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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House Judiciary Schedules Impeachment Hearings With Constitutional Law Experts – and Invites Trump to Attend
President Donald Trump recently said he would be happy to testify at the House impeachment hearings, but never followed through. He may get his chance next week, when the next round of impeachment hearings is slated to begin.
This time the House Judiciary Committee will be in charge. Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) says the hearings will feature constitutional law experts, and he has invited the President and the president’s lawyers to attend.
Next week’s hearings are titled “The Impeachment Inquiry into President Donald J. Trump: Constitutional Grounds for Presidential Impeachment.”
A House Democratic aide calls it “a very serious and solemn matter. This process starts with applying the constitutional law to the facts that have been found and the evidence is order to assess the seriousness of the alleged high crimes and misdemeanors,” according to The Hill.
“The Committee intends this hearing to serve as an opportunity to discuss the historical and constitutional basis of impeachment, as well as the Framers’ intent of terms like ‘high crimes and misdemeanors,'” Chairman Nadler says in his letter addressed to President Trump.
The hearing for now is slated for just one day, Wednesday, December 4. If the president decides to testify or even attend, presumably that could be extended.
State by State: Here Are the Top 5 States That Support Impeaching Trump and the Top 5 That Oppose It
After having the last two Republican presidents installed by the Electoral College despite both having lost the popular vote by a substantial margin, Americans are starting to understand that national polls – and the national vote – aren’t the best measure of what the future holds. The polls weren’t wrong – Hillary Clinton did, in fact, beat Donald Trump, and by almost 3 million votes – but 77,000 or so people across three states had a different opinion, and they literally decided the election.
So it’s a very good idea to look at public opinion state by state, at least until the Electoral College is no more.
The folks at Civiqs are doing just that. They’ve been measuring public opinion, state by state, on impeaching President Trump since June of 2018. There are some interesting – and alarming – insights.
Overall (yes, not important, but good to know as a baseline) 52% of Americans support impeaching trump, according to Civiqs’ latest report, and 45% oppose impeaching him.
The majority of Americans 18-49 support impeachment, the majority of those 50 and older do not.
58% of women support impeaching Trump, but 52% of men don’t.
54% of whites oppose impeachment. 87% of Blacks, and 70% of Hispanics and Latinos support impeachment.
So, by state?
Here are the top five (six, actually, due to a tie) states that support impeaching President Trump:
Hawaii (71%), Vermont (68%), Massachusetts (66%), California (64%), and Rhode Island and Washington (tied at 63%).
And the top 5 states that oppose impeaching President Trump:
Wyoming (69%), West Virginia (68%), Oklahoma (65%), and Arkansas and North Dakota (tied at 62%).
If you’re wondering how accurate this report is, Civiqs got 156,788 responses, which is a huge sample size.
Trump Forced to Face ‘Lock Him Up’ Chants and ‘Impeach’ and ‘Dump Trump’ Signs as He Delivers Speech in New York
President Donald Trump continued his strategy of using his office for political gain, including re-election, by delivering for the first time a speech in New York City on Veterans Day. Trump recently attended several sporting events where there were protests against him, and today was no different.
Surrounding Madison Square Park in Manhattan are several tall buildings, some of which featured signs that read “Impeach,” “Impeach and convict,” and “Dump Trump.” Outside the Manhattan park where Trump was speaking chants of “lock him up” and “impeach and remove” could be heard.
This is all a reminder of why it would have been virtually impossible for Trump to return to NY to live after the White House.
— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) November 11, 2019
Recent reports show Trump has decided to ignore the historic separation of a president’s political campaign and his public appearances and the use of the White House. After being caught fraudulently fundraising, last week Trump announced he would host the winner of a social media contest promoting his campaign at the White House.
Here are some of the protests of Trump’s Monday speech in New York City.
Trump decided to come to NYC again.
And hide behind veterans at our Veterans Day parade.
So New Yorkers showed up to say, “IMPEACH AND REMOVE!”
— Joshua Potash 🆘 (@JoshuaPotash) November 11, 2019
Protesting Trump at the NYC Veteran’s Day Parade. Trump deports vets, fires them (Vindman), and privatizes their health insurance. pic.twitter.com/fl7ShYnPlF
— Rise and Resist (@riseandresistny) November 11, 2019
In windows of building overlooking Trump’s Veterans Day speech site pic.twitter.com/tMYSnaNrv7
— Zeke Miller (@ZekeJMiller) November 11, 2019
Building overlooking Madison Square Park where Trump will speak at Veteran’s Day parade has IMPEACH spelled out in windows. pic.twitter.com/LThKU3TDk4
— David Nakamura (@DavidNakamura) November 11, 2019
— Alexander McCoy (@AlexanderMcCoy4) November 11, 2019
More signs overlooking Trump’s speech including “Dump Trump” pic.twitter.com/CK2SgcoHmP
— David Nakamura (@DavidNakamura) November 11, 2019
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