Taken as a whole, the texts are a profoundly damning set of records.
On Thursday night, Democratic leaders in the House of Representatives released a set of text messages they have received in their investigation of the State Department and its involvement in the Ukraine scandal.
Some of the texts had leaked out prior to their official release, painting a somewhat confusing and unclear image of what they actually mean. Read all together in chronological order, however, they strongly bolster the case that President Donald Trump — using both his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and the State Department — carried out an illicit pressure campaign to induce Ukraine to investigate his political enemies.
And it confirmed the existence of at least one quid pro quo in the arrangement — something defenders of the president have furiously denied — and strongly supported the existence of another.
1. Ukraine feared it would be used as an “instrument” in American “domestic, reelection politics.”
Top U.S. diplomat Bill Taylor comes out the cleanest from the texts of the State employees, showing the most consistent concern for the wellbeing of Ukraine. In one exchange, he wrote on July 21 to United States Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland — a top donor to Trump — that Ukrainian “President Zelenskyy is sensitive about Ukraine being taken seriously, not merely as an instrument in Washington domestic, reelection politics.”
Sondland replies “Absolutely,” but quickly pivots back to getting a conversation started between Trump and Zelensky. This shows that even before Trump’s infamous July 25 call with Ukraine, the country’s government feared it would be used for the president’s reelection campaign. This is exactly what Democrats accuse Trump of doing when he told Zelensky to open an investigation into Joe Biden, a potential 2020 opponent. It’s the whole reason the House’s impeachment inquiry has been reinvigorated.
But it gets worse.
2. An explicit quid pro quo
Former U.S. Special Representative for Ukraine Kurt Volker — who recently resigned after his involvement in the scandal was revealed — sends one of the most jaw-dropping single messages in the bunch. He lays out an explicit quid pro quo in a text to Ukrainian official Andrey Yermak on July 25, the same day as Trump’s call:
Kurt Volker: Good lunch – thanks. Heard from the White House—assuming President Z convinces trump he will investigate / “get to the bottom of what happened” in 2016, we will nail down date for visit to Washington. Good luck! See you tomorrow- kurt
This is a bombshell. It shows the White House set up a clear offer of an official U.S. government action — a visit to the White House — in exchange for Ukraine’s delivering investigations of the president’s political rivals. (In addition to the investigation of Biden and his son Hunter’s company Burisma, Trump has asked Zelensky to investigate conspiracy theories about the 2016 election and collusion between Ukraine and Hillary Clinton.)
3. “I think potus really wants the deliverable”
In an Aug. 9 conversation between Sondland and Volker, Sondland mentioned that he has made progress on getting the Ukrainian, Yermak particularly, to agree to issue a statement confirming the beginning of an investigation into Burisma and the 2016 election. This confirms Trump’s direct influence throughout the effort.
Sondland wrote, “I think potus [Trump] really wants the deliverable.”
Volker responds: “But does he know that?” (The context isn’t entirely clear, but it seems Volker means Yermak.)
The existence of the statement is also important. Typically, criminal investigations aren’t announced, unless they’re already largely happening in public — unneeded publicity can alert the potential criminals. But you would want the investigations to be announced publicly if the point was to smear your political opponents.
4. Volker solicits Giuliani’s input on the statement Zelensky is to deliver on Aug. 9.
Kurt Volker: Hi Mr Mayor! Had a good chat with Yermak last night. He was pleased with your phone call. Mentioned Z making a statement. Can we all get on the phone to make sure I advise Z correctly as to what he should be saying? Want to make sure we get this done right. Thanks!
The fact that a government employee had to get Giuliani’s input on this matter — the president’s outside attorney who had previously said he was acting in Trump’s personal interest — shows that the endeavor was a corruption of U.S. policy. It also supports the claim that the effort all about Trump’s personal electoral fortunes, not the good of the country.
5. Yermak discovers the stalled military aid.
In one brief exchange on Aug. 28 between Yermak and Volker, the Ukrainian official initiated by saying he needed “to talk with you,” and then sent a link to a Politico article revealing that Trump had stalled congressionally approved military aid to Ukraine. Volker agreed to talk.
6. Taylor fears the military aid is tied to the quid pro quo.
On Sept. 1, Taylor explicitly asked Sondland: “Are we now saying that security assistance and WH meeting are conditioned on investigations?” Sondland only tells Taylor to call him in response.
On Sept. 8, Taylor is clearly still worried about the aid — and he’s worried that Trump won’t live up to his side of the apparent bargain. He wrote in a group text to both Sondland and Volker: “The nightmare is they give the interview and don’t get the security assistance. The Russians love it. (And I quit.)” [Note: Taylor may mean “press conference” here, rather than “interview,” referring to the press conference where Zelensky would announce the investigations Trump wanted.]
7. Taylor ties the military assistance to the election interference.
“The message to the Ukrainians (and Russians) we send with the decision on security assistance is key,” Taylor wrote to Sondland on Sept. 9. “With the hold, we have already shaken their faith in us. Thus my nightmare scenario.”
A bit later, he added: “As I said on the phone, I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign.”
Then there was a long break in the exchange. But about five hours later after Taylor sent that damning message, with an explosive claim that has shaken American politics, Sondland replied:
Bill, I believe you are incorrectly about President Trump’s intentions. The President has been crystal clear no quid pro quo’s of any kind. The President is trying to evaluate whether Ukraine is truly going to adopt the transparency reforms that President Zelensky promised during his campaign I suggest we stop the back and forth by text If you still have concerns I recommend you give Lisa Kenna or S a call to discuss them directly. Thanks.
This quote is crucial, because Republicans will surely use it to defend Trump. But given the rest of the conversations — none of which mention the innocuous-sounding “transparency reforms,” but instead, politically charged investigations desired by the president — as well as the long pause, it seems clear Sondland got spooked. It seems as though he’s aware that Taylor just alleged they could be involved in a criminal conspiracy. He even seems to realize his own texts might one day soon become evidence. So he casts doubt on Taylor’s interpretation of events, which is well supported by the rest of the material, and he makes unconvincing claims before suggesting they stop texting.
Taken as a whole, the texts are a profoundly damning set of records.
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Democrats Have a Plan to Accelerate Public Demand for Trump Impeachment
Republicans have outspent Democrats on the impeachment battle. That’s starting to change.
According to a report from Politico, Democratic leaders are working with grassroots organizations to reach out to disaffected voters in an effort to drum up more support for the impeachment of President Donald Trump.
The report notes that the public was ahead of the Democratic leadership in their demand the president be brought to account for multiple crimes committed by the president while in office, but now top Democrats who urged caution and seeing the light and working with various groups.
“For several years now, the impeachment push has been defined by activists beating the drum on Trump — and powerful Democrats in Washington ignoring their calls,” Politico reports. “But in the two weeks since House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced an impeachment inquiry, this organizational hub has sprouted in D.C., commissioning polling, sponsoring ads and trying to guide the energy in the party toward a message and result the public will support, while counteracting a blistering, expensive anti-impeachment campaign from Trump and the Republican National Committee.”
According to Meagan Hatcher-Mays, director at the grassroots organization Indivisible, “It’s going to be very intense. It’s all hands-on-deck for grassroots folks and everybody in DC.”
Noting that “Republicans have spent $6.3 million in advertising on television, Google and Facebook focused on impeachment,” Politico reports that grassroots organizations are working hand-in-hand to respond.
“In the days since, more than two dozen major progressive organizations started joining a daily conference call, hosted by MoveOn.org, to share plans and strategize. Pelosi’s office has also circulated talking points to organizers off Capitol Hill, urging them to push the most basic facts surrounding Trump’s interactions with Ukraine,” Politico reports. “Democratic organizations are beginning to launch ad campaigns to counter Trump’s lead and make the case to voters that he should be impeached. Need to Impeach has already begun spending $3.1 million targeting Senate Republicans on impeachment.”
Politico also points out, “progressive digital organization ACRONYM this week launched a $1 million online campaign in five swing states focused on impeachment, and Indivisible and MoveOn.org are among the other organizations also considering running media campaigns.”
You can read more here.
‘Trump Has Indicted Himself’: For the First Time Joe Biden Says President ‘Should Be Impeached’
Former Vice President Joe Biden for the first time has said President Donald Trump “should be impeached.”
Despite Trump’s attacks against the Democratic frontrunner and his son, which include an elaborate arms-for-political-dirt extortion plot involving Ukraine, Biden until now has refrained from calling for the impeachment of the 45th president.
“Donald Trump has violated his oath of office betrayed this nation, and committed impeachable acts,” Biden told supporters in New Hampshire Wednesday afternoon. “To preserve our Constitution, our democracy, our basic integrity, he should be impeached.”
Biden says it’s “obvious” that Trump has “committed acts to warrant impeachment.”
And he says “impeachment isn’t only about what the president has done. It’s about the threat the president poses to the nation if allowed to remain in office.”
Joe Biden: "With his words and his actions, President Trump has indicted himself … Trump has violated his oath of office, betrayed this nation, and committed impeachable acts. To preserve our Constitution, our democracy, our basic integrity, he should be impeached."
Via ABC pic.twitter.com/cFz0tXBOjZ
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) October 9, 2019
‘Americans Understand’: MSNBC’s Morning Joe Explains Stunning New Surge in Support for Trump Impeachment
MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough explained why it’s not hard to understand why public support is growing for the impeachment and removal of President Donald Trump.
A new Washington Post-Schar School poll shows Americans support the House impeachment inquiry, by a 58-38 percent margin, and 49 percent say the House should impeach Trump and call for his removal, compared to just 6 percent who back the inquiry but do not want to see the president removed from office.
“Half of Americans support Donald Trump’s removal from office,” Scarborough said, “and I think part of it is, you could read through the Mueller report — and so many Republicans on the Hill didn’t read through it or a lot of Americans didn’t read through it, there’s a lot there to digest. But if you read it, it’s obvious this president is not acting in America’s best interest.”
The “Morning Joe” host said the Ukraine scandal, Trump’s call for China to investigate Joe Biden, and now his baffling decision to abandon the Kurds in Syria, are not nearly as complicated as the Russia investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller.
“He calls Ukraine, and this is a country recently invaded by Russia, he’s holding up $391 million in defense money,” Scarborough said. “Why? For his campaign’s benefit. So he extorts the leader of a democratic ally, Americans can understand that — misusing the office for his political gain.”
“He makes a call to China, somebody that he has said is our enemy, but he calls China and he’s talking and what does he do?” Scarborough continued. “He not only says it on TV, he says it in a phone call a couple months back, reportedly, and he says, ‘Help my campaign out, I need you to investigate the guy who’s ahead of me by 9 points in the poll.’ Americans can understand that.”
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