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Why did it take a whistleblower to get our attention?The Ukraine whistleblower illuminated and solidified a story that was buried in reports dating several months back.
House Democrats released the messages that were turned over by former U.S. envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker amid impeachment inquiry.By Josh Lederman1WASHINGTON — Text messages given to Congress show U.S. ambassadors working to persuade Ukraine to publicly commit to investigating President Donald Trump’s political opponents and explicitly linking the inquiry to whether Ukraine’s president would be granted an official White House visit. The two ambassadors, both Trump picks, went so far as to draft language for what Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy should say, the texts indicate. The messages, released Thursday by House Democrats conducting an impeachment inquiry, show the ambassadors coordinating with both Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and a top Zelenskiy aide. At one point, a diplomat quoted in the texts even expresses alarm that the Trump administration is conditioning the visit and military aid on an investigation of political opponents, saying the linkage is "crazy." The messages offer the fullest picture to date of how top diplomats and Giuliani sought to advance Trump’s goal of getting the Ukrainians to investigate both meddling in the 2016 election and Vice President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden. “Heard from 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 a visit to Washington,” former U.S. special representative for Ukraine negotiations Kurt Volker wrote to the top Zelenskiy aide on July 25, just before Trump spoke by phone to Zelenskiy. That phone call led a U.S. intelligence official to file a whistleblower complaint that set off a cascade of fast-moving events, ultimately leading to an impeachment inquiry into the president. Volker resigned amid the tumult. He provided a deposition Thursday at the Capitol, which included the text messages. Volker and U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland — both political appointees — repeatedly stressed the need to get the Ukrainians to agree to the exact language that Zelenskiy would use in announcing an investigation, the texts indicate. In August, Volker proposed to Sondland that they give Zelenskiy a statement to utter at a news conference citing “alleged involvement of some Ukrainian politicians” in interference in U.S. elections. “We intend to initiate and complete a transparent and unbiased investigation of all available facts and episodes, including those involving Burisma and the 2016 U.S. elections,” Volker and Sondland agreed that the Ukrainian president should say. Zelenskiy never did make the statement.
By Manu Raju, Jeremy Herb and Paul LeBlanc, CNNWashington (CNN)The former US special envoy for Ukraine told House investigators that he urged Ukraine's leadership not to interfere in US politics in a conversation that followed the phone call between President Donald Trump and Ukraine's Volodymyr Zelensky, according to two sources familiar with the testimony. Kurt Volker's testimony behind closed doors seems to confirm the whistleblower description in the complaint that Volker and another US diplomat "provided advice to the Ukrainian leadership about how to 'navigate' the demands that the President made." Volker appeared Thursday before three committees that are investigating allegations made by a whistleblower that the President sought Ukraine's assistance digging up dirt on his political rival and then the White House tried to cover it up. In the interview, Volker told lawmakers that the Ukrainian government had a lot of questions about why the military aid was being held up and he did not have a good explanation, according to the sources describing the testimony. Volker also testified that the Ukrainian government was concerned that a meeting with the Ukrainians and Trump was being put on hold but did not understand the reason. The meeting was important to Zelensky, who pushed to come to Washington on the July 25 call. According to the rough transcript, the President responds first that he will have Attorney General William Barr and Rudy Giuliani get in touch and then says: "Whenever you would like to come to the White House, feel free to call. Give us a date and we'll work that out. I look forward to seeing you." But the meeting never happened. A planned meeting in Poland ended up being scrubbed because the President stayed in the United States to deal with a hurricane and he sent Vice President Mike Pence in his place. Volker also told congressional investigators that he raised concerns with Giuliani about using former Ukrainian prosecutor Yuriy Lutsenko as a source for information about the Bidens and other controversies, warning that Lutsenko was not credible. The Washington Post first reported Volker's testimony that he raised concerns to Giuliani about the credibility of his sources. Volker, who resigned one day after he was named in the release of the whistleblower report last week alleging Trump was using the power of the presidency to ask Ukraine to investigate the Bidens for political gain in the 2020 election. Trump has denied any wrongdoing. Republicans, however, said that Volker's testimony did not provide any evidence to support the Democrats' claims of impeachment. Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, the top Republican on the House Oversight Committee, told reporters after leaving the interview that "not one thing" Volker said "aligns with the Democratic impeachment narrative."
Jeanine Santucci, USA TODAYThe country is just over a week into the formal impeachment inquiry launched by Democrats in response to a whistleblower complaint against President Donald Trump and there's a lot we still don't know about the situation. House Democrats are attempting to uncover more information about Trump's alleged promises to Ukraine in return for an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden. Here are the unanswered questions about the Ukraine controversy and the attempt to impeach Trump: When will the House vote on impeachment? In order for a Senate impeachment trial to take place, the House of Representatives must agree to draw up articles of impeachment, or a list of presidential offenses. This requires the votes of at least 218 Congressmembers. Some lawmakers have said they hope the House will decide on the articles of impeachment by Thanksgiving. And while Pelosi has said she wants the impeachment inquiry to move, "expeditiously," in reality the process could take months before it comes to a vote. It's hard to know when the House will conduct a vote, in part because of the efforts Trump administration officials may exert to combat the impeachment inquiry. Congressional committees scheduled depositions and a hearing with a handful of officials who may have knowledge of the Ukraine situation even as Congress is scheduled for a two-week recess. Democrats accused Secretary of State Mike Pompeo of "stonewalling" the investigation after he said he would fight requests to depose State Department workers. Pompeo called the deposition requests "an attempt to intimidate, bully and treat improperly the distinguished professionals of the Department of State." Trump has also threatened litigation against his political opponents. Who is the whistleblower?
By Jamie RossRudy Giuliani turned to President Trump’s imprisoned former campaign chairman Paul Manafort for help on Ukraine several times over the past few months, The Washington Post reports. Trump’s personal attorney is reported to have repeatedly consulted with Manafort through the prisoner’s lawyer in an attempt to gather information that would support his speculative theory that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election to support Hillary Clinton. Giuliani and Manafort both have an interest in undermining the Mueller investigation. The inquiry led to Manafort’s imprisonment on tax- and financial-fraud allegations, while Giuliani joined Trump’s legal team in April 2018 to help defend the president against the probe.
CNN - President Donald Trump ordered the removal of Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch from her post in Ukraine following complaints by his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and others, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday. Yovanovitch, who was recalled months earlier than expected in May 2019, was accused by Giuliani without evidence of trying to undermine the President and blocking efforts to investigate Democrats like former Vice President Joe Biden. According to the Wall Street Journal, a person familiar with the matter said that State Department officials were told that her removal was "a priority" for Trump. At the time of her removal, the State Department said that Yovanovitch was "concluding her three-year diplomatic assignment in Kyiv in 2019 as planned" and that her departure aligned with the presidential transition in Ukraine. Giuliani told the Wall Street Journal that he had reminded the President "of complaints percolating among Trump supporters that she had displayed an anti-Trump bias in private conversations." Giuliani told the paper that when he mentioned Yovanovitch to Trump in the spring, the President "remembered he had a problem with her earlier and thought she had been dismissed" and was then asked to provide a list of his allegations about the career diplomat again. Asked on Thursday morning why Yovanovitch was recalled, Trump said, "I don't know if I recalled her or somebody recalled her, but I heard very, very bad things about her for a very long period of time -- not good."
By katherine faulders and conor finneganIn newly disclosed text messages shared with Congress, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine writes to a group of other American diplomats that "I think it's crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign.” The exchange, provided by another American diplomat, former U.S Special Envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker as part of his closed-door deposition before multiple House committees Thursday, shows what appears to be encrypted text messages he exchanged with two other American diplomats in September regarding aid money President Donald Trump ordered to be held back from Ukraine. In the Sept. 9 exchange, obtained by ABC News, the concerns are expressed by Bill Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat to Ukraine. Gordon Sondland, the United States Ambassador to the European Union, responds to Taylor, saying that charge is "incorrect." "Bill, I believe you are incorrect 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 and reforms that President Zelensk'y promised during his campaign," Sondland says. Sondland then suggests to the group take the conversations off line, typing, “I suggest we stop the back and forth by text.” It’s unclear whether the material obtained by ABC News included the full exchange. Sonland, a hotelier and Republican megadonor, contributed over $1 million to the president’s inaugural committee before eventually being nominated and confirmed to be the United States representative to the European Union, serving since July 2018. He has assisted the effort by Trump's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, to contact Ukrainian officials about an investigation, according to Giuliani, who says he briefed Sondland and Volker after his meetings. In a July 25 call with Ukraine's Volodymyr Zelenskiy, President Trump asked the new president to work with Giuliani and Attorney General William Barr to investigate Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter, prompting an impeachment inquiry in the House. Volker resigned last Friday as the special envoy for Ukraine. The State Department has previously confirmed that Volker put Giuliani in touch with Zelenskiy's aides at their request, but did not respond to requests for comment Thursday.
By Courtney Subramanian, USA TODAYWASHINGTON – A whistleblower complaint centering on President Donald Trump's phone call with the Ukrainian president has spurred a number of allegations and counterallegations as Republicans and Democrats jockey for position amid an impeachment inquiry. At the heart of Congress' probe into the president's actions is his claim that former Vice President and 2020 Democratic frontrunner Joe Biden strong-armed the Ukrainian government to fire its top prosecutor in order to thwart an investigation into a company tied to his son, Hunter Biden. But sources ranging from former Obama administration officials to an anti-corruption advocate in Ukraine say the official, Viktor Shokin, was ousted for the opposite reason Trump and his allies claim. It wasn't because Shokin was investigating a natural gas company tied to Biden's son; it was because Shokin wasn't pursuing corruption among the country's politicians, according to a Ukrainian official and four former American officials who specialized in Ukraine and Europe. Shokin's inaction prompted international calls for his ouster and ultimately resulted in his removal by Ukraine's parliament. WASHINGTON – A whistleblower complaint centering on President Donald Trump's phone call with the Ukrainian president has spurred a number of allegations and counterallegations as Republicans and Democrats jockey for position amid an impeachment inquiry. At the heart of Congress' probe into the president's actions is his claim that former Vice President and 2020 Democratic frontrunner Joe Biden strong-armed the Ukrainian government to fire its top prosecutor in order to thwart an investigation into a company tied to his son, Hunter Biden. But sources ranging from former Obama administration officials to an anti-corruption advocate in Ukraine say the official, Viktor Shokin, was ousted for the opposite reason Trump and his allies claim. It wasn't because Shokin was investigating a natural gas company tied to Biden's son; it was because Shokin wasn't pursuing corruption among the country's politicians, according to a Ukrainian official and four former American officials who specialized in Ukraine and Europe. Shokin's inaction prompted international calls for his ouster and ultimately resulted in his removal by Ukraine's parliament.
Judge Andrew Napolitano: Trump’s call with Ukraine president manifests criminal and impeachable behaviorBy Judge Andrew P. NapolitanoThe House of Representatives has begun to gather evidence in an effort to determine if President Trump has committed impeachable offenses. The Constitution defines an impeachable offense as "treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors." The president need not have committed a crime in order to be impeached, but he needs to have engaged in behavior that threatens the constitutional stability of the United States or the rule of law as we have come to know it. Has Trump committed any impeachable offenses? A CIA agent formerly assigned to the White House – and presently referred to as the "whistleblower" – reported a July 25, 2019 telephone conversation that Trump had with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky. That conversation manifested both criminal and impeachable behavior. The criminal behavior to which Trump has admitted is much more grave than anything alleged or unearthed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, and much of what Mueller revealed was impeachable. What has Trump admitted? The whistleblower’s revelation caused the White House to release a near-verbatim summary of the conversation between the two presidents. By releasing it, Trump has admitted to its accuracy. In it, Trump asked Zelensky for dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden, who at this writing is Trump's likely Democratic opponent in the 2020 presidential election. Trump also admits to holding up $391 million in aid to Ukraine – $250 million in the purchase of already approved and built military hardware and $141 million in a congressionally authorized grant. This is aid that Trump's own secretaries of state and defense, his own director of national intelligence and director of the CIA, and his own National Security Council unanimously asked him to release. Trump has also admitted to accusing the as-yet publicly unnamed whistleblower of treason, and suggesting that the whistleblower and those who have helped him are spies and ought to be treated as spies were in "the old days" (Trump’s phrase) – that is, by hanging.
Republican senators echoed Biden in urging Ukrainian president to reform prosecutor general's office
By Andrew Kaczynski and Em Steck, CNN
The 43 strangest lines from Donald Trump's bizarre press conference
Analysis by Chris Cillizza, CNN Editor-at-large
By Michele KelemenOn paper, Kurt Volker's job in the Trump administration was to support Ukraine and help end a war started by Russia in the east of the former Soviet Republic. Volker is now caught up in a political battle at home over President Trump's efforts to get Ukraine to dig up dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter. Volker will be deposed Thursday behind closed doors as part of the House of Representatives' impeachment inquiry into President Trump. Volker, 54, was a career diplomat who focused on Europe and was tapped by then-President George W. Bush in 2008 to serve as the U.S. ambassador to NATO, a position he held for less than a year. By the time Russia annexed Crimea in 2014 and sent troops to foment an uprising in eastern Ukraine, Volker was out of government, running the McCain Institute, a think tank in Washington run by Arizona State University. He was critical of the Obama administration's approach to Russian President Vladimir Putin's aggression. "The most frequent phrase you hear out of mouths now is there is no military solution, and I think we just have to reject that," he told NPR in a 2015 interview. "We are seeing a military solution play out before our eyes on the ground in Ukraine, and it happens to be one that we don't like. It's Putin's military solution." Volker returned to the State Department in July 2017 when he was tapped by then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to serve as U.S. special representative for Ukraine negotiations. Andrew Weiss, of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said Volker was an unlikely fit in the Trump administration. "It was indicative of just how hard it was to get credentialed middle-of-the-road or right-of-center Republicans to serve in this administration," Weiss said. "So there was a real shortage of talented experienced people coming in. Kurt was one of the exceptions to that." Kurt was appointed with a specific role in mind, Weiss said: halting the conflict in eastern Ukraine. But that mandate broadened over time. "He ended up having a far wider portfolio that involved running U.S. policy on Ukraine writ large," Weiss said.
Opinion by Peter Eisner(CNN) - To be fair to Mike Pence, he probably never dealt with someone like Donald Trump before 2016. Now Pence is hearing Trump's critics compare the president to an organized crime boss. Whether or not he agrees, thanks to the movies, everyone knows how the game works and so the vice president surely had an inkling about President Trump's modus operandi. In fact, he had more than a hint of what was to come. "He was going into this with his eyes open," a source close to Pence told me in 2018 referring to Pence's decision to accept Trump's offer in 2016 to run for vice president. "He knew exactly who Trump was and what he faced." Pence already knew that Trump had come to the Republican nomination with lies and slander, starting with his campaign to claim that President Barack Obama was not born in the United States; and by 2016 Trump had denigrated Mexican immigrants, saying "They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists. And some, I assume, are good people." But Pence's ambition was stronger than any possible concerns about the character of the man he would have to support, and wavered but did not back out even after the Access Hollywood tape was published in October 2016. Pence and his wife had already prayed for guidance—and decided he had a purpose and a mission, from God, to serve the country as vice president, said the source. "Once he got to that point, he never looked back." Pence should have expected that at some point his patron would make him get his hands dirty. It may have happened in the case of Trump's scandalous, and perhaps impeachable, request that Ukraine investigate his political rival Joe Biden. Trump's Ukraine gambit appears to be a variation on classic extortion that started with his decision to freeze the roughly $400 million in military and security aid approved to help Ukraine fight its ongoing war against Russian invaders. "I would like you to do us a favor, though," said Trump after Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky mentioned the aid in a phone call. Trump wanted Zelensky to look into the allegation that Ukrainians stole the Democratic National Committee email server during the 2016 campaign. This is a debunked conspiracy theory. He also asked Zelensky to work on the matter with Attorney General William Barr and Trump's own personal lawyer, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Although Trump's words were imprecise -- he never said "Do this or you don't get the $400 million" -- his meaning was clear. A White House memo reconstructing the conversation showed the president returned to the subject of investigating former Vice President Biden repeatedly during their talk, Zelensky promised that his yet-to-be-named chief prosecutor would look into the matter.
By Maureen Groppe, USA TODAYWASHINGTON – An aide to Vice President Mike Pence listened in on the phone call by the president that sparked an impeachment inquiry, the Washington Post reported in an article Wednesday that provides new details on Pence's involvement in the controversy. The report said President Donald Trump used Pence in his attempt to pressure the new Ukrainian president to dig up dirt on Joe Biden, but is not conclusive on how much Pence knew about Trump's efforts. Pence's spokeswoman, Katie Waldman, dismissed the article as an attempt to "glorify a grand conspiracy being concocted by a select number of disgruntled former employees." Waldman said Pence's actions vindicate the administration by showing that Ukraine received military aid after Pence "directly and effectively delivered the president's anti-corruption and European burden sharing messages" to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in a September meeting. But the vice president's office declined to comment on whether Pence's national security adviser, retired Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg, listened to the Zelensky call.ffice declined to comment on whether Pence's national security adviser, retired Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg, listened to the Zelensky call. House Democrats on Wednesday threatened to subpoena the White House if it doesn't turn over by Friday a host of documents that include any communication Pence's office had about the July call with Zelensky. Democrats also want information on Trump's decision not to send Pence to Zelensky's May inauguration and information on Pence's meeting with Zelensky during a trip to Poland in September.
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday defended President Trump over accusations the U.S. leader pressured Kiev to dig up dirt on a rival, saying there was "nothing compromising" in transcripts of the call. - Is Putin defending a Russian asset?
ABC News - The president called the impeachment inquiry a "coup" and demanded to interview the whistleblower as new documents on Ukraine are expected to be given to Congress. - Trump is willing to put someone’s life in jeopardy to protect himself. Trump may not care but it is the law you cannot go after whistleblowers. Trump has once again shows us he does care about our laws when it comes to himself.
A conspiracy theory about the "deep state" got shared widely by the president and his supporters.By Bethania PalmaThe intelligence community "secretly eliminated" a requirement that whistleblowers provide firsthand knowledge of alleged wrongdoings, allowing the complaint about Trump's dealings with Ukraine to be filed is a false claim made by Trump and conspiracy theorist. In September 2019, whistleblower allegations that U.S. President Donald Trump held back military aid to Ukraine in an effort to obtain damaging information on a political rival led to an impeachment inquiry and an ongoing scandal. It wouldn’t be the 2010s if the fallout didn’t include a conspiracy theory circulating in the right-wing media ecosystem. In this case, the conspiracy theory was given a major platform in the form of a tweet by Trump that his supporters widely shared: The claim originated on The Federalist website, which published a story on Sept. 27 that was not only inaccurate but played on the “deep state” conspiracy theory, an idea now popular among both fringe fanatics and White House officials alike. It posits that U.S. intelligence agencies are scheming against Trump. The Federalist story implied that the intelligence community changed existing rules so that the “anti-Trump complaint” could be filed on Aug. 12 using secondhand information. “Between May 2018 and August 2019, the intelligence community secretly eliminated a requirement that whistleblowers provide direct, first-hand knowledge of alleged wrongdoings,” The Federalist reported.
A pair of GOP operatives who played major roles in Lewinsky-era political intrigue are back.The Ukraine scandal engulfing Donald Trump’s presidency goes well beyond the core cast of characters at the heart of Democrats’ impeachment inquiry. It’s now drawing in a duo familiar to anyone who has followed past Washington imbroglios: conservative lawyers and GOP operatives Joe diGenova and his wife, Victoria Toensing. And the scandal is beginning to reveal the opaque agendas of a pair of Ukrainian oligarchs whose legal troubles have led them to seek favors in Washington. DiGenova and Toensing, who played major roles in the Bill Clinton dramas of the 1990s and resurfaced amid Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign, have signed up to represent Dmitry Firtash, a Ukrainian gas magnate who currently resides in Vienna pending extradition to the U.S. to face bribery charges. Last year, the married lawyers were briefly expected to formally join Trump’s legal team to defend him in the special counsel’s investigation, but those plans were quickly scrapped due to conflicts of interest with their existing clients. The couple resurfaced, however, working in conjunction with efforts by Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer, to dig up dirt on former vice president Joe Biden. For Firtash — who is fighting extradition from Austria to the U.S. to face bribery charges — his involvement began at least as early as July, when he parted ways with Lanny Davis, the lawyer who guided Bill Clinton through a variety of investigations and now represents Michael Cohen, the former Trump fixer who confessed to tax evasion, campaign finance violations and lying to Congress, among other crimes. Firtash replaced Davis with Toensing and diGenova, a colorful and aggressive couple with a nose for scandal and skill at pushing a narrative through allies like John Solomon, the conservative columnist at the Hill who has been writing frequently about Hunter Biden’s activities in Ukraine and about Marie Yovanovitch, the veteran ambassador who was abruptly recalled in May amid attacks on her from Trump allies. DiGenova has gone on Fox News to attack Yovanovitch by name, claiming she had been privately telling others that the president was likely going to be impeached.
Trump involved Pence in efforts to pressure Ukraine’s leader, though aides say vice president was unaware of pursuit of dirt on BidensBy Greg Miller, Greg Jaffe and Ashley ParkerPresident Trump repeatedly involved Vice President Pence in efforts to exert pressure on the leader of Ukraine at a time when the president was using other channels to solicit information that he hoped would be damaging to a Democratic rival, current and former U.S. officials said. Trump instructed Pence not to attend the inauguration of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in May — an event White House officials had pushed to put on the vice president’s calendar — when Ukraine’s new leader was seeking recognition and support from Washington, the officials said. Months later, the president used Pence to tell Zelensky that U.S. aid was still being withheld while demanding more aggressive action on corruption, officials said. At that time — following Trump’s July 25 phone call with Zelenksy — the Ukrainians probably understood action on corruption to include the investigation of former vice president Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden. Officials close to Pence insist that he was unaware of Trump’s efforts to press Zelensky for damaging information about Biden and his son, who had served on the board of an obscure Ukrainian gas company, when his father was overseeing U.S. policy on Ukraine. Pence’s activities occurred amid several indications of the president’s hidden agenda. Among them were the abrupt removal of the U.S. ambassador to Kiev; the visible efforts by the president’s lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, to insert himself in the U.S.-Ukraine relationship; as well as alarms being raised inside the White House even before the emergence of an extraordinary whistleblower complaint about Trump’s conduct. Perhaps most significantly, one of Pence’s top advisers was on the July 25 call and the vice president should have had access to the transcript within hours, officials said. Trump’s deployment of Pence is part of a broader pattern of using both executive authority and high-ranking officials in his administration to advance his personal or political interests — even in cases when those subordinates appear not to know that another agenda is in play. Officials close to Pence contend that he traveled to Warsaw for a meeting with Zelensky on Sept. 1 probably without having read — or at least fully registered — the transcript of Trump’s July 25 call with the leader of Ukraine. White House officials said that Pence likely would have received the detailed notes of the president’s call in his briefing book on July 26.The five-page document also should have been part of the briefing materials he took with him to Warsaw to prepare for the meeting, according to the officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal matters.
Kurt Volker and Marie Yovanovitch, Figures in Trump-Ukraine Whistleblower Complaint, to Appear Before CongressBy Erin BancoTwo diplomatic figures named in the whistleblower complaint that’s at the heart of the impeachment inquiry against President Trump over his interactions with Ukraine’s president are slated to appear before Congress, The Daily Beast has learned. According to a senior Democratic aide, the State Department’s former special envoy for Ukraine—Kurt Volker—will appear before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Thursday. Former Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch was previously scheduled to appear before the committee Wednesday, but will now appear on Oct. 11. The State Department inspector general has also asked for an “urgent” briefing with congressional committees tomorrow. The whistleblower reportedly alleged that Volker was one of the officials attempting to “contain the damage” of the scandal by advising Ukrainians on how to handle the requests of Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani—who has publicly admitted to pushing for corruption investigations into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son. The whistleblower also reportedly claimed Yovanovitch was recalled to Washington earlier than expected because of “pressure” from then-Ukrainian Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko, who had spoken to Giuliani about the investigations and “collusion.”
By John Fritze and David Jackson, USA TODAYWASHINGTON – President Donald Trump dismissed concerns Wednesday – including from some GOP lawmakers – about protecting the identity of a whistleblower at the center of allegations that he pressured Ukraine to dig up dirt on Joe Biden. Asked about those concerns Trump responded: "I don't care." Trump, who has repeatedly questioned the legitimacy of the unnamed person who filed a complaint about Trump's phone call with Ukrainian leaders, said "a whistleblower should be protected if the whistleblower's legitimate." The whistleblower’s report is at the heart of the impeachment investigation of Trump at the House of Representatives. The complaint filed Aug. 12 alleged Trump abused the power of his office when he urged Ukraine's president to gather dirt on Biden. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, a co-founder of the Senate Whistleblower Caucus, said on Tuesday that the whistleblower deserves to be heard and protected. “We should always work to respect whistleblowers’ requests for confidentiality,” Grassley said. Trump, in a combative mood on the issue after several days of more subdued messaging, also repeated his attacks on House Democrats, including Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif. and the chair of the House Intelligence Committee. Trump said Schiff couldn't carry Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's "blank strap," apparently a reference to a "jockstrap." Earlier, Trump blasted a tweet storm minutes after a Democratic news conference, condemning impeachment as an attempt to force him from office that will damage the country. Trump challenged House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's stated desire to work on trade and drug prices, saying Democrats are obsessed with impeachment. Pelosi is "incapable" of working on other issues, the president wrote. "It is just camouflage for trying to win an election through impeachment. The Do Nothing Democrats are stuck in mud!" - Trump is willing to put someone’s life in jeopardy to protect himself. Trump may not care but it is the law you cannot go after whistleblowers. Trump has once again shows us he does care about our laws when it comes to himself.
'Horrific and chilling': Whistleblower advocates complain as Trump tries to identify source of Ukraine complaintBy Bart Jansen and Kevin Johnson, USA TODAYWASHINGTON – After President Donald Trump said Monday he is trying to find out who reported concerns about his Ukraine phone call, whistleblower advocates said that person must be protected from retaliation and should be allowed to remain anonymous. Trump told reporters in the Oval Office on Monday that “we’re trying to find out ” who the whistleblower is. He reiterated that his July 25 call to Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky was “perfect,” despite asking his counterpart to investigate his political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden. On Thursday, Trump was recorded telling a group that the whistleblower should be punished, noting that “spies and treason” in the past were handled “a little differently than we do now.” Mandy Smithberger, director of the Center for Defense Information at the Project on Government Oversight, called Trump’s apparent desire to unmask the whistleblower “horrific and chilling.” “It’s the last thing a president should be doing if he really wanted to root out waste, fraud and abuse,” she said. Andrew Bakaj, a former CIA officer who is representing the whistleblower, tweeted Monday that the person “is entitled to anonymity. Law and policy support this and the individual is not to be retaliated against. Doing so is a violation of federal law.” John Kostyack, executive director of the National Whistleblower Center, said “threats of reprisals by the president and his allies against the intelligence community whistleblower are contrary to our nation’s core ideal of freedom of speech.” “If we want to know about lawbreaking, we need to gather evidence from the people who have it," Kostyack said. "Any time we send a message that they are going to be punished, we are essentially discouraging people who have this evidence from stepping forward. We need them. We need whistleblowers." The whistleblower’s complaint is at the heart of the impeachment investigation of Trump at the House of Representatives. The complaint was filed Aug. 12 with the inspector general for the intelligence community, Michael Atkinson. The complaint reported the “urgent concern” that alleged Trump was abusing the power of his office to urge Ukraine to gather dirt on Biden.
By Jennifer Hansler and Devan Cole, CNNWashington (CNN)Steve Linick, the State Department's inspector general, is set to hold an "urgent" briefing Wednesday with senior congressional staff members after Secretary Mike Pompeo Tuesday accused lawmakers of "intimidating and bullying" State Department officials by calling them for depositions related to the Ukraine inquiry. The meeting comes hours after Pompeo admitted earlier Wednesday that he was on the July 25 phone call in which President Donald Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Joe Biden, though this is no evidence of wrongdoing by the former vice president. Although Linick serves at the pleasure of the President, there are safeguards to prevent him from being quickly removed. "The President must communicate the reasons for the action in writing to both Houses of Congress at least 30 days before the removal or transfer," according to the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency. "These safeguards are meant to prevent IGs from being removed for political reasons or simply because they are doing an effective job of identifying fraud, waste, and abuse," it said. Linick, who was appointed to his post in September 2013 has a history of serving in oversight positions. At the State Department he oversaw the investigation into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server. His May 2016 report on the probe was critical of Clinton, saying the former secretary failed to follow the rules or inform key department staff regarding her use of the private server. "At a minimum, Secretary Clinton should have surrendered all emails dealing with Department business before leaving government service and, because she did not do so, she did not comply with the Department's policies that were implemented in accordance with the Federal Records Act," the report stated. Clinton has long maintained that she had permission to use personal email.
'I was on the phone call': Pompeo acknowledges he was listening to Trump's phone call with Ukraine presidentBy Deirdre Shesgreen, USA TODAYWASHINGTON – Secretary of State Mike Pompeo acknowledged Wednesday he was listening in on the controversial phone call between President Donald Trump and Ukraine's leader, Volodymyr Zelensky – a conversation that sparked the House Democrats' impeachment inquiry. "I was on the phone call," Pompeo told reporters at a news conference in Rome. It marked the first time Pompeo has publicly disclosed his own knowledge of allegations that Trump pressured Zelensky for damaging information on former Vice President Joe Biden. Pompeo had previously side-stepped questions about Trump's dealings with Zelensky and said he was not familiar with the details of a whistleblower complaint sparked by the July 25 call. The Trump-Zelensky call and the whistleblower complaint are now at the center of an impeachment inquiry examining whether Trump sought foreign interference in the 2020 election. That phone call prompted a whistleblower to file an anonymous complaint alleging that Trump was "using the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country in the 2020 U.S. election," according to the complaint. At the news conference in Rome, Pompeo did not answer a question about whether Trump's remarks to Zelensky raised any red flags for him. Instead, he talked broadly about U.S. policy toward Ukraine, which he said has been "remarkably consistent" and focused on two goals: countering Russian aggression against the eastern European ally and helping Ukraine fight its endemic corruption. Pompeo's remarks came a day after he engaged in a high-stakes confrontation with House Democrats over their demands to depose five State Department employees as part of the impeachment inquiry. Democrats are seeking documents and interviews with Trump officials who could shed light on the State Department's role in connecting Rudy Giuliani, Trump's personal lawyer, with Ukrainian government officials.
By NAHAL TOOSIWhen Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday accused House Democrats of trying to “intimidate, bully, and treat improperly” State Department employees in their impeachment inquiry, his words rang hollow to more than a few staffers in Foggy Bottom. If anything, critics inside and outside the department say, Pompeo has done little to protect U.S. diplomats from a virtual war waged on them by President Donald Trump’s administration. His abrupt withdrawal earlier this year of the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine — whom Trump disparaged in a call at the heart of Democrats’ impeachment inquiry – also has raised questions about Pompeo’s willingness to stand up for staffers facing political attacks. That ambassador, Marie Yovanovitch , is due to be deposed later this month by House staffers, according to a committee aide. Her case, meanwhile, has already rattled career government staffers. Many of them believe Yovanovitch, a veteran diplomat, is one of the most prominent victims of what they say is the contempt and paranoia with which Trump and his aides view the Foreign and Civil Service. “What the administration appears to want are political operatives who are loyal not to the United States but to the president in furthering his personal, political and financial goals,” said Philip Gordon, a former senior official in the Obama administration who co-authored a recent op-ed defending Yovanovitch. “That’s where it’s demoralizing for the career diplomats.” A current State Department staffer, speaking on condition of anonymity to protect his job, described the Pompeo letter as “the height of irony.” Pompeo’s rebuff of Hill Democrats follows a report that his department has ramped up a probe into emails of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Trump’s 2016 White House rival, in ways that are ensnaring some career diplomats. In addition, State’s inspector general is due to soon release a major report into alleged political retaliation against career staffers under Pompeo’s predecessor, Rex Tillerson. The inspector general recently released a separate report that found an assistant secretary of state, Kevin Moley, acted abusively toward career staff. Pompeo, however, has not fired Moley.
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