. Re entry says:

    ‘Bill Barr has spent the last month denying that his own corrupt effort to undermine the Barr investigation had any tie to this call and the President’s extortion.’

    I could be wrong, but Mueller investigation?

  13. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Tulsi Gabbard is the Sarah Palin of Congress. Fortunately for Hawaii, she does not plan to keep her seat, but to hopelessly continue her quest for the presidency. Success is so unlikely, she must be seeking something else. A lucrative celebrity gig on Faux Noise, perhaps. The parallels are inescapable. Pity that, though misquoted by the NYT, Ms. Clinton was right once again.

  14. harpie says:

    Marcy: Taylor would learn on July 19 that at a July 10 meeting (the one after which John Bolton accused Mick Mulvaney and Volker of setting up a drug deal), Sondland tied “investigations” to an Oval Office meeting with Trump.

    wrt: Bolton,from Shimon Prokupecz :
    6:12 AM – 25 Oct 2019

    !!! John Bolton’s lawyers have consulted with the impeachment inquiry committees about a possible deposition. @kylieatwood

  15. harpie says:

    Marcy: That was one day before Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire should have transmitted the whistleblower complaint to Congress. It was two days before OLC would write a memo, which it overclassified as Top Secret, claiming Maguire could ignore the law and withhold the complaint.

    wrt: that OLC opinion:
    5:45 AM – 25 Oct 2019

    New: In letter, Inspectors General repudiate DoJ OLC opinion that the whistleblower’s complaint was not an “urgent concern.” [screenshots]

    • harpie says:

      Ryan Reilly has more, and a pdf. of the letter:
      7:15 AM – 25 Oct 2019

      NEW: government watchdogs warn the DOJ OLC opinion that justified hiding the whistleblower complaint “has the potential to undermine [inspector general] independence across the federal government.” [link]

      “the OLC opinion could seriously impair whistleblowing and deter individuals in the intelligence community and throughout the government from reporting government waste, fraud, abuse, and misconduct.”

      Michael Horowitz is the first signer.
      [added: Wow, there are a LOT of IG’s!]

      • harpie says:

        From the letter:

        […] Further, as addressed in detail below, OLC’s interpretation regarding the ICWPA procedure in question, which mirrors the procedure that Congress included in Section 5(d) of the Inspector General Act of 1978 (IG Act), has the potential to undermine IG independence across the federal government. […]

        …perhaps Barr, et al consider this a feature, not a bug?…

  16. earlofhuntingdon says:

    @bmaz lauds Hillary Clinton’s remembrance of Elijah Cummings. Nancy Pelosi’s was, “good, but overly, and painfully, bent on being ‘bi-partisan.'” The NPR-like bothsiderism is unnecessary, even harmful.

    I believe that Cummings was a lifelong advocate for humane and generous treatment of all Americans. He chose to stay in his home town long after his success allowed him to relocate to a fancy DC neighborhood. He didn’t need that to make himself whole: he was whole and home was home. Helping his neighbors improve their lives was his passion.

    The thing is, Elijah Cummings was like many Americans, just more so. But his view of the world, and government’s place in it – a perspective AOC follows – has become a “radical leftist” idea. Even thinking about it makes half of DC afraid that a 1950s G-man is about to ask them, “Are you now, or have you ever been….”

    Above-the-fray bipartisanship does not combat that reality. It ignores it, in the way that Obama’s post-racial arguments ignored America’s persistent racism. Having ignored it, it cannot do anything about it.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Turning the other cheek and treating others the way you want to be treated does not mean that you allow yourself to be treated like a patsy by those who oppose you.

      It does not mean that you assume your standards are theirs. Making them so is a work in process – a hopeless one for sociopaths like Trump, a potential success for many others.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        But if nothing else, and like every good teacher, Mr. Cummings modeled the behavior he expected from others.

    • Rayne says:

      Yup. Internal polling must have looked grim if she threw in the towel. Now the scuttlebutt is that she’s looking at a third-party run, but will the Greens want her? Will she run independently? And assuming her internal polling in Hawaii is bad, what’s polling for POTUS run look like in comparison?

      She’d stand a more credible chance if she was running against Clinton but she’s not.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      That’s the Don. He’s never heard the slogan that there is no “I” in team.

      His self-absorption and drive to micro-manage is why any legitimate prosecution would find him culpable. He is responsible for whomever does his bidding, be it a person (Giuliani, Barr) or corporation (it’s called the Trump Organization for a reason).

      It’s always about the Don. He is long past deserving any assumption of good faith.

  17. harpie says:

    Can it get any more crazy? YES it can!

    Rudy Giuliani butt-dials NBC reporter, heard discussing need for cash and trashing Bidens
    “The problem is we need some money,” Giuliani says to unidentified man during accidental call to NBC News writer.
    Rich Schapiro Oct. 25, 2019, 2:42 PM EDT / Updated Oct. 25, 2019, 2:51 PM EDT

    Late in the evening on Oct. 16, Rudy Giuliani made a phone call to this reporter. […]

    • harpie says:

      From the article:

      “Is Robert around?” Giuliani asks.

      “He’s in Turkey,” the man responds.

      Giuliani replies instantly. “The problem is we need some money.”

      The two men then go silent. Nine seconds pass. No word is spoken.
      Then Giuliani chimes in again. “We need a few hundred thousand,” he says.

      It’s unclear what the two men were talking about. But Giuliani is known to have worked closely with a Robert who has ties to Turkey. His name is Robert Mangas, and he’s a lawyer at the firm Greenberg Traurig LLP, as well as a registered agent of the Turkish government. Giuliani himself was employed by Greenberg Traurig until about May 2018.

      Mangas’s name appears in court documents related to the case of Reza Zarrab, a Turkish gold trader charged in the U.S. with laundering Iranian money in a scheme to evade American sanctions. […]

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          Geography mostly. The West has been fighting over it for centuries.

          Among other things, Turkey controls access from the Black Sea to the Med. It controls overland routes from the East and Caucasus to ports in the Med, through which oil, gas, and transportation might flow.

          It has considerable influence over Greece and the Balkans. It borders areas areas the Russians consider theirs. It is a vulnerable member of NATO and is a wannabe member of the EU.

          Undercutting US influence over it would be a huge win for Vlad.

      • harpie says:

        Read Adam Klasfeld‘s thread on this:
        12:25 PM – 25 Oct 2019

        […] Mangas did not respond to NBC’s inquiry in the story. Worth noting: A Greenberg Traurig shareholder swore in an affidavit back then that there was an “ethical wall” erected between the registered Turkish agent side of the firm and Giuliani’s representation of Zarrab [screenshot]

        […] We subsequently created an ethical wall to ensure complete separation of the representation of Mr. Zarrab from the representation of the subject banks and the representation of Turkey […]

        So if NBC’s correct in suspecting a connection between Giuliani and Mangas in this butt dial, that’s no small deal.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          “Chinese” walls are working restrictions meant to isolate different teams of lawyers who work on matters involving potential or actual conflicts of interest.

          While formally meant to protect clients on either side of the wall, they are also intended to allow the firm to take on more fee-paying work, which, owing to conflict of interest rules, they would otherwise be prohibited from undertaking.

          They are only sometimes effective. To work, they require cooperation from the responsible partners on either side of the wall in disciplining themselves and their staffs to respect it.

          Rudy, like Trump, deserves no good faith assumption that he would respect a wall that was meant to preserve the firm’s interest rather than his own.

          In fact, one should assume the opposite: that Rudy would readily ignore a restraint were it to interfere with his own or his client’s interest. That might be one reason Rudy no longer works at that firm.

          • bmaz says:

            Earl is being kind. “Chinese walls” is indeed a thing in law firm parlance. But it is almost entirely a fiction that has allowed large firms to keep lucrative clients and business when they should not. Smaller and more ethical firms simply conflict off instead of engaging in bullshit like Chinese Walls. It is ridiculous that courts have ever given the concept one iota of legitimacy, because there is none.

            • earlofhuntingdon says:

              I’ve seen it used by Wall Street firms as a way to enforce their claim that they do ALL of a corporate client’s work, in exchange for their agreed fee structure.

              The firm, in effect, threatens to stop doing a corporate client’s work if it insists that a conflict is real and the firm cannot ethically represent both clients. The threat is also that the firm will continue to work for the adamant client’s competitor, making it more vulnerable.

              It is a power structure in which the firm has more power than either client. The twist of the knife is that these arrangements require the clients’ supposed consent. Only the strongest clients can turn down an offer the firm hopes they can’t refuse.

        • Rayne says:

          This butt dialing is so ridiculously inept I can’t help wonder if there was some form of outside intervention. But then it’s Rudy who’s managed to screw up three marriages including one to his cousin.

  18. Kick the darkess says:

    “By staging it that way… Trump got what he wanted in the first place…Zelensky had no choice but to agree that both the investigations Trump wanted…..were legitimate investigations.”

    I guess a question would be whether Trump’s nursery of broken toys could have envisioned and pulled off such a stunt on their own. Also, releasing a version of the call came at a high cost to Trump, especially since at this point his supporters and enablers may not give two shits whether investigating a domestic political rival appears legitimate or not. So who gains the most by placing Zelensky in a box? Hmmm.

    “Corrupt hacks like Trump and Putin make great efforts to undermine any claim that others — the West, the pre-Trump — have greater moral standing than they do. And by ensuring that within months after taking power, someone who won on a platform of reform was publicly humiliated into embracing corruption, it normalizes corruption and undercuts Zelensky’s independent base of authority.”

    The authors of the MSM clicks Americans read every day need to be pointing this out over and over, first and last paragraph of every story about the daily cacophony. And Democratic presidential candidates stumping around. That would at least be something. The pre-Trump implies a post-Trump, perhaps one in which it may be very difficult to just dust ourselves off and carry on. Because the long game of course is not just Zelensky and the Ukraine. It’s for the very concept of a moral standing to appear philosophically unsustainable. To get Western democracies to dismiss themselves with a cynical shrug-the inconsistencies of human nature and the horrors of history obviously mean everything is equivalently meaningless. How could anyone think otherwise? Since its all the same in the end anything goes. Thus, with a smirk, the corrupt invite us to stop trying. If sufficient numbers do so, they win.

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