Happy Thursday, November 14. Today, both parties will wrestle over the optics war of who “won” the first day of the public impeachment inquiry hearings, featuring top Ukraine diplomat Bill Taylor and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent. Here’s more on that and the other stories we’re watching.
House Intelligence Republicans did a lot of mocking the fact that neither of the “two star witnesses” that Democrats called to kick off their public impeachment proceedings spoke directly to President Trump about his Ukraine pressure campaign.
For their first impeachment hearing, House Democrats have picked a room that is TV ready.
The House Intelligence Committee, a relatively small committee that typically meets in private, is gathering in the cavernous Ways and Means hearing room — an upgrade from its typical hearing space and a world away from the underground secure conference room where all these witnesses have been talking to members up into this point.
Happy Wednesday, November 13. Today marks the first public hearings in the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump. Here’s more on that and the other stories we’re watching.
Today’s revelations out of the Roger Stone case put just one more weight on the branch of the Mueller probe’s credibility and probably far more weight than it can bear. Credibility in this context is a very fraught and weighty word. I don’t mean that it was crooked or out to whitewash the President’s actions. It’s all too complicated for anything like that. But we have a simple fact: six months out there is lots of new evidence that Mueller either must have known or could have known but didn’t make it anywhere into the report.
It’s hard not to reach the conclusion that Mueller ended up as what we might call the anti-Starr: determinedly refusing to look at anything not narrowly within the confines of his original brief. Just today we learn that there was at least pretty strong evidence that the President lied in written answers to the Special Counsel’s Office about Roger Stone delivering advance word to the campaign about Wikileaks.
Let me draw your attention to this new article in the Times, the subject of which is the range of rivalries, turf wars and personality conflicts which epitomize the Trump White House and are coming to the fore under the Stress Test of impeachment. One of these is the on-going battle between “acting” Chief of Staff and John Bolton, which flared up overnight when Bolton and his protege told Mulvaney to get his own lawsuit against the President and stop trying to glom on to theirs. Mulvaney complied. He first appeared set to file his own lawsuit before – apparently? – giving up on the whole idea.
But note this passage in the Times article which suggests that Mulvaney is telling colleagues he’s all but unfireable since he knows too much damaging information about President Trump.
There’s a jarring passage in the testimony of Christopher Anderson, which was released yesterday by the House Intelligence Committee. Anderson is a Foreign Service Officer who was serving as a special advisor to Kurt Volker while he was the US Special Envoy on Ukraine.
In January of this year, the US Navy was sending a naval vessel into the Black Sea and specifically through the Kerch Strait. Without going too deep into the geography, this is a narrow passageway through which Russia can limit maritime access to parts of Ukraine because Russia now controls Crimea. Here the Navy was asserting its right to unfettered transit to support Ukraine. It’s referred to as a “freedom of navigation operation.”
President Trump saw a CNN report about the mission, thought it was a challenge to Russia and called John Bolton at home one night ordering him to cancel the mission.
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.
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. Read More
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.
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.