Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee have been using their time for questioning of witnesses not to discover the facts of what actually occurred regarding Trump’s shakedown of Ukraine, but rather to pursue the “Spygate” conspiracy theory from the fever swamps of the right-wing which claims Democrats conspired with Ukrainian nationals to frame the president’s campaign for collusion to delegitimize his 2016 election. “Paul Manafort was framed!” “The Russians were framed!”
Republicans reject the unanimous report by the U.S. intelligence community in January of 2017 which concluded that Russian operatives reporting to Putin interfered in the 2016 presidential election in favor of Trump. They also reject the bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee report in July 2019 which confirmed and expanded upon the intelligence community report. Senate Intelligence report on Russian meddling sounds alarm for 2020. And Republicans, of course, reject the Mueller Report, in which the Special Counsel filed indictments against specified Russian intelligence agents and the Russian troll farm, Internet Research Agency. “It’s all a deep state conspiracy!”
Republicans have also been trying to insert the name of the whistleblower into the deposition transcripts that a conspiracy theory from the fever swamps of the right-wing wrongly identified as the whistleblower.
The Washington Post reported, In impeachment inquiry, Republican lawmakers ask questions about whistleblower, loyalty to Trump and conspiracy theories:
Republican lawmakers have used the congressional impeachment inquiry to gather information on a CIA employee who filed a whistleblower complaint, press witnesses on their loyalty to President Trump and advance conspiratorial claims that Ukraine was involved in the 2016 election, according to current and former officials involved in the proceedings.
GOP members and staffers have repeatedly raised the name of a person suspected of filing the whistleblower complaint that exposed Trump’s effort to pressure Ukraine to conduct investigations into his political adversaries, officials said.
[T]he questions have been interpreted as an attempt “to unmask the whistleblower,” whose identity is shielded under federal law, said several officials with direct knowledge of the depositions.
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Democrats contend that Republicans are not using the inquiry to uncover facts about the administration’s interactions with Ukraine. “There’s been zero interest [among the GOP] in actually getting to the conduct of the president,” a Democratic lawmaker said. “It’s not the subject of their questioning at all.”
Nunes has used the depositions to try to link those appearing as part of the impeachment inquiry to other individuals who figured prominently in GOP efforts to discredit previous investigations of Trump’s ties with Russia in 2016, officials said.
Republicans have also asked witnesses whether they had contact with Bruce Ohr, a former Justice Department official whose wife was affiliated with Fusion GPS, the investigative firm that hired Steele.
Witnesses including former top White House Russia adviser Fiona Hill have been asked whether they had any interactions with Christopher Steele, the former British intelligence officer who compiled a dossier of allegations about Trump’s Russia ties, work that was initially funded by Republicans but was later underwritten by Democrats.
The testimony of Dr. Fiona Hill regarding the Republican’s “Spygate” conspiracy theory is exemplary of the nonsense that has been going on. Transcript of Testimony of Fiona Hill. Here is a line of questioning from Republican committee counsel:
Q Are you aware of the allegation there’s been some reporting, there was a big Politico artic1e in January 2017 about Ukrainians’ efforts to affect the outcome of the election, the U. S. election?
A I’m aware of the articles.
Q And do you give any credibility to some of the basic charges in there, such as [redacted]? Are you familiar with that? Would it be helpful if we marked this as an an exhibit, this Politico article?
Note: A 2017 investigation into possible Ukrainian attempts to influence the 2016 US presidential election by Politico, written by Ken Vogel and Ukraine-based reporter David Stern titled “Ukrainian Efforts to Sabotage Trump Backfire,” was likely the beginning of the Ukrainian collusion narrative.
A I’ve seen that Politico article.
A Look, I think we have —
Q I can hand it to you.
A No. But we have —
Q Do you want it?
A — and I am very confident based on all of the analysis that has been done and, again, I don’t want to start getting into intelligence matters that the Ukrainian Government did not interfere in our election in 2015.
Q 0kay. But you’re aware of the reporting?
A I’m aware of the reporting, but that doesn’t mean that that amounts to an operation by the Ukrainian Government.
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Q Just asking the questions.
A No, but I’m just saying in here that — but this gets back to what Masha Yovanovitch said, that you can write something in an article and it somehow becomes true that it’s written in an article without all of the due diligence that’s done on this later.
I have my own beef with 2015 and the investigations, that I don’t believe it should have started by focusing, first of all, on Americans. It should have started by looking at what Russians were doing, and I think we would have ended up in exactly the same place that Mr. Mueller did on what the Russians did with the same sets of indictments, and it might have not been quite so politicized at the time, because I can promise you that the Russians did everything that he outlined and then some. And I myself have been targeted by the Russians on many occasions.
The witness testimony in response to this Republican pursuit of right-wing fever swamp conspiracy theories can collectively be summed up with a “I don’t know what the hell you are talking about.”
Nevertheless, they persisted. Rep. Devin Midnight Run Nunes, a co-conspirator and accessory to Donald Trump’s obstruction of Congress and obstruction of justice, submitted a list of witnesses to House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff, seeking to call the whistleblower and unrelated witnesses to pursue Trump’s right-wing fever swamp conspiracy theories, and to put Joe Biden and his son on trial rather than Donald Trump. Republicans attempt to move impeachment inquiry away from Trump:
House Republicans on Saturday pressed ahead with their efforts to move the impeachment inquiry away from President Trump, calling on Democrats to add witnesses to the probe including former vice president Joe Biden’s son and the whistleblower whose initial complaint kicked off the investigation.
The GOP demands were met with immediate skepticism from House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), who warned against “sham investigations” of the Bidens and other issues in a clear signal that many of the witnesses were unlikely to be called.
House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff said in a letter Saturday that the whistleblower’s testimony is “redundant and unnecessary” because the impeachment inquiry has gathered evidence that “not only confirms, but far exceeds” information in the original complaint.
Republicans want to turn the televised impeachment hearings into a shit-show pursuing entirely debunked conspiracy theories about Joe Biden and his son, Trump is pushing a baseless conspiracy about the Bidens and China. Here’s what we know, and engaging in character assassination of the whistleblower and the patriotic State Department employees who have come forward to testify despite White House attempts to intimidate them into not testifying.
As Jennifer Rubin of the Washington Post writes, Republicans admit they have no fact witnesses — and Trump did it:
House Republicans acknowledged that they have no witnesses and no documents to dispute the main facts concerning President Trump’s impeachable conduct: a demand from Ukraine for dirt on a political rival; withholding of aid vital to Ukraine’s defense against Russia; concealing evidence of the scheme by moving a transcript to a secret server; and threatening the tipster who alerted Congress to gross malfeasance. They admitted all that? Well, in a manner of speaking they did.
House Republicans sent Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) a list of witnesses they want to testify in the impeachment inquiry, including former vice president Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden and the anonymous whistleblower who filed the initial complaint against President Trump. …
Schiff is likely to reject many, if not all, of the witnesses from the Republicans’ wish list. [Republicans will whine that this is unfair, partisan and a violation of due process. That would only be true is the committee accepted their list of witnesses.]
Hunter Biden lacks any direct knowledge of anything that occurred in the Trump White House, and hence he cannot rebut evidence of Trump’s demand that Ukraine interfere with our election. By Republicans’ own admission, the whistleblower lacks first-hand knowledge of events. (“Witnesses who testified out of public view have corroborated the crux of the case against Trump — that he pressured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate his political rivals — so the Democrats see no need for the whistleblower, who heard the story secondhand, to testify. Three career State Department officials are returning next week for the public hearings.”)
All Republicans have are distractions, stunts to generate claims of unfairness, and gimmicks to threaten the life and career of the whistleblower. It’s remarkable, really, that they could stipulate to every fact about which the witnesses testified under oath.
Republicans implicitly admit that there is no disputing Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman’s testimony. Vindman testified that, in the July 25 call, “there was no doubt” Trump made a demand of the Ukrainian president to initiate an investigation of a U.S. citizen, a “deliverable” to help his presidential reelection. “When the president of the United States makes a request for a favor, it certainly seems — I would take it as a demand,” Vindman testified. There are apparently no witnesses to contradict his testimony and none to dispute it was of such concern that Vindman went to John Eisenberg, the top national security lawyer in the White House.
Republicans apparently have no evidence to contradict the testimony of Fiona Hill, who served as a top Russia adviser to the White House. She testified that former national security adviser John Bolton, in a meeting following an exchange between U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland and Ukrainian officials that made explicit that any White House meeting was conditioned on an announcement of an investigation into the Bidens, “basically said — in fact, he directly said: Rudy Giuliani is a hand grenade that is going to blow everybody up. He did make it clear that he didn’t feel that there was anything that he could personally do about this.” In other words, the national security adviser knew hijacking foreign policy for Trump’s political gain was wrong and likely illegal.
Likewise, there is nothing to undermine Vindman’s testimony that the Office of Management and Budget put a hold on funds appropriated by Congress to Ukraine, an action contrary to U.S. policy, injurious to Ukraine and a function of the Trump-Giuliani campaign smear operation. (“Basically we were trying to get to the bottom of why this hold was in place, why OMB was applying this hold. There were multiple memos that were transmitted from my directorate to Ambassador Bolton on, you know, keeping him abreast of this particular development.”) Republicans have no evidence to dispute that.
Bloomberg News reports that it was a State Department legal finding made earlier in the year, and conveyed in a classified memorandum to Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, that “State had the authority to spend the money — regardless of what Trump was saying through the OMB — and would start the process by Sept. 7.” State Department Freed Ukraine Money Before Trump Says He Did:
By late August, bipartisan demands were building in Congress for release of the money — and for an explanation of why it was being withheld.
Congressional appropriators were frustrated when their inquiry on Aug. 29 about the status of the State Department funds was greeted by silence. Days passed and on Sept. 9, when they asked again, the State Department’s Legislative Affairs office told them there was no hold on the $141 million, according to a person familiar with the matter.
What they didn’t know, according to one of the people, was that shortly before Sept. 9, Bolton had relayed a message to the State Department that the funding could go ahead. It’s not clear whether Bolton, who resigned from the job a week later, did so with Trump’s approval.
Bolton’s handling of the funding struck officials in the White House as violating protocol and caught Mulvaney by surprise, according to another person familiar with the matter.
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Bolton at the time was waging a battle with senior-level OMB officials over the funding and opposed putting any conditions on the aid.
That may explain a cryptic letter that Bolton’s lawyer sent to Congress on Friday saying the former national security adviser has “new details” about the Ukraine matter that they don’t know about, without elaborating. Bolton has declined to testify against White House orders unless a judge rules he should and didn’t respond to multiple emails seeking comment.
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Around the same time in early September, State Department officials in charge of the money communicated to senior leaders there that they were running out of time and needed to spend the money. They got “top-level guidance” to spend it, according to two of the people.
Notice to Congress that the $141 million was being released was sent early on Sept. 11, hours before Trump said he personally made the decision to lift the freeze. All of those events undermine Trump’s account.
On Thursday, the General Accounting Office (GAO) said it is reviewing the Trump administration’s decision this summer to hold up hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid for Ukraine to determine whether officials violated appropriations law by not notifying Congress of the hold. GAO reviewing Trump administration freeze on Ukraine military aid.
The GAO issued a legal opinion in December 2018 regarding the “Impoundment Control Act—Withholding of Funds through Their Date of Expiration.” It’s conclusion:
The terms of the ICA are strictly limited. They vest in the President limited authority to propose a rescission of budget authority and to withhold such budget authority from obligation for a limited time period during which Congress may avail itself of expedited procedures to consider the proposal. However, the statutory text and legislative history of the ICA, Supreme Court case law, and the overarching constitutional framework of legislative and executive powers provide no basis to construe the ICA as a mechanism by which the President may, in effect, unilaterally shorten the availability of budget authority by transmitting rescission proposals shortly before amounts are due to expire.
To dedicate such broad authority to the President would have required affirmative congressional action in legislation, not congressional silence.
Jennifer Rubin continued:
Republicans have no evidence to dispute Hill’s complete debunking of the nutty conspiracy theory that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Republicans have no evidence to dispute that Giuliani and his cronies obtained the removal of Marie Yovanovitch, the competent and respected U.S. envoy to Kyiv. Republicans have yet to disprove evidence that Sondland, Giuliani and acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney were acting as agents of the president.Republicans cannot dispute the testimony of George Kent that “POTUS wanted nothing less than President Zelensky to go to microphone and say investigations, Biden, and Clinton.”
Republicans cannot produce evidence to contradict Kent’s conclusion that “Mr. Giuliani, at that point, had been carrying on a campaign for several months full of lies and incorrect information” against Yovanovitch, or was dispatched by Trump to obtain dirt on Biden.
Sure, in demanding irrelevant witnesses and continuing their campaign of intimidation against the whistleblower, Republicans threaten to make the entire proceeding a three-ring circus, something Schiff will try to prevent. However, it is a helpful reminder that Republicans should be able to stipulate to all of the facts presented by all of the witnesses Schiff has summoned. There is no factual defense to articles of impeachment that would include bribery, extortion and obstruction of justice.
Good to know, and good to know that the Republican Party stands foursquare behind a president soliciting a bribe, endangering U.S. national security and attempting to intimidate witnesses and cover his tracks.
As I have said before, the Party of Trump is a criminal enterprise led by a third-rate mafia “Don” Trump. They are all accomplices, co-conspirators and accessories who aid and abet his criminality and corruption. There is not a patriot among them. They put fealty to their “Dear Leader” above all else, including loyalty to their country and our national security, and their oaths of office to defend the Constitution. They reject the rule of law and are amoral. It is a betrayal of the faith of the American people in our constitutional government. They must all be held accountable.