Trump HJC Defenders Claim Ukraine Aid Withheld To Fight Corruption While Rudy Rounds Up Fired Corrupt Ukrainians To Help Trump

Just as the House Judiciary Committee impeachment hearing was getting underway today, Inside Defense published yet another debunking of one of the central Republican defenses of Trump’s actions regarding Ukraine by pointing out that the Defense Department, back in May of this year, certified that Ukraine had made sufficient progress in fighting corruption so that the defense assistance funds designated for Ukraine could be released. Once they later learned that the White House had blocked the funding, they never got a good explanation:

The senior Pentagon official who certified in May that Ukraine should receive $250 million in U.S. military aid because it had made sufficient progress combating corruption said today he never got a “very clear explanation” from the White House as to why the funds were delayed over the summer.

“In the weeks after signing the certification I did become aware that the aid had been held,” John Rood, the under secretary of defense for policy, told reporters this morning.

“I never received a very clear explanation other than there were concerns about corruption in Ukraine,” he continued.

Rood was the person in charge of determining whether Ukraine had made sufficient progress:

Rood said he learned of the White House hold on the aid, which was part of a larger $400 million assistance package, “significantly after May,” when he certified that Ukraine had made sufficient anti-corruption progress to receive the aid.

“It was a requirement under the law that we certify that and I was the person that certified it,” he said.

Despite the fact that this has been widely known for months, Republicans continued to claim that Trump was very concerned about corruption in Ukraine and that was the only reason he withheld the aid.

And yet, also around the time the hearing started, we also learned of yet another foreign trip for Rudy Giuliani in his world tour aimed at protecting Trump against impeachment. As usual, Marcy was way ahead of this move, asking yesterday if Yuriy Lutsenko, Viktor Shokin, and Konstantin Kulyk were the three former Ukrainian prosecutors who had provided statements to John Durham in Bill Barr’s “investigations” aimed at protecting Trump. In what can only be seen as confirmation of her suggestion, the New York Times told us this morning that Rudy met Lutsenko yesterday in Budapest and was in Kiev today to meet with Shokin and Kulyk:

Even as Democrats intensified their scrutiny this week of Rudolph W. Giuliani’s role in the pressure campaign against the Ukrainian government that is at the heart of the impeachment inquiry, Mr. Giuliani has been in Europe continuing his efforts to shift the focus to purported wrongdoing by President Trump’s political rivals.

Mr. Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, met in Budapest on Tuesday with a former Ukrainian prosecutor, Yuriy Lutsenko, who has become a key figure in the impeachment inquiry. He then traveled to Kyiv on Wednesday seeking to meet with other former Ukrainian prosecutors whose claims have been embraced by Republicans, including Viktor Shokin and Kostiantyn H. Kulyk, according to people familiar with the effort.

Even Ken Vogel, who had the lead byline on this story, has to admit that these former prosecutors are corrupt:

The former prosecutors, who have faced allegations of corruption, all played some role in promoting claims about former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., a former United States ambassador to Ukraine and Ukrainians who disseminated damaging information about Mr. Trump’s campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, in 2016.

Isn’t that interesting? We are being asked to believe that Trump withheld aid Ukraine desperately needed in its war with Russia because of his concerns about corruption. And yet, as Team Trump is doing its best to protect him, they feel that his best defense lies with some of the most corrupt of those Ukrainian officials who have been removed from office. They have provided statements that Bill Barr is likely depending on in his investigation and we learned in today’s Times article that Rudy was also traveling with a team from a wingnut media organization to film a “documentary” providing a “Republican alternative to the impeachment hearings”.

Let’s take a look at just how corrupt these three OAN stars are. First, Lutsenko. USA Today reported on a criminal investigation of him on October 1:

Ukraine’s State Bureau of Investigations (SBI) opened criminal proceedings against Yuriy Lutsenko over his possible abuse of power, the government agency said.

It said that Lutsenko and other former lawmakers may have conspired to “provide cover” for illegal gambling businesses in Ukraine. Lutsenko disputes the allegations.

And if that’s not enough, it appears that Lutsenko was also involved in the ouster of former Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch:

The unnamed Ukrainian official referenced in a federal indictment as directing a plot to oust the then-U.S. ambassador is Ukraine’s former chief prosecutor Yuriy Lutsenko, according to a U.S. official familiar with the events.

According to the source, Lutsenko is the Ukrainian official who prosecutors say urged two associates of Rudy Giuliani to push for the removal of Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine who was forced out in May.

The associates, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, were arrested Wednesday night as they prepared to board a one-way flight out of the country at Dulles Airport near Washington, D.C.

So Lutsenko helped the efforts to oust a very important ambassador who was doing good work and was so corrupt in general that he not only got fired but had a criminal case opened against him, and yet he’s one of the prime targets of Team Trump when they are trying to mount their final defense against impeachment.

But Shokin is even more corrupt. Recall that the false Trump claim is that Shokin was fired for investigating Hunter Biden. The truth is pretty much the opposite:

At the heart of Congress’ probe into the president’s actions is his claim that former Vice President and 2020 Democratic frontrunner Joe Biden strong-armed the Ukrainian government to fire its top prosecutor in order to thwart an investigation into a company tied to his son, Hunter Biden.

But sources ranging from former Obama administration officials to an anti-corruption advocate in Ukraine say the official, Viktor Shokin, was ousted for the opposite reason Trump and his allies claim.

It wasn’t because Shokin was investigating a natural gas company tied to Biden’s son; it was because Shokin wasn’t pursuing corruption among the country’s politicians, according to a Ukrainian official and four former American officials who specialized in Ukraine and Europe.

Shokin’s inaction prompted international calls for his ouster and ultimately resulted in his removal by Ukraine’s parliament.

It comes as no surprise then, that Shokin’s “depostion” was central to John Solomon’s propaganda campaign in favor of Trump.

But what about Kulyk? It turns out that Kulyk is the first person mentioned in a Washington Post story that ran on Sunday informing us on the real progress Zelensky is making against corruption and that this progress comes at the risk of angering Trump:

By the end of this month, more than 500 Ukrainian prosecutors will be out of their jobs as part of sweeping professional reviews under Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Among the prosecutors heading for the exit: a key Kyiv contact for Rudolph W. Giuliani.


Now that Zelensky’s reform push is underway, some of those Giuliani-linked officials are in the crosshairs.

A prosecutor named Kostiantyn H. Kulyk is one of the first.

Zelensky’s new prosecutor general, Ruslan Ryaboshapka — “100 percent my person,” Zelensky told Trump in July — last week gave a dismissal notice to Kulyk, a key player in the effort to provide Giuliani with political ammunition of dubious accuracy. Kulyk denies meeting Giuliani, but former associates say he prepared a seven-page dossier that his boss later passed along to the former New York mayor. Kulyk did not respond to a request for comment.

And so Team Trump has decided that in order to protect Trump in relation to actions that they claimed were part of a fight against corruption in Ukraine, corrupt Ukrainians are needed in order to produce a narrative that will exonerate him. The Post summed it up well:

Trump’s views of Ukraine — and his demands to investigate the Biden family — were largely shaped by Giuliani, his personal lawyer. The theories and opinions that were passed to Giuliani came from some of the very officials whom Ukrainian activists claim are prime corruption culprits in their own system.

By relying on these corrupt Ukrainians to support their arguments, Trump, Giuliani and Barr are proving that under the Trump Administration, the US courts corruption in order to advance the personal and political future of its President, at great risk to the strategic interests of the US.

33 replies
  1. P J Evans says:

    I wonder if they even realize how obvious all their moves are, to people who are paying even a little attention.

  2. Mellow yellow says:

    Seems like they’re winning bigly so far. Do you know of anyone preparing a requiem mass for democracy yet?

  3. Valley girl says:

    Thanks for pulling this all together in such a readable fashion. Your writing has a great rhythm to it.

  4. Cathy says:

    Well laid out. Even photo-Rudy seems aghast at the absurdity of the unfolding narrative. I imagine Team Trump are under strict orders to project strength, but instead project far and wide what easy marks they are. [sigh]

  5. Eureka says:

    Well, I’m gonna say this all highlights another case where MSM and dem leaders not taking Marcy’s advice is going to bite us all in the ass: at some point they will have to deal with the *actual* corrupt and pro-RU Ukrainians who are screwing/have screwed with our elections to Russia’s benefit, and better to do so over the (planned) payment(s) to Manafort. Maybe they are keeping quiet on that because of ongoing investigation(s). I’m really not sure what else to make of it, besides that they never messaged- out those parts of the Mueller report/other court docs [and no, the Vogel (& Haberman) stenographed attempts — the better part of a year ago now — to ~ stick the frame-Ukraine flag here don’t count].

    Someone is going to own the story that Ukraine-to-now has everything to do with 2016; lets hope it’s not the nutter-fascists.

  6. Eureka says:

    I’ll return to reasonable comments at a date TBA: in the meantime, I’ve been thinking lately that Trump is Lido with lifelong patrons. Or maybe instead that Trump, sans lifelong patrons, would be Lido (per the tempo, an ~affable scamp running for the border, but one can only imagine what life would be like for his dependents, if any…).

    Boz Scaggs is awesome, and when this pops into your mental jukebox days ahead when you’re buried in some task pile, perhaps you’ll give thanks instead of wordpress tomatoes (*ducks out*).

    • Valerie Klyman-Clark says:

      I appreciate your commentary, Eureka-always. But the Boz Scaggs shout out rated an Amen.
      I woke up with “I’ll Be the One” in my head which is such a welcome antidote to the din.

      My husband and I saw him in DC at the Warner Theater in the late 90s; the audience wanted nothing more from him but Silk Degrees which was wonderful, but that man is the epitome of blue-eyed soul and Lord, I wish he had had free reign.

      Waves. I’ll see myself out. Go see what the Speaker has to say, yes?

  7. Mitch Neher says:

    There must be some sort of explanation for the apparent inability (or unwillingness) of Trump, Giuliani and FUBarr et al. to stop what they’re doing after they’ve been caught procuring foreign fabrications for use in a US election. (There needs to be a better name for what they’re doing, too.)

    Of course, I’m merely assuming that FUBarr and Durham have no intention of entering those foreign fabrications into evidence in a United States Court. (But I suppose I could be wrong about that.)

    Does Team Trump have no goal beyond stage-producing the counter-impeachment of Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and who-knows-who-all-else by means of whataboutism, false equivalency and volleying back? What is it that Trump really wants?

  8. sproggit says:

    The approach taken by the Republicans in this matter is hugely concerning, not because of their chosen defenses, but because, somehow, the President has both Senate and House Republicans in thrall, indoctrinated, and spouting whatever the defense de jour happens to be.

    However, much as I am concerned about the harm being done to the political process thanks to Republicans actually arguing for a position that supports and gives succor to Russia, I am equally nervous about the inability of the Democrats to convey their case in an impactful way.

    This article provides a wonderful example (thank you Jim). If you check the FBI FAQ page on their web site, here:-

    you can see, plain as day, that in the United States, the FBI has the responsibility for the investigation of these potential criminal acts, including – and I quote, “such as domestic and international terrorism, foreign counterintelligence, cyber crime, public corruption, civil rights, organized crime/drugs, white-collar crime, violent crimes and major offenders”

    So, with this being the case, each time the Republicans spout, “Ah, but the President was super concerned about corruption in Ukraine”, why are the Democrats not putting Christopher Wray on the stand as a rebuttal witness?

    “Ah, Director Wray. Can you please tell us, in your own words, the role that the FBI has played in the investigation of corruption in Ukraine, vis-a-vis the spending of US military aid? What’s that you say? Nobody in the FBI has been involved? But isn’t this the remit of the FBI? How interesting…”

    Or how about the fact that the Javelin anti-tank missile system – the weapon system that this money was supposed to be funding – is manufactured by Raytheon and Lokheed Martin? Think about that for a moment. What that means is that the Federal Government doesn’t simply send money to Ukraine [an act which might be something that could trigger a concern about corruption]. Instead, the US Government sends the money to Raytheon and Lokheed Martin, who make the weapons, that are then shipped to Ukraine. Or is the President claiming that he was concerned that Ukraine would take the weapons – that they need for the defense of their country, which has been invaded by a hostile power – and *sell them*???

    We need to hear the Democratic Leadership actually express the case, like this, in to a camera.

    I get that, for President Trump to be impeached, it is going to take an air-tight case. But the thing that concerns me is that the Democrats have the facts and the law on their side, but they are being hopelessly out-played by a counter-narrative propaganda campaign.

    It looks as though the equation is a simple one: Republican Senators are going to vote with whatever position is most likely to keep them in office in 2020. So:-
    1. Those not up for election in 2020 are likely to vote for Trump in the Impeachment Trial…
    2. Those who are up for election in 2020 are going to look at their opponent and public sentiment regarding their position on this and vote accordingly. And with Trump holding campaign rallies in their back yards, keeping his base close, the President basically gives them a choice: support Trump or risk lose their seat if Trump survives the impeachment vote. Classic bully tactics.

    To move the needle, the Democrats are going to have to not just make their case down in the weeds, but to absolutely hammer home a counter-strike every time a Republican says or does something stupid in defense of the President’s actions. If nothing help, it will highlight the self-serving hypocrisy of the Republicans and may even help them in 2020.

  9. harpie says:

    1] The Ukrainian journalist, Sergii Leshchenko, spoke with Michael McFaul at Stanford last night:
    southpaw Retweeted
    5:41 PM – 4 Dec 2019

    . @McFaul: “I’m not convinced that Giuliani, Parnas and Fruman really care about corruption in Ukraine. So what were they looking to achieve?” [THREAD]

    2] Leshchenko also has a new piece in the Kyiv Post:
    1:12 AM – 5 Dec 2019

    Read this piece by @Leshchenkos to learn more about the people Giuliani is now meeting with. [link]

    Links to:
    Sergii Leshchenko: How Kolomoisky’s prosecutor fueled Giuliani’s conspiracies
    Published Dec. 4. Updated Dec. 4 at 5:29 pm

    • harpie says:

      Sorry about that mess.
      If I could edit it, I would end the first blockquote after “[THREAD]”.
      …going to get my first cup of coffee, now.

      • Cathy says:

        What? There’s a 1] and a 2], each with a link. It’s not only sufficient, it’s more than the rest of us deserve, dear @harpie.

  10. sproggit says:

    Slightly off-topic from the article [sorry!] but in the same general vicinity, I’ve just been reading this piece

    by Chris Cillizza. I was particularly struck by his 8th observation, which he titled, “Nadler’s own words come back to haunt him”. In this point, Cillizza observes that Republican Steve Chabot reminded Nadler that the chairman was a prominent defender of Bill Clinton during that impeachment saga, at which time Nadler argued that “impeachment should never be pursued if only one party favored it because it would deeply divide the nation”.

    Nadler chose not to respond to Chabot. And that was a mistake. A big mistake.

    Nadler should absolutely have seen this coming. Every single Democrat on that Committee should have been asked to consider past positions on the Clinton impeachment and to prepare a whip-crack response to any incoming fire from Republicans. For example, what Nadler could and should have said was,

    “Firstly, I think that the scenario on which I was commenting in the 1990s is very different to the one we have today, mainly because President Clinton did his best to be a President for the entire nation, regardless of party affiliation, whilst have never had a President even half as divisive, vindictive or narcissistic as the current incumbent.

    Secondly, I thank the honorable Representative for reminding us that in the 1990s, President Clinton was impeached for lying under oath about his relationship with Monica Lewinsky. Compare that transgression with actively seeking foreign assistance in a general election for political advantage and you will agree that the uncontested evidence before us – the very details of the call transcript – already define a far more egregious set of charges than were aligned to President Clinton.

    Thirdly, as the honorable representative has pointed out, my views have evolved. However, I would remind him that I am in good company. On the Senate Floor, during a debate on the Clinton impeachment, Senator Lindsay Graham said the following:-

    “You don’t even have to be convicted of a crime. To lose your job, in this constitutional Republic, if this body determines that your conduct, as a public official, is clearly out of bounds in your role… Impeachment is about cleansing the office… Impeachment is about restoring honor and integrity to the office. This is the same Lindsay Graham who said, during the Republican nomination process, that Donald Trump was unfit to be President. Yet now, Senator Graham has reversed position on all of those earlier statements.

    So I would ask that before the honorable gentleman attempts to remove the mote of dust from my eye, that he should first remove the plank of wood from his own.”

    Unless or until the Democrats hammer home the flagrant hypocrisy with which the Republicans are trying to deflect away from the facts of the case, they are basically snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, undermining their own case and, worse, undermining public confidence in the effectiveness of government oversight.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Chris Cillizza is not the brightest bulb in the pack or the most disinterested. I would check his work against a real journalist’s.

      • Rayne says:

        That. I’ll be more pointed and say Cillizza is an overpaid asshat sucking up resources better spent on journalists instead of his clickbait punditry (he’s not actually a journalist but a commentator).

          • sproggit says:

            OK, I get that collective wisdom believes that Chris Cillizza is not the sharpest commentator out there.

            But if I could ask you to go back and take another look at the point… which was that Democrats appear, to use a soccer metaphor, to be ignoring open goal-mouth after open goal-mouth.

            I know this is a mighty thin connection and way out there, (and I know that here we’re talking about the real world) but there is a line in the movie “A Few Good Men” in which Lionel Caffey (Tom Cruise), says, “A trial is not just about the law, it’s about assigning blame. Santiago is dead and he shouldn’t be. These nine people…” (the jury) “… are going to insist that someone be blamed for that. Ross is handing them our clients; we’re going to hand them Kendrick. This is about a sales pitch – it’s not going to be won by the law, it’s going to be won by the lawyers.”

            I know I’m all over the place with references, but it strikes me that there are some intense parallels between these House proceedings and the comments made by Tom Cruise’ character in that movie. If the Democrats want to convince a broad swath of the population – including swing voters and Republicans that Trump behaved in an impeachable way, they must, *must* respond to every dig like that with a comprehensive, polite, but thoroughly robust response.

            I’m sorry that the observation was sufficient off-center that you felt inclined to comment on my quoting Cillizza, but I think the point here is much, much more important.

            The bottom line is simple: even with the current split in the Senate, this impeachment trial will only be lost if the Democrats throw it. There is more than enough evidence of the alleged wrong-doing. What they need to be doing is building an airtight case. Airtight. Which they’re not…

  11. BobCon says:

    The description of the Ukranians in Vogel’s article sure sounds like something grudgingly tacked on so that Baquet will have cover when he has to face more challenges to Vogel’s reporting.”But, but, we mentioned something in graf 34 about allegations against Shokin…”

    I loved the detail in the Inside Defense article — “Rood also said he cannot recall from memory which defense secretary knew of the delayed aid and when because there were three different acting Pentagon chiefs during that period — Pat Shanahan, Richard Spencer and Mark Esper.”

    That is a sad commentary on how there have been so many institutional breakdowns in holding Trump to account for the damage he’s done to national security.

  12. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Trump’s actions go beyond restraining a supposedly out-of-control bureaucracy. That’s what we have with DHS, but instead of reining it in, Trump empowers it and makes it unaccountable.

    No, Trump, his acolytes, and his patrons are trying to dismantle government. It is as if you put Al Capone in charge of the FBI: you would soon find how much of it no longer worked, except to attack his enemies.

  13. Jenny says:

    Thank you Jim. More exposure. Rudy has been busy.

    Olga Lautman on Twitter 4 4:59 PM – 4 Dec 2019
    Omg a name I havent heard in awhile
    According to Ukrainian sources @RudyGiuliani met with Artemenko in Budapest. Artemenko back in 2017 was involved in peddling Putins “peace plan” via Felix Sater, Michael Cohen, Oronov (died shortly after news broke) to be delivered to Flynn

    And another Russian Billionaire Killed:
    KREMLIN HIT FEAR Russian billionaire tycoon Dmitry Obretetsky mysteriously killed by driver in Surrey as pals blame Putin

    • I am sam says:

      The Ballad of Rudy and Donnie
      Well, Rudy and Donnie were sweethearts
      Lordy, how they could love
      But they swore to be true to each other
      Yeah, just true as skies above
      Rudy was Donnie’s man, Donnie wouldn’t do Rudy wrong.
      Rudy went down to the corner, just for a bucket of beer
      He says, Mr Bartender has my loving Donny been here
      He’s my man, he wouldn’t do me wrong.
      I ain’t gonna tell you no story
      I ain’t gonna tell you no lie
      Donny left here ’bout an hour ago–
      Said to meet him at the Bus Stop, on that you can rely.

      With apologies to Frank and Bert Leighton and others.

  14. Pete T says:

    I wish it could be confirmed that members of the HJC, HPSCI, et al (yeah both sides of the aisle) read posts like this from Jim, Marcy, Bmaz, et al. And the comments too!


  15. Mao Cheng Ji says:

    “aid Ukraine desperately needed in its war with Russia”

    Dear, there’s no “its war with Russia”. If there were, it would’ve been over 3-4 days after it started, maximum. With US military aid or without.

    In fact, Kiev’s attempts to harass militarily the rebellious provinces (which is what you describe as “its war”) have been greatly reduced after the presidential election, where the new clown won ~75% of the vote — precisely for promising a peaceful solution. Which is what he’s been trying to do, albeit slowly and unsurely.

    I mean, vilifying people who accuse (quite credibly, imo) the Biden Family of corruption is one thing, but inventing wars that don’t exist and never existed is a bit too much, don’t you think?

    [FYI, I’m letting this comment through as an example of an attempt to influence community members. Note my reply to follow. /~Rayne]

    • bmaz says:

      Dear friends: If you go carrying on with Chairman Mao, You ain’t going to make it with anyone anyhow. #YouSayYouWantARevolution

    • Rayne says:

      Note in the above comment:
      1 — “Dear, there’s no ‘its war with Russia’.” — A militarized occupation of eastern Ukraine continues with roughly 13,000 Ukrainian citizens dead. It’s a war.

      2 — “Kiev’s attempts to harass militarily the rebellious provinces” — Ukraine’s democratically-elected government is trying to regain its own sovereign territory and protect its citizens from occupation by Russian-aligned “rebels.” If the “rebels” had wanted to separate the Donbass region from Ukraine, they could have done it legitimately through a democratic referendum, but no. It’s therefore not a legitimate separation but an illegitimate occupation. Also note the use of “Kiev” versus “Kyiv” — the former is the spelling used by Russia, the latter by Ukraine.

      3 — “vilifying people who accuse (quite credibly, imo) the Biden Family” — there’s nothing credible about this claim which is a Russian position. Joe Biden as VP pressed Ukraine to reduce corruption, in tandem with the rest of the EU. This was Biden’s remit as duly elected VP. Hunter Biden is a private citizen who has the freedom to work as he chooses; clearly his role at Burisma didn’t stop Joe Biden from pressing for anti-corruption reform.

      In short, this new user Mao Cheng Ji who has left a total of four comments, all today, using an address outside the U.S., is pushing a pro-Russian argument against Ukraine. Do svidaniya, tovarishch.

    • Jim White says:

      My bad. I would have thought that at least from Ukraine’s perspective, where they’ve been invaded, had some of their territory annexed and have people dying from armed conflict on a daily basis, would constitute being at war.

      As far as I’m concerned, you can go back to Cat Country and I’ll shitcan any trolling comments of yours on my posts.
      Should you, however, wish to engage in honest discussion, carry on. But I’ve seen none of that from you.

      • Pete T says:

        Couldn’t agree more with Jim, Rayne, and Bmaz.

        OT: I would point out, though, that the USA manages to fight wars which in the legal sense are not wars – not legal wars according to many and the Constitution. None the less people on all sides die including combatants and non-coms – especially innocent civilian non-coms of all ages.. The AUMF needs to be buried – well beyond its burial time. It should never have been. With apologies to Edwin Starr I give you Bruce (dated but apropos I think):

  16. Jplm says:

    He’s not mentioned here but can’t help wondering if Dems or Prosecutors from SDNY are reaching out to Mr Firtash. He must be grinning from ear to ear as the flea circus who have courted and represented him find themselves the subject of investigation.
    So he’s got his Xmas present as Firtash may be now sitting on enough leverage to make a deal against his extradition. Maybe he ought to double Rudy, Vicky, Joe, et al’s bonuses because it looks to me ironically as though they just might end up doing his time.
    If I’ve missed the boat here will try and thread it into somewhere else, more relevant.

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