“Trump has been acting like a bank robber who beat one rap because of a technicality, and so decides to rob every bank in sight.”
— Author and Intercept correspondent James Risen, Donald Trump’s Call With Ukrainian Leader, One Day After Robert Mueller’s Congressional Testimony, Shows the President Is a Brazen Criminal (9/26/19)
By Dan Peak
The Commoner Call (10/7/19)
Dear Fellow Readers,
The Big Picture. I will keep this high level then get to the news.
I typically like jumping in with the important new news. News as important as, “Whistleblower’s attorney says team now representing ‘multiple’ officials”. I can fit that here because the headline says all there is to know at this point.
But striving for discipline, here’s a thumbnail sketch of The Arc of the Trump-Ukraine Story.
Trump and his personal attorney and attorney general Barr buried the Trump-Russia story with the Mueller Report. The Russians interfered in the 2016 election and at the very least Trump made sure the Russians knew he was open for business.
There are many other paws in the game, like Trump’s other lawyer Rudy Giuliani and former acting attorney general Rod Rosenstein, even former out-of-his-league acting attorney general Matt Whitaker who is off peddling his political expertise – in Kosovo. But Barr was the guy that let all the air out of the Mueller balloon before Mueller finished the job.
Trump celebrated his victory by immediately getting on the phone with new Ukrainian President Zelensky using U.S. national security — and tax dollars — as a bargaining chip to gain dirt on a political opponent. Trump saved the Democrats by throwing out a lifeline that will result in the House voting for impeachment. Trump rallied the message against himself as no one else has been able to to date.
Trump’s immediate Ukraine defense was the public launch of Giuliani with whatever anti-Biden campaign they had already cooked up. It was a moon shot that looks to fail with one exception.
Trump may well succeed in undoing former VP Joe Biden’s campaign though it was a leaky ship to begin with. Biden’s defense has shown him to be tone deaf to a public weary of corruption in any form while also showing him to be flat footed and toothless with his “enough is enough” defense. A ‘my family is not as corrupt as your family’ response, even when true by a looooong shot, is not good enough. Last edition I had journalist James Risen from a recent Democracy Now! interview on Biden, Trump and Ukraine and he again weighs in, Donald Trump’s Call With Ukrainian Leader, One Day After Robert Mueller’s Congressional Testimony, Shows the President Is a Brazen Criminal . The “career criminal” against the garden-variety corrupt politician – not close, but a contest we’d hope would have two losers.
Trump’s Zelensky call is not the ‘beginning’ of the story by any stretch. MSNBC host Rachel Maddow joined MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell’s program on Friday to talk about her new book ‘Blowout’.
Maddow has written about the global history of oil and how it now affects so much about our current situation. One thread is a reminder that former Trump secretary of state Rex Tillerson was the CEO of Exxon Mobil when he negotiated a $500 billion oil deal with Putin which was killed by U.S. sanctions after Russian involvement in the 2016 election. Russia has the oil but could not leverage the Arctic deep water reserves without U.S. technology, namely the help of Exxon Mobil. Before the agreement expired the Trump administration tried to get sanction exceptions to go forward but this also failed. Maddow commented that Putin is now close to getting the sanctions removed so his one-horse oil economy can soar. A snide aside, maybe if the oil reserves were in Kentucky he could get the same deal sanctioned that Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska did for his $200 million aluminum mill, which proves corruption is unassailable when you say ‘jobs’.
From the last edition of the Russia Monitor we also learned that Putin is working on forgiveness for his annexation of Ukraine Crimea and a referendum election for independence of eastern Ukraine.
Russian oil. Trump-Putin. U.S. sanctions. Trump-Ukraine. This is Trump-Russia Lite with Trump making the case against himself.
So what’s new?
Last edition we left off with Barr chasing the REAL 2016 election interference story with Australia, the UK, Italy before Trump tried his own ‘China if you’re listening’ with a direct appeal, “China should start an investigation into the Bidens.” China took a moment to decline the invitation.
Sec. of State Mike Pompeo, after belatedly recalling he was one of those listening in on Trump’s strong-arm call with Zelensky has now gone full-Trump: Secretary of State Pompeo Blasts Critics of Trump’s Ukraine Call for ‘Silly Gotcha Game’. Which Frank Bruni writing for the New York Times summarizes as How to Sell Your Soul to Donald Trump. Bruni refers to Pompeo as the “latest lackey” before reviewing his demise with gems like a Pompeo op-ed siding with Trump on the Saudi murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Trump and his gaggle of obedient little Trumpsters finally aligned their messages and presented the Trump-Ukraine corruption as a crack-down on corruption. This defense was easily deflated when CNBC reporter Eamon Javers asked Trump, “Have you asked foreign leaders for any corruption investigations that don’t involve your political opponents?” Trump said, “we would have to look.”
Trump’s defense further unraveled as Trump’s Ukraine diplomatic team blew up on him. Trump’s early recall of respected U.S. Ambassador Masha Yovanovitch in May raised eyebrows at the time. Trump on the July 25 call told Zelensky she was “bad news” as Trumpsters sought to use her for their excuse.
Special Representative for Ukraine Kurt Volker resigned then testified before Congress and then released all of the text communications between the entire Trump Ukraine team. It was not pretty – Decoding the explosive Ukraine text messages. The text messages do not show Volker to be an early hero as he worked at enacting Trump’s plan, but the real stooge is U.S. Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland.
One final note on Volker and the texts – the communications were not done on the State Department server but on encrypted messages through WhatsApp. (Despite that betrayal of security, across Trumpland you can hear the rabble calling out: “But what about Hillary’s emails”).
Despite zero exerience in foreign relations, Sondland leveraged his career in hotel management and his $1 million donation to Trump’s inauguration into a position as Ambassador to the EU. The complicity of Sondland is highlighted by this text exchange between Sondland and former U.S. Ukraine Ambassador Bill Taylor (from the Politico link above):
Taylor: The message to the Ukrainians (and Russians) we send with the decision on security assistance is key. With the hold, we have already shaken their faith in us. Thus my nightmare scenario.
Sondland: Bill, I never said I was “right”. I said we are where we are and believe we have identified the best pathway forward. Let’s hope it works.
Taylor: As I said on the phone, I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign.
Sondland: [CYA, then…] I suggest we stop the back and forth by text…
Taylor is the stalwart guy of Trump’s Ukraine Team. Not-the-stalwart-guy is Giuliani who is happy because he feels the texts show he was following the lead of State even though shown to be right in the middle and up to his crazy eyeballs in it all.
But if you think Trump-Ukraine is some new Trump corruption with no connection to Trump-Russia…
Add to list
“Rudolph W. Giuliani in recent months has consulted several times with Manafort through the federal prisoner’s lawyer in pursuit of information about a disputed ledger that would bolster his theory that the real story of 2016 is not Russian interference to elect Trump, but Ukrainian efforts to support Hillary Clinton.”
But there are two more Republicans that need acknowledgement.
Of all people, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) managed to help throw Trump under the bus. Johnson told the Wall Street Journal:
“In an interview, Sen. Ron Johnson (R., Wis.) said he learned of a potential quid pro quo from the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, who told him that aid to Ukraine was tied to the desire by Mr. Trump and his allies to have Kyiv undertake investigations that the president has sought.
“…Sondland… had described to him a quid pro quo involving commitment by Kiev to probe matters related to the U.S. elections and…$400 million in U.S. aid…”
Call ’em The White House The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight
Johnson asked Trump about a quid pro quo deal on an August call and was told: “…‘Expletive deleted—No way. I would never do that. Who told you that?”
And wouldn’t it be nice if this was the new normal, watch NBC ‘Meet The Press’ host Chuck Todd demand that Johnson actually answer the question asked.
Now, after Trump has made sure we know VP Pence is implicated, is also busy making sure outgoing energy secretary Rick Perry is also implicated: Perry pressed Ukraine on corruption, energy company changes. And it sounds like he is implicated for good reason – “Perry pushed Naftogaz (Ukraine state-run oil and gas company) to expand to include…Two longtime energy executives based in Perry’s home state of Texas”.
Turns out Perry, Sondland and Volker were “the administration’s on Ukrainian policy”. Or as Axios reports, Trump says, “I didn’t even want to make the call. The only reason I made the call was because Rick asked me to.”
Trump’s Ukraine unhinged manic defense: Whistleblower lied … is a spy … is a Democrat. I did it, to fight corruption, fight corruption by all and don’t forget Pence and it was Perry’s idea.
Each Trumpster has their own variation. Pompeo’s would begin with, ‘”You just handed me this complaint document now … um, yeah, okay, I was on the call … Trump is fighting corruption.”
Kim Jong Un of North Korea just sent ‘Art of the Deal’ Trump a Dear John: US, North Korea break off nuclear talks.
And last, watch as Iowa resident Amy Haskins confronts Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) at a town hall asking, “Where is the line?” Haskins is excellent throughout and relentless and corners Ernst into a fetal position of Trump anti-corruption talking points in the later part of the video, especially the last two minutes.