The Significance of the Trump-Firing-Masha Recording

Yesterday morning, ABC and then Daily Beast revealed that there was a recording of the April 2018 meeting where Lev Parnas got Trump to say he would fire Marie “Masha” Yovanovitch simply by suggesting she was bad-mouthing Trump. Then, last night, Parnas’ lawyer Joseph Bondy appeared on Rachel Maddow’s show again, and provided more details of the recording.

It is about 1:40 hours long, and the firing reference comes after 40 minutes.

Bondy’s interview made two things clear:

  • By April 2018 — when Trump’s administration made Javelin missiles available to Ukraine provided that they not use them against Russia, reportedly in exchange for Ukraine’s halt to any cooperation with the Mueller inquiry — Trump was interested in how vulnerable Ukraine could be made by withdrawing US support. Half an hour, Parnas told Trump Ukraine could resist the Russian incursion without US help, based on what, we don’t know.
  • Lev Parnas probably did not fully comply with the HPSCI subpoena.

I’m as interested in the claimed story about how the recording came about.

Igor Fruman — the guy whose deep connections in Ukraine, including with some mobbed up businessmen, Parnas claims to have networked through — made the recording. That led most people to assume that Fruman released it, and therefore is cooperating, something for which there is no support.

There are at least three other possible sources for the recording.

First, SDNY seem to be suggesting that Parnas and Fruman were working for an as-yet unnamed Ukrainian to get Masha fired. That makes all the smiling pictures that the men posted with Trump and other powerful Republicans feel like a kind of reporting system, perhaps the same one Maria Butina was using. Such social media posting would be a good way to make it clear to whoever is footing the bill for such an operation that the grifters are obtaining the meetings promised. If so, the recording (and other similar ones) might serve a three-fold purpose:

  • It can serve as blackmail against Trump and others, just as it’s being used now
  • It collects intelligence about the security around Trump (Fruman reportedly took a video of the two of them entering the meeting)
  • It assures the paymaster of this operation that he’s getting what he paid for

Remarkably, we don’t yet know what Ukrainian was allegedly paying the grifters. It could be Dmitro Firtash (who last fall gave Parnas’ wife “a loan” that she could use to buy a house that, because it’d be in Florida, could not be seized as forfeiture). Given that Kevin Downing was involved in Parnas and Fruman’s defense, it could be any of Ukrainians who paid Paul Manafort after he entertained a plan to carve up Ukraine on August 2, 2016, which include Serhiy Lyovochkin and Rinat Akmetov, the former of whom used a straw donation to attend Trump’s inauguration. Or it could be one of the dodgy businessmen around Fruman. All had and have an incentive to try to reverse Ukraine’s efforts to combat corruption, and so would value the removal of Masha. [Update: I’m missing two other obvious candidates — Yuriy Lutsenko and Viktor Shokin — though much of the reporting on their interest in taking her out focuses on 2019 efforts that are more closely tied to dirt on the Bidens. Update: Fixed where the allegation that a Ukrainian was directing their efforts.]

Any of those people might have reason to release the recording. In the same way that Oleg Deripaska was pushing FBI to investigate Paul Manafort even as he was using Manafort’s desperation to try to coerce him to become his asset again, including to carve up Ukraine, anyone trying to compromise Trump can use his efforts to beat impeachment to make him more reliant on Ukrainian discretion about any deals they’ve made. Plus, by making Trump’s corruption and compromise clear even as Republican Senators vote against doing anything about it, it ensures that every single federally elected Republican has been implicated in this operation. So it’s possible the recording came from the paymaster.

It’s also possible it came from SDNY’s notoriously leaky FBI. The ABC reporters who first released it include DOJ beat journalists, so it would make sense that they’d have FBI sources. But I doubt it, not least because an FBI source would have had reason to leak it before yesterday.

But there is another possibility: that Parnas was the source, but he and Bondy lied about it early in the day (and okayed its release while Bondy was on MSNBC’s set, with a natural alibi he expressly noted), to create a cover story for releasing the recording without admitting that Parnas had not fully complied with the HPSCI subpoena but was belatedly, just yesterday, providing a copy of the recording to HPSCI. Bondy claimed it had been on Parnas’ iCloud all the time, but he had forgotten he had it.

Bondy was more aggressively questioned last night, in part by Chuck Rosenberg and Maya Wiley. But neither confronted Bondy on reports that, in discussions with SDNY last month, he had maintained Parnas’ claim that he was innocent of the existing charges against him: that he was paid and directed by the still-unnamed Ukrainian to get Masha fired. Neither raised that prosecutors have repeatedly said they expect to file more charges against the grifters, likely including (because FBI likely obtained a FISA order against one of them) foreign agent charges, which undercuts Bondy’s claim that Parnas is not seeking a cooperation deal because the existing charges against him don’t have that serious a sentencing range.

Bondy offered some explanation for why Parnas had not searched his iCloud because he had to make sure SDNY had gotten their evidence first. That sounds like a load of baloney. After all, SDNY would have been able to obtain Parnas’ iCloud account with a warrant to Apple (given that Apple decided not to encrypt iCloud after previously considering it, that means some really damning information on Trump is just sitting on a server in Cupertino or somewhere). The recording was over 18 months old when Parnas was arrested. So SDNY had had it, likely, for some time. Moreover, SDNY had told Parnas they had their discovery collected on December 3, which means Bondy could have provided this record — and anything else that was always available to Parnas — even before the phone records. Bondy now is claiming that Parnas was injured with a delay in discovery, because it delayed his ability to cooperate with HPSCI, which is totally undermined by any admission that Parnas had never even searched his iCloud (and still may not have) for information related to the HPSCI subpoena.

All of which suggests Parnas is trying to carefully manage what he’s sharing with HPSCI, presumably focusing on the latter period of his work to get Masha fired, when he could claim to be doing Rudy Giuliani’s bidding, and not the earlier part, when prosecutors claim he was working for some Ukrainian. For better and worse, that likely means that Rudy is at least partly a victim of Parnas, someone who was desperate and weak and easily manipulated into doing really stupid things — just like Trump — who could then be claimed as the real actor behind this operation.

In a sane world, both parties would take a step back and agree that our quisling President and his fawning lackeys were an easy mark. We’d talk about how to unwind whatever damage Trump has done to himself and the country.

But we don’t live in a sane world and Republicans are about to defend Trump’s right to be manipulated by grifters and spies as his Constitutional prerogative.

153 replies
  1. SaltinWound says:

    Did Trump ever say to “fire” her? Is there a reason we keep interpreting his words instead of quoting him? Is it based on a conclusion he couldn’t have meant anything other than fire her when he said to take her out and get rid of her?

      • cwolf says:

        … and even though it’s impossible, the digital recording (aka Tape) in the original Trumpeze is clearer than than crystal clear.

      • Mooser says:

        Didn’t Amb. Yovanovitch get a midnite call, from somebody in security, saying she had to leave Ukraine immediately, like right now? Who made that call to her (I believe she said in her testimony) and what prompted it?

    • Kate Freedman says:

      Where I come from (NY) “take her out” means only one thing – and it’s not to terminate a job or go on a date.

    • Ben says:

      Having listened to the recording, I think it would be pretty drastic within the context of their conversation that he would be placing a “hit job” on her.

      They were talking about Ukraine and how if they were to cut off Russia’s oil supply line to Europe and begin to become oil independent, that it would be a big hit to Russia. Trump asked if Russia would ever attack, and he was told they talk a big game but wouldn’t like to do it “because they’re scared of you” (insert vague flattery). Trump also asks how long would Ukraine last if Russia attacked, and he was told 30 seconds, not long, without US help. But Ukraine was just waiting for US help.

      Then someone interjects that the first thing they need to do is get rid of the US ambassador to Ukraine, that she is walking around telling everyone Trump will be impeached and not to cooperate. Trump then asks who it was, and no one could remember her name. Then someone says “now that we have a Secretary of State that’s been sworn in” and Trump finishes the thought: “Get rid of her, get her out tomorrow. I don’t care. Get her out tomorrow. Take her out, okay? Do it.” Laughter ensues, and they congratulate Trump on Pompeo, saying he will be great.

      With this context, it would be highly unlikely to be an assassination hit. Someone showed him a problem and already proposed the solution. He then tries to sound confident and commanding by telling them to do what they suggested.

  2. Ken Haylock says:

    There’s actually a functional defence here were Trump not a pathological narcissist & dumb as a rock, & were the Senate GOP not utterly cowed & terrified of saying boo to Trump. You go with Her did all these things because he was led astray by the highly respected heroic America’s Mayor Rudy who was led astray in turn by Russian mobsters, easy mistake to make, let me fix it, won’t happen again. Oh… & Obstruction? Let me fix that, Rudy told me it was fine not to comply, but here, have it all now…

    Providing that didn’t reveal loads of new high crimes, the Senate GOP can go full ‘this is awful, we find him guilty but we shall not remove him because he has learned his lesson & we are all better people now’ on him, & it all resumes.

    Trump would never do any of that.

    • Stephen says:

      I believe Rudy was way ahead of you on this. That’s why he made a pointed reference to having “insurance” in a televised interview.

    • David Lawrance says:

      What I hear on the show recording is Rachael Maddow paraphrasing Mr. Trump asking “How long would Ukraine last with out us?” and Mr. Parnas replying, “No time at all.”

    • Mitch Neher says:

      Ms. Wheeler wrote, “Half an hour, Parnas told Trump Ukraine could resist the Russian incursion without US help, based on what, we don’t know.”

      Rearrange it this way–“Parnas told Trump Ukraine could resist the Russian incursion for ‘half an hour’ without US help, based on what, we don’t know.”

  3. laura says:

    Thank you. As always, great analysis. This story is genuinely shocking— as is the observation that very few people seem to understand how important it is.

  4. harpie says:

    “But we don’t live in a sane world and Republicans are about to defend Trump’s right to be manipulated by grifters and spies as his Constitutional prerogative.”

    That’s our predicament in a nutshell.

    • OmAli says:

      Not to make light of any of this. But sitting here watching the shit show, I am really concerned about a lot of things. It is all fun and games, Senators and Cult, until a pandemic reaches OUR shores and we find out that yet more agencies tasked with protecting us have been hollowed out, their career professionals hounded from their posts by the idiot president and his corrupt appointees. That Jared is actually the Acting Director of the CDC and Paula Talkingintongues is our Surgeon General.

      • readerOfTeaLeaves says:


        But also keep in mind that the Saudi’s and heaven only knows who else will be following Jared’s moves at CDC, given the malware they’ve placed on his phone via What’sApp.

        Also, minor correction, I believe it’s Paula Wormtongues. Forgive a minor quibble. 🤷🏼‍♀️

      • Eureka says:

        Well Paula and her spouse’s fever-raptures already ruined what was left of Journey, so there’s that High Crime against nostalgia.

        Nostalgia being our lifeblood of late.

  5. Fran of the North says:

    I was gobsmacked upon reading that the Javelin missiles were provided with prohibitions on use in the conflict with the Russians in the Crimea. Javelins are primarily anti-tank weapons, and the ‘separatists’ were and are supported by armor.

    While there are probably restrictions attached to many weapons sales, this seems particularly egregious and nonsensical. Our ally was fighting a well equipped enemy on their own soil, and we restrict how they use the weapons systems we provide for that defense?

    This fact in itself should be setting off alarm bells. If this isn’t proof of malfeasance when it comes to POTUS’ relationship with the Russians what is? Has this restriction been lifted, or is it still in effect?

    A link to GCache of a Kyiv Post article where the delivery and restrictions are confirmed by a Ukrainian Defense minister and confirmed by Kurt Volker.

    • Vicks says:

      These misiles must be stored several hundred miles from the battle site as well.
      If I recall another event occurred within a week of the announcement of the sale.
      Ukraine stopped cooperating with Mueller’s investigation into Paul Manafort.

      • Stephen says:

        Correct. I think that point has been raised in previous posts on this site. I had not previously known about the prohibition against their use against Russia, though. (Naturally they can still be used against Russian troops who are disguised as Ukrainian separatists.)

        • PhoneInducedPinkEye says:

          I don’t think this is quite right… I don’t remember where, but I read an article on the impact of the aid freeze and in it they quoted or stated that they were effectively not allowed to use them in the conflicts current state. They were even making scarecrows with logs to try and intimidate RU forces, because they didn’t really have access to them on the front lines. As far as I know, UA hasn’t actually hit an enemy with them regardless of uniform.

          The nominal purpose of sending them is to deter RU from rapidly pushing further into UA.

        • Stephen says:

          You mean the (perhaps gratuitous) bit about being able to use them against separatists? Wow, I had not heard that! Would love to see the reference.

    • Katherine M Williams says:

      Perhaps because the whole underling purpose of the Ukraine Shakedown was to stop aid from the US to Ukraine, so Russia could more easily take it over? Trump always want’s to look good (especially compared to Obama) so he claims that He gave Ukraine *more* aid than Obama did, while concealing/denying that the “aid” couldn’t actually be used. And Trump’s stated reason for stopping aid was, he quacked, due to Ukrainian corruption, which to people as stupid as Trump and his base, is a “Perfect-O” reason to allow an enemy country to invade and take over an ally.

      • John Hand says:

        The more information I get, the more inclined to go along with your theory. When you put facts and timelines together. and try to figure out who benefits from what move, the Trump-Putin connection casts a huge shadow over all the events. As Pelosi said, “All roads . . . .”

    • N.E. Brigand says:

      While I am intensely suspicious of everything the Trump administration does, I vaguely recall reports indicating that one reason the Obama administration didn’t want to sell Javelins to Ukraine was fear that they might fall into Russian hands. That same concern might have led to the restrictions the Trump White House put on their use. The Javelins would thus be understood as a deterrent that restrains Russia from expanding is Ukraine incursion beyond those areas it had already invaded.

      (Are there a couple typos in Ms. Wheeler’s paragraph on the Javelins? Should “Half an hour” read perhaps “After half an hour” or “Half an hour in”? And should “Ukraine could resists” read “Ukraine couldn’t resist”?)

      • Lisa says:

        “ That same concern might have led to the restrictions the Trump White House put on their use. The Javelins would thus be understood as a deterrent that restrains Russia from expanding is Ukraine incursion beyond those areas it had already invaded.”

        This doesn’t make sense. Given Trump’s demonstrated relationship with Putin, I’ve no doubt Putin would’ve been well aware of the restrictions placed on the use of the Javelins. Hell Putin probably dictated them to Trump. So it’s highly unlikely the javelins would’ve been a deterrent IMO.

        • N.E. Brigand says:

          Lots of things that happen or don’t happen in the Trump administration occur despite the president’s wishes. For example, despite Donald Trump ordering Marie Yovanovitch fired on Apr. 30, 2018, she remained in place for nearly another year. In Lev Parnas’s interview with Rachel Maddow last week, Parnas said that an aide was able to stall the president by citing Mike Pompeo’s unvailability, and it would seem the president later forgot about the order (or was talked out of it). We saw a similar pattern with a number of incident of obstruction of justice described in the Mueller report.

          That is to say: we both could be correct. In this case, it’s possible that the best national security policy for the U.S. (which might be to provide Ukraine with Javelins but require that they be held in reserve so that they don’t fall into Russian hands and so the war doesn’t get too hot), pushed by career foreign policy staffers and the more rationale people among Trump’s political appointees, aligns with Trump’s more nefarious goals: (1) get Ukraine to stop helping Mueller; but (2) also placate Putin by not giving Ukraine a new advantage in its defense against Russian incursion; and (3) score political points with Republicans who can claim that Trump did what Obama did not: arm Ukraine.

  6. Mulder says:

    How does this work? Lev and Igor get an intimate face to face dinner with Donald President because they gladly “pledged” to give his SuperPac $1million on Tuesday?

    How much money had they sprinkled around to get the kind of attention and juice that would lead to a mortgaged meeting with the President? The $350 thousand came later.

    Related but as an aside…I’ve been trying to find the article where Rudy said (more or less), “I wasn’t looking for dirt on Biden. It just fell into my lap.” I think it was in the May timeframe. It has stuck in my head and if anyone knows a source I’d appreciate it.

  7. I Never Lie and am Always Right says:

    Some Republican Senators themselves are likely being manipulated by outside forces as well.

    • Reader 21 says:

      Lindsay sure comes to mind—boy he’s done a 180 on Individual-1 since he came into office. In mark Liebovich’s fairly fawning piece on Lindsay’s conversion, he never once even mentioned the elephant in the room—that someone was being extorted. Maybe documentary proof of said someone’s confirmed bachelorhood wouldn’t play in South Carolina.

  8. Mitch Neher says:

    On the odd chance that Parnas and Fruman do requests, I would like to hear a recording of their private meeting with Trump and Giuliani at the WH Hanukkah party on December 6th, 2018. Please?

    I know that’s a lot to ask. But it’s not asking for too much. However, since I may be assuming too much, I hereby assert citizen’s privilege to assume too much.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        As Cynthia Kouril pointed out, Parnas is largely a Trump guy, more than a Rudy guy. He was still in his teens when he started working for Trump’s dad, in a company that counted employees in the tens, not hundreds or thousands.

        Setting aside that Trump would always distinguish family from the hired help – and himself from the rest of the family – Trump’s claim that he did not know Parnas is as true as anything else Trump says.

        • Mitch Neher says:

          Indeed. Trump is still the undisputed Greatest Liar Of All Time.

          However, even I couldn’t help noticing the several, successive and grave reservations that Ms. Wheeler has expressed about Lev Parnas on that same count.

          I’m uncertain as to how cautious my comments here are supposed to be. But the release of Fruman’s April 2018 audio/video recording of Trump could be a warning that Parnas and Fruman et al. may have other recordings that might be far more damaging to Trump and Giuliani.

          If so, then a recording of that December 6th, 2018, private meeting might be the one that Trump should fear the most–unless Parnas is lying about the “secret mission” that Trump allegedly gave him at that meeting.

          Or unless there are things far worse than that secret mission.

  9. Badger Robert says:

    Parnas and Bondi do not seem to as fearful of the prosecutors as they are of the cover up faction in the DOJ, led by William Barr.
    The disclosure makes Trump look like an idiot being manipulated by experts.
    Its becoming apparent why the Kremlin preferred Trump. Trump had already demonstrated that he was incompetent.

  10. earlofhuntingdon says:

    “Here, Ukraine, you can have some of my rocks for your sling – as long as you do not use them against Goliath.”

    When you’re in a shootin’ war with Goliath, the limitation swallows the gift. The gift of armaments suggested US support for Ukraine, but it provided little actual support. The arms had to be stored in a US-guarded facility over a hundred miles from the front. I don’t imagine that did much to restrain Vlad either in word or deed. But the restriction might have gotten Trump a rub behind the ear from him.

    • harpie says:

      “The gift of armaments suggested US support for Ukraine, but it provided little actual support.”

      It’s only meant to be used as a talking point for the campaign and against “the previous administration”.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Had the restricted arms support been accompanied by firm diplomatic measures by the US against Russia, the gift might have been an effective warning of harsher measures to come.

      Instead, Trump did his usual Russian lapdog routine. He made clear that he would stop with the marketing effect and that the product need never perform as advertised.

    • Rugger9 says:

      Pretty much everyone else around Ukraine is NATO or at least closely aligned. So, did Individual-1 ship arms to use against our allies?

  11. foggycoast says:

    this is the made for YouTube moment that encapsulates so much. lying about not knowing parnas, the mob mentality (surprised he didn’t say “this thing of ours”), the blackmail aspect (how long can ukraine last without us). this is the nixon smoking gun tape that could move at least public sentiment. question is, will the house managers use it to at least force Repubs to agree to witnesses.

    • Katherine M Williams says:

      But this time around the not-free-press, that is the corporate media, is on Trump’s (the GOP) side, so all these terrible crimes and scandals are downplayed when they’re reported at all. And the corporate media advances conservative goals with their unending “outrage du jour” tactics, so that the public is desensitized to the multitude of crimes, as well as unable to distinguish between serious crimes (near-treason) and mere vulgar stupidity-cupidity on Trump’s part.

      • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

        I’m completely with Bill Maher on this topic: the press is biased toward profit, and also toward conflict.

        This is a very simple story:
        Trump and McConnell/GOP insist that rules do not apply to Very Stable Geniuses.
        Trump and McConnell/GOP are doing what they can to kneecap and eviscerate the refs (i.e., FBI, the courts, intelligence agencies) — who they claim are biased, blind, and unfair.
        In contrast, the Dems insist that rules matter, that rules be fair, and that professional, trained, qualified refs (i.e., the FBI, courts, and intelligence professionals) call ‘balls and strikes’.

        That’s a very simple story.
        And it has abundant conflict.
        The press should be on it like bees on nectar.

  12. harpie says:

    Trump Junior was also “in the room”. Is there any way we can find out whether he tweed about Ukraine/Yovonavitch soon after this dinner?

  13. cavenewt says:

    I’m relatively new to the weeds. Is there much other hard evidence that Trump was trying to screw around with Ukraine’s defense a whole year earlier than most of the public is aware of, i.e., more or less Zelinsky’s election in spring 2019?

    I think a majority of the public that isn’t paying close attention won’t notice that this recording is from 2018 and not 2019. Shouldn’t that point be more forcefully stressed in discussions about the recording?

  14. Badger Robert says:

    It seems likely that Parnas and Fruman know the man paying the bills has given up on Trump. Russian computation programs probably show a low % probability of Trump staying within the range in which cheating will work.

  15. rosalind says:

    tangentially related: per The Sparrow Project (@sparrowmedia), Sparrow + 21 others have had their Twitter DM records subpoenaed by Devin Nunes.

    “Welp. I just received a letter from Twitter’s legal team notifying me that Devin Nunes’ attorney Steven S. Biss has subpoenaed Twitter for my DMs.”

    is the Nunes play to financially crush dissent and scare off others…and..?

      • Reader 21 says:

        Peter Thiel is funding Lapdog Devin—or at least if I read rick Wilson correctly that’s who it is.

        • P J Evans says:

          FFS. That was a response to the comment just about it, about Thiel. I know you can follow the comments better than that.

        • bmaz says:

          We do the best we can here to follow the comments, and do not necessarily track in the same frame or way you do. I am sorry If I cannot personally keep up with every last one in the timeline you see. But if people can actually identify the person being described, then other people understand easily.

        • ThomasH says:

          Along that same line of reasoning, would it be possible to use a little less of the acronyms to help us non-lawyers follow these otherwise brilliant comments and analysis here?

        • P J Evans says:

          I’m glad the comments are threaded

          (FWIW, I think both Thiel and Zuckerberg need to be reduced considerably in influence. Musk at least produces tangible products, though his ego is also bigger than his bank account.)

  16. drouse says:

    I am so not buying Parnas’s poor little me swept along by events act anymore. It might have been Fruman’s connections but it’s clear that Parnas is the manipulator here. He definitely had some goodies stashed and I hope DOJ tracked where it came from. If this recording was made to demonstrate proof of progress, then there are potentially a bunch of recordings with interesting people discussing interesting things.

  17. stryx says:

    “So SDNY had had it, likely, for some time.”

    And sort of forgot to listen to it? Just to be clear, the FBI has the entire contents of Parnas’s iCloud account already in evidence?

    I keep thinking that I can’t be surprised anymore about news from SDNY, yet here I am.

    • Reader 21 says:

      Agreed about SDNY—it is time for them to display some of their vaunted independence we’ve heard so much about—past time. Re that: has Berman (the US Attorney for SDNY) done anything, since recusing from Michael Cohen-related matters, adverse to the interests of Individual-1? I’m hard-pressed to think of anything, but maybe I’m forgetting something.

      • drouse says:

        I would bet that it is only immense pressure from Barr that has kept SDNY from dropping an indictment on Rudy’s ass or in fact anything that might move up the food chain. Of course, they could do it anyways and cause Barr immense embarrassment by calling backsies publicly.

        • cavenewt says:

          “Of course, they could do it anyways and cause Barr immense embarrassment by calling backsies publicly.”

          Yes, please.

  18. Reader 21 says:

    @ Kate Freedman—me too. I don’t speak Mob, but where I come from “take her out,” in this context, means one thing—and it ain’t to a candlelit dinner. Coupled with the fact that soon after, Connecticut-landscaper/failed Congressional candidate Robert Hyde is reporting to this underworld, soviet-born duo on her every movement, asking what should we do next, we need to move fast, how’re we gonna get paid—the picture gets more ominous.

    Btw—know who else Rudes has acknowledged being in close contact with, has extensive Ukrainian, pro-Russian shady contacts, and has a “landscaping” business based in CT—why yes indeed, that would Manafort Bros. Landscaping. Straight outta New Britain, CT.

    One more out of Connecticut, which is not a large state, and even less so for Republican-leaning operatives—why that’d be AG Barr’s handpicked AUSA, tapped to investigate the “origins” of the Mueller probe, Mr. John Durham.

  19. N.E. Brigand says:

    “In a sane world, both parties would take a step back and agree that our quisling President and his fawning lackeys were an easy mark. We’d talk about how to unwind whatever damage Trump has done to himself and the country.”

    This is a variation on an important point that Ms. Wheeler has been making for two years or more. I would phrase it this way: what incentive can Democrats offer Repubicans to do the right thing?

    No one knows how the vote is going to go in November, but one possibility is that Republicans will be thoroughly trounced. A number of House Republicans have retired, apparently on the expectation that the House will remain in Democratic control thorugh 2022. Several Republican senators are under water (although it will be hard for Democrats to flip the Senate). Donald Trump’s net approval rating has been consistently negative (per, it improved by nearly two points over the past two days, and now stands at -9.6, but it’s held between -8 and -13 for two years, except for a brief dip to -16 during the shutdown last January), and most polling to date shows him losing to the leading Democrats. Tom Nichols recently noted that several conservative acquaintances are taking jobs at Fox or other right-wing outlets in the expectation of Trump’s victory, but isn’t it just as likely that they want to get in early on a cash cow: weren’t the Obama years good years for Republican media?

    In short, if normally-persuadable Republicans think they’re going to lose either way, they may decide that their long-term future in Republican politics lies not in political office but in the media-grievance industry, and credibility in that world requires them to back Donald Trump all the way.

  20. Reader 21 says:

    @ Rayne—thank you, that comment jumped out at me—all reports were Manafort and Individual-1 cared not one whit about the republican platform, and what was in it—with one exception, military aid to Ukraine. About which they cared very, very deeply.

    @earl—“I don’t care about the law, I care who the judge is.” So said longtime mob lawyer and noted trump mentor Roy Cohn.

  21. earlofhuntingdon says:

    TrumpWorld is full of ironies. One is that Republican Senators are crying to end this impeachment “debacle” because they’re afraid of what Trump might do to them if they break ranks and vote him out.

    Presumably, they are worried that he would use against them his Faux Noise choir to rile the base, and the power he has from controlling the RNC to primary them. That might be hard to do from the unemployment line. But they should also be worried about Trump’s “heads on pike” threat and the others that must be rumbling round the Beltway like trash cans on garbage day.

    And the “heads on pikes” story illustrates that he – or his patrons – might do more than primary them. (At a minimum, he might try to keep them from lucrative wingnut welfare gigs.) Trump often uses that language, as he did with Ambassador Yovanovitch – get rid of her, take her out. In the outer boroughs, where Trump comes from, “Take her out,” has a more violent meaning than fire her. It’s closer to, “Call Vinny and tell him to warm up the cement mixer.” That Trump’s minions normally water down his fantasy directives is probably not something they should continue to rely on.

    But GOP Senators continue to swarm to Trump’s defense, as if he were a queen bee being assaulted by a cloud of Roundup. They might consider a closer analogy: Trump is the cuckoo in their nest. He will eventually toss them out, so he can gobble up all of mommy’s treats. One would think the GOP’s self-interest lies in removing him – for good cause – rather than groveling to give him their fair share.

    • Mitch Neher says:

      Which outcome would better serve the interests of Putin than the other:

      A) The decline and fall of the Democratic party?

      B) The decline and fall of the Republican party?

    • Mooser says:

      Even If Trump said: ‘I would like the Ambassador (which is easier to spell than Yovanovitch) to retire with full honors and pension’ those weren’t the guys to say it to!

  22. MattyG says:

    Whatever happened to the unredacted Mueller Report? Whatever happened to the real reason DT needs to be removed from office?

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      There are a host of reasons. Ms. Pelosi and crew chose a handful of them. Having started late, they didn’t really want to go there.

      The time for laying out the full case against Trump was when the House controlled the process. That was obvious, too, which means the Dem leadership chose not to do it. The dish we have is as much hers as McConnell’s.

      • MattyG says:

        They really made a hash of it. Pelosi gamesmanship. All unfillowed leads and leaden hints in the report, not to mention GJ testimony – that still sealed?

      • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

        IIRC, they had placed a great deal of hope in Mueller and crew. It seems likely that they misread or underestimated Barr. Also, IIRC they were waiting for evidence.

        I’m not saying you are incorrect, but I think with more context there are many more shades of gray. Also, IIRC, the ‘Security Dems’ didn’t really come out publicly against Trump until fall 2019.

  23. P J Evans says:

    Possibly OT: over at Kos, there’s a post about the impeachment that’s titled “The Bandini Defense”.

    For those who may not know Bandini, it is/was a garden supply company, known for its fertilizer, and before environmental regulations, it had a very large pile of manure, at Bandini Blvd and the Long Beach freeway (I710), known as Bandini Mountain. They even did a commercial where it was set up like a slalom course, gates and all, and a guy went down it on skis. (Ski Bandini Mountain!)

  24. Rapier says:

    In regard to: “Trump was interested in how vulnerable Ukraine could be made by withdrawing US support. Half an hour, Parnas told Trump Ukraine could resist the Russian incursion without US help, based on what, we don’t know.”

    We know. We know because it is common sense. If Russia itself, not the rump republics alone, launched an offensive it would be on the Eastern shore of the Dnieper river in 48 hours, max.

    The Ukranian military may be better now than it was when it attacked the rump republics but that isn’t saying much. The only Ukrainian military forces that had any success, if you call bombing and then shelling towns and villages randomly as success, was carried out by the unarguably fascist groups like the Azov Battalion. In battles the Ukrainian forces performance was mostly pathetic, and sad. The words cannon fodder come to mind but surrenders were accepted.

    Now admittedly Russia would have to marshal their forces for such an offensive and it would probably be tipped off but still Kiev is only 500 miles from Moscow. Not that far. (And when you come to think of it NATO/US forces 500 miles from Moscow, which is the ultimate goal of this whole thing, doesn’t sit to well with Russians. Something about invasions of the past, the last killing 25 million of them, give or take. Cripes, American politicians still want to destroy Iran because it held some hostages for a year. Meanwhile the ghosts of 40 million or so Russians and those caught between Russia and Germany, many just outright murdered, lurk) Ukraine’s military alone would stand no chance. Let’s remember there has never been a hint that Russia is going to drive to the Dnieper or across and take Kiev. Why would they and risk WWIII?

    Those anti tank missiles helped the Ukraine forces but all this military aid is a band-aid, in military terms. Mostly symbolic. I hate to say it, but it is a bit rich to say the aid or lack of same actually did diddly about the tactical situation there. I know it allows stirring rhetoric about how Trump was, well doing something or other that was materially important with the aid delay, but as I said, It’s all a bit rich.

    PS. Why Trump would have to ask Liv about this is a profoundly damning thing in its own right. I mean, Godamighty.

  25. Woodspaths says:

    Great analysis. I felt like the Parnas story was ‘too good to be true’ and the timing is exceptionally convenient. I’m glad the democrats didn’t take the bait and include him in the impeachment hearings. He and Igor are clearly working for someone. I hadn’t thought that the tapes are meant to put Trump in a ‘public box’ to do someone’s bidding. But who, and what?

    Thanks for what you do on this blog, I’m happy I found it a couple years ago. Cuts through the bullshit.

    • Vicks says:

      Perhaps releasing the recording was his quo for the Dems getting his military aid released.
      Clearly Zelensky is better off with a democrat replacing Trump in 2020.
      If so, it’s a good thing for the democrats that the party of Trump has established that it’s no big thing to get dirt against your opponent from a foreign country.

  26. Reader 21 says:

    @ Woodpaths great post and yes I was remiss, thank you EW for another fantastic piece, cutting through the bs.

    Speaking of bs, wow Rapier—that is quite the take, where’d you get that, RT? Funny how anyone who opposes Kremlin-stoked aggression gets labeled a nazi, I guess somethings never change. What’s next, the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact never happened, and Poland is really to blame for WWII?

    Blaming Ukrainians for the 2014 Russia annexation of Crimea—wow.

    PS. I guess the Karyn massacre is another Western myth too?

    • P J Evans says:

      I worked with a Polish woman who had family who escaped the Katyn massacre by, she said, jumping off the train and running as far and as fast as they could.

    • drouse says:

      The Azov Battalion is/was an unarguably fascist group.The Ukrainians were in an enemy of my enemy situation. They are a self-organized group with fascist ideology but they were willing to fight the Russians. However, the fact that they were there fighting on the Ukrainians side was used by the Russians through the usual proxies to smear the entirety of the Ukraine forces as Nazis. I can remember parts of the frothy right carrying on about how they were all fascists and how can you support fascists.

  27. Reader 21 says:

    @ PJ—that’s an amazing story. The Poles suffered terribly during WWII—people forget, it wasn’t solely at the hands of the nazis though, Stalin caused more than his fair share of death and misery to the polish citizenry. No less an authority than Kruschev posited that it was Stalin’s essential cowardice, that engendered such depraved cruelty and stifling paralysis. Gee, why does that sound familiar…

    • alfredlordbleep says:

      Maybe the best counter to the “logic” of the enemy of my enemy is my friend is to question—who was the Poles’ friend? Hitler or Stalin?

      • Reader 21 says:

        That’s irrelevant—Hitler and Stalin were both sociopathic, genocidal mass murderers—I guess the main difference I can tell is, at least Germany has disavowed and tried to atone for Hitler. Russia, not so much (Kruschev took steps in that direction, to be fair).

    • P J Evans says:

      There are a few people here who are blaming her because she didn’t do it the way they thought she should.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Back at you. Ms. Pelosi went out of her way to avoid the impeachment process. When that did not work, she started late and kept staffing, preparation, facts, the list of abuses and crimes, and official commentary from the House on them to a minimum.

      She avoided the courts until it was too late to pursue meaningful resolution through them on relevant issues, including enforcement of congressional subpoenas and direct challenges to abusive executive branch claims of blanket immunity.

      The presentations in the Senate, however well presented by the Democrats and poorly by the GOP, were predictably limited. The GOP’s point, of course, was to avoid creating an accurate picture in the public’s mind about what went on and how a working legislative branch would respond to them.

      Had she wanted a fuller airing of crimes, abuses, facts, and circumstances, the House process would have included them in more trial-like presentations, based on the good faith belief that McConnell would not allow any of that to be presented in his chamber. The limitations in this process are largely on McConnell, but Ms. Pelosi’s detached, above-the-fray handling has helped him and Trump get away with them.

      • Troutwaxer says:

        Agreed completely. This is “check the box so we don’t lose the liberal Dems to the Greens again, and otherwise do as little as possible.”

        • Bay State Librul says:

          Non concur.
          Sunday Morning Quarterbacking
          No matter what route anyone takes, impeachment will fail.
          “Grace” writes Celeste Ng, “is about how you handle things when you are wrong, or when you have done wrong. It’s admitting that everyone, including you is fallible.”
          Of course, Nancy makes mistakes, but let’s not look for a scapegoat.
          Impeachment will fail because the Con lacks grace, and the Senate Republicans lacks grace.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          It’s not about “scapegoats.” It’s about laying out the case against Trump or failing to do it.

          Not doing it means a world of trouble for any effort to rein in Trump or a more extreme successor. When too many people don’t know what’s broken and why, they won’t back the time, effort, and resources needed to fix it so it doesn’t happen again.

          Trump will not likely be removed before his term ends. But his abuses and the web of support for them could have been laid out more fully. Even modest restraints could slow their destruction of government and lower their chances of re-election.

          Trump will likely remain in office because he and his patrons have made his party afraid of him. That’s the stuff of dictators the world over. America is supposed to be different.

          That’s not just on McConnell. It’s on every Senator who votes with him and their backers: the weak, the false, the stupid, and the corrupt. It’s on those who failed more forcefully to counter him.

          It’s on Trump and his patrons. Foreign ones, like Putin, and billionaires who will happily spend their pocket change to launch a pack of lobbyists at any congresscritter unwise enough to stray from the GOP herd with electoral winter coming.

          We can do better. That’s on us. But let’s not rush to back new paladins and pressure them into running for president before they’ve learned enough to do the job.

        • bmaz says:

          Schiff did an excellent job presenting the limited case on the one stupid phone call, the only thing the derelict Pelosi allowed. Yea.

        • bmaz says:

          This is insulting. It is NOT “Sunday Morning Quarterbacking”. I have been saying this since at least last March or April. And I know of Congress members in the HJC that so believed as well but were literally constrained by Pelosi.

          You are seriously lying to yourself if you don’t think Pelosi, Hoyer and Jeffries have a serious load of blame for the stupid and weak ass position they have left “impeachment” in. There is nothing “Sunday Morning” about that, it has been the case all along.

        • Bay State Librul says:

          Non concur.
          You are blaming Pelosi because you disagree. Schiff laid out the case perfectly
          No need to blame… we all make mistakes
          Your “blaming” serves no useful purpose at this time….
          We are dealing with a “mob” mentality with the Con Artist.
          Nothing would have worked…

        • bmaz says:

          I am blaming her because she was fucking derelict. And, yes, a competent and early inquiry and litigation “would have worked”.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          Your position accepts the MSM’s limited horizon – about a yard away. It is similar to the monopolist’s view of “consumer choice,” which is whatever the monopolist wants to sell.

          Your blase comment that criticism now is sour grapes or Monday morning quarterbacking fails to see what was said then, when there was still time to act.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          “Mob mentality” suggests unthinking followership. Some of that is true, but more with the base than in the Senate.

          Like the MSM, your derision ignores the agency of those who are forcefully backing the probable outcome, not just riding a wave toward it.

        • Bay State Librul says:

          Bottom line: you think it would have worked.
          Non concur.
          I don’t think it would have worked.
          Who is more persuasive Schiff or Nadler?
          It is what it is.
          You have to deal with that now.

        • bmaz says:

          BSL, you know who is more persuasive? Anyone that did not blithely sit on their ass as some kind of cult like sycophant to the derelict Nancy Pelosi. That would be a “more persuasive” person. But, hey, I am sure you know more than people who have actually litigated subpoenas in court and Congress people on the HJC.

        • Bay State Librul says:

          Non concur means I do not concur with your findings.
          I do not know more than people who have litigated subpoenas. All I can observe is that litigation takes a helluva long time and
          lawyers prolong the agony.

        • bmaz says:

          Well I do know a little about litigating subpoenas, and it can be quite expedited in the right circumstances. And that is just in normal cases. Impeachment is WAY above even that. In fact, in Nixon, it went from start to finish, including the Supreme Court, in a matter of a mere few months.

          Why? Because the courts knew and understood how important “impeachment” was in light of its unique Constitutional footing. You might remember me shouting about the fundamental difference between common “legislative purpose” (which can take forever) footing and the Constitutional “impeachment footing” once there is a formal impeachment inquiry opened. There was a reason I was demanding that from the start very long ago. Maybe now you, and the others who poo pooed me at the time, understand.

          Also, please spare me the tired trope about how it just cannot be done expeditiously, even in a true impeachment footing. That is total and complete horse manure. It not only CAN be done, that is the history of how it IS done when those seeking subpoenas care too get off their old fat asses, which Nancy Pelosi has never done. In Nixon, Jaworski issued a subpoena, in a district trial court forum in April of 1974. By July 8 of 1974, the case had been argued to the Supreme Court, and on July 24 of 1974, the Supreme Court issued its definitive decision.

          Less than four months from subpoena to SCOTUS decision. Not bad, eh? But that is what can be done by people going after a President that are not fucking derelict, timid and sitting on their thumbs. So, seriously, spare me the hagiography about Pelosi and the “oh golly, there was just nothing that could have been done” horseshit.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          The bottom line is that your comment defines “worked” the way the MSM does: removing Trump from office through impeachment.

          Mine is that there are more things that could have been done than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

        • Bay State Librul says:

          Your theory works in theory.
          You assume that no “roadblocks” along the path you have written about will occur.
          One year ago, I might have believed your theory.
          Not now.
          I non-concur.
          I am a “Doubting Thomas” on this one.

        • bmaz says:

          Fuck your “non-concur”. One year ago you were blowing shit out of your ass about how perfect it was that Pelosi was sitting on her thumbs and doing nothing. So, please, do not yammer about “one year ago”.

        • Bay State Librul says:

          I concur that your “fuck you” statement is emotionally driven and a crazy example of who gets the last word in. There are two sides to the story right?

  28. Eureka says:

    OT: aesthetically-pleasing / sanity break:

    So LeBron just passed Kobe for 3rd-leading all-time NBA scorer, which occasioned moi to see this coolest graphic ever — and the analyst has a book of other neat graphics [laws, if they ever make one of these for Ben Simmons, it’ll look like a meteor took out the paint]:

    Kirk Goldsberry: “All the King’s Buckets. 2003-2020 As LeBron gets set to surpass Kobe for 3rd place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list, take a minute to appreciate his incredible career. Here are his 12,254 career made field goals [embedded video]”

  29. N.E. Brigand says:

    (Apologies for misunderstanding that “half an hour” sentence about the Javelins; don’t know why it didn’t read right to me earlier.)

  30. Anvil Leucippus says:

    Well. We know why Parnas was waiting, now. It was to do this. It was the Russian long game all along.

  31. Mitch Neher says:

    Ms. Wheeler wrote, “Remarkably, we don’t yet know what Ukrainian was allegedly paying the grifters.”

    Ambassador Yovanovitch was reported to be a strong supporter of Andriy Kobolyev’s continued tenure as head of Naftogaz. Kobolyev rejected the Parnas/Fruman bid to sell 100 tankers of U.S. LNG to Naftogaz on the grounds that Kobolyev regarded it as a shakedown. And that’s why Parnas and Fruman wanted Yovanovitch to be removed as Ambassador–so that Kobolyev could be replaced at Naftogaz.

    Whichever Ukrainian was allegedly paying Parnas and Fruman may have had either the same, or some other, reason to have Andriy Kobolyev replaced at Naftogaz. Firtash fits that bill, for sure. But the several alternatives whom Ms. Wheeler mentioned might fit just as well.

    IIRC, a commenter at emptywheel named Katherine M. Williams has posted a fair bit of information on this topic. Kobolyev is credited with having satisfied the conditions for energy-sector reforms that the IMF had placed on their loan guarantees to Ukraine. Those IMF loan guarantees had greatly reduced the debt-burden to which the Yanukovich corruption had yoked Ukraine.

  32. Reader 21 says:

    @ Mitch — good points!
    Re who’s paying this Soviet-born duo, straight outta the underworld: the thought occurs—Semyon Mogilevech was born in Ukraine. Just sayin’.

    • Savage Librarian says:

      In considering who Barr might agree to surveil when he first came on the job, I have been trying to think how that person might be interacting with Parnas and Fruman. Both men are proud supporters of the Ukrainian Jewish community.

      In addition, in the audio recording, Parnas tells DT that the pipeline for Ukraine should avoid Russia and, instead, involve Turkey. Parnas does not seem to care about Russia.

      So, maybe the mystery Ukrainian oligarch who is funding Parnas and Fruman is not pro-Russia. If he isn’t, then I have to wonder if it might be Ihor Kolomoyskyi. He is a citizen of Ukraine, Israel, and Cyprus.

      But that might not necessarily mean that Kolomoyskyi wanted Masha Yovanovich gone as ambassador. Maybe that was a separate deal.

  33. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Frank Rich’s description of McConnell’s Senate horde: Vichy Senators.

    One view on the narrow framing of the impeachment, from Marjorie Cohn, with Amy Goodman:

    “Nancy Pelosi resisted for many, many months mounting impeachment, an impeachment proceeding in the House. And there are many different grounds that he could have been impeached for: violation of the emoluments clause, corruption and war crimes,… most recently killing Soleimani in violation of the U.N. Charter, in violation of the War Powers Resolution. But when the whistleblower complaint came out and it became so clear what Trump had done with strong-arming Zelensky…Nancy Pelosi understood that this was an airtight case. It was narrow. It was clear. People could get their brains around it.

    “And so we have these two articles of impeachment. Abuse of power and quid pro quo, this for that, dirt for dollars.”

    That is, the Zelensky phone call and whistleblower complaint provided a narrow scope for an impeachment inquiry. It also forced both Trump and Pelosi to act. Trump, to belatedly provide Ukraine the aid he never intended to give it, so as to avoid exposing his well-documented breach of the law. Pelosi, to launch a formal impeachment inquiry she worked hard to avoid.

  34. Ben says:

    I haven’t seen anyone really draw a direct connection between this April 2018 conversation about removing Yovanovitch and the April 2018 freeze on Manafort investigations done by Lutsenko.

    In early 2018, Ukraine was gearing up to assist the Mueller investigation regarding Manafort and others. They even appointed a special prosecutor to the cases because it was helping to clean up their own corruption. Manafort was under four investigations, including money laundering and the so called “Black Ledger.” This special prosecutor had even sent a letter expressing their willingness to cooperate with Mueller in January or February of 2018.

    However, Lutsenko, the prosecutor general at the time, mysteriously orders a freeze on the four Manafort investigations in April 2018, rendering any offer of assistance moot.

    It has been known that Lev Parnas has been working with Lutsenko to get Yovanovitch removed. This April 2018 dinner recording shows the effort has been long standing, planting the idea in Trump’s head a year before her eventual removal. It’s at this same time that Manafort’s investigations were frozen, and this has previously been believed to be linked to the military aid given to Ukraine (the Javelin missiles) and that Ukraine didn’t want to upset the Trump administration.

    But what if Lutsenko was in closer cooperation with Trump than we thought? The Mueller investigation was tied to Ukraine through Manafort in multiple ways. Not only was he involved in money laundering, but he was also working with Konstantin Kilimnick, the Russian/Ukranian intelligence officer. Lutsenko let Kilimnick flee to Russia before he could be investigated in the Mueller probe, letting crucial evidence flee with him.

    What if Lutsenko was offering to hinder the Mueller investigation via Manafort and Kilimnick in exchange for reduced counter-corruption efforts from the US? Removing Yovanovitch was clearly something Lutsenkno was after, and perhaps he was willing to help hinder or discredit the Mueller investigation in exchange.

    Fast forward a year later and it’s April 2019. The Mueller probe has come to a close, but Yovanovitch is still in her position. Trump still wants to “lift the cloud” of the Mueller probe by pursuing the “crowdstrike” server. And now Biden is officially running and Trump is aware of Hunter’s Burisma connection, which was publicly reported on.

    Lutsenko agrees to manufacture dirt on Biden, and smear Yovanovitch via interviews with John Solomon, but in order for all of it to seem credible, Trump must act on the Yovanovitch “dirt” by firing her. She’s removed in May 2019. Lutsenko gets what he wants, and Trump is starting to get what he wants.

    But while these gears are in motion, Zelensky wins on the anti-corruption platform and announces Lutsenko is done, and the new parliament is elected in July. Trump must now reestablish his connections to get what he wants, but Zelensky is a bit tougher to make deals with. In the July 25 call, Trump laments the firing of the “very good prosecutor” (aka Lutsenko) and also discusses the dismissal of Yovanovitch. So Trump threatens military aid he knows is crucial for Ukraine. He also demands investigation into crowdstrike (again, tied to lifting Mueller cloud) as well as the new item of dirt on Biden to help with 2020.

    But the whistleblower threw this all out of whack, and Trump scrambled to cover it up. And the rest we know all too well.

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