Friday, November 1, 2019

Last Call For The Reach To Impeach, Con't

The House deposition testimony of National Security Council Ukraine expert Alexander Vindman has been utterly devastating so far, and we're learning new details about depositions this week pointing to a concerted effort by the White House to cover up Vindman's official objections to Trump's Ukraine quid prop quo mess.

The senior White House lawyer who placed a record of President Donald Trump’s July 25 call with Ukraine’s president in a top-secret system also instructed at least one official who heard the call not to tell anyone about it, according to testimony heard by House impeachment investigators this week.

Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a decorated Army officer who served as the National Security Council’s director for Ukraine, told lawmakers that he went to the lawyer, John Eisenberg, to register his concerns about the call, in which Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate the Bidens, according to a person in the room for Vindman’s deposition on Tuesday.

Eisenberg recorded Vindman’s complaints in notes on a yellow legal pad, then conferred with his deputy Michael Ellis about how to handle the conversation because it was clearly “sensitive,” Vindman testified. The lawyers then decided to move the record of the call into the NSC’s top-secret codeword system—a server normally used to store highly classified material that only a small group of officials can access.

Vindman did not consider the move itself as evidence of a cover-up, according to a person familiar with his testimony. But he said he became disturbed when, a few days later, Eisenberg instructed him not to tell anyone about the call—especially because it was Vindman’s job to coordinate the interagency process with regard to Ukraine policy.

Eisenberg’s decision to move the call record to the codeword system following his conversation with Vindman was first reported by The Washington Post. But Eisenberg’s subsequent request that Vindman not disclose the content of the call to anyone has not been previously reported.
An NSC spokesperson and Eisenberg did not return requests for comment.

And yes, all this points to former National Security Adviser John Bolton's mustache.

Tim Morrison, the NSC’s top Russia and Europe adviser, reportedly told lawmakers in his opening statement during a deposition on Thursday that he was worried the July 25 call, which he listened in on along with Vindman, would leak. According to CNN, Morrison “was involved with discussions after the call about how to handle the transcript.”

POLITICO previously reported that the White House started placing transcripts of calls with Trump’s counterparts into the codeword system after the president’s calls with foreign leaders leaked in 2017. But Eisenberg’s purported request that Vindman keep the call a secret raises questions about whether the lawyers’ intent was to bury the conversation altogether. It also undermines Trump’s insistence that the call was “perfect."

Several National Security Council officials had complained to Eisenberg in the weeks leading up to the July 25 call about the shadow Ukraine policy being run by Giuliani and U.S. Ambassador to the E.U. Gordon Sondland. Those include Vindman’s then-boss Fiona Hill, who went to Eisenberg at the instruction of then-National Security Adviser John Bolton.
It’s not clear whether Eisenberg, who has a legendary reputation for secrecy, ever took those concerns up the chain to his boss in the White House counsel’s office, Pat Cipollone.

“John was distrustful of information flows to everywhere else in the building,” a former NSC colleague told POLITICO earlier this month. “He inherently was of the view that anything that could leak would leak and so he was also incredibly conscious of trying to restrict conversations to only those that he really, really, really felt needed to know.”

As far as Bolton ever giving a deposition, well, he's supposed to talk on Thursday.  Whether his mustache shows up and brings the body it controls with it, I can't tell you.

Another Day In Gunmerica, Con't

After promising to "do something" about firearm violence in the wake of several deadly mass shootings just a few months ago, the Trump regime is now quietly abandoning any efforts to sign any new legislation as Trump wants to lock down his 2020 base ahead of impeachment and elections.

President Trump has abandoned the idea of releasing proposals to combat gun violence that his White House debated for months following mass shootings in August, according to White House officials and lawmakers, a reversal from the summer when the president insisted he would offer policies to curb firearm deaths.

Trump has been counseled by political advisers, including campaign manager Brad Parscale and acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, that gun legislation could splinter his political coalition, which he needs to stick together for his reelection bid, particularly amid an impeachment battle.

The president no longer asks about the issue, and aides from the Domestic Policy Council, once working on a plan with eight to 12 tenets, have moved on to other topics, according to aides who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the private deliberations.

Four White House officials said there haven’t been substantive discussions in weeks. And a person close to the National Rifle Association said discussions between the White House and the group have gone silent in a sign that the powerful gun lobby is no longer concerned the White House will act. Trump was pressed repeatedly by NRA President Wayne LaPierre this summer and early fall to not propose any gun-control measures.

“President Trump quietly moved gun control to the side and let it be replaced by breaking news,” said Dan Eberhart, a major GOP donor who said Trump is better off not advancing proposals at this time. “I suspect that was the plan all along.”

The White House’s position is a marked, if not wholly unexpected, change from when the president vowed he would make a push to pass more restrictive laws after two gunmen killed scores of people in Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso in early August, creating national outrage.

Trump repeatedly said he was a supporter of more aggressive background checks, would consider “red flag” laws that allow authorities to temporarily take weapons away from someone deemed a danger, and frequently mentioned the need to focus on mental health as it relates to gun violence.

He made a flurry of calls to lawmakers while crossing the country to visit victims and said he would be willing to go against the desires of the NRA.

In the face of skepticism that he would not push hard for gun restrictions his party has long opposed, Trump insisted he was serious about the issue and would release proposals.

“We’re going to take a look at a lot of different things. And we’ll be reporting back in a fairly short period of time,” he told reporters on Sept. 11. “There are a lot of things under discussion. Some things will never happen, and some things can, really, very much — some very meaningful things can happen.”

Anyone who believed Trump was going to get any legislation passed at all involving firearms is not anybody who you should be listening to.  It was always a scam. It was never going to even get a vote in the Senate.  If you want gun laws, get rid of Trump and McConnell and about 6-8 Republican senators, and then we'll talk.

Oh, and four people were shot and killed at a Halloween party in Orinda, California last night.

Just another day in Gunmerica.

One Versus Six

The impeachment of Donald Trump won't be over anytime soon, and a Senate trial, assuming Mitch McConnell doesn't just toss the whole proceeding in the fireplace, could last well into the 2020 campaign season.  That means six Democratic (well, 5 and Bernie) Senators are going to have to balance a trial that could last months with a primary campaign, and that's very much the realm of uncharted waters.

On its current path, the impeachment case against President Donald Trump is on a collision course with perhaps the most pivotal period in the Democratic primary, threatening to unravel the campaign plans of some of the top 2020 contenders. 
The House is unlikely to vote on impeachment until the end of the year, meaning the Senate trial against Trump figures to begin in January — just weeks before the Feb. 3 Iowa caucuses. It’s an event that could require the six Democratic presidential prospects to remain in Washington every workday for at least a month.

Depending on when the trial begins, or if it drags on, the trial could affect the New Hampshire primary on Feb. 11, a day shy of the 21st anniversary of President Clinton’s acquittal after a five-week Senate trial.

There’s no consensus over which Democratic contenders are advantaged by an impeachment trial. Candidates such as Joe Biden or Pete Buttigieg won’t be chained to senatorial desks, leaving them to stump unfettered in the two early states. But the six senators — Michael Bennet, Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren — will occupy the national spotlight as jurors, located at the center of the political universe of impeachment. 
“We’re in uncharted waters. There’s no model for this,” said Joel Benenson, an adviser to Buttigieg and alum of Hillary Clinton’s and Barack Obama’s presidential campaigns. “We’ve never seen an impeachment trial in a presidential election year ever, let alone multiple senators running for president.” 
Aside from being away from the campaign trail during the trial, the senators would face an additional potential burden: They wouldn’t be allowed to speak publicly on the matter in chambers during the weeks-long trial because they’re supposed to sit as silent jurors — a rare restriction for politicians accustomed to using congressional hearings as opportunities to grandstand or create a viral moment. They could comment during breaks outside of the Senate chamber, however. 
The complexities of a Senate trial and its effects on the Democratic primary are only now being discussed in earnest in top Democratic circles. The conversation came into sharp focus after Thursday’s House vote ratified the impeachment process that, if all goes the way House leadership hopes, would end by the holiday season, with Hanukkah starting Dec. 22. That would put a Senate trial as the first and only order of constitutional business to start the new year.

We'll see where things go, but if I'm Mitch McConnell, I want to drag my feet on this for months, causing chaos though at least Super Tuesday and possibly beyond by calling witness after witness in a Senate trial and keeping Democrats tied up and unable to do much of anything for January through March, especially if the plan is to set up Biden for a fall.

Or then again, the trial could be over a day.  I don't know how Mitch is going to play it, and anyone who does is lying.


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