Republicans have put forward their requests for witnesses at the upcoming public impeachment hearings. A few are quite reasonable. Those are people who testified behind closed doors and were supportive or partially supportive of the President in their opinions and judgments even if they confirmed facts which support the case against him. NSC Senior Director Tim Morrison is in that category as is Ukraine special envoy Kurt Volker. But most are in a distinctly different category. They include Hunter Biden, Devon Archer (Biden’s business partner), Andrea Chalupa (a researcher and sometimes consultant for the DNC), Nellie Ohr (a researcher for Fusion GPS and wife of State Department organized crime official Bruce Ohr).
We could get into the specifics of each person in the second category. But each focuses on the same thing: proving or advancing the various conspiracy theories the pursuit of which got President Trump into this impeachment inquiry in the first place. In other words, House Republicans aren’t really defending Trump so much as joining his plot or conspiracy.
One of the interesting things about reading through the impeachment deposition transcripts is that you get a different view of many of the Republican members in the room. Probably everyone knew some or all of these transcripts would eventually be made public. But not having TV cameras present still makes a big difference.
So one takeaway is that Rep. Mark Meadows is fairly friendly and easygoing, even reasonable seeming. Rep. Jim Jordan is pretty much the guy you see on camera on the Hill or on TV. Rep. Lee Zeldin is about what you’d expect. One that that really jumps out to me is Rep. Devin Nunes, who is consistently hostile and angry and pushing the wildest kinds of conspiracy theories. Even away from the cameras he’s pushing the same lines about a sham inquiries and the like and unlike some of his colleagues his heart seems entirely into it.
On Friday night, lawyers for “acting” Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney sought to join a lawsuit (if not quite a unique one then pretty close) which lists both President Trump and Congressional leaders as defendants, asking a federal judge to decide who he and other White House officials must obey. The suit was originally brought by Charles M. Kupperman, the former Deputy National Security Advisor, and is being used, if not formally joined by John Bolton, former National Security Advisor. (Kupperman and Bolton share the same lawyer, Charles J. Cooper.)
Still with me? Good.
Despite the seeming oddity of a serving White House Chief of Staff suing the President, this may actually be at least in part an effort to help Trump. By joining this lawsuit, Mulvaney not only gives himself a legal safe harbor he may tie the question up in the courts long enough that it stretches beyond the life of the impeachment inquiry and thus becomes moot.
I wanted to walk you through some of the backstory and context of this exclusive Josh Kovensky published a short while ago. Giuliani associates Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman were actually on their way to Kyiv when they were arrested at Dulles Airport last month. But it’s what they were going there to do that is most interesting to me.
President Trump made a big show last hour that he may be willing to release a transcript of a “second” call with President Zelensky of Ukraine. He said Congress is “clamoring” for it and he may agree to release it. Just to explain the backstory: This appears to be the brief congratulatory call Trump made to Zelensky in April after he was elected President. (It actually precedes the July 25th call; so it’s actually the first.) It’s come up in various depositions. All evidence suggests it was brief, cordial and unobjectionable. No one has been clamoring for it. I don’t think investigators have even asked for it. This seems to be a simple effort to make a show of transparency out of something that will look innocuous once it’s released. Perhaps it’s also an attempt to one cordial “perfect” transcript floating around for people who haven’t been following the details. Just more distraction.
I wanted to flag this article in the Post that published overnight, which purports (and I don’t doubt it) to described the House GOP’s latest angle on protecting the President.
Quite simply, Rudy Giuliani, Gordon Sondland and Mick Mulvaney were freelancing this whole caper and the President was not involved. In other words, they’re the fall guys who get Trump off the hook. It’s a curious and entertaining article on a number of levels since by the conventions of newspaper writing dictate that the authors cannot really say the entire premise is absurd. They have to step around it and obliquely suggest it.
Happy Friday, November 8. Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney was subpoenaed to testify in the impeachment inquiry Thursday night — he is, predictably, ignoring it. Here’s more on that and the other stories we’re watching.
Here are some basic thoughts about what happened in this story, what matters and how to describe it.
The President used extortion to cheat in the 2020 presidential election. He used military aid dollars meant to aid an ally against his Russian patrons in order to force Ukraine to intervene in the 2020 elections, in order to remain in office by corrupt means.
There are various crimes that get committed along the way. But that is the core of it. The President is delegated vast powers to act in the national interest and he has vast discretion to determine what he or she believes the national interest is. But when he uses those powers for his own personal or financial gain they are illegitimate on their face, abuses of power and merit impeachment. The fact that he was doing so to sabotage a national election makes it vastly worse. And the fact that he was getting a foreign power to sabotage a US election makes it worse still. Any talk of “quid pro quos” and this and that minutiae is a distortion of what happened. Quid pro quos are simply exchanges of one thing for another. Presidents will ask for help on one bill in exchange for another. They’ll condition one kind of aid to a country on assistance on another foreign policy goal. In itself it means nothing. The crimes are bribery and extortion, the abuses of power are using presidential power for personal gain and the central offense against the state is the attempt to sabotage a national election, the event on which the legitimacy of the entire system rests.
My read is that after the shock of defeat wears off, Kentucky Republicans are trying to move this toward a face-saving, mercy recanvass before Matt Bevin shuffles off this electoral coil and heads toward a high paid contributor gig at Fox. But as TPM Reader Greg Downs (Professor of History at UC Davis) explains, the last time Kentucky used this provision of the state constitution to overturn an election, things got pretty weird …
Appreciated your post on the insane idea floated by the head of the Kentucky state senate. As a (partial) Kentucky native and (complete) history nerd, I grew up knowing a bit about the crazy 1899 precedent and I think there are some details that may even strengthen your point.
The key thing is what followed that 1899-1900 overturning: Basically cataclysmic violence. Some of this was already brewing; the Republican and the L & N railroad had sent out word (and by legend free railroad passes) and Republicans (1000 allegedly) came down with arms to the state capitol while the inaugurated Republican governor fought with the Democratic legislature that was considering overturning the result. In late January, someone–lots of legends about whom–shot the Democratic candidate, William Goebel, who was also the boss of the state senate. In response lots of Democrats came out to the capitol armed while Goebel was treated.