Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Last Call For Pence-ive Position

And now Donald Trump is throwing VP Mike Pence under the bus in order to ensure Pence doesn't try to stab him in the back, because this is, as the kids say, a multinational criminal syndicate masquerading as a government.

President Donald Trump told Vice President Mike Pence to cancel his plans to attend the inauguration of Ukraine’s new president earlier this year after initially pushing for him to go, according to a person familiar with the matter, confirming an assertion from the whistleblower now at the center of an impeachment investigation into Trump.

Aides to Pence disputed that, blaming logistics _ not Trump _ for the decision.

The aides who rushed to defend Pence added that the vice president never mentioned Trump’s potential Democratic rival Joe Biden in repeated conversations he has had with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, including some that were part of a campaign to pressure the new government on corruption.

Trump has said he raised Biden as an example of corruption in Ukraine in a summertime phone call with Zelenskiy that now at the center of the impeachment probe. There is no evidence that Biden was involved in corruption in the eastern European nation.

Throughout Trump’s presidency, Pence has been a loyal lieutenant, praising him effusively and defending him aggressively. But the vice president has rarely been drawn into any direct controversy involving the president until now.

The controversy focuses on a July 25 phone call in which Trump, according to a rough transcript released by the White House, repeatedly pressed Zelenskiy to investigate Biden and his family. The intelligence community whistleblower said it was part of a broader effort by the president and his lawyers to solicit a foreign country to dig up dirt on a political rival for president in 2020.

Pence, according to aides, did not listen in on that call.

Pence has served as a key intermediary between the United States and Ukraine. In the complaint, the whistleblower says he or she had learned from U.S. officials that “on or around 14 May, the President instructed Vice President Pence to cancel his planned travel to Ukraine to attend President Zelenskiy’s inauguration on 20 May” and sent Energy Secretary Rick Perry to lead the delegation instead.
The whistleblower also alleged that Trump had made clear that a meeting or phone call between himself and Zelenskiy would depend on whether Zelenskiy “showed willingness to ‘play ball’” on issues including investigating the Bidens and a conspiracy theory about the origins of the investigation into Russian election meddling.

A person familiar with the discussions, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations, said it was Trump who directed Pence to skip the event.

This is of course someone in the White House making sure Pence goes down if Trump does, or trying to anyway.  I wouldn't know if Pence would be impeached either, but he may be forced to resign or into a caretaker role if Trump gets sunk.  At this point a lot of paths are open, but very few of them lead to where Mike Pence is President for longer than a year and change.

Still, two major admissions in this leak: Trump is scared, and he doesn't trust Pence.

Lond-ain In The Membrane

It keeps getting worse for the Trump regime when it comes to pressuring foreign leaders for personal favors to help his political chances. It wasn't just the leaders of Australia and Ukraine that Donald Trump reached out to in order to get foreign intelligence to try to discredit Joe Biden and the Mueller investigation, but UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson as well.

President Trump called Boris Johnson to ask for help in discrediting Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, The Times of London reports. 
Trump is said to have called Johnson on July 26, two days after the prime minister took office, and reportedly asked Johnson for help in gathering evidence to undermine the investigation into his campaign’s links to Russia. 
That call also was one day after Trump spoke to Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky in the phone call that sparked the impeachment proceedings against him. Trump also contacted the Australian prime minister for help with an investigation into the origins of the Mueller inquiry.
The Times reports Attorney General William Barr arrived in London days after Trump’s call with Johnson to attend a meeting of the so-called Five Eyes intelligence-sharing alliance. Barr reportedly told British officials that he suspected the information that led to the Mueller investigation came from British agencies.

And again, this only happened two months ago, and directly after the now infamous July 25 Ukraine call that set off this landmine.  That also means Trump has contacted two of the other Five Eyes intelligence allies, the other two being New Zealand and Canada. 

Trump probably has a pretty dim view of Jacinda Ardern and Justin Trudeau, who are far more liberal than the rest of the Five Eyes countries, so it's entirely possible he didn't contact either.

Still, it means he's using Bill Barr as his personal legal investigator to try to discredit an investigation by Barr's own Justice Department, and that's nowhere near kosher.

The Reach To Impeach, Con't

The situation as it is right now, where Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is refusing House impeachment inquiry depositions for several members of his staff, is untenable both legally and politically, and everyone knows it.  There's two fronts Pompeo is now fighting on, first, he's facing an internal revolt from his own State Department staffers.

The State Department’s inspector general is expected to give an "urgent" briefing to staffers from several House and Senate committees on Wednesday afternoon about documents obtained from the department’s Office of the Legal Adviser related to the State Department and Ukraine, sources familiar with the planned briefing told ABC News.

Details of the briefing, requested by Steve Linick, the inspector general at State, remain unknown. Linick is expected to meet with congressional staff in a secure location on Capitol Hill.

The unusual nature and timing of the briefing – during a congressional recess – suggests it may be connected to a recent intelligence community whistleblower allegation which describes, in part, the State Department’s role in coordinating interactions between Rudy Giuliani, the president’s personal attorney, and Ukrainian officials.

The inspector general is the department's internal investigator and watchdog, and the office generally operates independently of the department's political leadership.

Once again, this is the State Department's inspector general, going over Pompeo's head to brief Congress on Ukraine, an issue the IG says is "urgent".  You'd better believe this is the IG going to House Dems to give them the information they've requested from Pompeo's staff about the Ukraine mess.  It's going to be amazing when whatever info he has leaks.

The second front is from House Dems themselves.

House Democrats accelerated their impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump’s interactions with Ukraine’s president, issuing a subpoena that seeks documents from his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani.

Secretary of State Michael Pompeo has until the end of the week to turn over documents subpoenaed by three House committees. Pompeo was among those listening in on Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Three Democratic House chairmen turned up the heat on Pompeo -- warning him of possible criminal charges -- after he rejected a plan by their committees to take testimony from five State Department officials starting Wednesday.

In a letter on Tuesday night, Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, Oversight & Reform Chairman Elijah Cummings and Eliot Engel, the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee said Pompeo “appears to have an obvious conflict of interest” because he listened to the call.

If that’s the case, the chairmen wrote, “he should not be making any decisions regarding witness testimony or document production in order to protect himself or the president.”

The lawmakers said that State Department officials who interfere with congressional inquiries could face criminal charges or the withholding of their salaries.

There's that inherent contempt.  Sort of, the letter doesn't mention it, and if the Dems are counting on Bill Barr to prosecute, they're insane.  I hope this means inherent contempt.

We'll see.


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