Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Last Call For It's Nobody's Business But The Turks

We've reached the point now where the Trump regime is coming apart, and the wall of silence that protected Trump until now has cracked wide open and the White House is leaking like Niagra Falls with stories of Trump's previous misdeeds flowing out into the DC swamp.

President Donald Trump pressed then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to help persuade the Justice Department to drop a criminal case against an Iranian-Turkish gold trader who was a client of Rudy Giuliani, according to three people familiar with the 2017 meeting in the Oval Office. 
Tillerson refused, arguing it would constitute interference in an ongoing investigation of the trader, Reza Zarrab, according to the people. They said other participants in the Oval Office were shocked by the request. 
Tillerson immediately repeated his objections to then-Chief of Staff John Kelly in a hallway conversation just outside the Oval Office, emphasizing that the request would be illegal. Neither episode has been previously reported, and all of the people spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the conversations. 
The White House declined to comment. Kelly and Tillerson declined to comment via representatives. Another person familiar with the matter said the Justice Department never considered dropping the criminal case. 
Zarrab was being prosecuted in federal court in New York at the time on charges of evading U.S. sanctions against Iran’s nuclear program. He had hired former Attorney General Michael Mukasey and Giuliani, who has said he reached out repeatedly to U.S. officials to seek a diplomatic solution for his client outside the courts. 
The president’s request to Tillerson -- which included asking him to speak with Giuliani -- bears the hallmarks of Trump’s governing style, defined by his willingness to sweep aside the customary procedures and constraints of government to pursue matters outside normal channels. Tillerson’s objection came to light as Trump’s dealings with foreign leaders face intense scrutiny following the July 25 call with Ukraine’s president that has sparked an impeachment inquiry in the House. 
The episode is also likely to fuel long-standing concerns from some of Trump’s critics about his policies toward Turkey and his relationship with its authoritarian president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Zarrab’s release was a high priority for Erdogan until the gold trader agreed to cooperate with prosecutors in New York.

This by itself would be a massive scandal under any other circumstances: a sitting Oval Office occupant asking the Secretary of State to get Justice to drop an ongoing federal case involving a foreign national who was allegedly helping Iran evade sanctions would be the death knell of any administration.

It's simply "Wednesday" here in Trumpland.

Both Tillerson and Kelly need to be subpoenaed immediately about this.

Russian To Judgment, Con't

With all the impeachment news, the fact that the Senate Intelligence Committee's final report on Russian interference in the 2016 election came out this week was missed by most folks, and it's brutal.

A bipartisan panel of U.S. senators Tuesday called for sweeping action by Congress, the White House and Silicon Valley to ensure social media sites aren’t used to interfere in the coming presidential election, delivering a sobering assessment about the weaknesses that Russian operatives exploited in the 2016 campaign.  
The Senate Intelligence Committee, a Republican-led panel that has been investigating foreign electoral interference for more than 2½ years, said in blunt language that Russians worked to damage Democrat Hillary Clinton while bolstering Republican Donald Trump — and made clear that fresh rounds of interference are likely ahead of the 2020 vote.  
“Russia is waging an information warfare campaign against the U.S. that didn’t start and didn’t end with the 2016 election,” said Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), the committee’s chairman. “Their goal is broader: to sow societal discord and erode public confidence in the machinery of government. By flooding social media with false reports, conspiracy theories, and trolls, and by exploiting existing divisions, Russia is trying to breed distrust of our democratic institutions and our fellow Americans.”

Though the 85-page report itself had extensive redactions, in the visible sections, lawmakers urged their peers in Congress to act, including through the potential adoption of new regulations that would the disclosure of ad buyers more transparent. The report also called on the White House and the executive branch to adopt a more forceful, public role, warning Americans about the ways in which dangerous misinformation can spread while creating new teams within the U.S. government to monitor for threats and share intelligence with industry.

The recommendations call for Silicon Valley to more extensively share intelligence among companies, in recognition of the shortage of such sharing in 2016 and also the ways that disinformation from Russia and other countries spreads across numerous platforms — with posts linking back and forth in a tangle of connections.

“The Committee found that Russia’s targeting of the 2016 U.S. presidential election was part of a broader, sophisticated and ongoing information warfare campaign,” the report says. The Russian effort was “a vastly more complex and strategic assault on the United States than was initially understood... an increasingly brazen interference by the Kremlin on the citizens and democratic institutions of the United States."

The report found that the bulk of social media efforts by Russians to hurt Hillary Clinton and help Donald Trump were targeted at conservative voters to get them angry, but again the efforts were also targeted at African-American voters, to either get us to vote third-party or to not vote at all.

It's information we've been told before, and again the Trump regime is ignoring it, choosing instead to blame the Obama administration for "doing nothing to stop the Russians" when of course Mitch McConnell made it clear that preventing the Russians from helping Trump would be viewed as war. He won't allow a vote on any of these recommendations, either.

Again, we're already seeing efforts by Russia, Iran, and other foreign countries to disrupt our elections, and the Trump regime knows allowing them to continue is the best shot they have of winning in 2020.

Ukraine In The Membrane, Con't

It seems like every day we get new information on Trump's Ukraine efforts to pressure the country into fabricating evidence against Joe Biden in order to affect the 2020 race, and today is no different. 

CNN is reporting now that Trump ordered Energy Secretary Rick Perry and both the State Department diplomats at the heart of the mess, former Ukraine special envoy Kurt Volker and EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland, to all meet with Rudy Giuliani in May, well before the July 25th call with Ukraine's president, in order to coordinate a plan of attack against Biden.

President Donald Trump directed Secretary of Energy Rick Perry and two top State Department officials to deal with his private attorney Rudy Giuliani when the Ukrainian President sought to meet Trump, in a clear circumvention of official channels, according to two sources familiar with the conversation. 
Trump believed Ukraine was still rampantly corrupt and said that if President Volodymyr Zelensky wanted to meet with him, Giuliani would have to be convinced first, one source said. 
"If they can satisfy Rudy, they can satisfy the President," a person familiar with the meeting said. 
Trump's push to have Giuliani as gatekeeper is more direct than what was previously disclosed by one of the meeting's participants in his statement to the House last week. It also further demonstrates how significant Giuliani was in brokering access to the President regarding Ukraine policy and in passing messages to other administration officials. 
CNN has reached out to the White House for comment. 
A key accusation in the whistleblower's complaint that has prompted the impeachment probe into the President's dealings with Ukraine is that Giuliani, a private citizen, had been presenting to Ukraine a US policy different than that from US diplomats. 
At the May 23 meeting, Perry, US Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland and Kurt Volker, then the State Department's special representative to Ukraine, were reporting back to Trump after they returned from Zelensky's inauguration
Their goal was to tell Trump that they had a favorable impression of Zelensky and his government, and that he was a reformer who Trump should trust and engage with, according to three sources familiar with the meeting. 
They were hoping to set up a meeting between Trump and Zelensky, the sources said. They believed Ukraine under Zelensky was a more trusted ally than previous Ukrainian regimes, and that a visit between Trump and Zelensky could demonstrate to the Russian government that the US embraced a free Ukraine, according to two of the sources. 
Notably, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was in Washington on May 23 but he did not attend the meeting with Trump. 
Perry had led the delegation who attended Zelensky's inauguration, and was a central figure in the May meeting with Trump. 
It became clear to the Trump administration officials, the sources said, that they would have to deal with Giuliani. 
Volker hinted last week in speaking to the House how central Giuliani was in the President's foreign policy approach to Ukraine.

So this backs up the AP reporting from a few days ago that Rick Perry was instrumental, and that the carrot was Zelensky's meeting with Trump in DC if Zelensky could deliver something on Biden. And we know that Ambassador Sondland spoke with Donald Trump directly after his now infamous "no quid pro quo" text.

In other words, these bozos have been caught red handed, Rick Perry and Mike Pompeo need to resign at the bare minimum, and Sondland's testimony was pulled at the last minute because it would have been fatal to Trump.

Again, it's up to the Dems to figure out where they want to go on inherent contempt, court fights, and impeachment.


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