The Whack-a-Mole Cover Story: Bill Barr’s Knowing Complicity Moved a Month Earlier

Attentive readers of yesterday’s NYT Bolton story have noted that Bolton says that by August, Trump’s demand in the quid pro quo was not just the announcement of an investigation, but “all materials they had about the Russia Investigation that related to Mr. Biden and supporters of Mrs. Clinton in Ukraine.”

In his August 2019 discussion with Mr. Bolton, the president appeared focused on the theories Mr. Giuliani had shared with him, replying to Mr. Bolton’s question that he preferred sending no assistance to Ukraine until officials had turned over all materials they had about the Russia investigation that related to Mr. Biden and supporters of Mrs. Clinton in Ukraine.

That is, in August of last year, Trump was extorting Ukraine to obtain materials about 2016.

Some have suggested this is new news. But it’s not. It came up at Mick Mulvaney’s October 17, 2019 press conference. As he told it, the hold was primarily because of corruption and to press the rest of Europe to provide their fair share of funding for Ukraine. Mulvaney made a statement that — given that we now know DOD reviewed how much Europe provided and concluded they were providing more than the US — is fairly breathtaking in retrospect. Mulvaney gets away with this by claiming it’s just about lethal aid.

So we actually looked at that, during that time, before — when we cut the money off, before the money actually flowed, because the money flowed by the end of the fiscal year — we actually did an analysis of what other countries were doing in terms of supporting Ukraine.  And what we found out was that — and I can’t remember if it’s zero or near zero dollars from any European countries for lethal aid.  And you’ve heard the President say this: that we give them tanks and other countries give them pillows.  That’s absolutely right, that the — as vocal as the Europeans are about supporting Ukraine, they are really, really stingy when it comes to lethal aid.  And they weren’t helping Ukraine, and then still to this day are not.

From those two excuses — corruption and European support — Mulvaney then adds, as what he probably intends to be a throwaway comment, that part of this was investigating the DNC server, all the while trying to pretend that an investigation into the DNC server (he can never seem to label this the Crowdstrike conspiracy theory) pertains to corruption.

Did he also mention to me in pass the corruption related to the DNC server?  Absolutely.  No question about that.  But that’s it.  And that’s why we held up the money.

Now, there was a report —

Q    So the demand for an investigation into the Democrats was part of the reason that he ordered to withhold funding to Ukraine?

MR. MULVANEY:  The look back to what happened in 2016 —

Q    The investigation into Democrats.

MR. MULVANEY: — certainly was part of the thing that he was worried about in corruption with that nation.  And that is absolutely appropriate.


Did he also mention to me in pass the corruption related to the DNC server?  Absolutely.  No question about that.  But that’s it.  And that’s why we held up the money.

Now, there was a report —

Q    So the demand for an investigation into the Democrats was part of the reason that he ordered to withhold funding to Ukraine?

MR. MULVANEY:  The look back to what happened in 2016 —

Q    The investigation into Democrats.

MR. MULVANEY: — certainly was part of the thing that he was worried about in corruption with that nation.  And that is absolutely appropriate.

Someone latches on to Mulvaney’s admission that Trump was demanding an investigation into his opponents, and raises “the Bidens.” Someone else notes that even if you’re just talking about the DNC, it still means Trump engaged in a quid pro quo to investigate his prospective opponents, since the DNC is also involved in 2020.

Q    Mr. Mulvaney, what about the Bidens, though, Mr. Mulvaney?  Did that come into consideration when that money was held up?

MR. MULVANEY:  I’m sorry, I don’t know your name, but he’s being very rude.  So go ahead and ask your question.

Q    Just to clarify, and just to follow up on that question: So, when you’re saying that politics is going to be involved —


Q    — the question here is not just about political decisions about how you want to run the government.  This is about investigating political opponents.  Are you saying that —

MR. MULVANEY:  No.  The DNC — the DNC server —


Q    Are you saying that it’s okay for the U.S. government to hold up aid and require a foreign government to investigate political opponents of the President?

MR. MULVANEY:  Now, you’re talking about looking forward to the next election.  We’re talking —

Q    Even the DNC.  The DNC is still involved in this next election.  Is that not correct?

Mulvaney starts to panic, and to get out of that panic, invokes the Durham investigation. To defer from 2020, Mulvaney says Trump was just obtaining information for an ongoing investigation.

MR. MULVANEY:  So, wait a second.  So there’s —

Q    So are you saying —

MR. MULVANEY:  Hold on a second.  No, let me ask you —

Q    But you’re asking to investigate the DNC, right?

MR. MULVANEY:  So, let’s look at this —

Q    Is the DNC political opponents of the President?

MR. MULVANEY:  There’s an ongoing — there’s an ongoing investigation by our Department of Justice into the 2016 election.  I can’t remember that person’s name.

Q    Durham.

MR. MULVANEY:  Durham.  Durham, okay?  That’s an ongoing investigation, right?  So you’re saying the President of the United States, the chief law enforcement person, cannot ask somebody to cooperate with an ongoing public investigation into wrongdoing?  That’s just bizarre to me that you would think that you can’t do that.

In other words, in Mulvaney’s presser, he excused the political aspect of Trump’s quid pro quo by claiming the President was pressing Ukraine to cooperate in the Durham investigation. He claimed that this wasn’t about Biden but instead about 2016.

Of course, that had to have caused all sorts of heartache over at DOJ, because they had been saying for almost a month that Bill Barr had no clue about any of this and here Mulvaney was saying that the quid pro quo was about the investigation Barr set up and was micromanaging.

After DOJ pushed back, the White House adopted the line that this was about Burisma’s corruption.

To be sure, the impeachment witnesses didn’t always support that. Kurt Volker, for example, invented a story that when he pushed Ukraine to investigate Burisma, he meant they should investigate the corrupt company, not Biden and that the request to investigate 2016. He discounted the request for an investigation into 2016 by suggesting Ukrianians might be trying to buy influence.

SCHIFF: Ambassador, let me also ask you about the allegations against Joe Biden, because that has been a continuing refrain from some of my colleagues, as well. Why was it you found the allegations against Joe Biden, related to his son or Burisma, not to be believed?

VOLKER: Simply because I’ve known Vice President — former Vice President Biden for a long time, I know how he respects his duties of higher office and it’s just not credible to me that a Vice President of the United States is going to do anything other than act as how he sees best for the national interest.


SCHIFF: I take it since you say that — you acknowledge that asking for an investigation of the Bidens would have been unacceptable and objectionable, that had the President asked you to get Ukraine to investigate the Bidens, you would have told him so?

VOLKER: I would have objected to that. Yes, sir.

SCHIFF: Mr. Goldman?

GOLDMAN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Just one follow up on that, Ambassador Volker. When — when you say thread the needle, you’re — you mean that you understood the relationship between Vice President Biden’s son on — and Burisma but you were trying to separate the two of them in your mind? Is that right?

VOLKER: Well I believe that they were separate, that — and I — this references the conversation I had with Mr. Giuliani as well, where I think the allegations against Vice President Biden are self-serving and not credible.

A separate question is whether it is appropriate for Ukraine to investigate possible corruption of Ukrainians that may have tried to corrupt things or buy influence. To me, they are very different things. As I said, I think the former is unacceptable, I think the latter in this case is …


GOLDMAN: Now he was insisting from a public commitment from President Zelensky to do these investigations, correct?

VOLKER: Now, what do we mean by these investigations?

GOLDMAN: Burisma and the 2016 election.

VOLKER: Burisma and 2016, yes.

GOLDMAN: And, at the time that you were engaged in coordinating for this statement, did you find it unusual that there was such an emphasis on a public statement from President Zelensky to carry out the investigations that the president was seeking?

VOLKER: I didn’t find it that unusual. I think when you’re dealing with a situation where, I believe the president was highly skeptical about President Zelensky being committed to really changing Ukraine after this entirely negative view of the country, that he would want to hear something more from President Zelensky to be convinced that — OK, I’ll give this guy a chance.

GOLDMAN: And he — perhaps he also wanted a public statement because it would lock President Zelensky in to do these investigations that he thought might benefit him?

VOLKER: Well again, we’re — when we say these investigations what I understood us to be talking about was Ukrainian corruption.

GOLDMAN: Well, what we’re talking about is Burisma and the 2016 election, let’s just —

VOLKER: Correct, correct — yes, right.


VOLKER: I do remember having seen some of the testimony of Mr. Kent, a conversation in which he had asked me about the conspiracy theories that were out there in Ukraine. I don’t remember what the date of this conversation was.

And my view was, well, if there are things like that, then why not investigate them? I don’t believe that there’s anything to them. If there is — 2016 election interference is what I was thinking of — we would want to know about that. But I didn’t really there was — believe there was anything there to begin with.

It was a thin story, but necessary to explain why Volker did something he knew to be utterly corrupt, and then got caught doing it. While not explicitly, he was endorsing the possibility that Ukraine might have had a corrupt role in 2016.

All that said, Bolton’s certainty that Trump was also asking for Ukraine to provide the US with information on 2016 raises the import of this detail: Bolton claims (and DOJ has been releasing conflicting comments since yesterday) that he warned Bill Barr about this shadow Ukraine policy in July.

Mr. Bolton also said that after the president’s July phone call with the president of Ukraine, he raised with Attorney General William P. Barr his concerns about Mr. Giuliani, who was pursuing a shadow Ukraine policy encouraged by the president, and told Mr. Barr that the president had mentioned him on the call. A spokeswoman for Mr. Barr denied that he learned of the call from Mr. Bolton; the Justice Department has said he learned about it only in mid-August.

After releasing an initial denial yesterday, today DOJ has issued a non-denial confirmation.

A Justice Department official familiar with the matter said Mr. Bolton did call Mr. Barr to express concerns about Mr. Giuliani and his shadow foreign policy in Ukraine. It wasn’t clear what, if anything, the attorney general did with that information.

Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec denied that Mr. Barr learned of the Ukraine call from Mr. Bolton. The department has repeatedly said he learned about it in mid-August.

We don’t know for sure, but the difference in timeline may be utterly critical to Barr’s implication in this conspiracy. For starters, Bolton’s warning to Barr undoubtedly came before Barr stopped into a meeting in September with Rudy Giuliani about the Venezuelan who happened to be funding some of the Ukrainian grift. Bolton’s warning may make DOJ’s efforts to bracket off the Parnas and Fruman investigation, which Barr undoubtedly knew about, from the whistleblower complaint far more suspect.

Most importantly, we don’t know when multiple Ukrainians offered John Durham dirt (much less who they are). But if happened between Bolton’s warning in July and when Barr has previously claimed to have learned that Trump told Zelensky that he, Bill Barr, would happily receive the dirt he was extorting, it would make Durham’s acceptance of that dirt part of the conspiracy itself. That is, it would make Barr’s efforts to use DOJ to investigate Trump’s opponents a key part of both a conspiracy being investigated in SDNY, from which Barr has irresponsibly not recused, as well as an impeachment investigation, from which Barr has also not recused.

Bolton’s certainty that Trump wanted Ukraine to provide materials for a US investigation into Trump’s foes is not at all new. But the fact that Barr should have known he was part of this conspiracy a month earlier than he had previously admitted is.

104 replies
  1. Mister Sterling says:

    If this republic wasn’t broken and burning, that press conference would have been followed by a prime time resignation announcement from the president. Not only did Trump not resign, but we assholes didn’t march in the streets. We’re tired and we don’t care. Marcy cares, though.

  2. Zinsky says:

    If Republican Senators fail to approve calling additional witnesses (most notably John Bolton) in Trump’s impeachment trial given Bolton’s allegations that Trump is guilty as Hell, we really are in Alice in Wonderland territory and people need to start evaluating what extraConstitutional remedies are feasible to remove this monster from the White House and to get rid of the treacherous teddy bear, William Barr!

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      All things Ukraine are at the center of one cesspit in the Trump administration. Hence, Bill Barr’s choice to disguise its importance by appearing to investigate the investigators.

      He is trying to impugn the reputations and credibility of the latter, and cut the impact of their claims that Trump is corrupt and a serial criminal. Its become a theme for Barr, what with his tireless attempts to save Trump from himself and all that.

      • Jenny says:

        I am not going to do anything that I think is wrong, and I will not be bullied into doing anything I think is wrong, by anybody. Whether it be editorial boards, or Congress or the President. I’m going to do what I think is right.
        – William Barr (1 year ago on CNN)

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          As was said of Sec’y Rapture, “The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose…. [It is] like a villain with a smiling cheek, A goodly apple rotten at the heart.”

  3. John Forde says:

    If we can get over this watershed moment we may have real hearings. What a spectacle to watch Barr and Durham try to throw each other under the bus!

  4. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Jay Sekulow thinks the Democrats tried to interfered with Trump’s “ability to govern.”

    LOL. When you multiply anything times zero, the result is always zero.

  5. earlofhuntingdon says:

    The chancellor Baylor had to fire is now up. Ken Starr is now slowly going through the history…the oath of office…the national archives…the /Senate-as-court…ad nauseum…and claiming that the House’s process is impliedly faulty because its members supposedly do not take an oath. He’s talking about Alexander Hamilton….equal justice under law…and the unitary executive’s unbridled power.

    Had Starr a hypocrisy meter, it would have blown its circuits by now. Ken must also not have been sentient when McConnell and his leading members violated their oaths by going all in for and tightly coordinating their process with defense counsel for Trump – including Ken.

    • John Hand says:

      From the curvaceous line of argument Starr is laying out, it appears that Sekulow said, Ken, you got 90 minutes. Fill it, get your check, and go home.

  6. Rugger9 says:

    It seems that the Bolton bombshell has really messed up the Palace plans for the Senate trial. Looking over the press commentary, it is clear that there is no politically palatable chance Individual-1 can be off the hook before he has to visit Pelosi and the House. It’s a shame I’m teaching that night be because this looks like a trainwrecked dumpster fire of a speech. Such an address should be enshrined as an example of our times in the National Archives in contrast to Schiff’s work.

    MMMcT wants to decide how to go but he has to balance the political risks of the trial being seen as Soviet-style sham against the risk of what the witnesses will say (someone on Faux wants to call Obama) in addition to the time available for Palace tweets which will not help. It couldn’t happen to a nicer guy, but my bet is that MMMcT will go the shut it down route because too many other things will come out to destroy the defense. It’s about protecting MMMcT’s Majority Leader position, and expect that if this happens we will then see howls from the GOP when Nadler and Schiff goes in again, if for no other reason than the tweet threatening Schiff (among many others previously) which would not be protected by the Speech and Debate clause.

  7. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Ken is now trashing Lawrence Walsh’s conduct of the 1980’s Iran-Contra investigation – torpedoed by Reagan, Bush Sr., and William Barr, in his first gig as Attorney General.

  8. earlofhuntingdon says:

    “Fairness…fairness…Impeachment in Britain is dead.”

    Starr is referring to mid-19th century English experience. He is ignoring the considerable constitutional differences between the US and the UK, and that a mid-19th century English practice has no direct or binding relevance on US practice.

    Starr must have a point. But he seems more interested in wasting time, and in appearing learned and reasonable, unlike the Democrats.

    • Rugger9 says:

      We also have the example of how treason is defined to highlight the differences, since our founders were well aware of how it had been watered down in English law to merely criticizing the monarch.

      To the note below, I suspect it’s about being a test case for the GOP, in that the party wants to know if they can impose the PNAC Reich. Not that I want to spoil the otherwise enjoyable Hitchhiker’s Guide, but this is exactly why Zaphod was elected as President of the Universe – his purpose was to distract from what the powers that be were doing behind the scenes and Individual-1 fulfills that role admirably with the help of the GOP, Faux News and OANN, et al.

  9. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Only 63 Senate impeachment trials, only 8 convictions, all federal judges, says Starr.

    Perhaps, Ken, impeachment is rare because other forms of social filtering and control – peer pressure, and hiring and vetting practices, for example – have historically limited the need to resort to something so extreme. As usual, Trump is always a negative exception.

    Ken is now misconstruing the Constitution by claiming impeachment is limited to violations of established crimes. He mistates the reason for having the Chief Justice oversee impeachment of the president. It’s not because impeachment is limited to federal criminal violations, as implied by Starr. It is because there is an obvious conflict in having the Senate’s President – the executive branch’s Vice President – oversee them. Not a passing grade in ConLaw I, Ken.

    • P J Evans says:

      I wish these “originalists” would admit that the originality in their views is not due to the framers.

    • Alan K says:

      I’m trying to understand this point. Isn’t soliciting a bribe an established crime? So perhaps this issue being raised by Starr / Dershowitz is that bribery is not one of the articles. Which is a quibble, if true. Then the other point I am trying to understand, doesn’t this position introduce another problem, namely that the prosecution and defense may then be required (by the Senate? Post-hoc?) that the prosecution (the House?) follow established lines of procedure – ie not political but judicial – with all the powers (grand jury?) (US Marshals?). It’s very confusing when you step away from the political aspect of Impeachment. If they are making this argument, then it seems to me that there should be a lot more discussion about what that means.

      • Alan K says:

        … and yes, if that means there is an Impeachment every decade then so be it. It is GOP behavior over the past 50 years that has led to each one.

    • timbo says:

      He also slipped in a little disclaimer implying that what he was saying was the DoJ’s position, leaving his own obtuse. How much did you say he was being paid by the hour?

  10. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Because impeachment overturns an election [sic], there needs to be a genuine national consensus – meaning, bipartisan, giving the president’s party a veto – to remove the president. So, let the people decide – meaning fuggedabout impeachment.

    Starr is unpersuasively repeating GOP talking points. Impeachment and removal are responses to abuses committed by a federal officer while in office. They are not related to how they or the president got there.

    Bipartisanship is not a requirement – only widespread agreement that the president’s conduct is antithetical to his office, that his abuse of that office – through conduct or crime – is so extreme that his prompt removal is required to protect the government and the country from him.

    • timbo says:

      Bipartisanship. Apparently Supreme Court appointments don’t require it, only criminal President’s are privileged to have it. How convenient.

  11. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Starr is making bmaz smile. He’s claiming that all House subpoenas issued before its formal declaration that an impeachment investigation has been commenced are invalid. Mistakenly, Starr also claims that a vote by the full House is required to do that. Horse pucky.

  12. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Starr waxes about “process,” the gatekeeper of liberty. He ignores that the House process was the indictment phase, which entails significantly different procedures than the trial phase. That’s the phase that McConnell has corrupted.

    Starr refers again to the House members not having taken an oath. Hypocritically, he ignores the oaths they do take, the one taken by the Senators, who broke it before and after taking it, and the oath taken by the president, who violates it every day.

    Starr avoids, too, the massive explicit obstruction committed by the president that prevented more documents, facts, and circumstances from being put into evidence at both the indictment and trial phases.

    The “fundamental process violations” are those of your client, Ken, not the House. Given your blind and convoluted sense of process, it is easier to see why you are no longer Chancellor of Baylor. Thank the lord, he’s done.

  13. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Jay Sekulow must have had a lunch that didn’t agree with him. Instead of taking a little Pepto, he put up a video of Pelosi handing out pens after her signing of the articles of impeachment. “A celebratory moment.”

    A straightforward bit of misogyny as well as overzealous partisanship.

    • Gnome de Plume says:

      I’m sure Sekulow put that video up because of the lie and meme going around right wind circles that said she paid $15,000 for those gold pens.

    • timbo says:

      Anything for “jailbird Jay” to stay out of j-ville. Poor fellow, he’s into it up to his keister. It’s all or nothing now for the Trump’s footsoldiers.

  14. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Mr. Purpura, deputy WH Counsel, now up. He is lying, rather, he is assuming his client does not, a credulity that seems to exceed the requirements of zealous representation. He also needs to practice saying, “Zelensky.”

  15. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Most of Mr. Purpura’s arguments could be dismissed with the simple observation that Donald Trump has not met Ukraine’s President Zelensky anywhere, at any time, to discuss any topic.

  16. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Whew: Mr. Purpura says he’s “coming to the end.” He can soon uncross his fingers, though he should check the length of his nose.

    I haven’t heard Purpura whistle or blow about why the lethal aide was finally sent to Ukraine. He does assert that Ukraine and the US are safer under Trump, which seems to be at odds with the overt and implicit signaling Trump has given Putin that he believes him over his own intel agencies and that he can do what he wants pretty much everywhere.

  17. Molly Pitcher says:

    So my concern is for the weak spined GOP sheep whose last influence will be of the effluence provided by the President’s side. They are the same Senators easily distracted by the latest shiney thing.

    How much will the Bolton book revelations affect them ? And will that be enough to get witnesses ?

  18. harpie says:

    1] Trump and Team say that the Oval Office meeting for Zelensky was held off [and still hasn’t occurred] because of Trump’s concern about corruption in Ukraine.

    +2] Today, Trump met in the Oval Office with Netanyahu, who has been indicted on charges of fraud, bribery, and breach of trust.

    =3] Taken together, these two facts seem to indicate that Trump was concerned that corruption in Ukraine did not meet his high expectations.

    • Rugger9 says:

      Are we still sending aid to the PI, with Rodrigo in charge, or KSA with MBS in charge? Thrice makes a policy…

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      If 1) were true, Trump had a legitimate reason, indeed, a responsibility, not to send the lethal aide he did send. So, Mr. President, were you lying to us then or are you lying to us now? Both is also a correct answer.

  19. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Jane Raskin is up, quoting Carl Sandburg. Given the context, he would not be pleased.

    In accusing the Democrats of distracting attention from what they find inconvenient, Ms. Raskin demonstrates that her hypocrisy meter is as broken as Ken Starr’s. The GOP’s middle name is projection.

    Raskin is incorrect that the Dems lie when putting Rudy G at the center of this debacle solely to distract from their case. Rudy is central to their case and so is his client. Rudy likely also has independent legal liability for his conduct.

    She lies about why more witnesses were not called by the House: Trump obstructed it. More to the point, the House was engaged in evaluating whether, in effect, probable cause existed to indict the president.

    That is a more limited role than trying a case. That’s the Senate’s job. Yet, Moscow Mitch refuses to call witnesses or examine documents and other evidence. Ms. Raskin should direct her criticism to her client and the Senate, not the House. “There you have it.”

  20. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Ms. Raskin, Mr. Trump has no idea what “allude” means.

    As Ms. Raskin would have it, critics of Trump merely object to his “style.” Nice distraction from their concern with his egregious conduct.

    Clarence Darrow would not agree with your comparing Rudy G. to a competent defense counsel.

    • I Never Lie and am Always Right says:

      Off topic, but a good book about a case where Darrow was Defense counsel (Senator -Elect Borah was the prosecutor) is Big Trouble by Anthony Lukas.

  21. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Deputy WH Counsel Patrick Philbin now up. Repeats Starr’s objection to the House’s authority to conduct an impeachment inquiry before having voted on it. In reality, it is up to the House to determine its rules; prior practice is not binding precedent.

    He repeats the false argument that the House’s conduct was procedurally faulty, a nicely hypocritical argument that, again, mistates the indictment from the trial phases and the rules applicable to an impeachment investigation.

    Philbin’s video clip of Rep. Nadler had no audio, Philbin just reads his supposed comment. Not an error. He seems to have used it to embarrass Nadler, because it shows the much younger Nadler significantly overweight, something he needed surgery to correct. The morbidly obese Trump must have gotten a chuckle from that.

    • timbo says:

      Indeed, the President’s hack lawyers seem to feel that they can dictate to the House how their rules should be. This in and of itself should be considered a case for charge of contempt of Congress, IMO. Article I, section 5, clause 2 is clear on its face. The House makes it’s own rules. Undoubtedly, the House managers will point to this in its rebuttal?

  22. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Representing an administration that routinely and grossly abuses concepts of fair dealing and procedural due process, Philbin has finally found an issue that he thinks ought to be subject to due process: the protection of Donald J. Trump.

  23. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Mr. Philbin, your client thinks imprimatur is an inappropriate sex act one does with one’s mother. Please be more careful in your choice of words.

  24. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Philbin seems to be misapplying US v. Nixon (1974) regarding the limits of executive privilege. That case required Nixon to hand over the tapes, over his objection based primarily on the reach of executive privilege.

    The S.Ct. unanimously rejected Nixon’s claim to “absolute, unqualified Presidential privilege of immunity from judicial process under all circumstances.” The context was the enforceability of a subpoena in a criminal proceeding. An impeachment proceeding has similar standing, which overrides the executive’s general right to confidentiality.

    The right has tried to reverse that decision limiting the reach of executive privilege for nearly five decades. The appointments of Gorsuch and Kavanaugh are part of that movement.

  25. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Philbin has a funny notion of what “destroys” the Constitution: Limiting executive privilege – a creature of the common law – in the context of impeaching the president – a creature of the Constitution.

  26. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Philbin made a booboo. He just said that, “there is no power in the Constitution that is unchecked.” The NRA is already on the phone to Donny, and it’s not happy.

    Other than that, Philbin has succeeded in being today’s most boring speaker. Will the MSM’s usual horse race analysis agree with that?

  27. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Mr. Philbin, the House is not asking the Senate to do the work it failed to do.

    The House performed its constitutional role. It investigated the president, despite his obstruction, and issued articles of impeachment against him. It has now charged the Senate with fulfilling its constitutional role to try the president, something its conduct and rules make clear it refuses to do.

  28. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Pam Bondi now up, to argue about Burisma and corruption in Ukraine. Has anyone looked lately at Trump’s prior contributions to her campaigns and the dropping of claims against him in Florida?

    Bondi remembers that the Dems spoke for “over 21 hours,” a much-repeated talking point. The statistic is meaningless, other than that the Dems used up less than their full allotment of time.

    Engaging in the GOP’s usual projection, Bondi complains that the Dems are responsible for raising Burisma and Biden over 400 times. Sure, it has nothing to do with Team Trump’s years-long attempts to influence events in Ukraine to their political advantage.

    I’m pretty sure Bondi is wrong in asserting that the burden of proof in an impeachment trial is the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard that applies in criminal proceedings. Impeachments are civil, not criminal, proceedings. The consequence of being found “guilty” is limited to removal from office, not incarceration or a fine, although it does not bar further, independent proceedings that might be criminal.

    • Rayne says:

      It’s odd that none of the other corruption in Ukraine has been addressed by the Trump administration. As if all the corruption was just in Burisma and nowhere near much larger businesses like Naftogaz.

      • orionATL says:

        this is a key point, a critical question bearing on president trump’s protestations of innocence based on concern for corruption in the ukraine

        the u.s. government, working principally thru the state dept and u.s. aid, has (or had) a policy focusing on helping certain nations deal with endemic corruption. ukraine clearly was one of these as is evident from the work that ambassador yovanovich had been doing before the ukrainian dogs began growling and trump sicced them on her. (yovanovich was appointed ambassador to ukraine by president Obama in 2016 and was continued by president trump until fired in may, 2019.)

        government corruption is said to operate widely in ukraine, as in many less-than-fully-developed countries (overlooking the fact, as president carter recently noted, that the u.s. permits open bribery in its congress). the latter makes dealing with the former much more difficult and was the source of the ambassador’s (and other state dept officials’) frustration with ukraine.

        as rayne notes, the natural gas holding company burisma is merely one corporate point of corruption in a country notorious for its corruption.

        burisma was investigated both by the u.k. government for money laundering and by the ukraine government for tax evasion and illegal licensing to extract. these investigations all got stymied by political corruption and nullified. however, due to the current fuss in the u.s., they are being revived:

    • harpie says:

      emptywheel Retweeted
      et7:00 PM · Jan 27, 2020

      Around the same time that Pam Bondi joined Trump’s impeachment defense team, the State Department quietly added her former chief of staff as the department’s White House liaison. We’re asking for their communications:

      JANUARY 27, 2020

      […] To shed light on how the White House is coordinating its impeachment strategies with agencies like the State Department, American Oversight has filed a Freedom of Information Act request for communications between [Nilda] Pedrosa and Bondi, in both Bondi’s private capacity and in her capacity as a White House official. […]

      • orionATL says:

        the u.s. state department and the department of justice are just destroying their institutional reputations. if this continues under the thoroughly corrupt leadership of mike pompeo and william barr, it will take years to live down. what a tragedy.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        Considerable potential for conflicts and corruption in having one of the president’s personal lawyer’s former chiefs of staff being put in charge of overseeing State Dept. communications with the White House, while that president is being tried for impeachable offenses.

        I wonder how Sec’y Rapture likes that arrangement. It’s like having a snitch in your bedroom.

        Meanwhile, Trump’s defense lawyers spent an entire day inventing reasons why the Bidens’ dealings with Ukraine might be corrupt.

  29. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Bondi seems to invent a new standard, “a potential appearance of a conflict of interest.” The phrasing is ordinarily an actual or potential conflict, meaning a real one. Or it is an appearance of a conflict, meaning that one may not exist, but the circumstance might lead an ordinary citizen to infer that one existed. They apply in different circumstances. Judges, for example, are supposed to avoid the appearance of conflicts of interest. (S.Ct. members, however, get to make up their own minds.)

    Ms. Bondi is lambasting Hunter Biden for making more in a month than the average American makes in a year. Coming from Trump and the GOP, that’s rich. They’ve done much to keep those incomes down, except for the likes of Hunter Biden.

    Hunter’s story is lamentable and sad, but not illegal. His was garden variety behavior inside the Beltway and in corporate America. The list of examples that could be drawn from current senior members of the Trump administration would be staggering.

    • orionATL says:

      the paragraph about hunter biden is thoughtful and an accurate accounting of washington’s business/politics practices. these days it takes courage to write an accurate description of events amidst the screeches about partisanship.

      with respect to any criticism or defense being partisan:

      1. there are only two sexes.

      2. there are only two political parties.

      must every criticism of male behavior be by a male only to avoid a charge of “partisanship”?

      must every criticism of republican behavior only be made by a republican in order to be a “legitimate” criticism?

      hey media types, see how stupid this “partisandpship” commentary and argument is especially in a binary situation? can it be that only those involved in an activity may criticize, why, themselves?

      there has always been severe partisanship alive and active in american government – check out thomas jefferson and john adams very early on. and stop the mewling about partisanship.

      • orionATL says:

        to put it differently, must it be a houston astro official or player who makes an accusation of astro’s cheating? what has been gained by describing a cleveland indian complaint of astros cheating (as in 2017) as partisanship? or by dismissing it as “sour grapes”? or ignoring it because of its source?

        the charge of “partisanship” is usually a defense and not infrequently by an offender. in fact, the use of the term should be a signal to media types for closer investigation of the events related to that complaint, rather than a self-satisfied summary before moving hurriedly on.

        in news reporting, the term “partisan” and its variants is often a dodge, used in a “pox on both your houses” manner, a protective action by a editors and reporters wanting to avoid taking sides, or offending a group of customers (advertising or subscription). and so editors avoid stating a truth that they themselves hold reasonable to believe – surely a violation of their professional obligations, not to mention their personal ethics.

    • cavenewt says:

      “Ms. Bondi is lambasting Hunter Biden for making more in a month than the average American makes in a year.”

      I’d be willing to bet that Ms. Bondi makes more before lunch every day than I make in a year.

  30. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Ms. Bondi’s delivery is flat, and she seems insufficiently familiar with her brief, reading all of it and without fluency. That would suggest she did not have much of a hand in compiling it.

    The whole Biden story in this context has long been investigated and dismissed. Bondi’s brief is entirely distraction, not least because she fails to distinguish between current reformers and former corrupt officials. The latter were the ones that Trump’s campaign managers were so intimately and lucratively involved with.

    Bondi also ignores that the European Union was actively involved in supporting Ukraine and in demanding the replacement of its most corrupt officials, including its chief prosecutor. But Bondi takes the latter’s word as writ.

    Bondi is happy also to take a few digs at Amb. Yovanovitch: “Does she seem prepared to talk about world affairs?” More than you, Pam, more than you.

  31. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Eric Herschmann now up. Claims the “theory” that Trump “colluded” with Russia has been entirely dismissed by Mueller’s investigation – at a cost of $32 million.

    I’m pretty sure Herschmann is lying about both the evidence of obstruction Mueller found and the net cost of his investigation.

    He also repeats Bondi’s claims about Hunter Biden. One would think that a lawyer for Trump or his administration would tread carefully when complaining about nepotism and self-dealing. But I guess that’s a concern only when speaking about Democrats.

    Gosh, it will be hard to decide who wins today’s Liar, Liar, Pants On Fire Award.

  32. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Mr. Herschmann complains that Hunter Biden and his lawyer “can’t keep their stories straight.”

    His hypocrisy meter is the most broken of all. I think that merits the Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire Award of the day. He’s earned it.

  33. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Mr. Herschmann may be correct that corruption eats away at Ukraine’s democracy. It’s also an unoriginal truism that applies to every democracy, including the American one. But Mr. Herschmann’s inability to use that standard with his own client is breathtaking.

    Referring to the supposedly reprehensible – rather than common but disappointing – conduct of Hunter Biden, he says:

    “Can you imagine what the House managers would say if it were Trump’s children on an oligarch’s payroll?”

    Or Trump, he failed to say. Herschmann immediately follows that with, “Mr. Trump knows how to speak his mind.” If he does, he can’t get the words out, or use ones that have more than two syllables in them. Herschmann happily and repeatedly confirms why he’s won his Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire Award.

  34. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Why does Mr. Herschmann act as if Mr. Biden will be Trump’s opponent in the Fall?

    And why did Mr. Trump think he needed Ukraine to invent dirt on him when his defense team demonstrates that he can hire any number of Americans to do the same?

    • Rugger9 says:

      That is a really good question and I would submit that the purpose is to gain some leverage on Ukraine and make them more malleable to what Vlad wants.

      Otherwise, why not Xi (oh, right, he tried) or Rodrigo or MBS for overseas input.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        One reason Trump would have been and still is focused on Ukraine is because Putin. Reducing American aid to Ukraine – separating it from the US and the West, forcing it back into Russia’s orbit – would have been part of Trump’s planned realignment of the relationship with Russia.

        As Manafort’s history makes clear, corruption in Ukraine presented major opportunities for long-term enrichment. Rudy, it seems, wanted a piece of that action. And Trump would and will do much to undercut the any domestic political opponent.

        Those who follow Ukraine and its politics professionally would know that and much more. Hence, Trump, like BushCheney and experts on Iraq and the ME, removed them from access to and influence over what the US under Trump was doing.

  35. harpie says:

    1] Raskin praises Rudy:
    12:30 PM – 27 Jan 2020

    Trump lawyer Jane Raskin earnestly praising Rudy Giuliani as an “internationally recognized expert on fighting corruption” is also much better with audible lulz [VIDEO]

    2] Rudy agrees with Raskin: 1:12 PM – 27 Jan 2020

    Jane Raskin is doing a masterful job defending me in my role as defense counsel. As she pointed out, I did not dig up dirt on Joe Biden. The information RE his outrageous criminal conduct was handed to me, along with a video tape, 4 witnesses &… / …incriminating documents. It was already a fully-intact bribery/extortion case.
    The reason you don’t know about it is because of the cover up by the corrupt Democrats and their establishment media!

    3] Lev Parnas attorney, Joseph Bondy responds to Rudy 1:27 PM – 27 Jan 2020

    You mean the same Jane Raskin that was cc’ed in this 10/8/19 e-mail by John Dowd, along with you, @RudyGiuliani , Victoria Toensing, Joe diGenova, John Sale and @JaySekulow, updating everyone about the efforts to thwart Lev Parnas’ complying with his HPSCI subpoena? #LevRemembers [screen shot]

  36. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Like Starr, Herschmann is upset about partisan impeachment: it’s divisive.

    Hahahaha. Herschmann represents the most divisive president in modern American history. I think even LBJ would take his hat off to that chutzpah. But speaking as if he were selling Ginza knives on late-night TV, Herschmann has more:

    “Not a time to give out souvenirs. Not what the American people need or want. Sadly, the Democrats do not trust their fellow Americans. They can’t win an election against Trump [so they’re impeaching him].”

    The hits keep on coming. Thankfully, H. is done and Moscow Mitch calls a dinner break.

      • Eureka says:

        I second harpie. I appreciate your commentary earl, and admire both _that_ and _how_ you saw it through to the bitter dinner end.

        Much better than the live version, in other words.

    • P J Evans says:

      many of us have good reason not to trust Trmp and his followers, including Herschmann. We *can* tell we’re being lied to.

  37. Vicks says:

    Why hasn’t it been pointed out that Trump’s generosity to Ukraine (sooo much more-better than Obama’s) that they kept gushing about, ended when Poroshenko lost his job?
    Where is the damn list of EVERYONE that was on the Zelensky call?
    It is unbelievable that there was no one listening that would have been equally alarmed as the people we have already heard from (but for all the wrong reasons) and go running to Barr with Trump’s boneheaded action of the day.

  38. harpie says:

    Somehow, NYT has more info from the Bolton book:
    southpaw Retweeted
    8:35 PM ET · Jan 27, 2020

    EXCLUSIVE: Bolton privately told Barr last year that he had concerns Trump was effectively granting personal favors to the autocrats of Turkey and China. Barr said he was concerned Trump created appearance he had undue influence on inquiries w/@maggieNYT [link]

  39. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Nice catch by Craig Crawford. Pam Bondi and others spent hours denigrating the competence-challenged Hunter Biden for making over $50,000 a month as a board member for a company whose business he knew little about, sadly, a common occurrence in corporate America.

    So common that Ms. Bondi herself makes $115,000 a month as a


    lobbyist for Qatar. The former Tri-Delt, criminal justice major, Florida prosecutor and Attorney General has spent her career in Florida, and apparently knows SFA about Qatar and the Middle East.

    If the Qataris hired her for her “in” with Mr. Trump, they might consider the rumored role his son-in-law had in persuading the Saudis to put the squeeze on them. Apparently, it was owing to their reluctance to help refinance the Kushner’s heavily underwater property at 666 Fifth Avenue, NYC, home to the Grand Havana Room cigar club, frequented by a number of Trump administration regulars.

    Jared Kushner purchased the property at the height of the pre-crash property bubble for $1.8 billion, including some $1.75 billion in debt. Almost immediately, the property was several hundred million dollars under water. Controversial efforts to refinance it fell through, and the building was effectively sold in 2018 for $1.286 billion. The terms apparently included relieving the Kushners from any outstanding debts related to it. At the time, both Jared and his wife, Ivanka Trump, were employed as special White House advisers to Donald Trump.

    So, yes, please, Ms. Bondi. Let’s talk about nepotism, corruption, and self-dealing in high places.

    • Eureka says:

      This is giving me the urge to go dig out one of those WSJ pieces on Cohen, then Rudy, meeting Qataris on a yacht/land in early April 2018 in Florida ( – adjacent waters).

      It’s almost like Bondi is the next lawyer in line with the lucky Qatari connections; It’s giving me Mystery Appellant fevers.

      Michael Cohen Helped Trump Donor Seek Investment From Qatar Fund – WSJ

      Mr. Cohen attended a reception with some members of the Qatari delegation on April 5 and spent that night on Mr. Haney’s yacht before leaving the area the following morning, one of the people familiar with the matter said. The Federal Bureau of Investigation raided his apartment, hotel room and office a few days later, on April 9.
      The April meetings weren’t Mr. Cohen’s first time seeking money from the Qatari government. […] [editorial note: ^this paragraph gets good, too, for old time’s (transition) sake.]
      Mr. Cohen wasn’t the only Trump associate to meet with the Qataris on their Florida visit. At a second reception held on April 7 in honor of the Qatari emir, Rudy Giuliani—a lawyer whose consulting firm has worked for Qatar—mingled with other business executives and investors in attendance, according to people familiar with the event.
      Mr. Giuliani joined the president’s legal team less than two weeks later.
      (Internal link removed)

      Linked and quoted some here, for an older context:

  40. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Pam Bondi forgot about Rudy G’s son, who makes $95,000 as the White House’s “sports liaison.” I know….An egregious hiring call, but a perfect match for Trump. Rudy’s son’s claim to fame, other than Rudy, is that he played golf at Duke until he was thrown off the team for what might be called episodic aggression.

    Television preachers love their pool boys, Trump needs his junior paid advisers to keep him company on the golf course. We should add his salary and expenses to the multi-million dollar cost to taxpayers for Trump’s addiction to golf – and cheating at it.

    Bondi might have mentioned Bill Barr’s son-in-law, who has unspecified duties in the White House Counsel’s office. He left the DoJ’s EDVA office around the time his father-in-law became Attorney General. I don’t think that move reduces the appearance of impropriety and the potential for conflict. A daughter of Barr’s also left the DoJ to move to Treasury’s financial crimes unit, FinCen, which seems OK, unless she oversees the office that audits Trump’s returns.

    Kicking over the smallest stones reveals more of these in Trump’s swamp. That Bondi or those employing her chose to go there is quintessential in-your-face Trump corruption. Whatugonnadoaboutid?

    • orionATL says:

      these last two comments are such a strong line of counterattack against the hypocrisy woven into the republican defense of trump.

      anywhere in Washington one can find relatives, business partners, favored friends being given sinecures on no more than the strength of their daddy/patron’s nod. it is a way of scratching backs and building political capital/networks.

      • orionATL says:

        damned edit timed out. continuing;

        “anywhere in Washington one can find relatives, business partners, favored friends being given sinecures on no more than the strength of their daddy/patron’s nod. it is a way of scratching backs and building political capital/networks.”

        in fact the political force behind the hunter biden appointment to burisma likely did not flow in the direction of the standard washington model – from the v-p toward burisma -, but rather in an opposite direction from burisma’s honchos to hunter biden in hopes of getting access to the v-p. this is contrary to the direction of political force involved in the bondi, giuliani, barr examples.

        it would take some clear explaining to make that subtle point to the public, but pointing out the utter commoness of nepotism throughout the trump administration would be a good place to begin a counterattack very damaging to the republican position.

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