The Ellipses and the Recordings, Plural, of Joe Biden

Before I get into the NYT report on Alexander Vindman’s testimony that the White House removed damning things from the transcript of the July 25 call, I want to note something from his opening statement. At the end of his description of who he is and what he does, Vindman warned that the impeachment inquiry should carefully balance the need for disclosure against national security concerns.

Most of my interactions relate to national security issues and are therefore especially sensitive. I would urge the Committees to carefully balance the need for information against the impact that disclosure would have on our foreign policy and national security.

Then, when discussing the July 25 call, Vindman emphasized that, because the transcript is in the public record, “we are all aware of what was said.”

On July 25, 2019, the call occurred. I listened in on the call in the Situation Room with colleagues from the NSC and the office of the Vice President. As the transcript is in the public record, we are all aware of what was said.

I was concerned by the call. I did not think it was proper to demand that a foreign government investigate a U.S. citizen, and I was worried about the implications for the U.S. government’s support of Ukraine. I realized that if Ukraine pursued an investigation into the Bidens and Burisma, it would likely be interpreted as a partisan play which would undoubtedly result in Ukraine losing the bipartisan support it has thus far maintained.

Yet immediately following his statement that “we are all aware of what was said,” Vindman asserts that the call was about investigating the Bidens and Burisma. But Burisma doesn’t appear in the TELCON. It is one of the things that, according to the NYT, the White House removed — where it says “the company” in this passage — and he recommended it be put back in.

I understand and 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. [my emphasis]

NYCSouthpaw had said once this had to be a reference to Burisma — he was absolutely correct.

According to NYT, the ellipsis in this passage of the TELCON,

Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it …

… Took out a reference to Joe Biden talking about getting Viktor Shokin fired.

The omissions, Colonel Vindman said, included Mr. Trump’s assertion that there were recordings of former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. discussing Ukraine corruption,


The rough transcript also contains ellipses at three points where Mr. Trump is speaking. Colonel Vindman told investigators that at the point of the transcript where the third set of ellipses appear, Mr. Trump said there were tapes of Mr. Biden.

Mr. Trump’s mention of tapes is an apparent reference to Mr. Biden’s comments at a January 2018 event about his effort to get Ukraine to force out its prosecutor general, Viktor Shokin. [my emphasis]

The NYT and other outlets have asserted that this is a reference to a video that Rudy Giuliani has been publicly shopping for some time, and it undoubtedly is that, at least.

But I want to suggest the possibility that it’s a reference to more.

The NYT goes to absurd lengths to make this appear as innocuous as possible, seemingly offering up the possibility that the words “the company” appeared because of a failure of the voice recognition software (though the TELCON itself notes that such a possibility would be marked by “inaudible” in the transcript).

It is not clear why some of Colonel Vindman’s changes were not made, while others he recommended were, but the decision by a White House lawyer to quickly lock down the reconstructed transcript subverted the normal process of handling such documents.

The note-takers and voice recognition software used during the July 25 call had missed Mr. Zelensky saying the word “Burisma,” but the reconstructed transcript does reference “the company,” and suggests that the Ukrainian president is aware that it is of great interest to Mr. Trump.

Which is one reason I find it notable that the NYT suggests the reference to recordings refers solely to a single publicly known recording of Biden even though both times they refer to Vindman’s testimony, they refer to tapes or recordings, plural.

The thing is, there are undoubtedly are tapes, plural, of Biden talking about firing Shokin. Indeed, in the recording in question, Biden even says that he had already gotten a commitment from Petro Poroshenko to fire Shokin.

I had gotten a commitment from Poroshenko and from Yatsenyuk that they would take action against the state prosecutor. And they didn’t.

So at the very least, there are the US versions of prior communications in which Biden would have emphasized the importance of firing Shokin. And there may well be other recordings reflecting that the ask happened, for example of Poroshenko talking to Arseniy Yatsenyuk about it. Given that getting Poroshenko to act on corruption was a key focus of Obama’s policy, it would have been a key focus of SIGINT collection. So if we had the ability to collect such conversations, we would have done so. And if we did, those recordings would still be sitting at NSA available to anyone with the need to know.

Trump would have legal access to all of that and, given his focus on Ukraine and “corruption,” an excuse to pull it up. Given that this purported concern about “corruption” is part of the official, stated policy of the US, it is not at all crazy to assume that his aides have pulled existing intercepts pertaining to past discussions of corruption and if they did, they would have, by definition, involved Joe Biden, because he was the one Obama tasked to take care of such issues.

And if there were — and if Trump’s comment reflected knowledge of that — it would explain two other details.

First, Vindman clearly doesn’t think all of the details about this call should be aired publicly. It’s certainly possible that he just didn’t want it to become public that Zelensky had parroted Trump’s demand to investigate Burisma. As I noted, by releasing the transcript, Trump has already made it clear that he succeeded in corrupting Zelensky, who ran on a platform of ending corruption. Revealing that Zelensky was literally repeating the script that Gordon Sondland had dictated for him would make that worse.

It’s also possible that whatever the other two ellipses in the TELCON hide are things he believes should remain secret. Vindman certainly would know what those ellipses hide, even if he didn’t recommend adding those details back in, and surely got asked about it yesterday.

But a national security professional like Vindman would also want to keep any details about intercepts classified. Even just the fact — not at all controversial but not something spoken of in polite company — that the US was sitting on records of Poroshenko’s resistance to dealing with corruption would be the kind of thing Vindman might want to keep secret.

Again, it may be that Vindman’s concerns about airing this dirty laundry involve nothing more than an effort to minimize the damage already done to Zelensky. But it may reflect more specific concerns about sources and methods.

And if the original transcript did reflect sources and methods, it might provide an excuse for John Eisenberg to insist it be stored on the Top Secret server. Again, his decision to do so may extend no further than a desire to cover up the President’s crime. But if the call reflected more sensitive collection, then it would need to be stored on a more secure server. That also might explain why everyone else — except the whistleblower, who wasn’t on the call — treated these details as Top Secret.

The existing TELCON does not hide that Trump was discussing right wing propaganda with Zelensky. So there would be no reason to remove Trump’s reference to another piece of right wing propaganda. But the treatment of it suggests that the TELCON as released removed classified information (the document is titled “Unclassified,” suggesting that if the TELCON included the statements reflected in the ellipses, it’d be Classified). In which case, there may be other recordings, recordings that are classified and aren’t known to every frothy right winger spouting propaganda.

For some reason, the NYT thinks Trump referred to more than one recording of Biden talking corruption. It is not at all unreasonable to imagine he knows of classified recordings.

132 replies
  1. dc says:

    If there were sources and methods data in the call, this would be a good reason to have the convo on the secure server and would undermine the accusation of improper classification and disposition. Trump team has not made this assertion, which would be an easy defense. Maybe not making the assertion to avoid scrutiny of improper use of intelligence for political purposes- like what they accuse the deep state of doing in 2016? Or maybe not defending the classification and server move because it really is indefensible….
    Dems don’t seem to be interested in exploring the ellipses based on what has been leaked thus far.

      • dc says:

        I was referring to the spin in the NYT last night and and other reports attributed to cmttee dems that the content in the ellipses is not transformative to the overall narrative. It seems we would have aligned messaging demanding the details if it was thought to be otherwise.

  2. OldTulsaDude says:

    Could it be that because Trump gave Barr security clearance authority that Barr is the one who listened to the classified tapes and informed Trump? Trump, then, as he is prone to do simply blabbed it out.

  3. skua says:

    A sensitivity of Vidman that he has indicated is about the US-Ukraine relationship remaining positive and bi/non-partisan with respect to Dem/Repubs.
    I’m wondering if some of what he is happy to have remain redacted would act to negatively valence one (or both?) party towards Ukraine if publicized?

    • Vinnnie Gambone says:

      Poor Zelensky, his citizens lives are on the line, the territory of his nation being stolen, his presidency is in its infancy, and worst than all of it he has to deal with Trump who essentially is asking him to sell his soul. Let’s be honest, the message Zelensky hears when Trump says, ” get to the bottom of this…” is make something up if you have to. Give me something I can cudgel Biden with. Any contrivance will do. Turns out they didn’t need Zelensky. Rudy and his two apes Parnas and Fruman had the interview between the crooked prosecutor and Hannity all set up. Trump wasn’t asking for dirt so much as implying they should set Biden up. That’s the plan Guliani was executing. This is Mulberry Street tactics.

  4. BobCon says:

    The thing that jumps to mind is if recordings were pulled regarding Ukraine for political gain, has the Trump camp been making a habit of doing this on other subjects as well?

    I’m not sure how either party’s leadership would want to deal with that possibility.

  5. brian ed says:

    But isn’t it also true that he always says that shit. He has said lies specifically about tapes before. To us.

    It’s the art of deal. lie, don’t pay.

    • brian ed says:

      It fits with the timing issue as well.
      Trump practicing the art, lies about tapes. genius dealing. he knows people are scared of tapes.

      Handlers pause conversation to find out just which tapes he is talking about. Entirety is classified because now it reveals sources and methods.

  6. Yogarhythms says:

    “But I want to suggest the possibility that it’s a reference to more., “
    “Trump has already made it clear that he succeeded in corrupting Zelensky, who ran on a platform of ending corruption.”
    Animal hater creates parrot. NSA pod cast’s don’t require reading.
    Pray that illuminating path will lead to bright shiny objects being picked up and returned to toy box before more lives are lost.

  7. Kevin C. says:

    Slightly off topic, but I have been wondering why these two names have not been coming up more often. That is Dan Coats former DNI and the lady ( sorry her name escapes me right now) that was going to be in the active role once he left. Wasn’t there a meeting in early August where she was told she should resign immediately by Dan Coats? It seems maybe he knew the shitshow was starting to role? Seems like maybe they would be good to here from? Anyone know why these names have kind of been off the radar?

  8. fikshun says:

    Another possibility is that additional tapes don’t exist … yet. Deepfake technology is mature enough that a Biden tape could be manufactured. Imagine a scenario where impeachment is closing in on Trump over this issue and then, at a pivotal moment, a new tape emerges that makes Trump appear correct in his pursuit of the Biden family.

      • Jockobadger says:

        My sister works for Microsoft in cyber security and she assures me that white hat folk would immediately know if “deepfake” artisans were at work and what apps they were using. These are very smart people – they will not be tricked by the likes of this maladmin and their jackals. More will be revealed. Keep the faith (but pass the ammunition.)

        • fikshun says:

          I don’t think it would be too hard to cover tracks. Degrading the audio and video bitrate in post can do a lot to hide artifacting. But even if your sister’s group can prove that a video is fake (and I very much hope they can), how long would that take? From the moment Trump retweets a deepfaked video, his followers will gobble it up. If Fox thinks there’s enough uncertainty about the provenance of the video, they’ll keep looping it. A new deep state conspiracy would emerge and it would provide enough of a foothold for Trump’s acolytes to continue supporting him.

          • dwoolly says:

            I was just worrying about this very thing as I was reading this article.
            I’m not a forensic audiologist, but I do work in audio, and it seems to me it’d be pretty hard to tell the difference between a real piece of audio or something that was faked. It wouldn’t take much effort to put something together that sounded like the real deal.
            I would not be surprised if sometime in the next week or two we hear some kind of Biden “tape”. Trump seems to always have good timing with these kinds of distractions.

            • fikshun says:

              Hey hey, it’s always good to hear from another audio person!

              I still think it’s easier to fake video than audio, but Adobe’s VoCo concerns me. It’s always possible that it’s just vaporware or that there are other issues involved, but if that software is real and it gets into the wrong hands, it wouldn’t be hard to script an authentic-sounding phone call between Joe Biden and Bugs Bunny.

              If there was any artifacting caused by different syllables coming from different source, or aliasing or anything like that, a lot could be concealed with some background noise, a good compressor, and downsampling/bitcrushing the final cut.

              The really tough part about audio in a situation like this is that our auditory nerves are wired most directly to our brain stems. We feel and have emotional responses to sounds before we rationally process them. If we were to hear deepfaked audio of someone we loved and trusted, saying disparaging things about us and betraying us, it would likely take a while to completely trust that person again, even though we rationally understood that the audio we had heard had been faked.

              That’s why I’m concerned about how long it would take to respond to a deepfake. If Trump can retweet something that doesn’t get debunked until after the evening news cycle, that would be really damaging. People would go to sleep that night, having a strong emotional reaction to something that wasn’t true. It would stick with them. Committed Democrats could be swayed to support another Dem candidate. Centrist, Independents, and others might hesitate to support that candidate in the general election.

              • Jockobadger says:

                All good points Fikshun. You clearly know a LOT more about this stuff than I do and I respectfully defer. My problem is that I remain optimistic that the truth will out and forcefully enough that at least some R’s will want to protect whatever shred of legacy they have left. Silly me.

                It does appear to me at least that there is some minimal movement toward truth amongst the R’s but it’s prob “just my imaginashun, runnin’ away with me…”

                Keep up the good work all. Thanks!


              • dwoolly says:

                Fishkun, yes, you’re right, it would be damaging because people wouldn’t be able to “unhear” it.
                I feel like if they did a fake Biden phone call, it would do a lot of damage to Biden.
                Yet there was that actual recording of Trump on the bus that didn’t seem to make a lump of difference. If someone came forward with the actual recording of Trump and the Ukraine pres, and Trump said, “I want you to make up dirt on Biden”, it would make zero difference to his presidency, or impeachment proceedings. Not sure why there’s that double standard.

                And from a technical point of view, I think I could whip up a fake phone call in a matter of minutes if someone handed me audio of unrelated conversations that I could sample from. I do music, but could easily doctor a passable fake take. I think our colleagues that work in the sound FX departments of TV shows or film crews could do one that would sound nearly perfect. Depressing thought.

  9. Andrew Long says:

    This part:
    “It’s certainly possible that he just didn’t want it to become public that Zelensky had parroted Trump’s demand to investigate Burisma.”

    doesn’t scan with Vindman’s reported testimony, that he recommended that Zelensky’s actual words when he used the name Burisma be added back in to the TELCON before it was approved.

  10. Fran of the North says:

    As EW’s preamble elucidates, Lt Col. Vindman’s opening statement urges the committee to carefully weigh the impact of disclosure on both national security and foreign policy.

    The analysis that the released memorandum of the July 25 conversation includes ellipses that may have been inserted, and the word for word transcript secured, for natsec reasons is certainly plausible if not probable.

    Additionally, the disclosure of the existence of one or more recordings of Biden’s conversations with Ukrainian leadership, if gathered via NRO or other surveillance methods could be damaging to US interests.

    If one or both of these suppositions is accurate, the original sin is that they were shared with a foreign government in pursuit of political advantage. Although a president has the power to declassify information, when done unwisely, it adds furthers the discussion on fitness for office.

    One can only hope that reality dawns on some portion of the GOP, and they realize the destruction to the world, our country, citizens and their own party generated by their blind loyalty.

    • timbo says:

      Interesting point. What things has Trump “declassified” that might be impeachable based on incompetence/risk to national security? A really, really good question.

  11. sand says:


    One note: The penultimate sentence says NYT seems to think the opposite of what earlier sentences say it seems to think.

    . . . the NYT suggests the reference to recordings refers solely to a single publicly known recording of Biden . . .
    For some reason, the NYT thinks Trump referred to more than one recording of Biden talking corruption.

    Maybe sometimes NYT doesn’t seem to think much at all. But I don’t want to bash them too much. Even Trump knows bad press is better than no press ;)

  12. Raven Eye says:

    “And if the original transcript did reflect sources and methods, it might provide an excuse for John Eisenberg to insist it be stored on the Top Secret server.”

    If sources and methods were explicitly or implicitly part of the phone call, then we could have a situation where the President (again) shared that information with one or more uncleared foreign nationals. This wouldn’t be just some administrative slip-up within a tight group of allies such as Five Eyes — it would be a significant lapse in security.

    • P J Evans says:

      If there’s one thing we’ve learned over the last three years, it’s that Trmp has no clue about this kind of security.

      • timbo says:

        But he does know how to strong arm folks with made up bull-pucky. And he has the authority to declassify any bull-pucky or national jewels he runs across for his own urges.

    • timbo says:

      Meh. You are making assumptions about US assets and capabilities that don’t take all possibilities into account. Best to just let things unfold than speculate IMO…

      • Raven Eye says:

        Thus the use of the word “If” as the first word of my first sentence — later followed by “then”. If-then. The case does not rely on assumption.

    • harpie says:

      But Vindman was instructed “at the last second” not to attend the [May 23] debriefing, he told lawmakers, because Trump’s advisers were worried it might confuse the president—Trump believed at the time that Kashyap Patel, a longtime Nunes staffer who joined the White House in February and had no discernable Ukraine experience or expertise, was actually the NSC’s top Ukraine expert instead of Vindman. [emphasis added][…]

      • Rayne says:

        It’s stuff like this which persuades me to believe the presidency is occupied by a group of people managing policy versus the president himself. He’s just along for the ride and to occasionally obscure the view as to who is running the show.

        • EH says:

          That may be why they like Reagan so much: he’s the origin story for this strategy. The story goes: Repubs learned a lesson from Nixon not to elect someone who knows how to exploit power. Reagan, Bush41, Bush43 was a puppet and Trump is also a puppet (though maybe a touch more than they bargained for). They’re run by a melange of Cheney, Atwater, and Meese acolytes.

          • P J Evans says:

            Bush41 knew how to use power. Remember, he’d been a senator and after that ran the CIA. (Before he went into politics he ran an offshore-drilling company – also using power. And possibly also helping the agency get people in and out of various foreign countries.)

      • Vicks says:

        So this Patel fellow just waltzes in and runs a con on the president of the United States?
        Does he have security clearance?
        Is this why Trumps said there are multiple tapes of Biden?
        Who else are these disruptors (better word please?) feeding their crap too?
        Why the hell are the “heros” so late in telling the tale?

      • klynn says:

        “…might confuse the President.”

        Then I guess it is time to remove him. He’s unfit.

        Seriously, Patel is bad news. This incident reeks of rot.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      In one sense, it’s hilarious. Kash Patel is an expert at being incompetent and at sucking up to his patrons. Most law students probably know more law than he does, for example. He is not an expert anything else, unlike Vindman.

      Who inside NSC and the Chief of Staff’s office enabled this obvious fraud – lie – deception? (The “misrepresentation” euphemism is another lie.) That’s a systemic problem – and it’s unlikely to infect only Ukraine policy.

      Patel really is a coffee boy, a disposable gofer for his patrons. So is Nunes. As rayne asks, who are the patrons pulling their strings. It ain’t Donald Trump.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        What does it say about Trump that he could not tell the difference between serial incompetent Patel and a real expert on a foreign country, who would, for example, necessarily speak the local language?

        What does it say about Trump’s White House that its key figures actively perpetrated a fraud by assuring Trump that Patel was such an expert?

        What does it tell every foreign government observing this farce about how untrustworthy Trump’s government is, and how easily manipulated?

          • earlofhuntingdon says:

            This is Donald Trump. True, he hates “experts” because they remind him that he is galactically stupid.

            He also doesn’t like them because they are loyal to facts and logical analysis, which tends to make them loyal to the abstract – the Constitution, for example – rather or in addition to an individual leader. It drives them sometimes to say, No. (Condi Rice challenges those rules.)

            More important, though, is that Trump’s primary response is to sycophancy. Yes, you pass muster, no, you don’t qualify.

        • timbo says:

          Always assume that the person who became President knew what they were doing when they did it. And, if you end up being wrong about that then, well, impeachment is one road out. In theory.

  13. dwfreeman says:

    Vindman made complaints about two calls, one on July 10 and then on July 25. He registered those through proper channels. He apparently contends that in his effort to correct the call record, certain documented additions were made and others weren’t.

    The summary transcript was released by the White House hours before the WB complaint became public through Congress by Schiff’s office.

    At the time, the view on the release was that the White House was being incredibly transparent and doing something unusually remarkable especially given its stonewalling efforts in the post-Mueller Report period in which it fought every effort to block any legal move to secure public records or testimony about its actions. The transparency claim was a chief talking point from Republicans when the call summary was disclosed.

    But that record was incomplete for a reason. And back then, it failed to support certain reporting about the call from the Wall Street Journal among others that Trump emphasized the need for Ukraine to conduct certain investigations, and that Trump had repeatedly mentioned Biden and Burisma, as investigatory subjects before the US would release congressionaly authorized arms money for its defense against Russian incursion. Once made public, however, the summary transcript didn’t reflect that emphasis.

    Which was the point of excluding it, in part, to deny that it was emphasized and because it was apparently a point of concern for other reasons by those who actually heard the call and were complaining about it.

    Whether or not the call’s contents were of significant classification issue based on what Trump may have revealed about sources and methods in intelligence gathering, or were more esoteric from a Ukrainian political perspective, the call record remains a mystery and so is the editing of it. What is clear, however, is that the WH released the summary to forestall congressional criticism and blunt the force of disclosure from the WB complaint, in much the same way that Barr blunted release of the Mueller report with both a preview and release date summary of it, which was less than honest.

    The point is this: Vindman’s testimony underscores the work behind the scenes that both the WH and DOJ were trying to bury the WB complaint but were then forced to acknowledge it publicly because of its connection to the call record which had been placed on the secret server in spite of editing issues raised by non whistleblower objectors who were aware of it. Neither the WH or Justice were supposed to know about the WB complaint. But they had known since nearly the end of July even before the complaint’s actual Aug. 12 notice date, of its existence and allegations raised through IC official contacts.

    The fact that this complaint ever registered with anyone and reached Congress at all is remarkable, let alone launch an impeachment process. But its because of that diligence in effort that it surfaced. Whatever Vindman’s motives in seeking to correct the call record, his testimony demonstrates evidence of both a WH cover-up and then public release of a call that many public officials had vast knowledge well beforehand and knew was politically challenging if not impeachable.

  14. Vicks says:

    Are ellipses commonly used to replace classified material?
    If so, why would they be part of a supposedly final (and perfect!) product placed in a top security server?
    Unfortunately we know Trump projects all sorts of weird things when in manipulation mode, including hyped up propaganda spun around a bit of truth.
    Would Vindman be in a position to know if there are other tapes of Joe Biden?

    • timbo says:

      There’s got to be tapes of Biden and Obama talking with Ukrainian leaders. This should not be a surprise to anyone.

  15. Stacey says:

    I know it’s difficult, but why are good people (in this situation, I think Hill and even Bolton are playing on the good side) trying to wrap a towel around Trump’s ugly naked ass rather than exposing his naked-emperor status by letting him continue to think a hack is his Ukraine expert? GGRRRR!!!!

    • Rayne says:

      Because the towel-wrapping crowd have a vested interest in his ass staying covered. Most of them have a monetary interest of some sort. If he’s out they can’t guarantee the next White House occupant — even if it’s Pence — will let them continue unrestrained vampiric capitalism.

  16. drouse says:

    What if Trump was using cherry picked nuggets from NSA intercepts to browbeat Zelensky with? The fact that we have everyone’s communications isn’t something we like to talk about

  17. jonb says:

    a question for the lawyers. Will Pompeo, Barr, Mulvaney be testifying(with subpoena) before the intelligence or judicial committees? explain how this will play out. Did the dems see their stonewalling and added to the resolution the part about president not complying ? thanks

    • bmaz says:

      Yes, if the Dems get off their ass and actually subpoena them. That process may take a while though, and that is exactly why I have been screaming about a formal impeachment resolution and doing it right for most of this year.

      • jonb says:

        thanks . next does the house work around their claim of executive privilege? .will the argument be ..its criminal activity..and who decides that they must answer the questions..


        • bmaz says:

          Executive privilege generally has to give way to a confirmed Constitutional impeachment inquiry. Another reason I have been screaming about this for so long.

          • Frank Probst says:

            I totally agree that this should have been voted on months ago so that there was no question about whether or not it’s a legal Impeachment Inquiry, and specific Dems have tended to argue that it is or isn’t based on personal convenience, but once the Speaker of the House declares it’s an Impeachment Inquiry, does that “count” as making it official?

            (I’m not trying to be a smart ass here. I’m genuinely wondering, and I’m guessing that the question might have to be litigated, but it’s already been ruled on once, and the judge seemed to say, “The House has total control of the impeachment process. If they say it’s an Impeachment Inquiry, then it’s an Impeachment Inquiry.” Prior to Pelosi’s declaration, it wasn’t clear that they were really saying that, because the Dems were trying to have it both ways. Now, the House is going to vote on a resolution that retroactively says that it’s been an Impeachment Inquiry for a while now, since, well, a while. That might be horseshit, but I think a judge would just roll their eyes on it and let it go now that we’ve gotten to this point.)

            • bmaz says:

              The answer is….Pelosi and Hoyer finally stated that it was an “impeachment inquiry”. They had flat out denied that previously. Did that by Pelosi do the trick minimally, yes, and it should have. I still much prefer the clear full house vote.

              • BobCon says:

                Judges have been impeached without an initial vote by the whole House that launched the initial inquiry, but the dumb risk Pelosi has been taking is that some conservative judge won’t throw a monkey wrench in the process, even if it is later overruled.

                She has put the process on a tight timeline for no good reason, and that works to the advantage of the GOP.

  18. earlofhuntingdon says:

    The press seems to need a reminder that Rudy Giuliani was not running a rogue foreign policy….Donald Trump was running a rogue foreign policy.

    The normal USG agencies – State, Defense, CIA, and others – ran the official one. Donald and his minions, like Rudy, ran his personal one. That’s the one in which he attempted to pay back his patrons, like Putin, and to boost his meager chances at re-election.

    • Ed Walker says:

      This seems right to me. It feels like the way Putin operates: some of his stuff goes through channels we would recognize, and some is just him working his own interests. Trump admires that kind of stuff. It’s probably the way he ran his personal business.

    • NancyI says:

      It appears to me that the press is wrong in framing this about getting dirt on Biden. That was of course a welcome side benefit, but to my eyes the whole Ukraine scam has always been about delivering payback to Putin. Withhold the aid, withhold the validation that a meeting with US President would provide, and in the process give Putin someone else to blame for the 2016 intervention. All while also giving Putin carte blanche to further invade Ukraine and wreck havoc in Syria. Furthermore, it appears to me that Baghdadi was another quid pro quo. US abandons the Kurds and withdraw from the region, Russia takes their slice of Syria, and Russia/Turkey turns a blind eye while US nabs the villain.

      • Rayne says:

        You’re right about framing but the press is following the legal case behind the House investigation — it’s illegal to solicit anything of value from a foreign entity for use in a campaign, which is why they end up dragging the Biden angle out because of his status as candidate opposing Trump.

        And you’re probably right about the quid pro quo wrt to Kurds however there’s no obvious legal case like a violation of campaign finance law or bribery because Trump exercised his Article II power to conduct diplomacy. He abused his power by subrogating the Senate’s role to Advise and Consent but in the absence of any formal treaty with the Kurds and law prohibiting his sell-out of the Kurds, he could make the case it was on him as president. Handling of Baghdadi could be seen as a failure to execute laws faithfully since the DOD supposedly knew about his location as far back as March this year — but this is really tough to explain to a public which just wanted a scalp.

  19. Frank Probst says:

    Standard point I make about audio conversations, that I’m bringing up just because it’s so glaringly obvious that no one in the media appears to be mentioning it: This was a conversation between two world leaders, neither of whom expected the conversation to be private. Both parties assumed that there would be multiple other listeners and that some record of the conversation was taking place at each end. On the US side, the conversation was being transcribed in real time by computer software, and there were numerous people listening to the conversation, taking notes, and tasked with later reviewing the computer-generated transcript for accuracy and completeness. Individuals who spoke Ukrainian were probably also listening for any possible translation errors that could lead to a genuine miscommunication with real-world consequences.

    It’s 2019. If you’re going to spend that much time and energy to generate an accurate record of a phone call, you should just record the damn phone call.

    • MB says:

      Didn’t they already try a censure resolution against Schiff a couple of weeks ago? These guys are nothing if not consistent (in their pugnacity)

      • P J Evans says:

        Gaetz is claiming Schiff did these:
        – Distorting @POTUS’s call with President Zelensky
        – Lying to the public about “Russian collusion”
        – Blocking Members of Congress from attending impeachment depositions

          • P J Evans says:

            Schiff probably doesn’t eat barbecue chips with PB sandwiches. You have bananas with those. Chips are for hotdogs.

            • Molly Pitcher says:

              Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it. I highly recommend dill pickle slices with peanut butter on toasted wheat bread.

              My husband puts bbq chips on (gak) tuna salad.

              • P J Evans says:

                Habit – I ate PB sandwiches for lunch for years (and sometimes for breakfast and dinner), because they didn’t go bad when they spent eight or ten hours in a bag. Bananas were usually with lunch.

    • Vince says:

      “Gaetz has filed an ethics complaint against Schiff”

      So when/who will file ethics complaints against Gaetz and his fellow fascist Brownshirts for illegally breaching the SCIF ?

  20. SteveR says:

    I’m a recovering lawyer but I never came close to a courtroom–I profess no expertise on this topic. With that disclaimer, consider whether there was a distinct purpose for omitting the name “Burisma” and other “crucial words and phrases” even if “[t]he phrases do not fundamentally change lawmakers’ understanding of the call” as noted by the NYT. While it was implausible to conclude the omissions in the “transcript” were likely to change the meaning for anyone reading the document, thereby serving no purpose in that regard, those same omissions could easily facilitate withholding the document in response to future subpoenas one might reasonably foresee.

    In addition to a general description provided in a subpoena, the process by which documents are identified for production often (always?) relies, at least in part on the articulation of a discrete list of terms for which a search is undertaken, i.e., produce all documents referencing the name “Burisma.”

    While lawyers can argue whether a document is or is not responsive to a narrative discovery request, there’s no argument to be had when a document containing an identified (“crucial”?) search term is withheld.

    If Eisenberg was willing to take steps to hide/obscure the record of the call, it wouldn’t be much of a stretch to conclude he would readily advocate the omission of terms that could cause the failure to produce the document to be unequivocally actionable.

  21. Frank Probst says:

    A few comments on Zelensky. His over-the-top ass-kissing is almost certainly the result of being encouraged by all of his advisers on his side of the call to keep up the ass-kissing. It works with Trump, no matter how foolish it sounds to everyone else. Trump’s calls with many other world leaders probably sound almost exactly like this.

    Now look at what Zelensky actually gave up in that conversation. He promised to “look into the situation”, and Vindman has added that he said “Burisma” was the company that was involved in “the situation”. Zelensky IMPLIES that this will include investigating Hunter Biden, but he doesn’t say it outright. By the end of the transcript, the only things he’s agreed to, in practical terms, is to make a vague promise to “look into” Burisma, and he’s more or less promised to speak with Giuliani and Barr.

    And that’s coming from a newly-elected President whose country is currently under invasion by Russia (unless you count the situation in Crimea as finished history) with the very real threat that the Russians could push across the border at other places at any time, and the very real threat that a bunch of Ukrainians will be killed in the process.

    So I’m not sure I’d say Trump “succeeded in corrupting Zelensky”. We’re all assuming that it would’ve gone that way, and if Trump had gotten his way, it probably would have. But we’re now also learning that MANY people on our side were trying to put the brakes on this, and Trump might not have gotten his way. Zelensky doesn’t box himself in, and given how many people there were on our side that we now know had been fully aware of “the Giuliani situation” for quite some time, combined how active they had been in opposing it, it’s likely that Zelensky’s people know that he may have some wiggle room here. If this hadn’t all become public, it’s entirely possible that Zelensky could have threaded the needle by getting his money and then just announcing a bunch of reviews of old legal cases, and Burisma would be one that was mentioned by name. I think he did a lot better here than people are giving him credit for.

    • MB says:

      I saw a clip of Zelensky and Bill Taylor at an event in Ukraine from yesterday (Taylor is now back there, post-testimony). A reporter asked Zelensky whether he felt “pressured” by Trump. Zelensky has now learned to engage the “artful dodge” (like most politicians who wish to avoid pesky reporters’ questions)…

    • milestogo says:

      I suspect when the history of this is written and the facts better known, we’ll view Zelensky in a positive light. I think he managed a horrible situation the best he could by throwing just enough toward team Trump without actually committing to anything. I’m certain he and his advisers know there’s nothing there to find against Biden so manufacturing something was as dangerous as withholding what the Trump team wanted. So he played the middle by making vague promises and taking token actions. In the end he did get the military assistance he needs since his country is engaged in an existential battle with Russia. Having visited Ukraine many times east, west, and central, I think any victory now by Russia will be Pyrrhic. Large swaths of the population particularly in the East would prefer death to Putin at this point.

  22. punaise says:

    I looked up the definition of ellipse, but it seems to have been edited:

    “an ellipse … results when a con is cut by an obtuse plan which does [not] interest the base.”

  23. earlofhuntingdon says:

    I’ll never understand Pelosi-Schiff. John Bolton’s lawyer says he will testify, but only if the House issues him a subpoena.

    Are we not months past the point where asking nicely or using harsh language is adequate to get witnesses to testify about what they know and when did they know it? At this point, all “requests” should be accompanied by a subpoena.

    • OmAli says:

      At least now they are writing up the subpoenas and have them ready to go, early morning of the day of the deposition. Sure beats waiting to be blown off and then sending the damn thing…

  24. OmAli says:

    Carol Leonnig at Wapo wrote that “ Former Trump national security officials said it was unheard of to store presidential calls with foreign leaders on the NICE system but that Eisenberg had moved at least one other transcript of a Trump phone call there.”

    Do we know anything about that call?

  25. Mitch Neher says:

    Speculation: If Trump could damage the credibility of The Ukraine’s implementation of anti-corruption measures applied to the disbursement of US military aid to The Ukraine, then future US military aid to The Ukraine could be . . . curtailed, or worse.

    However, had Trump, himself, been the corrupting influence at issue, then the damage to the credibility of The Ukraine’s anti-corruption implementation would be less effective at curtailing future US military aid to The Ukraine.

    Sorry. But I can’t bring myself to type anything further along those lines without referring to Putin as Waldo. BMAZ will be upset. O bother.

  26. Dogfoster says:

    Considering that currently Calf. Is being ravaged by fire and crickets from 45, I still go back to the fact he had phone call with Putin several days after 7/25 call with Zelensky offering assistance to put out Siberian wildfires. Has the read out of that call been made available? Does anyone know where it is stored? I guess it has been altered, but wonder if some mention of Ukranian thing got messed up so what is the next plan.

    In the end will someone be able to legally release all these specially stored calls with read outs? Part of impeachment inquiry?

  27. harpie says:

    Trump has been putting the screws to Ukraine since at least Dec. 2017.

    1] 10/24/19 White House delayed Ukraine trade decision in August, a signal that U.S. suspension of cooperation extended beyond security funds

    2] Today: Key Senate Democrats probe White House’s handling of Ukraine trade benefits Inquiry draws Trump’s trade chief [Robert E. Lighthizer] closer to impeachment flames Oct. 31, 2019 at 6:00 a.m. EDT

    Added: It would be interesing to get some of these dates in a Trump Ukraine Extortion Timeline

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