Thursday, November 21, 2019

The Reach To Impeach, Con't

Today's impeachment hearings continued to be abysmally bad for Donald Trump as White House Russia expert Dr. Fiona Hill and State Department aide David Holmes backed up the most disastrous testimony for Trump yesterday from EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland.

Fiona Hill and David Holmes testified today that they very easily realized that Trump’s allies were talking about an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden when they mentioned “Burisma,” a Ukrainian energy company.

Some context: Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, had a high-paid position on the board of Burisma. He took the job while his father was the point person for the Obama administration’s policy toward Ukraine, raising concerns about a conflict of interest.

Remember: Despite that potential ethical lapse by Hunter Biden, there’s no evidence of criminality or corruption by the Bidens in Ukraine. Trump and his attorney Rudy Giuliani have been spreading conspiracies about the Bidens all year.

Today, Democratic staff lawyer Daniel Goldman asked Hill, “Was it apparent to you that when President Trump, Rudy Giuliani or anyone else was pushing for an investigation into Burisma, that the reason why they wanted that investigation related to what President Trump said here, the Bidens?” 
“It was very apparent to me that that was what Rudy Giuliani intended, yes, intended to convey that Burisma was linked to the Bidens and he said this publicly repeatedly,” Hill said.

Holmes also said “yes,” he understood that Burisma was code for the Bidens.

Other players in the scandal have testified that they didn’t make the connection until many months later. This includes former US special envoy for Ukraine Kurt Volker and US Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland. Both Volker and Sondland were handpicked by Trump to deal with Ukraine issues – not career foreign service officers.

Volker said that he if made the connection, he would have raised objections, but he thought the references to Burisma were part of a legitimate Ukrainian probe into the Ukrainian company. Sondland said he made the connection later in the summer, and didn’t see any of Giuliani’s many television interviews and social media posts about the Bidens.

Volker and Sondland are essentially saying they took Trump and Giuliani at face value – that they were deeply concerned about a random Ukrainian company – and didn't take any steps to figure out what they were talking about.

Another key witness, former National Security Council aide Tim Morrison, testified this week that when Hill first told him about Giuliani’s interest in a "Burisma" probe, he googled the company and figured out the Biden connection.

Sondland was a bombshell for sure, but a problematic one.  He spent quite a bit of time throwing multiple people -- VP Pence, SecState Pompeo, Energy Sec Perry, WH Chief of Staff Mulvaney, and Trump himself -- under the nearest bus.  But it was obvious he was trying to save himself in the process out of enlightened self-interest.  This is still a man who bought an ambassadorship for a million bucks in order to help out his hotel chain, something the Grifter-In-Chief appreciated on multiple levels.

But Dr. Hill and Mr. Holmes are career civil servants and foreign policy experts, Dr. Hill in particular served as a CIA analyst under both Bush 43 and Obama based on her years of experience and has written three books on the subject, including an Amazon best seller on Putin and his politics.  And she roasted the GOP today, attacking the ludicrous notion that Ukraine was somehow behind Russia's 2016 election interference as Kremlin misinformation and warning that these efforts are still going on right now, with the GOP-led Senate refusing to take action to strengthen our defenses.

The evidence at this point is so overwhelming that Democrats want to wrap this up and get to the impeachment votes already.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said today that Democrats would not fight in court to get acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, former national security adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo — key administration figures implicated in public testimony so far — to testify. But some members of Congress think that the investigation has already gathered enough evidence without those witnesses.

Both Reps. Peter Welch and Jackie Speier said the case is overwhelming even without those firsthand witnesses and documents.

"I think we have been hampered in our ability because the White House, the State Department, the Department of Defense have all withheld documents from us, but even with our hands tied behind our backs, we've been able to present the American people a compelling argument for moving forward with a review of whether or not we should have articles of impeachment bought to the floor of the House," Speier said.

She continued: "The President helped us out immeasurably by releasing the summary of his telephone call" with Ukraine.

She said that the conversation "establishes the elements of bribery, where someone in office requests from someone else something of value, the investigation, and then withholds the White House meeting and the military aid. "

We spent three years on whether Donald Trump colluded with Russia to try to fix the 2016 campaign.

There's zero doubt that Donald Trump colluded with Ukraine in order to try to fix the 2020 election.

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