October 23, 2019 / by 

 

Hitting the Fan: Volker’s Text Messages Released

[NB: Check the byline, thanks! ~Rayne]

Around 10:00 p.m. last night, House Democrats released partial transcripts of text messages between former U.S. Special Representative for Ukraine Kurt Volker and other officials, including:

William B. “Bill” Taylor, Charge d’Affaires for the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine;
Gordon Sondland, U.S. Ambassador to the European Union;
Andrey Yermak, Aide to Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky;
Rudy Giuliani, in his role as Trump’s agent;

and others.

The specific texts released had already been “leaked” out of context, according to the cover letter accompanying the partial transcripts sent to members of the Intelligence, Oversight and Reform, and Foreign Affairs Committees, subsequently shared at the Foreign Affairs Committee’s website.

You can read the letter and transcript at this link.

The transcripts suggest the entire State Department knew about the quid pro quo — the release of delayed military and financial assistance in exchange for investigations intended to aid Trump’s personal political aims including re-election. The quid pro quo also looks obvious:

Only one person recognized this effort as problematic: Bill Taylor, who assumed some of the responsibilities of recalled ambassador Marie Yovanovitch.

There’s more than one quid pro quo outlined in the transcripts, not readily acknowledged in the media. Less obvious is the trade-off of an agreement to a scripted statement in exchange for an invitation to visit the White House. Such a visit would be a validation of support for Zelensky’s young presidency and a thumb in the eye to Vladimir Putin, bolstering Zelensky’s image with Ukraine’s public.

Community member harpie pointed to a statement on camera at 8:28 AM on August 9 by Trump which fits in the middle of the negotiations, suggesting Trump was fully aware of the exchange.

TRUMP: I think he’s [Zelensky] going to make a deal with President Putin, and he will be invited to the White House, and we look forward to seeing him. He’s already been invited to the White House and he wants to come. And I think he will. He’s a very reasonable guy. He wants to see peace in Ukraine. And I think he will be coming very soon, actually.

(source: Aaron Rupar)

The transcripts suggest that Zelensky’s aide/adviser Yermak has been identified as ethically flexible — amenable to this quid pro quo and willing to present it to Zelensky. Yermak’s background is in film/TV production, similar to several of Zelensky’s administration. Only a couple of Zelensky’s team appear to be lawyers, one of which has been barred from holding public office (Andriy Bohdan, appointed to equivalent of Chief of Staff). In the text messages Yermak appears to keep Zelensky at arm’s length from the negotiations, but this may be due to the limited amount of texts released; Zelensky may have been wholly involved on a more direct basis.

~ ~ ~

Compounding the pressure on House Dems to act is Trump’s increasingly overt behavior, asking China yesterday on camera to investigate both of his 2020 political rivals, Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren.

China has now issued a statement in response:

Now that we know how this works in Trumplandia, we can interpret the unexpressed portion of this statement: China will not interfere in U.S. domestic affairs and the U.S. should not interfere in China’s domestic affairs — including Hong Kong.

We can only wonder at what else was in the text transcripts not yet disclosed, and how Trump will react if yesterday was just the beginning act of this program.


House Committees’ Deposition: U.S. Special Representative for Ukraine Kurt Volker

[NB: Check the byline, thanks!]

If yesterday’s blizzard of disinformation tweets is any kind of measure, the GOP is worried about today’s interview of the former U.S. Special Representative for Ukraine, Kurt Volker, before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Committee on Foreign Affairs, and the Committee on Oversight and Reform. You may recall he resigned from his role as a diplomat last Friday.

In a letter sent to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on September 27, it looked as if the biggest questions for State personnel would arise from what it was Giuliani was doing in and about Ukraine.

… The Department has also acknowledged that Special Representative for Ukraine Kurt Volker played a direct role in arranging meetings between Rudy Giuliani, wo has no official role in the U.S. government, and representatives of President Zelensky.5 In addition, the whistleblower complaint indicate that “multiple U.S. Officials” were “deeply concerned by what they viewed as Mr. Giuliani’s circumvention of national security decisionmaking processes to engage with Ukrainian officials and relay messages back and forth between Kyiv and the President”6 These officials reported that “State Department officials” had spoken with Mr. Giuliani “in an attempt to ‘contain the damage’ to U.S. national security,” as well as to the new Ukrainian administration to help it “understand and respond to “Mr. Giuliani’s backchanneling.7

Whew. When you put it that way one can well understand the frustration of former member of parliament and presidential adviser Serhiy Leschenko when he wrote in a recent op-ed,

… Giuliani and his associates are trying to drag our newly elected president, Volodymyr Zelensky, into a conflict between two foreign political parties, drastically limiting Ukraine’s room for maneuver in respect to the United States, perhaps its most important international partner. …

Today’s deposition is part of what the letter from the committees to Pompeo called “part of the impeachment inquiry.” It’ll be valuable as part of the investigative process determining culpability and to what degree on the part of participants who may have been manipulating U.S. foreign policy for the benefit of Trump’s re-election campaign.

But it will also be valuable for our relationship with Ukraine. They need to see the U.S. living up to its promise as a democracy while identifying where our relationship with Ukraine was hijacked.

The questions may be fairly simple:

— what was the understanding of Volker or other State Department personnel about the nature of Rudy Giuliani’s relationship to the U.S. government?
— did Volker every hear of Giuliani having meetings with Ukrainians prior to the July 25 call? What did the meetings entail and was each meeting debriefed with State?
— did Rudy Giuliani ask Volker or other State Department personnel for assistance in contacting Zelensky or other Ukraine officials?
— did Volker or the State Department ever ask Giuliani to contact Zelensky or other Ukraine officials?
— if anyone from State Department did ask, who was it and under what context did they make this request?
— were Volker and/org other State Department personnel asked by Giuliani or others to disparage former ambassador Marie Yovanovitch or in any way hamper her diplomatic work?
— did Volker and/or other State Department personnel ever see or hear Ukraine officials encouraged to disparage former ambassador Marie Yovanovitch or in any way hamper her diplomatic work?
— what did Volker know about the July 25 phone call between Trump and Zelensky, ex. attendees at the White House, or participating remotely like from Ukraine?
— did subsequent meetings between Volker and Ukraine officials imply a quid pro quo agreement, aid for a deliverable?
— did the diplomatic office in Ukraine have its own transcript, complete or partial, or a memorandum of telephone conversation for the July 25 call?

I’m sure there’s more to be asked but these are pretty important questions. What about you? What would ask and how if you were in charge of this interview?

There’s a strong chance Pompeo, the Department of Justice, or the White House may interfere and prevent Volker’s deposition. We’ll see.

Timing of the deposition isn’t clear; I haven’t been able to find it anywhere. The deposition doesn’t appear to be open, either, as I see nothing on the calendars I’ve checked. If you find information please share it in comments.


Crowdsource: Updated Trump-Ukraine Timeline, with Giuliani [UPDATE-5]

[NB: Note the byline, thanks! Updates will appear within the timeline or at the bottom of the text. /~Rayne]

I noted this past week that Trump’s attempt to extort performance from Ukraine had been in the works for three years.

18/21-JUL-2016 The Republican National Committee debates the party’s platform at the RNC convention, including its position on aid to Ukraine.

25-JUL-2019 — Trump talked with Ukraine’s Zelensky on the phone to congratulate him on his party’s parliamentary win on July 21 and to make a quid pro quo offer of aid for dirt on Trump’s re-election opponent, Joe Biden and Biden’s son Hunter.

This is all of the same, long story, in which:

• Long-time political consultant Paul Manafort rehabilitated pro-Russian Ukrainian politician Viktor Yanukovych’s image and helped him win the presidency in 2010;
• Manafort went on to become campaign manager for pro-Russian political candidate Donald Trump and helped him “win” the presidency in 2016 using some of the same techniques employed in Ukraine for Yanukovych;
• Trump’s pro-Russian policies manifested as resistance to bipartisan sanctions on Russia, pressure on NATO member states and threatened U.S. withdrawal from treaty obligations;
• Trump withheld military aid to Ukraine as part of a quid pro quo, asking for Ukraine’s assistance to help his personal re-election campaign.

But entwined in the years-long story arc is Rudy Giuliani, who shows up at key times and places having personal interests woven together with pro-Russian characters.

When the whistleblower timeline first began and events were crowdsourced from the emptywheel community, much of the timeline was focused on current events related to the middle east. Like the commercial media reporting on the whistleblower complaint, we didn’t make the connection to Ukraine initially. Nor did we make a direct connection to Russia.

The crowdsourced timeline didn’t make a connection to Giuliani, either. But as I continued to work on pulling together the events that led up to the July 25 phone call between Trump and Ukraine’s president Zelensky as well as the events afterward, Giuliani’s name popped up ever more frequently. He also deliberately inserted himself, too; he’s incapable of shutting the fuck up and has now pointedly implicated himself by admitting to seeking damaging information on Joe Biden and his son Hunter.

One of Giuliani’s companies has been doing business in Ukraine related to Russian-Ukrainian oligarch Pavel Fuchs. Fuchs has slowly acquired many of the assets which once belonged to Yanukovych, like some weird body-snatcher assuming Yanukovych’s identity. And Giuliani has a vested interest in whatever is shaking out of this in Fuchs’ native city, Kharkiv.

The more I pulled on the Giuliani thread, the more it became clear he is as tightly interleaved into Trump-Ukraine-Russia as is Paul Manafort. The association between Manafort ending up at Rudy’s favorite cigar bar the Grand Havana Room at 666 Fifth Avenue, in a building owned by Jared Kushner, located a third of a mile from Trump Tower to meet with Konstantin Kilimnik wasn’t a fluke.

It’s a very small world and the same players repeat over and over again.

So here’s the crowdsourcing assignment:

In comments add any Ukraine, Russia, Giuliani-related event which shaped the quid pro quo made on July 25, or heightened the urgency of Ukraine’s national security, or affected the Special Counsel’s investigation related to Trump-Russia. Please provide citations easily validated by community members.

— If an additional person and related events should be added to this timeline, make the case in comments along with supporting citations.

This will NOT be an open thread; it will be dedicated to this project.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Timeline of Trump-Ukraine (I am leaving other non-Ukraine foreign policy matters in the timeline for now. Often what appears unrelated at present appears connected in the future.)

Legend: Indigo blue – Ukraine-related item; indented – older item in previous timeline.

__________

19-AUG-2016 — Ukrainian journalist and member of parliament Serhiy Leshchenko revealed secret payments outlined in the ‘black ledger of the Party of Regions’ showing payments made by the former pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych to Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

24-AUG-2016 — Rudy Giuliani alleges the Clinton Foundation is a “pay-for-play operation” which was “going to be bigger than Watergate.” [UPDATE-4]

26-OCT-2016 — In an interview on Fox network, Rudy Giuliani said, “I mean, I’m talking about some pretty big surprises,” with regard to insider FBI information. In another Fox network program later that same day, Giuliani said, “I do think that all of these revelations about Hillary Clinton finally are beginning to have an impact. He’s got a surprise or two that you’re going to hear about in the next two days.” These remarks caused then-FBI director James Comey to launch an investigation into possible leaks. [UPDATE-4]

________

12-JAN-2017 — Rudy Giuliani named an informal security adviser for president-elect Donald Trump. (As an informal adviser Giuliani may not have been paid and may not have been required to comply with the same ethics standards as paid advisers, but may also have violated 31 U.S. Code § 1342 Limitation on voluntary services.)

24-JAN-2017 — Nikki Haley confirmed as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. [UPDATE-4]

25-JAN-2017 — Trump tweeted, referencing then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions [UPDATE-4]:

03-MAR-2017 — Recruited by K.T. McFarland and Michael Flynn, “Russia hawk” Fiona Hill appointed Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for European and Russian Affairs on his National Security Council staff. [UPDATE-4]

10-MAY-2017 — Trump met Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak in the Oval Office.

15-MAY-2017 — Washington Post reported Trump revealed code word level classified information to Lavrov and Kislyak during Oval Office meeting. The information covered ISIL’s bomb-making capabilities and may have exposed allies’ intelligence gathering means and methods.

XX-MAY-2017 — Date TBD. Giuliani met with officials for the city of Kharkiv, Ukraine and signed a deal for his firm Giuliani Security and Safety to review the city’s security services.

XX-MAY-2017 — Decision made to exfiltrate key Russian asset. Unclear exactly when decision made or when exfiltration occurred, only that it happened after the Oval Office meeting with Lavrov and Kislyak, and before the G20 meeting in Hamburg, Germany.

08-JUN-2017 — At a conference in Kyiv organized by Ukrainian metals magnate Victor Pinchuk, Giuliani met and spoke with then-President Petro Poroshenko, Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko, and other government officials. Pinchuk had made a $150,000 donation to Trump’s charity in 2016, drawing Special Counsel’s attention. [UPDATE-2]

07-JUL-2017 — Kurt Volker was named U.S. Special Representative to Ukraine. At the time he was a senior international adviser to the BGR Group, a lobbying firm founded by GOP operative Haley Barbour; BGR had been hired by Ukraine to lobby the U.S. [UPDATE-1]

7/8-JUL-2017 — Trump meets Putin at G20 meeting in Hamburg, Germany.

11-JUL-2017 — European Union’s 28 member states formally endorsed the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement, effective September 1.

30-OCT-2017 — Paul Manafort, former Trump campaign manager, indicted.

14-NOV-2017 — National Security Council approved the sale of lethal aid to Ukraine, including Javelin missiles.

20-NOV-2017 — Giuliani met with officials for the city of Kharkiv, Ukraine this week as well as investor/developer Pavel Fuchs. Giuliani also met with then-president Petro Poroshenko in Kyiv. [UPDATE-1]

21-DEC-2017 — Trump authorized the sale of lethal aid to Ukraine, including Javelin missiles.

________

XX-JAN-2018 — Date, location TBD. Giuliani met with Ukraine’s prosecutor general Yuriy Lutsenko, according to Lutsenko. [UPDATE-4]

01-MAR-2018 — U.S. Defense Department approved the sale of Javelin anti-tank missiles and launch units to Ukraine.

04-MAR-2018 — former Russian military intelligence officer and UK double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter were poisoned outside their UK home by a Russian-made nerve agent. [UPDATE-1]

26-MAR-2018 — U.S. expelled 60 Russian diplomatic personnel, the ‘heaviest’ response of three options posed by advisers to Trump in response to the nerve agent poisoning of Skripal and his daughter in UK. [UPDATE-1]

27-MAR-2018 — Giuliani met with officials from city of Kharkiv, Ukraine in New York City. The list of Ukrainian visitors is not known.

09-APR-2018 — John Bolton begins as National Security Adviser.

09-APR-2018 — Office of Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen raided by FBI.

30-APR-2018 — U.S. State Department confirmed that Washington delivered thirty-five Javelin anti-tank launchers to Ukraine.

02-MAY-2018 — NYT reported Lutsenko’s office froze investigations into four open cases in April, limiting or eliminating cooperation with Special Counsel’s investigation; “‘In every possible way, we will avoid irritating the top American officials,’ one Ukrainian lawmaker says. ‘We shouldn’t spoil relations with the administration.’” Ukraine had also halted its money laundering investigation into former President Viktor Yanukovych, who may have used stolen Ukrainian taxpayer funds to pay convicted former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort to aid him in winning in Ukraine. The four cases were deemed “too politically sensitive” putting U.S. financial and military aid at risk. 

04-MAY-2018 — Senators Bob Menendez, Dick Durbin, and Pat Leahy wrote a letter to Lutsenko asking if his office had ceased cooperation with the Special Counsel’s investigation, if the Trump administration had asked them not to cooperate, and if the Special Counsel’s investigation had been discussed during a meeting between Trump and then-president Petro Poroshenko in New York 2017.

15-MAY-2018 — Russia’s President Putin opened a new bridge linking southern Russia to Crimea; Ukraine’s president Poroshenko said it was an attempt to legitimize the occupation of Crimea while Ukrainian critics said the bridge project violates international law. The bridge was built following the illegal 2014 annexation of Crimea by Russia.

08-JUN-2018Jonathan Cohen became deputy permanent representative to the United Nations. [UPDATE-4]

16-JUL-2018 — U.S.-Russia Summit meeting in Helsinki, Finland; Trump meets with Putin.

XX-JUL-2018 — Coats expressed opinion differing from Trump’s after Helsinki summit. Rumors began about Trump replacing Coats.

24-JUL-2018 — Trump suspends practice of notifying public his calls with foreign leaders; public readouts will no longer be furnished. [UPDATE-5]

13-AUG-2018 — Congress approved military aid to Ukraine as part of the annual National Defense Authorization Act which Trump signed this date. Trump, however, added a 15-page signing statement in which he reserved the right to refuse to recognize items related to Russia in this bill.

31-AUG-2018 — Manafort associate Sam Patten pleaded guilty to failing to register as a foreign agent under FARA; he agreed to cooperate with the Special Counsel’s investigation. Patten, while representing the Ukrainian political party the Opposition Bloc, laundered a $50,000 contribution from Russian/Ukrainian political consultant Konstantin Kilimnik to the Trump inauguration committee. [UPDATE-2]

02-OCT-2018 — Saudi journalist and US resident Jamal Khashoggi assassinated in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey. [UPDATE-4]

09-OCT-2018 — Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley announced her resignation; effective date 31-DEC-2018.

11-OCT-2018 — Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople recognized the independence of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, praised by Ukraine but protested by Russia. The move by the patriarchate heightened tensions between the two nation-states.

22/24-OCT-2018 — Giuliani was a guest speaker at the third International Forum of Eurasian Partnership (IFEP) in Yerevan, Armenia; one of two speakers with whom Giuliani appeared on a panel was Sergey Glazyev, who is sanctioned by the U.S. The forum was funded by the Russian Government. [UPDATE-2]

25-NOV-2018 — Russia seized three Ukrainian navy ships, injuring six crew after firing on them in the Kerch Straits of the Black Sea near Crimea. The attack violated a 2003 treaty which designated the Kerch Strait and Sea of Azov as shared territorial waters. US representative Nikki Haley called the incident an “outrageous violation of sovereign Ukrainian territory” during an emergency U.N. Security Council meeting.

26-NOV-2018 — Ukraine implemented martial law for 30 days in response to the Kerch Straits event, due to concerns over a Russian invasion.

26-DEC-2018 — Martial law in Ukraine ended, to allow adequate time before the country’s elections.

31-DEC-2018 — Volodymyr Zelensky, a TV producer who starred in a series playing the role of President of Ukraine, announced his candidacy for Ukraine’s presidency.

31-DEC-2018 — Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley leaves as previously announced. [UPDATE-2019]

________

01-JAN-2019Jonathan Cohen became acting U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. [UPDATE-4]

XX-JAN-2019 — Date, TBD. Rudy Giuliani (member of Trump’s personal legal team) met with Lutsenko in New York City, venue unknown. [UPDATE-4]

29-JAN-2019 — Coats testified before Senate Intelligence Committee; he said North Korea “is unlikely to completely give up its nuclear weapons and production capabilities,” in contrast to Trump’s claims that Kim Jong-un has committed to denuclearization.

XX-FEB-2019 — Trump discussed replacements for DNI.

~13-FEB-2019 — Date, TBD. Rudy Giuliani met with Lutsenko in Warsaw, Poland, venue unknown. Giuliani had been speaking at a middle east conference delivering anti-Iran remarks. [UPDATE-4]

28-FEB-2019 — Congress was notified of military aid tranches to be released to Ukraine.

05-MAR-2019 — U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch criticized Ukraine’s record on corruption; she noted the country’s high court’s decision weakens Ukraine’s National Anti-Corruption Bureau.

06-MAR-2019 — Trump made remarks about aid to Ukraine [To be confirmed, details needed].

XX-MAR-2019 — Date TBD. Lutsenko relaunches an investigation into Burisma, the oil and gas company for which Joe Biden’s son had served as a board member. Per NYT (reported in May 2019):

… The decision to reopen the investigation into Burisma was made in March by the current Ukrainian prosecutor general, who had cleared Hunter Biden’s employer more than two years ago. The announcement came in the midst of Ukraine’s contentious presidential election, and was seen in some quarters as an effort by the prosecutor general, Yuriy Lutsenko, to curry favor from the Trump administration for his boss and ally, the incumbent president, Petro O. Poroshenko. …

20-MAR-2019 — The Hill’s John Solomon interviewed Ukraine’s prosecutor general Yuriy Lutsenko for Hill.TV; Lutsenko claimed Amb. Yovanovitch gave him a do-not-prosecute list during their first meeting. State Department denied this claim in an email to Radio Free Europe.  [To be confirmed: Lutsenko also said there was an investigation launched into the Democratic National Committee.]

21-MAR-2019 — Attorney Victoria Toensing of law firm of diGenova & Toensing piles on with right-wing media in attacks on Yovanovitch, via Twitter [UPDATE-4]:

24-MAR-2019 — Donnie Trump Jr. made indirect, disparaging remarks about diplomat Yovanovitch via Twitter.

~28-MAR-2019 —  In ‘early 2019’, Giuliani met with Ukraine’s prosecutor general Yuriy Lutsenko in New York (exact date TBD).

31-MAR-2019 — Ukraine’s first run-off presidential election narrowed down the field to the incumbent Petro Poroshenko and Volodymyr Zelensky.

31-MAR-2019 — Attorney Toensing continues with promotion of content against Ambassador Yovanovitch. [UPDATE-4]

12-APR-2019 — Patten sentenced to three years probation, after assisting the government in a number of other investigations. It’s not known what investigations he may have aided. [UPDATE-4]

21-APR-2019 — Volodymyr Zelensky won Ukraine’s presidential election over Petro Poroshenko, 73.22% to 24.45% of the vote. 12% of the population were unable to vote due to the conflict with Russia in Donbass region.

21-APR-2019 Trump called and congratulated Zelensky; the call was noted in a late evening/early morning tweet by Volker:

25-APR-2019 — After two years of indecision, former VP Joe Biden formally launched his campaign for POTUS.

25-APR-2019 — In an interview with Fox host Sean Hannity, Trump said, “I would imagine [Barr] would want to see this,” alleging Ukraine was conducting an investigation into collusion between Ukrainian officials and the Clinton campaign in 2016. “I would certainly defer to the attorney general, and we’ll see what he says about it,” Trump said. “He calls ’em straight…It sounds like big stuff, very interesting with Ukraine. I just spoke with the new president a while ago, and congratulated him. … But that sounds like big, big stuff, and I’m not surprised.” [UPDATE-4]

07-MAY-2019 — Amb. Yovanovitch was recalledremoved from her position.

09-MAY-2019 — Giuliani said he intended to meet with President-elect Zelensky in Ukraine to push for an investigation into the release of negative information about Paul Manafort as well as former VP Joe Biden’s efforts to remove Ukraine’s general prosecutor. 

10-MAY-2019 — Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) made an official request of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations to investigate Giuliani’s influence operation in Ukraine. 

11-MAY-2019 — Giuliani reversed his decision and said he won’t go to Ukraine to meet with Zelensky. Zelensky’s adviser Serhiy Leschenko said Zelensky 

14-MAY-2019 — According to the whistleblower complaint, Trump “instructed Vice President Pence to cancel his planned travel to Ukraine to attend President Zelenskyy’s inauguration.” [UPDATE-4]

20-MAY-2019 — Date Zelensky assumes office of presidency.

21-MAY-2019 — Lawyer and film producer Andriy Yermak appointed aide to Ukraine’s Zelensky.

23-MAY-2019 — Congress was notified of military aid tranches to be released to Ukraine. John Rood, defense undersecretary for policy, advised Congress that DOD found Ukraine’s anti-corruption efforts adequate. [UPDATE-4]

24-MAY-2019 — Trump issued a directive allowing Attorney General William Barr to declassify any intelligence that sparked the opening of the Russia investigation.

11-JUN-2019 — Ukraine’s president Zelensky signed a motion for Ukraine’s parliament to dismiss prosecutor general Yuriy Lutsenko, an ally of former president Poroshenko. The MPs rejected the motion; Lutsenko also resisted, saying he would step down after the July 21 parlimentary elections.

11-JUN-2019 In an interview released on Thursday, June 13, Trump told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos,

“I think you might want to listen, there isn’t anything wrong with listening,” Trump continued. “If somebody called from a country, Norway, [and said] ‘we have information on your opponent’ — oh, I think I’d want to hear it.”

18-JUN-2019 — Fiona Hill announced her departure from administration effective August 2019. She will be succeeded by Tim Morrison, NSC adviser on weapons of mass destruction and biodefense. Morrison’s move was seen as a Bolton recommendation. [UPDATE-4]

20-JUN-2019 — In retaliation for downing a U.S. drone, Trump approved strikes on Iran which were abruptly aborted.

02-JUL-2019 — US Special Representative for Ukraine Kurt Volker met with Zelensky in Toronto; he discussed Ukraine’s “weak judicial system” and its affect on reform while weighing Zelensky’s political acumen given his lack of experience in governance. Zelensky joked about Giuliani during the meeting; the Bidens were not discussed.

~11-JUL-2019 — Date TBD. In mid-July, Giuliani had a phone meeting with Zelensky’s adviser, Andriy Yermak.

18-JUL-2019 — Trump ordered his acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney to put the brakes on aid to Ukraine. Officials were instructed to tell lawmakers that the delay was due to “interagency process.” Mulvaney is also the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).

19-JUL-2019 — Text exchange between Kurt Volker and Rudy Giuliani: [UPDATE-5]

[7/19/19, 4:48 PM] Kurt Volker: Mr Mayor — really enjoyed breakfast this morning. As discussed, connecting you jere with Andrey Yermak, who is very close to President Zelensky. I suggest we schedule a call together on Monday — maybe 10am or 11am Washington time? Kurt

19-JUL-2019 — Text exchange between Kurt Volker and Gordon Sondland: [UPDATE-5]

[7/19/19, 4:49:42 PM] Kurt Volker: Can we three do a call tomorrow—say noon WASHINGTON?
[7/19/19, 6:50:29 PM] Gordon Sondland: Looks like Potus call tomorrow. I spike [sic] directly to Zelensky and gave him a full briefing. He’s got it.
[7/19/19, 6:52:57 PM] Gordon Sondland: Sure!
[7/19/19, 7:01:22 PM] Kurt Volker: Good. Had breakfast with Rudy this morning—teeing up call w Yermak Monday. Must have helped. Most impt is for Zelensky to say that he will help investigation—and address any specific personnel issues—if there are any

20-JUL-2019 — Attorney Lanny Davis and his firm, Davis, Goldberg & Galper, ended their arrangement with Ukrainian oligarch Dmytro Firtash, who had been charged with international racketeering by the U.S. in 2014. The law firm of diGenova & Toensing assumed representation for Firtash. [UPDATE-4]

22-JUL-2019 — Zelensky’s Servant of the People wins Ukraine’s parliamentary elections.

23-JUL-2019 — 

24-JUL-2019 – Special Counsel Robert Mueller appears before House Judiciary Committee. The same day that GOP Rep. John Ratcliffe (TX-4) used his time to question Mueller to accuse Mueller of breaking DOJ regulations; CNN reported that “Ratcliffe has been under consideration for a job within the Trump administration, sources told CNN, including an intelligence or national security role.”

24-JUL-2019 — Toensing on Twitter the afternoon before key phone call [UPDATE-4]:

25-JUL-2019Trump talked with Ukraine’s Zelensky on the phone “to congratulate him on his recent election.” Ukraine’s English-language readout of this call said Trump discussed “investigations into corruption cases that have hampered interaction between Ukraine and the U.S.A.” (This call is the subject of whistleblower complaint.)

28-JUL-2019 — Coats’ departure and John Ratcliffe nominated as replacement announced by Trump via Twitter.

31-JUL-2019 — Trump spoke with Putin on the phone; they discussed fires in Siberia. [UPDATE-5]

31-JUL-2019 — Former U.S. ambassador to Canada Kelly Knight Craft confirmed U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. [UPDATE-4]

02-AUG-2019 — Ratcliffe withdraws from consideration.

~02-AUG-2019 — Trump administration asked ODNI for a list of all ODNI employees at the federal government’s top pay scale who have worked there for 90 days or more. This was believed to be a search for a new Director of ODNI; others speculated there was an impending personnel shakeup.

06-AUG-2019 — John Huntsman, U.S. Ambassador to Russia, submitted his resignation letter effective 03-OCT-2019, two years to the date he assume office. [UPDATE-5]

08-AUG-2019 — Primary Deputy Director DNI Sue Gordon resigned effective 15-AUG-2019, without additional prior notice, as ordered. Resignation letter without handwritten note.

Copy of former PDDNI’s resignation letter with handwritten cover: ODNI_LTR_08AUG2019

11-AUG-2019 — Giuliani debriefing with two State Department diplomats about his meeting with Ukraine’s Zelensky aide in Madrid, Spain.

12-AUG-2019IC IG received the whistleblower compaint, via Schiff’s 10-SEP letter.

15-AUG-2019 — Coats’ last day as DNI.

XX-AUG-2019 — Date TBD. In mid-August, lawmakers learned the Office of Management and Budget had taken over Defense and State Departments’ budgetary decisions, delaying aid distribution including aid to Ukraine. It’s not clear OMB had legal authority to restrain aid already authorized nearly a year earlier by Congress.

22-AUG-2019 — Giuliani said the U.S. State Department helped set up his meeting(s) with Zelensky’s aide Yermak, assisting “his efforts to press the Ukrainian government to probe two prominent Democratic opponents of the president: former Vice President Joe Biden and the Democratic National Committee.”

26-AUG-2019 — ICIG transmitted the whistleblower complaint to the Acting DNI, via Schiff’s 10-SEP letter.

26-AUG-2019 — GOP appointee Matthew Peterson resigned from Federal Election Commission; effective date of resignation 31-AUG-2019. FEC no longer has a quorum with his departure.

27-AUG-2019 — Russia barred a visa for entry to Senators Chris Murphy (D-CT) and Ron Johnson (R-WI) for a trip planned in early September. Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) received clearance and a visa, however. Johnson, Murphy and Lee are all members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee; Johnson is the subcommittee chair for Europe & Regional Security Cooperation. The three senators voted in favor of the Russia sanctions bill.

28-AUG-2019 — John Bolton met with Ukraine’s Zelensky (video).

28-AUG-2019 — Bolton met his counterpart, Oleksandr Danyliuk, Ukraine’s head of the National Defense and Security Council; Bolton told Danyliuk that the U.S. support for Ukraine against Russian-backed separatists in contested eastern Ukraine would ‘intensify’. 

29-AUG-2019 — Trump stalled the $250M military assistance provided under the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative by asking Bolton and Defense Secretary Mark Esper to review the package. Defense Department had already reviewed the aid and supported it.

29-AUG-2019 — Lutsenko submitted his resignation on the first day of work for the new parliament.

30-AUG-2019 — Trump tweeted a high-resolution satellite image of Iran’s failed Safir SLV launch while claiming the U.S. was not involved. The image may have been classified and ‘insta-declassified’ by Trump.

30-AUG-2019 — Fiona Hill departs  administration. Not clear if she left before/after Trump’s tweeted image of Safir SLV launch site.

01-SEP-2019 — VP Mike Pence flew to Poland and met with Poland’s president Andrzej Duda and Ukraine’s Zelensky, discussing security and energy issues (remarks issued by White House). Per pool reporter, the meeting included National Security Adviser John Bolton and Energy Secretary Rick Perry; Pence avoided answering media questions whether the Trump administration would still allocate $250M for security aid.

01/02-SEP-2019 — US Special Rep. for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalizad met with Afghan president Ashraf Ghani in Kabul where the Taliban, Afghan government and the U.S. had “reached an agreement in principle” toward an eventual “total and permanent cease-fire.”

02-SEP-2019 — During news conference after the meeting with Duda and Zelensky in response to a question by AP’s Jill Colvin, Pence denied speaking about Joe Biden with Zelensky:

“Well, on the first question [about Biden], the answer is no. But we — with President Zelensky yesterday, we discussed — we discussed America’s support for Ukraine and the upcoming decision the President will make on the latest tranche of financial support in great detail.”

02-SEP-2019 — Deadline for ADNI to forward the complaint to Intelligence committees of Congress passes without a referral, via Schiff’s 10-SEP letter.

03-SEP-2019 — Russian media outlet Tass reported that Russian Deputy Foreign Minister said the U.S. and Taliban “insist that Russia must be present in one capacity or another at the possible signing of the agreements that the parties are working on now.”

03-SEP-2019 — Sen. Murphy and Johnson began a 5-day trip to Serbia, Kosovo, Ukraine, and Germany. Several officials in Zelensky’s administration told Murphy during this visit that U.S. aid had been withheld; the delay was attributed to a resistance to investigating Joe and Hunter Biden though Zelensky himself did not communicate this.

04-SEP-2019 — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo refused to sign the agreement with the Taliban.

07-SEP-2019 — Russia and Ukraine completed a major prisoner swap; some of the prisoners included Ukrainian sailors seized during the Kerch straits incident.

09-SEP-2019 — CNN broke story of a CIA asset extracted from Russia in 2017; followed by NYT on the 9th (and then NBC’s Ken Dilanian appears at the asset’s house…)

09-SEP-2019 — Trump asked for Bolton’s resignation and tweeted about it the next morning.

09-SEP-2019 — Intelligence Community Inspector General (ICIG) sent a letter to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, notifying it of a whistleblower complaint which it had determined to be credible and a matter of “urgent concern.”

09-SEP-2019 — Three House committees launch investigation(s) to look into whether Trump and Giuliani asked Ukraine to investigate Joe and Hunter Biden.

10-SEP-2019 — Bolton tells Fox’s Brian Kilmeade by text that he’d quit.

10-SEP-2019 — HPSCI Rep. Adam Schiff requested the full, unredacted complaint, the IC IG’s determination about the complaint, and all documentation of ODNI’s action regarding this complaint, including correspondence with the White House.

11-SEP-2019 — Delayed aid to Ukraine finally released.

11-SEP-2019 — Bloomberg reported Bolton pushed back Monday-Tuesday at Trump over Iran sanctions; Bolton wanted maximum pressure while Trump wanted to encourage a meeting with Iran’s Rouhani later in September.

12-SEP-2019 — Schiff and ADNI “discussed at length” the need to protect the whistleblower from any retaliation, including if the whistleblower subsequently comes forward to the committee with his/her concerns, via Schiff’s 13-SEP letter.

12-SEP-2019 — Republican senators said aid to Ukraine had been delayed while Trump assessed whether Ukraine’s Zelensky was pro-West/pro-Russia, and that Sen. Dick Durbin threatened to hold up appropriations until the aid was released. There were concerns about finalizing defense appropriations before the end of the federal fiscal year on September 30.

13-SEP-2019 — Zelensky said in a press conference that not only was the U.S. going to send $250M in military aid but an additional $140M.

13-SEP-2019 — ODNI declined the request, claiming the request as “it involves confidentially and potentially privileged communications by persons outside the Intelligence Community.”

13-SEP-2019 — HPSCI subpoenaed acting DNI Joseph Maguire for materials declined by ODNI.

17-SEP-2019 — Deadline, materials responsive to subpoena must be turned over by this date; Maguire failed to do so.

18-SEP-2019 — Pence and Zelensky met by phone and discussed future aid for Ukraine’s security.

19-SEP-2019 — Date Maguire was compelled to appear before Congress in a public hearing. The Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson appeared before the House Intel Committee in a closed door session.

19-SEP-2019 — Giuliani denied asking Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden moments before admitting that he had done just that.

20-SEP-2019 — Senator Murphy published a press release about the whistleblower complaint, renewing his call for a Senate Foreign Services Committee investigation into Giuliani’s efforts to influence Ukraine.

20-SEP-2019 — Russian armed forces bombarded front along  western edge of contested Donbas territory.

22-SEP-2019 — During an interview on Meet the Press, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin can’t explain where the additional $140M in aid for Ukraine came from.

22-SEP-2019 — In front of press on the White House lawn, Trump said he had spoken with Zelensky about Biden on July 25 in a congratulatory call. Later in the day he indicated he might allow a transcript of the call to be published.

 

26-SEP-2019 — Maguire testified before the House Intelligence Committee in a public hearing.

26-SEP-2019 — Toensing via Twitter, this time targeting HPSCI chair Rep. Schiff [UPDATE-4]:

27-SEP-2019 — Volker resigns as US Special Representative for Ukraine [UPDATE-1]

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Future dates:

30-SEP-2019 — Federal fiscal year ends on September 30.

Scheduled House Permanent Subcommittee on Intelligence hearings:

02-OCT-2019 — former ambassador Marie “Masha” Yovanovitch
03-OCT-2019 — former U.S. Special Representative for Ukraine Kurt Volker
07-OCT-2019 — Deputy Assistant Secretary in the European and Eurasian Bureau George Kent
08-OCT-2019 — Counselor of the U.S. Department of State T. Ulrich Brechbuhl
10-OCT-2019 — Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Again,  this will NOT be an open thread; it will be dedicated to this project.

_____

UPDATE-3 — 4:25 P.M. EDT —

The HPSCI, House Oversight, and House Foreign Affairs Committees subpoenaed Rudy Giuliani today. Keep digging, people! I’ll add the content accumulated since 1:00 a.m. EDT later this evening. Thanks!

The chairs of these committees also subpoenaed Giuliani associates, noticing deposition for:

October 10, 2019: Lev Parnas
October 11, 2019: Igor Fruman
October 14, 2019: Semyon “Sam” Kislin

More details at the HPSCI website. These next two weeks are going to be busy!

ADDER: I can’t find any other outlet has covered this yet, very sorry — the article will be behind a paywall so most of us can’t read it.


“Among the administration officials” suggests we don’t yet have the full list of folks who were supposed to be in attendance on the call, on site physically or remotely.

Wondering how long before Pompeo is subpoenaed?

ADDER-2: Whoops, looks like Pompeo was prevaricating with the media before today.

UPDATE-4 — 11:39 P.M. EDT 01-OCT-2019 —

This update is still rolling, will continue to add items as I get through them from here forward. Thank you for all you contributions in thread; it’s taking me longer than I expected to read them and cross-match against other resources.

I expect to have a refreshed timeline completed by the end of the week though at the rate new reporting on the Trump-Russia-Giuliani relationship is crazy making. Like playing “Where’s Waldo?” with a loudmouthed, be-suited weasel in a crowd of weasels.

“Where’s Rudy?” More like where hasn’t he been?

UPDATE-5 — 11:45 P.M. EDT 03-OCT-2019 —

Documents from Kurt Volker’s deposition before the HPSCI, Foreign Affairs, and Oversight Committees have been released. Volker appears to be taking his lumps but it’s not a good look to appear to be supporting Trump’s abuse of power, holding promised aid hostage in exchange for a commitment to investigate Trump’s political rival.

The addition of the text messages from the deposition into the timeline will be the last update to this post.

Crap’s going to hit the oscillator in the morning.


Three Things: Complaint Declassified, Ambassa-doored, Scripted Call? [UPDATE]

[NB: Note the byline. This contains some speculation. Update at bottom of post. /~Rayne]

I’m writing this on the fly, publishing before I have this post fully written because the whistleblower complaint situation is moving faster than a pyroclastic flow.

Bear with me and watch for the rest of the things to appear down the page as I update. Thanks!

~ 3 ~

The reason I am publishing before I’m done writing is this:

The complaint isn’t being circulated until sometime Thursday morning, and Rep. Stewart isn’t going to be a reliable source for it as he tag-teamed with Rep. Jim Jordan on Fox earlier to cover the GOP’s behind.

Rep. Jackie Speier’s reaction mirrors those I’ve seen all evening as members of Congress read the complaint inside a SCIF.

The House and Senate both voted to release the whistleblower complaint earlier in the day Wednesday. The bill passed unanimously in the Senate on a bipartisan basis; it passed with 228 votes in the House.

~ 2 ~

From an ABC News report earlier this evening:

… “It was clear that [President Donald] Trump will only have communications if they will discuss the Biden case,” said Serhiy Leshchenko, an anti-corruption advocate and former member of Ukraine’s Parliament, who now acts as an adviser to Zelenskiy. “This issue was raised many times. I know that Ukrainian officials understood.” …

You’ll recall in August 2016 Leshchenko was responsible for revealing the secret payments outlined in the ‘black ledger of the Party of Regions’ showing payments made by the former pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych to Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

What’s not clear from ABC’s report or Leshchenko’s remarks is how Ukrainian officials came to know Trump’s expectations in advance of communications.

However, Rudy Giuliani had two meetings with Ukranian officials before key events including the July 25 call at the heart of the whistle blower complaint.

~28-MAR-2019 —  Exact date TBD. In ‘early 2019’, Giuliani met with Ukraine’s prosecutor general Yuriy Lutsenko in New York.

This meeting took place before the first run-off election in Ukraine, narrowing the field down to the incumbent Petro Poroshenko and Volodymyr Zelensky.

A congratulatory phone call from Trump occurred immediately following the April 21 presidential election in which Zelensky was the victor.

~11-JUL-2019 — Date TBD. On or about this time, Giuliani had a phone meeting with Zelensky’s adviser, Andriy Yermak.

This meeting took place approximately two weeks before Ukraine’s parlimentary elections when Zelensky’s Servant of the People party won the majority on July 21.

Another congratulatory phone call by Trump took place days later on July 25.

Giuliani claimed the phone meeting with Yermak had been set up by State Department; State denied this, saying, “Mr. Giuliani is a private citizen and acts in a personal capacity as a lawyer for President Trump. He does not speak on behalf of the U.S. Government.”

There was at least one other contact between Giuliani and a Ukrainian official in June, believed to be in Paris.

Did Giuliani “brief” former prosecutor general Lutshenko and newly-appointed adviser Yermak about Trump’s anticipated calls?

Did Giuliani go so far as to offer talking points or a script for a successful call with Trump?

~ 1 ~

Community member Eureka and I both found the mention of former Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch in the July 25 call memo a bit odd or off. Recall these three events pertinent to her from the whistleblower complaint timeline:

05-MAR-2019 — U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch criticized Ukraine’s record on corruption; she noted the country’s high court’s decision weakens Ukraine’s National Anti-Corruption Bureau (NABU).

20-MAR-2019 — The Hill’s John Solomon interviewed Ukraine’s prosecutor general Yuriy Lutsenko; Lutsenko claimed Amb. Yovanovitch gave him a do-not-prosecute list during their first meeting. State Department denied this claim in an email to Radio Free Europe.

07-MAY-2019 — Amb. Yovanovitch was recalledremoved from her position.

It’s important to these events to recall that Ukraine’s president Zelensky ran on an anti-corruption platform and is a supporter of NABU’s work.

Giuliani announced May 9 he was going to visit Ukraine just days after Yovanovitch made her critical remarks about corruption, though he canceled his trip the next day when the Senate started nosing into his planned trip.

And Giuliani had at least one meeting with prosecutor general Lutsenko between the ambassador’s remarks about corruption and her departure from her role.

Another key event was Zelensky’s election on April 21  roughly two weeks before Yovanovitch was recalled, which was another two weeks before Zelensky was inaugurated.

Here’s the bit that bothered Eureka and myself from the memo:

There’s the odd remark by Trump, “Well, she’s going to go through some things,” which is very unsettling, particularly when coming from a man with a history of assault complaints, most of a sexual nature.

But not noted in the context of this memo is that Yovanovitch incorrectly called Ivanovich by Zelensky or incorrectly recorded by the note taker was recalled early, before her three-year assignment was complete in July, after a campaign of character assassination via social and commercial media had been launched against her. One of the participants was Donnie Jr. himself, according to the Washington Post and Newsweek.

Who and what triggered the character attacks? It appeared to begin with Lutsenko’s claim on Hill.TV in the US in early March that Yovanovitch gave him a Do-Not-Prosecute list. In April he admitted his claim was false too late to undo the damage and stop the right-wing pile on.

Is the subsequent abuse-via-media what Trump was referring to in his creepy remark, or was there something else?

Eureka noted that Trump didn’t refute being the one to tell Zelensky about Yovanovitch. She also noted Zelensky’s language seemed more declarative than her past experience with Ukrainian-Americans.

This clicked with my question about Zelensky’s statement, which seemed really pat for a new president only weeks into his role: did someone feed Zelensky some or all of his remarks to Trump before the July 25 phone call? Was Zelensky told to affirm Trump’s position on issues including Yovanovitch’s removal in advance of the call, perhaps using a scripted response?

It would explain the puzzling certainty Zelensky has about Yovanovitch’s work given the narrow two-week time frame between his election and her recall from Ukraine. How would he have had enough time to get to know her work that well in two weeks?

And why would a president who was committed to anti-corruption efforts find a like-minded diplomat from the U.S. to be a “bad ambassador” in that short amount of time?

~ 0 ~

This is an open thread. I know you’re going to have a lot to say about all of this.

And at nearly 2:00 a.m. here I am finally heading for bed. Whew.

UPDATE — 10:20 A.M. 26-SEP-2019 —

The whistleblower complaint has been released. It can be read here:

https://intelligence.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=708

Note the links at that page to open the complaint.

Joseph Maguire the Acting Director of National Intelligence, is appearing before the House Intelligence Committee right now. The hearing began at 9:00 a.m. EDT.

Brandi Buchman at CourthouseNews has a live tweet thread of the hearing in progress – start here: https://twitter.com/BBuchman_CNS/status/1177196206675701760

Be sure to check Marcy’s tweets though she’s still on her epic road trip: https://twitter.com/emptywheel

Check the feed at my Trump-Russia list because they’re all focused on the complaint and hearing: https://twitter.com/raynetoday/lists/trump-russia


Three Things: One Is Not a Transcript

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

“This thing, what is it in itself, in its own constitution? What is its substance and material? And what its causal nature (or form)? And what is it doing in the world? And how long does it subsist?”

— Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, Book VIII, sect. XI

I relied on Marcus Aurelius more than two years ago when looking at what we knew about the relationship between Michael Flynn and Donald Trump.

This same meditation provides a nice starting point after the release of a document purported by many to be a transcript (pdf) of the July 25 phone call by Trump to Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky.

~ 3 ~

What is this thing?

It says right there in black-and-white that it is a memorandum. It is NOT a transcript.

There’s a caveat at the bottom of the same page, too, explaining that it is NOT a transcript:

~ 2 ~

We’re told there was no quid pro quo. But what is this thing?

Zelensky said his country is ready for more military aid, and Trump said he wants a favor, though.

That’s a quid pro quo. It’s right there again, in print, something (like military aid) for something (like a favor).

~ 1 ~

This last thing to be examined is a little more tricky. It does whatever it can to avoid being taken at face value.


This is a member of Trump’s legal team, Rudy Giuliani. He’s been a member since April 2018.

He is not an ambassador to Ukraine. There is no current ambassador as one has not been nominated by Trump and approved with the advice and consent of the Senate according to Article II, section 2 of the Constitution.

Nor is he the Chargé d’Affaires as that role has been filled William B. Taylor, Jr. since June 2018. He is not the Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv; that role has been filled by Kristina A. Kvien since May 2019.

Nor is he a State Department employee in some other capacity besides ambassador.

He is not an employee of the Department of Justice or Federal Bureau of Investigation, which are responsible for criminal investigations. He was not a member of the Special Counsel’s Office.

He is not the White House Counsel; that role has been filled since December 2018 by Pat Cipollone.

Nor is he a member of Congress or a congressional staffer yet he says someone read to him the ‘transcript’ before any member of Congress received it.

Who or what is this thing? What is it doing? How does it subsist?

Because he’s not working for the American public though he’s been pushing for investigations into American citizens overseas.

Because he’s not furthering the investigation into Paul Manafort or the hacking of the DNC in 2016 as part of the Special Counsel’s Office investigation or as an employee of any other U.S. law enforcement.

Because he’s not representing broader American ties with Ukraine, only whatever it is his client and the rest of his legal team have assigned to him.

We can’t rule out that he’s working for Trump’s campaign in some capacity. It’s not clear any news media outlet has asked him if he is.

What is he really?

~ 0 ~

This is an open thread, but bring your comments about the whistleblower complaint and U.S.-Ukraine here.


Minority Report: Ukraine as Bugbear

[NB: Note the byline; I began writing this as one of my Minority Report pieces; it’s been in my Work In Progress folder for nearly two years, and an unfinished draft here at emptywheel for 18 months. I left off work on it well before the final Special Counsel’s Report was published. This post’s content has become more relevant even if it’s not entirely complete, needing more meat in some areas, and now requiring the last two-plus years of fossil fuel-related developments and events related to the U.S.-Ukraine-Russia triangle after the 2016 U.S. general election. /~Rayne]

This post looks at the possibility that the hacking of U.S. election system and events affecting the election’s outcome are part of a much larger picture — one in which NATO figures large, and the future of energy figures even larger.

One could attribute Russian attempts at hacking and influencing the 2016 general election to retaliation for the CIA’s involvement in Ukraine, or to a personal vendetta against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton with regard to Ukraine ahead of the Maidan revolt, or to rousing anti-Putin sentiment in Russia:

… Five years ago, he blamed Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the anti-Kremlin protests in Moscow’s Bolotnaya Square. “She set the tone for some of our actors in the country and gave the signal,” Putin said. “They heard this and, with the support of the U.S. State Department, began active work.” (No evidence was provided for the accusation.) …

But after looking at the mission and history of NATO, the integral role of natural gas to Europe’s industry and continuity, Ukraine’s role as a conduit for Russian gas to European states, one might come to a very different conclusion.

Especially given the death of Alexander Litvinenko on UK soil by radioactive poisoning and the downing of Malaysian Air flight 17, a passenger plane carrying passengers who lived across several NATO countries.

Has the U.S. been asked to provide protection to European NATO members’ supply of fossil fuels transiting Ukraine? Has the U.S. been asked during the last two administrations to push back on Russia because of incursions related to energy?

What makes Ukraine so different from Belarus, Georgia, Lithuania, and Moldova, which also have pipelines carrying Russian gas and experienced price disputes — is it the percentage of energy supplied to EU states crossing Ukraine in comparison? Of these four countries, only Lithuania is a NATO member.

How does tiny Montenegro, the newest NATO member state, fit into this picture?

NATO

In 1949, twelve North American and European countries signed a treaty creating an intergovernmental military alliance, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). They pledged a collective system of mutual defense against external forces attacking any one or all of its member states. The alliance has grown over the years to 29 nation-states with Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, North Macedonia and Ukraine having expressed interest in joining. Each member state commits to spending at least 2% of its GDP on defense spending to support the organization’s mission.

It’s critical to note NATO members agreed under the treaty’s Article V that an ‘armed’ attack against any member in North America or Europe would be considered an attack against all of them. Response to an attack upon a NATO member does not require armed or military force. Over time, threats to NATO states were not limited to armed attacks; they were economic in the case of fuel pipeline shutdowns.

In the digital age, what is an armed attack, especially if both sides call it “cyber warfare” or “information warfare”?

FOSSIL FUELS

Like the U.S., Europe has been entirely too reliant on fossil fuels. It has been far too lax in governance when it comes to resulting pollution let alone political and economic volatility related to fossil fuel use. Volkswagen’s Dieselgate scandal and the EU’s slow response to VW’s fraud and resulting air pollution offer a perfect example.

While Europe has made substantive headway to reduce fossil fuels and replace them with alternatives — Germany, for example, drew 30% of its energy from non-fossil fuel alternatives in 2014 — until the EU has completely eliminated fossil fuels including natural gas it will be vulnerable to pressure by Russia and other fossil fuel-rich countries. It has been too easy for Russia to threaten the EU and Ukraine alike by simply throttling the flow of natural gas through Ukraine’s major pipelines originating in Russia.

But this is not the only front; the “long war” (pdf) across the middle east and northern Africa is also driven by competition for fossil fuels. So, too, is much of the instability in South and central America, and increasingly in North America as the population rejects fracking, shale extraction, and related pipeline installation.

There is only one true solution to socio-economic volatility caused by fossil fuels: development and implementation of alternative energy resources which are not reliant on extraction, nor limited tightly by resource location (ex: cobalt (from DRC), lithium (South America), uranium (Australia, Canada, others)). The amount we have spent on warfare to preserve fossil fuel’s status quo would have paid for this many times over, and we might have had better education and health care along with it. NATO’s EU states could not be threatened by the loss of natural gas from Russia if it could rely entirely on renewable alternatives produced inside the EU.

Magnitsky Act and retaliation

One other key question arises from this timeline. In addition to all the other tension and conflicts between the U.S. and its NATO allies and Russia, note the passage of  the U.S. Magnitsky Act  of 2012 and the Russians’ corresponding retaliatory sanction which stopped all further adoptions of Russian children by U.S. parents. If the adoption issue is itself a retaliatory sanction and reversing or changing this Russian sanction requires changing or lifting the U.S. Magnitsky Act, didn’t Donnie Jr.’s June 9 talk during the campaign season with Natalia Veselnitskaya about resuming adoptions under a Trump presidency mean Donnie Jr. conspired or negotiated with a foreign government in a dispute with the U.S. — a violation of the Logan Act? Wasn’t the issue of adoptions merely cover — a coded alternative term — for negotiating Magnitsky Act and other Russian sanctions prior to the election?


Timeline: NATO and Ukraine

1949 — North Atlantic Treaty signed.

1982-1984 — Urengoy-Uzhgorod-Germany pipeline constructed; it provides transcontinental transport of gas from Western Siberia to Western Europe. The Reagan administration did not support this pipeline, preventing U.S. companies from selling construction materials to the Soviets partly in protest against the Soviets’ policies toward Poland and partly due to the perceive imbalance of trade the pipeline would create in Europe’s energy market. European countries did not respect the U.S.’ boycott of the pipeline, resulting in sanctions against some European companies.

15-DEC-1983 — A fire broke out at a compressor station in Urengoy, USSR in western Siberia. Construction of the pipeline was still underway. (Cause of the fire not clear from available resources.)

1985 — Vladimir Putin was stationed by KGB to Dresden — located north of the western end of the Uzhgorod-Waidhaus pipeline — after Urengoy-Uzhgorod-Germany pipeline began operation.

19-NOV-1990 — Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe was signed, setting limits of weaponry between North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the Warsaw Pact states.

26-DEC-1991 —  USSR was dissolved; the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) formed in its wake from some of the former Soviet Union’s members. The  Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania elected not to join CIS.

1992-1994 — Russia suspended natural gas to Ukraine for non-payment several times over the course of two years.

XX-SEP-1993 — (into November 1994) Ukrainian companies diverted natural gas from pipelines several times. The reasons for the diversions are not clear; was gas diverted in lieu of transit tariffs, topping off reserves, or due to local shortages?

XX-SEP-1993 — Russia’s Boris Yeltsin offered a deal to Ukraine’s Leonid Kravchuck: Ukrainian debts would be forgiven in exchange for control of the Black Sea Fleet and Ukraine’s nuclear arsenal. The deal is scrapped after negative feedback from Ukrainian politicians. (pdf, pg 19)

XX-MAR-1994 — Tentative agreement made that Russia could acquire a 51% state in the Ukraine pipeline system.

1995 — Early in the year, Russia and Ukraine agreed to form a joint venture, Gaztransit, which would operate pipeline system in exchange for write down of Ukraine debt to Russia.

XX-NOV-1995 — Ukraine’s parliament banned privatization of oil and gas assets. The agreement for Gaztransit was never implemented nor was debt forgiven.

1997 — Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Poland were invited to join NATO.

1998 — A new contract between Gazprom and Naftohaz was written linking gas prices and transit tariffs but did not resolve pre-existing gas debts. Later the same year, Gazprom claimed Ukraine diverted gas and owed USD$2.8 billion, suspending oil and gas exports to Ukraine for 1999.

1999 — Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Poland became NATO members (pdf).

2000 — Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Oleh Dubyna acknowledged that 7-8 billion cubic meters of Russian natural gas were diverted from pipelines before export that year. (pdf, pg 22)

04-OCT-2001 — 2001 Transit Agreement signed, settling the debt between Ukraine and Russia. (pdf, pg 22)

2002 — Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovenia, Slovakia, Bulgaria, and Romania were invited to join NATO.

2004 — (April?) Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovenia, Slovakia, Bulgaria, and Romania became members.

XX-JUL-2004 — Ukraine’s debt of USD$1.25 billion for gas was settled with Gazprom and NAK Naftogaz. Ukraine may have been importing more gas from Turkmenistan.

22-NOV-2004 — Orange Revolution began.

23-JAN-2005 — Orange Revolution ended; Ukraine was one of three Commonwealth of Independent States to experience a “color revolution” between 2003-2005.

24-JAN-2005 – Yulia Tymoshenko takes office as Ukraine’s 10th prime minister; she is a proponent of Ukraine joining the EU and NATO.

08-SEP-2005 – President Viktor Yushchenko fires Tymoshenko and her government; observers believe this is political trumpery targeting Tymoshenko.

01-NOV-2006 — Former FSB officer Alexander Litvinenko was poisoned with radioactive PO-210 and died a few weeks later on 23-NOV. Litvinenko met former KGB members Andrei Lugovoy and Dmitry Kovtun at the Millennium Hotel in London’s Grosvenor Square where it is believed he drank tea containing the poison. Multiple byzantine theories about Litvinenko’s death arose.

28/29-NOV-2006 — Energy security was a key topic at NATO’s Riga, Latvia summit. Efforts aimed at a bilateral discussion with Vladimir Putin on the topic of energy security during this summit fell through. From RFERL on the joint summit declaration:

The Riga summit declaration breaks new ground with a reference to energy, saying the alliance recognizes its security can be affected “by the disruption of the flow of vital resources.” NATO undertakes to study the risks and identify areas where it could “add value” to its members’ relevant security interests.

07-MAY-2007 — Urengoy-Uzhgorod-Germany pipeline exploded near Boyarka in central Ukraine, just west of Kyiv/Kiev. Gazprom said the 30-meter break in pipe would not cause a disruption in gas delivery.

22-MAY-2007 — UK determined Andrei Lugovoy should be charged and tried for Litvinenko’s murder, then asked Russia to extradite Lugovoy in relation to Litvinenko’s death.

05-JUL-2007 — Russia refused to extradite Lugovoy due to the terms of its constitution. This perceived lack of cooperation may have discouraged relations between UK and Russia.

02-OCT-2007 — ‘Gazprom may cut gas to Ukraine‘ due to debt of USD$1.3B

08-OCT-2007 — ‘Ukraine settles Russian gas row

18-DEC-2007 — Yulia Tymoshenko takes office as Ukraine’s 13th prime minister.

05-JAN-2008 — ‘Gazprom threatens Ukraine gas cut‘; Gazprom said it would throttle gas on 11-JAN if USD$1.5B still not paid.

12-FEB-2008 — ‘Russian, Ukraine gas deal averts crisis’ reported after Putin and Yuschenko announce an agreement in which Ukraine would pay for Nov-Dec 2007 gas and USD$179.5/1000cm would be maintained through 2008. They also announced the formation of new energy intermediary companies as a JV between Gazprom and Ukraine’s Naftohaz.

04-APR-2008 — Accession of Croatia and Albania addressed at Bucharest summit in April. NATO pledges Georgia and Ukraine will someday become members but are not invited to this summit. Czech Republic agrees to the installation of a U.S. missile defense radar tracking system. Installation of 10 interceptor missiles in Poland remains in negotiation.

18-AUG-2008 — Georgia exited the Commonwealth of Independent States as a result of the five-day Russo-Georgian War in early August.

XX-APR-2009 — Croatia and Albania become NATO members.

27-JUN-2010 — Illegals Program spy ring broken with arrest of 10 Russian spies including Anna Chapman.

09-JUL-2010 — All 10 Illegals Program spies arrested in US were swapped in Vienna for four Russian nationals. Two other spies had left the US before they could be arrested.

XX-OCT-2011 — Litvinenko’s widow Marina won the right to an coroner’s inquest in London; the inquest is delayed repeatedly. She insisted her deceased husband had worked with UK’s MI6 after fleeing to the UK in 2000.

24-FEB-2012 — ‘Russia threatens Ukraine over gas‘ after a shortfall of gas to EU through Ukraine during a severe cold snap. It’s not clear what caused the shortfall; Russia may try to run around Ukraine by way of the South Stream pipeline to avoid future disruptions blamed on Ukraine’s state oil and gas company, Naftogaz Ukrainy. The conflict could be a head fake to mask Gasprom’s inability to respond to rapid short-term uptick in gas demand in Europe.

19-JUL-2012Magnitsky Act was introduced in  the House.

14-DEC-2012President Obama signed the Magnitsky Act into law.

XX-MAY-2013 — (into JUL-2013) Coroner decided a public inquiry into Litvinenko’s death would be better than an inquest. Ministers rule out the request for an inquiry.

11-FEB-2014 — UK’s High Court rules Home Office in the wrong to decided against a public inquiry into Litvinenko’s death.

18/23-FEB-2014Protests erupt in the Maidan Nezalezhnosti (Maidan Square) in Kyiv.

01-MAR-2014Russia’s parliament approved the use of troops in Ukraine.

01-APR-2014 — (Related/unrelated?) Russia’s GLONASS satellite location system is offline beginning at midnight and not fully back up for 12 hours. No initial cause reported though some months later the outage its blamed on software update.

14-MAY-2014 — An alleged terrorist attack blamed for a gas pipeline explosion near Ivano-Frankivsk, Ukraine.

17-JUN-2014 — Urengoy-Uzhgorod-Germany pipeline exploded near Poltave in central Ukraine, located ~240 miles northwest of Donetsk and ~210 miles southeast of Kyiv/Kiev.

17-JUL-2014 —  Malaysia Air flight MH17 downed over eastern Ukraine by a missile.

01-DEC-2014 —  Vladimir Putin cancels the South Stream pipeline project running from Russia through the Black Sea to northern Bulgaria. (Recall Bulgaria became a NATO member in 2004.)

01-DEC-2014 —  Gazprom signed signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Turkish BOTAŞ for construction of a new gas pipeline running beneath the Black Sea from Russia to the Turkey-Greece border. Part of the deal includes providing Russia gas to Turkey with the rest shipping to the European market.

26-JAN-2015 — Evgeny Buryakov was arrested for acting as an unregistered foreign agent and conspiracy; his counterparts Victor Podobnyy and Igor Sporychev had already fled the country.

27-JAN-2015 — A public inquest began into the death of Alexander Litvinenko.

21-JAN-2016 — UK public inquest into the death of Alexander Litvinenko concluded it was an FSB operation likely approved by Putin.

11-MAR-2016 — Evgeny Buryakov pleaded guilty to begin a 30-month sentence.

28-MAR-2016 — Paul Manafort joins the Trump campaign.

06-JUN-2016 — Donnie Trump Jr. meets with Russian attorney Nataliya Veselnitskaya ostensibly to discuss Russia’s ban on adoptions of Russian children by Americans.

10/18-JUL-2016 — In the run up to Trump’s nomination at the Republican National Convention, the Republican Party’s platform on Ukraine was ‘softened’; the final wording said the U.S. would provide “appropriate assistance” to Ukraine and “greater coordination with NATO defense planning” instead of “lethal” assistance. The wording was changed to coordinate with Trump’s position, in contrast with that of the original proposed by an RNC delegate.


ODNI Whistleblower Complaint: Shoes Dropping All Over the Place [UPDATE-2]

[NB: Check the byline. Updates are anticipated and will appear within the timeline or at the bottom of the text. /~Rayne]

In an effort to guess at the likely subject of a whistleblower complaint, the emptywheel community started a crowdsourced timeline of events surrounding the complaint received by the Intelligence Community Office of Inspector General on August 12.

As noted in the timeline, the House Intelligence Committee subpoena issued last Friday required the acting Director of National Intelligence (ADNI) Joseph Maguire to report to Congress about the complaint by Tuesday, September 17; failure to comply would require an appearance before Congress on Thursday, September 19. Maguire did not report as expected.

However dates for the ADNI to testify before the House have now been arranged:

. . .

[emphasis mine]

The Washington Post reported more details Wednesday evening about the whistleblower complaint:

Trump’s communications with foreign leader are part of whistleblower complaint that spurred standoff between spy chief and Congress, former officials say

One bit stood out for me in the lede:

The whistleblower complaint that has triggered a tense showdown between the U.S. intelligence community and Congress involves President Trump’s communications with a foreign leader, according to two former U.S. officials familiar with the matter.

Emphasis mine. Two former officials.

Speculation about the whistleblower’s identity is rampant across social media. Some suggest Fiona Hill, former Special Assistant to the President and National Security Council Senior Director for European and Russian Affairs, as the whistleblower; her planned departure in August was announced June 18. Others suggest an as-yet unnamed low-level analyst.

Marcy tweeted earlier,

It’s not outside the realm of possibility. Bolton seems in a mood to burn it all down, ‘shanking’ POTUS during a Trumpists-dense luncheon on Wednesday. But given the “two former U.S. officials” and former DNI Dan Coats interruption of a meeting to ask his deputy Sue Gordon to resign, I wonder if both Coats and Gordon resigned so they would be able to testify before Congress while escaping the appearance of being compromised by unethical or unlawful acts?

Important points for consideration:

  • What constitutes an “urgent concern” validated by the Intelligence Community Inspector General as credible?
  • What constitutes an unlawful act that would compel a whistleblower to file a complaint if the president can declassify information at will?
  • What kind of unlawful act characterized as an “urgent concern” could occur as a “promise” in communications with a foreign leader?
  • How does the existing timeline frame this “promise”?
  • Who is the “higher authority” who ordered the ADNI not to turn over the whistleblower complaint to the HPSCI, obstructing investigatory oversight?

Promising to violate or ignore violation of bipartisan sanctions against Russia would be unlawful, but would this be an “urgent concern”?

Was there instead an unlawful act with regard to the doxxing of the exfiltrated Russian asset?

Or was there a promise related to surveillance of North Korea?

Did the tensions between the U.S. and Iran spawn an unlawful promise?

There are probably dozens more scenarios that might fit. They may be related to items we didn’t add to the crowdsourced timeline, like these items directly related to North Korea:

28-FEB-2019 — Trump cut short the two-day summit with North Korea for no clear reason.

11-JUN-2019 — Trump received a “beautiful letter” from North Korea’s Kim Jong-un.

09-AUG-2019 — Trump received another “very beautiful letter” from Kim.

This one related to Iran:

03-SEP-2019New sanctions were placed on Iran after Trump administration claimed it was developing ballistic missile technology using its communications satellite program as cover.

And these related to Russia:

26-JUN-2019 — Trump told reporters that his anticipated discussion with Vladimir Putin at the G20 summit in Japan was “none of your business.”

31-JUL-2019 — Trump and Putin talked over the phone about Siberian wildfires and trade.

29-AUG-2019 — Trump’s trip to Poland canceled, ostensibly to monitor Hurricane Dorian though he ended up playing golf instead at his N. Virginia course. Was he avoiding conflict over increased Russian troop presence at the administrative border between Russian-occupied South Ossetia and Georgia? (Georgia has been pursuing NATO membership but is not yet a member state.)

Time will tell what other events were needed to pick out the narrative behind the complaint. One more data point may flesh out the nature of the challenge:

Is the complaint about a Trump-Russia issue alone, or does it also include a promise related to one of the other countries in the timeline — like North Korea or Iran?

Share your thoughts in comments with supporting content.

UPDATE — 19-SEP-2019 9:23 A.M. —

The ADNI should be in a closed door session with the House Intelligence Committee at this time.

Important to note that the IC IG is a Trump appointee — Michael Atkinson. He’s responsible for the determination that the unidentified whistleblower’s complaint was credible and an “urgent concern.”

ADNI broke the law as Amee Vanderpool noted here because the complaint was deemed credible:

Very, very odd how CNBC’s website news crawl makes zero mention of this unfolding story even though an NBC story confirmed WaPo’s report last night.

UPDATE — 19-SEP-2019 8:20 P.M. —

This is like a really cheap game of Clue. It wasn’t Professor Plum in the Library with a Lead Pipe.

It was Trump about Ukraine with a phone call to Zelensky, according to the latest report by WaPo.

(Although Trump does look like a crappy version of Colonel Mustard.)

Explains why the suggestions the matter was part of an ongoing investigation; the House was already investigating whether Trump and his lawyer Rudy Giuliani were trying to persuade President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky to help dig up dirt on Joe Biden to help Trump’s 2020 campaign.

Now we need to know if the $250M aid to Ukraine was dependent on this matter, as well as a meeting later this month between Trump and Zelensky — and if Vladimir Putin had been involved in this exchange in any way.

Waiting for the next version of  “No Collusion!” tweets from Team Trump.

May explain why Rudy had been radio silent for three days on Twitter though he’s resumed his brand of trash talking in the last hour.


Something Smells — and It’s Not Burning Oil

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

Others have offered more trenchant responses after Trump’s tweets as well as Sen. Lindsey Graham’s warmongering, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s drivel about the apparent attack on Saudi Arabia’s Abqaiq oil processing facility this weekend. Let me offer my two cents about the attack.

This is an early assessment of what happened by a Bloomberg correspondent:

Do open the tweet to look at both images in it; this is the one on the right in the tweet.

Here’s a another image of a portion of the damage from a Bloomberg article (click to expand):

Note carefully this color image as it appears on Bloomberg’s site is an expanded, rotated view of the damage shown in the black-and-white marked up photo on the left in the Bloomberg correspondent’s tweet. The pond at the right hand of the area under smoke is the point of reference.

Now note the detail from the color satellite photo. The color image is attributed to Planet Labs, Inc. at the Bloomberg article while the black-and-white ones are attributed to Digital Globe. The detail is pretty good but not as good as the image taken of the Iranian launch site explosion Trump tweeted on August 30.

I’ll be the first to admit I am not an expert on missiles, munitions, explosions, or oil processing systems. But something about these images doesn’t make sense to me. They don’t look like what I’d expect from missile damage targeting oil facilities.

Below is an image of a BP refinery explosion in Texas from 2005; the cause was blamed on exposure of flammable vapors to a spark from a running motor.

No missile involved. No drone dropping an explosive, either. Some leak and a spark and *FWOOM* (love the technical term).

Granted, the satellite imagery didn’t catch the Abqaiq facility immediately after the explosion when there would have been more flames. But the damage afterward doesn’t look as extensive as the BP refinery explosion.

Note the size of the holes in the rounded tanks in the second black-and-white satellite image to the right in the Bloomberg correspondent’s tweet. Awfully small, more like something used on an automobile-sized target, in my uninformed opinion.

Now note the shadows in the images. These were taken before solar noon over the location; shadows appear on the north-northwest side of any object with adequate profile above ground.

What ever hit the tank-like features came from the northwest and not from the east.

Iran is to the northeast of Saudi Arabia across the gulf.

One more wrinkle — check this map from the Indian Defence Review circa February 2015, analyzing Saudi Arabia’s defenses.

The Abqaiq oil processing facility is located between Riyadh and Dammam.

How would 17 separate missiles or drones from either Iran or Yemen get by the defense network to hit the facility from the northwest?

Pompeo has now said the attack didn’t come from Iraq’s direction.

A whole cascade of questions arises from there on out if you think about it. For grins use Twitter’s search tool and look for “abqaiq.” If you scroll through you’ll see many people are noting similar issues and posing similar questions.

Recommended additional reading: Connecticut’s Sen. Chris Murphy tweeted a thread last night related to the other culture issues involved in the regional tensions. It’s worth your time.

Treat this as an open thread.


Crowdsource: Build a Timeline on ODNI Whistleblower Complaint [UPDATED-4]

[NB: Updates will appear within the timeline or at the bottom of the text. /~Rayne]

Hey gang, Rayne here.  I have to confess I am completely over my head right now. I have a huge pile of projects and I can’t get through them fast enough to pull a post together. I have family coming to visit, a garden to harvest, laundry to do — the list is a mile long. I could use more hands.

Are you up for crowdsourced investigation into one of the writing projects on my list? Whatever you put in comments I will go through and pull together into a more complete timeline.

The topic: The whistleblower complaint believed to be withheld by acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire to prevent investigation.

Point of origin: Schiff accuses top intel official of illegally withholding ‘urgent’ whistleblower complaint, by Kyle Cheney, POLITICO, published 13-SEP-2019, 8:12 p.m. EDT

Note carefully this piece ended up in the news dump zone — a Friday evening after 5:00 p.m.

What could the whistleblower complaint have been about, assuming there are other related matters in the public eye? A timeline might help us piece together the topic, or it may help us prepare for anticipated hearings.

I want to point out again that one of the five drafted Articles of Impeachment against Richard Nixon was about unauthorized activity disclosed by a whistleblower. We may be looking at yet another impeachable offense (as if there haven’t been enough already).

Here’s what I have so far — help me fill in some blanks you think may be relevant to a possible “urgent concern” in a whistleblower complaint, the Office of Director of National Intelligence, the Intelligence Community, and the House Permanent Subcommittee on Intelligence over the last 33 months.

10-MAY-2017 — Trump met Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak in the Oval Office. [UPDATE-3b]

15-MAY-2017 — Washington Post reported Trump revealed code word level classified information to Lavrov and Kislyak during Oval Office meeting. The information covered ISIL’s bomb-making capabilities and may have exposed allies’ intelligence gathering means and methods. [UPDATE-3b]

XX-MAY-2017 — Decision made to exfiltrate key Russian asset. Unclear exactly when decision made or when exfiltration occurred, only that it happened after the Oval Office meeting with Lavrov and Kislyak, and before the G20 meeting in Hamburg, Germany. [UPDATE-3b]

7/8-JUL-2017 — Trump meets Putin at G20 meeting in Hamburg, Germany.[UPDATE-3b]

________

09-APR-2018 — John Bolton begins as National Security Adviser.

16-JUL-2018 — U.S.-Russia Summit meeting in Helsinki, Finland; Trump meets with Putin.

XX-JUL-2018 — Coats expressed opinion differing from Trump’s after Helsinki summit. Rumors began about Trump replacing Coats.

________

29-JAN-2019 — Coats testified before Senate Intelligence Committee; he said North Korea “is unlikely to completely give up its nuclear weapons and production capabilities,” in contrast to Trump’s claims that Kim Jong-un has committed to denuclearization.

XX-FEB-2019 — Trump discussed replacements for DNI.

24-MAY-2019 — Trump issued a directive allowing Attorney General William Barr to declassify any intelligence that sparked the opening of the Russia investigation. [UPDATE-3c]

20-JUN-2019 — In retaliation for downing a U.S. drone, Trump approved strikes on Iran which were abruptly aborted. [UPDATE-4a]

24-JUL-2019 – The same day that John Ratcliffe used his time to question Robert Mueller before the Judiciary Committee to accuse Mueller of breaking DOJ regulations — CNN reported that “Ratcliffe has been under consideration for a job within the Trump administration, sources told CNN, including an intelligence or national security role.” [UPDATE-2a]

28-JUL-2019 — Coats’ departure and John Ratcliffe nominated as replacement announced by Trump via Twitter.

02-AUG-2019 — Ratcliffe withdraws from consideration. [UPDATE-2b]

08-AUG-2019 — Primary Deputy Director DNI Sue Gordon resigned effective 15-AUG-2019, without additional prior notice, as ordered. Resignation letter without handwritten note.

Copy of former PDDNI’s resignation letter with handwritten cover: ODNI_LTR_08AUG2019

12-AUG-19ICdIG received the whistleblower compaint, via Schiff’s 10-SEP letter [UPDATE-1]

15-AUG-2019 — Coats’ last day as DNI.

26-AUG-19 — IC IG transmitted the whistleblower complaint to the Acting DNI, via Schiff’s 10-SEP letter [UPDATE-1]

30-AUG-2019 — Trump tweeted a high-resolution satellite image of Iran’s failed Safir SLV launch while claiming the U.S. was not involved. The image may have been classified and ‘insta-declassified’ by Trump.

01/02-SEP-2o19 — US Special Rep. for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalizad met with Afghan president Ashraf Ghani in Kabul where the Taliban, Afghan government and the U.S. had “reached an agreement in principle” toward an eventual “total and permanent cease-fire.” [UPDATE-4a]

02-SEP-19 — Deadline for ADNI to forward the complaint to Intelligence committees of Congress passes without a referral, via Schiff’s 10-SEP letter [UPDATE-1]

03-SEP-2019 — Russian media outlet Tass reported that Russian Deputy Foreign Minister said the U.S. and Taliban “insist that Russia must be present in one capacity or another at the possible signing of the agreements that the parties are working on now.” [UPDATE-4a]

04-SEP-2019 — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo refused to sign the agreement with the Taliban. [UPDATE-4b]

09-SEP-2019 — CNN broke story of a CIA asset extracted from Russia in 2017; followed by NYT on the 9th (and then NBC’s Ken Dilanian appears at the asset’s house…) [UPDATE-3a]

09-SEP-2019 — Trump asked for Bolton’s resignation and tweeted about it the next morning.

09-SEP-2019 — Intelligence Community Inspector General (IC IG) sent a letter to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, notifying it of a whistleblower complaint which it had determined to be credible and a matter of “urgent concern.”

10-SEP-2019 — Bolton tells Fox’s Brian Kilmeade by text that he quit.

10-SEP-2019 — HPSCI Rep. Adam Schiff requested the full, unredacted complaint, the IC IG’s determination about the complaint, and all documentation of ODNI’s action regarding this complaint, including correspondence with the White House.

11-SEP-2019 — Bloomberg reported Bolton pushed back Monday-Tuesday at Trump over Iran sanctions; Bolton wanted maximum pressure while Trump wanted to encourage a meeting with Iran’s Rouhani later in September. [UPDATE-4a]

12-SEP-19 — Schiff and ADNI “discussed at length” the need to protect the whistleblower from any retaliation, including if the whistleblower subsequently comes forward to the committee with his/her concerns, via Schiff’s 13-SEP letter [UPDATE-1]

13-SEP-2019 — ODNI declined the request, claiming the request as “it involves confidentially and potentially privileged communications by persons outside the Intelligence Community.”

13-SEP-2019 — HPSCI subpoenaed acting DNI Joseph Maguire for materials declined by ODNI.

_____

Future items:

17- SEP-2019 — Deadline, materials responsive to subpoena must be turned over by this date

19- SEP-2019 — Date when Maguire will be compelled to appear before Congress in a public hearing

What a freaking mess. I have nothing here about Mike Pompeo or any other intelligence personnel or issues. The bit about Coats’ departure and Bolton’s termination stick out as well as that insta-declassified intelligence photo, but what might have been an “urgent concern”?

Knock yourselves out — I’ll check in as time permits. Let’s see if a narrative emerges besides the obvious fact the Trump administration has severely damaged our national security apparatus.


To The Phones: Stop the Gulf of Tonkin, Iran Edition

[NB: Check the byline, thanks. /~Rayne]

Some crazy bullshit happened last evening, probably while our fearless Agent Orange Chaos was under the influence of anti-anxiety medication/two scoops/Hannity’s fluffery:

This is like a half-assed Gulf of Tonkin event, a deliberately staged precursor to war. The Gulf of Tonkin was the rationale for the Vietnam War which resulted in 58,318 dead and 303,644 wounded U.S. military personnel and nearly 4,000,000 total dead, along with billions in defense expenditures.

It’s not like we haven’t seen other similar bullshit lies leading us into war, and some of the key lies propelled by the same news outlet quoted above, written by NYT’s Judith Miller. NYT has clearly prepped itself for more of the same — just look at the specialty Twitter account it set up called “NYTimesAtWar.”

We’re being dragged into a wholly unnecessary war because other non-US factions want to use our military for their ends. We have total shit for soft power right now because Trump doesn’t believe in diplomacy unless he’s conducting it with some other Big Authoritarian Man[™]. He will definitely trash anything the previous administration negotiated as part of the JCPOA (read: something a black man did). Trump’s also pliable depending on when he’s approached and by whom — like this propaganda by Fox News yesterday catching him first thing in the morning when he watches television, conditioning his responses for the day:

And again today, after the attack last night was canceled, Fox News is again beating the drum for war and tacitly questioning Trump’s manhood:

Who else was working on Trump’s head all day yesterday, pushing this bullshit narrative based on manufactured evidence?

Thankfully the House has finally voted this Wednesday to end the 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF) which has been used to support all manner of military action against real and claimed terrorist threats:

The House of Representatives voted today to repeal the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF). Presidents have used the AUMF to justify never-ending wars that lack Congressional approval.

This is the first time in nearly 18 years that a chamber of Congress has repealed this law. The measure, sponsored by Rep. Barbara Lee (CA), was included in the Department of Defense Appropriations Act (H.R. 2968). Designed to take effect eight months after being signed, Congress would need to pass a new AUMF or the administration would need to remove military personnel from current conflicts during that time.

Prescient timing, or no? Whatever the case, if factions within the Trump administration were going to rely on the 2001 AUMF to execute their attacks on Iran, the support is gone in the House.

This is where YOU come in. The Senate hasn’t voted on the Defense Appropriations Act including the rescindment of the 2001 AUMF; it could be stalled once again on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s desk. Stalled or not, the Senate needs to hear from its constituents about this absurd run up to war — denounce this incompetent attempt at launching war without adequate Congressional approval and ask for an investigation into whatever happened last evening to launch an attack without a legitimate AUMF and then reversed the attack mid-flight. This behavior is irrational and only more likely to trigger events the American people have no desire to see happen.

If you need another briefing and a script for making your calls to your senators, visit @Celeste_pewter’s TinyLetter page.

Congressional switchboard: (202) 224-3121

Do call your House reps and praise them if they supported the rescindment and admonish them if they didn’t. They need to know constituents are paying close attention.

The really scary/aggravating part of last night’s near-miss was that fossil fuel corporations can’t be happy about this. If they aren’t happy and they weren’t consulted, who’s running our foreign policy besides a guy responsible in no small part for hundreds of thousands of unnecessary deaths in the Iraq War and another Christianist doofus too stupid to realize he’s being used as a pawn by other non-Christian geopolitical forces?

This is an open thread.

Copyright © 2018 emptywheel. All rights reserved.
Originally Posted @ https://www.emptywheel.net/foreign-policy/