The Special Envoy for Ukraine Was Working on Paul Manafort’s Defense

In advance of this morning’s impeachment report, Just Security published Susan Simpson’s takedown of the GOP report on impeachment.

Simpson proves that the hold on aid was unprecedented in form and all the excuses for it bullshit. She shows that Kurt Volker and Gordon Sondland were lying about knowing that Burisma was code for Biden. And she lays out how a defense the GOP are making — that this is all about a legitimate interest in 2016 interference — is not what Trump is actually claiming — which is that Trump and Rudy Giuliani are both claiming that Ukraine, not Russia, did the 2016 attack. Here’s her summary of the last bit:

Although the minority report argues that it is “undisputed” that Ukrainians interfered in the 2016 election due to “senior Ukrainian officials ma[king] negative and critical comments about candidate Trump,” this talking point comes from House Republicans only, not from President Trump. (Minority at 78) Neither Giuliani nor President Trump have ever expressed an interest in an investigation into whether Ukraine “interfered” in the 2016 election because of what some Ukrainians officials wrote in op-eds or on social media. The idea that this is what Trump wanted to investigate is a fiction that House Republicans invented to give themselves something they were willing to defend. The only investigation into the 2016 election that President Trump has expressed interest in – both in interviews in Fox News, and in his July 25th call with Zelensky – is an investigation aimed at proving Ukraine was behind the DNC hack.

President Trump’s desire for an investigation that would exonerate Russia is undeniable – it’s right there in the transcript of that “perfect” July 25th call – and it’s also indefensible. And so the minority report makes no attempt to try; instead the report concocts an alternative account that does not match the record.

That detail is important given something Simpson includes to substantiate her argument. In part of her proof that the Ukrainians knew well what was going on, she cites an April 5th interview with Ruslan Bortnik. Bortnik claims that it was already obvious at that point that Volker was not doing what he was hired (for “free”) to do: make peace with Russia.

This includes articles such as an April 5th report of an interview with the Director of the Ukrainian Institute for Policy Analysis and Management, Ruslan Bortnik, on his perception of Ambassador Volker’s role in Ukraine:

“Volker today turned out to be an ambassador without a message, that is, a person who nominally retains the function of special envoy for Ukraine, but really cannot meet anyone and does not conduct any negotiations because of his inability to organize a productive dialogue with the Russian Federation. However, he continues to try to play some important role in Ukrainian affairs, especially with regard to the Manafort case, allegedly Ukrainian interference in the US elections, Burisma Holding and the ongoing election campaign in the USA.”

Significantly, by April, Bortnik knew that along with working on alleged Ukrainian interference in the US elections and framing Joe Biden (both things that Volker’s sworn testimony says he wasn’t asked to do until later), Volker was also working on Paul Manafort’s case.

That suggests the guy who was supposed to be making peace with Russia was instead trying to find a way to help the guy who obstructed Mueller’s investigation into whether that guy entered into a quid pro quo with Russia for election assistance dodge his legal exposure for that and helping pro-Russian leaders in Ukraine loot the country.

The most charitable possibility to explain this (and Volker’s subsequent lies) is that he viewed it to be necessary to make Russia’s tampering in 2016 disappear before Russia would negotiate peace in Ukraine. But there are a whole lot of more sordid possibilities.

18 replies
  1. A. Non says:

    Excellent points. Too bad Volker and Sondland didn’t get the grilling they deserved in their public testimony. Someone should have asked Volker how he was getting paid.

  2. Ruthie says:

    It was fairly obvious at the time that Sondland and Volker lied in their testimony. Presumably there was no easy way to prove it then, but just a few weeks later Simpson has the goods. This illustrates why moving so quickly towards wrapping up the hearings and investigation is a bad idea.

    Either that or the Dems had access to Bortnik’s testimony and didn’t use it. Either way, it’s pretty damning.

    • Arj says:

      It’s astonishingly damning. Smoking gun, fingerprints, high-res video all rolled into one. And still but a fraction of the story.

  3. Vinnie Gambone says:

    Puzzled no pols or pundits remind people that Mueller indicted 12 Russian Intelligence officers for hackings related to the 2016 election. It is not enough to just say Ukrainian interference has been “debunked”. I hate that word. Tell the public how and why it was proved the russians did it. Tell them again and again. People forget. It is a hell of a cudgel. Use it.

  4. sproggit says:

    A related and perhaps much more telling indicator of the GOP position vis-a-vis the 2016 hack of the Presidential election is to consider precisely what the GOP has done to prevent something like this happening again. Specifically, the House already passed (227-181) the “Election Security Bill” and it has been sent to the Senate and of course nothing has happened with it.

    It is beyond ludicrous for the President and his Talking Heads to claim that they are somehow concerned about foreign interference in Presidential Elections and then for:-

    1. Moscow Mitch to basically block the bill in the Senate.
    2. President Trump to threaten to Veto the bill, even if it were to pass the Senate.

    If the President or the GOP had even the smallest amount of interest in the validity of Presidential Elections, then surely they would be doing all they can to support legislation that forces States to improve the integrity and security of voting systems.

    And while we’re at that, here’s a ludicrous situation that seems to have developed… From what I can make out, it seems as though states which insist on using electronic machines to record votes [including some designs which don’t provide an audit trail and cannot be checked for accuracy by the voter at the time the vote is recorded] are actually designed to be connected to the internet, so that vote administrators can remotely poll the machines to collect the results. No chance of those machines being hacked, then, right?

    The simple truth here is that the GOP currently believe that vote manipulation and interference works more in their favor than against – and thus are doing all they can to allow it to continue. You can bet your @$$ that if for one moment Trump actually *believed* the rhetoric he is spouting – that the Ukrainians meddled in elections to benefit the Democrats – he would be all over this in an instant.

  5. Dave Karson says:

    I read through the minority report over the weekend. It kept referring to how Trump had “deep-seated” concerns about Ukraine’s corruption. Apparently he forgot to mention his “deep seated” concern when talking to the YES conference in Kiev in September 2015m saying, “My feeling toward the Ukraine and towards the entire area is very, very strong. I know many people that live in the Ukraine, they’re friends of mine, they’re fantastic people.”
    Also, the minority report made it sound like Ambassador Chaly’s Op-Ed in 2016 was some sort of organized Ukraine Conspiracy to interfere in the 2016 election against candidate Trump. However, a reading of it shows it to be anything but that, only a rational response caused by candidate Trump’s 180 degree policy shift on Crimea, when Trump said he could live with a Russia Crimea, specifically saying “You want to have WWIII to get it back?”

  6. Kate Freedman says:

    I’ve been reading about how the Dems should keep investigating Trump and not send these current articles of impeachment to the Senate for trial. Is this a real option and how would it work?

  7. CD54 says:

    Like Albert said:

    “If it wasn’t for bad faith, they’d have no faith at all.”

    Oh, angel of mercy!

  8. Nicholas Litwin says:

    I have thought from the time I heard their testimony that Volcker and Sondland made a pact on not understanding the meaning of Burisma. Failure to do so would have implicated them in an election conspiracy for which they could go to jail. Claiming stupidity is better than jail.

  9. orionATL says:

    Christopher steele, he of the oft condemned but never disproven “dossier” about her daddy, had a “personal” relationship with ivanka trump:

    what other absurd connection will we discover in the trump-putin dalliance?

    if she had any hint of the afghan report’s content, inspector general horowitz’s critical report on the fbi’s initial work on the trump-putin collusion, or atty. gen. wm. barr’s sly criticism of the investigation underlying the mueller report, we may now better understand why nancy pelosi wants impeachment disposed of.

    these three, together with facebook personalized and hidden political ads, and a better display of temperment over the next 11 months may be sufficient to get the most incompetent president this nation has ever had re-elected.

  10. Jenny says:

    Yes, “absurd connection” and exposure of Ivanka having “personal” relationship with Steele. Who knew. More to be revealed…this is expect the unexpected unexpectedly.

    • P J Evans says:

      Ivanka had dinner with him once, back around 2010, and wanted his company to help them with some of the international stuff, but apparently it never actually happened.

  11. Eureka says:

    Just a sidenote on the April-ness of awareness and ‘Burisma = Biden’ topics (and I still have to finish Simpson’s takedown): it was also in April (the 9th) that edits were suddenly* made to the Burisma Holdings wiki (itself born of the Hunter Biden wiki, 2015 cladogenesis), to explicitly name & link Joe Biden to the Hunter Biden text there. (*Prior to April 9th, no edits since December 8, 2018.)

    From when I looked under the hood of that wiki:

  12. Tony el Tigre says:

    I don’t know if it’s some variation of Stockholm Syndrome or what but the longer this goes on, the more I think America deserves it.

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