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GreyhoundFan

Impeachment Inquiry 2: Now It's Official!

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GreyhoundFan

Continued from here:

 

Towards the end of the last thread, @fraurosena shared the following, which is quite interesting reading:

 

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fraurosena

From the FOIA document, it's pretty clear that the RNC and the Trump campaign knew beforehand when the Wikileaks info would be released and they were basing their strategy on the upcoming releases.

[...] Manafort was having Gates periodically call [redacted] to check in on where the information was and when it would be coming. Gates recalled a conversation with [redacted] prior to 7/22 [redacted] told Gates Wikileaks would be dropping information [redacted] [...]

[...] Gates said a messaging strategy was being built in the June/July timeframe surrounding the upcoming release of information. [redacted redacted] was building this strategy with Manafort also involved. [...]

[...] Manafort was getting pressure regarding [redacted] information, [ redacted, redacted, redacted, redacted] Manafort instructed Gates [ redacted, redacted] status updates on upcoming information.

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fraurosena

The following is from Michael Cohen's interviews, most of which was redacted:

The Trump Org wanted to terminate any deals that had to [redacted sentence] of the Presidential Inauguration. [... redacted paragraph] Cohen found [redacted] Trump Tower Moscow on the list. [full page redaction]

The Trump Org's "party line" with respect to Russia went earlier than the closing of Trump Tower Batumi and Trump Tower Moscow.

[...] Cohen spoke to Trump about Trump Tower Moscow and Russia as soon as news reports started to come out. The conversations with Trump were earlier than the February 2017 [redacted]

[...] Trumps July [27] 2016 statement was untrue. In July Cohen spoke to Trump about the statement. Trump told Cohen they have no deals in Russia. Cohen thought Trump justified saying this because Trump Tower Moscow was not a deal yet. Trump said: "Why mention it if it is not a deal?"

[...] Cohen told Twohey the project ended in January 2016 and was not feasible. [redacted paragraph] was part of the script Trump, Hicks and Kellyanne Conway came up months before. It was the party line to dismiss the notion. 

[...] It was not Cohen's idea to write a letter to Congress about Trump Tower Moscow. The statement was put out to piggyback off of Jared Kushner putting out a statement before. The release was to shape the narrative and to let other people who might be witnesses know what Cohen was saying to keep the same message. This was Kushner's approach to public messaging.

[...] In preparation for his congressional testimony, Cohen's message had several components. Cohen had to keep Trump out of the messaging related to Russia and keep Trump out of the Russia conversation. One of these points to keep Trump out of was this UNGA Trump-Putin meeting, because he had discussed it on the Hannity Show. 

In advance of testifying, there was a specific conversation about keeping Trump out of the UNGA narrative. Cohen was trying to be loyal. The investigation was not supposed to have taken us to where we are today. Cohen was told if he stayed on message, the President had his back. The President loves you. [...]

 

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thoughtful

Does anyone need lip gloss?

https://www.lipslut.com/impeach

Quote

Inquired by you, Impeach lip gloss is the peach you’ve been waiting two years too long for.

50% of all earnings from Impeach lip gloss go towards organizations working to support women and other members of marginalized communities running for political office—hopefully ensuring someone like Trump never gets elected again. This organization is to be chosen by the people, as with every lip gloss purchased comes an opportunity to vote.  

50% towards charity, 100% against tyranny. 

 

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fraurosena

From Steven Bannon's interview:

The first three pages are completely redacted.

After Sessions recused, Trump screamed at McGahn about how weak Sessions was. [two redacted sentences] Trump was as mad as Bannon had ever seen him. [redacted paragraph]

Bannon told Trump Sessions' recusal was not a surprise. He said they had talked about it in December. [redacted paragraph]

Trump wanted a lawyer like Roy Cohn. He wanted an Attorney General like Bobby Kennedy. [redacted] He thought of them as people who really protected their president. Trump thought Holder always stood up for Obama and said Holder even took a contempt charge for Obama and that Bobby Kennedy always had JFK's back. 

[several redacted paragraphs]

Trump thought he was a winner, [redacted] he was a fixer, someone who got things done. 

[...]

Bannon knew Kushner was on vacation off the coast Croatia with a Russian billionaire when Bannon took over the campaign. Kushner was with Wendy Deng, the Russian billionaire and the Russian's girlfriend. Bannon said his friends in the Intelligence Community said the girlfriend was "questionable". Bannon called Kushner and told him to come back from vacation. They had 85 days to go, no money and Kushner needed to come back and fire Paul Manafort. 

 [...]

Here we see references to Flynn coming up with the idea to work together with Russia on fighting ISIS.

Bannon was involved in all aspects of Trump's debate preparation. Bannon helped Trump talk and think through various topics related to national security and foreign policy. The idea of working with Russia to fight ISIS was "thrown out there". Flynn or Keith Kellogg might have come up with the idea, with the reasoning that since Russia was dealing with similar problems in Chechnya, they might be an ally to help. Bannon never specifically remembered hearing the phrase "knock the hell out of ISIS," but that could have become a catch phrase. Overall, Trump had a non-interventionist stance. During the campaign they were mainly trying to play defense, it was a very basic strategy, and they were trying to get Trump not to say something "insane." Flynn might have brought up the idea of partnering with Russia on fighting ISIS, but not on a geo-strategic level. Trump's stance was more or less that Russia did not have to be an enemy.

[...]

On contacts with Erik Prince:

[...] Bannon could not remember if Prince briefed the candidate, but Bannon did put Prince in contact with Flynn. [...]

Regarding his emails Bannon has the same affliction as many others, "I don't remember". Here's one exchange on email #7 that's interesting: 

Bannon was shown Document #6 email dated 5/23/2016 from Prince to Bannon, [redacted redacted] cc'd, subject "Fwd: Recommended meeting." Bannon did not remember the email exchange. Bannon doesn't remember meeting with Oleg. Prince viewed Bannon as someone with a good relationship with Trump.

So Bannon does not remember meeting with Oleg Deripaska (to give him polling data)?.. yeah right. 

According to Bannon, Erik Prince was quite often on the 14th floor of Trump Tower during the campaign. After the election...

... Prince was speaking with Flynn and Bossie, K.T. McFarland, Kellogg, Conway, [redacted], Sebastian Gorka and [redacted].

[...] Bannon remembered seeing Prince in the "war room" with [redacted] [...] Prince would come in and talk about foreign policy. Prince would suggest people they should be getting on board and people to include in the administration. Bannon would bounce ideas off of Prince and talk about such people as Mike Pompeo. [...]

Prince did not meet with then candidate Trump, but Bannon thought Prince was close to Eric Trump and Trump Jr. Bannon remembered Prince stopped by during the campaign and asked if Trump Jr. was there. Bannon knew Prince would go hunting with Eric Trump and Trump Jr. 

Oh, this is interesting. A bit long, so under a quote:

Quote

Bannon was involved in the September 2016 meetings with Adel Fattah El-Sisi and Benjamin Netanyahu. It was Kushner's idea to work toward a summit with Egypt, the UAE, and Saudi Arabia and that Trump would go to this summit in the 1st 6 months of his presidency. MBZ came over as a way to get to know the incoming administration. It was obvious to Bannon that Kushner was told of the meeting prior and had helped set it up. They met with approximately 25 of the UAE attendees in the lobby, including UAE Ambassador to the U.S. Youself Al Otaiba, and after approximately 6 to 7 minutes they went up to the penthouse of the Four Seasons. When Bannon walked into the penthouse, he saw another 15 UAE attendees already in the room. Bannon wondered what this meeting could be about. Bannon saw a guy who looked like Sean Connery and realized it was MBZ. MBZ was in jeans and a t-shirt, dressed in casual attire. It was apparent to Bannon that Kushner knew Otaiba and that it wasn't the first time they had met. Bannon believed that the Obama administration had disengaged from the Middle East, which is similar to what El-Sisi and Netanyahu had said. During the meeting withMBZ they discussed the ISIS threat to the area. Bannon did not remember if they discussed Russia, but if they did, it was targeted to the Persian Gulf area. Bannon remembered they talked about Persian expansion, Iran, Baghdad, Beirut, and Hezbollah. The meeting was approximately 2 hours long. Bannon thought that Nader was one of the group of 15 or 25 guys they met as MBZ "held court" for a couple hours. If Nader was there, Bannon believed they just introduced themselves, and shook hands.

Bannon sure has a lot of holes in his memory:

Bannon was shown an email dated 9/28/2016 from Bannon to Cohen with Conway, Kushner, [redacted] Stephen Miller, and [redacted] cc'd, subject "Re: request from the ft." Bannon did not remember getting an email from Cohen about Sergei Millian, and doesn't remember any conversations about Millian Bannon never had any conversations with the campaign on the Millian issue. 

 

I'm realizing that my posts are getting really long. I tend to get quite nerdy about this stuff... Do you guys want me to go on, or is this boring/too lengthy?

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GreyhoundFan
56 minutes ago, fraurosena said:

I'm realizing that my posts are getting really long. I tend to get quite nerdy about this stuff... Do you guys want me to go on, or is this boring/too lengthy?

I find your posts interesting and helpful.

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smittykins

I agree, and appreciate your willingness to plow through it. :u-rock:

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GreyhoundFan

McCarthy is such a typical repug :

 

 

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fraurosena

Alright then, here's the next batch. :my_biggrin:

This is still part of Bannon's interviews:

Cambridge Analytica (remember, Bannon was CA's vice president at the time) gets involved after Ted Cruz withdraws his candidacy.

[...] In June 2016 [redacted] offered an introduction for Bannon to Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump. Bannon agreed and that was the first time he met Kushner and Ivanka.

Bannon was shown [...] email [...] from Bannon to [redacted with [redacted] cc'd, subject "Re: Defeat Crooked Hillary [redacted] Bannon did not remember sending the email and he never went to the United Kingdom. Bannon did not remember talking to [redacted] about meeting with [redacted redacted] in general. Bannon would not characterize his response in the email, "Love it," as an approval to [redacted] suggestion to meet with [redacted] Bannon had no idea where [redacted sentence] of Cambridge Analytica and he was focussed on getting their data business growing in the U.S. [redacted] had a lot of "James Bond" ideas like this on [redacted] and characterized it as [redacted] saying he "knows a guy, who knows a guy."

[...]

Bannon was shown an email dated 5/04/2016 from [redacted] to Bannon, subject "[no subject]." Bannon though[t] this looked like [redacted redacted] from the email in document #17. Cambridge Analytica claimed they could help micro-target voters on Facebook. [redacted redacted] it might have been for a project for Cambridge Analytica.

Bannon is not much impressed with Papadopoulos.

George Papadopoulos had emailed Bannon [...] in an effort to set up a meeting with Egypt. [...] Bannon thought Trump's biggest challenge was selling the public that Trump could be Commander in Chief, so therefore he decided to do it and limit the meetings to a few key leaders such as Egypt, Israel and maybe a couple of others. Kushner wanted a meeting with Israel, and Bannon and Flynn were pushing for a meeting with Egypt. Bannon never worked with Papadopoulos on setting up the meetings despite Papadopolous's offers through email. [...] Padadopoulos never told Bannon about the Russians having dirt on Clinton, and Bannon never heard anyone else in the campaign, such as Sam Clovis, that the Russians had dirt on Clinton. Bannon had all the dirt he needed from Clinton Cash and Uranium One, he didn't need any more dirt. Bannon didn't need any more dirt from "clowns" like Papadopoulos and Clovis.

This bit gets interesting, as it's about [redacted]. It's also interesting because of the possible references to the data server in Trump Tower that was connected to Alfa Bank (IIRC). 

Bannon first met [redacted] by email or phone in 2013-2014 while he was working for Breitbart [three lines redacted] At the time, [redacted] was running the campaign, and Bannon described it as a "one man band." Bannon thought [redacted] had done "a damn good job," Bannon thought [redacted paragraph] Bannon was shown dated 1/7/2016 from [redacted] to Bannon, [redacted] subject "Data Guy in Trump Tower." Bannon thought [redacted] got the wrong name in the email, [redacted] who they got rid of. Giles Parscale had a littel data center on the 15th floor. Bannon was introduced to a "data guy" there in January 2016, but Bannon didn't remember the name. Bannon speculated that maybe [redacted] had some ideas about it, but Bannon did not think it was [redacted] who was involved. 

To be continued. 

Next post: campaign financial woes and the obsession with Hillary's emails.

Edited by fraurosena
can't get rid of unwanted underlining

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GreyhoundFan

"Mulvaney allies try to stonewall Democrats’ impeachment inquiry"

Spoiler

One of acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney’s top allies is preparing to deliver what President Trump wants but has failed to achieve so far in the impeachment inquiry: unquestioning loyalty from administration staff.

Russell Vought, a Mulvaney protege who leads the White House Office of Management and Budget, intends a concerted defiance of congressional subpoenas in coming days, and two of his subordinates will follow suit — simultaneously proving their loyalty to the president and a creating a potentially critical firewall regarding the alleged use of foreign aid to elicit political favors from a U.S. ally.

The OMB is at the nexus of the impeachment inquiry because Democrats are pressing for details about why the White House budget office effectively froze the Ukraine funds that Congress had already appropriated.

Congressional Republicans are also predicting that Mulvaney’s deputy, Robert Blair, will refuse to show for his scheduled Monday appearance before impeachment investigators — though a White House spokesman and Blair’s attorney, Whit Ellerman, did not respond to questions about his plans. Blair was on the July 25 phone call when Trump asked Ukraine’s president for a “favor” investigating former vice president Joe Biden, a 2020 presidential contender.

The anticipated defiance toward impeachment investigators comes as Trump has grown enraged that so many of “his employees,” as he refers to them, are going to Capitol Hill and testifying, said a person who regularly talks with him and who spoke on the condition of anonymity. The president has asked for copies of witness statements so he can decide how to criticize them, complained that his lawyers are not doing enough to stop people from talking, and even encouraged members of Congress to question the credibility of people working in his own administration, current and former officials said.

“He is the war room,” press secretary Stephanie Grisham said on Fox News.

Vought, who serves in an acting capacity in the job Mulvaney once held, has sought to build a relationship with the president for some time and sees standing firm against the impeachment inquiry as a way to bolster it, according to two White House officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity. Like Trump, the longtime conservative warrior has derided the impeachment inquiry as a “sham process” and has said he will not comply with the subpoena to appear for a deposition this coming Wednesday. Vought shares the president’s disdain of foreign aid and has sought to cut it in previous budgets.

Trump has at times questioned the loyalty of Mulvaney’s aides, but OMB officials have assured the president they will not show up and help the Democrats’ probe, two officials said, pleasing the president.

Vought’s move to stonewall Congress follows a string of National Security Council and State Department witnesses testifying that the president tried to withhold nearly $400 million in security aid for Ukraine unless that country would launch politically charged investigations that could benefit Trump. Vought, Blair and the other two OMB officials called to testify could shed more light on those decisions and the process.

Although OMB officials were not the ones calling the shots about how to handle the military aid, it was their responsibility to implement those decisions and to release the aid — or hold it up — as directed. Their testimony could fill in important details about the decision-making process around the money.

“We know from the president that he wanted the Ukrainians to do these investigations, and we know that aid was being withheld when he was asking the Ukrainians,” said Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), an impeachment investigator. “You still have to connect all the dots. … They’re dot-connecting witnesses.”

Vought was immediately told of the president’s decision to scuttle the aid and agreed with some other top advisers that it was legal, two administration officials said. Michael Duffey, one of Vought’s subordinates who has also been called to testify on Tuesday and who controls foreign aid decisions in the OMB, signed the OMB document freezing the Ukraine aid, according to the administration officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. Duffey is OMB’s associate director for national security programs.

An agency spokeswoman said its officials are simply abiding by the White House’s directive, which is that the impeachment inquiry is illegitimate and the administration is not cooperating.

“The idea that OMB’s posture is informed by anything other than respecting the prerogatives of the president is absurd," said OMB spokeswoman Rachel Semmel.

Trump suggested on Sunday he could continue exerting his prerogative over OMB when he told a reporter that he wouldn’t rule out directing another government shutdown later this month if negotiations with Democrats don’t lead to the results he wants.

The expected defiance from Mulvaney’s allies could bolster the standing of the acting chief, whose job has been a constant source of speculation. In an interview with the Washington Examiner last week, Trump seemed to sympathize with Senate Republicans’ annoyance at Mulvaney and refused to weigh in on whether he was “happy” with Mulvaney’s performance. He continues to complain about him, advisers say, but is unlikely to immediately replace him at this time.

“Happy?” he asked in response to a question from the Examiner. “I don’t want to comment on it.”

The OMB officials’ refusal to cooperate with the impeachment inquiry will mark a significant break from the trend of the past four weeks, when House Democrats have had success convincing a parade of current and former administration officials to testify about their concerns regarding Trump’s use of foreign policy for political gain. Those officials have come forward despite orders from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and White House Counsel Pat Cipollone to ignore impeachment summons.

The OMB’s posture could complicate Democrats’ investigation, keeping them from learning more details about alleged moves to link aid to Ukraine with Trump’s pressure on the nation. Democrats argued, however, that it might not matter in the long run, as they already have two witnesses testifying that the money hinged on the Biden investigations.

“In my view it would be useful to hear from them, but not essential,” said Rep. David N. Cicilline (D-R.I.), an impeachment investigator.

The decision to ignore a congressional subpoena comes with risk. House Democrats could hold Vought and his aides in contempt of Congress or take them to court to try to compel their testimony, as the party has done for former White House counsel Donald McGahn. Democrats have said they will not wait on the courts before they proceed with their impeachment inquiry. But by suing Trump officials, they could force testimony next year, shortly before the presidential election.

Beyond Vought, Blair and Duffey, impeachment investigators have summoned Brian McCormack, OMB associate director for natural resources, energy and science, to appear on Monday. A relative newcomer to OMB, McCormack served until recently as chief of staff to Energy Secretary Rick Perry.

Investigators believe McCormack could potentially provide details about Perry’s role in the Ukraine controversy because his former boss was intricately involved in the shadow policy surrounding Ukraine, according to witnesses testimony. Democrats have also subpoenaed Perry, who has said publicly he will not cooperate.

Blair’s closeness with Mulvaney — and professional past — has intrigued Democrats in particular. He served as associate director for national security programs at the OMB — the position now held by Duffey — before he followed Mulvaney to the White House in January to become Mulvaney’s senior adviser.

Blair also spent roughly 14 years as a staffer in the House of Representatives, working on a panel known for its bipartisanship, the Appropriations Committee. Blair’s role as a longtime committee staffer put him in conflict with Mulvaney when Mulvaney served in the House as a leader of the conservative Freedom Caucus that constantly opposed spending legislation needed to keep the government open.

With the Appropriations Committee under new leadership at the start of the Trump administration, Blair was looking for a new job and chose to join the OMB in March 2017 under Mulvaney’s leadership, according to two former congressional staffers who knew him well.

Blair’s longtime service on the Appropriations Committee would also give him a unique perspective on Trump’s decision to delay aid to Ukraine that had been appropriated by Congress, by the very committee he served for so long. The former staffers, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private relationships, described Blair as a consummate public servant who knew defense issues inside and out and would have hoped to preserve the government’s traditional commitments on those issues in transitioning to the Trump administration.

Both former staffers who knew Blair said he is not partisan. One of them said that his highly professional approach was “the antithesis to much of this administration” but, as such, he could “help protect the administration from making very dangerous decisions.”

 

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GreyhoundFan

"Trump's impeachment inbox"

Spoiler

President Trump doesn’t think House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry should get any media coverage.

Meanwhile, he’s ravenously consuming news about the subject — primarily through a friendly lens. From the Oval Office to the White House residence to Air Force One, he’s closely tracking how Republican members of Congress are digesting the latest revelations on his handling of Ukraine, and monitoring their statements for any sign of hesitation or perceived disloyalty.

“We’re getting fucking killed,” Trump often gripes — a complaint about media coverage that is escalating in volume and frequency amid the impeachment probe, according to a Republican close to the White House. “He does make that comment literally every day.”

Trump is especially frustrated that the depositions by current and former officials — which have taken place behind closed doors, but nonetheless have leaked in some detail to reporters — “have to be covered at all,” according to a senior White House official.

“We should have no speculative coverage of what’s going on inside these private briefings, according to the very people who keep it private,” said another White House official. “Either let everybody see what’s happening as it happens or keep your mouth shut.”

Trump tells White House aides in private that he sees no need for leaks from the depositions because everyone can read the transcript of his call with the president of Ukraine, which he has repeatedly called “perfect.” He also is critical of witnesses he accuses of “pretending they know what he meant” on the call.

To get news on impeachment, Trump often relies on his favorite Fox shows: Sean Hannity, Lou Dobbs, “Fox and Friends,” Tucker Carlson, Laura Ingraham and Jeanine Pirro, because he thinks they provide an alternative to the narrative many journalists in the more down-the-middle press are giving. He has grown especially enamored lately with Carlson’s show, according to a Republican close to the White House, though he has complained publicly about some of the more critical news coverage on Fox.

He is also a fan of John Solomon, the conservative journalist who first disseminated the unsubstantiated reporting about Joe Biden and Ukraine, as well as Solomon’s fellow Fox News contributor Sara Carter, according to a former White House official.

“He likes all these guys on Hannity who are beating the shit out of the left,” this person said.

Trump will also sometimes consume news from conservative outlets Newsmax and One America News Network, which tend to take a more uniformly pro-Trump line than Fox News. In private, he has erupted at Fox for bringing on former DNC chair Donna Brazile as a contributor, and has railed against its weekend hosts on Twitter.

Trump usually watches TV in the morning and at night in the residence, where he has a DVR-like device to record shows he can’t watch live. When he’s in the Oval Office, according to a former White House official, he’ll often watch impeachment news in the nearby private dining room.

When leaving the Oval Office, he will usually stop to look at a nearby television showing Fox News, Fox Business, CNN and MSNBC to check the news of the day and headlines on the stock market, according to an administration official.

His tweets often track closely with the programs he’s watching, and he’ll often quote snippets of dialogue or political arguments that favor his narrative.

On Oct. 23, a particularly prolific day for Trump, he tweeted or retweeted 9 tweets that had Fox content, including a retweet of RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel of a clip of a Trump interview with Sean Hannity, a Stephen Moore article on FoxBusiness.com, tweets related to appearances by Reps. Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.) and John Ratcliffe (R-Texas) on Fox, a Sean Hannity tweet on Ukraine and corruption, two tweets related to a Matt Whitaker appearance on Fox and two tweets with Fox News clips of Trump’s Syria announcement.

To stay current on impeachment, Trump also gets regular in-person briefings from different parts of the White House, including the counsel’s office, the legislative affairs shop and the press office, all dealing with their specific aspects of impeachment. In those briefings, Trump asks questions like “Who’s up this week?” — meaning who is giving depositions — and “What does that mean?”

White House aides who share the president’s frustration with the entire impeachment process say he often vents his irritation with the House probe because, as one put it, he believes it is all just “so distracting.”

“He didn’t do anything wrong, so he’s rightfully frustrated,” this person added.

But Trump is also closely monitoring Republicans on Capitol Hill in near real time, looking to stamp out any signs of an incipient revolt and intervening when he deems it necessary.

“He keeps track of everything that’s going on up there from who’s going up there [to] who’s at these various basement events [to] what people are saying in hallway conversations, in media interviews, in floor statements, all that sort of stuff,” said a White House official.

Trump also will sometimes direct staffers to send printouts of news stories, such as articles he particularly enjoyed, and other material on all sorts of issues, including impeachment, to members up on the Hill via email, hand delivery and in person through meetings and visits to the Hill.

Trump’s impeachment media diet isn’t all television shows and clips. Besides the Wall Street Journal and the New York Post, which are still delivered to the White House residence every day before dawn, Trump also gets various printouts and Twitter reactions related to impeachment and other topics in the news in a daily briefing book put together from the staff secretary’s office that goes back to the private residence every night.

“They don’t discriminate with good, bad or otherwise,” said a former official, describing the process of putting together the briefing book. Aides make sure to include news on what “hot-button topics” are getting traction in major media outlets.

When he reads newspapers, Trump will sometimes circle stories that he believes are wrong and tell staffers to “call this reporter” or “get this reporter on the line,” said a former White House official.

On a more personal level, Trump relies on his closest GOP allies, such as Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) for news and insights into how impeachment is unfolding on Capitol Hill — and they don’t just give him positive spin, according to an administration official.

Trump is in frequent touch with House members who are in the deposition room with witnesses, noted one Republican familiar with his conversations, who stressed that members of Congress are barred from sharing details of the testimony.

Last Sunday, Trump brought Graham, Meadows and a number of other members with him, including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), to Game 5 of the World Series, where Trump and the members touched on impeachment but also discussed baseball, according to a Republican familiar with the conversations.

The outreach extends beyond the president.

“The entire White House is on a charm offensive with the members,” said another White House official, noting efforts to bring Republican members to Camp David, invite them to lunches and briefings, and try to keep them abreast of the White House’s perspective. These encounters are an opportunity for Trump’s team to “hear from them and what they think, what they hear and what they expect and give them an opportunity to ask questions,” the official said.

Trump also has been retweeting many Republican members as part of his strategy to keep them loyal. “It’s different from Mueller in that the main audience is them, and it’s important that he’s reflecting and retweeting what they’re saying on the Twitter feed,” said the official.

Although the White House has canceled its subscriptions to the New York Times and the Washington Post, current and former White House officials say he’s likely still reading those papers in some fashion. People close to Trump, including aides, are still printing out Times and Post articles on the news of the day, including impeachment, and giving them to him, according to an administration official. They’ll also often mention articles to him and if he hasn’t already seen a particular story, he’ll ask for it to be printed out and given to him, said the official.

While he’s very unhappy with the coverage of impeachment, Trump believes Republicans’ complaints about the process are starting to draw blood, according to the senior White House official: “When CNN is even saying this stuff shouldn’t be done behind closed doors that’s something. So in that way, we’re all recognizing that at least that’s pushing through a little bit.”

But Trump also thinks the mainstream media doesn’t even bother to work his perspective into stories on impeachment.

“Nothing about the process has been fair, and nothing about the coverage has been fair,” is what he tells aides, according to a senior White House official. Trump also thinks the media is “looking for any excuse possible to highlight efforts to unseat him,” said an administration official.

He has also insisted that White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham go on television more to defend him, according to two Republicans close to the White House, seeing that as a vital part of her duties. Grisham has appeared on television several times in recent weeks, and Trump has privately praised her fiery performances.

But the president is also frustrated that more of his allies aren’t defending him and his governing record every day on TV.

“Why aren’t there more surrogates talking about the achievements that have been taking place?” he has told people, according to a Republican who has discussed the matter with him. “He feels that maybe only he can do it himself, or gets frustrated at previous staff or previous surrogates at not being out there enough.”

Mercedes Schlapp, the former director of strategic communications in the White House, recently was put in charge of surrogates for the Trump campaign, where she is a senior adviser, according to a person familiar with the matter. She’s tried to ensure the campaign is prioritizing surrogates and getting them the campaign’s talking points, including on impeachment, this person said.

Trump’s frustration with impeachment echoes that of former President Bill Clinton, who also voraciously followed the news about his political plight.

Back then, White House staffers provided Clinton with clips and summaries of the latest impeachment stories each day, but he also got information from his lawyers as well as from periodically watching TV news coverage.

“I never held anything back from him” in terms of bad news, said former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who was a senior adviser for Clinton, including during part of impeachment.

“I think you can imagine” what the president’s reaction was to bad news days, Emanuel said, alluding to Clinton’s famously volcanic temper.

But he also said that it was important for staffers to give the president news about domestic and foreign policy issues to prevent Clinton from being “absorbed” too much by his impeachment.

For similar reasons, some Trump advisers try to steer clear of impeachment news altogether, according to a senior administration official, who said he purposefully doesn’t read any news about the subject.

“I scan news clips each day related to my file and nothing more,” the official said. “I don’t track the impeachment news at all, and avoid reading the newspapers.”

 

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fraurosena

Still on Bannon interview. Quite a lot of information from him, although I do have my doubts about the veracity of some of his claims.

Financial woes.

[...] In August 2016, Kushner was in charge of the digital campaign and fundraising. Bannon was the CFO of the campaign with Jeff Dewit. The campaign had almost no cash and they were receiving only a small amount from online contributions. The campaign was losing cash at the time and they were down by a double digit lead with the 1st debate coming. They needed $50 million from Trump, which eventually became $10 million. Afterwards, they were still down by 3 1/2 points. 

[...]

Prince was going to have fundraiser for Trump and considered it his commitment to the campaign. Bannon did not remember introducing [redacted] to any other donors. Bannon did not remember helping any other find funding besides [redacted] Bannon was weary of involving himself with [redacted] and was only helping out [redacted} because he did not wat to be "lit up" by [redacted] Bannon did not see it as a potential coordination issue working with [three redacted lines].

The 33,000 email obsession.

[...] Bannon was interested in the verified missing 33,000 emails and how it related to Uranium One. Bannon might have talked with [redacted] at one time, about the  33,000 emails. Bannon did talk to Candidate Trump about the 33,000 missing emails. After Bannon came onto the campaign, it got into Candidate Trump's "head" that the 33,000 emails might be important. Trump was focussed on "crooked Hillary" and the Uranium One story, and thought the 33,00 missing emails might unlock it. They never discussed that the Russians might have them. Bannon thought that some hackers in Bulgaria might have them. There was not much of a response from Trump and every now and then he would bring up the 33,000 emails. One time when the Podesta emails were released, Trump asked if it was a big deal. Bannon [redacted redacted] with Trump. Flynn or Kellogg might have had a disc on finding the 33,00 emails. Bannon thought Flynn might have had an idea about using an outside company and finding the 33,000 missing emails. Kellogg thought the same thing, and he was not a cyber guy. Priebus and Miller had talked about the 33,000 missing emails.

On Manafort, Bannon clearly lied, as it's already established that Manafort was still heavily involved in the campaign and even well after, into 2018. Note how Bannon inadvertently links Manafort and Russia.

[...] Bannon stated that Manafort had zero involvement in the campaign after he left. [...] Bannon was not aware of any instances of Manafort advising, or being involved in the campaign after his ouster. Hicks said he was not involved, and she would have a sense on who Trump talked to. Candidate Trump never said to Bannon that he was in contact with [redacted] or Manafort. Bannon [...] wanted to avoid Manafort because Bannon believed that if people could link them to Manafort, they could then try to link them to Russia.

Bannon's cell phones and (un)secure use of them.

Bannon is obviously lying again. I don't believe for a second he didn't know his text message's weren't being archived. His lack of memory on the subject of the federal records act is... remarkable.

Bannon had three cell phones. He did not use the campaign issued phone or the "secure phone." The iPad he was issued on the campaign he did not use much. banon was not aware that his cell phone was set up to not archive text messages, and someone else had set up his phone for him. It was a surprise to Bannon that his text messages were not archived. During the campaign and transition timeframe Bannon did not use secure apps. When Bannon got close to leaving the administration, he got ProtonMail and Signal. [redacted] helped him set up the ProtonMail which Bannon believed provided increased security. Bannon did not use ProtonMail to send or receive email from people in the administration. Bannon did not have a Slack channel and never used Slack. Breitbart used Slack, but the were trying to shut that down. Bannon set up a Wickr account after he left the administration after Prince talked to him about it being more secure. Prince talked with Bannon about using Wickr Pro for Breitbart. Bannon used Wickr with Prince and Signal with [redacted redacted] Bannon only started using Wickr and Signal after he left the administration. While Bannon was in the administration, he never heard of anyone using 3rd party apps. they received a briefing on how their communications needed to be kept for federal records. Bannon was not sure if his text messages were supposed to be kept under the federal records act. Bannon did not remember using his personal phone for White House business. Bannon did not remember using texting on his government devices, although he might have. Bannon did not remember any discussion of how his text messages should be saved, or his personal device texts should be saved. Bannon primarily used the White House email while he was in the administration. If Bannon received an email to his "arc-ent" email while he was in the White House, he would respond to it from the "arc-ent" account. He gave full access to his "arc-ent" email account to [redacted] in order for her to send them to the White House account to be archived. [redacted] might have helped with that as well.

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fraurosena

As you may have noticed, there are quite a lot of emails that are referred to during Bannon's interview. The FOIA document has copies of the originals added. This one about Kushner is particularly interesting. Not only does it link Jared to the Russian oligarch, but it also ties him to Wikileaks.

1844615461_Screenshot2019-11-04at12_21_23.png.79aefabfb3d5b551e6a8daf4a4f47ef1.png1392196817_Screenshot2019-11-04at12_21_45.png.cff8161ab23cd5f6a33b1091dd98186d.png

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fraurosena

This is from a very lengthy email Prince sent to Bannon. This paragraph shows that they knew/know exactly who and what Putin is and what he wants.

[...]

Russia: Vladimir Putin is a former KGB officer who understands how to wield power. that's been his entire life's work. He sees himself as the next Peter the Great and as someone who will reassemble the grandness of the Soviet Empire. He is hell bent to destroy NATO and demonstrate it to be an empty feckless vessel. He's well on his way with the invasions of Georgia, a massive hybrid war ongoing in Ukraine. You should look to him to provide some major provocations in the remaining time of the Obama Administration. He's restarting the Cold War in every way, even now building 40 new state of the art Mobile nuclear missiles, each carrying four warheads. Think of that, 160 American cities vulnerable to extinction from brand new weaponry. Putin has no real opposition and his propaganda goes not only unchecked but even unanswered by America and the west as the U.S. Govt has downsized or cancelled much of its VOA World Service. People that live in oppressed areas really do listen, and they listen even harder when their host government tried to jam the signals. Putin can be managed but the full spectrum of statecraft must be unleashed on him: Russia is a far greater threat than China.

This is from another email from Prince to Bannon:

Steve [redacted] Russia's actions in the Ukraine, the Middle East and their more aggresssive [sic] posture of late are certainly issues that Mr. Trump needs to understand fluently. Pleas consider meeting with Oleg [Vladimirovich] to hear the perspective of a nation on the receiving end... He's the Nat Sec Advisor of Ukraine. He will be in DC from Tuesday to Friday this week.

Oleg is being escorted by my good friend [redacted] form LA. He's in the aerospace business.

Once you have any approvals needed we can sort the meeting logistics.

 

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fraurosena

Holy Rufus! They were already positing the conspiracy theory that the Russians were helping Hillary in this email from 10/18/2016.

Spoiler

1789005363_Screenshot2019-11-04at13_08_49.png.928d746d94e64469ab4157bd5eae17d9.png

Fredo-dumb's mail, confirming what we already know:

Spoiler

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This email exchange debunks Bannon's assertions that Manafort wasn't working for/advising the campaign after his ouster. It does show Bannon doesn't want the campaign to be (visibly) connected to Manafort.

Spoiler

1196953510_Screenshot2019-11-04at14_19_50.png.2be2af9dfd18dde8605d9936cb0f2898.png

 

Edited by fraurosena
added spoilers

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fraurosena

Another Cohen interview is next in the FOIA document. It is [redacted] for the most part. But these single sentences are rather explosive. I think they're left in because Cohen has alluded this during is congressional testimony.

[first three pages redacted] Trump Junior said to Trump that he was setting up a meeting in order to get dirt on Hillary Clinton.

[half a page redacted] Regarding the timing of the meeting, Cohen thought it was prior to June 9th, 2016 by a couple of days. [paragraph redacted] Cohen reviewed a calendar of June 2016 and estimated the conversation he witnessed between Trump Junior and Trump was Monday, June 6, 2016.

[three pages redacted] Cohen heard [two lines redacted] Trump said "oh good, alright." 

Except for three meaningless phrases (because of lack of context), the last 14 pages of the interview are also redacted. 

And with that, I've gotten to the end of the FOIA documents. Phew!

Now I can finally go and see what else happened in American politics this weekend :my_biggrin:

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fraurosena

@Howl, as you predicted in the other thread, the four witnesses subpoenaed to testify today did not appear. Three of them notified the Committees beforehand of their decision. Eisenberg did not have that simple decency and just didn't appear.

The argument given by Michael Ellis for not appearing is that DOJ's office of legal counsel has judged the subpoena is "invalid". Ergo, this is Barr's influence at work. They want 'sufficient protection of the relevant privileges here'. In other words, they want the ability to not answer questions under the 'executive privilege' banner. In essence, they will only come if they can refuse to answer (difficult) questions. 

They think they are being clever. However, all these no shows do add to the impeachment articles of obstruction. 

White House Officials Decline to Appear For Closed-Door Trump Impeachment Inquiry

Quote

The impeachment inquiry into President Trump turned its spotlight on Monday on four top White House officials, asking them to testify behind closed doors as Democrats probe whether Trump held up military aid as leverage to get Ukraine to investigate his political rivals.

But three of them made clear they would not appear. The fourth — John Eisenberg, the top lawyer at the National Security Council — failed to show up on Capitol Hill for his scheduled deposition time.

Eisenberg is believed to have made the call to lock down records of the July 25 phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in an electronic system meant for sensitive classified information.

Eisenberg's deputy, Michael Ellis — who also received a subpoena — will not appear, Ellis' lawyer Paul Butler of Akin Gump told NPR.

Butler said he informed inquiry staff that Ellis had been advised by the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel "that the failure to include or allow agency counsel to an interview doesn't sufficiently protect the relevant privileges here, especially for a lawyer," referring to both executive privilege and attorney-client privilege. The Office of Legal Counsel deemed the subpoena "invalid," and Butler said Ellis had "been instructed not to appear."

"Michael is respectful of the legislative branch and will cooperate with a valid subpoena," Butler said.

Last month, head White House counsel Pat Cipollone said that White House officials would not cooperate with the inquiry, arguing that it "violates fundamental fairness and constitutionally mandated due process" and privilege and immunity for the executive branch of government.

Two other White House officials invited to testify on Monday are declining to cooperate.

Rob Blair, who serves as an adviser to acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney on national security issues, will not appear, a source familiar with the situation told NPR.

Brian McCormack, an energy official at the White House Office of Management and Budget, also will not testify, a spokeswoman for the OMB confirmed to NPR on Sunday.

Focus on Eisenberg

Eisenberg was named by several witnesses in closed-door testimony to the inquiry. Two NSC officials said they took their concerns about a July 10 White House meeting with Ukrainian officials to Eisenberg. And two officials who listened to the July 25 phone call between Trump and Zelenskiy said they talked to Eisenberg about their worries.

According to multiple reports, it was Eisenberg who put records of that call into a highly secure system meant for sensitive classified information.

"If he put the president's conversation with the Ukrainian leader on a restricted platform, which I think he did, then he had every good reason to do it," Michael Mukasey, a former attorney general in the Bush administration who worked with Eisenberg, said in an interview with NPR. "Conversations between heads of state generally are the kinds of conversations that neither participant wants to see released to the public."

Eisenberg, a graduate of Stanford University and Yale Law School, served in the Bush administration as associate deputy attorney general, working on national security issues. He then worked for law firm Kirkland and Ellis before joining Trump's White House shortly after the president's inauguration.

People who have worked with Eisenberg describe him as a competent and careful lawyer who keeps detailed notes. One former colleague in the Trump administration told NPR that Eisenberg would force staffers to leave conversations if they showed up to a meeting without proper clearance. A second former colleague described Eisenberg as a "pretty scrupulous" person who likely would have made a record of why he made the decisions he took.

Eisenberg has three titles, which is rare, Mukasey said. "Don't know anybody who's ever been all three," Mukasey said. "And yet obviously people have confidence in his judgment across the board so that he holds all three positions."

The House inquiry had lined up a long list of high-ranking Trump administration officials who they want to talk to before they move into the next phase of the probe, which will involve public hearings and the release of transcripts from closed-door depositions. Rep. Jackie Speier, a Democratic member of the House Intelligence Committee, said on CBS' Face the Nation on Sunday that she thinks transcripts could be released later this week.

Other officials who have been called this week are not expected to appear. Michael Duffey, an OMB national security specialist, and acting OMB Director Russell Vought, will decline to cooperate, an OMB spokeswoman said.

Energy Secretary Rick Perry's press secretary confirmed on Friday that he would not appear for a closed-door deposition.

Lawmakers have also asked to hear from Wells Griffith, an NSC energy specialist, and two State Department officials, David Hale and T. Ulrich Brechbuhl.

 

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fraurosena

Drumroll please!

The first testimonies have been released!

I'll be off reading this for the next couple of hours then... 

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SassyPants

Yovanovitch’s excerpts are pretty clearly damaging to Trump. 

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GreyhoundFan

Analysis from Aaron Blake and Amber Phillips: "7 takeaways from Marie Yovanovitch’s and Michael McKinley’s Ukraine testimony"

Spoiler

We got our first glimpse of full closed-door testimony in the House’s impeachment inquiry on Monday. After getting piecemeal information about previous witnesses, the House released full transcripts from the depositions of former Ukraine ambassador Marie Yovanovitch and former top State Department aide Michael McKinley, who recently resigned in protest.

There is perhaps nothing earth-shattering in the two documents, but they do fill out the picture of a concerted effort by Trump allies to remove Yovanovitch — and a State Department willing to go only so far to defend her.

1. An ominous allusion to Yovanovitch’s ‘security’

In perhaps the most intriguing passage — and one that will require more inquiry — Yovanovitch says she was told she needed to return from Ukraine in late April because of concerns about her “security.”

She said she spoke at 1 a.m. Ukraine time with Director General of the Foreign Service Carol Perez, who told her to catch the next flight home.

“She said that there was a lot of concern for me, that I needed to be on the next plane home to Washington,” Yovanovitch said. “And I was like, what? What happened? And she said, I don’t know, but this is about your security. You need to come home immediately. You need to come home on the next plane.”

Yovanovitch was pressed on what Perez meant about her “security,” but Perez didn’t seem to know much:

YOVANOVITCH: And I said, physical security? I mean, is there something going on here in the Ukraine? Because sometimes Washington has intel or something else that we don’t necessarily know. And she said, no, I didn’t get that impression, but you need to come back immediately. And, I mean, I argued with her. I told her I thought it was really unfair that she was pulling me out of post without any explanation, I mean, really none, and so summarily.

Q: She didn’t give you an explanation for why it had to be so soon?

YOVANOVITCH: She said it was for my security, that this was for my well-being, people were concerned.

Q: What did you understand that to mean?

YOVANOVITCH: I didn’t know because she didn’t say, but my assumption was that, you know, something had happened, some conversations or something, and that, you know, now it was important that I had to leave immediately because I didn’t really know.

It would seem the investigations might inquire where Perez got this impression. Saying someone is under political duress is one thing; saying it’s a matter of their “security” is another.

2. She said she felt ‘threatened’ by Trump

Yovanovitch said that when she saw the transcript of the phone call between Trump and Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky, in which Trump said of Yovanovitch, “She’s going to go through some things,” she felt threatened:

Q: What did you understand that to mean?

YOVANOVITCH: I didn’t know what it meant. I was very concerned. I still am.

Q: Did you feel threatened?

YOVANOVITCH: Yes.

3. Another Ukraine official expressed concerns about being roped into U.S. politics

The official is Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov. Yovanovitch says he told her this in February:

Q: What were his concerns as expressed to you?

YOVANOVITCH: He thought it was — so he thought it was very dangerous, that Ukraine, since its independence, has had bipartisan support from both Democrats and Republicans all these years, and that to start kind of getting into U.S. politics, into U.S. domestic politics, was a dangerous place for Ukraine to be.

Yovanovitch said Avakov specifically cited former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort’s “black ledger” and unsubstantiated allegations about Ukrainian interference in the U.S. election and Joe Biden.

We already know that top Ukrainian defense official Oleksandr Danyliuk expressed concern to Yovanovitch’s replacement, William B. Taylor, about Zelensky being used as a “pawn” for Trump’s reelection campaign, according to Taylor’s testimony. There was also a May meeting in which Zelensky and top aides spent much of three hours trying to figure out how to navigate their tough position and avoid becoming wrapped up in U.S. politics, according to the Associated Press.

It seems the concern was quite widespread, and it began even earlier than previously known.

4. Sondland told Yovanovitch to tweet support of Trump

Yovanovitch says Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland urged her to tweet her support of President Trump to help save her job.

“He hadn’t been aware of” the campaign against her, Yovanovitch said, adding that “he said, you know, you need to go big or go home. You need to, you know, tweet out there that you support the president, and that all these are lies and everything else.”

Asked whether Sondland’s suggestion was as explicit as that, Yovanovitch added, “I mean, he may not have used the words ‘support President Trump,’ but he said, 'You know the President — well, maybe you don’t know him personally, but you know, you know the sorts of things that he likes. You know, go out there battling aggressively and, you know, praise him or support him.”

Yovanovitch said she didn’t heed the suggestion because “It was advice that I did not see how I could implement in my role as an Ambassador, and as a Foreign Service officer.”

This is merely the latest example of the politicization of certain elements of the Foreign Service — and the fact that people around Trump know the ticket to his good graces is personal praise.

5. McKinley resigned in part because he thought the State Department was being used for a political mission

McKinley has spent nearly 40 years working in foreign service and indicated he felt that what was happening around him was undermining the mission of American diplomats. This was the gist of reporting around his testimony in October, but this is the first time we’re hearing the former senior adviser to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo say it on the record:

In terms of supporting our values, we’re also the front line in promoting issues of human rights, democracy, and cooperation internationally. In this context, frankly, to see the emerging information on the engagement of our missions to procure negative political information for domestic purposes, combined with the failure I saw in the building to provide support for our professional cadre in a particularly trying time, I think the combination was a pretty good reason to decide enough, that I had—I had no longer a useful role to play.

Later, a questioner asked whether it was fair to say he resigned in part because he couldn’t be blind to using the State Department to dig up dirt on a political opponent.

“That is fair,” he said, adding: “And if I can underscore, in 37 years in the Foreign Service and different parts of the globe and working on many controversial issues, working 10 years back in Washington, I had never seen that.”

6. Pompeo put the brakes on a public statement in support of Yovanovitch

We don’t know why Pompeo stopped it, but McKinley said Pompeo’s determination not to issue a statement supporting Yovanovitch after the release of the Ukraine call transcript contributed to his decision to resign. It underscores the serious divide between political officials at the State Department like Pompeo and career officials like McKinley. Being a bridge between those two worlds was McKinley’s job, and he felt he couldn’t do it effectively after he tried, and failed, to stand up for Yovanovitch in the face of Trump’s attacks. He noted dismay among State Department employees “that there was no reaction from anybody in the career Foreign Service at senior ranks to do something more public in support of our colleagues. ”

McKinley asked Yovanovitch whether she wanted a statement of support, testifying it would be “the appropriate thing” to do after Trump said she was “bad news” in the now-public Ukraine call transcript. He testified that she said, “Yes, I would welcome it.” And he got four other senior officials on board. Then Pompeo intervened to stop it. From the transcript:

Q: What happened next?

A: Probably a couple hours later [State Department spokesperson] Morgan [Ortagus] reached out to me by phone and told me that the Secretary had decided that it was better not to release a statement at this time and that it would be in part to protect Ambassador Yovanovitch not draw undue attention to her.

McKinley said he had three conversations with Pompeo about this (even though Pompeo has publicly denied they talked about this). McKinley said he received silence every time and eventually decided to resign about a month early. And he made sure to let Pompeo know: “And in presenting my resignation, I made clear that I was looking to leave the Department, I wasn’t looking to create any news story out of it, but that he should be aware that, of course, part of the reason, people were very aware that I was concerned about what I saw as the lack of public support for Department employees,” he testified.

7. McKinley took issue with Pompeo’s letter to Congress refusing to cooperate with the impeachment inquiry

At the very least, McKinley didn’t think Pompeo was supporting State Department personnel in this inquiry the way Pompeo claimed he was.

Let’s back up for a minute. Very early in the impeachment inquiry, Pompeo told the Democratic heads of the investigatory committees that State Department officials wouldn’t be cooperating (obviously, that didn’t hold). McKinley didn’t read the letter, but another senior colleague, George Kent, the deputy assistant secretary of state responsible for Ukraine, did. Kent wrote a memo that McKinley did read and said it was pretty rough on Pompeo. It “includes allegations of intimidation and bullying and questions accuracy—I don’t know whether I used the word—and raises questions about whether there are lies in statements, you know. And then I said: ‘And this is why we really need to do something forcefully for our colleagues in the Foreign Service. And I also mentioned, frankly, the legal fees concern that I had.’ ”

He later testified it is “correct” that Kent felt concerned that he and others asked to testify in the impeachment inquiry were being bullied by the State Department. Kent has testified he was told to “lay low” on Ukraine policy and let Trump’s political appointees handle it.

McKinley is an ancillary witness to the central allegations against Trump, that the president politicized U.S. foreign policy for personal gain. He did not oversee Ukraine issues and wasn’t on the July call with Ukraine’s president. But overall, his testimony indicates he thought Trump’s political allies were politicizing the State Department in a way that would be consistent with the allegations facing the president.

 

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GreyhoundFan

A good one from Dana Milbank: "So this is why Trump doesn’t want officials to testify"

Spoiler

Now we see why the Trump administration doesn’t want officials to testify in the impeachment inquiry.

Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) released the first batch of transcripts Monday from the closed-door depositions, including that of Marie Yovanovitch, the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine removed from her post by President Trump at the urging of his lawyer, Rudy Giuliani.

If this is a sign of what’s to come, Republicans will soon regret forcing Democrats to make impeachment proceedings public. Over 10 hours, the transcript shows, they stumbled about in search of a counter-narrative to her damning account.

Yovanovitch detailed a Hollywood-ready tale about how Giuliani and two of his now-indicted goons hijacked U.S. foreign policy as part of a clownish consortium that also included Sean Hannity and a corrupt Ukrainian prosecutor. Their mission: to oust the tough-on-corruption U.S. ambassador who threatened to frustrate Giuliani’s plans to get Ukraine to come up with compromising material on Joe Biden and the Democratic Party.

Mike Pompeo has a cameo as the feckless secretary of state who refuses to stand up for his diplomat out of fear of setting off an unstable Trump. It all culminated in a 1 a.m. call from State’s personnel director telling Yovanovitch to get on the next flight out of Kyiv. Why? “She said, ‘I don’t know, but this is about your security. You need to come home immediately.’ ”

Yovanovitch, overcome with emotion at one point in her testimony, said she later learned that the threat to her security was from none other than Trump, who, State officials feared, would attack her on Twitter if she didn’t flee Ukraine quickly.

Confronted with this Keystone Kops way of governing, Republicans didn’t really attempt to defend Trump’s actions. Instead, they pursued one conspiracy theory after another involving the Bidens, George Soros, the Clinton Foundation, Hillary Clinton, the Obama administration, deep state social-media “tracking” and mishandling classified information. They ate up a good chunk of time merely complaining that Yovanovitch’s opening statement had been made public (which under the rules was allowed).

“Ambassador,” Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) interjected, “are you aware of anyone connected to you that might have given that to The Washington Post?”

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) interjected: “Did you talk to the State Department about the possibility of releasing your opening statement to the press?”

Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.) jumped in: “Ambassador Yovanovitch, do you believe that it is appropriate for your opening statement to be provided to The Washington Post?”

But Trump will need more than complaints about leaks to counter the narrative that Yovanovitch — and others — have documented.

Ukrainian officials had told her to “watch [her] back” because Yuri Lutsenko, a Ukrainian prosecutor with an unsavory reputation, was “looking to hurt” her and had several meetings with Giuliani toward that end. Lutsenko “was not pleased” that she continued to push for cleaning up Lutsenko’s office, and he tried to meet with Trump’s Justice Department to spread misinformation about her — including the now-recanted falsehood that she had given him a “do-not-prosecute list.”

She testified that wary Ukrainian officials knew as early as January or February that Giuliani was seeking damaging information on the Bidens and the Democrats — perhaps in exchange for Trump’s endorsement of the then-president’s reelection.

When Yovanovitch was attacked by Giuliani and Donald Trump Jr., among others, she asked for Pompeo to make a statement supporting her, but he didn’t do it because it might be “undermined” by a presidential tweet. (Pompeo did, apparently, have a private conversation asking Hannity to cease his attack on her.) Instead of support, she got career advice: Tweet nice things about Trump.

Notably, Republicans didn’t respond to her testimony by trying to make Trump’s behavior look good; they probed for ways to make Yovanovitch look bad.

They suggested she was part of a diplomatic conspiracy to monitor Trump allies such as Laura Ingraham, Lou Dobbs and Sebastian Gorka. They probed for damaging details on the Bidens (“Were you aware of just how much money Hunter Biden was getting paid by Burisma?”) and for ways to damage her credibility (“What was the closest that you’ve worked with Vice President Biden?”). Maybe Ukraine really did try to help Hillary Clinton in 2016, they posited. Maybe Ukrainian officials were “trying to sabotage Trump.” They asked if she ever said anything that might have led somebody to “infer a negative connotation regarding” Trump.

Meadows, struggling mightily to prove some wrongdoing by Yovanovitch, found he couldn’t pronounce the names he had been given — so he spelled them out. “I’m sorry, I’m not Ukrainian,” he said.

“Neither am I,” she replied.

No, she’s what threatens Trump most: an honest American.

 

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GreyhoundFan

More testimony has been released. Aaron Blake has a good analysis of important takeaways.

Spoiler

We got two of the most important transcripts of the Ukraine investigation on Tuesday, with the House releasing the depositions of Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland and former special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker. Both were instrumental in managing President Trump’s and Rudolph W. Giuliani’s insistence that Ukraine launch investigations that could benefit Trump politically. They formed two of the so-called “three amigos” in charge of that process, along with Energy Secretary Rick Perry.

Below are some key takeaways.

1. Sondland strongly confirms a quid pro quo — but doesn’t connect it to Trump

We knew that Sondland’s lawyer clarified his testimony to the Wall Street Journal, saying Sondland did in fact confirm a quid pro quo.

And now we see that clarification was apparently sent to the impeachment inquiry, too — on Monday. In it, Sondland says there was no other “credible” explanation other than a quid pro quo and confirms the testimonies of acting Ukraine ambassador Bill Taylor and National Security Council aide Tim Morrison and the public comments of Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), all of whom said Sondland had described an explicit quid pro quo.

Sondland said that in “the beginning of September 2019, and in the absence of any credible explanation for the suspension of [hundreds of millions of dollars of military] aid, I presumed that the aid suspension had become linked to the proposed anti-corruption statement” that the Trump team asked Ukraine to make about the investigations. He added that “it would have been natural for me to have voiced what I had presumed to Ambassador Taylor, Senator Johnson, the Ukrainians and Mr. Morrison.”

Sondland also says, as Taylor and Morrison testified, that he told a top Ukrainian official that the “resumption of U.S. aid would likely not occur until Ukraine provided the public anti-corruption statement that we had been discussing for many weeks.”

Importantly, though — and this is key — Sondland doesn’t say this directive came from Trump. He instead says he was acting on his presumption. That could provide Trump a layer of insulation.

At the same time, though, even as Sondland has said Trump insisted to him there was no quid pro quo, everything about the situation he describes indicates there was a quid pro quo in everything but name.

2. Sondland thought the Biden setup was illegal

Sondland, a Trump appointee and Trump donor too, clearly wasn’t exactly looking to blow the lid off this scandal. But at certain points, he did suggest that the kind of quid pro quos that have been the subject of much debate — and have been confirmed by no fewer than six people, including him now — would indeed be bad and probably illegal.

Sondland’s main defense has been that, while he did push for an investigation into the company that employed Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden, Burisma Holdings, he didn’t know the situation involved the Bidens.

When he was asked why he was drawing that line, he acknowledged it was because that setup was bad.

“Because I believe I testified that it would be improper to do that,” he said.

A member then asked him, “And illegal, right?”

“I’m not a lawyer, but I assume so,” Sondland said.

Sondland added: “Again, I’m not a lawyer. I don’t know the law exactly. It doesn’t sound good.”

Whether Sondland thinks this was illegal doesn’t mean it is — just as Morrison saying Trump’s phone call with Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky wasn’t illegal doesn’t mean it wasn’t. But the fact that even Sondland, a Trump ally, is acknowledging the gravity of this is telling. And it makes it much more difficult for the Trump team to argue there’s nothing to see here.

This is a central figure, saying what we’ve learned actually happened was something he believed was illegal.

3. Sondland’s defense of himself still makes no sense

We already knew based on Sondland’s opening statement that his defense was ignorance on the Biden-Burisma stuff.

As I wrote though, that badly strains credulity. Giuliani’s effort to obtain such an investigation was reported publicly in early May, and he said at the time that this was explicitly about the Bidens. Trump himself also floated all of this publicly on May 19. Yet Sondland said in his opening statement that he was unaware of the connection on May 23 and even as late as August.

The idea that someone intimately involved in Ukraine like Sondland wouldn’t know why there was such interest in Burisma — and didn’t care to find out — seems impossible. And when pressed on this Sondland didn’t really have good answers:

Q: Well, but Mr. Giuliani was talking about Burisma and the Bidens. And it’s your testimony today you had no idea of any Biden connection to Burisma, it came as a complete revelation when you read the call record in September?

SONDLAND: I don’t recall when I finally—when the light finally went on that Burisma and the Bidens were connected, but certainly not early on at all. I can’t tell you the day that finally I said, oh, Burisma equals Biden. I have no idea when that was.

Q: But I think you suggested in your opening statement that you didn’t know until you read the call record, and it was an epiphany that the President wasn’t simply interested in this energy company—which, by the way, he doesn’t mention in the call record—but he was really interested in an investigation involving the Bidens.

SONDLAND: No, I think I said that I didn’t know what was in the call until I saw the call record. I had no idea that he had brought up the Bidens in the call until I saw the call report.

Q: But I think you were also suggesting that until you read that call record—and correct me if I’m wrong—until you read that call record, you never put two and two together that actually Burisma involved the Bidens, correct?

SONDLAND: I don’t recall when I finally put it together. I don’t recall what the date was or the place was or the time was. I don’t recall.

That doesn’t exactly sound like sticking to your opening statement. Sondland had to clarify on the quid pro quo, and he might need to clarify this too. There’s just no way this is true unless he was burying his head in the sand.

4. Volker undercuts Sondland’s defense, says Giuliani pushed ‘debunked’ claims

While that may be Sondland’s defense, it’s clearly not Volker’s. Volker testified that it was clear as day what Giuliani was up to.

He also agreed that theories pushed by Trump and Giuliani had been “debunked” and weren’t credible:

Q: So is it your testimony that you understood that Rudy Giuliani’s desire for the Ukrainian Government to investigate Burisma had to do with potential money laundering or other criminal conduct by the company itself, and not in connection to either Joe or Hunter Biden?

VOLKER: No. I believe that Giuliani was interested in Biden, Vice President Biden’s son Biden [sic], and I had pushed back on that, and I was maintaining that distinction.

Q: So you were maintaining that distinction, because you understood that that whole theory had been debunked and there was no evidence to support it, right?

A: Yes.

At another point, Volker says he urged Giuliani not to investigate the theories pushed by former Ukrainian prosecutor general Yuri Lutsenko because they were specious.

“I reached out to him to brief him, a couple of key points: Lutsenko is not credible. Don’t listen to what he is saying,” Volker said.

Yet more Trump team arguments undercut by sworn testimony.

5. GOP has no good rebuttal, except arguing the quid pro quo wasn’t explicit

When Volker was the first witness to submit to a deposition, Republicans insisted that his actual testimony -- rather than the select text messages Democrats released -- was actually good for Trump.

There is, quite simply, little sign of that here. Volker does say that he didn’t have a quid pro quo communicated to him, but he doesn’t say there wasn’t one.

“Well, you asked what conversations did I have about that quid pro quo, et cetera,” Volker tells a member at one point. “None, because I didn’t know that there was a quid pro quo.”

He adds at several other points, under questioning from Republicans, that a quid pro quo had never been expressly communicated to him by either U.S. or Ukrainian officials.

Q: That message that I heard you very loud and clear today is that there was no quid pro quo at any time ever communicated to you. Is that correct?

VOLKER: Not to me, that is correct.

That’s significant, because it suggests this perhaps wasn’t so overt. But Volker has an incentive to argue he didn’t explicitly participate in a quid pro quo that Sondland suggested might be illegal. And as Sondland’s testimony makes clear, it was pretty evident what the arrangement was.

Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) tweeted after their testimony was released, “The Volker/Sondland transcripts lay it out: @realDonaldTrump wanted to clean up corruption in Ukraine, and ensure taxpayer funded aid wasn’t going to corrupt causes."

The transcripts, in fact, show both Sondland and Volker believed Trump was only interested in investigations that carried personal benefits. Sondland even concedes how problematic the specific investigations were.

 

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Just in time to showboat for the cameras and their orange overlord: "House GOP eyes committee shake-up ahead of Trump impeachment hearings"

Spoiler

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy is planning to make a last-minute lineup change before open impeachment hearings of President Trump, potentially placing at least one of several fierce Trump defenders on a key committee — a move that has the president’s backing.

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), the top Republican on the House Oversight and Reform Committee and a veteran combatant in highly charged Capitol Hill investigations, has taken the leading role in closed-door depositions of key witnesses in the impeachment inquiry. But he is not a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, which Democrats last week voted to give the sole power to conduct public hearings.

According to three Republicans familiar with the talks but not authorized to comment publicly, McCarthy (R-Calif.) is considering placing Jordan on the panel, as well as others — such as Reps. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) and Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.), who have been involved in the depositions but do not sit on the Intelligence Committee.

Matt Sparks, a McCarthy spokesman, confirmed comments that McCarthy made to Politico Tuesday indicating that he planned to “make adjustments to that committee accordingly, for a short period of time” during the impeachment proceedings.

Any such move is likely to please Trump, who wants Jordan in particular “more involved” in his defense on Capitol Hill as one of his strong public defenders, according to a senior Trump administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to candidly describe the president’s thinking.

Trump often calls Jordan a “warrior” and has hand-written him a number of notes praising his public comments.

The official said multiple lawmakers have raised the idea with Trump, who have agreed with the suggestion. Meadows, a close friend of Jordan, has repeatedly talked with Trump. Meadows and McCarthy traveled with Trump Saturday to an mixed-martial arts championship match in New York, and both frequently speak on the phone with the president.

While Jordan has been an internal rival of McCarthy’s inside the House, launching a speaker bid against him last summer, both men are staunch defenders of Trump who would be loath to let any personal animosity impede the defense of the president.

In a Fox News Channel interview Tuesday, Jordan said any shuffle would be McCarthy’s call. “I just want to help our team,” he said. “I want to help the country see the truth here, that President Trump didn’t do anything wrong, and that what the Democrats are doing is partisan, it’s unfair and frankly it’s ridiculous.”

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), another Trump ally, added to the drumbeat Tuesday by calling on McCarthy to move the party’s most “effective questioners” to the Intelligence Committee in advance of the public hearings, suggesting Jordan, Meadows and Zeldin.

“If @Jim_Jordan @RepMarkMeadows & @RepLeeZeldin aren’t moved on in favor of Republicans who have skipped a majority of the testimony, then shame on us for failing @realDonaldTrump,” he tweeted Tuesday.

Adding Jordan or other members would require removing as many current members from the Intelligence Committee lineup. Speculation among Republicans has focused on two retiring members of the panel, Texas Reps. Will Hurd and K. Michael Conaway.

Hurd has been critical of Trump, specifically his racist tweets about four Democratic minority congresswomen, and his immigration policies.

The Republicans familiar with the talks said that Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), a close McCarthy ally, would likely remain as the ranking Republican on the Intelligence Committee. Nunes, however, has taken a subordinate role in the closed-door depositions, according to lawmakers present as well as transcripts released by Democrats this week.

Under the Democratic rules, Nunes has the sole power to direct Republican questioning during the opening rounds of the public impeachment hearings, lasting up to 45 minutes each. Nunes could cede the time to Intelligence panel staff members, but not to other lawmakers.

Not only has Jordan been an outsized presence inside the closed-door depositions, which have been conducted inside a secure facility three floors underneath the Capitol, his staff — primarily counsel Steve Castor — has taken the lead in questioning witnesses for the Republican side. It was unclear Tuesday whether Castor or other aides would be shuffled to the Intelligence Committee alongside Jordan.

Meanwhile, Democrats participating in the depositions have largely ceded their questioning to Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) and his investigations chief, attorney Daniel S. Goldman.

The potential move on placing Jordan on the Intelligence panel was first reported by CBS News Monday.

Another crucial committee shuffle could be in the offing later this year: Rep. Douglas A. Collins (R-Ga.), the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, is seeking the appointment of Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp to succeed retiring Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), who is set to step down at the end of the year for health reasons.

Under the rules adopted last week, the Intelligence Committee would forward a report on any findings of impeachment conduct to the Judiciary Committee, which would then draft and debate articles of impeachment. The Judiciary Committee has historically been the last stop before a House floor vote on impeachment.

Should Collins secure the appointment, it would set up a potential domino effect in the House Republican ranks. Jordan sought the top GOP post on Judiciary last year but lost out to Collins, taking the Oversight post as a consolation prize. Should he win the nod from fellow Republicans, that could open the Oversight post for Meadows, another Trump loyalist.

 

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