The Parnas Files Raise the Import of DOJ’s Failure to Connect-the-Dots on the Whistleblower Complaint

Last night, HPSCI released some of Lev Parnas’ files that were seized as part of the investigation into Rudy Giuliani and his grifters.

The most important document, for the legal impeachment case against Donald Trump, is a letter Rudy sent to Volodymyr Zelensky stating clearly that he was contacting the Ukrainian president as Trump’s personal lawyer, not a government lawyer.

Just to be precise, I represent him as a private citizen, not as President of the United States.

It makes it clear that — contrary to the Republican cover story — Rudy and Zelensky both knew they were negotiating a personal benefit for Trump, not a benefit to the US.

But the most important files showing Trump’s abuse of power are texts between Parnas and a thoroughly American grifter, Robert F. Hyde, who appears to have had people on the ground in Kyiv surveilling Marie Yovanovitch in the days before she was recalled. He not only appears to have known precisely where she was, but he seemed to suggest to Parnas that he could have her assassinated for a price. “Guess you can do anything in the Ukraine with money,” he quipped.

Viewed in isolation, these comments are (at least) a chilling indication of the lengths to which Trump supporters will go to push his conspiracies.

But viewed in light of Trump’s comment to Zelensky about Yovanovitch — “Well, she’s going to go through some things” — it suggests a direct tie between Trump and the more sordid things that Parnas was doing.

Which makes DOJ’s remarkable failure to connect the dots on the whistleblower complaint all the more damning.

As I have laid out, by August 15, top people at DOJ knew of the complaint and knew that Trump had invoked the Attorney General in his comments to Zelensky. Perhaps ten days later, DOJ got the full complaint from the whistleblower, discussing the call itself but also the larger context. Based on a claim that there was no first hand reporting in the complaint, DOJ evaluated just the MEMCON in their review of whether or not a crime was committed, not the complaint as a whole. (Not only was the claim that the whistleblower offered no first hand information false — he was in the loop on the July 18 call and July 23 and 26 meetings about withholding aid — but the complaint included concerns about withholding funding not mentioned on the call.) They quickly publicly declared that the call did not constitute a campaign finance violation, and then did not share the complaint with the FEC (which could have imposed civil penalties) and tried to prevent Congress from obtaining the complaint.

By reviewing the MEMCON instead of the full complaint, DOJ avoided doing what would be normal connect-the-dots database searches on all the names included in it, which — because the whistleblower included multiple references to and a link to this article, would have included searches on Parnas and Igor Fruman. As this table makes clear, if DOJ had done that basic connect-the-dots work they do when assessing tips, they would have found the investigation at SDNY — which Bill Barr had been briefed on when he was confirmed as AG and Jeffrey Rosen probably knew about as well.

And had DOJ tied the call to Zelensky — with its reference to potential violence targeting Yovanovitch — it would have immediately implicated Trump far more deeply in some really corrupt shit.

As if by magic, DOJ failed to do those searches, and therefore failed to obtain official notice that the President was personally involved with a grift that SDNY was close to indicting.

How Putin Got in Trump’s (and So, All of Our) Head

As of 8AM on December 22, this tweet has over 50,000 likes and almost 11,000 RTs.

The AP story he RTed selectively reported Vladimir Putin’s taunt in response to a Dmitry Simes’ question at his yearly epic press conference (posed well into the process, even after a possibly more interesting exchange about doping and the Olympics).

In context, Putin’s response is not that inflammatory. It uses domestic US politics as a way to pressure Trump to sign START-3. (I’ve italicized the Putin language that AP took out of context and provided their own translation of; also note: Simes was himself a subject of the Mueller investigation for the early advice he gave Jared Kushner on how to manage this relationship and is close to a number of key members of Congress.)

D. Simes:  Channel One, The Big Game.

D. Peskov : Please give a microphone.

D. Simes:  Mr. President, two days ago the US Congress passed bills on sanctions against Russia. Moreover, by such a majority that it would be very difficult for President Trump to maintain his veto.

And, as you probably know, the House of Representatives passed an impeachment act yesterday. This is the context in which he has to make decisions on foreign policy as a whole and more specifically, of course, in relation to Russia.

In this situation, what, do you think, do you and Russia have the opportunity to try to maintain or strengthen dialogue with the United States until the end of Trump’s presidency? What can you do for strategic stability, and more specifically, for the extension of the strategic offensive arms treaty START-3?

Vladimir Putin:  Regarding the extension of our dialogue until the end of Trump’s presidency, it’s as if you are already raising the question that it is ending. I’m just not sure about that. You also need to go through the Senate, where the Republicans, as far as I know, have the majority, and they are unlikely to want to remove the representative of their party from power for some, in my opinion, absolutely far-fetched reasons.

It’s just a continuation of the internal political struggle, and one party that lost the election, the Democratic Party, it is achieving results by other means, by other means, charging Trump with conspiracy with Russia, then it turns out that there was no conspiracy, this cannot lie in the basis of impeachment. Now they have come up with some kind of pressure on Ukraine. I don’t know what it is … But it’s more visible to your congressmen.

As for those decisions that are made in [respect] of Russia. They are accepted by people who practically do not bear responsibility for these decisions. These are not executive authorities, but representative ones, they must pass laws. They make such decisions regarding Russia.

Of course, this will affect the level of our interstate relations. We know the general approach, which is that the United States will work with us where it is interesting and profitable, and at the same time will restrain Russia with the help of solutions of this kind. Knowing this, we, too, will act in a mirror image, and that’s it. There is nothing good about it. These are absolutely unfriendly acts against Russia.

They want to help Ukraine maintain transit. I just told a colleague from Ukraine: we ourselves want to preserve transit, we are interested in this anyway and will do it. If you wanted to help, it would be better if they gave money. Why don’t they give money to Ukraine? Would give them the opportunity to subsidize.

Look, because they almost do not give money, they give only guarantees for possible loans, but this is not real money – there is no real support. And the IMF, at the same time as the United States, is demanding that all privileges for energy resources, including gas, be canceled. And now the population will again have a leap.

Other Westerners, the EU, are demanding that the round timber be exported and allowed to be exported to Europe. There will soon be nothing left of the Carpathians – bare rocks will be there if they take out the round timber. It seems like they support the current Ukrainian regime and leadership, but at the same time, in my opinion, they are doing some serious blows.

Now they demand that land be sold. For Ukrainians, the land has sacred significance, and I can understand it: these are the “golden” lands. Of course, the opposition immediately took advantage of this, now it begins to inflict domestic political blows on Zelensky.

They accuse us of something in relation to Ukraine, they allegedly want to help, but they really want to do something so that Ukraine replenishes its budget at the Russian expense. Give money yourself, help, give good loans at preferential rates for a long period. There is nothing.

Nevertheless, we are interested in developing and maintaining relations with the United States, and we will do this regardless of who is in the White House or who controls both houses of the US Congress.

Are there any prospects here? I think there is. You yourself mentioned one of the foundations on the basis of which we must build our relations – these are global security issues, including START-3. We have given our proposals, I have already said, and I want to repeat once again: until the end of the year we are ready to simply extend, just to take and extend the current START-3 agreement.

If tomorrow they send us by mail, or we are ready to sign and send to Washington, let the relevant leaders, including the President, put their signature there, if they are ready. But so far there is no answer to all our proposals. And if there is no START-3, then there will be nothing at all in the world that holds back the arms race. And this, in my opinion, is bad.

Along the way, though, Putin’s correct observation that Republicans will be loathe to replace their own president led AP to foreground his claimed opinion that the impeachment was like the Mueller investigation and the allegations are far-fetched.

In a world of rigorous journalism, such a report would note that the Ukraine allegations are in some ways the continuation of Trump’s efforts to undermine the Russian investigation and incorporate a hoax that Trump believes partly because Putin has convinced him to (claim to) believe.

But the AP didn’t include that. It instead included Putin’s comment with the spin he might prefer, and slapped it into a tweet that emphasized Putin’s predictive powers. And somehow that tweet attracted Trump’s attention (how it did so — after all, the AP is not Trump’s regular media diet — is one of the more interesting questions about this). And Trump tweeted it out, “A total Witch Hunt!,” like he would other tweets parroting precisely what he wants to hear.

Given Trump’s kneejerk narcissism, that he retweeted this Putin comment is not much different than him retweeting Rand Paul or Jim Jordan or Mark Meadows saying something similar. Putin is just one other person Trump has chosen to include in his echo chamber,  and he’s there for the same reason: because he says to Trump what Trump wants to hear.

Of course it is different, not just because Putin has a role in Trump’s crimes, which has made this tweet go viral in part due to outrage retweeting. A slew of stupid news coverage has followed.

But the tweet is also different because by elevating the tweet, Trump will allow Putin to claim to be correct when the Senate fails to remove Trump, not just on his analysis that Republicans won’t want to remove their own President, but also that the allegations are far-fetched, something many but not all Republicans are willing to perform belief of, but which few people who’ve read the facts actually do believe.

Along the way, Putin will co-opt those Republicans (like John Kennedy) willing to spew hoaxes about Ukraine out of partisan loyalty. Loyalty to Trump will appear to be validation of Putin, even on a question premised on the overwhelming bipartisan support for sanctions on Russia. And that, in turn, will be deemed, by Trump opponents, to demonstrate irrationality of his supporters.

It’s all very predictable and — pro Trump, anti Trump, and lazy journalist — we’re all playing our designated parts like trained monkeys. All of this reactive expression only serves to heighten partisanship on terms with real consequences for foreign policy. It doesn’t take genius by Putin to do this either (though he’s very very good at playing Trump and the western press). It just takes our own reactiveness triggered by social media.

The Carter Page IG Report Debunks a Key [Impeachment-Related] Conspiracy about Paul Manafort

I’m still working on my multi-post deep dive into the substance of the IG Report on the Carter Page FISA.

But for now, it’s worth pointing out a detail from it that debunks a key conspiracy that Rudy Giuliani is chasing as he tries to hasten his client’s impeachment.

The Report describes that the investigation into Paul Manafort that resulted in conviction in EDVA and a guilty plea in DC started in January 2016, before he joined the Trump campaign.

In addition to Ohr’s interactions with the FBI and Steele in connection with the Crossfire Hurricane investigation, Ohr also participated in discussions about a separate money laundering investigation of Paul Manafort that was then being led by prosecutors from the Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section (MLARS), which is located in the Criminal Division at the Department’s headquarters. That criminal investigation was opened by the FBI’s Criminal Investigation Division in January 2016, approximately 2 months before Manafort joined the Trump campaign as an advisor, and concerned allegations that Manafort had engaged in money laundering and tax evasion while acting as a political consultant to members of the Ukrainian government and Ukrainian politicians.

As expressed by propagandists like John Solomon, the investigation into Manafort’s corruption was actually “resurrected” later that year, in response to the publication of the Black Ledger (which he falsely said was a suspected fake).

The second document, known as the “black cash ledger,” remarkably has escaped the same scrutiny, even though its emergence in Ukraine in the summer of 2016 forced Paul Manafort to resign as Trump’s campaign chairman and eventually face U.S. indictment.

In search warrant affidavits, the FBI portrayed the ledger as one reason it resurrected a criminal case against Manafort that was dropped in 2014 and needed search warrants in 2017 for bank records to prove he worked for the Russian-backed Party of Regions in Ukraine.

Based on this false claim, Solomon and Rudy have claimed that Serhiy Leshchenko’s publication of the ledger (but not the entries pertaining to Manafort) was part of a Ukrainian plot to defeat Trump by falsely (they suggest) portraying Manafort as corrupt.

But the Black Ledger is not what “resurrected” the investigation into Manafort. It had started long before that, even before Manafort knew (two months before it was public) that he was included in the Black Ledger. Indeed, Manafort was under investigation when Trump hired him.

Note, too, that contrary to Trump’s wails, there would be no reason to give him a defensive briefing about Manafort, as this was not a counterintelligence investigation. Indeed, the Manafort investigation remained focused on his corruption well into 2017. If you hire a spy, you might hope that the FBI would warn you. But if you hire an epically corrupt influence peddler, you own the consequences of that.

OTHER POSTS ON THE DOJ IG REPORT

Overview and ancillary posts

DOJ IG Report on Carter Page and Related Issues: Mega Summary Post

The DOJ IG Report on Carter Page: Policy Considerations

Timeline of Key Events in DOJ IG Carter Page Report

Crossfire Hurricane Glossary (by bmaz)

Facts appearing in the Carter Page FISA applications

Nunes Memo v Schiff Memo: Neither Were Entirely Right

Rosemary Collyer Responds to the DOJ IG Report in Fairly Blasé Fashion

Report shortcomings

The Inspector General Report on Carter Page Fails to Meet the Standard It Applies to the FBI

“Fact Witness:” How Rod Rosenstein Got DOJ IG To Land a Plane on Bruce Ohr

Eleven Days after Releasing Their Report, DOJ IG Clarified What Crimes FBI Investigated

Factual revelations in the report

Deza: Oleg Deripaska’s Double Game

The Damning Revelations about George Papadopoulos in a DOJ IG Report Claiming Exculpatory Evidence

A Biased FBI Agent Was Running an Informant on an Oppo-Research Predicated Investigation–into Hillary–in 2016

The Carter Page IG Report Debunks a Key [Impeachment-Related] Conspiracy about Paul Manafort

The Flynn Predication

Sam Clovis Responded to a Question about Russia Interfering in the Election by Raising Voter ID

Explain It To Me: What Does Impeachment Mean Now?

[NB: check the byline, thanks! /~Rayne]

Trump was impeached Tuesday evening under two Articles of Impeachment — one for abuse of power, and another for obstruction of Congress.

Got it. This is pretty straightforward.

The House has “the sole Power of Impeachment” according to Article I, Section 2, subsection 5 of the Constitution.

Understood, no problem. That’s what the House exercised under Nancy Pelosi’s leadership.

We’re now to Article I, Section 3, subsection 6 after last night:

The Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments. When sitting for that Purpose, they shall be on Oath or Affirmation. When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside: And no Person shall be convicted without the Concurrence of two thirds of the Members present.

Nothing between Article I, Section 2, subsection 5 and Article I, Section 3, subsection 6 says that the House MUST or SHALL forward any impeachment to the Senate for a trial.

I think we’re all of us watching to see how this shakes out. Since Senate Majority Leader Mitch “Sits on 400 Bills” McConnell said last week he is coordinating the handling of the senate trial with the White House — a gross conflict of interest undermining Congress’s separate powers — and senators like Majority Whip Lindsey Graham have already decided to vote to acquit Trump, it doesn’t make much sense to forward the impeachment if already moot.

It makes sense to hang on to the impeachment articles until there is clarification about the Senate acting in good faith, “on Oath or Affirmation” as Article I, Section 3, subsection 6 says.

~ ~ ~

Now we arrive at my first question: is Trump still qualified to run for re-election?

See Article I, Section 3, subsection 7:

Judgment in Cases of impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States: but the Party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to Indictment, Trial, Judgment and Punishment, according to Law.

Emphasis mine. Does “judgment” refer solely to conviction by the Senate after a trial once the impeachment has been forwarded to them? Or is the “judgment” when the impeachment has been pronounced by the House since the House has the sole power of impeachment? The Constitution says “Indictment, Trial, Judgment and Punishment” in subsection 7 but the wording, “Judgment in Cases of impeachment” may not mean “Judgment in Cases of conviction” — the latter would clearly limit the outcome of the House’s impeachment to a pre-indictment or indictment determination before the Senate’s trial.

This subsection occurs under Section 3 which defines the Senate’s composition and its most fundamental powers — specifically, trying the subject after impeachment — so we might assume this is the Senate’s “judgment.” But the Constitution’s wording is muddy.

We don’t have the benefit of precedent to rely upon for guidance. Andrew Johnson, impeached by the House in 1868 but not removed by the Senate, did not win his party’s nomination that year and left office in 1869 having never been elected to the presidency. In 1998 Bill Clinton was impeached by the House during his second term, though not removed by the Senate; he was ineligible to run for re-election.

~ ~ ~

My second question relates to a point Robert Reich made about a pardon for the impeached president:

… Regardless of whether a sitting president can be indicted and convicted on such criminal charges, Trump will become liable to them at some point. But could he be pardoned, as Gerald Ford pardoned Richard Nixon 45 years ago?

Article II, section 2 of the Constitution gives a president the power to pardon anyone who has been convicted of offenses against the United States, with one exception: “In Cases of Impeachment.”

If Trump is impeached by the House, he can never be pardoned for these crimes. He cannot pardon himself (it’s dubious that a president has this self-pardoning power in any event), and he cannot be pardoned by a future president.

Even if a subsequent president wanted to pardon Trump in the interest of, say, domestic tranquility, she could not. …

Apart from the specific reference to the House’s sole power to impeach, is this why the two Articles of Impeachment do not use the words “bribery” or “extortion” to describe what Trump did with regard to Ukraine — to limit the described crimes against the U.S. for which Trump could be pardoned by an interim successor or the next elected president?

Or if the crime(s) have not been spelled out in an impeachment, identified as a violation of specific U.S. law, can Trump still be pardoned for them, in essence given carte blanche after the fact?

Is this why the Articles were scoped so narrowly, to prevent an over-broad pardon?

So often it’s said the president’s pardon power is absolute, but impeachment appears to place the single limit. Where and when is that limit placed?

~ ~ ~

These questions have been chewing at me since Pelosi’s second gavel upon completion of the vote on the second article. I imagine the Republican Party will do as it’s done since 2015: roll over and let Trump run an obnoxious and corrupt re-election campaign, looking every bit as repulsive as he did Tuesday evening during his Battle Creek rally.

It’s also been niggling at me that twice in the text of the Articles of Impeachment it was written, “the President ‘shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors’.”

Shall, not may, be removed, on conviction for Bribery.

I noted also the use of the word “betrayed” in the Articles’ text:

… He has also betrayed the Nation by abusing his high office to enlist a foreign power in corrupting democratic elections. …

It’s not treason as we’ve discussed in comments, but a traitor shouldn’t get a pass for selling out his country’s national security interests for personal gain.

You can bet McConnell and Graham would already have ensured the conviction and removal of a Democratic president who likewise betrayed the nation. If only they moved with the same alacrity on those 400 bills sitting on McConnell’s desk.

Will Hurd

The Entire Republican Party Owns Trump’s Crimes Going Forward

Both articles of impeachment just passed Congress, with the only non-partisan votes coming from Justin Amash (voting yes on both), Tulsi Gabard (voting present on both), Jeff Van Drew and Collin Peterson (no on both) and Jared Golden (who split his vote). In spite of a pretty damning speech about Republican lack of courage from Steny Hoyer, no Republican had the courage to support the Constitution.

President Trump will be shown to have committed more crimes, even more grievous ones than withholding duly appropriate aid to cheat in an election. It probably won’t be that long from now. And the entire Republican party will own those crimes.

The Republican party favors cheating over the national security of the United States.

What Real Voters Think about Impeachment at Grand Rapids’ Brewery Vivant

Yesterday, Meet the Press did what it billed as a “focus group,” in one of five counties it predicts will decide the 2020 election (the full clip starts at 31:00). That county is Kent County, where I live. As a slew of outlets (including CJR) and individuals have noted, the sample of voters was irresponsibly unrepresentative of voters in this county. Yes, the county as a whole is very white, but the white Republicans included in the panel are far more affluent than the norm in the county (which has a median household income of $57,000).

Worse still, Meet the Press staged the “focus group” in my neighborhood brewpub, Brewery Vivant (though, predictably, none of the panelists were enjoying its superb beer), which is one of my local haunts.

What pissed me off the most is that Chuck Todd mispronounced the name of the brewery, “Vie-vant,” rather than “Vee-vant,” as if Todd has been stuck inside the Beltway for so long he doesn’t know what real life is like anymore.

And so I took matters into my own hands. With state political reporter Nick Manes and video from Carl Morrison, I decided to interview six totally random people at Brewery Vivant. To be sure, this panel is only somewhat more representative than NBC’s. The neighborhood is a liberal hotspot, even in the city as a whole, so all but one of the people we spoke with voted for Hillary in 2016. And while the people we interviewed weren’t as rich as the partner of the city’s largest law firm interviewed by Meet the Press, the neighborhood is still more affluent than the city or county. The neighborhood is predominantly white (though gets more diverse quickly just two blocks south). So these interviews aren’t meant to capture what swing voters think about impeachment or what a real cross-sample think, just what real people who could normally be found at Brewery Vivant think about it.

I’m going to post the six interviews without commentary, as I think all six offer thoughtful comment.

Chris

Nate

Jessica

Margaret

Kelly

Mark

Why Justin Amash Should Be an Impeachment Manager

I’m sitting about six blocks from one of Gerald Ford’s childhood homes. That means I live in a city with an outsized role in America’s history with impeachment. Since the time I’ve lived in this city, our Federal Building added a sign reading (over-optimistically), “Our Constitution works; our great Republic is a government of laws and not of men.”

It also means I’m a constituent of Justin Amash, who has an office in that Federal Building named after Gerald Ford.

And I’m solidly in support of the idea — floated by thirty freshman Democrats — for Amash to be among the Impeachment Managers presenting the case in the Senate.

I think Amash brings several things this impeachment effort could badly use.

First, Democrats missed an opportunity in the House Judiciary hearing on Constitutional issues behind impeachment to call someone like Paul Rosenzweig, a Republican who worked on the Whitewater investigation, who backs impeachment in this case. While a bunch of Democratic lawyers were testifying, Amash was and has continued tweeting to his colleagues about how important impeachment is to the Constitution. It is critical to have a voice making the conservative case for upholding the Constitution. Just this morning, a long time local Democratic activist I was speaking to was hailing how Amash has used his University of Michigan law degree to make the case for impeachment.

Meanwhile, even as the national press has spent countless hours interviewing demographically unrepresentative panels of voters from my county to understand how swing state voters feel about impeachment, Amash has risked his career in that swing state district. Well before queasy Democrats in swing districts came around to the necessity of impeaching President Trump, Amash left his party and took a stand to defend the Constitution. I think his courage may serve as inspiration for Republicans in the Senate who secretly recognize the necessity of impeaching Trump, even while they may worry they’ll ruin their political career. Amash also has close ties with (especially) Rand Paul and other libertarian leaning Senators (like Mike Lee and Ted Cruz), so might be persuasive with them, even if all of them have already basically opposed impeachment.

Finally, a point that some of the more hawkish people involved in impeachment (like Adam Schiff) may not understand, Amash works really well in bipartisan coalitions. He has long been a key member of the privacy coalition and currently serves as the “Republican” co-chair, with Zoe Lofgren as the Democratic co-chair, of the Fourth Amendment coalition. The cornerstone of that coalition, over more than a decade, has been honesty about where progressives and libertarians (and even traditional conservatives) share goals and where we disagree, sometimes dramatically. But with that cornerstone of shared understanding, and with a sense of responsibility for what each side can and should do to support the Constitution, he has been an invaluable member of a team. Some of the people who might also be considered as Impeachment Managers — like Jamie Raskin — would have experience with Amash in such a context. At the very least, Lofgren should be able to give Pelosi reassurances that Amash is utterly reliable when working as part of a bipartisan coalition. This is a topic, the President’s abuse of his authority, on which Amash took a Constitutional stand, which is precisely the kind of common foundation his past work with Democrats was built on.

I don’t get a vote. Speaker Pelosi gets to decide. But as an Amash constituent who has long found common ground with Amash on issues rooted in the Constitution, I think his involvement would be a tremendous value.

The History of High Crimes and Misdemeanors

Ed. note: Longtime friend of the blog Cynthia Kouril moderated a CLE on impeachment. She wrote up this statement after the panel. She has given us permission to post her statement from that here.

For all of you out there wondering what “High Crimes & Misdemeanors” means and whether or not there has to be an ‘underlying crime’ let me help you out here.

Last week I moderated a CLE on Impeachment and you are welcome to the fruits of my labors on that topic.

A basic rule of legal interpretation is that you cannot define a legal term using information not yet in existence at the time the term was used. At the time the Constitution was debated and adopted, there was no federal criminal code, much less the US Code we have today. So, you cannot use anything in the current Code to define “High Crime & Misdemeanor”.

You have to use that term, and it is a legal ‘term of art’ as the phrase was understood when it was inserted into the Constitution. It is interesting to note that this phrase is ONLY used in connection with impeachment. Crimes in the criminal code are low crimes.

The term is first recorded in the impeachment of of the King’s Chancellor, Michael de la Pole, in 1386. One of the “High Crimes & Misdemeanors” de la Pole was charged with, was the failure to expend moneys appropriated by Parliament as the appropriation directed him to do, just like Trump withholding funds appropriated by Congress which was required to be given to Ukraine by a date in September. Contrary to the GOP’s claims, not all the Ukraine aide was committed in time and Congress had to do a second appropriation to restore the unspent money.

Not every impeachment in the next 400 years used this phrase, but in each instance where it was used, it was 1) only in the context of impeachment, and 2) referred to offenses that implicated either misuse of their office (including using their office for self enrichment) or failure to obey Parliament (basically a failure to observe separation of powers).

At the time the Constitution was being written and edited there was a famous impeachment trial going on involving the Viceroy of India. A Viceroy (“vice king”, ‘roi’ being french for king) is the representative of the crown in a way far more important than a governor. A British governor was subject to instruction from London, the Viceroy was imbued with the monarch’s own Majesty and ruled an entire country (such as Ireland or India) rather than an individual colony.

So, the impeachment of Warren Hastings ran from 1786 to 1795, while the Constitution was being debated and was the “trial of the century” of its day. Everybody talked about it. He was charged with “gross maladministration, corruption in office, and cruelty towards the people of India”.

At the time of Nixon’s impeachment Peter Rodino commissioned a staff report on the history of impeachment including the meaning of this phrase. The report which runs some 60 pages with footnotes and endnotes, is fascinating to read. It’s conclusion with respect to this term of art: “[t]wo points emerge from the 400 years of English parliamentary experience with the phrase “high Crimes and Misdemeanors”. First, the particular allegations of misconduct alleged damages to the state in such forms as misapplication of funds, abuse of official power, neglect of duty, encroachment on Parliament’s prerogatives, corruption, and betrayal of trust. Second the phrase “high Crimes and Misdemeanors” was confined to parliamentary impeachments; it had no roots in ordinary criminal law, and the particular allegations of misconduct under that heading were not necessarily limited to common law or statutory derelictions or crimes.”

I hope you find the above helpful.

Update: I updated the intro to make it clear that Kouril moderated, did not put together, the CLE, and this contribution was written afterwards. 

A Diverse America Votes to Uphold the Constitution; A Largely Male White America Votes to Abrogate It

The House Judiciary Committee just voted to send two articles of impeachment against Donald Trump to the full House.

The entire vote took just minutes. But it said so much about the state of America today.

It will forever be portrayed as a party line vote, with 23 Democrats in favor, and 17 Republicans against. But it was also a tribute to the degree to which polarization in America today pivots on issues of diversity.

The Democrats who voted in favor included 11 women, and 13 Latinx and people of color (Ted Lieu missed the vote recovering from a heart procedure). Three (plus Lieu) are immigrants. One is gay. These Democrats voted to uphold the Constitution a bunch of white men, several of them owners of African-American slaves, wrote hundreds of years ago.

The Republicans who voted against were all white. Just two were women.  These Republicans voted to permit a racist white male President to cheat to get reelected in violation of the rule of law.

This is about a clash between the rising America and the past. And it’s unclear who will win this battle for America. But the stakes are clear.

 

Trump “Cares” about Corruption in Ukraine because It Ensures Paul Manafort Will Keep His Secrets

On August 2, 2016, Donald Trump’s campaign manager took a break from his campaign work for a secret meeting with his former employee, Konstantin Kilimnik. Kilimnik first pitched the meeting on 10:51AM on July 29 after meeting in person in Moscow with Viktor Yanukovych, explaining that, “It has to do about the future of [Yanukovych’s] country, and is quite interesting.” Paul Manafort accepted the meeting that same day, saying Tuesday was the best day for it. After Kilimnik returned to Ukraine on July 31, he told Manafort he needed two hours for the meeting and would arrive at JFK at 7:30 PM on August 2 for the meeting.

At the meeting, Manafort and Kilimnik discussed three things. First, they discussed a plan to make “peace” in Ukraine by creating an autonomous region in Donbas and getting Yanukovych “elected” to head it. Manafort later told Mueller’s team that he cut the meeting short before Kilimnik asked him to get Trump to come out for the peace plan, though Mueller’s team argued and Amy Berman Jackson agreed that Manafort was lying about what happened at the meeting.

After Rick Gates showed up (he came late), Manafort laid out for Kilimnik how the campaign planned to win Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Minnesota.

Finally, Kilimnik told Manafort how he could get back on the gravy train of Oleg Deripaska and the Party of Regions. Specifically, Kilimnik explained what Manafort would have to do to get Ukrainian oligarchs Rinat Akhmetov and Serhiy Lyovochkin to pay him money that Manafort claimed they owed him from past work. Eight days later, on August 10, Manafort — who was badly underwater and working for Trump for “free” — would tell his accountant to book $2.4M in income from those oligarchs, to be paid in November.

This recognition of payment from Yanukovych’s allies just a week after meeting to talk about a way to help Yanukovych do Russia’s bidding is the only known instance of Ukraine interfering with people working directly for one of the candidates running for President. It is the only known instance of Ukrainian interference in 2016.

In early January, Manafort would meet with a senior Deripaska associate in a meeting set up by another Deripaska associate sanctioned along with a bunch of GRU officers to “recreat[e] old friendship” between Deripaska and Manafort.

Shortly thereafter (possibly the day he returned, on January 12), Manafort reportedly told Reince Priebus to undercut claims that Trump had close ties to Russia by debunking the Steele dossier, a strategy that — because the dossier turned out to be largely shit and possible disinformation — turned out to be wildly successful. As the DOJ IG Report describes in new detail, Christopher Steele had been working for Deripaska in an effort to help the oligarch settle his score with Manafort during the period he was working on the dossier.

From that point forward, Manafort would continue to pursue a “peace” plan in Ukraine that would give Russia what it wanted up until shortly before he was jailed in June 2018.

These are the events that about which Paul Manafort lied to prevent Mueller from fully understanding. To give Manafort an incentive to lie, John Dowd started telling him he would be “taken care of” in early 2018. Then, around the time he faced jail, Trump started making those pardon offers more explicit.

On June 15, 2018, the day the judge presiding over Manafort’s D.C. case was considering whether to revoke his bail, the President said that he “felt badly” for Manafort and stated, “I think a lot of it is very unfair.” And when asked about a pardon for Manafort, the President said, “I do want to see people treated fairly. That’s what it’s all about.” Later that day, after Manafort’s bail was revoked, t.he President called it a ” tough sentence” that was “Very unfair!” Two days later, the President’s personal counsel stated that individuals involved in the Special Counsel’s investigation could receive a pardon ” if in fact the [P]resident and his advisors .. . come to the conclusion that you have been treated unfairly”-using language that paralleled how the President had already described the treatment of Manafort.

These details — about what really happened in that meeting on August 2, 2016 and what Manafort did afterwards — are some of the things that Trump successfully obstructed the Mueller investigation in an effort to cover up.

And around the time Mueller publicly announced that Manafort had breached his plea deal by lying about all these things, Rudy Giuliani launched the campaign that would ultimately lead to getting the anti-corruption Ambassador in Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, fired, then would subsequently lead Trump to demand (in the same call while attacking Mueller) that the newly elected anti-corruption President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, gin up investigations into his opponents Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden. Rudy conducted that campaign, significantly, while consulting Manafort in prison, and the effort is, at least in part, an effort to give Trump an excuse to pardon Manafort so Manafort will continue to remain silent about what really happened.

The Republican Party spent the entire day yesterday claiming that Donald Trump demanded those investigations out of concern for corruption in Ukraine. The Republican Party claimed, with a straight face, that the man who obstructed an investigation into what his own campaign manager did to get the pro-corruption pro-Russian party in Ukraine to pay him $2.4 million while he worked for Trump for “free,” opposed corruption in Ukraine.

This is the story the Democrats need to lay out over the next several weeks. The Republicans don’t much care that their arguments are transparently ridiculous. They care about defending a process that, at least in part, is an effort to make sure Paul Manafort never tells the truth about what happened in 2016.

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