Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Last Call For Ukraine In The Membrane, Con't

The big news from today's opening salvo in the impeachment of Donald Trump, the news that Trump himself absolutely tried to bribe Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky with pressure to smear Joe Biden.

In a nationally televised hearing in the House Ways and Means Committee room across from the Capitol, William B. Taylor Jr., the top American diplomat in Ukraine, brought to life Democrats’ allegations that Mr. Trump has abused his office by trying to enlist a foreign power to help him in an election. Mr. Taylor testified to the House Intelligence Committee, which is leading the inquiry, that he was told in July that Mr. Trump cared more about “investigations of Biden” than he did about Ukraine.
The revelation, as Congress embarked on only the third set of presidential impeachment hearings in modern times, tied Mr. Trump more directly into what Mr. Taylor described in vivid detail as a “highly irregular” effort to place the president’s political interests at the center of American policy toward Ukraine.

“I don’t think President Trump was trying to end corruption in Ukraine,” said Representative Jim Himes, Democrat of Connecticut, encapsulating Democrats’ case. “I think he was trying to aim corruption in Ukraine at Vice President Biden and at the 2020 election.”

The proceedings pushed into the public gaze an epic clash between Mr. Trump and Democrats over impeachment that has shifted into high gear less than a year before the presidential election. In the first impeachment hearing on Capitol Hill in more than two decades, Mr. Taylor and another veteran diplomat, George P. Kent, sketched out, in testimony by turns cinematic and dry, a tale of foreign policymaking distorted by a president’s political vendettas with a small country facing Russian aggression caught in the middle.

“If this is not impeachable conduct,” demanded Representative Adam B. Schiff, Democrat of California and the chairman of the committee, “what is?”

Bill Taylor was the star of the show today, and Trump is livid.

Even as the public recitation of facts unfolded in the hearing room, there were signs that Democrats’ investigation was still expanding. Investigators scheduled depositions with David Holmes, an official in the United States Embassy in Kiev, and Mark Sandy of the Office of Management and Budget for Friday and Saturday. According to an official involved in the inquiry, Mr. Holmes was the aide Mr. Taylor referred to in his new testimony, who informed Mr. Taylor about Mr. Trump’s singular interest in investigating the Bidens.

Mr. Taylor said a member of his staff overheard a telephone conversation in which the president mentioned “the investigations” to Gordon D. Sondland, the United States ambassador to the European Union, who told Mr. Trump “that the Ukrainians were ready to move forward.” The conversation took place just one day after Mr. Trump personally pressed Ukraine’s new president in a phone call to investigate the Bidens and unproven allegations that Ukraine conspired with Democrats to interfere in the 2016 election.

The reason why David Holmes is being questioned over the weekend?  He's the staff member Bill Taylor mentioned in today's hearing that overheard the phone call from Sondland to Trump about "the investigations".

It's about to get hot in here this week.

The Reach To Impeach, Con't

Senate Republicans are making it clear already that the inevitable motion to dismiss impeachment charges from the House outright will not have the votes in the Senate.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), an adviser to Senate Republican leadership, says there are not enough votes in the Senate to immediately dismiss any articles of impeachment passed by the House against President Trump.

Republicans have discussed the possibility of quickly dismissing charges against Trump, which would just require 51 votes. But Cornyn said that would be a difficult hurdle for the GOP, which holds 53 seats in the Senate.

“There’s some people talking about trying to stop the bill, dismiss charges basically as soon as they get over here. I think that’s not going to happen. That would require 51 votes,” Cornyn told reporters Wednesday.

“I think it would be hard to find 51 votes to cut the case off before the evidence is presented,” he added.

Cornyn also said it would be better to have a trial in the Senate if the House impeaches Trump.

The veteran GOP senator said “the better course would be to let each side have their say and then have the Senate vote and see if they can meet the two-thirds threshold” to convict the president on impeachment articles.

If Cornyn is saying the votes don't exist for a summary dismissal of the charges, then we're going to have that Senate trial, for better or worse, with Mitch McConnell setting the rules.

Lowering The Barr, Con't

The twin Trump regime Justice Department "reports" on the origins of the Russia probe and the FISA warrants into Carter Page are now being rolled into one giant pile of bullshit to use against Democrats right in the middle of impeachment hearings.

The Justice Department’s watchdog is nearing the release of its report on the early stages of the FBI’s Russia investigation, a document likely to revive debate about a politically charged probe that shadowed President Donald Trump’s administration from the outset.

The inspector general in recent days has invited witnesses and their lawyers who were interviewed for the report to review portions of a draft this week and next, a critical final step toward making the document public, according to multiple people familiar with the process who insisted on anonymity to discuss it.
As part of that process, the people will have opportunities to raise concerns or suggest potential edits, making it unclear precisely when in the coming weeks a final version could be ready for release. Inspector General Michael Horowitz told Congress in a letter last month that he did not expect a lengthy review period and that he intended to make as much of the report public as possible, with minimal redactions.

The release of the report is likely to coincide with House impeachment proceedings scrutinizing the Trump administration’s efforts to press Ukraine into investigating Democratic rival Joe Biden. Any finding of problems by the inspector general in how the FBI gathered and collected evidence in investigating ties between the Trump campaign and Russia could at least temporarily buoy Trump and other Republican supporters eager to turn the page from the congressional scrutiny now imperiling his White House.

Trump has long insisted that the investigation into his campaign was a “hoax” and “witch hunt,” asserting without evidence or elaboration as recently as last month that law enforcement officials had done “really bad things.”

A key question examined by the inspector general has been the FBI’s process for applying for, and receiving, a secret warrant to monitor the communications of Trump campaign adviser Carter Page. The warrant was renewed multiple times by judges, but Republican critics of the Russia probe have decried the fact that the FBI relied in part in its application on uncorroborated information obtained by Christopher Steele, a former British spy who had been paid by Hillary Clinton’s campaign to conduct opposition research.

The government did disclose to the court the political loyalties of the people who hired Steele, according to Democrats on the House intelligence committee who released their own memo last year aimed at countering Republican allegations of law enforcement misconduct.

The FBI opened its investigation in July 2016 after receiving information that a Trump campaign aide, George Papadopoulos, had disclosed to an Australian diplomat that Russia had thousands of stolen emails that would be potentially damaging to Clinton, an election opponent. U.S. officials have said the emails were hacked by Russian intelligence operatives and given to WikiLeaks, which released them ahead of the election.

Papadopoulos, who served as a foreign policy adviser to Trump’s campaign, had learned from a Maltese professor, Joseph Mifsud, that Russia had “dirt” on Clinton in the form of the stolen emails. Papadopoulos later pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his conversations with Mifsud.

A spokeswoman for Horowitz declined to comment on Tuesday. Horowitz himself refused to answer questions about the report and its timing at an unrelated news conference last week. The inspector general provided a draft copy to Attorney General William Barr in September, and the Justice Department has since been conducting a classification review.

They've been sitting on it to try to unleash both for maximum effect, probably just after Thanksgiving.  It's going to be the major attack in order to derail impeachment.  We'll see how well it works.


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