Trump’s likely criminal “promise” to Ukrainian President Zelensky and the DOJ’s campaign to keep it from Congress

A senior intelligence officer apparently heard something so troubling in a call between Donald Trump and a foreign leader that he or she sought out legal counsel with experience in whistle-blower cases, and, then, on August 12, through said attorney, reported it to the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community (IGIC), Michael K. Atkinson. Atkinson, finding the information contained in the report to be both “credible” and “urgent”, then, as required by law, forwarded the information to Acting Director of National Intelligence (DNI), Joseph Maguire. [“Urgent,” says House Intelligence Committee member Jackie Speier, “means it’s impacting our national security… at the highest level of concern.”] Maguire, as I understand it, then had seven days, according to federal law, in which to hand this “credible” and “urgent” information over to both the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, which he did not do. Instead, it would seem, he consulted with Bill Barr’s Department of Justice and determined that the information contained in the whistle-blower’s letter should be kept from Congress. This, as you can hear Congressman Adam Schiff stating here, is clearly a violation of the law.

While we don’t yet know the specifics of the whistle-blower’s letter, a few important facts have already come to the surface. We know, for instance, that the the whistle-blower’s concern stemmed from not one, but “multiple acts” on the part of Donald Trump, at least one of which involved a conversation between Donald Trump and a foreign leader in which something was “promised.” And, as of right now, it looks as though it all centers around the Ukraine. I should add at this point that Donald Trump denies that he said anything to a fellow world leader that might be construed as illegal. He says he’s too smart to say something like that when he knows that intelligence officers are listening.

Assuming this does involve conversations between Trump and recently elected Ukraine President Volodymyr Oleksandrovych Zelensky, one imagines it had to do with recent Republican attempts to manufacture dirt on Joe Biden, someone who Trump clearly fears facing in the 2020 general election… The following background, for those of you who might be unaware of what Trump and Guiliani have been doing in the Ukraine in service of their 2020 reelection campaign, comes by way of Just Security.

…The reporter’s questions to Pence struck at the heart of a controversy roiling U.S.-Ukraine relations since even before Zelenskyy’s election win in April. Starting at least late last year, President Donald Trump and his personal attorney and advisor, Rudy Giuliani, have agitated for Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Biden, the current frontrunner in the Democratic presidential race and the candidate they apparently think could be Trump’s biggest rival for a second term.

Trump and Giuliani allege, contrary to evidence, that Biden improperly pressured the Ukrainian government in 2016 to fire then-Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin in the midst of a corruption investigation of one of Ukraine’s biggest gas companies, Burisma Group. Biden’s youngest son, Hunter, was serving on the company’s board at the time.

But the prosecutor, in fact, was the target of pressure by Ukrainian anti-corruption advocates and a host of international supporters of Ukraine, who argued he should be fired for failing to pursue major cases of corruption. And it was the widely known and publicly espoused position of the U.S. government, across a half dozen agencies, that the prosecutor’s ouster was among crucial anti-corruption measures that the Ukrainian government needed to take to move forward economically and politically. As President Barack Obama’s point man on Ukraine, Biden dutifully relayed those messages at every opportunity.

Yet Trump and Giuliani have turned that real-life scenario on its head, falsely alleging that Biden sought to corruptly influence a Ukrainian prosecutor’s decisions in his son’s favor. The Trump camp’s steady volley of tweets, interviews and supportive articles by pro-Trump authors echoes the persistent Republican accusations against Hillary Clinton related to the Sept. 11, 2012, attacks on Benghazi, Libya, when she was Secretary of State…

So, given all of this, could it be that Donald Trump threatened to withhold U.S. aid, or arms, in until the Ukrainians agreed to deliver dirt (either real of manufactured) on Joe Biden? It certainly seems plausible, and Giuliani’s performance just now on CNN didn’t do very much to convince me otherwise. [He first adamantly denies that he asked the Ukrainians to look into Biden, and, just seconds later, says, “Of course I did.”]

I’m going to try not to get my hopes up, as we’ve seen other impeachable offenses come and go without much in the way of action on the part of Congress, but it does seem to me that things could be different this time, especially if there are recordings of Donald Trump offering a bribe to the leader of Ukraine in exchange for dirt on his political opponent. That, one thinks, would be difficult for Trump to worm his way out of.

update: Well, it looks like Giuliani just admitted it, tweeting out that Trump told Zelensky that he’d “better investigate” Biden.

update: Elizabeth Warren, as usual, is spot on.

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  1. Tom Nichols by proxy
    Posted September 19, 2019 at 10:19 pm | Permalink

    Rudy’s performance on @CNN just now was a level of pants-sh*tting panic rarely seen on national television.

  2. Anonymous
    Posted September 20, 2019 at 5:35 am | Permalink

    August 28 headline in Politico: “Trump holds up Ukraine military aid meant to confront Russia”

  3. Ben Rhodes by proxy
    Posted September 20, 2019 at 5:46 am | Permalink

    If Trump was trying to abuse his power of the presidency to solicit foreign help for his campaign, it’s hard to imagine a more impeachable offense.

  4. John Brown
    Posted September 20, 2019 at 6:57 am | Permalink

    “Extortion Racket” will be just one part of Agent Oranges criminal epitaph.

  5. Jean Henry
    Posted September 20, 2019 at 7:14 am | Permalink

  6. Jean Henry
    Posted September 20, 2019 at 7:31 am | Permalink

    From 8/21/19

    “Months after backing out of a trip to Ukraine amid criticism that he was mixing partisan politics with foreign policy, Rudolph W. Giuliani, President Trump’s personal lawyer, has renewed his push for the Ukrainian government to pursue investigations into political opponents of Mr. Trump.

    Over the last few weeks, Mr. Giuliani has spoken on the phone and held an in-person meeting, in Madrid, with a top representative of the new Ukrainian president, encouraging his government to ramp up investigations into two matters of intense interest to Mr. Trump”

    “While Mr. Trump and Mr. Zelensky have spoken on the phone, they have yet to meet in person. Meetings are possible next month, either on the sidelines of the United Nations meeting in New York or when Mr. Trump attends a World War II commemoration in Poland.

    But the Ukrainians covet a White House meeting as a symbolic show of support from a president who has often passed up opportunities to aggressively condemn Russia for its aggression.

    In an interview on Tuesday, Mr. Giuliani cast his efforts as intended to help Ukraine advance its long fight to root out corruption across its government, including among prosecutors. But he did not totally reject the suggestion that he was complicating relations between the two governments.”.

  7. Sad
    Posted September 20, 2019 at 7:33 am | Permalink

    I’ll give Trump a pass if he was doing something to get get a Joe Biden out of the race.

  8. Joe Biden
    Posted September 20, 2019 at 7:55 am | Permalink

    Sad, your parents didn’t play records for you, did they?

  9. Hyborian Warlord
    Posted September 20, 2019 at 8:13 am | Permalink

    Why would someone have to manufacture dirt on Biden? Didn’t he cause the Ukrainian investigator on his son’s Ukrainian employer to be fired? He openly bragged about it. This Ukraine and China corruption with the Biden family is incredible. Big money to the son of the VPOTUSA from foreign countries; all for what?

  10. Jean Henry
    Posted September 20, 2019 at 9:05 am | Permalink

    Joe Biden is funny!
    FF only has records. No tv. Someone needs to tell him.about this streaming thing.


  11. Jean Henry
    Posted September 20, 2019 at 9:07 am | Permalink

    ’Why would someone have to manufacture dirt on Biden’
    Not the issue, HW…

    You can’t see the irony of Trump’s posturing at least?

  12. Anonymous
    Posted September 20, 2019 at 9:19 am | Permalink

    HW, serious question, if Trump did nothing wrong, why is he breaking the law in order to keep us from knowing what he said on the call? Please answer.

  13. Maggie Haberman to Trump
    Posted September 20, 2019 at 9:31 am | Permalink

    TRUMP: Strange that with so many other people hearing or knowing of the perfectly fine and respectful conversation, that they would not have also come forward. Do you know the reason why they did not? Because there was nothing said wrong, it was pitch perfect!

    HABERMAN: There’s a solution if it’s “perfectly fine and respectful” – release the information and people can decide for themselves.

  14. Daily Beast
    Posted September 20, 2019 at 9:41 am | Permalink

    EXCLUSIVE: A top Ukrainian official says Kiev is ready to investigate Biden. All Trump has to do is ask, officially.

  15. Stephanie L Fremont
    Posted September 20, 2019 at 9:50 am | Permalink

    All I know is that if I wanted to get access to the top-secret intelligence data that the USA has, manipulating an election to get my stooge into the office of the President would be a pretty good way to do it. Naturally, I would want to ensure he stays there but complying with requests for dirt on their opponents. I am afraid that we may have to just accept that Putin is running things around here. Either that or vote!

    And really Sad, I can understand why you don’t like Biden but really? You are ok with this kind of corruption if it works in a way you like? That honestly disturbs me. I hope you were really just trying to express your level of dislike for Biden and wouldn’t actually give the president a pass for this kind of thing.

    And yes, our Joe Biden commenter here is hilarious. I need to go play some records or something.

  16. Hyborian Warlord
    Posted September 20, 2019 at 10:32 am | Permalink

    Baynard speculates Trump was trying to get fabricated dirt on Biden from Ukraine. What I said is a direct response to that.

  17. Frosted Flakes
    Posted September 20, 2019 at 11:21 am | Permalink

    I have zero idea what is going on here but I will put all my trust in Mark, Cuomo, and Schiff, if Disinterested Observer thinks I should.

  18. Ben Pershing from the WSJ
    Posted September 20, 2019 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

    NEWS: President Trump in a July phone call repeatedly pressured the president of Ukraine to investigate Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden ’s son, urging Volodymyr Zelensky about eight times to work with Rudy Giuliani.

  19. dogmatic dolt
    Posted September 20, 2019 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

    Aloha, getting out on the picket line for a while is a great way to lift one’s spirit.

  20. Anonymous
    Posted September 20, 2019 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

    Colluding with a foreign government to sway an election. I thought he didn’t do that before, why is he doing it now?

  21. iRobert
    Posted September 20, 2019 at 5:54 pm | Permalink

    I get the sense that Republicans feel the rest of us should join them in giving this obviously mentally and emotionally unstable President a pass on what is legal and/or moral conduct. Am I understanding that right?

  22. anonymous
    Posted September 21, 2019 at 6:36 am | Permalink

    Try not to think of us all as citizens of a constitutional republic we are responsible for preserving, but more like babysitters of a troubled and very sensitive eight yor old.

  23. Sad
    Posted September 21, 2019 at 9:09 am | Permalink

  24. disinterested observer
    Posted September 21, 2019 at 11:52 am | Permalink

    I don’t have an opinion about who Frosted Flakes should trust, however, it is my impartial observation that literally anyone is more trustworthy than President Trump.

  25. Hyborian Warlord
    Posted September 21, 2019 at 11:54 am | Permalink

    Turns out the “whistleblower” doesn’t know shit. Boom.

    “The whistleblower didn’t have direct knowledge of the communications, an official briefed on the matter told CNN. Instead, the whistleblower’s concerns came in part from learning information that was not obtained during the course of their work, and those details have played a role in the administration’s determination that the complaint didn’t fit the reporting requirements under the intelligence whistleblower law, the official said.”

  26. Taco Farts
    Posted September 22, 2019 at 8:42 am | Permalink

    Bribery is one of the two specific crimes listed under impeachment. Both Drumpf and Giuliani admitted to it openly.

    It’s not worth talking to those who are now saying 2 + 2 = banana. Stop trying. They’re either not arguing in faith or they’re brainwashed morons.

  27. Hyborian Warlord
    Posted September 22, 2019 at 8:56 am | Permalink

    It’s funny how easy it is now to make threads here come to a screeching halt. Just put up a simple fact and it’s all over. To try to keep it going you have to murder the truth. Guess what? You aren’t strong enough to do that.

  28. Hyborian Warlord
    Posted September 22, 2019 at 10:42 am | Permalink

    Welp I guess you were right about everything: 50,000 aryans descend on Houston for Trump rally

  29. dogmatic dolt
    Posted September 22, 2019 at 9:21 pm | Permalink

    Aloha, more mushrooms sprouting.

    find a picket line to support and be part of the movement creating a community of struggle–nothing comes easy.

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