Saturday, November 16, 2019

The Reach To Impeach, Con't

House Intelligence Committee members heard from Marie Yovanovich on Friday and it was devastating for Trump as I pointed out yesterday.  But the real damage may have come from a later closed-doors deposition from diplomat Bill Taylor's aide who overheard DOnald Trump's phone call with EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland about Ukraine.  His name is David Holmes, and he just might have delivered a fatal blow to both Sondland and Trump. WaPo's Aaron Blake:

At three distinct points, we have seen Sondland’s testimony called into question. The first time was when other witnesses said he talked about a quid pro quo with Ukrainian officials on July 10, which Sondland soon confirmed via clarified testimony. The second was this week, when Taylor disclosed that Holmes had overheard a Sondland call with Trump on July 26 that Sondland had failed to mention and in which Trump asked about the investigations he was asking for. “Sondland will address any issues that arise from this in his testimony next week,” his lawyer said Wednesday.

And now Holmes undermines a central claim in Sondland’s testimony: That Sondland didn’t know that Trump and his personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani’s interest in investigating a Ukrainian company that employed Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden had anything to do with the Biden family.

“I noted that there was ‘big stuff’ going on in Ukraine, like a war with Russia,” Holmes says of his conversation with Sondland on July 26, “and Ambassador Sondland replied that he meant ‘big stuff’ that benefits the president, like the ‘Biden investigation’ that Mr. Giuliani was pushing.”

The quote about the “Biden investigation” is key. Sondland said in his deposition that he had pushed for an investigation into Burisma Holdings, which had employed Hunter Biden, but that he didn’t know there was any connection to the Bidens.

Not only is that a lie, we now know Sondland very publicly, in the middle of a Ukrainian restaurant, put Donald Phone on speaker to signify how important He himself was to Trump's operation.  One of the great boneheaded moves in criminal history, no doubt.

It gets worse.

Holmes says Taylor told him that on a June 28 call he had with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky and the “three amigos” — Sondland, special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker and Energy Secretary Rick Perry — “it was made clear that some action on a Burisma/Biden investigation was a precondition for an Oval Office meeting.”

This detail, notably, was not part of Taylor’s own testimony, though Taylor quickly came to believe that such a meeting was indeed conditioned on Ukraine launching such an investigation.

Taylor testified that on the June 28 call, before Zelensky was added to the line, Sondland said he didn’t want interagency officials on the call, because “he wanted to make sure no one was transcribing or monitoring as they added President Zelensky to the call.”

So yes, the quid pro quo was premeditated and involved several US officials in the Trump regime: Rick Perry, Rudy Giuliani, Sondland, as well as Ukrainian criminal fixer Lev Parnas, who is currently singing like a canary to the feds.

Finally, Holmes says he agreed to testify because of the GOP "defenses" of Trump, because he knew they were lies.

Holmes’s account is something he says he didn’t consider to be relevant — until he saw some of the defenses of Trump.

Holmes mentions that Trump defenders have argued that perhaps Trump himself wasn’t personally involved in the quid pro quos. He also mentions a GOP argument that was prominent during Wednesday’s hearing featuring Taylor and top State Department aide George Kent: that the witnesses didn’t have firsthand knowledge of some of the key events.

“I came to realize I had firsthand knowledge regarding certain events on July 26,” he said, referring to the date of his overhearing the Sondland-Trump call, “that had not otherwise been reported and that those events potentially bore on the question of whether the president did, in fact, have knowledge that those officials were using the levers of our diplomatic power to induct the new Ukrainian president to announce the opening of a particular criminal investigation.”

It’s worth noting that, despite early GOP attempts to portray Holmes as a partisan — on Friday they promoted a photo of him shaking hands with Barack Obama — he won an award in 2014 after raising concerns about Obama’s Afghanistan policy. Holmes, who served in Afghanistan, was awarded for his “constructive dissent.”

Holmes doesn’t directly say that his testimony contradicts the GOP’s arguments, but it’s certainly suggested. And it makes his full deposition, which we have yet to see, worth paying close attention to.

Expect that to be released soon, and perhaps for Holmes to testify in open hearing as a result.

Ukraine In The Membrane, Con't

The Washington Post finally steps in and defends the Ukraine whistleblower that has made the impeachment proceedings that we're now watching possible, rightfully casting them as a hero whose allegations have been corroborated and stressing how much danger they are now in from Trump.

The lights are often on late into the evening at CIA headquarters, where a team of elite analysts works on classified reports that influence how the country responds to global crises.

In early August, one of those analysts was staying after hours on a project with even higher stakes. For two weeks, he pored over notes of alarming conversations with White House officials, reviewed details from interagency memos on the U.S. relationship with Ukraine and scanned public statements by President Trump.

He wove this material into a nine-page memo outlining evidence that Trump had abused the powers of his office to try to coerce Ukraine into helping him get reelected. Then, on Aug. 12, the analyst hit “send.”

His decision to report what he had learned to the U.S. intelligence community’s inspector general has transformed the political landscape of the United States, triggering a rapid-moving impeachment inquiry that now imperils Trump’s presidency.

Over the past three months, the allegations made in that document have been overwhelmingly substantiated — by the sworn testimony of administration officials, the inadvertent admissions of Trump’s acting chief of staff and, most importantly, the president’s own words, as captured on a record of his July 25 call with the leader of Ukraine.

As the impeachment inquiry entered a new phase of public hearings on Wednesday, the outlines of the case have been thoroughly established: President Trump, his personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani and two diplomats are alleged to have collaborated to pressure Ukraine to pursue investigations to bolster Trump’s conspiracy theories about the 2016 election and damage the prospects of his potential opponent in next year’s election, former vice president Joe Biden.

Trump cites corruption in Kyiv and European stinginess to justify actions on Ukraine. Neither rationale withstands close scrutiny.

To advance this hidden agenda, Trump and his allies orchestrated the ouster of a U.S. ambassador, the withholding of an Oval Office meeting from Ukraine’s new president and the suspension of hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. aid.

But beyond that familiar fact pattern, the revelations reflect a country in political crisis.

The United States has embarked on an impeachment proceeding against a president for only the third time in its history. The voluminous testimony so far has revealed a government at war with itself over how to respond to Trump’s frequent conflation of the country’s interests with his own. After casting itself as a force against corruption, condemning politically driven prosecutions in other countries, the United States now appears to have sought to coerce such actions from a partner nation.

It is not clear whether any of this would have come to light were it not for the actions of a relatively junior CIA employee, who is now the target of almost daily attacks by Trump and right-wing efforts to make his identity widely public.

While Pelosi and Schiff have been openly defending the whistleblower, and the media (other than Fox News State TV of course) have been protecting the whistleblower's identity against a raging thug of a chief executive, it's far past time that the media has laid out the reasoning for choosing to defend this hero.

Despite all the GOP dirty tricks and smoke and mirrors, the whistleblower's case has been solidly backed up at every juncture by evidence and testimony.

This is the case to remove Trump from office, being made as we watch.
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