The Origin of the Sharpie Quid Pro Quo Denial: An Effort to Craft a Cover Story on the Pages of the WSJ

Before I got caught up in Thanksgiving preparations, I started a post trying to recreate Susan Simpson’s analysis showing that the September 9 “no quid pro quo” call between Trump and Gordon Sondland never actually happened. Thankfully, she was already doing all that work, in a long post at Just Security.

[A]s shown from the testimony of other witnesses, the “no quid pro quo” call did not take place on September 9th. What’s more, the call was not prompted by any text from Bill Taylor. And lastly, Sondland’s testimony about the “no quid pro quo” call omitted the most important part: the part where President Trump informed Sondland that the security assistance would be at a “stalemate” until President Zelenskyy stood in front of a microphone and personally announced that he was opening an investigation into Trump’s political rivals.

Go read her post, which is meticulous and convincing.

Since she’s done that, I’d like to move onto where I had wanted to go from there, to unpack how that less-damning story got seeded.

The story first appears in an October 7 WSJ article purporting to preview Sondland’s testimony. The article was part of a series of articles, all involving Rebecca Balhaus, in which quid pro quo participants Kurt Volker, Sondland, Rick Perry, and Ron Johnson worked out a cover story. (I don’t fault Balhaus, at all, for reporting these stories; she killed the early reporting on this. But it’s quite clear now she was lied to in an effort to coordinate a false story, and she might consider describing how these stories came together given that these sources did lie.)

The stories are designed to take the existing record as reflected in the texts between many of them and come up with a story that denies both that by September 7, Trump had premised aid on investigations into 2016 and Biden, and the following day, Volodymyr Zelensky, agreed to that demand.

Perhaps because he was trying (unsuccessfully) to salvage his position at the McCain Institute, perhaps because he no longer had any legal tie to State, and perhaps because HPSCI got lucky, Kurt Volker testified first, after Mike Pompeo tried and failed to bully the committee into letting State sit in on what its witnesses would say to the committee.

In his statement and testimony, which was bound by the numerous texts he had reflecting discussions relating to the quid pro quo, Volker unconvincingly claimed not to know that when Rudy and the Ukrainians discussed investigating Burisma, everyone involved knew that to be code for Joe Biden. The day after his testimony, HPSCI released the texts he had shared with the committee, showing abundant evidence of a quid pro quo and setting off a bunch of reporting trying to nail down when Trump demanded the quid pro quo.

Ron Johnson then told the WSJ that he had asked Trump whether there was a quid pro quo, and Trump had angrily denied it.

Sen. Ron Johnson said that Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, had described to him a quid pro quo involving a commitment by Kyiv to probe matters related to U.S. elections and the status of nearly $400 million in U.S. aid to Ukraine that the president had ordered to be held up in July.

Alarmed by that information, Mr. Johnson, who supports aid to Ukraine and is the chairman of a Senate subcommittee with jurisdiction over the region, said he raised the issue with Mr. Trump the next day, Aug. 31, in a phone call, days before the senator was to meet with Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky. In the call, Mr. Trump flatly rejected the notion that he directed aides to make military aid to Ukraine contingent on a new probe by Kyiv, Mr. Johnson said.

“He said, ‘Expletive deleted—No way. I would never do that. Who told you that?” the Wisconsin senator recalled in an interview Friday. Mr. Johnson said he told the president he had learned of the arrangement from Mr. Sondland.

That claim (which I believe Chris Murphy has challenged; I will return to Johnson’s role in this in a follow-up) in some ways necessitated the September 9 story now shown to be false.

Mr. Johnson’s account of Mr. Sondland’s description of the conditions placed on aid to Ukraine runs counter to what Mr. Sondland told another diplomat a little over a week later.

On Sept. 9, Bill Taylor, a top U.S. diplomat in Kyiv, in a text message to Mr. Sondland also linked the hold on aid to the investigations the president was seeking. “I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign,” Mr. Taylor wrote.

Then, days later, Sondland released to WSJ what would be the first of at least three versions of testimony before he testified (along with the three versions given as testimony), though the WSJ story appears to rely heavily on leaks from Volker’s camp, too. The story appeared to be an attempt to deal with the problem presented by Volker’s testimony: that there was abundant evidence that the Three Amigos were scripting precisely what Zelensky had to say, and that even after (Volker claimed) Ukraine had hesitated, Sondland and Taylor continued to pursue such a statement.

A draft statement subsequently circulated by Mr. Volker included a line that Ukraine investigate “all available facts and episodes, including those involving Burisma and the 2016 U.S. elections.”

Mr. Giuliani didn’t respond to a request for comment.

That statement was ultimately scuttled over concerns in Ukraine about being perceived as wading into U.S. elections, among other matters, according to the person familiar with Mr. Volker’s testimony to House lawmakers.

But Mr. Sondland and Bill Taylor, a top U.S. diplomat in Kyiv, continued to discuss the possibility of having Mr. Zelensky give a media interview in which he would make similar commitments about Ukrainian investigations, according to the person familiar with Mr. Volker’s testimony.

The story also tried to clean up a problem created by Johnson’s claim that Trump had denied there was a quid pro quo.

Mr. Sondland has come under fresh scrutiny in recent days after Sen. Ron Johnson (R., Wis.) told The Wall Street Journal on Friday that Mr. Sondland had told him in August that the decision to hold up nearly $400 million aid to Ukraine was contingent on an investigation desired by Mr. Trump and his allies. Mr. Johnson said the president denied any quid pro quo.

Mr. Sondland doesn’t remember his conversation with the senator that way, according to a person familiar with his activities. He understood the White House visit was on hold until Ukraine met certain requirements, but he didn’t know of a link to the military aid, this person said.

Most importantly, the story shifted the date of Sondland’s call from September 7 to September 9 to shift Bill Taylor’s role in all this.

Yet text messages released by House lawmakers last week suggest some Trump administration officials believed there was a link between the aid to Ukraine and the investigations Mr. Trump sought.

“The nightmare is they give the interview and don’t get the security assistance,” Mr. Taylor wrote in a Sept. 8 text message to Mr. Volker and Mr. Sondland, referring to the interview they had discussed Mr. Zelensky giving about investigations.

The next day, Mr. Taylor told Mr. Sondland: “I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign.”

Mr. Sondland called Mr. Trump before texting back less than five hours later, according to the person familiar with his activities.

“The President has been crystal clear no quid pro quo’s of any kind,” Mr. Sondland said. He added: “I suggest we stop the back and forth by text.”

This is when that lie was formed: after the limits imposed by Volker’s texts became clear.

Rick Perry then did an interview with the WSJ where he joined in the feigned ignorance that this was about Biden from the start, presenting the cover story Republicans would use since then, that this was just about Trump believing he was targeted in 2016.

Mr. Perry, in an exclusive interview with The Wall Street Journal, said he contacted Mr. Giuliani in an effort to ease a path to a meeting between Mr. Trump and his new Ukrainian counterpart. He said Mr. Giuliani described to him during their phone call several concerns about Ukraine’s alleged interference in the 2016 U.S. election, concerns that haven’t been substantiated.

Mr. Perry also said he never heard the president, any of his appointees, Mr. Giuliani or the Ukrainian regime discuss the possibility of specifically investigating former Vice President Joe Biden, a Democratic presidential contender, and his son Hunter Biden. Mr. Trump’s request for a probe of the Bidens in a July 25 call with Ukraine’s president has sparked the impeachment inquiry in the House.


“And as I recall the conversation, he said, ‘Look, the president is really concerned that there are people in Ukraine that tried to beat him during this presidential election,’ ” Mr. Perry said. “ ‘He thinks they’re corrupt and…that there are still people over there engaged that are absolutely corrupt.’ ”

Mr. Perry said the president’s lawyer didn’t make any explicit demands on the call. “Rudy didn’t say they gotta do X, Y and Z,” Mr. Perry said. “He just said, ‘You want to know why he ain’t comfortable about letting this guy come in? Here’s the reason.’ ”

In the phone call, Mr. Giuliani blamed Ukraine for the dossier about Mr. Trump’s alleged ties to Russia that was created by a former British intelligence officer, Mr. Perry said, and asserted that Ukraine had Mrs. Clinton’s email server and “dreamed up” evidence that helped send former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort to jail.

Perry also floated a version of the July 10 meeting that downplays how aggressively this tied the investigation to any call.

During that meeting, U.S. officials including Mr. Volker and Mr. Perry pushed for a call to be scheduled between Mr. Trump and Mr. Zelensky as a U.S. show of support for the new administration, according to people familiar with the conversation. Also during the meeting, Mr. Sondland brought up investigations the president was interested in Ukraine pursuing, a move that so alarmed Mr. Bolton and Fiona Hill , the top Russia adviser at the time, that Ms. Hill subsequently relayed her concerns to a National Security Council lawyer, Ms. Hill told House committees earlier this week.

After that meeting, Mr. Perry learned that administration aides had been told a call between Messrs. Trump and Zelensky didn’t need to be scheduled until they had something substantive to discuss, according to a person familiar with the matter. Mr. Perry called Mr. Bolton on July 11 and again pressed for the two leaders to speak ahead of parliamentary elections on July 21, stressing that a call was needed to build the relationship and help counter Russian influence in Ukraine. Mr. Perry at that point also brought up investigations, reiterating that Mr. Zelensky was committed to rooting out corruption and wouldn’t prove an obstacle to any probes, the person said.

In the same interview, Perry curiously backed off previous reporting he was about to leave the Administration.

Those are the various narratives into which Sondland tried to squeeze his first sworn statement to Congress, one that he has had to revise twice.

And then Bill Taylor testified, which is when it became clear he had abundant notes that contradicted Sondland’s cover story.

October 3: Volker testimony (opening statement, deposition transcript)

October 4: HPSCI releases Volker texts; Ron Johnson claims to WSJ that Trump told him aid was not premised on an investigation

October 7: Sondland provides advance notice of purported testimony to WSJ and others that includes a fake September 9 call

October 12: Sondland releases a second version of testimony

October 14: Sondland releases a third version of testimony; Fiona Hill testimony

October 15: Leaks of Fiona Hill’s testimony creates problems around the July 10 meeting

October 16: Rick Perry interview with WSJ

October 17: Sondland opening statement, deposition

October 22: William Taylor testifies

224 replies
  1. TooLoose LeTruck says:

    I din’t believe Trump for a nanosecond the day I saw him reading off of what going forward shall forever be known as ‘The Sharpie Notes’…

    Nobody but nobody ever talks like that…

    Well, maybe except a really guilty person trying to cover their own arse…

    Just when you think he couldn’t say or do something even stupider than the prior astonishing gaffe, Trump tops himself with ease…

    Some enterprising souls should print the Sharpie Notes up on a t-shirt and sell the damned things…

      • TooLoose LeTruck says:

        Oh Lordy no…

        I have a pretty good built in bullshit detector and it was pinging nonstop when Sondland was testifying…

        I’ve never seen a guiltier bunch of clowns, fools, and flat out morons in my entire life..

        They’re going to end up setting a land speed record for corruption that might never be broken…

        Not only did Trump lie about what was said in that call, he and his minions lied about even making that call…

        Truly astonishing, no? When does Trump NOT lie?

      • sproggit says:


        In the moment, when Sondland made his opening remarks in the public hearing, the robustness with which he made reference to the “quid pro quo” seemed to catch people by surprise. But Mulvaney had let that particular cat out of the bag in his White House Press Briefing an age before, so in truth, despite the melodrama, Sondland revealed nothing new.

        Should further evidence be required, may I direct the gentle reader to the President’s personal Twitter account. At the time that Michael Cohen was testifying before Congress, when it became apparent that Trump was unable to “keep him in the family”, the scorn and vitriol was intense and hate-filled. (December 16, 2018, the President described Mr Cohen as a “rat”. Obviously, the President’s love of mafioso terms is well documented…)

        Compare and contrast that with mentions of Sondland either before or since his testimony. There is literally no correlation.

        This all just seems a bit “off”…

        • TooLoose LeTruck says:


          What’s that famous quote from Churchill about Russia…

          Something about ‘a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma’?

          I guess one could describe the Trump Administration as ‘a falsehood, wrapped in a fabrication, and stuffed into a lie’…

        • ducktree says:

          “But Mulvaney had let that particular cat out of the bag ,,,” and at the same time Gimmick Mulvaney remains Tr*mp’s guinea pig-in-a-poke ,,, eating his mincemeat pie and having it too.

          Sorry for the metaphorical leftovers all masked together.

      • Drew says:

        No indeed. But Susan Simpson points out, that under the cover of looking like an aggrieved dullard bitching about not being given records to review for his testimony, Sondland avoided affirming that the September 9 “no quid pro quo” phone call actually took place on September 9, saying “I’m not sure, it might have been September 6” – aware that he could get skewered on that untruth & avoiding affirming it.

        • vicks says:

          Yes his comments about not keeping notes and not releasing records made no sense to me at the time either.
          Did the white house make him turn over his phones and laptops and shut down his access to his email and texting accounts?
          What records would the white house be withholding that he didn’t initiate or receive himself?

    • Americana says:

      It’s very telling Trump has become so reliant on his use of the Twitter format for his communications/propaganda that his denial was a perfect character-count size for a tweet denial! Not only is Trump a terrible actor who doesn’t convey honesty (his major lie about his reasons for firing ROGER STONE was an utter fiasco), he’s a bad writer (I can’t decide if his lies are more damning when they’re spoken or written, or in this case, both spoken and written).

      In preparation for the newly expanded impeachment charges which might be based on some contents from the Mueller report, I’m about to read the new book by Glenn Simpson and Peter Fritsch, “Crime in Progress: Inside the Steele Dossier and the Fusion GPS Investigation of Donald Trump.”

      • bmaz says:

        This is pretty hilarious. Here comes Americana jawing about things several on this blog have been saying since, literally, when the new Majority in Congress took office, and certainly since before the Mueller Report dropped, and all the time Americana was spewing a far different view and story. Beware of commenters like “Americana” bringing a consistently inconsistent load of garbage.

        • Americana says:

          Really? It’s pretty amusing someone from here would find my posts IRT on another site and then write, “emptywheel thinks that same thing about Roger Stone”. All the white, here at emptywheel, I was being told that I was overreaching when I said Roger Stone and Trump had worked out his spurious firing so he could act as a go-between w/WikiLeaks and perhaps Russia. Is that what you mean by me “jawing about things” that you’ve written about on this blog since when? Do I need to go and get dated link comments from other sites in order to establish bona fides of what I’ve written/thought and when?

          What was I spewing that was “a different story” and when was I spewing “a different story”? As I recall, you stupidly believed my BB handle was a sign I was a Russki troll so you immediately began your flagging and sneering. Perhaps you’re referring to when I posted video links where Sidney Powell was saying to an interviewer from Epoch Times how she was going to get Gen. Flynn out of his plea deal and get him somehow exonerated? Your response as I recall was to sneer at me and say something along the lines of “Flynn’s got a plea deal, it’s a done deal.” In the meantime, you suggested I’d posted the Sidney Powell links for god knows what nefarious reasons. Then, months later, another poster here posted the very same links I had originally posted and didn’t come in for anything like this. I’ll cross-post my comments from now on.

          • bmaz says:

            This is the most sane of the last three comments you have tried to post. The others will not see the light of day, and this one does only for example.

            And this one is quite insane all on its own. And, yes, your idiotic fluffing of Fox News attorney Sid Powell and her and Flynn’s bizarre and ethically unconscionable arguments (as well as your citation to the laughable “Epoch Times”, thanks for reminding me how brainless you really were) was really something. I think you are done here. Thank you for confirming why.

  2. John Paul Jones says:

    Just curious: will a future post fit the White House’s knowledge that the WB complaint was going forward into this timeline? Didn’t that happen in early September also? Excellent info, so thanks for this; as also the link to the Susan Simpson piece, which is great. I hope the Committee’s lawyers are as good as her at fitting all the pieces together.

    • emptywheel says:

      Trump got briefed in late August. But he kept trying for a few more weeks.
      One interesting thing abt the September 9 story is it didn’t avoid making it look like Trump released aid only because of the Congressional investigation.

      • Cathy says:

        It is interesting. Sondland’s testimony seems more focused on portraying his role as a passthrough for the President’s wishes. More musings:

        His narrative – that he was just following orders from the Big Guy and no one (who would have been expected to know better) advised him to obstruct those orders – is served by his account of Sept 9th: in response to Taylor’s rather explosive wording in his text, Sondland dutifully asks the boss for clarification, and texts Taylor back to correct the unfortunate misunderstanding. My chief objection to that version is that Sondland’s return text is in neither his voice nor that of the President (especially not that of Sondland’s testimony’s version of phone-call Trump).

        Applying common sense to the Sept 9th texts + gap, that gap was filled with a contact that advised Sondland to deflect the written record Taylor was attempting to lay down. Would it have interfered with his chosen narrative of well-meaning neophyte if Sondland admitted to having a conversation seeking not clarification from the boss, but advice – perhaps from a peer – on how best to manage Taylor?

        • John Paul Jones says:

          Given the five-hour gap, given the wording, what I wonder is whether Sondland got some specifically legal advice from somebody in the WH.

          My sense of Sondland’s (third) testimony was that he was saying, I’m not going to take the rap for this on my own. If I have to go down, I’m taking others with me. I found it weird too, how Volker’s and Morrison’s testimony seemed to dovetail with each other around Eisenberg’s role, that is, I got the sense that they wanted to do everything they could to absolve themselves and Eisenberg of the call notice’s being over-classified and hidden away, and suggesting that it was some kind of clerical error.

          • Cathy says:

            I’ve seen that reporting, too, that Sondland’s text looks lawyerly or seems legalistic, but I’d suggest it feels more like political spox idiom.

            For example, according to the Legislative Reference Library of Texas,* “Amigo” Perry’s prepared remarks as governor nowhere include the term “crystal clear” yet the following news accounts of his spoken remarks (or those by his spox) include the idioms “made [it] crystal clear” and “has been crystal clear [that]”:

            “As the elected representatives of the people of the state of Texas, they have **made it crystal-clear** that this important program will not be used to give taxpayer dollars to abortion groups and affiliates. [my emphasis] (, 1 Nov. 2012)”

            “Perry spokeswoman Allison Castle, similarly, said, ‘Gov. Perry has **made it crystal clear** he will not make a decision until the summer.’ [my emphasis] (San Antonio Express News, 3 Feb. 2013)”

            “…statement from spokesman Josh Havens: ‘Gov. Perry **has been crystal clear** that his priorities this session include significant tax relief, water and transportation infrastructure funding…’ [my emphasis](Dallas Morning News, 10 May 2013)”

            “‘Through their duly elected representatives, the citizens of our state have **made crystal clear** their priorities for our great state,’ Perry said in a statement. [my emphasis] (Yahoo Finance, 26 Jun 2013)”


            News sources, respectively:

            https://www. [I broke this link in case folks are spooked by the website name]




          • Cathy says:

            Re: Volker / Morrison / Eisenberg

            I’m prepared to believe there has been a good deal of rationalization by experienced / knowledgeable gov’t folks trying to thread a treacherous path between keeping the President’s instability channeled away from the nuclear codes and keeping long-term national interests hobbling along. Volker, Morrison, Perry – at least they had the grace to resign in the wake of the scandal breaking cover – and I’ve lost track of whether Eisenberg was involved in criminal referral(s) that this episode apparently generated, filing SNAFUs or not. What a hot mess.

  3. Bay State Librul says:

    Will the WSJ issue a correction to their story?
    I’m hoping that a bunch of carrion lying, meat-eating birds circle and descend upon these buzzards.
    Vultures, all of them.

  4. clark says:

    Trump’s Yellicopter Sharpie Notes rant was careful to say “Sondland says I said NoQPQ” not, “I told Sondland on the 9th, x, y and z.” Trump knows not to wed himself to Sondland’s ever-changing story too closely. It seems clear to me that the GS-DJT call on the Sep 7th is Trump saying he still wants and expects Z to give him something (investigation onto 2016/Bidens) for NOTHING. Z would receive no assurances of guarantees on aid, and thus this free show of loyalty is Trump’s version of “no quid pro quo.” Of course that’s hardly the case, It’s more like Bill Taylor’s “worst case scenario” plot set into motion, where Trump gets what he wants and can still not pay the caterer for the wedding cake. Of course all backchannel and perfect call “do me a favor stuff” flies in the face of this. For all we know, if no WBer Trump may very well have hung Ukraine out to dry with no military aid once he got his “deliverables.”

    • Rollo T says:

      Indeed, it might have been the goal to string it along until it was too late for the military aid to go through. That is Trump’s M.O. with litigation, so it would be unsurprising to see it here.

    • Cathy says:

      “Trump’s Yellicopter Sharpie Notes rant was careful to say ‘Sondland says I said NoQPQ’ not, ‘I told Sondland on the 9th, x, y and z.’ (@Clark)”

      Agree the President’s word choice was deliberate and that it has the effect of avoiding a public commitment to something he may or may not have said in private.

      Suggest an alternate motive for the word choice (a speculation on where Trump’s head was at during Sondland’s testimony): drawing public attention to the proposition that someone testifying before Congress is providing **independent corroboration** of his own NQPQ assertions. As in “It’s not just me telling you I didn’t want anything at the time, he says that’s what I said, too.”

  5. Rita says:

    Neither Perry nor Sen. Johnson have testified under oath.

    Shouldn’t the news media make the distinction between what is said under oath and what is not?

    I wonder how many times Giuliani and Trump talked in the August time period when draft statements for Zelensky were being reviewed.
    The “no quid pro quo” call was apparently after Trump had been briefed on the WB complaint and Trump and the WH was in clean up and cover up mode. To be believable, Trump would have had to have the no quid pro quo call a lot sooner after the July 25th call than almost a month and a half later. Did no one in the WH who was on that cal think to advise Trump that he was skating on very thin ice and that he should take corrective action? Or all they all as stupid as Mick Mulvaney?

    • clark says:

      Very, very likely there was no “no QPQ” call ever, and certainly not one on 9SEP19. Yes, WH knew early in AUG of WBer report. But they thought they had it quashed. Call record was on secret server, CIA “criminal referral”was ignored, and Barr ruled there was no campaign finance problem. Trump wanted Z to announce investigations without any guarantee of Z getting anything at all in return and he still expected it on 7SEP19, per Sondland, Taylor and Morrison.

      Perry was there to install some NEW grifters into the utility biz. Ron Johnson’s role was to carry water for Trump and get on the news with a denial that day. Rudy had his marching orders and was marching to the goalpost the whole time. Pence is the one who interests me most that we don’t know much about.

      NSC lawyers knew Trump was on thin ice. Try telling that to Trump, however. He really wanted his “deliverables” and he still wanted them as late as 7SEP19, as per Sondland and his text msg contacts. Keep in mind no one in DC does any work for most of vacation time August so the timeline is 25 July phone call and then skip to early September panic that time was running out to even get the aid delivered at all due to fiscal/budget rules. During August, the WBer report was percolating up the food chain towards Congress but WH hoped they had it covered.

      • bmaz says:

        “Clark”, thank you, and you may or may not be correct, but could you please expound? It would be appreciated. Because we like that kind of stuff here.

        • clark says:

          I thought i did expound. Susan Simpson and WaPost separately took a good look at testimony and timeline and both come up with compelling logic that the supposed GS-DJT predawn phone 9SEP19 call never took place. Trump never backed off his demands.

          Trump’s version of not wanting a QPQ is that he wanted Z to announce investigations WITHOUT any guarantee of aid flowing in return. Of course that’s not exculpatory, but in Trump’s brain that means he can boldly say he made “a perfect call.” This was Bill Taylor’s “worst case scenario” at play, and without congress getting the WBer report, who knows? Trump may have done that – forced Z make announcement of investigation into Biden/2016 and STILL held up the aid. This would have been a devastating blow to Z and a boon for Russia. All roads lead to Putin here.

          There is another rumor that Bolton is the one who actually, unilaterally and undirected got the aid released to Ukraine, but I’m not fully up on that one.

          We all want more clarity on all this, and won’t get it until Bolton, Mulvaney, Pompeo, Pence, Perry and Guiliani – and Trump – are separately deposed under oath and we can parse all their combined and contradictory lies and CYA into something approaching the truth.

          Meanwhile trump’s defensive strategies are telling as well. Trump won’t say “I told Sondland I wanted no QPQ, I want nothing, do the right thing.” Instead he very carefully says that “Sondland said I said the following” which shows me that he knows this alibi is not going to hold. And it covers him from this news – that the call on 9SEP19 never happened between DJT and GS. IF SG got instructions to issue a CYA “we want no QPQ” message to Taylor and the public record in his 5 hour gap between texting w Taylor, it wasn’t from Trump and GS is careful to obfuscate on that in his testimony as well. Read the WaPo story for all the exact wording and the corroborating evidence there, including the insider who says the WH can’t find a record of any GS-DJT call on the 9th.

          The main point I’m trying to make here is that Susan Simpson and WaPo are right, but they are missing the additional point that in trump’s mind his logic was that he really didn’t want something for something. He demanded something for “nothing” from the Ukraine. Which is a lot worse, in reality but forms the excuse Trump seems so stuck on.

          If you have specific questions, I will address them. I’ve read this site for years, I just don’t post much here. I’m on twitter as @jean_dodge if you want to hear me rant some more.

          Marcie is a LOT better at this than I am. I am in agreement however that Trump’s legal team strategy is to somehow thread a needle out of the minefield created by Volker’s text record. It’s hard evidence and all contemporary testimony can be assailed and deflected and spun more readily. Sondland obfuscated a great deal in his testimony on dates and his memory IN ORDER to cover the lie about hearing directly from trump that he wanted no QPQ. Trump’s best alibi is inoperative.

            • bmaz says:

              Clark. Thank you and do not worry about the spelling of Marcy thing; it happens regularly and as long as harmless as here, is never a problem.

              As to the substance, yes, Sondland had a problem before he supposedly “cleaned up” his prior testimony. He has a bigger problem now. It may not be with the Barr DOJ, but the statute of limitations is 5 years, so we shall see.

              Sondland has a problem. And it is starting to be on multiple fronts.

              • clark says:

                Sondland has perjured himself repeatedly in his “do-overs” but he has also liberally sprinkled around a lot of “i am not sure/ don’t recall” and “without my notes, who can say” statements and qualifiers. It might be very hard to get him convicted for perjury or held in contempt of congress, etc. and it’s unclear that he has much more evidence to provide Congress even if he could be forced to admit there was no call on the 9th. Let’s say they manage to credibly threaten him with perjury. Who enforces this and how?

                This is all about appearances and optics and Sondand threaded the needle. Those who are predisposed to see him as a liar are satisfied, and those who want to believe Trump said “I want nothing” can believe that. As Mulvaney said, “get used to it.”

                The parade has gone by Gordon Sondland and now we are on to the next phase of this spectacle. Yes, intelligent people can see the holes in this narrative, and they are gaping, but the eyes were all on this while it was live on tv and now there is new shiny things to look at. What is the remedy here? Absent a working DOJ, and without the WH giving up documents or allowing higher-ups to testify Sondland is now yesterdays’s news, suitable for wrapping up fish.

                That’s not why I read this blog however. I’m not here to talk about what ifs and big picture stuff. I’m here to examine the public record, news reporting and engage in discussion of what happens in the reality-based world, as much as we can see it based on that we are allowed to view as citizens.

                And what we have here that is ON TOPIC is the issue of how Trump and his team try to thread thier way out of a maze of damning evidence. As Marcy says, “by September 7, Trump had premised aid on investigations into 2016 and Biden, and the following day, Volodymyr Zelensky, agreed to that demand.”

                That’s the reality. The rest is a discussion of how we are now NOT talking about those two facts.

                • Mitch Neher says:

                  Morrison told Congress [and Eisenberg] that Sondland had told Morrison [on Sept. 7th] that Trump had told Sondland that there is no quid pro quo.

                  Ordinarily, House Republicans would call that triple hearsay. Wouldn’t they?

                  I think Clark is right on the money, here: Trump probably never told Sondland that there is no quid pro quo. That’s probably just what Sondland told Morrison–not what Trump told Sondland.

                • Cathy says:

                  I highly commend your two facts, @clark, and add Dr. Hill’s analysis for those playing at home:

                  “It struck me yesterday when you put up on the screen Ambassador Sondland’s emails, and who was on these emails, and he said these are the people who need to know, that **he was absolutely right. Because he was being involved in a domestic political errand**. And we were being involved in national security [and] foreign policy. And those two things had just diverged. [my emphasis**] (Dr. Hill’s 21Nov19 Congressional Testimony)*”

                  *As reported Vox (

          • Rita says:

            Pres. Zelensky was 2 days away from doing the CNN interview where he would make the announcement of the investigations. And there was no assurance that he would get the aid and the interview.

            So you might be right. Trump’s idea of perfect might have been to shake Ukraine down, get the investigation announcement and then not deliver. And that would please Putin. Trump would hit the trifecta.

          • Mitch Neher says:

            Clark said, “There is another rumor that Bolton is the one who actually, unilaterally and undirected got the aid released to Ukraine, but I’m not fully up on that one.”


            Nov 9, 2019 … President Donald Trump says he lifted his freeze on aid to Ukraine on Sept. 11, but the State Department had quietly authorized releasing $141 …

            Bolton’s part in the story is reported near the end of the linked article. Also, the story applies only to the $141 million of aid apportioned through The State Department.

      • drouse says:

        It has crossed my mind that there is almost deliberate effort to gloss over Pence’s role in a lot of stuff. Wasn’t he supposed to be head of transition? And totally without a clue as to what was going on? Whenever his name comes up it seems like any scrutiny just sort of fades away. It’s like they are trying to turn him into a Ford like figure. A genial idiot who’ll move us forward and away from accountability.

        • clark says:

          Pence knew a great deal about Manafort and Flynn’s corruption and foreign contacts when he was leading the transition team. But yes, they do try to keep him waiting in the wings if Trump gets impeached. He’s not in the wings, however. He is in the trenches on the Ukraine fiasco and Sondland has said so.

          I have a pet theory that goes that the Dems should impeach Pence FIRST. No one is going to go seriously to bat for that chump and it would draw out Moscow Mitch’s dirty trick playbook in advance. It’s a dumb idea but if the evidence were stronger – or more available – it would lead to madame President Pelosi.

          Proving what Pence knew and when is difficult because he almost certainly was never given any decision-making power. Most likely he was given a mission to have a bland meeting and let his underlings deliver the extortion message.

          But the long game here is to get Trump out, not to get stuck on the details. I always figured if Trump was going down they would quickly replace Pence with someone like Rick Perry, much like Agnew was forced out and Ford installed as a supposedly neutral caretaker guy. Not that Perry fits that bill. But Pence is not viewed as a viable president, he’s a bible thumping nutbag.

          • Rugger9 says:

            Agree about impeaching Pence but as usual the question is what evidence do we have of what Pence did that isn’t buried under the piles of ordure shoveled out by Individual-1 and his other Palace minions? I do not see anything done about Pence before KQ gets his, and maybe Barr too.

            While I am sure there are smoking guns for Pence, Pence’s crimes are dwarfed by the rest of it. However, remember the first law of dirtballs: they always give you another chance to discipline them.

      • mospeck says:

        Marcy, Clark, Just Security, bmaz…terrible great inferences you folks are drawing about the phantom phone call. To think that as of 7 Sept. trump was still expecting to get away with all of it, i.e. bury WB report, extort pres Z to undermine self by interfering in US elections, and still employ end of fiscal year trickery to undo Ukraine’s 400M security assistance. Wow.
        Even while under serious attack, these guys counter attack. They never give up, and are way too good and multipronged. Sorry, but I got to admire that. Granted, trump is a talented vaudeville front man, but who is actually running the op?

        • clark says:

          No one is running things, because Trump respects no one. He just blunders ahead and leaves it to others, who need him to stay in power, men like Moscow Mitch to backstop him. The military knows he makes decisions first and examines the situation after, if ever. There is no five dimensional chess game in his head. There’s no mastermind.

          Trump wants irrational things, believes irrational things and does irrational things. “It is what it is.”

          • P J Evans says:

            He grew up thinking he was the smartest guy in the room, and never bothered with reality checks even – especially – when reality was telling him he wasn’t. He wants what he wants, when and how he wants it, and reality is supposed to comply.

        • Burt Berman says:

          On a macro basis I’ve thought since 2016 that some of the best game theory strategists Russian money can buy have been calling the key plays, agenda et al factoring in shenanigans and bungling of the players. I also think that Bannon has more influence today on Trump than he ever had when officially in the White House. On the micro side of Ukraine, you have/had Pompeo and Bolton alienated from and backbiting each other; Mulvaney, the three amigos vs Hill,Taylor, and his predecessor—for starters. I would like to know more about what I saw as Taylor’s current lack of respect for Volker. That was glossed over during hearing, notwithstanding that Volker apparently came up with the idea to get Taylor over there as Ambassador. Seemed like Taylor was barely restraining himself. Lastly (for this comment), I’d like to know more about Volker… A lobbyist working for Ukraine gratis/pro bono as he formed or joined the traveling amigos? A Ukraine veteran who didn’t/couldn’t/wouldn’t link Burisma w/ going after the Bidens? Sorry, no way that passes an already lowered bar. What gives? Gotta be more than smarminess and poor acting.

      • Jplm says:

        Sondland has used the phrase QPQ in an interview in 2016. Most likely he put the phrase in Trump’s mouth.

  6. Vince says:

    “Neither Perry nor Sen. Johnson have testified under oath.”

    No way in hell Johnson can testify under oath. If you’ve seen him flip-flop, contradict himself, and completely change his story, while being interviewed by lightweights like Chuck Todd and some CNN correspondent, they would be measuring him for an orange jumpsuit before he even took the oath and sat down in front of congress to testify.

    And Perry keeps trying to use the Sergeant Shultz defense, “I see nothing!”.

    • Jake formerly of the LP says:

      Johnson also was in the Gang of 12 in 2016 that was told of Russian hacking before the election, but worked with Moscow Mitch to cover it up.

      Combine this with Johnson also being a major recipient of NRA-Russia help in 2016 but has refused to call any hearings to discuss the matter, and you can see why this crook needs to be called before House Intelligence.

      • P J Evans says:

        He’s also one of the Moscow 7, the ones who spent the 4th in Moscow a couple of years back.
        Richard Shelby (retired)
        Ron Johnson
        Steve Daines
        John Thune
        John Kennedy
        Jerry Moran
        John Hoeven
        Rep Kay Granger

    • Cathy says:

      You bet! It’s sort of like dressing like the boss…wearing the same ties…parting your hair the same way…modeling your defense on the same fictional character from a 20th century sitcom. All the rage. :-)

  7. Yogarhythms says:

    Thank you for early present and link to SueS. I think Sondland spoke for all “ i just wanted to fix it. I thought i could make the oval office visit happen.” Back channelers were so busy channeling emphasizing the could over the should damaging Departments State and NatSec.

  8. Vinnie Gambone says:

    attempted finding articles mentioning that at some point Raytheon/ Lockheed Martin reps contacted key Senators who then started making calls asking why in the hell is this $400 Million purchase order being held up. I think these calls should be included in future the timeline of how this all went down. Those calls certainly got the White House’s attention and likely weigh as heavily on the aid being released. In looking this article popped up RE: Volker’s conflicts. He didn’t get a call from Raytheon’s lobbyist? C’mon.

    Just a month before Ukraine mess, Trump was pissing off congress FOR releasing arms sales. Guess he got what he wanted “though” from the Saudi’s.

    Lastly, it’s interesting Perry said Giuliani asserted that Ukraine “dreamed up” evidence that helped send former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort to jail. More projection. That is Guilanis mission, get someone to dream up some evidence against the Bidens, give us something, anything, and, aas as been stated, Trump didn’t even care if they actually did an investigation, just announce one. That’s because he knows how stupid America is.

    • TooLoose LeTruck says:

      That’s because he knows how stupid America is.

      This s/b a campaign slogan…

      “Because he thinks you’re stupid!”

      I’ve never seen a guiltier looking bunch of people in my entire life…

      Back when this whole kerfluffle erupted, Trump kept prating on and on about ‘a perfect call… it was a perfect call’…

      And I kept thinking that, indeed, you’d have to be a complete idiot to believe this whole soggy mess started and ended with ONE perfect phone call…

      And now that this is all coming out and coming together the way it is, clearly, it’s about a hell of lot more than just one phone call…

      It’s been going on for months and involves many more people than just Trump, on this end…

      And I’m glad that’s all coming into view, finally…

      • Pablo in the Gazebo says:

        The campaign slogan you suggest is a good one, but to better reflect a grammatical tick I have noticed it might be phrased, “Because he thinks your stupid!”.

        • Jake formerly of the LP says:

          The “he thinks you’re stupid” line is exactly how you win in rural America, by the way. So in addition to being true, it’s great political strategy.

          • Rugger9 says:

            Like the South Dakota “Meth, we’re on it” campaign was a little too true, even though they really meant that they were working to solve the issue.

        • J R in WV says:

          Pablo, you’re wrong. Your is a possessive, you’re is a contraction for “You Are” — which is correct.

          In other words “They Think You Are Stupid” is correct and the proper contraction used there would be “They think you’re stupid”. Which is a good slogan.

  9. sproggit says:

    Warning: this is more hunch than fact. Test it to see if the pattern fits this data…

    One of the other things that Trump uses on a regular basis is misdirection. The first example I can offer – and a memorable one at that – concerns the events surrounding Mike Flynn and the breaking of the story that he had not been truthful when undergoing his security checks prior to taking up his role as National Security Advisor. Literally the day after the story broke, Trump went public with the completely false, unfounded and unsubstantiated claim that President Obama had ordered the phones in Trump Tower be tapped… That claim has never been substantiated and most rational people I know would consider it to be just another Trump lie; however, I think the proximity of the claim to the Flynn-related story had the desired effect for Trump – it moved the Flynn story off the lead in the news cycles. Trump knows that he only has to do that for 24 hours and the new stories will move on…

    So here’s a challenge for you… What about a correlation between the stories involving Ukraine and the announcement of the decision to withdraw from Turkey? Clearly there had been some discussion on the matter to remove US troops from the region – it’s not the kind of thing you would expect the President to decide to do off the top of his head. But consider it again in the context of everything else happening. Is it possible that the President had been getting updates in private concerning events relating to Ukraine that could break in the news… so the President decided to light a fire somewhere else (Turkey) to keep everyone distracted?

    I accept that establishing the veracity of this is hard, especially given the impetuous nature of the individual concerned. But having watched for a couple of years now, I’m gradually coming to the view that – in some cases – Presidential Proclamations are little more than occasionally ham-fisted attempted at mis-direction.

    Just a theory.

    • clark says:

      The Ukrainian aid scandal was well under way when Trump moved on Syria. I see no correlation. Erdogon got the best of Trump in one phone call and Trump didn’t even consult his military advisors fully before ordering his withdrawal of our troops. The dark rumor there is that Turkey has evidence that Kushner gave the go-ahead to the Saudis to kidnap Jamall Kashoggi while he was in Turkey. In this instance Trump didn’t instigate anything. He didn’t create Turkey’s wish for a military offensive against the Kurds, he just cowardly let it happen. And it cost him political support. So, yes Trump uses distractions. But no, this was not planned as a distraction from the impeachment scandal. It may have moved some stories off the top for a bit but they came right back.

      • Valley girl says:

        ~The dark rumor there is that Turkey has evidence that Kushner gave the go-ahead to the Saudis to kidnap Jamall Kashoggi while he was in Turkey. ~

        I remember a mention of this dark rumor somewhere, but where? I can’t remember. It makes sense, but what is the evidence? Not a rhetorical question.

        • P J Evans says:

          I wonder if Jared would also have given the Turks an okay to collect Gulen when they could get a team into the US. (That may have fallen apart when Khashoggi’s murder got much more attention than they expected.)

        • Vicks says:

          I had not heard the rumors of Kushner giving the heads up to kidnap Kashoggi.
          It fills in a lot of holes, including Kushner sneaking conversations with the prince, Trump’s refusal to acknowledge clear evidence, and why the hell Kashoggi believed he was safe,
          The problem Im having is that is requires believing that Kushner gave the heads up to have a journalist living and working in the US kidnapped, and I’m just not ready for that.

        • sproggit says:

          I’m not sure this is so much a case of Turkey “giving the go-ahead” for the Kashoggi murder, but both the UK Guardian newspaper and Al Jazeera reported that Turkey was in possession of audio of the murder itself. See here:-

          So here’s a completely fictional and unsubstantiated theory for you…
          1. Turkey immigration/security happen to notice a large number of Saudi “security” folk arriving in their country at/about the same time.
          2. Turkey security services keep tabs on them and trace them to the Saudi Embassy there.
          3. Turkey security manage to record audio of the murder.
          4. Erdogan keeps this audio tape as a bargaining chip for future dealings with Saudi Arabia – and others.
          5. Erdogan confidentially shares a copy of the audio with the United States and learns that the President heard it.
          5. When President Trump makes statements broadly supportive of Saudi and MBS, he places himself “on the hook” by publicly lying about something after Erdogan had provided evidence. Thus, Erdogan knows that Trump has lied and therefore that knowledge becomes Kompromat.
          6. Erdogan waits for his moment, waits for a call with the President and then says, “Oh, by the way, I want a favor. I want to clear out that mess with the Kurds. I need you to pull your troops out…” and either directly or through channels just happens to mention what he has in the way of compromising material.
          7. Trump announces a withdrawal of US forces.
          8. The rest of the world is left staring in disbelief at the diplomatic, political, humanitarian and military own goal, wondering what on earth could have prompted that to happen…

          Meanwhile, not only do Turkey have a wide range of US weapons in their possession, including the F16 (although not, thanks to Turkey’s purchase of the Russian S-400 anti-aircraft missile system), any F-35’s. Meanwhile, 4 days ago a story broke:-

          to suggest that Turkey is already testing their Block 50 F16s against the S400 Russian missile system…

          Turkey is hugely significant geopolitically. You can bet that Putin is desperate to have Turkey exit NATO and will be trying anything to achieve that. (And just think of the impact that would have in terms of the US ability to project military force in the Middle East – consider how widely the US used Turkish air bases in both gulf wars, during the overthrow of Gaddafi, air support for Syrian operations, etc., etc.

          • timbo says:

            It certainly seems plausible, given what we know of Trump so far. Basically, the whole thing points to the short-sightedness of both leaders.

      • Rugger9 says:

        The Turkish scandal is every bit as sleazy as Ukraine, and I’ve posted links in earlier threads (Digby had picked it up a couple of days ago), and I see no interest in the MSM about it.

        Very curious, given how Erdogan’s thugs roughed up protestors in DC without any detectable consequence, conspired [allegedly] with Flynn to kidnap Gulen, an American resident, and had another American resident murdered to make nice with MBS [allegedly]. Lindsey Graham came out of his closet long enough to kibosh the bipartisan resolution on the Armenian genocides due to Erdogan’s rage. This is on top of being OK with Turkey’s use of Russian missile systems to test the response to the F-35 we also sent Ankara. Who will get that info, Vlad or Individual-1?


    • WiserWords2 says:

      ” Literally the day after the story broke, Trump went public with the completely false, unfounded and unsubstantiated claim that President Obama had ordered the phones in Trump Tower be tapped…”
      Trump has made that claim more than once.

  10. Adam says:

    Man, the details here are making my head spin. I completely understand why Sondland deliberately avoided discussing Trump’s insistence – after saying “no quid pro quo” – that Zelensky go to a podium and announce the investigation to avoid a stalemate. What I don’t quite get, however, is why switching the call from the 7th to the 9th helps Trump and Sondland. Trump said, on the 7th, “no quid pro quo” and then described a basic quid pro quo, which Sondland claimed he couldn’t recall. Why does it matter that this happened on the 9th or 7th?

    • clark says:

      The bedrock of the fight here starts with Volker’s texts, which went to congress as round one of this fight. They established a great deal but Trump’s team saw a way to thread their way out based on the idea that at some point Trump personally denied wanting a deal. The trouble is that on the 7th, Sondland is caught clearly hearing from Trump that he very much wants a deal, and that deal is that Ukraine bow to his wil, announce investigations into Biden/2016 and get NOTHING in return. Trump’s word at this point is that he wants them to “do the right thing” meaning give me what i want without expecting anything in return. (With the clear understanding that if you don’t do this, you get nothing, ever.) But on the 9th, Sondland claims in so many words that Trump doesn’t want a deal and, as we now see – absent any actual conversation with Trump on that date – it was easier for him to do that. Sondland issued a blanket denial that seems drafted by a lawyer, not by Trump, and then told Taylor to move the conversation off the text to a phone call. It’s classic consciousness of guilt looking stuff, but it’s also the best alibi they can manufacture given the evidence everyone has. Also very key is that between the 7th and the 9th the WH coverup and burial of the WBer report came to an end and congress “got” the WBer report. “They got caught” is the short answer. The long answer is they had Sondland deliver the impression that Trump told him directly he wanted no deal. But now we see that this exchange likely never occurred.

      • timbo says:

        Hmm. It’s just strange either way. It will be interesting though if the President is forced to follow Sondland’s line under oath. I’m guessing Trump’ll refuse to testify before the Senate… or at least his lawyers may try to stop him anyways. Sondland on the other hand might have to take the 5th before the Senate at this point? Or, at least, that may be what Sondland’s lawyer(s) might try there?

        • clark says:

          Sondland hopes his obfuscations and memory lapse and claims of not having his notes wil be enough to carry him through his lies about a direct conversation with Trump on the 9th. He always left himself an out there. Trump won’t have to speak to it because Trump has never claimed a call took place on the 9th. Again, watch the Yellicopter Notepad rant. Trump carefully says “listen to what Sondland told congress” not “here is what I told Sondland.” WaPo story has his exact words, but this was the dodge.

          Does Schiff and the Dem leadership want to hang all this on whether a call took place one day or another? Doubtful. They got what they got from Sondland and need to move on, not backwards. The best they wil get is to put Sondland in some more hot water, but that doesn’t affect Trump, not really. Just my opinion, but the game has moved to the next phase I think. All this will be a distant memory in a week or so. It was a crummy alibi anyways, even with the supposed call on the 9th.

          • Burt Berman says:

            Yes, the game has moved on (from Sondland) unless of course he decides, against best legal advice, to try to play hero to the guy to whom he gave a million bucks. Sondland still hasn’t come (fully) clean. No CEO/business exec I have come across in 40 years of (my) running a movie studio—yes I know his commerce was hotels—but, short of being a trust fund kid or a terribly disturbed person, no way his deposition and amendments to same, not to mention his faulty memory, have any legitimate plausibility. There are things you remember and things you don’t over a period of a year or two. He remains a wild card. I supervised twenty movies a year, and there was little room for spitballing and… “I don’t remember”. The opposite is the case; you wish you could forget! His carrying on about relations with all the EU + many other “tangential” countries, along w/crucial recent event lack of recall did not ring true—nor did his smear of Fiona Hill losing control like no other person he had ever witnessed…ever. I’m wary of people who have screwed up badly and decided: “What the hell…what have I got to lose at this point”.

            • bmaz says:

              Exactly right. If you read the bios of Sondland, he is not stupid, and has been on a mission to climb the political ladder for a long time. Once he gets there, he suddenly cannot remember the latest, and most important, moments in his life he has been seeking?

              Nope, that doesn’t make sense. And it is not that he does not have a decent attorney either, Bob Luskin is very good. Sondland has a problem, and if he looks in a mirror he can view it.

            • AndTheSlithyToves says:

              Sondland is getting “Weinsteined” and it’s just starting. What a schmuck–good thing his fabulous mom is no longer with us and doesn’t have to see this.

              • bmaz says:

                No one person runs a studio these days, there are too many working parts. But I googled Mr. Berman, and he checks out as having been a key executive on a very significant level.

              • Burt Berman says:

                Pardon. (Helped) run….movie studIo(s)—Universal, Columbia/Tri-Star, Paramount, Village Roadshow. Bmaz is right— number of key moving parts. Maybe “committee” that keeps mushrooming with passage of time is way to view it. I try to abbreviate, “though” (!)

    • bmaz says:

      Not just a great comment, but the actual truth.

      Still not sure the Ukraine thing is the worst, not by a long shot, but these crimes are not only supported by evidence, but admitted fully by the Trump cult, including, notably, his own chief of staff, and Trump himself. It is extortion. It is also “bribery”. They are mostly, and functionally, interchangeable here.

  11. Mitch Neher says:

    July 25th, 2019, Trump to Zelenskiy: “I want you to do us a favor, though . . .”

    One-hundred and nineteen days later on November 20th, 2019 (from The Sharpie Notes):


    We know that Trump, the stenographer, took dictation from Sondland, the witness, on Wednesday morning, November 20th. 2019. We also know that Trump, THE PRES OF THE U.S., did not take dictation from Sondland, the US ambassador to the EU, on July 25th, 2019, while Trump was talking on the phone with president Zelenskiy of The Ukraine. Had Trump not been watching Sondland’s testimony to Congress on Nov. 20th, Trump would never have known that he didn’t want anything [from Zelenskiy]; that he didn’t want a quid pro quo; nor that he was only telling Zelenskiy to do the right thing.

    BTW, if the July 25th call was “perfect,” then why did it take 119 days to get “THE FINAL WORD FROM THE PRES OF THE U.S.”?

  12. dwfreeman says:

    At what point is this not a crime story? I mean the timing of phone calls and change in thinking on release of funding is signaled after Trump’s call with Putin not before it. And everything that comes after the July 25 call is cover-up of stated intentions on the call. The record gets buried, aides are alarmed about this, and they go to the WB, who writes up an immediate report on the night of July 25.

    The trigger point of the scandal becoming known is then. So, then follow the bouncing ball to everything that comes after. We have lots of folks inside DOD, OMB and on NSC wondering why this approved security assistance is not going to Ukraine. They need it to keep themselves safe while Trump is seemingly prolonging the matter for no apparent reason other than what now appears on the call to be his own political concerns.

    This is not one simple scheme. And I don’t believe it ever was about investigating the Bidens exclusively. No, this goes back to a larger plan in the Trump universe. But as in all Trump schemes, this is about what he will get out of it. Trump only ran for president because the Russians assured him he could build his tower in Moscow and Putin greenlighted that project in 2015. Everything leading up to his candidacy was prologue.

    And so was this effort, which Rudy was fueling and Barr was supporting on the back end with DOJ certification of certain conspiracy theory case probes including Horowitz’s supposedly independent inspector general review of the 2016 presidential election campaign investigation.

    When you look at the timing of this, there is nothing specific about it, which is the only reason Trump and the GOP can pretend there is no there, there. Ultimately, of course, whether the aid was released or not, Russia benefited from better negotiated settlement terms while Ukraine was torn apart by political chaos, worry and indecision about money that was approved nearly a year ago by a seeming staunch ally. Why would Trump risk this for alleged dirt on Biden alone, whether there or made up?

    To me, the facts don’t support that as a sole or primary motivation. Trump is more concerned with erasing doubt about his illegitimacy and political help from Russia in 2016. The irony is, he also knows their support is the only way he wins again, or thinks he can. And you know that is true, because he told ABC as much in the Stephanopoulos interview, while the GOP has blocked every bill that would limit or seek to impose greater limits on foreign election interference. Ultimately, we will learn the truth. But it’s a hard truth to accept, either way.

    This didn’t occur in a vaccum.

    • Geoff says:

      Yup. You first have to think back to Trump’s motivations before running, and before being elected, then how actually being elected changed things. Initially, it’s simple greed/grifting, what he has always been doing, just being a basic criminal, and with a huge dollop of insecurity about the loser he really is, that he has to paper over with his wealth and self aggrandizement. But on top of all this, the loser part is the reality that he is a serial bankrupter business failure, and Putin bailed him out and made him his errand boy money launderer.

      It’s the next part that I keep wavering on, which is whether Trump really wanted to be President or not. I think he would have been fine with not being president, and railing on Clinton forever about how she cheated, and then going back to pre-President grifter role for the most part. When you see that picture of him and Melania looked scared and somber after he was elected, you can see he is in over his head and has no clue. So I think sometimes he only wanted to almost be President. And if he were almost President, all the criminality that took place, most of which was described by the Mueller report, would never really have been looked in to. So, in a way, whoops. But he has certainly made the most of bring elected. Why? Well, Putin’s got the receipts still, so at that point, he is again errand boy.

      But at this point, he comes to realize just how much power he managed to attain and how much epic grift you can pull off with that power for you, your buddies and of course, your main creditor, Vlad and co. But his other goal, the one I agree with you about, is that his insecurity makes it imperative that he convinces people his win was legit, even though it was clearly not, which he knows very well to be the case, since he knows a lot more than we do about the Manafort Kilimnik polling data deal. So the Ukraine thing is about all of these issues…grift for his buddies (who Lev and Igor most definitely are) along with Giuliani, who was doing his best to imitate manafort for the 2020 election, political dirty work, unpaid (haha) and then layers and layers of grift. Same with Perry, who would cash his buddies in, then get the money on the backside when he resigns and hits the revolving door. And conveniently, you play your one chip, the Ukraine, because as they said, Trump doesnt give a shit about that country, and would be happy to pay back Putin’s debt by giving it to him. So all this crap we are dealing with now is just another version of Trumpian obstruction, on top of the same old game plan of cheating and grifting. These people are just basic criminals, in way over their head. What’s striking is that so much of the Republican political apparatus is ok with this criminality, if it allows them to gain more power in the process. They give as much shit about Trump as Trump gives about Ukraine. Zero.

      • bmaz says:

        Regarding your second paragraph, you also have to think about what Melania wanted and expected. Doubt it is this.

        • Geoff says:

          True, but I’m also going to take a wild ass guess that Trump also doesn’t give a shit at this point about what Melania wants. ;-)

          • rip says:

            But if melamonia wants whatever putin wants?

            trump is just a pawn being shuffled about on chessboard – perhaps with some Brownian motion tossed in to give the versimitude of free-will but powerless to control his own destiny.

      • P J Evans says:

        He didn’t expect – or want – to win. He wanted to start a network for his own TV shows, and running (and losing) was a way to get a lot more name recognition. Plus the money left over from campaigning….
        He won, though, and he sees it as just a bigger-better form of his own company and TV shows, because he couldn’t be bothered to find out what the job actually entails. He saw the dinners and the travel and the schmoozing with the powerful, the rich, the famous, as the whole point.

        • Geoff says:

          I still lean heavily toward this interpretation, in large part because he could have benefited greatly without actually winning. The winning, in a way, is a huge hassle, but does also come with some perks, which he promptly abused, because, well, that’s just who he is.

  13. foggycoast says:

    love the careful unraveling of Trump’s fiction by EW. But let’s face it, the end game with Trump is money. everything to him is transactional and can be “bought”. he wants Putin and MBS level wealth. it seems reasonable to think that secret payouts on a large scale are being made to Trump et al as we speak. Is anyone out there trying to track such a thing or put pressure on the locales, banks and shell companies where this type of money might be hidden? it’s always about “follow the money”.

    • Geoff says:

      It’s all about money in that money buys him respect, at least from the ignorant masses. Any clued in person knows he is a buffoon. I think everything goes back to his having no self esteem and trying to fill that void. He knows he inherited his wealth, knows he has to lie to cover up tons of his life which is fabricated, has no moral compass, and is devoid of conscience, so criminality is second nature to him. Plus he learned it from Fred. He is lazy as hell, so that also makes me think he never wanted to be President because even a moron like him would have to know the job requires SOME work, even if you delegate as much as possible and avoid as much as you can (e.g. reading briefings, etc.) He is a slave to the $, and ultimately, a slave to the people that provide him with $, which are typically criminals in their own way, since he long ran out of credit with the semi-legitimate banking industry (lets face it, when you are dealing with Deutsche Bank, you are at the tail end of legit.)

      It must be exhausting for him to go through life as a fraud, constantly trying to paper it over. I cannot imagine the self loathing he must endure. Knowing you are so dumb you had to get help getting into good schools, probably got Cs (which is a failing grade at Penn) and now have to hide the truth, just like he has to hide his tax returns. But people know, because guess what, people DID his tax returns. He’s too stupid to and wouldnt have a clue. So the knowledge it out there. It would really be great if someone would just take one for the team and start revealing what a con-artist carnival barker this guy is.

  14. Mitch Neher says:

    It looks to me as though The Republicans are planning to argue that it is somehow strictly necessary to demonstrate Trump’s criminal intent in order to convict Trump at an impeachment trial in The Senate? Not because that’s actually true. But because they desperately need at least a halfway plausible excuse to acquit Trump.

    Why else would the GOP turn their Great Garbling Gun inward upon themselves and Trump, alike?

  15. earlofhuntingdon says:

    The Guardian’s Lauren Gambino and Tom McCarthy provide what their editors’ describe as the “inside story” – based on public testimony – of Trump’s “alleged bribery of Ukraine.” They provide a serviceable account, if not a “comprehensive” one, “of the critical events that have brought Trump to the edge of impeachment.”

    My chief criticism, though, is with their editors’ framing. It obscures Trump’s agency, the extent of his alleged crimes, and who they were against. His alleged crimes include extortion, obstruction, and ConFraud US, not just bribery. His alleged crimes were against his own country, not the “fortunes of an ally.”

    The Guardian’s subtitle obscures the picture further. Public testimony, “has painted a vivid picture of a president fixated about one thing: his own political gain over the fortunes of an ally.” Bribery sounds bad, but cannot reasonable minds disagree about what America should do to help or hinder a little-known ally?

    Its readers might have been more interested had they read that Trump put his personal re-election prospects above his sworn duty to protect America’s interests and to enforce its laws. Had they read that his crimes in the US were extortion, obstruction, and ConFraud US, not just bribery.

    • Geoff says:

      I see this as part and parcel with Pelosi’s methods and motives. She didn’t want this, and reluctantly pushed it through, because otherwise, well, face it, the country is hopelessly lost in the wilderness. I mean, we are pretty lost still, but at least the sun is still shining, and it’s not nuclear winter. Anyway, I digress. The point is, since Pelosi didnt want this, and when she decided to do it finally, her method was to fast track “impeachment lite”, part of that is dumbing down the story to force feed people she apparently holds in contempt for being completely dolts and unable to grasp a slightly more complicated story that gets at the full sweep of the criminality, and its arc through time since before the inauguration. People keep wanting to say how great her strategy is, but they also keep failing to see that she has so far discarded and given herself, and the American people, a losing hand.

      • clark says:

        Unlike the 2016 Russia scandal, this is a top down scheme and realtively easy to understand. It doesn’t matter how far DOWN the scandal runs, to people like Bill Taylor or Rick Perry. It matters that TRUMP said it to Z, that TRUMP wanted dirt on Biden and to promote a CT about Crowdstrike. This isn’t some layered onion. It’s one big rotten tomato. A fish rots from the head. Kee this centered on Trump, his words, his decisions, his directives, is corruption. He’s corrupt. If the public can’t see that, well then they can’t see anything. And that may be the case. I also think there will be no post-aquital rebound. Instead, Trump will lose more suburban women voters. That’s all the Dems are likely to get. (Investigative reporting is the wild card) But I agree that the Dems had a duty to impeach. And that they have thus far ran a pretty good inquiry. I want more hearings, and in prime time next. But i think it is a good strategy to keep it to Ukraine as much as possible. Rotten tomato, not a layered onion.

        • bmaz says:

          Clark. Thank you for being here less than 48 hours but deciding you are the arbiter of facts here at Emptywheel.

          Your sudden devotion to informing all of us as to your singular view is wonderful. How could we possibly have existed for all these years before your benevolent presence?

          • josap says:

            No room for other opinions is why I don’t post here.
            Now you can tell me I should continue not posting.

            I learn a great deal by reading, and I thank all for the knowledge.

            • bmaz says:

              Are you “josep” or “josap”? You seem to approach from multiple names and addresses.

              And, when you say “no room for other opinions” and claim that as a reason why you “don’t post here”, yes, indeed, you are full of shit.

              Comment or don’t comment. There is always room for intelligent opinion here, if you have one. But we are not going to apologize for how we curate and moderate this site. If that makes it not for you, that may be our loss, but it is being done the best we can, and it is not going to be run by the feelings of random commenters.

          • earlofhuntingdon says:

            Donald Trump is a poster child for the observation that facts have a liberal bias. He will invent any fiction if he can preserve his ego and make money from it.

            This site is biased toward the proposition that you can have your own opinion, but not your own facts. We can disagree over whether 2+2=4 is a good thing, but not whether the sum is four. There’s not much room here for those who think – like Trump and Humpty Dumpty – that it’s whatever they want it to be.

            • Savage Librarian says:

              Conundrums compound, though. Take 1 + 1 = ? as an example. On the surface it looks simple and straightforward. Many of us would respond quickly with the answer is 2, of course. But coders may respond just as quickly with something else. Quantum mechanics with another choice. And biologists might say, well, usually, one sperm and one egg leads to the possibility of one zygote. Astronomers, not to be outdone, could say one Sun no longer rotates around one Earth. That “fact” has shifted entirely.

              It is the awareness of all this that makes fiction and lies and propaganda all the more insidious. That may be why the Dems used 2 + 2 as their example. Everything is so spongy. It makes it hard to stabilize the truth. Maybe that is why “both siderism” held its grip for so long.

              • Cathy says:

                Well put, @SL. A fact may exist independent of our observation. Yet our statement of the fact, our communication of it, relies on common assumptions, context. Thus the importance of common sense in our analyses, knowing when to throw out the imaginary results (no matter the temptation of the conspiracy theory) :-)

            • Cathy says:

              Indeed! Find great comfort in this site’s refusal to let opinion obscure fact, even as it encourages interpretation, consensus, and challenge. Safe place. :-)

            • Cathy says:

              Yeah, @clark – @bmaz has a low rumbly growl but it’s been my limited experience that the Commentariat forgives perceived trespass. Frequently.

              Besides, how can we all not be friends when the Judiciary Committee hearings are about to start? Yahoo!! Full speed ahead!! :-)

        • Mitch Neher says:

          Clark said, “I also think there will be no post-aquital rebound.”

          Trump is an incorrigible recidivist. Trump will abuse the power of the office of the president so long as Trump holds that office. The day after The Republicans acquit Trump, he will go back, Jack, do it again. Wheels turning around and ’round.

          There’s plenty of time left on the calendar before election day, 2020, for the American people to get damned mad and decide that they’re not going to take it anymore. Crooked Donald: Vote him out!

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      I would add that, notwithstanding Democratic leadership’s constipated view of its impeachment inquiry, Trump’s impeachable offenses do not start or stop with his attempt to extort a personal benefit from Zelensky and then lie bout it.

      As with prosecuting Al Capone for tax evasion, Dem leadership has chosen a prosecutorial and political strategy. Its focus is on a small subset of Trump’s probable high crimes and misdemeanors.

      • TooLoose LeTruck says:

        Trump’s impeachable offenses do not start or stop with his attempt to extort a personal benefit from Zelensky and then lie bout it.

        I agree with this statement completely…

        I do not believe I’ve ever seen a more corrupt person than Trump in my entire life…

        Frankly, I would say all we’re seeing in the open so far is just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak…

        • P J Evans says:

          I’d say nearly everyone in his cabinet, plus all the senior Republicans (and not a few of the rest), are corrupt. In the case of those in congress, it was made worse by Trmp and the Russia/NRA money-laundering and interest-buying.

          • Geoff says:

            The vast majority start corrupt, and act with corrupt intentions. The other small sliver becomes corrupted, and right quick.

            • Geoff says:

              Can’t edit, sorry. I meant to add, corruption is the price of admission, ultimately. If you so desire to retain any semblance of a functioning moral compass, you have to quit. The price of loyalty to Trump is your whatever is left of your soul.

          • TooLoose LeTruck says:

            Yup… in complete agreement, again…

            I keep waiting for the Russian money/NRA scandal to erupt like an overripe boil…

            I kind of suspected there was more going on w/ Butina all along than we’ve learned… I found it odd that both Trump and Putin were both so quiet about her… no ‘we must free poor, poor, innocent Butina now!’… just silence while she served her time and got sent back… it seemed like they wanted to draw as little attention to her as they could…

            • P J Evans says:

              Very little media attention to her release, also – I did see one story, but it was short and only visible for a little while.

            • bmaz says:

              Why was it an important story by the time she was released? That Butina would be immediately deported was part of the agreement and known from the jump going in to sentencing. The only question was how long she served before that occurred. That was clear on the date of her sentencing, and the rest was completely known and expected.

  16. Mitch Neher says:

    A look back at the first public report of the hold on US military aid to The Ukraine. I’m not sure how to analyze the attributions to sources for the report below:

    Aug 28, 2019 … United States military aid to Ukraine has long been seen as a litmus test for how strongly the American … Trump holds up Ukraine military aid meant to confront Russia …. Natasha Bertrand contributed to this report.

    • Mitch Neher says:

      Here’s the first attribution to “. . . a senior administration official told POLITICO on Wednesday [Aug. 28th, 2019].”

      • Mitch Neher says:

        Here’s the excerpt that really makes me wonder:

        The senior administration official, who asked to remain anonymous in order to discuss internal matters, said the president wants to ensure U.S. interests are being prioritized when it comes to foreign assistance, and is seeking assurances that other countries are “paying their fair share.”

        Defense Secretary Mark Esper and national security adviser John Bolton are among the officials who were asked to review the Ukraine security funding.

        A senior Defense Department official told POLITICO that “the department has reviewed the foreign assistance package and supports it.”

        • ducktree says:

          My recollection is that Bolton offered his resignation on Sept. 9, Trump said “let’s talk tomorrow” and *boom* first thing Sept. 10 Trump tweets Bolton’s firing.

          https: //

          • Mitch Neher says:

            Yes! But I’m wondering which “senior administration official” gave the story about the hold on the Ukraine aid to Politico on August 28th. The reasons cited for the hold read like excuses for Trump.

            ” . . . [T]he president wants to ensure U.S. interests are being prioritized when it comes to foreign assistance, and is seeking assurances that other countries are “paying their fair share.”

            Meanwhile Morrison told Congress that Bolton had told Morrison that Trump was not yet ready to release the aid. I’ll now go fetch the citation for that. If I’m not back in five minutes, then I’ll be in my self-imposed penalty box.

  17. RHall says:

    There’s an interesting point I would like to call attention to, which “Clark” raised in his extensive comments, notably at 4.02 on the 29th and 11.45 on the 30th. Specifically, he suggests Trump may have used the expression, “no quid pro quo,” in his conversation with Sondland, but with a meaning opposite to the way Trump and his defenders use it now.
    I would normally think of a quid pro quo as a mutually beneficial transaction: “You do this for me, and I do that for you.” Each party gets something they want out of the deal. Trump is out for himself, though.
    By September 7, he knew that Zelinskyy didn’t want to cooperate. He knew that the whistleblower complaint was about to surface, and probably others were about to leak. The clock was running out, but he still wanted his deliverable.
    So when he spoke to Sondland on the 7th, he was frustrated and raging mad. Perhaps Sondland used the quid pro quo expression first. (It doesn’t seem like one that Trump would use unprompted.) I can imagine Trump throwing the words back in Sondland’s face. He told Sondland scornfully there was no quid pro quo. He meant that the Ukrainians were not entitled to negotiation on the matter. Trump demanded nothing less than submission (“the right thing”) from Zelinskyy.
    Instead of a defense against an emerging accusation, as his defenders have represented, Trump could have used “quid pro quo” as an expression of contempt for the Ukrainians. It could also have been a jab at his “Three Amigos”/”ambassadors” who couldn’t get the job done. This was not a deal between two leaders on an equal footing. It was about unequal power and coercion. Trump believed he held all the cards and could extort whatever he wanted from Zelinskyy. Given Ukraine’s vulnerability, it’s a classic protection racket.

    • Mitch Neher says:

      I agree, but . . . [sarcasm alert] . . . Why would Trump wait until the lunch break during Sondland’s public testimony to Congress on Wednesday, November 20th, publicly to announce that Trump had supposedly told Sondland that Trump did not want a quid pro quo?

      Wouldn’t Trump have already known that Trump had told Sondland that Trump did not want a quid pro quo?

      And, if Trump had already known what Trump had supposedly told Sondland, then why would Trump have attempted to block Sondland from testifying to Congress?

      I wonder how many times Trump said out loud in public or otherwise tweeted the words “no quid pro quo” without bothering publicly to mention that Trump had supposedly said those same words (NQPQ) in private to Sondland before Sondland told Congress on Wednesday, November 20th, that Trump had supposedly said those same words (NQPQ)to Sondland?

      How was Trump supposed to know that Sondland was going to tell Congress that Trump had supposedly told Sondland that Trump had supposedly not wanted a quid pro quo?

      Is Trump supposed to be a mind reader or something? [end sarcasm alert]

    • MB says:

      Probably not, because I think each committee has their own legal staff. Goldman was with Intelligence. The guy who questioned Corey Lewandowski – Barry Berke – was with Judicial.

      • bmaz says:

        This is kind of true. That said, they are hired by the House and, theoretically, can be moved around. Berke is fine, but It would be great to have Goldman there too.

        More than who the staff counsel is, however, the nature of the committee is critical. Judiciary is far bigger and more unwieldy, and Nadler has not yet evidenced any steely control of it.

        This is, all, exactly why there should have been a specially dedicated Select Impeachment Inquiry Committee formed and impanelled. Yet another refusal to deal intelligently by Nancy Pelosi. She has screwed this pooch from start to finish, and has done so out of craven political expediency as opposed to her oath of office.

        • MB says:

          Yet, as I recall, Nadler was way more antsy than Pelosi to get the impeachment party started in the first place. The impression was that he fought her behind the scenes, but ultimately deferred to her. So, despite a lack of “steeliness” and discipline (using Adam Schiff as the role model for that), Nadler’s fundamental motivations seem to be more rooted in constitutional necessity than in political expediency, which might serve well as an underpinning as to why the hearings are even happening at all. I will not miss designated hitter Jordan advancing the “aggressive magical thinking” being used as a defense. No, it’s back to utility infielder Doug Collins to handle that in Judiciary.

        • ApacheTrout says:

          Whoever the counsel is, I hope the analysis of Sondland’s lies is brought to their attention and Sondland is sworn in as a witness again. Letting his perjury go unpunished (no matter how small a fish he is compared to the big fat fucking whale shark) would send a signal to other witnesses that the House does not require truthful testimony. My apologies to whale sharks for the unflattering comparison.

          • timbo says:

            The Trump Administration—where the Ambassador to the EU with a portofolio including Ukraine, Iran, and Venezuela is a little fish.

  18. TooLoose LeTruck says:

    Oddly enough, I came across the phrase ‘quid pro quo’ yesterday, in a book about the history of organized crime in 20th century America…

    I think it was in a chapter about links between the Kennedys and the mob and whether or not they helped JFK get elected in 1960…

    • BobCon says:

      The Irishman has an entertaining scene about how this supposedly went down.

      The reliability of the guy who told this is very sketchy, so don’t take it seriously, of course.

      • TooLoose LeTruck says:

        The book I was reading wasn’t “I Hear You Paint Houses”…

        It was written by Selwyn Raab, who doesn’t think much of The Irishman… around the time Scorsese’s film came out, I cam across an ongoing keffluffle between Raab and the person who wrote ‘I Hear…’

        A lot of name calling, a lot of ‘and you’re full of it… no, YOU’RE full of it…’

        Seems to happen a lot when people attempt to pass themselves off as experts on organized crime history…

  19. Vince says:

    On ‘This Week’ on ABCNEWS, Martha Raddatz tried to ask one of her typical ‘gotcha’ questions, but got surprised by the response.

    RADDATZ: The president was ultimately unsuccessful in the quid pro quo, as Republicans argue, the Ukrainians never opposed the investigation, the aid ultimately flowed, and Trump met with Zelensky at the U.N.

    REP. VAL DEMINGS (D-FL): Well, you know, you’re going to make me go back to my law enforcement experience. I had an opportunity in 27 years to deal with a lot of people who attempted to rob a bank, attempted to burglarize a house, attempted to carjack an individual, we didn’t say, well, since you weren’t successful, we caught you, you weren’t successful, so we’ll just let you go and forget it. No, we have an obligation given to us by the Constitution. I know it’s one that the American people want us to uphold and we are going to do the work before us. The fact that the president got caught in the act does not relieve him of being held accountable for the wrongdoing that he has engaged in.


    • MB says:

      I’ve often wondered on the various news broadcasts as to who formulates the questions that anchors ask their guests. I suppose it’s usually the behind-the-scenes producers who provide them, with some exceptions for the sharper celebrity anchors, who may have input. I’ve seen way too many formulaic “gotcha” questions asked by 2nd-tier anchors (you know, the non-famous ones who do fill-in and non-primetime shows) that are just infuriating in their “rote-ness”. I tend to think of Martha as one the sharper pencils in the pencil box, but this re-packaging of GOP talking points thrown at Demings to see what she would do with them was pretty pedestrian. Good thing Demings was wise enough to handle that ploy…

      • BobCon says:

        Repeating talking points is very accurate. These shows get thrown together with very little lead time and networks don’t want to pay for in depth specialists who can shape a line of questioning with a longer, deeper perspective.

        Add to that a fear by producers of booking unknowns as guests, who might commit the sin of creating bad TV, and you get a tendency toward treating new guests harshly and recurring guests with undue deference.

        They could fix a lot of these problems by dropping the pretense that they are timely — there is no reason to think news shows have to be so focused on the shortest timeframe. Audiences just don’t care 99% of the time if you take a broader perspective. But producers and execs are hopelessly stuck on the trope of breaking news, and so it lives on.

        • MB says:

          Well, to engage in a little more amateur media-analysis:

          I “cut the cord” from cable a couple of years ago, so all my video news consumerism comes from streamed news clips. Mostly from YouTube, but also from NBC News for some of the MSNBC clips that don’t ever seem to make it to YouTube MSNBC feed.

          So, from this vantage, you get to see how they package and edit the clips. For example, for Sunday MTP, the NBC News app always provides “condensed” clips of their longer segments. Who do they think the audience is for these condensed clips? The large percentage of their audience with short attention spans? The partisan viewers who would rather see the condensed version of their foes but the longer version of their friends?

          There are exceptions – Maddow tends to get longer segments NBC’s editing scheme, some of them are 17-18 minutes. Probably because she’s a good “explainer” and tends to get more weedy than other presenters.

          The eyebrow-raiser for me last month was that on Fridays, MSNBC gives Chris Hayes a live audience for his regular show. Predictably, it’s a little more entertaining than the usual “desk show”. Advancing the cause of infotainment, though.

          And then of course, the independent streaming outlets have always had long segments, where there can be more than 2 back-and-forths between the questioner and questioner. Democracy Now, TYT, Real News etc.

  20. earlofhuntingdon says:

    The fact that the president got caught in the act does not relieve him of being held accountable for the wrongdoing that he has engaged in.


    Perhaps Ms. Raddatz would be less sanguine if someone had attempted but failed to smear her name, hack and empty her bank account, or kidnap her at the point of a herring.

  21. observiter says:

    “…This was not a deal between two leaders on an equal footing. It was about unequal power and coercion. Trump believed he held all the cards and could extort whatever he wanted from Zelinskyy. Given Ukraine’s vulnerability, it’s a classic protection racket.”

    There’s talk that Trump has mysteriously been silent last few days. He seems to have disappeared. Is he in the hospital. Is he having secret talks with his favorite dictator.

    Maybe his right-wing extremist handlers have finally lost trust in Trump’s ability to retain (their) power. Maybe they are setting the stage for a pre-election change to Pence.

    Maybe they have told Trump to feign a medical problem — thus the Trump trip(s?) to the hospital — as a way of (1) quickly making a transition to Pence, (2) saving face for Trump and the GOP, and (3) ensuring their political power beyond the election.

  22. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Toddler Chuck asks, perhaps rhetorically (maybe not), “When does opinion become fact?”

    Never, Chuck. It’s your job to tell your listener that as many times as need be. Otherwise, you’re throwing him down the rabbit hole into TrumpWorld.

  23. Vince says:

    The official deadline has passed for White House to formally notify the Judiciary Committee if their lawyer/lawyers would be participating in proceedings and offer any defense.

      • P J Evans says:

        Also here (no story limit):

        In his letter Sunday, Cipollone did not rule out participating in future hearings but asked Nadler to detail his plans for the upcoming proceedings, including whether he would allow further testimony and cross-examination of fact witnesses, among them those who already testified before the House Intelligence Committee. He also said Republicans should be able to call additional witnesses.

        “Even at this late date, it is not yet clear whether you will afford the President at least these basic, fundamental rights or continue to deny them,” Cipollone wrote.

        Someone needs to explain to them, in small words, that this is NOT a trial, but a grand jury investigation, and the subject doesn’t get rights like that in the investigation.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          Your so factual. The GOP seems to have decided it ain’t got nothing, so it tells lies all the time. It’s pinning all its hope on winning in 2020.

          If nothing else, they will do whatever to keep Trump in office until then, so that they can manufacture more lies about how great they are, how Trump’s re-election was stolen from him and das Volk, and by whom.

          The Dems and the MSM need to get their heads around that absurd and dangerous world. Expecting the GOP to re-enter reality or cooperate with Dems in a post-Trump world is like Sarah Connor expecting a Terminator to play nice.

          • P J Evans says:

            True – they’re trying to convince their own people that it’s all a plot against Trmp, and it will work on people who have forgotten everything they learned in school about the Constitution and government. But some might bother to read the docs and follow the testimony, and get their brains hit with a bucket of ice-cold facts.
            (And AIUI, the latest Terminator movie has the Terminator working with Sarah Connor to defeat a newer and nastier model.)

            • earlofhuntingdon says:

              That’s not a Terminator: it’s a Schwarzinator, reprogrammed to enable Arnold to live forever.

        • Vince says:

          “Someone needs to explain to them, in small words, that this is NOT a trial, but a grand jury investigation, and the subject doesn’t get rights like that in the investigation.”

          And explain the definition of ‘deadline’. You don’t get to file something after the deadline full of one-sided self-serving non-renegotiations which fly in the face of the legal structure they already violated and expect them to be accepted.

          • Mitch Neher says:

            I’m not sure that the words “if” and “then” are small enough. But it might be worth a try, anyway. Here goes:

            If Trump cannot be indicted while in office, then Trump must be impeached . . . WHILE IN OFFICE.

        • TooLoose LeTruck says:

          I started reading Cipollone’s letter this morning but felt my blood pressure going up so fast I had to quit… I think I made it through the first sentence… talk about attitude…

          Again, it’s like they’re playing high stakes poker, pushed all their chips into the pot on a pair of twos, and the only choice they have at this point is to bluff, bluff again, and then bluff some more…

  24. earlofhuntingdon says:

    The money quote from Molly Jong-Fast’s exclusive interview with Lisa Page:

    It’s tempting to describe this as just part of Trump’s deep, baked-in misogyny and sociopathy, but in Page’s case it’s worse; it’s a sign of how deeply he’s corrupted the government to serve his will and his whims. His apologists have become part of Trump’s own squad of witch-hunters, hunting fantasies like “Ukrainian interference” while attacking the people who tried to protect us from Russian attacks.

    It’s not just that Lisa Page may never be safe as long as Trump is President.

    It’s that we won’t be safe, either.

  25. earlofhuntingdon says:

    A perspective on Trump and the constipated view of impeachment proceedings Democratic leadersheep are driven to adhere to, from Sarah Kendzior:

    “Democratic leaders claim they want to limit the scope of the impeachment proceedings to Mr. Trump’s 2019 Ukraine shakedown… that’s both impossible and insulting. The 2019 Ukraine shakedown is a continuation of the 2016 election heist, which was a continuation of Mr. Trump’s apparent lifelong connection to the Kremlin and his schemes with corrupt actors from the former USSR. Limiting the impeachment scope does a grave disservice to people such as Ms. Yovanovitch, whose lives are endangered by the unwillingness of officials to examine crimes in context, and the refusal of institutions to hold perpetrators accountable.”

    • timbo says:

      Just the Judge overseeing the case, two days sooner than expected. Hopefully the full court and Supreme Court, etc, will see fit to stop this delaying in complying with lawful Congressional subpeonas at some point soon.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Appellate court won’t hear arguments until January 3rd, but that’s on an accelerated timetable.

  26. earlofhuntingdon says:

    The academically highly-qualified Sen. Kennedy – Kris Kobach had a stellar resume, too, and he failed Trial Practice 101 – must know the arguments he’s spouting for Trump are rubbish. It’s as if he and other Trump defenders are competing to see who can come up with the most outrageous lie.

    I wonder whether Vlad has a little kompromat on the well-traveled Senator and other GOPers, because the defenses they’re coming up with are absolute bonkers.

Comments are closed.