Withheld from Congress: US Intelligence Community’s IG Report on Whistle-blower’s Complaint

Discussion in 'US Politics' started by Zable, Sep 15, 2019.

  1. Zable

    Zable Soap Chat TV Fanatic

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    I see no evidence of anything more than sworn testimony being given at this stage of the impeachment hearing. My understanding is that evidence doesn't come into play until and unless there is a trial.

    ETA:
    For instance, Tim Morrison testified in his secret deposition that he had concerns about Lt Col Vindman's judgment and Morrison's predecessor Fiona Hill (who had been Lt Col Vindman's superior) and other Vindman colleagues had told him that Vindman was, in essence, not to be trusted: stuff about being a leaker, etc.

    Morrison was one of 2 witnesses selected by Republicans to give open testimony on Tuesday, in the afternoon. ....Vindman, who appeared on Tuesday morning to give his open testimony, was asked by Republican Rep Jim Jordan to respond to Morrison's earlier secret testimony about him . Here's the Q&A on that between Jordan & Vindman:


    Note: Ms Hill's written evaluation of Lt Col Vindman in July of this year, which Vindman read out when responding to Rep Jordan, was entered into the records. Presumably, this will be used later on as evidence that Morrison lied under oath about what Ms Hill had told him about Lt Col Vindman.
     
    Last edited: Nov 21, 2019
  2. Zable

    Zable Soap Chat TV Fanatic

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    I have to question your good judgment as you seem to be putting what’s being said in these open doors testimony on equal footing as what’s being said on shows like Laura Ingraham’s.

    Ahead of Lt. Col. Alexander S. Vindman’s closed-doors deposition testimony in the House impeachment inquiry on Oct. 29, some cable news commentators questioned his patriotism. The Laura Ingraham show was particularly notorious for floating the ideas that the Soviet-born Vindman had committed espionage and treason, the latter a crime punishable by death in the US. Go and hear/read up on what the basis was for what LI and her law professor guest said.

    On Tuesday, after his testimony, the Pentagon said it was ready to move Lt Col Vindman and his family into protective custody. The next day I heard on one of the news shows posted on YT, I forget which one, that the family was in protective custody …which I think explains the Lt Col’s note to his 87-year-old dad in the second-to-last paragraph of his opening statement.

    A print report said it was believed that Lt Col Vindman had “received a significant amount of credible threats since he first testified before a closed-door hearing”.

    I also read a report that quoted a Pentagon official saying: “The Army will make sure he’s safe, and the Army is actively supporting any safety needs as deemed necessary. … It’s hard that he has been catapulted into the public eye. He served his country honourably for 20 years, and you can imagine this is a tough situation for him and his family.”

    Today I read that his lawyers have sent Fox News a warning letter. The Seattle Times ran the story with this headline: Vindman’s Lawyer Asks Fox News to Retract Espionage Allegation (Source: https://www.seattletimes.com/nation...sks-fox-news-to-retract-espionage-allegation/)
     
    Last edited: Nov 21, 2019
  3. Frank Underwood

    Frank Underwood Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    I suppose you know best about good judgement since you were able to diagnose Tulsi's deteriorating mental health. :rolleyes:

    Speaking of Vindman, this article by Aaron Maté appeared in The Nation on November 4th. Vindman is not the main subject of the article, but what's said about him is worth noting:

    Trump’s Impeachment Lures Democrats Into a Cold War Mentality
    The hawkish mindset that liberals have embraced threatens not just their own political fortunes but also global peace.

    Last week’s vote by House Democrats to formally open an impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump followed testimony that appeared to boost their case. Several US officials told Congress that the Trump administration sought to leverage US military aid to pressure Ukraine into opening politically tainted investigations. But liberals cheering on these developments should be mindful of their limitations—and their potential consequences. The available testimony does not strike me as being as damning for Trump as it is being portrayed. More importantly, even if that proves to be a faulty interpretation, the impeachment frenzy is enrolling liberals in a dangerous Cold War mentality that could threaten their own election chances in 2020.

    The Democrats’ theory of the case is plausible: At the same time as Trump’s chosen point man, EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland, pressured Ukraine to launch politically beneficial investigations, the president froze military aid as a tool of added leverage. But although the available testimony helps the impeachment case so far, we have not uncovered a smoking gun.

    Bill Taylor, the top US diplomat in Ukraine, says that Sondland told him that the military assistance was conditioned on a Ukrainian pledge to open investigations into Burisma, the company where Hunter Biden got his lucrative board seat, and alleged Ukrainian interference in the 2016 US election. Taylor also offered the first known testimony that this demand was made explicit to the Ukrainian side: According to Taylor, National Security Council aide Tim Morrison told him that Sondland directly communicated the quid pro quo to Andriy Yermak, an aide to Ukraine’s prime minister, Volodymyr Zelensky, at a meeting in Warsaw in September 1.

    Morrison corroborated Taylor’s testimony in his appearance last week. But we do not yet know whether Morrison witnessed the Sondland-Yermak conversation that he told Taylor about, or is relying on his recollection of what Sondland told him. This would allow Sondland to claim that Morrison misinterpreted him.

    What is certain is that Morrison left some wiggle room for Trump. His opening statement says that he and Taylor “had no reason to believe that the release of the security sector assistance might be conditioned on a public statement reopening the Burisma investigation” until he spoke to Sondland in Warsaw on September 1. “Even then,” he added, “I hoped that Ambassador Sondland’s strategy was exclusively his own,” and not Trump’s. According to CNN, Morrison testified that he tried to find out whether Sondland was relaying demands to the Ukrainian side on Trump’s behalf, or was “going rogue” as a “free radical.” The fact that Morrison suspected that Sondland’s “strategy was exclusively his own” means that his testimony did not directly implicate Trump. And it leaves Trump with the leeway to claim that Sondland, and perhaps Rudolph Giuliani, were indeed “going rogue.”

    It is perfectly reasonable to deduce from all of this that what Sondland relayed—if that is what he did—is exactly what Trump intended. Or indeed that Sondland was acting on Trump’s orders. But a case that can only be made from inference may have limited impact beyond those who have already made up their mind. Even if Trump knew exactly what Sondland was doing, Morrison’s testimony leaves him with the opportunity to throw Sondland under the bus. For his part, Sondland has said through his attorney that he rejects Taylor’s characterizations and does not recall the Warsaw conversation that Taylor (and now Morrison) claim to have heard about.

    For Taylor and Morrison’s testimony to prove dispositive—and to make a convincing case to the broader US public and the Senate Republicans who will decide Trump’s fate—corroborating testimony or evidence will have to emerge that Trump explicitly linked the military aid to investigations of Biden and that this demand was explicitly communicated to the Ukrainian side.

    That corroboration has yet to come from Ukraine. The Ukrainian government has said that it did not feel pressured. The New York Times reported that Ukrainian officials were made aware that US military aid was on hold by the first week in August, earlier than previously known. Yet communications between US and Ukrainian officials, the Times writes, “did not explicitly link the assistance freeze to the push by Mr. Trump and Mr. Giuliani for the investigations.” Nor was the aid freeze mentioned in Trump’s July 25 phone call with Zelensky.

    Yermak, reached via WhatsApp, did not respond to The Nation’s request for comment. His testimony will now be critical. As will follow-up testimony by Sondland. Perhaps Taylor and Morrison are accurately recounting Sondland’s words. Or perhaps Sondland will contradict them, or claim that they are conflating the investigations that Trump sought from Ukraine. As I’ve argued previously, demanding an investigation of documented (and openly acknowledged) Ukrainian meddling in the 2016 elections is different from demanding one of a political rival.

    All of this positions us for a “he said, he said” impeachment scandal: The question of whether or not Trump is guilty of attempting to extort Ukraine could come down to which US bureaucrat, one chooses to believe.

    There is no reason to put faith in Sondland, who, in line with a longstanding tradition in US diplomacy, owes his plush diplomatic posting to a lucrative campaign donation to the winning presidential candidate. But before we embrace bureaucrats Taylor, Morrison, and another key witness, NSC official Alexander Vindman, as liberal heroes, it is worth taking stock of their impartiality and espoused views. Despite efforts to portray them as nonpartisan civil servants, the trio’s opening statements show them to be Cold Warriors devoted to continuing the US-Russia proxy war in Ukraine. As their testimony makes clear, that proxy war was imperiled by the very action that Trump took—briefly freezing the military aid that they all unabashedly support.

    In the case of Taylor, arming Ukraine was a condition of his willingness to serve in the job. When the Trump administration asked him to take the position in Kiev, Taylor recalls thinking, “I could be effective only if the US policy of strong support for Ukraine… were to continue.” Taylor even told Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, “If US policy toward Ukraine changed, he would not want me posted there and I could not stay.” No wonder then, that Taylor was upset when he began to hear rumblings that US military assistance to Ukraine was in jeopardy.

    Another star witness, Vindman, offers a similar outlook. Russia, he says, “has manifested an overtly aggressive foreign policy” necessitating “a deterrent.” To Vindman, that deterrent is “a strong and independent Ukraine,” which, he believes, is “critical to US national security interests because Ukraine is a frontline state and a bulwark against Russian aggression.” Morrison concurs, declaring that the administration’s policy “was to make sure the United States’ longstanding bipartisan commitment to strengthen Ukraine’s security remained unaltered.” In his view, “security sector assistance… is, therefore, essential to Ukraine.”

    The Washington Post put it, Vindman “told lawmakers that he was deeply troubled by what he interpreted as an attempt by the president to subvert U.S. foreign policy.” While undoubtedly many Democrats and Republicans share Vindman’s foreign policy views, it should be up to the president, not unelected bureaucrats, to decide US foreign policy.

    Even if their recollections are accurate, the consequence of embracing their collective worldview is worth considering. We do not need wade far into the intricacies of the Russia-Ukraine conflict to know that the position of Taylor, Vindman, and Morrison—and by extension, the entire liberal political and media establishment now cheering them—is well to the right of what the Democratic Party embodied just one administration ago.

    The very US military assistance that Trump froze is the same that President Barack Obama refused to provide during his last years in office. Obama feared, as The New York Times noted in 2015, that US weapons sent to Ukraine “would only escalate the bloodshed” in the Donbass and possibly “[end] up in the hands of thugs” (a likely reference to far-right Ukrainians, which proved prescient).

    In refusing to send that US military aid, Obama rejected intense pressure from the bipartisan DC foreign policy establishment. This includes Taylor himself, who, as he notes in his opening statement, unsuccessfully lobbied Obama to arm Ukraine. Taylor’s contemporaneous view is captured in a December 2014 letter he wrote to The Washington Post. Taylor denounced an opinion article, co-authored by a former Obama State Department official, that had opposed sending US arms to Ukraine and advocated an agreement between NATO and Russia to resolve the Ukrainian crisis. Backers of such steps, Taylor wrote, are “advocating that the West appease Russia.… Now is not the time for appeasement.”

    The very fact that Ukrainegate now has Democrats advocating a policy that Obama rejected should be enough to spark consideration of whether briefly not arming Ukraine is really the issue on which to pin removing a president from office. Moving toward impeachment over Ukraine policy also has potential electoral consequences: In 2016, voters rejected the neoconservative worldview that national security bureaucrats like Taylor, Vindman, and Morrison now espouse. Trump, after all, campaigned on improving ties with Russia and falsely presented himself as an opponent of the hawkish legacy that these star impeachment witnesses embody. On this note, the fact that John Bolton may become the Democrats’ next star witness might also hasten some reflection.

    The Cold War mindset that liberals have embraced threatens not just their own political fortunes but also global peace. Lost in the outrage over Trump’s potential—and ultimately unrealized—interruption of US military assistance to Ukraine is that Zelensky, the new Ukrainian president, openly campaigned on ending the war with Russia that this military assistance fuels. Zelensky is now under heavy pressure from Ukraine’s far right to abandon his pledge to make peace with Moscow. It does not bode well for Zelensky’s chances if the official opposition party of his US patron is effectively joining hands with his country’s own right-wing forces to continue the war.

    The dangers extend beyond Ukraine’s borders. The day after the House impeachment vote, Russia warned that there is not enough time left to renegotiate the New START Treaty, the last remaining accord limiting the US and Russian nuclear arsenals, before it expires in 2021. The treaty’s demise, The New York Times notes, would leave the world’s top two nuclear powers “free to expand their arsenals without limits” on “the most powerful weapons both sides can launch.” According to Vladimir Leontyev, Russia’s top arms control official, the Kremlin hopes to renew or revise the accord, but “the US administration is silent about it.” The Russians’ impression, Leontyev added, is that the Trump White House “is organically against any restrictions being imposed on the United States.”

    The Russian warning, the Times adds, is “the latest in a sobering list of signals that the great powers appear headed for a new arms race,” following Trump’s earlier withdrawal from another critical nuclear accord, the INF Treaty. It is also the latest in a long list of Trump administration policies that have escalated tensions with nuclear-armed Russia—including authorizing the US military assistance to Ukraine that Obama once opposed and that Democrats now seek to impeach him over. The fact that this list includes increasing the threat of nuclear conflict should be sobering to any liberal who continues to push the falsehood that Trump does Russia’s bidding—all the more so given that the propagation of this falsehood helps worsen, rather than reduce, those tensions.

    There is another list worth being mindful of: The many Trump administration scandals that Ukrainegate, like Russiagate before it, overshadows. The day after the House impeachment vote also coincided with the end of the comment period for a Trump administration plan to cut food programs for low-income Americans. According to government estimates, around 3 million recipients face the loss of food stamp benefits and close to 1 million children are at risk of losing automatic placement in federal school lunch programs.

    “Instead of declaring a war on poverty, this president has declared war on our most vulnerable citizens,” Representative Marcia Fudge (D-OH), the chairwoman of the House Agriculture Committee’s subcommittee on nutrition, said last month. That is undoubtedly correct, which makes it all the more puzzling that Democrats are preoccupied with an impeachment scandal that overshadows Trump’s attacks on the vulnerable and encourages him to escalate wars abroad. The same goes for their stance on Syria, which saw bipartisan opposition to an announced US withdrawal but next to no opposition to Trump’s sudden reversal with the explicit aim of stealing Syria’s oil.

    It is true that polls currently show that a majority of Americans support impeachment. It is also encouraging that Democratic presidential candidates are sidelining the impeachment drama to focus on serious policy issues on the campaign trail. At the same time, it appears that Democrats are not moving the needle in the battleground states that will decide the next election. A new New York Times/Siena College poll of the six closest swing states that went Republican in 2016 finds that Trump’s “advantage in the Electoral College relative to the nation as a whole remains intact or has even grown since 2016.”

    With 2020 on the horizon, the dangers of the Democratic establishment’s priorities cannot be emphasized enough.

    Source: https://www.thenation.com/article/trump-impeachment-cold-war/
     
    Last edited: Nov 21, 2019
  4. Frank Underwood

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    More on Vindman specifically:

    ANALYSIS: Democrats have a Colonel Vindman problem

    House Democrats conducted their impeachment interviews in secret, but Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman still emerged as star of the show. Appearing at his Oct. 29 deposition in full dress uniform, the decorated Army officer, now a White House National Security Council Ukraine expert, was the first witness who had actually listened to the phone call between President Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that is at the heart of the Democratic impeachment campaign. Even though lawmakers were forbidden to discuss his testimony in public, Vindman's leaked opening statement that "I did not think it was proper [for Trump] to demand that a foreign government investigate a U.S. citizen" exploded on news reports.

    Vindman has not yet been scheduled to appear before the Democrats' public impeachment hearings. When that happens, he will undoubtedly again play a prominent role. But there will be a difference. The public now has a transcript of Vindman's deposition. And those who have taken the trouble to read the 340-page document will have a different picture of Vindman's testimony than the one presented in early media reports.

    Yes, Vindman testified repeatedly that he "thought it was wrong" for Trump, speaking with Zelensky, to bring up the 2016 election and allegations of Ukraine-related corruption on the part of former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden. But the Vindman transcript also showed a witness whose testimony was filled with opinion, with impressions, who had little new to offer, who withheld important information from the committee, who was steeped in a bureaucracy that has often been hostile to the president, and whose lawyer, presumably with Vindman's approval, expressed unmistakable disdain, verging on contempt, for members of Congress who asked inconvenient questions. In short, Vindman's testimony was not the slam-dunk hit Democrats portrayed it to be. And that raises questions about how it will play when Vindman goes before the world in a public impeachment hearing.

    Here are four problems with the Vindman testimony:

    1) Beyond his opinions, he had few new facts to offer. Vindman seemed to be an important fact witness, the first who had actually been on the July 25 call when Trump talked to Zelensky. But the White House weeks ago released the rough transcript of that call, which meant everyone in the secure room in which Vindman testified, and everyone on the planet, for that matter, already knew what had been said.

    Indeed, Vindman attested to the overall accuracy of the rough transcript, contrary to some impeachment supporters who have suggested the White House is hiding an exact transcript that would reveal everything Trump said to the Ukrainian president. As one of a half-dozen White House note-takers listening to the call, Vindman testified that he tried unsuccessfully to make a few edits to the rough transcript as it was being prepared. In particular, Vindman believed that Zelensky specifically said the word "Burisma," the corrupt Ukrainian energy company that hired Hunter Biden, when the rough transcript referred only to "the company." But beyond that, Vindman had no problems with the transcript, and he specifically said he did not believe any changes were made with ill intent.

    "You don't think there was any malicious intent to specifically not add those edits?" asked Republican counsel Steve Castor.

    "I don't think so."

    "So otherwise, this record is complete and I think you used the term 'very accurate'?"

    "Yes," said Vindman.

    Once Vindman had vouched for the rough transcript, his testimony mostly concerned his own interpretation of Trump's words. And that interpretation, as Vindman discovered during questioning, was itself open to interpretation.

    Vindman said he was "concerned" about Trump's statements to Zelensky, so concerned that he reported it to top National Security Council lawyer John Eisenberg. (Vindman had also reported concerns to Eisenberg two weeks before the Trump-Zelensky call, after a Ukraine-related meeting that included Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union.) Vindman said several times that he was not a lawyer and did not know if Trump's words amounted to a crime but that he felt they were "wrong." That was when Republican Rep. John Ratcliffe, a former U.S. attorney, tried to get to the root of Vindman's concerns. What was really bothering him?

    "I'm trying to find out if you were reporting it because you thought there was something wrong with respect to policy or there was something wrong with respect to the law," Ratcliffe said to Vindman. "And what I understand you to say is that you weren't certain that there was anything improper with respect to the law, but you had concerns about U.S. policy. Is that a fair characterization?"

    "So I would recharacterize it as I thought it was wrong and I was sharing those views," Vindman answered. "And I was deeply concerned about the implications for bilateral relations, U.S. national security interests, in that if this was exposed, it would be seen as a partisan play by Ukraine. It loses the bipartisan support. And then for — "

    "I understand that," Ratcliffe said, "but that sounds like a policy reason, not a legal reason."

    Indeed it did. Elsewhere in Vindman's testimony, he repeated that his greatest worry was that if the Trump-Zelensky conversation were made public, then Ukraine might lose the bipartisan support it currently has in Congress. That, to Ratcliffe and other Republicans, did not seem a sufficient reason to report the call to the NSC's top lawyer, nor did it seem the basis to begin a process leading to impeachment and a charge of presidential high crimes or misdemeanors.

    At another point, Castor asked Vindman whether he was interpreting Trump's words in an overly alarmist way, especially when Vindman contended that Trump issued a "demand" to Zelensky.

    "The president in the transcript uses some, you know, words of hedging from time to time," Castor said. "You know, on page 3, he says 'whatever you can do.' He ends the first paragraph on page 3, 'if that's possible.' At the top of page 4, 'if you could speak to him, that would be great.' 'So whatever you can do.' Again, at the top of page 4, 'if you can look into it.' Is it reasonable to conclude that those words hedging for some might, you know, lead people to conclude that the president wasn't trying to be demanding here?"

    "I think people want to hear, you know, what they have as already preconceived notions," Vindman answered, in what may have been one of the more revealing moments of the deposition. "I'd also point your attention to 'whatever you can do, it's very important to do it if that's possible.'"

    "'If that's possible,'" Castor stressed.

    "Yeah," said Vindman. "So I guess you can interpret it in different ways."

    2) Vindman withheld important information from investigators. Vindman ended his opening statement in the standard way, by saying, "Now, I would be happy to answer your questions." As it turned out, that cooperation did not extend to both parties.

    The only news in Vindman's testimony was the fact that he had twice taken his concerns to Eisenberg. He also told his twin brother, Yevgeny Vindman, who is also an Army lieutenant colonel and serves as a National Security Council lawyer. He also told another NSC official, John Erath, and he gave what he characterized as a partial readout of the call to George Kent, a career State Department official who dealt with Ukraine. That led to an obvious question: Did Vindman take his concerns to anyone else? Did he discuss the Trump-Zelensky call with anyone else? It was a reasonable question and an important one. Republicans asked it time and time again. Vindman refused to answer, with his lawyer, Michael Volkov, sometimes belligerently joining in. Through it all, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff stood firm in favor of keeping his committee in the dark.

    Vindman openly conceded that he told other people about the call. The obvious suspicion from Republicans was that Vindman told the person who became the whistleblower, who reported the call to the Intelligence Community inspector general, and who, in a carefully crafted legal document, framed the issue in a way that Democrats have adopted in their drive to remove the president from office.

    Vindman addressed the suspicion before anyone raised it. In his opening statement, he said, "I am not the whistleblower ... I do not know who the whistleblower is and I would not feel comfortable to speculate as to the identity of the whistleblower."

    Fine, said Republicans. We won't ask you who the whistleblower is. But if your story is that you were so concerned by the Trump-Zelensky issue that you reported it to Eisenberg, and also to others, well, who all did you tell? That is when the GOP hit a brick wall from Vindman, his lawyer Volkov, and, most importantly, Schiff. As chairman of the Intelligence Committee, charged with overseeing the intelligence community, Schiff might normally want to know about any intelligence community involvement in the matter under investigation. But in the Vindman deposition, Schiff strictly forbade any questions about it. "Can I just caution again," he said at one point, "not to go into names of people affiliated with the IC in any way." The purpose of it all was to protect the identity of the whistleblower, who Schiff incorrectly claimed has "a statutory right to anonymity."

    That left Republicans struggling to figure out what happened. "I'm just trying to better understand who the universe of people the concerns were expressed to," said Castor.

    "Look, the reason we're objecting is not — we don't want — my client does not want to be in the position of being used to identifying the whistleblower, okay?" said Volkov. "And based on the chair's ruling, as I understand it, [Vindman] is not required to answer any question that would tend to identify an intelligence officer."

    "Okay," Castor said to Vindman. "Did you express concerns to anybody, you know, that doesn't fall under this category of someone who might be the whistleblower, or is Eisenberg the only — "

    "No," said Vindman. "In my coordination role, as I actually said in the statement, in my opening ... in performing my coordination role as director on the National Security Council, I provide readouts of relevant meetings and communications to [redacted] properly cleared counterparts with a relevant need to know."

    What did that mean, exactly? Vindman didn't tell anybody else, he just provided readouts? On a need-to-know basis? Republicans tried on several occasions to figure it out. "Some of the other people that you raised concerns to, did you ask any of those folks to do anything with the concerns?" asked Castor.

    That only prompted more bureaucratese from the witness. "I don't think that's an accurate characterization, counsel," Vindman said. "I think what I did was I fulfilled my coordination role and spoke to other national security professionals about relevant substance in the call so that they could take appropriate action. And frankly, it's hard to — you know, without getting into, you know, sources and methods, it's hard to kind of talk about some of these things."

    So, Vindman's basic answer was: I won't tell you because that's a secret. After several such exchanges, Volkov got tough with lawmakers, suggesting further inquiries might hurt Vindman's feelings.

    "Look, he came here," Volkov said. "He came here. He tells you he's not the whistleblower, okay? He says he feels uncomfortable about it. Try to respect his feelings at this point."

    An unidentified voice spoke up. "We're uncomfortable impeaching the president," it said.

    "Excuse me. Excuse me," Volkov responded. "If you want to debate it, we can debate it, but what I'm telling you right now is you have to protect the identity of the whistleblower. I get that there may be political overtones. You guys go do what you got to do, but do not put this man in the middle of it."

    Castor spoke up. "So how does it out anyone by saying that he had one other conversation other than the one he had with George Kent?"

    "Okay," said Volkov. "What I'm telling you right now is we're not going to answer that question. If the chair wants to hold him in contempt for protecting the whistleblower, God be with you. ... You don't need this. You don't need to go down this. And look, you guys can — if you want to ask, you can ask — you can ask questions about his conversation with Mr. Kent. That's it. We're not answering any others."

    "The only conversation that we can speak to Col. Vindman about is his conversation with Ambassador Kent?" asked Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin.

    "Correct," said Volkov, "and you've already asked him questions about it."

    "And any other conversation that he had with absolutely anyone else is off limits?"

    "No," said Volkov. "He's told you about his conversations with people in the National Security Council. What you're asking him to do is talk about conversations outside the National Security Council. And he's not going to do that. I know where you're going."

    "No, actually, you don't," said Zeldin.

    "Oh, yes, sir," said Volkov.

    "No, you really don't," said Zeldin.

    "You know what?" said Volkov. "I know what you're going to say. I already know what you're going to do, okay? And I don't want to hear the FOX News questions, okay?"

    Zeldin, perhaps seeking to cool Volkov down, said, "Listen, this transcript is going to be out at some point, okay?"

    "I hope so," said Volkov.

    Finally, Schiff stepped in to stop things. "The gentleman will suspend," he said. "Let's suspend. Counsel has made his position clear. I think his client has made his position clear. Let's move on."

    It should be noted that Volkov was a lawyer, and members of Congress were members of Congress. The lawyer should not be treating the lawmakers as Volkov did. Volkov was able to tell Republicans to buzz off only because he had Schiff's full support. And Republicans never found out who else Vindman discussed the Trump-Zelensky call with.

    3) There were notable gaps in Vindman's knowledge. Vindman portrayed himself as the man to see on the National Security Council when it came to issues involving Ukraine. "I'm the director for Ukraine," he testified. "I'm responsible for Ukraine. I'm the most knowledgeable. I'm the authority for Ukraine for the National Security Council and the White House." Yet at times there were striking gaps in Vindman's knowledge of the subject matter. He seemed, for instance, distinctly incurious about the corruption issues in Ukraine that touched on Joe and Hunter Biden.

    Vindman agreed with everyone that Ukraine has a serious corruption problem. But he knew little specifically about Burisma, the nation's second-largest privately owned energy company, and even less about Mykola Zlochevsky, the oligarch who runs the firm.

    "What do you know about Zlochevsky, the oligarch that controls Burisma?" asked Castor.

    "I frankly don't know a huge amount," Vindman said.

    "Are you aware that he's a former Minister of Ecology"? Castor asked, referring to a position Zlochevsky allegedly used to steer valuable government licenses to Burisma.

    "I'm not," said Vindman.

    "Are you aware of any of the investigations the company has been involved with over the last several years?"

    "I am aware that Burisma does have questionable business dealings," Vindman said. "That's part of the track record, yes."

    "Okay. And what questionable business dealings are you aware of?" asked Castor. Vindman said he did not know beyond generalities. "The general answer is I think they have had questionable business dealings," Vindman said.

    Castor then noted that in 2014 Burisma "undertook an initiative to bring in some additional folks for their board, are you aware of some of the folks they added to their board in 2014?"

    "The only individual I'm aware of, again, after, you know, as it's been reported in the press is Mr. Hunter Biden," Vindman said.

    "Okay," said Castor. "And did you check with any of your authoritative sources in government to learn a little bit more about these issues?"

    "I did not," said Vindman. "I didn't think it was appropriate. He was a U.S. citizen, and I wasn't going to ask questions."

    A short time later, Castor asked, "And do you have any knowledge as to why Hunter Biden was asked to join the board?"

    "I do not."

    "Did you check with any of your authoritative sources whether he was a corporate governance expert or — "

    "Like I said, I didn't," Vindman answered. "He's an American citizen. Certainly there are domestic political overtones. I did not think that was appropriate for me to start looking into this particular ... I drew my conclusions on Burisma and I moved on."

    Vindman had other blind spots, as well. One important example concerned U.S. provision of so-called lethal aid to Ukraine, specifically anti-tank missiles known as Javelins. The Obama administration famously refused to provide Javelins or other lethal aid to Ukraine, while the Trump administration reversed that policy, sending a shipment of missiles in 2018. On the Trump-Zelensky call, the two leaders discussed another shipment in the future.

    "Both those parts of the call, the request for investigation of Crowd Strike and those issues, and the request for investigation of the Bidens, both of those discussions followed the Ukraine president saying they were ready to buy more Javelins. Is that right?" asked Schiff.

    "Yes," said Vindman.

    "There was a prior shipment of Javelins to Ukraine, wasn't there?" said Schiff.

    "So that was, I believe — I apologize if the timing is incorrect — under the previous administration, there was a — I'm aware of the transfer of a fairly significant number of Javelins, yes," Vindman said.

    Vindman's timing was incorrect. Part of the entire Trump-Ukraine story is the fact that Trump sent the missiles while Obama did not. The top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council did not seem to know that.

    4) Vindman was a creature of a bureaucracy that has often opposed Trump. In his testimony, Vindman's perspective could be mind-numbingly bureaucratic. One of his favorite words is "interagency," by which he means the National Security Council's role in coordinating policy among the State Department, Defense Department, the Intelligence Community, the Treasury Department, and the White House. His bible is something known as NSPM-4, or National Security Presidential Memorandum 4. He says things such as, "So I hold at my level sub-PCCs, Deputy Assistant Secretary level. PCCs are my boss, senior director with Assistant Secretaries. DCs are with the deputy of the National Security Council with his deputy counterparts within the interagency." He believes the interagency has set a clear U.S. policy toward Ukraine.

    "You said in your opening statement, or you indicated at least, that there's a fairly consensus policy within the interagency towards Ukraine," Democratic counsel Daniel Goldman said to Vindman. "Could you just explain what that consensus policy is, in your own words?"

    "What I can tell you is, over the course of certainly my tenure there, since July 2018, the interagency, as per normal procedures, assembles under the NSPM-4, the National Security Policy [sic] Memorandum 4, process to coordinate U.S. government policy," Vindman said. "We, over the course of this past year, probably assembled easily a dozen times, certainly at my level, which is called a subpolicy coordinating committee — and that's myself and my counterparts at the Deputy Assistant Secretary level — to discuss our views on Ukraine."

    That is a classic bureaucrat's view of government and the world. Needless to say, Trump does not do that sort of thing. The president is remarkably freewheeling, unbureaucratic, and certainly not always consistent when it comes to making policy. But he generally has a big goal in mind, and in any event, he is the president of the United States. He, not the interagency, sets U.S. foreign policy.

    Still, Vindman was deeply upset when Trump, relying on Rudy Giuliani and others, turned his attention to Ukraine. "In the spring of 2019, I became aware of outside influencers promoting a false narrative of Ukraine inconsistent with the consensus views of the interagency," Vindman said in his opening statement. The outside influencers, he suggested, were undermining the work of his "interagency colleagues." In the words of the Washington Post, Vindman was "deeply troubled by what he interpreted as an attempt by the president to subvert U.S. foreign policy."

    Vindman's discussion of the interagency, while dry as dust, might contain the key to his role in the Trump-Ukraine affair. In the last few years, the bureaucracy with which he so clearly identified has often been at odds, sometimes privately and sometimes publicly, with the president. Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, writing in a new book, said two top officials, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and White House chief of staff John Kelly, sought to undermine Trump to "save the country."

    "It was their decisions, not the president's, that were in the best interest of America, they said," Haley wrote. "The president didn't know what he was doing."

    That view extended deep into some areas of the government. Now, parts of the foreign policy bureaucracy are in open war with the president, channeling their grievances through the House Democrats' drive toward impeachment. When he testifies in public, Vindman will be the living embodiment of that bureaucratic war.

    Source: https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/news/analysis-democrats-have-a-col-vindman-problem
     
  5. Zable

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    As I recall, I asked that she get doctors to diagnose what ails her. :innocent:
     
  6. Frank Underwood

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    You haven't said anything about babbling Joe Biden's mental state, but you think someone who calmly and rationally speaks out against war and calls out her smear merchants has a brain ailment. Interesting. With "good judgement" like that, I'm surprised that you don't have your own show on MSNBC. If I were you, I'd definitely put in my resume!
     
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  7. Zable

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    Before it was Jim Jordan’s turn to question Taylor in his public testimony, the ambassador had already brought a new piece of information to the attention of the House Intel Committee’s: That after Taylor had given his closed door deposition, someone serving on his staff had informed him that the staffer had overheard the conversation between Ambassador Sondland and Prez Trump as that staffer had been with Ambassador Sondland at that time.

    Ambassador Taylor made no claims about what his unnamed staffer overheard.

    All Taylor said in public was that while he himself was occupied elsewhere on a trip to The Ukraine, his staffer had accompanied Sondland to a meeting with Andriy Yermak, an influential aide/counselor to President Zelenskiy. Then Taylor’s staffer and Sondland had gone to a restaurant where Sondland made a phone call to Prez Trump.

    Jimmy Dore neither presents those portions of Taylor’s testimony nor explains any of this. The impression he creates in connection with the staffer is that Ambassador Taylor was engaging in heresay over the contents of the conversation between Sondland and Prez Trump.

    Subsequently the Press reported that the staffer was one David Holmes, political counsellor at the US Embassy in The Ukraine. He gave his secret, ie closed-door, deposition to the Intel committee on Friday, after the first week of public testimonies were over. The transcript of his deposition was released to the public this Monday. Read a redacted copy here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/cont...in-kyiv/e2a09bb8-e76e-4f50-bc4e-235ef4b59969/

    I haven’t read Holmes’ transcript. I’m waiting for his public testimony today.

    Washington Post reports Holmes overheard Trump asking about President Zelenskiy, “So, he’s going to do the investigations?” ....And Holmes heard Sondland reply: “‘He’s going to do it,’ adding, ‘Do anything you ask him to.’”

    WaPo states: "There are two excerpts, both long, but both critical to understanding Holmes’s testimony":

    While Ambassador Sondland’s phone was not on speaker phone, I could hear the president’s voice through the ear piece of the phone. The president’s voice was very loud and recognizable, and Ambassador Sondland held the phone away from his ear for a period of time, presumably because of the loud volume. I heard Ambassador Sondland greet the president and explain that he was calling from Kyiv. I heard President Trump then clarify that Ambassador Sondland was in Ukraine. Ambassador Sondland replied yes, he was in Ukraine, and went on to state that President Zelensky, quote, unquote, loves your a--. I then heard President Trump ask, quote, “So he’s going to do the investigation?” unquote. Ambassador Sondland replied that, “He’s going to do it,” adding that President Zelensky will quote, “Do anything you ask him to.”

    ~~~

    After the end of the call, Ambassador Sondland remarked that the President was in a bad mood. As Ambassador Sondland stated, it was often the case early in the morning. I then took the opportunity to ask Ambassador Sondland for his candid impression of the President’s views on Ukraine. In particular, I asked Ambassador Sondland if it was true that the President did not give a s--- about Ukraine. Ambassador Sondland agreed that the President did not give a s--- about Ukraine. I asked why not, and Ambassador Sondland stated: The president only cares about “big stuff.” I noted that there was “big stuff” going on in Ukraine, like a war with Russia. And Ambassador Sondland replied that he meant “big stuff that benefits the President, like the Biden investigation that Mr. Giuliani was pushing.” The conversation then moved on to other topics.


    On YT, there's this analysis: State Department official's impeachment inquiry testimony pokes holes in GOP defense


    I have to ask, why did JD choose to focus on a news anchor who obviously couldn’t have known about the who and whats and hows of the conversation before the rest of us?

    I don’t see where the impeachment hearing has come unravelled. Do you? How can the Jimmy Dore show claim truthfully that its video is about “The Moment The Impeachment Hearing Unraveled”? Then again, it lays no claims to being truthful, so it can. It just expects us to have the intelligence not to believe it.
     
    Last edited: Nov 21, 2019
  8. Frank Underwood

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    Thanks for clearing that up.

    I think it had to do with the fact that she said "kind of overheard." How do you "kind of" overhear something?

    I know from Jimmy's coverage of Russia-gate that he's not a fan of innuendo, and I can't say I blame him.
    Jimmy's a comic first and a political commentator second, so I give him some leeway when it comes to hyperbole. His schtick is more like the Daily Show, rather than Meet the Press.

    That said, I agree with Jimmy that the way that conversation played out sounded like an old school comedy sketch or a game of telephone.
     
    Last edited: Nov 21, 2019
  9. Zable

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    Day 3: Tuesday, Nov 19th heard Lt Col Alexander Vindman, Jennifer Williams, Kurt Volker & Timothy Morrison in public.

    In full @PBS NewsHour_ _from approx. the 1 hour 55 min 45 sec mark.


    Day 4: Wednesday, Nov 20th heard Gordon Sondland, Laura Cooper & David Hale in public.

    In full @PBS NewsHour_ _from approx. the 2 hour 10 minute mark.


    Day 5:
    Thursday, Nov 21st heard Fiona Hill & David Holmes in public.

    Not in full @PBS NewsHour__but picking up for 4 hours from Rep Elsie Stefanik’s questioning of Fiona Hill.
     
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2019
  10. Zable

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    Sondland Describes 'Vintage Mob Operation' At Hearing | Morning Joe | MSNBC



    Rep. Maloney’s full questioning of Gordon Sondland | Trump impeachment hearings



    In that case, here's another Jim Jordan performance that might be just perfect for Jimmy's show (minus Joe Scarborough tearing his hair out over what he saw and heard):

    Joe: Wednesday Was Sad And Depressing To Watch | Morning Joe | MSNBC |

     
  11. Zable

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    Watergate prosecutor says that Sondland testimony was 'tipping point' for Trump

    By Marina Pitofsky | The Hill | Nov 21st

    Former U.S. attorney Nick Akerman, who prosecuted the Watergate case, said U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland’s Wednesday testimony in the House impeachment inquiry marked a “tipping point” for President Trump.

    "Yesterday was the tipping point completely," Akerman told Newsweek.

    "There's no defense to any of it now, there's nothing. What's he going to say, the Devil made me do it? That's what they're left with. There's no good defense. There's no good reason why he did this. It's purely for personal campaign purposes," he continued.

    Sondland’s fiery testimony was marked by several bombshells that refuted some of Trump and his GOP allies' defenses against House Democrats’ probes. He told lawmakers that he believes there was a quid pro quo between Trump and Ukraine, with Trump pressing Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to announce the launch of political investigations in exchange for a call and a meeting.

    “Was there a 'quid pro quo?’” Sondland asked. “With regard to the requested White House call and White House meeting, the answer is yes.” He added that “Everyone was in the loop” about the move.

    A whistleblower complaint filed earlier this year alleged that the Trump administration held up millions of dollars in military aid to Ukraine while Trump pushed for investigations into former vice president and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden.

    President Trump has repeatedly denied any quid pro quo, and he told reporters at the White House this week that he wanted nothing from Ukraine.

    Akerman alleged that “What we're really talking about here is two things: bribery and extortion. That's what the facts amount to.”

    "Bribery is important because bribery is listed in the U.S. Constitution as an impeachable offense in addition to high crimes and misdemeanors,” he told Newsweek.

    Akerman added that Trump could be in a weaker position than former President Nixon was among Republican colleagues during the Watergate scandal because he has not forged the decades-long relationships that Nixon held in Washington.

    "There were people who were willing to take a bullet for him, would stand in front of a truck and be run over. You could see from Sondland, he's not going to give up his life for Donald Trump. There were people that would do that for Richard Nixon,” he said.

    "This is pretty concrete," Akerman continued. "Republicans are going to be really put in a box here...Anybody looking at the objective evidence is going to have to say this guy's guilty of bribery and extortion, there's no question about it that what he did was off the rails and if you're ever going to impeach a president on anything, this is about as bad as it gets."​

    Source: https://thehill.com/blogs/blog-brie...utor-says-that-sondland-testimony-was-tipping


    'He (Trump) Got Caught And Then He Wrote That Note' | Morning Joe | MSNBC



    Prior to the public testimony by Fiona Hill (alongside David Holmes) Senator Amy Klobuchar was interviewed by Wolf Blitzer on the impeachment hearings.

    Klobuchar: This is a 'decency check' on Trump | CNN

     
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    Hill disputes that she questioned Vindman’s ‘overall judgment’




    Hill interjects, "Could I actually say something?" to address partisan divisions



    Fiona Hill gives nation and Republicans stark warning

     
  13. Zable

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    Witness fires back at lawmaker: Obvious what Trump wanted



    Republican Texan Will Hurd of the House Intel Committee spent most of his 5 minutes allocated time for questioning Fiona Hill & David Holmes making a statement I found myself agreeing with, both on foreign policy and on what a case for impeachment should look like. ....Which is why I won’t be surprised if the House Speaker decides it’s best not to rush to wrap up the process before the new (election) year.

    There’s still plenty of deposition transcripts to be made public, and my guess is that their release to the public is being prioritised/ordered according to how the chairs of the various House committees want to build their case. I imagine those members of the House who are lawyers by training will be providing their SWOT feedback (ie, strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats analysis), just like the ex-intelligence guys such as Representative Hurd.

    Republican criticizes Trump then gives big hint how he'll vote on impeachment
    “The representative’s short speech was in the vein of a pox on both your houses,” reported The Atlantic*.


    *The Atlantic carried an article about Will Hurd, with a strapline saying: If Democrats can’t persuade a moderate Republican like him to vote to impeach President Trump, they’re unlikely to win over any Republicans at all. (Source: https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2019/11/impeachment-will-hurd-republicans/602443/)

    Excerpt:

    Hurd, a moderate former CIA analyst who announced this summer that he would not seek reelection next year, joined every other House Republican in voting against a package of rules for the impeachment inquiry last month. But he had been more open-minded than most of his colleagues and gave little indication of his leanings during the committee’s hearings over the past two weeks. His questions of witnesses were serious and not overtly partisan, neither adopting the dismissive tone of his fellow Republicans toward impeachment nor signaling the alarm that Democrats have at the revelations so far.






     
  14. Zable

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    News Analysis: After Trump impeachment hearings, both sides scramble

    By Noah Bierman, Eli Stokols and Jennifer Haberkorn | Los Angeles Times | Nov 21st

    WASHINGTON — After five grueling days of public testimony by a dozen witnesses, evidence appeared overwhelming in the House impeachment inquiry that President Trump directed a campaign to get Ukraine’s leader to investigate Democrats in exchange for an Oval Office meeting.

    But as Congress left for a long Thanksgiving break Thursday, there was no sign that the damaging testimony had swayed Republican lawmakers to support impeaching the president or ultimately convicting him.

    Only one Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Will Hurd of Texas, who is not running for reelection, appeared troubled by the president’s actions.

    “I disagree with this sort of bungling foreign policy,” he said during the hearing Thursday. But he added, “I have not heard evidence proving the president committed bribery or extortion,” two of the charges that Democrats have suggested might be used in articles of impeachment.

    Trump sought to shore up his support in the Senate, hosting a small group of Republicans for lunch at the White House, as he has done regularly since Democrats launched the impeachment probe in September.

    The White House counsel, Pat Cipollone, and senior advisors Kellyanne Conway and Jared Kushner met with another group of Republican senators to game out a likely Senate trial if the House impeaches the president, said a person familiar with the meeting.

    The discussion, the person said, focused on the prospective trial’s duration, not the “foregone conclusion” of an acquittal for the president. A Senate trial would probably last at least two weeks, and would begin in January if the House votes to impeach this year.

    That could be a problem for the six Democratic senators running for president, who probably would be pulled off the campaign trail in the crucial weeks before the Feb. 3 Iowa caucuses.

    Republicans appeared resigned to the prospect that Trump will become the third president in U.S. history to be impeached — even if no Republicans support it.

    “This is the old line, it’s a Greek tragedy, our fate has been cast, we just have to play out our roles,” Rep. Michael K. Conaway (R-Texas) said in an interview.

    “It’s pretty clear that Democrats are going to impeach the president in the House,” he added. “They’ve really made their minds up and the real issue is when they move to the Senate.”

    Democrats believe they proved everything they needed, sometimes in dramatic fashion, by bringing in what amounted to a parade of prosecution witnesses.

    Hour after hour, day after day, White House aides, career diplomats, national security officials and an ambassador who donated $1 million to Trump’s inaugural festivities detailed the president’s efforts to press Ukraine to investigate a debunked conspiracy theory involving the 2016 election and former Vice President Joe Biden’s efforts to fight corruption in the country.

    Although Trump had invited Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to the White House in May, his aides made clear that the coveted meeting would not occur until Zelensky announced the investigations that Trump wanted. Zelensky never did and the Oval Office meeting still has not taken place.

    Trump also withheld nearly $400 million in security assistance to Ukraine. The weapons and other aid were released on Sept. 11 after a whistleblower’s complaint first raised concerns about the scheme, and lawmakers demanded answers.

    Trump has expressed frustration that his House allies were unable to halt a cascade of damaging disclosures. But as in his previous crises and scandals, he projected both a sense of victimhood and faith that he would ultimately prevail.

    “Keep fighting tough, Republicans, you are dealing with human scum who have taken Due Process and all of the Republican Party’s rights away from us during the most unfair hearings in American History,” he tweeted. “But we are winning big, and they will soon be on our turf.”

    The president’s confidence may be warranted by the calcified partisanship that has made public opinion about the president almost unmovable.

    “We are living in two separate countries, with two separate newspapers, two separate cable channels, two sets of people with completely opposite conclusions,” said Frank Luntz, a Los Angeles-based GOP pollster who has conducted several focus groups during the impeachment inquiry.

    “If you are an honest pollster, this is something you have never experienced in your lifetime. Where you stand depends on who you speak to. It’s not just social media, it is society — we don’t talk to people we disagree with,” he said. “And the consequences of this are awful.”

    With help from conservative media allies, Republicans have tried to paint the Democratic-led probe as muddy, confusing and a product of Washington insiders who resent Trump and never accepted the legitimacy of his election.

    During the hearings, GOP lawmakers brusquely dismissed witnesses’ recollections as “secondhand” and questioned their patriotism or integrity.

    But they did not challenge the narrative that emerged of a conflicting two-track policy toward Ukraine — one led by a small group around the president seeking to boost Trump’s 2020 reelection bid, and another led by national security and foreign policy professionals trying to support Ukraine’s fledgling democracy and war against Russia.

    Democrats argued that the first track amounted to an unacceptable presidential abuse of power.

    “What we’re talking about is far more serious than a third-rate burglary,” said Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Burbank), chairman of the Intelligence Committee, evoking Watergate during an emotional closing statement Thursday. “The difference between then and now is not the difference between Nixon and Trump. It’s the difference between that Congress and this one.”

    In the weeks ahead, Republicans plan to reinforce their argument that the House inquiry is a partisan witch hunt, and that even if Trump’s demands to Ukraine were not as “perfect” as he insists, his misjudgments do not warrant impeachment and ouster from office.

    “I don’t think anybody seriously thinks he’ll be convicted,” said Matt Schlapp, a Trump ally who leads the American Conservative Union. “It’s all about just weakening him.”

    Democrats “believe that if this goes well, it will enhance their ability to beat him” next year, he added.

    Ronna McDaniel, chairwoman of the Republican National Committee, seemed untroubled by the testimony. She said impeachment has been a fundraising boon for the party, which raised $25 million in October.

    “There is an absolute influx of small-dollar donations,” she said. “The impeachment has actually ramped that up.”

    It’s too soon to measure the effect, if any, of this week’s marathon testimony in opinion polls. But early surveys and focus groups have generally shown that voters’ views on impeachment track closely with their views of Trump’s overall performance.

    Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.), a member of the Intelligence Committee, said he sees a chance that the most damaging testimony could “break through” to voters in “swing districts and places where you have a lot more independent-minded voters.”

    But the holiday recess also may blunt any momentum Democrats were able to create with three days of wall-to-wall testimony. And there’s little sign that the impeachment drama is going to bring a divided nation together or change Trump’s approach to foreign policy.

    Fiona Hill, the British-born former White House national security aide, sounded almost plaintive Thursday as she pleaded with lawmakers to not promote “politically driven falsehoods that so clearly advance Russian interests,” warning that the Kremlin is gearing up to meddle in the 2020 election, just as it did in 2016.

    “We must not let domestic politics stop us from defending ourselves against the foreign powers who truly wish us harm,” she said.​

    Source: https://www.latimes.com/politics/st...-impeachment-hearings-end-both-sides-scramble
     
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    Prez Trump has gone from a daily fight with Adam Schiff to wanting a trial. But the DNC servers are still on his mind.

    TYT discusses the latter.

     
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    Trump's Nightmare: The New ‘Bribery Receipts’ Fuelling His Impeachment |Ari Melber | MSNBC

     
  17. Frank Underwood

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    Impeachment Non-Bombshells Endanger Democrats in 2020
    Unmerited hype about Gordon Sondland’s testimony has overshadowed the potential damage that the impeachment saga poses for the presidential election.

    Two weeks of public hearings in the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump closed with widespread talk of a new “bombshell” that had sealed the case, and with it the fate of Trump’s presidency. But rather than producing a Watergate-like moment, the Ukrainegate testimony was far more akin to its predecessor, Russiagate, and accordingly, far more likely to produce the same disappointing result.

    The basis for the excitement was the testimony of Gordon Sondland, the US ambassador to the European Union. Sondland is one of the few witnesses to have actually spoken to Trump, and the only known US official said to have relayed to Ukrainian counterparts that money to purchase US weapons—known as “military aid” or “security sector assistance”—was conditioned on Kiev’s commitment to open investigations.

    The consensus interpretation of Sondland’s testimony is that he confirmed that such a scheme transpired. Indeed, in his opening statement, Sondland asserted that there was a “quid pro quo” and that “everyone was in the loop.” Widely overlooked is that Sondland was not referring to the military funding. Instead, Sondland said that Rudy Giuliani told US officials and Ukrainians that a Ukrainian commitment to open investigations were “prerequisites” for a White House meeting and phone call sought by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. But leveraging a White House meeting or phone call is not the “quid” at the heart of the impeachment inquiry: leveraging military funding is. And on that front, Sondland’s testimony did not advance the Democrats’ case.

    When questioning began, Sondland made clear that Trump never told him that the military funding was contingent on investigations. In fact, he said that Trump never mentioned that military funding at all. The idea that it was conditioned on the investigations did not come from Trump, but, as Sondland explained, from his own interpretation “in the absence of any credible explanation” for why the money had been frozen.

    Asked by Representative Adam Schiff whether “the military assistance was also being withheld pending Zelensky announcing these investigations,” Sondland replied: “That was my presumption. My personal presumption based on the facts at the time. Nothing was moving.” He then told Democratic counsel Daniel Goldman the same thing: “President Trump never told me directly that the aid was conditioned on the meetings. The only thing we got directly from [Rudy] Guiliani was that the Burisma and 2016 elections were conditioned on the White House meeting. The aid was my own personal, you know, guess.” And yet again: “Nobody told me directly that the aid was tied to anything. I was presuming it was.”

    Sondland repeated the same message again and again, including in this exchange with Republican Representative Mike Turner:

    Rep Mike Turner
    No one on this planet told you that President Trump was tying aid to investigations. Yes or no?

    Ambass Sondland
    Yes.

    Rep Mike Turner
    So, you really have no testimony today that ties President Trump to a scheme to withhold aid from Ukraine in exchange for these investigations?

    Ambass Sondland
    Other than my own presumption.


    Because he was only operating off of his “own presumption,” Sondland also revealed that a critical conversation with a Ukrainian official, Andriy Yermak, was far less explosive than initially believed. Two US officials—Bill Taylor, the top US diplomat in Ukraine, and Tim Morrison, a National Security Council aide—had testified that Sondland had linked the military funding to the investigations in a conversation with Yermak in Warsaw on September 1. This was a critical claim, as it potentially showed the first—and to this date, the only—explicit communication of such a linkage to the Ukrainian side.

    But Sondland disclosed that he told Yermak exactly what he told Congress: that in the absence of an explanation for why the military aid had been frozen, he shared with his Ukrainian counterpart—in “a very, very brief pull-aside conversation”—that he merely presumed the freeze was tied to Ukraine’s willingness to announce an investigation:

    And I don’t know if I came over to Yermak or he came over to me, but he said, “What’s going on here?” And I said, “I don’t know. It might all be tied together now, I have no idea.” I was presuming that it was, but it was a very short conversation.…
    […]
    That was my presumption, my personal presumption based on the facts at the time, nothing was moving.


    Sondland reiterated the point under questioning from Goldman, saying that he even told Yermak that: “I didn’t know exactly why” the freeze had been made, but that the investigations “could be a reason.”

    Sondland’s presumption may well have been correct. The freeze on the military funding coincided with efforts by Trump officials to pressure the Ukrainian government to open investigations into alleged Ukrainian meddling in 2016 and Burisma, the Ukrainian firm where Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, obtained a lucrative board seat. But as I’ve written previously, a plausible presumption is not the same as evidence for a provable, impeachment-worthy case. And Sondland showed Congress that he only has the former. If he has no actual evidence that the military funding was linked to investigations (as he admitted in his testimony), then what he “presumed” and “believed” is just as useful for the purposes of an impeachment case as what anyone else presumed or believed. Another key US official, Kurt Volker, testified that he saw no such linkage at the time, and that he never conveyed such a connection to Ukraine (Volker has, however, revised his testimony to reflect that he now understands that an investigation of Biden was sought). And given that Sondland is the only known Trump official thought to have communicated the military funding precondition to the Ukrainian side, then he is in fact providing evidence that when such linkage, the basis for the impeachment case, was communicated to the Ukrainians, it was not at Trump’s behest.

    If the evidence presented by the Democrats’ star witness is in fact only his “personal presumption” on the core issue, then Democrats face a major evidentiary hole. To date, no one else has filled it.

    The impeachment hearings leave us with a gap between the evidence presented and the maximalist, “bombshell” interpretations drawn from it. That’s nothing new. The same dynamic drove Russiagate for nearly three years until it collapsed. And just like Russiagate, a major driver of Ukrainegate is an underlying hawkish posture toward Russia. It is abundantly clear that witness after witness disagreed with Trump’s decision to briefly freeze the military funding, and firmly believes that the United States should arm Ukraine in its conflict with Russian-backed forces in the Donbass region.

    What is not at all clear is why anyone beyond Beltway war hawks should be enrolled in their Cold War designs. Schiff, the impeachment leader, declared that Ukrainians fighting Russian-backed forces are “fighting our fight too, to defend our country against Russian aggression.” In reality, Ukrainians are fighting a war that the United States helped start by backing the overthrow of a democratically elected Ukrainian government in 2014. President Barack Obama, who bears some responsibility for that war, tried to scale it back by rejecting intense Beltway pressure to send the military funding now at the heart of the impeachment inquiry. Among those national security state voices whose pleas Obama rebuffed was Bill Taylor, the Democrats’ opening witness.

    If Democrats weren’t so invested in championing military spending that President Obama once resisted, they might see other phone calls beyond the July 25 Trump-Zelensky conversation to take issue with. In closed-door testimony, Pentagon official Laura Cooper revealed that concern about the frozen military funding arose after the defense department heard complaints from the funding’s prime beneficiaries: weapons manufacturers. After mid-August, Cooper said, “various folks in the Department started to get phone calls from industry”—the military industry that wanted its weapons purchased. “All of these US firms that were implementing [the weapons sales to Ukraine]—they were getting concerned,” Cooper added. So was the US Chamber of Commerce, which called her as well.

    In a different time, a liberal opposition movement might be raising concerns of its own about war-profiteering phone calls; or the merits of fueling a war on the borders of the world’s other top nuclear power; or doing so in a way that arms and empowers far-right forces incorporated within the Ukrainian military. Instead, Democrats have been enlisted to champion that proxy war and the coffers of the military firms that profit from it.

    The domestic consequences are no less important. As Democrats and media outlets devote endless hours to venerating a procession of hawkish bureaucrats and parsing their every word, issues that materially affect the lives of average voters are going—just as they were in the Russiagate era—largely ignored.

    And for all of the speculation about a Trump presidency in peril and Republicans jumping ship, some signs point in a different direction. “As a political matter, the longer this goes, it is a real opportunity for Republicans to paint Democrats as unconcerned about the issues voters care more about,” a Republican strategist told The New York Times. Eyeing that chance, Republicans are discussing a strategy that would prolong a Senate impeachment trial as long as possible so as to overshadow the Democratic primary—“potentially keeping six contenders in Washington until the eve of the Iowa caucuses or longer,” The Washington Post notes.

    Two of those contenders include the leading progressive candidates, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. Couple the prospect of slowing their momentum with an impeachment process that to date has failed to substantiate its core allegation, and it is hard not to wonder if Democrats are staging a Russiagate sequel in more ways than one: “bombshells” that fizzle out, dangerous Cold War chauvinism emboldened, and Trump handed another gift for the fast-approaching 2020 campaign.

    Source: https://www.thenation.com/article/impeachment-sondland-democrats/

     
  18. Frank Underwood

    Frank Underwood Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    Fiona Hill’s Testimony Was Devastating for Trump
    But the foreign policy expert was too quick to blame America’s ills on external forces.

    Former White House adviser Fiona Hill was far and away the most impressive of the witnesses in the impeachment hearings against Donald Trump. This is a reflection more of how she presented her case than of the particular story she told. There are only minor inconsistencies among the witnesses: All the accounts confirm that Donald Trump and his inner circle used the threat of withholding foreign aid to compel the Ukrainian government to open up investigations that would implicate Joe Biden and his son Hunter.

    But the witnesses varied greatly in how they carried themselves. Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman was jittery and flustered, understandably so since he was a career military man giving evidence against the commander in chief. EU ambassador Gordon Sondland had the air of a wealthy dilettante trying to fast-talk his way out of a mess. A few of the other witnesses came across as colorless functionaries.

    Hill stood out from the pack. She was poised, confident, brisk in her remarks, unflustered by browbeating from Republican representatives, and in utter command of her facts and arguments. Her testimony clarified the reality that the Trump administration had a two-track Ukraine policy: an official policy executed by foreign policy professionals and a nakedly political policy sneakily pushed along by Gordon Sondland and others.

    About Sondland, Hill noted, “He was being involved in a domestic political errand, and we were being involved in national security foreign policy. And those two things had just diverged.” That divergence between the “domestic political errand” and official policy cuts to the heart of the scandal.

    Hill’s impressive performance was widely hailed in the press. John Cassidy of The New Yorker compared her to “a Plantagenet warrior.” A similar analogy was made by Tim Miller of The Bulwark, who hailed her as “Queen Fiona” who “saved us from this impeachment death march. In control. Unphased [sic] by the partisan nonsense. Clear-eyed about Vladimir Putin. Not jaded or beaten down by the avalanche of acrimony and foolishness that she has been dealt in the past two years. A woman who wants only to serve the adopted country she loves.” Only slightly less florid was Jennifer Rubin of The Washington Post, who celebrated Hill as “a patriot with a heart-tugging immigrant story” who “stands up to bullies and liars” and who “gave Republicans the thrashing they so richly deserved.”

    This fawning is forgivable. The Trump era is short of heroes, and when a whip-smart Trump critic with impeccable credentials comes along, it is easy to start throwing around the accolades.

    But like all political actors, Hill deserves some clear-eyed scrutiny, even if we appreciate her help in exposing Trump’s corruption.

    In her statement to Congress, Hill presented herself as “a nonpartisan, nonpolitical national security professional.” The nonpartisan part is more convincing than the nonpolitical. Hill has served under the administrations of the last three presidents, so clearly has no party preferences. But foreign policy professionals definitely have political agendas. Like many in the national security establishment, Hill is a hawk who wants to build up the alliance with Ukraine as a restraint on Russia.

    This policy might be right or wrong—but it is absolutely not “nonpolitical.” It has a definite political coloration. One of the major problems with the impeachment hearings is that national security professionals like Hill are using the justified outrage at Trump’s criminality to make a pitch for an aggressive foreign policy. As Vox writer Matthew Yglesias notes, “It’s disturbing…to see Trump’s criminality serving to mainstream the borderline absurd notion that prying Ukraine out of the Russian sphere of influence should be a top-tier priority of American foreign policy.”

    Beyond Ukraine, Hill’s understanding of the problems posed by Russia deserves debunking. “The unfortunate truth is that Russia was the foreign power that systematically attacked our democratic institutions in 2016,” Hill said in her opening statement. “The impact of the successful 2016 Russian campaign remains evident today. Our nation is being torn apart. Truth is questioned. Our highly professional and expert career foreign service is being undermined.”

    This vastly overstates the likely impact of Russian interference in 2016, crediting it with internal American problems of social division, increasing disagreements about truth, and rising skepticism toward expertise. Hill’s account confuses the effects with the cause. It’s much more likely that Russian interference had the impact it did because America was already divided over issues of truth. It wasn’t Vladimir Putin who invented birtherism but GOP opponents of Barack Obama, exploiting long-existing racism. Nor was it Russia that created climate change denial. That’s a product of the American fossil fuel industry.

    As George Washington University political scientist Henry Farrell argued in Foreign Policy in 2018, “Russia is not working according to a master plan carefully laid-out laid out by President Vladimir Putin. Instead, a loose collective of Russians, with incredibly meager resources, have been working together in a disorganized way to probe American democracy for weaknesses. Instead of persuading people to vote for Donald Trump, and against Clinton, they have wanted to create chaos and paranoia—and they have succeeded in stirring confusion only because there were so many weaknesses for them to exploit in the first place.”

    In other words, whatever damage Russia did to American democracy was possible only because of existing social divisions. There’s no way to strengthen American democracy without addressing those issues directly.

    Hill is not able to see that, because she’s a national security expert, committed to a division of the world between domestic policy and external affairs. For that same reason, she bristled at the way Trump used domestic political concerns to override foreign policy. But that pristine division between domestic and foreign might be obsolete for reasons that go beyond Trump. It’s telling that no Republicans in Congress are willing to break with Trump despite the evidence presented by Hill and other foreign policy experts.

    Partisanship trumps policy expertise in Washington. That’s a problem that can’t be blamed on Putin. Nor can it be solved by Hill’s brand of national security professionalism.

    Source: https://www.thenation.com/article/fiona-hill-impeachment-testimony/
     
  19. Zable

    Zable Soap Chat TV Fanatic

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    They'll break if Bolton testifies, I'm sure. What would be the telling then?
    Besides, the impeachment hearings are far from over. So many open leads:

    John Bolton

    Mike Pompeo & State Dept Documents

    Mick Mulvaney

    Rick Perry Energy Deal

    SDNY Probe of Rudy Giuliani

    Ukrainian Oligarch Dmytro Firtash

    Devin Nunes Meeting on Biden

    Trump's taxes and other financial dealings
     
  20. Frank Underwood

    Frank Underwood Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    Yikes! It sounds like the hearings hinge on testimony from the worst of the worst.
     

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