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Impeachable Acts: What GOP Spin Can’t Change

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

I wrote this in comments but in hindsight it should be shared as a post.

Nothing the GOP has said about the impeachment hearing witnesses, their testimony, the rules and circumstances, can change these facts.

Though this isn’t the word-for-word transcription of the July 25 call between Trump and Ukraine’s President Zelensky, the content not omitted or redacted in the published telephone conference memo is damning enough:

The GOP wants the public to forget that Trump asked for a favor.

The GOP wants people to forget that 18 USC 201 Bribery says no public official may demand or ask for anything of value for personal use, and Trump specifically mentions Biden during the call, making this about his personal re-election campaign.

The GOP wants people to forget that 52 USC 30121 Contributions (campaign finance) says no candidate may solicit anything of value from a foreign national.

The GOP wants people to forget Trump used his office for the purposes of campaign work — while not a Hatch Act violation, certainly an abuse of office.

The GOP wants people to forget that Trump removed former ambassador Marie Yovanovitch after assassinating her character — not merely removing her at his discretion as executive, but an unlawful retaliatory firing — also implying during the July 25 call that she would be harassed or persecuted in some way even though she had already been recalled from her position as Ambassador to Ukraine.

And the GOP wants want you to forget that Trump intimidated witnesses even as they testified before Congress, a violation of 18 USC 1512.

But facts are stubborn things and in this case, the facts before us are simple, straightforward, inescapable as presented during the hearings to date and in published government documents. Trump bribed Ukraine’s Zelensky, violated campaign finance law, tampered with witnesses, and abused his office.

We don’t even need to look at his extortion (18 USC 872) or weigh whether he committed Honest Services Fraud (18 USC 1346), or his role in obstruction of proceedings (18 USC 1505) and contempt of Congress (2 USC 192 – preventing witnesses from testifying or withholding evidence), or conspiracy to defraud the United States by agreeing to commit any of the above acts with Rudy Giuliani and/or others (18 USC 371).

Republican lawmakers, aides and strategists surveyed by CNBC’s John Harwood have uniformly treated Trump’s bribery — asking for foreign interference in our presidential elections again — as an inconvenience, some annoyance which will blow over.

None of the elected Republicans so far have been willing to live up their oath of office to defend and protect the Constitution against enemies foreign and domestic. The only elected Republican to do so had to leave the GOP because he believed impeachment hearings were warranted.

Voters can’t forget this at the polls: our democracy and the Constitution are inconveniences to the Republican Party.

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.