I have already covered the corruption of the Justice Department by Attorney General William “Coverup” Barr, turning the law firm of the American people into Trump’s public defender in pursuit of his right-wing fever swamp conspiracy theories. Further reporting: Barr is said to have urged foreign governments to aid investigation of CIA, FBI activities related to 2016 election. And Trump used his office for political gain. Now Barr appears to be using his authority to help him.
Now we learn that Secretary of State Mike “Benghazi!” Pompeo was in on President Tump’s phone call with his Ukrainian counterpart that led to the whistleblower complaint and ensuing formal impeachment inquiry, the Wall Street Journal first reported Monday. CNN and NBC also confirmed that Pompeo was on the call.
Today, Pompeo Confirms He Listened to Trump’s Call to Ukraine President: “I was on the phone call,” the American secretary of state said at a news conference in Rome — the first time he has addressed the topic publicly.
It’s not every day someone admits publicly to being a coconspirator to a crime. He is also a fact witness.
UPDATE: Pompeo lied repeatedly about his knowledge of the call. On Ukraine, Pompeo offered a master class in misleading the public using facts. Pompeo’s Four-Pinocchio spin on Trump and Ukraine.
Late last week, Pompeo was subpoenaed by the chairmen of the House Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight committees over his failure to produce documents related to Ukraine.
In addition to the subpoena, the chairmen informed Pompeo in a separate letter that they had scheduled depositions for five State Department officials who have been mentioned in relation to the inquiry.
Pompeo had responded Tuesday that the proposed timetable for witnesses to testify in the coming days was too compressed, and Democrats warned Pompeo that any effort to prevent those officials from speaking to Congress “is illegal and will constitute evidence of obstruction of the impeachment inquiry.” Pompeo pushed back officially on the House investigation, writing in a letter to Democratic chairmen that their demands for confidential interviews with diplomats with knowledge of the case was “an act of intimidation” and would not be immediately met.
At least two of the diplomats Pompeo objected to speaking had indicated to the House that they would appear for private depositions anyway.
House Democrats moved on Wednesday to compel the White House to cooperate in their impeachment inquiry, announcing plans to issue a subpoena by Friday if it did not comply with broad requests for documents related to President Trump’s efforts to press Ukraine to investigate a leading political rival, and any attempt to conceal his actions.
Representative Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland, the chairman of the Oversight and Reform Committee, notified his panel of the impending subpoena on Wednesday. He said the White House had thus far ignored voluntary requests he submitted with the House Intelligence and Foreign Affairs Committees.
“I do not take this step lightly,” Mr. Cummings wrote. “Over the past several weeks, the committees tried several times to obtain voluntary compliance with our requests for documents, but the White House has refused to engage with — or even respond to — the committees.”
And in a bizarre late-afternoon scene, Democrats found their expectations almost comically dashed by a briefing with the State Department’s internal watchdog that they had expected to contain fresh revelations that could build their case about Mr. Trump. Steven A. Linick, the department’s inspector general, had made a mysterious, last-minute request to deliver documents related to Ukraine to Capitol Hill, setting off a frenzied round of speculation of yet another bombshell from inside the administration.
Instead, House Democrats were left fuming after Mr. Linick handed over a packet of news clippings, timelines and interview notes that appeared to belong to Mr. Giuliani, most related to the unsubstantiated corruption accusations about Mr. Biden and his son that were at the heart of the president’s pressure campaign.
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Walking out of the briefing with a copy of the files in hand, Representative Jamie Raskin, Democrat of Maryland, called the material an “irrelevant distraction from the matter at hand.”
“It is very clear what it is,” he told reporters. “It is a package of propaganda, misinformation and conspiracy theories. The real question is where did it come from and how did it end up in our laps?”
Mr. Giuliani confirmed Wednesday that at least some of the material was his. He said he gave Mr. Pompeo Ukraine-related material in March, but indicated that the secretary of state did not do anything with it.
CNN confirms the packet of conspiracy theory materials came from “Bat Boy”: President Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani gave his documents to the White House, which were then passed to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, according to a source familiar with the matter. Pompeo gave the documents to a subordinate who provided them to the legal counsel at State, the source said. The documents were ultimately given to the inspector general.
Still, the impeachment inquiry is intensifying. Mr. Cummings’s warning suggested that lawmakers and their staffs were working sequentially to collect the evidence they believe they need to corroborate the anonymous C.I.A. whistle-blower complaint that touched off the inquiry. First, they targeted the State Department, then Mr. Giuliani and now the White House.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, warned the administration that any attempt to stonewall the House’s request or intimidate witnesses would be construed as obstruction worthy of impeachment itself.
“We’re not fooling around here,” Mr. Schiff said. “We don’t want this to drag on months and months and months, which would be the administration’s strategy. So they just need to know even as they try to undermine our ability to find the facts around the president’s effort to coerce a foreign leader to create dirt that he can use against a political opponent, that they will be strengthening the case on obstruction.”
The draft subpoena circulated by Mr. Cummings suggests he is casting a wide net for potential records related to the Ukraine matter, and is all but certain to touch off a battle with a White House that has a long history of refusing to comply with congressional requests.
It explicitly asks for records that could indicate whether the White House or other administration officials took steps to conceal or destroy the records to prevent Congress or the public from learning what had happened.
Among the documents requested are any recordings, transcripts, notes or other records related to a July phone call in which Mr. Trump pressed President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine to conduct investigations that would bolster the American leader politically, or an earlier April call between the two men. It asks for a full list of White House staff members involved in or aware of the calls, any communications that refer to the July call and details about how the White House maintained records of the call.
The Justice Department on Wednesday agreed to preserve record of Mr. Trump’s calls with foreign leaders.
The draft subpoena also directs the White House to hand over records of any calls with other foreign leaders referring to the topics Mr. Trump discussed with Mr. Zelensky; of meetings related to Ukraine; and of the decision to temporarily withhold $391 million in security aid from the country this summer at the time Mr. Trump was pressing Mr. Zelensky.
Also today, the Washington Post reports what I have predicted was coming next — Trump involved Pence in efforts to pressure Ukraine’s leader, though officials say vice president was unaware of allegations in whistleblower complaint:
President Trump repeatedly involved Vice President Pence in efforts to exert pressure on the leader of Ukraine at a time when the president was using other channels to solicit information that he hoped would be damaging to a Democratic rival, current and former U.S. officials said.
Trump instructed Pence not to attend the inauguration of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in May — an event White House officials had pushed to put on the vice president’s calendar — when Ukraine’s new leader was seeking recognition and support from Washington, the officials said.
Months later, the president used Pence to tell Zelensky that U.S. aid was still being withheld while demanding more aggressive action on corruption, officials said. At that time — following Trump’s July 25 phone call with Zelenksy — the Ukrainians probably understood action on corruption to include the investigation of former vice president Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden.
I call bullshit!
Pence’s activities occurred amid several indications of the president’s hidden agenda. Among them were the abrupt removal of the U.S. ambassador to Kiev; the visible efforts by the president’s lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, to insert himself in the U.S.-Ukraine relationship; as well as alarms being raised inside the White House even before the emergence of an extraordinary whistleblower complaint about Trump’s conduct.
Perhaps most significantly, one of Pence’s top advisers was on the July 25 call and the vice president should have had access to the transcript within hours, officials said.
Trump’s deployment of Pence is part of a broader pattern of using both executive authority and high-ranking officials in his administration to advance his personal or political interests — even in cases when those subordinates appear not to know that another agenda is in play.
Officials close to Pence contend that he traveled to Warsaw for a meeting with Zelensky on Sept. 1 probably without having read — or at least fully registered — the transcript of Trump’s July 25 call with the leader of Ukraine.
Again, I call bullshit!
White House officials said that Pence likely would have received the detailed notes of the president’s call in his briefing book on July 26.The five-page document also should have been part of the briefing materials he took with him to Warsaw to prepare for the meeting, according to the officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal matters.
But officials said Pence and his staff weren’t aware that the call had provoked alarm inside the White House — even though his national security adviser, retired Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg, had been monitoring it. It’s also not clear whether Pence failed to read the White House account of the call in his briefing book or read it and found it unremarkable.
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In his meeting with Zelensky, Pence conveyed the news that hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. aid to Ukraine was not going to be released amid concerns about the country’s lagging efforts to combat “corruption” [Trump code word for “dirt” on Biden.] He also emphasized Trump’s frustration that he thought the European Union was not doing a sufficient job in helping to provide aid. A participant in the meeting said Zelensky was “crestfallen” by the news, though a second participant described the meeting as “cordial” and Zelensky as understanding of U.S. concerns.
At that point, Ukraine’s president had already spoken to Trump and was familiar with the president’s demands. Pence did not mention Biden or the dormant probe of Burisma, the company for which his son had served as a board member. But former officials said that Pence’s emphasis on corruption probably would have been interpreted by Zelensky as “code” for that issue, whether the vice president intended it or not.
A top Pence staffer rejected the charge that the vice president was conveying an inappropriate — or coded — message from the president.
Again, I call bullshit!
A Pence aide disputed the notion that the vice president was poorly prepared for his meeting with Zelensky, and pointed to the eventual outcome — that the Trump administration ultimately released the aid — as a sign of a productive meeting. The White House Counsel’s Office did not alert the vice president’s office to the existence of the whistleblower complaint until the day before it became public, the aide added.
Pence often seems to be the last to be aware of major problems or scandals — a phenomenon that depicts the vice president as out of the loop at times. But it also [all too conveniently] helps insulate him from controversy within the White House.
A senior administration official said Pence was not among the handful of officials at the White House and the State Department who listened in on Trump’s July 25 call with Zelensky, which is a key element of the whistleblower report and the impeachment inquiry.
Pence’s Sergeant Shultz defense – “I know nothing!” – doesn’t hold water. He would have been fully briefed, and no doubt, Trump himself would have emphasized to him what he wanted from President Zelensky before Pence met with him.
In the call, Trump asked for a “favor” and urged Zelensky to cooperate with Attorney General William P. Barr to look for compromising information about Hunter Biden. Without evidence, Trump alleged that Joe Biden used his influence as vice president in 2016 to kill an investigation into the gas company and his son.
A few weeks before the call, Trump had ordered the suspension of all military security assistance to Ukraine.
Kellogg, Pence’s top national security adviser, listened in on the call from the Situation Room, which was the standard practice, but did not see it as unusual or flag any concerns about it to the vice president, officials said.
But White House lawyers, alarmed by the call, quickly moved detailed notes of it from a widely shared internal computer network to one reserved for “codeword-level” records about CIA covert action programs and other highly classified material.
The whistleblower, a CIA officer who learned about the call from dismayed White House officials, moved swiftly behind the scenes to assemble material from multiple sources and prepare a complaint.
In early September, with a hurricane bearing down on Florida, Trump canceled a trip to Poland, where he was scheduled to attend a World War II commemoration and meet with Zelensky to discuss the frozen U.S. aid.
Instead he sent Pence, with instructions to “take the measure” of the Ukrainian leader and inform him that the administration wasn’t going to release the aid until it had assurances that Zelensky was committed to “fighting corruption,” U.S. officials said.
Just before the Sept. 1 meeting with Zelensky in Warsaw, Pence declined to respond to a question from a reporter about whether the Trump administration would still allocate the security aid to Ukraine.
“We will continue to stand with the people of Ukraine on your security, on territorial integrity,” he replied.
Zelensky replied that his administration was poised to “defeat corruption.”
Once the meeting began, Pence faulted the E.U. for not providing more security aid to Ukraine, just as Trump did on the July 25 call, and also reiterated the administration’s position that Zelensky needed to do more to fight corruption.
When Zelensky asked about the aid, Pence replied that the administration was “still looking at it,” a U.S. official said.
At a news briefing the next day, Pence reiterated the administration’s “great concerns about issues of corruption” and expressed confidence that Zelensky was moving to address the problem.
Upon his return to Washington, Pence told Trump that Zelensky seemed to have a “good heart” and “was good on anti-corruption and pushing back on the oligarchs,” said a U.S. official.
In his phone call with President Trump, President Zelenski promised his government’s cooperation with Trump’s request for “dirt” on Joe Biden and his son — mafia “Don” Trump’s codeword “corruption” — by cooperating with Trump’s vampire “Bat Boy,” Rudy Giuliani, and his new Roy Cohn, William “Coverup” Barr. Pence continuously used mafia “Don” Trump’s codeword “corruption” in his dealings with President Zelenski. Everyone understood.
A few weeks later — under pressure from Democrats and Republicans in Congress who saw the aid to Ukraine as critical to standing up to Russia and with Pence’s assessment that he should provide Ukraine with the support — Trump relented and released the aid to Ukraine. Pence and Zelensky spoke again on Sept. 18 in a call that U.S. officials described as somewhat perfunctory.
We are now looking at impeachment of the Trump administration, the most corrupt and lawless administration in history. It’s not just Donald Trump, but everyone around him. All the president’s men are implicated and are complicit n his crimes.
As John Oliver call it, this is “Stupid Watergate.” They have all admitted, in their own words, what they have done. They have provided the “smoking gun.” They are daring Congress to impeach them with “so whaddya gonna do about it?” They are counting on lawless Republicans to validate their criminality by ignoring their oaths of office to uphold the Constitution in favor of GOP tribalism.