The Gaping Hole in the Impeachment Investigation Where Bruce Swartz Should Be

In her testimony Friday, Marie Yovanovitch repeatedly said that, if Trump believed that Burisma needed to be investigated, there were official channels to do so.

That’s a part of the impeachment inquiry that hasn’t received enough attention — but is likely to receive a lot more starting tomorrow, when Kurt Volker testifies.

That’s because his story seems to have a big gaping hole where Bruce Swartz, the Deputy Assistant Attorney General for International Affairs, should be.

There’s a subtle detail about the efforts to get Ukraine to investigate the Bidens that needs more attention — and elucidation: a purported effort by Kurt Volker to get Bruce Swartz to officially ask Ukraine to investigate the Bidens. He would have been in the loop in any normal requests between the US and Ukraine.

As Trump’s people were pressuring Ukraine to open up an investigations for Trump, Andriy Yermak deferred by asking for an official request from the US government to open such an investigation. As an experienced diplomat, Kurt Volker proposed doing what should happen next, calling Bruce Swartz to put such investigations into formal channels. But according to him, this inexplicably never happened.

A Hi, did you connect with Andriy? Yeah.

Q And then what did You say?

A Not yet. Will talk with Bill and then call him later today. Want to know our status on asking them to investigate.

Q Okay. What did you mean by “our status on asking them to investigate”?

A Whether we had ever made an official request from the Department of Justice.

Q And then skipping down later, you say: Hi — this is August 17th, 2019, at 3:02 — Hi, I’ve got nothing. Bill — meaning Bill Taylor, correct?

A Yes.

Q Had no info on requesting an investigation. Calling a friend at DOJ, Bruce Schwartz (ph). Who is Bruce Schwartz (ph) ?

A Bruce Schwartz is a senior official in the Department of Justice responsible for international affairs, someone I’ve known for many years.

Q Did you reach out to Mr. Schwartz (ph) about mentioning these investigations or whether — I’m sorry, strike that. Did you reach out to Mr. Schwartz (ph) about whether the U.S. had ever requested an official investigation in Ukraine about these two issues that we’ve been talking about?

A I reached out to him and we did not connect.

Q So you never spoke with Bruce Schwartz (ph) ?

A At this — not at this — not in — well

Q Not in this context?

A Not in this context and not since then.

Q Did you speak with anyone at DOJ about whether the U.S. had requested an official investigation?

A No, I did not. I did ask I did ask our Charge to also check. And I later understood that we never had. And because of that was another factor in my advising the Ukrainians then don’t put it in now.

Q You told the Ukrainians don’t put it in the specific investigation?

A Yes, yes.

Q Did you speak with the Ukrainians about whether or not the U.S. had ever requested an official investigation?

A It came up in this conversation with Andriy about the statement, and he asked whether we ever had. I didn’t know the answer. That’s why I wanted to go back and find out. As I found out the answer that we had not, I said, well, let’s just not go there.

Q So Mr. Yermak wanted to know whether the U.S. DOJ

A Yes.

Q had ever made an official request?

A Yes. He said, I think quite appropriately, that if they are responding to an official request, that’s one thing. If there’s no official request, that’s different. And I agree with that.

Q And then Ambassador Sondland then asked: Do we still want Zelensky to give us an unequivocal draft with 2016 and Burisma?

A Yes.

Q And you responded how?

A I said: That’s the clear message so far.

Q That’s the clear message from whom?

A From Giuliani and what we had discussed with Gordon. That’s the clear message so far .


Q And, to your knowledge, there never was an official United States Department of Justice request?

A To my knowledge, there never was. And about this time, I stopped pursuing it as well, because I was becoming now here convinced this is going down the wrong road.

For his part, Bill Taylor opposed even calling Swartz, because it was so improper to ask Ukraine to investigate an American in the first place.

Q There was a reference to reaching out Department. You mentioned Deputy Assistant Attorney General, which I assume is Bruce Swartz.

A It is.

Q Did you ask Ambassador Volker to reach out to Bruce Swartz?

A He volunteered to do that.

Q Okay. And what was the feedback from Swartz?

A I don’t know that they ever connected.

Q Okay. And was there any followup effort to close the loop with the Justice Department?

A No. I thought the whole thing was a bad idea.

Q You thought it was a bad idea to reach out to Bruce Swartz?

A No. I thought the idea of the Americans asking the Ukrainians to investigate a violation of Ukrainian law was a bad idea.

Q Okay

A But Kurt, for some reason, wanted to pursue that. And when he volunteered to take that question to Bruce Swartz, that was fine with me.

Q Okay. I mean, is it possible that Swartz’s feedback on that issue would have been compelling to the group? Like, why didn’t anyone fo1low up with Swartz?

A No idea.

State’s Special Adviser for Ukraine Catherine Croft, in attempt to distance herself from any role in pushing investigations, seems to have filled in a key detail here. Or perhaps created a huge void. She says she did reach out to Swartz. She doesn’t know whether he and Volker connected, but doesn’t think so.

But she thinks that Volker didn’t really want to talk to Swartz.

He wanted to speak with Bill Barr.

A No. No. I had no involvement in anything related to — the one exception is, I did send one email to Bruce Swartz at DOJ relaying Ambassador Volker’s request for a meeting with the Attorney General.

Q Okay.

A And when asked what the topic was, I said 2016 elections.

Q Okay.

A But that’s where my involvement in that ended. I just related that, and then I understood those two to be in contact.

Q Do you know if Ambassador Volker had tried to call Bruce Swartz?

A I believe he did.

Q And do you know if Bruce Swartz replied?

A I don’t know.

Q And he instructed you to email Bruce Swartz to see about the viability of Ambassador Volker meeting with the Attorney General?

A He just sort of gave me a vague direction to get him a meeting with the Attorney General, so that was my job.

Q 0kay. So you emailed Bruce Swartz?

A Yes.

Q Did you call Bruce Swartz?

A No, I don’t think so. I think I just — I think I just emailed him.

Q Did he email you back?

A Yes. And then I put him in touch with Kurt and then I was out of the —

Q You put him in touch with who?

A With Ambassador Volker.

Q And did they having a meeting?

A I don’t know.

Q So you don’t know —

A I don’t think so. I don’t think. But not that I’m aware of. [my emphasis]

This should raise all sorts of questions. Because if Volker — by whatever means — bypassed Swartz and instead made the request of Barr, then it would make Barr (yet again) more central to this story. And it might explain how all his narrow denials (he never spoke to Ukraine directly, he never made a request of Ukraine directly, but nevertheless some Ukrainian “volunteers” bearing “evidence” did get to John Durham can be true.

Moreover, it would be consistent with what Barr was doing in the same time period, flying around the world asking foreign countries to invent dirt on Democrats.

There’s a reason this request never got to Bruce Swartz. And that goes to the core of the impropriety of this ask.

And there’s an enormous irony (or one might say, a hypocrisy) about this.

Along the frothy right’s complaints about the contacts that Russian organized crime expert Christopher Steele had with organized crime experts at DOJ like Bruce Ohr, they’ve also complained that Ohr passed Steele’s information (almost certainly pertaining to Paul Manafort) onto other organized crime experts.

Including Bruce Swartz. Here’s John Solomon’s version. Kimberley Strassel’s. Sara Carter’s. Mollie Hemingway’s. And Fox News.

In short, a key complaint about Christopher Steele’s sharing of information is that the ways it got shared at DOJ include the experts and official channels who should handle such things.

Precisely the opposite has occurred with Bill Barr’s witch hunt. And yet none of the frothy right are complaining that Bill Barr’s investigation doesn’t meet the standards that Christopher Steele’s did.

28 replies
  1. Yogarhythms says:

    Thank you for this gaping hole.
    Rapier wit sharply points to early present, cutting ribbons, revealing DOJ nome, who officially replies to US State Dept. officials queries regarding investigation of Biden’s. The reader can put words in DOJ’s nome. DIY.

    • Cathy says:

      I realize the primary function of the deposition excerpts are expository, but Taylor’s bit includes a bonus: his disgust with the whole situation just gushes out from between the lines. Wouldn’t be surprised to learn the whole SCIF was ankle-deep. And freezing.

      Nicely curated.

  2. punaise says:

    I’m fixing a gap where Ukraine gets in
    And stops my mind from pandering
    Where will it go?

    I’m filling the cracks that ran up the score
    And kept my kind from perjuring
    Where will it go?

    And it really doesn’t matter if I’m wrong (gaslight)
    Will I be long? I might
    Where I deal wrong

  3. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Nice work. Thank you.

    Heads I win, tails you lose. Republicans complain about Democrats using any convenient hook – bad process is a current favorite. They would never point the finger at their own abuses of process.

    It might be useful for the Dems to point out that hypocrisy a little more directly and forcefully. They are likely to see a lot more of it before and after November 2020.

  4. BobCon says:

    Sen. Ron Johnson, who is deeply plugged into the GOP defense talking points, tried to argue on Meet the Press yesterday that people connected to the whistleblower should have worked through regular channels behind the scenes.

    Which of course is nuts, given the way regular channels have been shut down. It’s a weird avenue of defense for the GOP, given that there is so much evidence already of how the Trump team has been smothering action. But then, Johnsin is not bright and neither are his minders, and they don’t have a lot to work with, either.

  5. PR says:

    A bigger gaping hole is Rick Perry who engaged in corruption for financial gain of his campaign supporters instead conducting official Energy Department business & removing Energy personnel from key meetings, which directly undercuts GOP / Trump defense claims.

    Energy = National Security yet this idiot got to lead an agency he wanted to close during his presidential run.

    Even getting the job and learning its key mission did not deter Perry from conspiracy, financial malfeasance, facilitating bribery, and in effect treason as this set of actions knowingly assisted Trump’s propping up of Russian interests as he’s an extorted foreign asset / agent of Russia.

    So is Perry going to be subpoenaed? And why can’t he be arrested for not complying as he’s no longer employed?

    • Cathy says:

      Interesting point. Didn’t a Perry spox claim he’d be willing to come before an open hearing? Wonder if the committees have reached out on the down low. However, wouldn’t be surprised if that earlier stance is susceptible to Mobile Goal Post Syndrome.

  6. TooLoose LeTruck says:


    Digby over at Hullabaloo is saying Trump is now really, really mad at Pompeo and is blaming him for hiring the individuals who are testifying in the House impeachment inquiry… it’s been rumored for quite a while that Trump is mad at Mulvaney and wants to fire him too… Rudy’s cracking jokes about having an ‘insurance policy’… and also Trump wants to fire the individuals testifying against him…

    The circular firing squad is forming up…

  7. Mitch Neher says:

    EW wrote, “And it might explain how all his narrow denials (he never spoke to Ukraine directly, he never made a request of Ukraine directly, but nevertheless some Ukrainian “volunteers” bearing “evidence” did get to John Durham can be true.”

    So FUBarr knew well enough not to make an official request for an illegal/hypocritical investigation into one of Trump’s 2020 political opponents. And Schwartz knew well enough not to return Volker’s email asking for such an official request because . . . either FUBarr, himself, or Giuliani, or Toensing and DiGenova, had already briefed Schwartz about the ongoing illegal/hypocritical investigation into Biden?

    Or else Schwartz figured it out on his own recognizance.

    • Mitch Neher says:

      Correction: Catherine Croft’s email to Schwartz relaying Volker’s request for an official DOJ request for an investigation by The Ukraine into Burisma and Biden. [There was no email from Volker to Schwartz.] Sorry.

      • Mitch Neher says:

        Still more apologies: Croft’s email to Schwartz was about Volker’s request for a meeting with Barr. And she told Schwartz that the subject was the 2016 election.

        I’m putting myself in the penalty box right now.

    • timbo says:

      What if Schwatz had already done this, made the request? Would he or wouldn’t he want to testify to that fact/provide such evidence to the Impeachment committees? Certainly, he should be deposed about this based on the evidence we’ve seen so far. But there may not be any wish by the GOP or DP to go there at the moment…

      • Mitch Neher says:

        I’ve lost confidence in my own reading comprehension. Nevertheless, since you asked, I’m assuming that an official request from Barr’s DOJ to the Ukrainians to investigate Trump’s domestic political opponents would have put Barr in the impeachment docket alongside Trump, while at the same time making explicit the hypocrisy of Barr and Durham’s investigation of the investigators.

        I’m further presuming that Barr and Durham have no intention of ever entering any Ukrainian exhibits into evidence in a United States Court. All Ukrainian evidence gathered by Barr and Durham’s counter-investigation is exclusively for Trump’s use in the 2020 presidential election–unless I’m wrong.

  8. SomeGuyInMaine says:

    So I see a bit less of a hole in the reasoning — or perhaps a different hole.

    The key difference is that Bill Barr is purportedly acting in the interests of (and at the direction of) the president. Under their expansive shoot-people-on-Fifth-Avenue view presidential power, that makes it ok.

    While in the case of Steele info, officials are accused (without evidence) of acting against the president and U.S. interests and in pursuit of their own political agenda.

    I don’t agree with any of that (in fact I find much of that line of thinking borderline dangerous), but I can see a thread of logical consistency.

    Where this all falls apart to me is around the ideas that the president cared about corruption, corruption in Ukraine. Pursuing anti-corruption efforts is aligned with US national interests.

    Most of Trumps defenders have run under this corruption fig leaf. They ran there because it was convenient and without knowing or caring about what anti corruption efforts would or should really look like. The problem is if Trump cared about anti corruption efforts not personal political gain, everyone’s actions would have looked entirely different.

    How different it would look and how shallow the ‘cares about Ukraine corruption’ lie was, is what is coming to light now.

    The lack of any involvement of Bruce Schwartz is part of that.

    This should be no surprise to anyone paying attention. As we know via Gordon Sondland, President Trump ‘doesn’t give a shit about Ukraine.’

    • timbo says:

      What if Schwartz had/has made such a request and it is now classified/restricted? The issue would be why Schwartz might have been asked to do that. And, of course, if he was not ever asked to do that and didn’t then there’s that question that also needs to be answered. So, in general, he should be deposed to figure out if such a request was or was not made… so that the direction of investigation can be done properly depending on the answer.

  9. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Devin Nunes never seems to have learned the difference between owning a dairy farm and being a dairy farmer. So, it makes sense that he does not know the difference between the work of John Solomon and journalism.

    • SomeGuyInMaine says:

      At least farming and owning a farm are related.

      I look forward to the John Solomon and Sen Ron Johnson depositions.

  10. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Lt. Co. Vindman is testifying against his Commander-in-Chief, in public, before the legislature. That takes brass balls, as well as commitment to honor, code, and country. Things Donald Trump knows nothing of, but thinks are for chumps.

    Normally, that would irritate Vindman’s chain of command. I hope that it recognizes that circumstances are different this time round, and that it recognizes his commitment to what they hold dear, instead of parking him in a corner for being awkward. Trump has pissed off enough senior military figures that that might be possible.

  11. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Vindman’s statement to his dad that he’ll be fine for telling the truth is a hope, meant to forestall adverse consequences. Trump is vicious and vindictive to an extraordinary degree, he’s also scared. So, it will be up to the Democrats to make that hope a reality. Don’t take your eyes off the ball, or a lot more people than Lt. Col. Vindman will suffer the consequences.

  12. Ruthie says:

    At some point, will the Dems call Barr to testify? It seems to me there is ample cause to question the nature and extent of his involvement.

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