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Trump-Ukraine Affair Page 4
Read more about the Trump-Ukraine Affair:

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.

“Volker was the easier guy to let go,” said one former State Department official. “But just because it is an easy choice doesn’t mean it is the right choice.”
By Erin Banco
When President Donald Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani appeared on cable news programs last week, he deflected questions about his work in Ukraine and instead hammered home one talking point over and over again: The State Department knew he was trying to dig up dirt on 2020 presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son Hunter. Giuliani waved his phone on air, flashing text messages between himself and State Department representatives and saying it was the department that connected him to a close adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Giuliani’s on-air appearances threw the department into a tizzy, forcing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to try to put a lid on the crisis of confidence bubbling up under him, according to three senior U.S. officials. For Pompeo, solving the problem meant finding someone to blame—and there was only one individual who fit the mold, according to those same sources: former U.S. representative for Ukraine negotiations Kurt Volker. Volker resigned on Friday. But despite his resignation, the State Department has scrambled to correct course, according to these same officials, especially after news that Pompeo was on the now-infamous call between President Trump and Zelensky in July. Pompeo had previously denied knowing about it on national television. On top of that, three congressional committees subpoenaed Pompeo for documents related to Trump and Giuliani’s work in Ukraine and demanded that five current and former department officials appear for depositions. In response, Pompeo tried a time-tested Trump White House strategy: stonewalling Congress. The secretary said Tuesday that Congress was “bullying” career officials and suggested they would not appear for questioning. (The State Department’s inspector general is currently investigating members of Pompeo’s department for pushing career officials out of their posts for perceived political bias.) The State Department did not respond to a request for comment for this story. Pompeo’s plan appears to have backfired. Despite the secretary’s efforts to block several of his current and former officials from speaking to Congress, Volker is set to go to Capitol Hill on Thursday with the backing of a cadre of current and former diplomats. Some of those diplomats spoke to The Daily Beast and requested anonymity because they feared reprisals from Pompeo and other Trump administration officials. 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.

By Stephanie Baker and Sara Khojoyan
The website of the consulting firm that forged business contacts for Rudy Giuliani in Ukraine and Russia for more than a decade vanished suddenly after his communications were subpoenaed. Giuliani was dubbed “America’s Mayor” because of his New York City perch in the days after 9/11, but later he built a lucrative career in the private sector as a foreign security consultant. The genesis of many of those foreign connections was TriGlobal Strategic Ventures. The firm was set up in the U.S. in 2003 by a group of Russians and emigres from the former Soviet Union. Using the group’s network, Giuliani amassed security contracts around the globe, which continued even after he became the U.S. president’s unpaid lawyer last year. On Tuesday, the company’s website reverted to “TGSV – Coming Soon.” On Wednesday morning, after this article was published, the site was restored, though sometimes hard to reach. Giuliani’s contracts, and who paid for them, are now coming under heavy scrutiny by Congress as it tries to trace his shadow diplomatic work for President Donald Trump in Ukraine. House Democrats have demanded documents and communications among Giuliani, TriGlobal and its co-founder and president, Vitaly Pruss, going back to the beginning of the Trump presidency. Pruss has played a pivotal role in connecting Giuliani to the Ukrainians who make up the backbone of the House’s subpoena request. The Democrats are moving quickly with their impeachment inquiry of Trump over his request that Ukraine investigate a political rival.

By Nicholas Nehamas and Kevin G. Hall
Over the summer, Dianne and Michael Pues got an ominous phone call from the business partner of a Ukrainian-American entrepreneur who owes the couple more than $500,000 over a movie deal gone bad. “He said the Ukrainians were upset because we were ‘a dangling participle’ and we needed to make a deal to make them go away,” Dianne Pues, who lives in New Jersey with her husband, recounted in a recent interview. “He said we no longer knew who we were dealing with and that the Ukrainians had ties all the way up to the State Department and the White House and they were partners with Rudy Giuliani.” Working with Giuliani, the White House and the State Department was no idle boast. The “Ukrainians” are two South Florida businessmen named Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman who on Monday were sent letters by three House committees requesting information as part of an impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump. Parnas and Fruman have recently become major Republican donors — and couriers of what they say is explosive information sourced from Ukraine about widespread corruption involving Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, American diplomats and Ukrainian officials. Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer and a former New York City mayor, has been their conduit to the Trump administration. On Monday, the House committees subpoenaed Giuliani for documents relating to his efforts in Ukraine. They also sent letters to Parnas, Fruman and a third man, Semyon Kislin, “seeking documents and noticing depositions.” Before the scandal became a cable-news fixture, the exploits of Parnas and Fruman caught the admiring eye of Trump, as well as right-wing pundits and politicians who amplified their material. A government whistleblower complaint — one that led House Democrats last week to open the impeachment inquiry — cited media reports detailing Parnas and Fruman’s work introducing Giuliani to Ukrainian officials, although the two men weren’t mentioned by name. Experts on Ukrainian politics have largely debunked the accusations against Biden and others as conspiracy theories. Even the Ukrainian prosecutor who originally brought attention to the matter has walked back some of his claims. The prosecutor, Yuri Lutsenko, was introduced to Giuliani thanks to Fruman and Parnas, according to media accounts and interviews.

By Kim Hjelmgaard, USA TODAY
Authorities in Ukraine on Tuesday opened an investigation into a former government prosecutor who is indirectly connected to allegations that have prompted Democratic lawmakers in the U.S. to launch an impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump. Ukraine's State Bureau of Investigations (SBI) opened criminal proceedings against Yuriy Lutsenko over his possible abuse of power, the government agency said. It said that Lutsenko and other former lawmakers may have conspired to "provide cover" for illegal gambling businesses in Ukraine. Lutsenko disputes the allegations.

The Iowa Republican is one of the few GOP senators defending the whistleblower.
As President Donald Trump and his allies attack the whistleblower that kicked off the House's impeachment inquiry, the still unidentified person gained a powerful ally on Tuesday: Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley. The most senior GOP senator has fashioned a career on protecting whistleblowers during presidencies of both parties. And in the middle of one of the most tempestuous political storms in two decades, the seventh-term Iowan is sticking to his position even if it’s at odds with the president himself. In a Tuesday statement, Grassley moved to stave off attacks and the unmasking of the federal whistleblower who first divulged Trump’s call with Ukraine’s president. Trump and many of his allies in Congress and outside have been working to chip away at the whisleblower’s credibility, calling his complaint “hearsay” and playing down its validity. Grassley is, so far, having none of it. He said Tuesday that the fact that the individual’s knowledge of Trump’s phone call and the White House restricting records came secondhand should not invalidate his reporting. “This person appears to have followed the whistleblower protection laws and ought to be heard out and protected. We should always work to respect whistleblowers,” Grassley said. “Complaints based on second-hand information should not be rejected out of hand, but they do require additional leg work to get at the facts and evaluate the claim’s credibility.” Grassley also said that media reports on the identity of the whistleblower “don’t serve the public interest—even if the conflict sells more papers or attracts clicks.” The New York Times and Washington Post both reported that the whistleblower is a CIA officer but did not identify him by name. For now, Grassley is something of a lonely voice in the party, though Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) pushed back forcefully against Trump’s suggestion last week that the whistleblower’s sources are spies. The whistleblower claimed administration sources said Trump moved to “abuse his office for personal gain” when speaking to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky about former Vice President Joe Biden in July, then tried to restrict the conversation. The complaint and a transcript of the call are the basis for House Democrats' impeachment inquiry. On Tuesday at a short Senate session, Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) said he left it up to reporters on whether media should reveal more about the whistleblower and said much more should be learned about this person. “I’d assume if you were going to dig into this you’d want to know who the sources are that the whistleblower relied on. And I’d assume we’d want to know whom the whistleblower himself or herself is and if they’re credible,” Hawley said. Last week, a number of Republicans mounted attacks on the whistleblower as a secondhand source with no direct knowledge of the inner workings of the administration.

By John Harwood
The Republican defenses for President Donald Trump’s conduct on Ukraine simply don’t hold up. At first glance, that can be hard to discern. Trump, his aides and select allies in Congress have feverishly sought to redirect a whistleblower’s complaints toward Democratic adversaries. “It is the height of insanity for the Democrats to try and bogusly impeach President Trump for simply calling out this corruption,” a Republican National Committee spokesman asserted over the weekend. Yet even cursory scrutiny of evidence that has emerged so far knocks down assorted GOP arguments like shanties in a hurricane. Here’s a brief review: It was hearsay: House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy notes that “the whistleblower wasn’t on the call” between Trump and his Ukrainian counterpart. “Hearsay,” Sen. Lindsey Graham insists, cannot be a basis for impeachment. Both observations are irrelevant. In the partial transcript of the call released by the White House itself, Trump’s own words affirm the whistleblower’s account. That is direct evidence, not hearsay. “If they thought it would be exculpatory, they miscalculated badly,” GOP former Sen. Jeff Flake told me. Biased whistleblower: The president says the still-unidentified whistleblower harbors “known bias” against him. This observation, which the intelligence community inspector general called “arguable,” does not discredit the whistleblower’s allegations, which the inspector general found “credible.” If the whistleblower’s information is accurate, his motivation doesn’t matter. Trump’s own former homeland security advisor, Thomas Bossert, has described himself as “deeply disturbed” by the president’s behavior, too.

By Sinéad Baker
The intelligence community's watchdog poured cold water on a claim by President Donald Trump that the rules for whistleblower complaints were changed just before a an explosive accusation was lodged about his dealings with Ukraine. The complaint drew attention to a phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, which the official memo released by the White House showed Trump used to ask Zelensky to investigate Joe Biden and his son. Details about the call led Democrats to launch an impeachment inquiry into Trump. On Monday, Trump angrily tweeted the suggestion that the rules had been changed just before the complaint hit, seeming to imply that standards had been lowered in order to admit the case against him. Trump wrote: "WHO CHANGED THE LONG STANDING WHISTLEBLOWER RULES JUST BEFORE SUBMITTAL OF THE FAKE WHISTLEBLOWER REPORT? DRAIN THE SWAMP!" He was echoing claims made by GOP senator Lindsey Graham, who said on Sunday: "I want to know why they changed the rules about whistleblowers not — the hearsay rule was changed just a short period of time before the complaint was filed." Republican Senators Chuck Grassley, Mike Lee, and Ron Johnson also raised the possibility of the rules having changed on Monday, though with less certainty than Trump and Graham. In response, officials for Michael Atkinson, the Inspector General of the Intelligence Committee, released a four-page statement on Monday shooting down the theory. It did not name Trump or any of the senators. The statement said that having first-hand knowledge has never been a requirement, that the whistleblower used a process that has been in place for more than a year, and added that the whistleblower also does claim to have first-hand information. It said: "Although the form requests information about whether the Complainant possesses first-hand knowledge about the matter about which he or she is lodging the complaint, there is no such requirement set forth in the statute."

By Kathryn Watson, Stefan Becket, Emily Tillett
Washington -- A series of rapid-fire developments brought the House impeachment inquiry into clearer focus Monday afternoon, with Democrats issuing new demands for evidence and new revelations about the circumstances of the president's call with Ukraine coming to light. Just before 4 p.m., three House committees announced they had subpoenaed Rudy Giuliani, the president's personal lawyer, for documents related to his work on behalf of President Trump to persuade Ukraine to open an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden. The committees also requested material about Giuliani's work to secure Ukraine's cooperation into a Justice Department review of the origins of Robert Mueller's Russia probe. Shortly after the subpoena was announced, The Wall Street Journal reported Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was on the July 25 call between the president and the Ukrainian leader. CBS News has confirmed Pompeo was on the call. The New York Times reported Mr. Trump had called the prime minister of Australia to request assistance in the Justice Department review. The call came at the behest of Attorney General William Barr. A Justice Department official then told CBS News that Barr had asked Mr. Trump to reach out to a number of foreign officials to request their assistance in his review, which is being led by the U.S. attorney in Connecticut. A source familiar with the matter said Barr traveled to Italy as part of his effort, and The Washington Post reported he has also reached out to intelligence officials in the United Kingdom. In the call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on July 25, Mr. Trump repeatedly asked him to work with Barr to pursue a fringe conspiracy theory about the origins of the 2016 U.S. counterintelligence investigation that would became the Mueller probe. "I would like to have the Attorney General call you or your people and I would like you to get to the bottom of it," Mr. Trump told Zelensky, according to the summary released by the White House.

Fact check: Trump falsely claims whistleblower rules changed just before Ukraine complaint
By Holmes Lybrand and Zachary Cohen, CNN
Washington (CNN) - On Monday, President Donald Trump tweeted a conspiracy theory suggesting the rules for whistleblowing had recently changed in order to accommodate the recent whistleblower complaint against him; specifically, so that someone with secondhand knowledge could now submit these complaints. "WHO CHANGED THE LONG STANDING WHISTLEBLOWER RULES JUST BEFORE SUBMITTAL OF THE FAKE WHISTLEBLOWER REPORT? DRAIN THE SWAMP!" Trump tweeted. Monday's tweet was at least Trump's second reference to the theory, which apparently was initially propagated by the right-wing website The Federalist on September 27. The article claims that "between May 2018 and August 2019, the intelligence community secretly eliminated a requirement that whistleblowers provide direct, first-hand knowledge of alleged wrongdoings." Facts First: This is false. The Federalist reading of the form is inaccurate and although the submission form that whistleblowers from the intelligence community fill out was revised in August 2019, the revision did not change the rules on who can submit a whistleblower complaint. Even so, pro-Trump pundits and lawmakers spread the theory on Twitter and TV over the weekend as evidence of some nefarious plot against Trump. Republican Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio told Jake Tapper on "State of the Union" that whistleblowers no longer need firsthand knowledge because "they changed the form." Tapper pushed back, fact-checking Jordan. "Experts say it has never been true that you need to have firsthand knowledge to be a whistleblower," Tapper said. In a statement issued late Monday afternoon, the inspector general of the intelligence community (ICIG) said that the form submitted by the whistleblower on August 12, 2019, was the same one the ICIG has had in place since May 24, 2018. The statement reiterated the fact that having firsthand knowledge of the event has never been required in order to submit a whistleblower complaint. "Although the form requests information about whether the Complainant possesses first-hand knowledge about the matter about which he or she is lodging the complaint, there is no such requirement set forth in the statute." "In fact," the ICIG's statement continues, "by law the Complainant...need not possess first-hand information in order to file a complaint or information with respect to an urgent concern. The ICIG cannot add conditions to the filing of an urgent concern that do not exist in law."

By David Jackson, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump said Monday he is still trying to learn the identity of the whistleblower whose allegations over Ukraine and Joe Biden have triggered an impeachment inquiry – a comment that some critics regarded as a presidential threat against the informer. "We're trying to find out about a whistleblower," Trump told reporters after an Oval Office swearing-in ceremony for new Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia. Trump again attacked Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, accusing him of "making up" words about his phone call with the president of Ukraine – but Trump did not again accuse Schiff of "treason" as he did earlier in the day. After Trump spoke, Andrew Bakaj, the attorney for the unidentified whistleblower, tweeted that his client "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." Critics said Trump's comments, as well as repeated attacks on the whistleblower's motives, amount to a threat of reprisal against someone seeking to expose government wrongdoing. "We have a centuries-old bipartisan consensus that those with evidence of wrongdoing should be encouraged to step forward, not intimidated from doing so," said John Kostyack, executive director of the National Whistleblower Center, a nonprofit group that promotes whistleblower protection laws. Kostyack urged lawmakers from both parties "to affirm that this whistleblower deserves the highest level of protection from retaliation, including the ability to maintain anonymity.” In his brief Oval Office comments, Trump claimed his accuser misrepresented his July 25 telephone conversation with the president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky. - This should scare all Americans that a sitting president is using the power of the presidency to retaliate against a whistleblower because the president was caught possibly committing a crime(s). For the people protecting and supporting Trump over America, what if this were Obama would you let him get away with that, no you would not.

A former member of the Ukrainian parliament and adviser to Ukraine's president told CBS News it was a "well-known fact" there that President Donald Trump wanted "compromising" information on former Vice President Joe Biden. Serhiy Leshchenko added that Ukraine's president knew that U.S. aid to his country was at stake. "I am sure that issue of Biden was forever on the table between Zelensky and Trump," said Leshchenko. As a former lawmaker and adviser to Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky, Leschenko believes it was clear that President Trump wanted Ukraine to investigate his Democratic rivals. "Of course, he wanted political privileges, favors, for his re-election from Ukraine," he said. "In return for military aid?" asked correspondent Roxana Saberi. "I would say yes," Leshchenko replied. "Do you have any evidence of that?" asked Saberi. "It was, like, well-known fact in Ukraine," Leshchenko replied. In 2016, Leshchenko was at the center of exposing Paul Manafort's dealings in Ukraine. He said he recused himself from working with Zelensky in May this year, after it became clear that could threaten relations with President Trump's administration. Ukraine relies heavily on U.S. aid in its war against Russia. But in July, Mr. Trump ordered nearly $400 million of that support withheld. Days later, in a phone call, he asked Ukraine's president to investigate the Bidens. According to the whistleblower's complaint, Mr. Trump's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, made or attempted contact with at least seven Ukrainian officials, including then-prosecutor general Yuri Lutsenko. Lutsenko told the BBC that Giuliani asked him to investigate the Bidens. BBC correspondent Jonah Fisher asked Lutsenko, "Have you got any evidence that Joe Biden acted in any way which supported Hunter Biden's company, Burisma?" "It is not my jurisdiction," he replied. "Under Ukrainian law, you've got nothing?" "Nothing, certainly," Lutsenko said. But Serhiy Leshchenko says the two men were circumventing official channels. He also told Saberi that Giuliani wanted to meet President-elect Zelensky before his inauguration in April, but that Zelensky said no, because he realized that "everything behind the story is toxic."

Ukrainians have been having doubts about Western commitment to Ukrainian democracy; the recent scandal confirmed them.
by Leonid Ragozinby Leonid Ragozin
For days now international media has been dominated by a political earthquake triggered by a July phone call between US President Donald Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. It has not only wreaked havoc on the political scene in both countries but it is also likely to undermine the very idea of Western leadership in Eastern Europe. President Trump is the most obvious casualty of this calamity, which is entirely of his very own making. His attempt to pressure the leader of a country currently in conflict with Russia in order to acquire compromising material on a political rival has outraged even members of his own party. It has also given ammunition to the opposition, the Democratic Party, to start an impeachment process against him. It would seem that Joe Biden, potentially Trump's opponent in the upcoming 2020 elections, might be the main beneficiary of his self-inflicted misery, but he may not emerge unscathed from the scandal either. The media spotlight has shifted back to the Ukrainian stint of his son, Hunter Biden. Burisma, the company Biden Jr worked for, belongs to businessman/politician Mykola Zlochevsky, who occupied various posts in the government of President Viktor Yanukovych, ousted by the Maidan revolution of 2013-2014. With no experience in the region, he got his post at the time when Zlochevsky was fighting off a court case in the UK touted as a part of the British effort to prevent Yanukovych's entourage from laundering embezzled cash in the West. Hunter's appointment on the board did feel a lot like a dogged oligarch buying himself an expensive political cover in the West. Perhaps the least affected of the three main characters in the story is Zelensky. Yes, there are several embarrassing moments in the conversation, which the president of Ukraine certainly didn't expect to be published. That includes his criticism of Germany and France for their lack of support to Ukraine. These and a few other statements in the transcript are unlikely to affect his sky-high rating at home, although they might come back to haunt him in future. Apart from casting a shadow on Zelensky's presidency in its first months, the scandal has disturbed Ukrainian politics in another, much more dramatic way. Ukrainians often complain about "Ukraine fatigue" in the West after five years of conflict with Russia and no resolution reached. That now there is renewed interest in Ukraine in Western media is hardly a welcome development given the circumstances.

Ukraine's president says his country can't be pressured into opening an investigation into Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden or his son. And both Ukraine and rival Russia are pushing back at the White House for releasing a transcript of a private phone call between U.S. President Donald Trump and another world leader. President Volodymyr Zelenskiy is trying to contain damage at home and abroad after the world learned last week that Trump pushed him to "look into" Biden and his son Hunter, who served on the board of a troubled Ukrainian gas company. "We cannot be ordered to do anything. We are an independent country," Zelenskiy told reporters Monday during a visit to a Ukrainian military base, when asked about Trump's request. "We are open, we are ready to investigate, but it has nothing to do with me. Our independent law enforcement agencies are ready to investigate any violations of the law," he said. He didn't elaborate on what could trigger an eventual probe. The Ukrainian president reiterated his criticism of the White House decision to release a rough transcript of the July phone call in which Trump discussed the Bidens with Zelenskiy. The call sparked a Congressional impeachment inquiry now dominating the U.S. political landscape. Zelenskiy said Ukraine would probably not release its own transcript of the call, because "there are certain nuances and things that I think would be wrong to publish." The Kremlin — accused of meddling in the 2016 U.S. election in Trump's favor — appears to agree. Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman said Monday that transcripts of calls between him and Trump can only be published by mutual accord. Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that "diplomatic practice doesn't envisage such publications." The political furor over the Trump-Zelenskiy call has come as a severe test for Zelenskiy, a comedian who promised to uproot Ukraine's endemic corruption and end fighting with Russia-backed separatists in Ukraine's east. The transcript portrays Zelenskiy as flattering Trump and trying to stay in his good graces.

By James Walker
A former chairman of the Republican Party has claimed Donald Trump is "wetting his pants" after the president launched a Twitter tirade against the whistleblower whose complaint set off the Trump-Ukraine scandal. Michael Steele, a former Republican National Committee chairman and now a political analyst for MSNBC, said yesterday that the tweets showed President Trump was "wetting his pants a little bit" and "trying to get control of something he's losing a grip on." He also argued that the Trump administration started the Ukraine scandal—which prompted the Democrat-led House's decision to start an impeachment inquiry into the president—by "putting out a document they thought was innocuous and unimportant." Steele made the remarks on MSNBC after host Ayman Mohyeldin asked him about comments Trump made about the whistleblower on Sunday in an attempt to discredit them. In a series of tweets, the president said he deserved to meet his accuser and claimed they "represented a perfect conversation with a foreign leader in a totally inaccurate and fraudulent way." "I want to meet not only my accuser, who presented SECOND & THIRD HAND INFORMATION, but also the person who illegally gave this information, which was largely incorrect, to the 'Whistleblower.' Was this person SPYING on the U.S. President? Big Consequences!" Trump said. Speaking about the tweets on MSNBC, Steele said: "That's the president wetting his pants a little bit. This has him nervous. There's real concern here. "The conflation of a legal, criminal proceeding where under our constitution you have a right to confront your accuser, that happens in a court room, not during an investigation."

By Devan Cole, CNN
Washington (CNN) - Rep. Jim Jordan, the top Republican on the House Oversight Committee, and CNN's Jake Tapper got into a contentious exchange Sunday after the lawmaker made false and misleading claims about the unfolding Ukraine drama that has led to an impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump. During a tense interview with Tapper on "State of The Union," the Ohio Republican attempts to give his spin on the drama, making unsubstantiated claims about former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter. Trump tried to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky into investigating the Bidens, though there is no evidence of wrongdoing by either. On Jordan's claims about the Bidens: "The vice president's son gets paid $50,000 a month and gets hired by a company in an industry he has no experience in and oh that's fine?" Jordan says, referring to Hunter Biden serving on the board of a Ukrainian natural gas company. "Try taking that message to the American people ... When they see the vice president's son getting paid $50,000 a month in a field, in an industry he has no experience in ... And then when the company that's paying that money is under investigation, guess what? Daddy comes running to the rescue. The vice president of the United States comes running in and says, 'Fire that prosecutor.' " "That's not what happened. Sir, sir, that's not what happened," Tapper responds. "The European Union, the Obama administration, the International Monetary Fund, pro-clean government activists in Ukraine, (all) thought that the prosecutor was not prosecuting corruption." "So you're saying Joe Biden didn't tell Ukraine to fire that prosecutor? I think he did," the congressman says. "He did, but the guy was not prosecuting anything. That was the problem," Tapper replies. "Here are the facts," Jordan says, before Tapper interjects, saying: "You're not saying facts, you say, 'Here are the facts,' these are not." "Did Joe Biden tell him to fire the prosecutor?" Jordan asks again. "Because he wasn't going after corruption. He wasn't going after corruption. Do you understand what I'm saying?" Tapper replies. According to CNN's fact check, the Obama administration, American allies, the International Monetary Fund and Ukrainian anti-corruption activists, among others, had all made clear that they were displeased with the performance of Viktor Shokin, who became prosecutor general in 2015. Shokin was widely faulted for declining to bring prosecutions of elites' corruption, and he was even accused of hindering corruption investigations. His deputy, Vitaliy Kasko, resigned in February 2016, alleging that Shokin's office was itself corrupt.

A Ukrainian ex-prosecutor general has told the BBC there is no reason for his country to investigate President Donald Trump's political rival Joe Biden. Yuriy Lutsenko said any investigation into Mr Biden and his son would have to start in the US. "I don't know any reason to investigate Joe Biden or Hunter Biden according to Ukrainian law," he said. Mr Trump's efforts to have Ukraine investigate the pair prompted an impeachment inquiry by the Democrats. A transcript of a call Mr Trump made to Ukraine's new President Volodymyr Zelensky on 25 July shows he urged him to investigate discredited corruption allegations against Mr Biden and his son. Mr Trump and his allies have been suggesting that Mr Biden, as Barack Obama's vice-president, encouraged the firing of Ukraine's top prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, because he had been investigating Ukrainian natural gas company Burisma, which employed Hunter Biden. Hunter Biden became a director at Burisma in 2014, while his father held a key role in US policy towards Ukraine. Mr Biden is currently frontrunner to be the Democrat to take on Mr Trump in the November 2020 presidential election. What did Lutsenko say? Speaking to BBC Kiev correspondent Jonah Fisher, Mr Lutsenko - who succeeded Mr Shokin and stood down last month - said there was no plan to open the investigation into Burisma, and that any investigation into Hunter Biden would have to start in the US. "It is the jurisdiction of the US," he said, adding that any "possible embezzlement" at Burisma "happened two or three years before Hunter Biden became a member of the board".

By Camilo Montoya-Galvez CBS News
President Trump's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, said on Sunday that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had told him he was aware of his unorthodox diplomatic campaign to pressure Ukraine's government to dig up political dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter. "I did not do this on my own. I did it at the request of the State Department and I have all of the text messages to prove it. And I also have a thank you from them from doing a good job," Giuliani said on "Face the Nation." "When I talked to the secretary last week, he said he was aware of it." Transcript: Rudy Giuliani on "Face the Nation" Giuliani's claim on Sunday echoes recent allegations that he and others, including a whistleblower whose compliant is at the center of an impeachment push against Mr. Trump, have made about the State Department's supposed involvement in his behind-the-scenes outreach to Ukraine, a staunch U.S. ally dealing with a Russian-backed insurgency in its eastern territory. Along with denouncing a call in July in which Mr. Trump pressed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigative the Bidens, the whistleblower in the complaint said senior State Department officials — including the former U.S. envoy to Ukraine, Kurt Volker — reached out to Giuliani to "contain the damage" of his rogue communication with the Ukrainian government. Giuliani has said the State Department's involvement in his outreach to the Ukrainian government started in July, when he said Volker connected him with a top Zelensky aide. Soon after meeting with the aide, Andriy Yermak, Giuliani said he called both Volker and the U.S. Ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, to brief them on his conversation. After that phone call, Giuliani said he participated in a "full debriefing" on the matter on August 12.

Prominent figures on Russian TV have been openly putting out the same ideas that we now know the American president was privately pursuing.
By Julia Davis
Elements of the bombshell whistleblower report outlining various aims pursued by the Trump administration with respect to Ukraine keep connecting back to Russia. Several of the reported objectives of President Donald Trump, his administration officials, and his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, would benefit the Kremlin and not the United States or its national security. Namely, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky was urged to make a deal with Putin, pressured “to play ball” with respect to providing or manufacturing compromising materials about Democratic presidential contender Joe Biden, and essentially tasked with concocting “the evidence” to disprove the well-established fact that the Democratic National Committee server was hacked by Russian intelligence agents in 2016. The unconscionable demand for Ukraine to make “a deal” with an invader— which has annexed and occupied its territory and continues to fuel an armed conflict that has claimed more than 13,000 lives—would mean a surrender of Ukraine’s national interests for the benefit of the Kremlin. It would also lead to the lifting of sanctions against Russia for its aggression in Ukraine. Casting doubt on Russia’s involvement in the hack of the DNC server would potentially lead to the lifting of sanctions against Russia for its election-meddling and other malign activities. Attacking the credibility of Biden, frequently described by Kremlin-controlled state television as “Trump’s most dangerous rival,” would also benefit Putin, who openly admitted that he wanted President Trump to be elected in 2016. That preference remains intact, in spite—or perhaps because—of multiple missteps by America’s bumbling commander in chief. Dmitry Kiselyov, the host of Russia’s most popular Sunday news program, Vesti Nedeli, urged Trump to keep digging in Ukraine for “the sweetest” kompromat of all: “Proving that Ukraine—not Russia—interfered in the U.S. elections.” The pressure on Ukraine to investigate Biden has been not only from Trump, but also from the Kremlin. One of the expectations, voiced on Russian state-television channel Rossiya 24 by analyst Alexander Kareevsky, was that taking down Biden would inevitably lead to the “revelation”—in fact, an outrageous fantasy—that the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was ordered by the Obama administration and carried out by Ukraine, not Russia. In another fantasy, pundits on Russian state television continually assert that Trump’s impeachment is all but “impossible.” In the meantime, the impeachment fallout is beneficial for the Kremlin, creating a spectacle of unprecedented political turmoil in the United States while placing Ukraine in the untenable position of alienating both parties, as well as the country’s European allies, and distracting from Russian election interference and the imposition of any additional sanctions.

By Jon Levine
Some Republicans are hoping Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will again play the role of Grim Reaper — and kill any vote or even debate on whether to oust President Trump, should the House impeach the president. An impeachment vote from the House likely would result in a trial in the Senate, but there’s no legal requirement for that to happen. McConnell — who famously vowed in April to be a “Grim Reaper” for the Green New Deal and Medicare for All — has the power to just say no. As the House moves toward making impeachment official, all eyes will be on the Kentucky senator, who has previously said he wouldn’t stand in the way of a trial in the Senate. “You’re going to start hearing that argument and much more loudly, because we’re not too far away from the moment when voters start voting,” veteran Republican operative Michael Steele told Politico. “You’ve got to make the case why it matters and why it rises to the level of removing an elected president of the United States from the White House.” And former House Speaker Newt Gingrich — who was instrumental in the impeachment of President Bill Clinton in 1998 — told Politico in an email: “Up to the Senate. No way to force them to act.” If McConnell did refuse to call a Senate trial, it would echo his unprecedented move to refuse a vote on President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland in 2016. While McConnell has stated his view that Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky does not rise to the level of an impeachable offense, he has previously told NPR that “if the House were to act, the Senate immediately goes into a trial.” For his part, Trump has maintained his innocence and ripped those pushing for his impeachment.

The Trump-friendly scribe and his Biden-Ukraine conspiracies were cited multiple times in the whistleblower memo. Many of his co-workers are ashamed to be associated with him.
Maxwell Tani, Justin Baragona
Beltway-centric newspaper The Hill employs a team of dozens of journalists from a variety of backgrounds. But only one has managed to alienate many of his colleagues, fuel the paranoia of Fox News viewers, and inadvertently play a key role in the whistleblower complaint and President Donald Trump’s potential impeachment. Over the past several years, John Solomon, a long-time journalist with bylines at the Washington Post, the Associated Press, and Newsweek/The Daily Beast, has pivoted to becoming the Trumpian right’s favorite “investigative reporter.” And now, thanks to several mentions in the whistleblower’s complaint, his work has come under intense scrutiny following the revelation that a series of his stories about Ukraine, along with his Fox News appearances promoting them, may have led to the president asking Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to team up with Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani to investigate the Biden family. Over the past several months, and with the benefit of substantial airtime from Fox News primetime host Sean Hannity, Solomon has peddled a series of Ukraine-based conspiracy theories and allegations that have primarily taken aim at two of Trumpworld’s biggest targets: Biden and Hillary Clinton. In the process, his questionable reporting, which often seems specifically tailored to stoke the flames of right-wing paranoia, has enraged many of his colleagues at The Hill who have for years seen his tactics and reporting as overtly ideological, convoluted, and often lacking in crucial context. “He’s a lightning rod of anxiety for us,” one Hill insider told The Daily Beast.

CNN's Chris Cuomo breaks down the comparison between President Donald Trump's and former Vice President Joe Biden's actions concerning Ukraine.

by Jerry Dunleavy
An intelligence community whistleblower complaint centered upon a July 25 phone call between President Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was released on Thursday, setting off a political firestorm in Washington, D.C., as Democrats pursue impeachment. The nine-page complaint, released the day after the transcript of the call was made public, shows Trump asked for Ukraine's help in investigating a conspiracy theory related to the cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike. Trump asked the Ukrainian leader to look into whether there was any Ukrainian involvement in the 2016 election, and suggested that the Ukrainians investigate allegations of corruption related to 2020 Democrat Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden. The unnamed whistleblower provided the complaint in August to Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson, who determined that the complaint was of an “urgent concern” and “appeared credible,” although acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire consulted with the Justice Department and determined the complaint fell outside the statutory requirements which would compel him to hand it over to Congress. Hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid that had been delayed by the Trump administration were released to Ukraine earlier in September. The cast of characters in the Trump-Giuliani-Ukraine saga laid out in the whistleblower complaint is extensive, with more than 20 individuals named.  The Whistleblower and Unnamed U.S. Officials The identity of the intelligence community whistleblower is still secret, although the New York Times reported Thursday that they are a “CIA officer detailed to the White House at one point.” Trump has referred to them as a "so-called" whistleblower and likened them to a “spy," but Maguire testified that the whistleblower “acted in good faith” and “followed the law.” The whistleblower admits they were “not a direct witness to most of the events described,” but cited “U.S. officials” and “White House officials” with direct knowledge of the events, including the Trump-Zelensky phone call. The actions of Giuliani and others, and some of what the complaint describes has since been corroborated, though some is disputed.

By Daniel Dale and Tara Subramaniam, CNN
Washington (CNN) - President Donald Trump has made a blizzard of claims about Ukraine. Many of them have been attacks on Democrats, and many of them have been incorrect. Here is a brief readers' guide to our fact checks on all things related to Trump's Ukraine controversy. We will update this page as events unfold. Hunter Biden and the investigation: Trump has repeatedly claimed that former vice president Joe Biden had called for the firing of a Ukrainian prosecutor who was "investigating his son." There is no evidence Hunter Biden was ever under investigation. The investigation was into the business dealings of the owner of a Ukrainian natural gas company, Burisma Holdings, where Hunter Biden sat on the board of directors. In addition, a former Ukrainian deputy prosecutor and top anti-corruption activist have said the investigation was dormant at the time. And Shokin's successor, Yuriy Lutsenko, has said in interviews this year that Hunter Biden didn't violate any Ukrainian laws. Full fact check here.Joe Biden's pressure on Ukraine Trump has also claimed that Biden pressured Ukraine to take chief prosecutor Viktor Shokin "off the case." Biden pressured Ukrainian leaders to fire Shokin -- the Obama administration, US allies and Ukrainian anti-corruption activists saw Shokin as unwilling to prosecute elite corruption -- but there is no public evidence that Biden sought to get Shokin removed from any particular case. Joe Biden's boasting: Trump claimed in his July phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky that Biden had boasted about having "stopped the prosecution." Biden had boasted about getting Shokin fired, but he did not say he had stopped any prosecution. Shokin had been controversial precisely because he was unwilling to bring corruption prosecutions. Joe Biden's previous comments: Trump said Joe Biden contradicted himself when he said in September that he had "never" spoken to his son Hunter about his son's overseas business dealings; Trump claimed Joe Biden had previously said the opposite. That is not true. Hunter Biden, however, did tell the New Yorker that there was one father-son conversation about his business dealings in Ukraine. The delay in aid to Ukraine: Before he began justifying his decision to delay military aid to Ukraine, Trump told reporters that there was no delay at all -- an assertion obviously contradicted by the facts. Trump suggested on September 23 that he froze the funds because he was worried about "corruption" and whether "that country is honest." He explicitly said on September 24 that the funds were withheld, this time claiming he was waiting for "Europe and other nations" to spend their own money on Ukraine.

Trump is following a trail of possible treason blazed in 1968 with Richard Nixon's secret Vietnam negotiations
By Matthew Rozsa
Donald Trump is not the first Republican to abuse American foreign policy to improve his chances of winning a presidential election. At least some of the people around Trump are well aware of this. They are continuing a tradition of ruthless partisanship, always unethical and potentially illegal, that is traceable back more than half a century, when Richard Nixon scuttled a peace process that could have ended the Vietnam War. Nixon, then a former vice president, had the same goal as Trump: To undermine a leading opponent, in that instance Vice President Hubert Humphrey, who was the Democratic nominee in the chaotic election of 1968. In a nation already traumatized by the assassinations of Robert F. Kennedy and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Humphrey was a compromise candidate tarnished by his association with Lyndon Johnson’s deeply unpopular war in Southeast Asia. Nixon correctly perceived that as a weakness and exploited it. Trump appears to have pursued similar dirty tricks against former Vice President Joe Biden, whom polls have suggested would defeat Trump easily as a potential Democratic nominee next year. In fairness, why wouldn’t Trump pursue such tactics? They worked against Hillary Clinton in 2016, who was perceived by many voters as untrustworthy and plagued by scandal, based largely on false rumors, leaked documents and innuendo. At least until now, Trump has suffered no serious consequences for his 2016 campaign, just as Nixon didn't in 1968. If we don't want another 50 years of Republicans dabbling in borderline treason in search of political advantage, then the consequences must be serious. If Trump is impeached by the House of Representatives, at least 20 Republican senators will have to vote to convict him during the ensuing Senate trial (along with all 45 Senate Democrats and both independents). That’s an exceptionally unlikely outcome, but the only way it happens is if an overwhelming majority of Americans are convinced Trump, like Nixon before him, is guilty of treasonous conduct. That should be the focus of all the pro-impeachment messaging that occurs, from congressional Democrats to any media outlet that claims to cover this story responsibly. To be clear: Trump's arm-twisting and attempted extortion in Ukraine wasn't unprecedented. Other aspects of his presidency are unprecedented in their corruption: the high rate of staff turnover, the ways he has exploited his power and influence to help his private business empire, his pandering to despots and dictators like Russia’s Vladimir Putin, North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, the Philippines’ Rodrigo Duterte and Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Yet Trump’s request for a “favor” from Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelensky — that favor being an investigation of Biden, whom polls generally show has the best chance of beating Trump in the 2020 election — was highly Nixonian. There’s no direct proof that Trump withheld that $391 million in military aid from Ukraine to coerce Zelensky into doing his bidding, but the evidence is highly suggestive. At any rate, what has already been proved is damning enough. If we flash back 51 years, the evidence is even more damning: Richard Nixon was arguably willing to sacrifice thousands of lives to get elected president. Shortly before the Humphrey-Nixon election of 1968, a Republican operative named Anna Chennault — a private citizen, playing a similar role to Rudy Giuliani’s in the Ukraine scandal — served as an intermediary between the Nixon campaign and the U.S.-supported government of South Vietnam. Her mission, which she successfully accomplished, was to convince the South Vietnamese not to participate in any peace talks orchestrated by President Johnson during the campaign, on the grounds that Nixon could get them a better deal.

In pushing to oust the former prosecutor, Biden did the right thing, no matter the personal cost.
By Casey Michel
The big lie spouted by Donald Trump and his allies in the unfurling Ukraine affair—an unprecedented abuse of public trust, which has now led directly to an impeachment inquiry—is that former Vice President Joe Biden urged the Ukrainians to fire the Kyiv general prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, in order to save Biden’s son's hide. Many of Trump’s cronies and foot soldiers have already spun this line, from Donald Trump Jr. to Rudy Giuliani to Arthur Schwartz. Others have rightly pointed out that, in reality, Biden was not simply relaying the message pushed by the Obama administration, but that his position was supported by Ukrainian anti-corruption activists, European allies, and even groups like the International Monetary Foundation (IMF). As Tom Malinowski, former assistant secretary of state under Obama, recalled this week, “All of us working on Ukraine wanted this prosecutor gone, because he was NOT prosecuting corruption. So did the Europeans. So did the IMF. This didn't come from Joe Biden—he just delivered our message.” That’s all, of course, true. Anyone interested in the success of Ukraine’s democratic transition, and its efforts to clean up rampant corruption, wanted Shokin gone. But here’s something that seems to have been lost in this geopolitical shuffle. Not only was Biden not trying to protect his son, Hunter, who was then working at a Ukrainian energy company named Burisma. If anything, what the former vice president did was make the prosecution of his son’s company more likely, not less—a fact that seems to have been overlooked, but which flips Trump’s lies on their head.

Even some of president's closest Hill allies say Giuliani isn't helping the president.
Republicans had enough headaches to deal with this week. Then Hurricane Rudy blew into town. As the GOP scrambles to contain the fallout from President Donald Trump’s Ukraine controversy, Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani has inserted himself directly into the center of a crisis that has engulfed the White House and brought impeachment closer to Trump’s doorstep. And Republicans want him to stop. "I have great respect for Mr. Giuliani, but I said this yesterday and take it for what it's worth: He's wild as a March hare,” said Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.). “He's like a lot of senators, he's kind of a free range chicken, he kind of gets out there. What he says is his business, I don't speak for him." Others put it more bluntly. “I think it would be a good thing if he would go take a vacation,” a senior GOP lawmaker told POLITICO, one of several who declined to go on the record so they could speak critically of Giuliani. Even some of Trump’s top allies on Capitol Hill don’t think Giuliani is doing the president or the party any favors by being such a constant presence in the media. “Rudy’s saying a lot of things and I’m not sure he’s helping the president by being on TV every 15 minutes,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told reporters this week. Giuliani, however, isn’t shying away from the spotlight. Instead, he’s given a string of combative, and at times bizarre, TV appearances. In one interview, he denied that he asked Ukraine to probe the Biden family, only to admit 30 seconds later that he did. And in another exchange, Giuliani even held up his cellphone to show alleged text messages from State Department officials in an attempt to prove that he wasn’t operating on his own. The public displays — while exactly the kind of fire-eating performances that Trump relishes from his allies — have sparked some serious groans from Republicans on Capitol Hill. “I wish he would shut the heck up,” said a Republican lawmaker who declined to speak on the record. But beyond just annoying Republicans, lawmakers are raising serious questions and concerns about Giuliani’s role in the Ukraine episode — and they want answers. Democrats, who are considering hauling him in to testify, have already demanded documents from the State Department and the White House related to Giuliani’s interactions with Ukraine. And Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.), a member of the House Oversight Committee, said on CNN on Friday that it’s a “fair question” for Congress to ask about Giuliani’s involvement.

The phone call and the whistleblower complaint are just the beginning of the evidence.
By William Saletan
Did President Donald Trump commit an impeachable offense by using his office to solicit Ukraine’s help in the 2020 U.S. election? Republicans say the evidence is insufficient. They argue that Trump, based on legitimate concerns about corruption, had every right to do what he did in a July 25 phone call: ask Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden. And although Trump made this pitch while withholding congressionally approved military aid to Ukraine, Republicans point out that Trump never told Zelensky he was blocking the money. In short, they say, there was no quid pro quo. This defense is weak, in part because the two central pieces of evidence against Trump are damning. One is an official, reconstructed transcript of the phone call. The other is a whistleblower complaint, written by someone in the U.S. intelligence community, that documents efforts by Trump and his lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, to enlist Ukraine’s help in investigating Trump’s domestic enemies. But there’s a lot more to the story. The full sequence of events—Trump’s gripes, Giuliani’s machinations, and the suspension of the aid—shows that the president is lying and that his motives were corrupt. Here are the key episodes. 1. The Lutsenko retractions. Trump claims that he pressed Ukraine for the investigations because he sincerely believed—and believes today—that Ukraine had information implicating Biden and other U.S. Democrats in conspiracies. But Trump escalated these allegations even as Yuri Lutsenko, the Ukrainian prosecutor on whose statements the president relied, was admitting that they were false. In April, Lutsenko, who is seen as corrupt by many Ukrainians, retracted his claim that the Obama administration had ordered him not to investigate a list of possible suspects. Despite this, a week later, Trump hyped Lutsenko’s work as “big stuff” that could expose a Democratic plot. In May, Lutsenko retracted additional allegations: that he had evidence of misconduct by Biden or his son and that the family was under investigation. Again, a few days later, Trump repeated the allegations. He wanted dirt on Biden, regardless of whether it was true.

Kurt Volker was a well-regarded diplomat trying to solve one of the world’s hottest conflicts. Then he met with Rudy Giuliani.
Shortly after being named the U.S. special representative for Ukraine negotiations in mid-2017, Kurt Volker attended an invitation-only strategy session at the Atlantic Council with a small group of foreign-policy hands. There, he encouraged the people gathered at the downtown D.C. think tank to publicly praise President Donald Trump for his handling of Russia and Ukraine. It might have been in jest, but Volker’s point was obvious: Flattering Trump might lead him to “do the right thing” and act in the U.S. interest, as one attendee put it. Two years later, Volker has resigned the envoy role after becoming ensnared the Ukraine-related scandal that is consuming Trump’s presidency and fueling an impeachment drive by House Democrats. It’s an ominous turn for the widely respected diplomat, who joined the Trump team even as dozens of veterans of past Republican administrations shunned the new president. The envoy's resignation came as three House committees slapped Secretary of State Mike Pompeo with a subpoena, demanding information on the controversy and scheduling depositions for five State Department officials, including Volker. The news of Volker's departure was first reported by a student news organization at Arizona State University and confirmed to POLITICO by a person familiar with the issue. A congressional aide said Democrats still expect Volker to appear for his deposition despite his resignation. Volker's decision to leave comes a day after Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer, claimed that Volker had asked him to talk to Ukrainian officials — discussions that may have involved demands that Ukraine dig up dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden, the current Democratic 2020 frontrunner. On Thursday, Giuliani publicly shared what he said were text messages from Volker. One of the messages, dated July 19, shows Volker telling Giuliani he “really enjoyed breakfast this morning” before adding: “As discussed, connecting you here with Andrey Yermak, who is very close to President Zelensky. I suggest we schedule a call together on Monday – maybe 10am or 11am Washington time?” Giuliani revealed the text messages, he said in a Fox News appearance on Thursday evening, to bolster his claim that he was fulfilling a State Department request to meet with Ukrainian officials. “He should step forward and explain what he did,” Giuliani told host Laura Ingraham, referring to Volker.

Analysis by Chris Cillizza
(CNN) - It's always a challenge to understand why Donald Trump says and does things. He is a hugely impulsive figure who often acts on a whim. There is no long-term strategy that informs his daily tactical decisions -- just Trump, well, doing stuff. But even by that haphazard standard, the President's decision this week to release a rough transcript of his July 25 conversation with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky makes zero political sense -- either in the moment he did it or in the after-action report. The rough log of the call makes quite clear to any fair-minded person that Trump did the following things: 1) Repeatedly reminded Zelensky of how much the United States does (and can do) for Ukraine. 2) Asked Zelensky to investigate debunked allegations of corrupt activity by Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, in Ukraine. 3) Said he would put Attorney General William Barr and former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani in touch with Zelensky to follow up about the Biden probe. That's not an interpretation of what Trump said or a second-hand account of the call. It is an, admittedly rough, transcript released (and presumably blessed) by the White House. In which the President of the United States says things like "I will say that we do a lot for Ukraine. We spend a lot of effort and a lot of time" and "Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it ... It sounds horrible to me." (There is no evidence of wrongdoing by either Joe or Hunter Biden.) That we have the President's actual words here -- undisputed -- makes this whole matter so, so much worse for Trump.
Remember that in the Mueller probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election and Trump's possible role in obstructing that investigation, we never had a transcript of, say, the conversation between the President and then-FBI Director James Comey in which Comey alleges Trump asked him to drop the investigation into Michael Flynn. Or of Trump's conversation with Corey Lewandowski, in which the President told his former campaign manager to tell Attorney General Jeff Sessions to un-recuse himself in the probe.

Heard on Morning Edition
President Trump has said that former Vice President Joe Biden acted inappropriately by pressuring Ukraine to fire a prosecutor investigating the Ukrainian oil company that hired his son, Hunter Biden. NOEL KING, HOST: President Trump's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, has been relentlessly promoting a theory that former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, were engaged in corrupt activity in or about Ukraine. On the ground in Ukraine, though, Giuliani's story does not hold up. NPR's Lucian Kim reports from the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv. LUCIAN KIM, BYLINE: Rudy Giuliani's accusations sound serious, and even now, they continue to feed a narrative that Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, have something to hide in Ukraine. It's true that as vice president, Joe Biden once threatened to hold back a billion dollars in aid money unless Ukraine got rid of a prosecutor named Viktor Shokin. Giuliani says Biden did it to protect his son. But at the time, practically all of Ukraine's allies were demanding Shokin's resignation. ANDRII BOROVYK: There were lots of demands from different international stakeholders to fire Shokin because of his failure of managing to reform and changing the Soviet-style prosecutor's office. KIM: That's Andrii Borovyk, the head of the Kyiv office of the global corruption watchdog Transparency International. He says Shokin had a reputation for not investigating anybody - and there never was an investigation into Joe Biden's son. Hunter Biden got his lucrative job at a Ukrainian oil and gas company five years ago. DARIA KALENIUK: The facts are very clear - Hunter Biden was in the board of very shady company associated with shady Ukrainian politician. Was it illegal? No. Was it good? No.

“I have no idea if [Mike Pompeo] is unhappy with me or not,” Giuliani added. “Frankly, I don’t care. I’m the president’s lawyer!”
By Justin Baragona
Following Thursday’s release of the bombshell whistleblower complaint that alleges the White House tried to “lock down” records of President Donald Trump’s call with the Ukrainian president in which he sought election interference from a foreign leader, Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani lashed out at the State Department, demanding its representative for Ukraine negotiations “step forward” and admit he was working for the department. Among the eyebrow-raising allegations contained in the whistleblower complaint was the allegation that the State Department was “deeply concerned” about Giuliani’s communications with Ukrainian leaders. During his Thursday night appearance on Fox News’ The Ingraham Angle, Giuliani reiterated his previous claims that the State Department asked him to reach out to Ukraine to inquire about Ukrainian investigations, including into former Vice President Joe Biden and his family. Pointing to text messages he purportedly shared with U.S. special representative for Ukraine negotiations Kurt Volker, Giuliani insisted that the messages prove that his Aug. 2 Madrid meeting with President Volodymyr Zelensky’s adviser Andriy Yermak wasn’t a “direct follow-up” to Trump’s call but instead set up by State. “Are you concerned that you are unnecessarily dragging his name into this?” Fox host Laura Ingraham asked. “He should step forward and explain what he did,” Giuliani responded. “The whistleblower falsely alleges that I was operating on my own. Well, I wasn’t operating on my own!” Giuliani went on to claim that he spoke to Volker eight times and that the State Department “basically knew everything I was doing,” further stating that he was sent one message where the department gave him a “big thank-you.” “I should actually get some kind of an award,” he added, echoing his assertion earlier in the day that he’ll “be the hero” in the end.

Trump's obsession with Ukraine may have begun with a right-wing conspiracy theory that DNC faked Russia hack
by Igor Derysh
The partial call transcript and whistleblower complaint released this week revealed that President Trump pressed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to help him discredit the Russia investigation. The White House released a partial transcript of a phone call between Trump and Zelensky on Wednesday, with the whistleblower complaint that has now triggered an impeachment inquiry into the president being released by Congress on Thursday. Though much of the focus has been on Trump urging Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his family over a debunked conspiracy theory, the documents also revealed that Trump had pushed Ukraine to discredit special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe. The whistleblower complaint revealed that Trump asked Zelensky to “assist in purportedly uncovering that allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election originated in Ukraine, with a specific request that the Ukrainian leader locate and turn over servers used by the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and examined by the U.S. cyber security firm Crowdstrike, which initially reported that Russian hackers had penetrated the DNC's networks in 2016.” The partial transcript revealed that Trump asked Zelensky to work with Attorney General Bill Barr to “get to the bottom of it.” “I would like you to do us a favor though, because our country has been through a lot and Ukraine knows a lot about it,” Trump said on the call. “I would like you to find out what happened with this whole situation in Ukraine, they say CrowdStrike … I guess you have one of your wealthy people. … The server, they say Ukraine has it.” Trump added that “they say” that the Mueller investigation “started with Ukraine.” The reference was to a conspiracy theory pushed by far-right pundits who have alleged that the Democratic National Committee fabricated the evidence of Russia’s 2016 hack into the DNC network. “The hoax has its roots in a GRU persona, ‘Guccifer 2.0,’ created to cast doubt on Russia’s culpability in the DNC hack,” The Daily Beast reported.

By Ledyard King, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON – It started with the White House going after a political opponent and ended up with a disgraced president being forced from office. It might be too early to invoke the specter of the Watergate scandal that cost President Richard Nixon his job 45 years ago. But President Donald Trump's pressure on Ukraine to investigate 2020 presidential challenger Joe Biden is increasingly drawing comparisons to one of America's darkest chapters. Trump's efforts to lean on Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is reminiscent of the way Nixon created a team of secret investigators, known as "the plumbers," to find incriminating or embarrassing evidence about his enemies, said Ken Hughes, a leading Watergate authority and research specialist at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center of Public Affairs. "The difference between Nixon and Trump is that, for Nixon, the plumbers' operation was run and staffed by Americans, but Trump is outsourcing the dirt-digging operation overseas," Hughes said. "So it's actually shockingly similar." The comparisons are flowing more frequently since Wednesday's release of a summary detailing Trump's July 25 call to Zelensky and Thursday's release of a whistleblower complaint that the administration had taken steps to cover up details of the phone conversation. On the call, Trump reminded Zelensky that "we do a lot for Ukraine" before asking the Eastern European leader for "a favor." Later in the call, Trump asks that Zelensky talk with his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, the former New York City mayor who has been investigating the activities of Biden and his son, Hunter, who was on the board of a Ukraine energy company. The revelations prompted House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., to launch an impeachment inquiry Tuesday and accuse Trump of betraying his oath of office and endangering national security. Trump has emphatically denied that he applied any pressure on Ukraine. And he lashed out angrily Thursday at the unnamed officials who provided the whistleblower with details of his phone call, calling the source of the leak “almost a spy” and suggesting the culprit had committed treason. “You know what we used to do in the old days when we were smart with spies and treason, right?” Trump said, according to published reports. “We used to handle it a little differently than we do now.”

The president’s mood has swung between hope for a resolution and desire for vengeance. A senior aide, however, says there won’t even be a “war room” at the White House for now.
By Asawin Suebsaeng, Sam Stein
As President Donald Trump wrapped up his swing through New York City on Thursday, he stopped by the luxury restaurant Cipriani to deliver remarks at a high-roller breakfast fundraiser. Fresh off meetings at the United Nations, the president clearly couldn’t take his mind off a certain anonymous whistleblower whose recently declassified complaint has threatened to blow up his administration. According to an attendee at the breakfast, Trump brandished a printed copy of the memo of his now-infamous Ukraine phone call, flaunting it as he blasted Democratic lawmakers for being mean to him. After waving the document around and receiving cheers from the gathering of Republican donors and supporters, the president boasted about how much money—$13 million in 24 hours—he had raised for his reelection effort, the attendee noted. It was yet another illustration of how Trump’s big week in New York has been overshadowed and bedeviled by revelations that he and his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani had urged Ukrainian officials to investigate the son of Joe Biden, the former vice president who remains likely to be Trump’s 2020 election opponent. Over the past few days, the president has helped raise millions for the 2020 fight and has been lavished with praise by world leaders. And yet he’s remained, through it all, obsessed over the scandal unfolding back in Washington, D.C., as Democratic members of Congress inched closer to impeachment proceedings. According to three people with knowledge of the situation, Trump has compulsively monitored TV and cable-news coverage of the Ukraine-related scandal and has repeatedly asked those around him about the whistleblower and rumors that the complainant is hostile to or biased against him. Through it all, the president’s demeanor and approach to the rapidly unfolding scandal has vacillated between spoiling for a fight and hoping for a détente. Often, it depended on who he was talking to or what setting he found himself in. According to those in attendance at his Thursday breakfast fundraiser, the president was upbeat and fired up, telling donors that he and his political team were ready to punch back hard. In private, however, there was genuine consternation regarding how a brutal impeachment process would affect his legacy and his White House, with much of his staff sharing those same anxieties. Those close to Trump say the president never expected House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) to back any major impeachment moves—at least not until this week.

Trump is facing allegations that he tried to pressure the Ukrainian government to investigate the former vice president's son.
By Dareh Gregorian
A former Ukrainian prosecutor who investigated a gas company tied to Hunter Biden said Thursday that there was no evidence the former vice president's son engaged in illegal activity. "From the perspective of Ukrainian legislation, he did not violate anything,” Yuriy Lutsenko told The Washington Post. Lutsenko, who served as Ukraine's prosecutor general from May 2016 until last month, closed the investigation into the gas company Burisma and its oligarch owner in 2017, The New York Times has reported. Earlier this year, Lutsenko met with President Donald Trump's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, and discussed Burisma, Lutsenko's spokeswoman told Bloomberg. Then in March, according to the Times, Lutsenko reopened an investigation into the company, though his spokeswoman has disputed that. The meetings with Giuliani were referred to in a bombshell whistleblower complaint unsealed Thursday that alleged that Trump had pressured the Ukrainian president to investigate the Bidens. In May, Lutsenko told Bloomberg News that his office had found no evidence of wrongdoing against Hunter Biden or his father, Joe Biden, who'd helped to oust Lutsenko's predecessor. That prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, had been accused of failing to act in numerous corruption cases, including the investigation into Burisma. In addition to the United States government, the European Union and the International Monetary Fund have demanded that Shokin be replaced.

Analysis by Nathan Hodge, CNN
(CNN) - It would have hardly seemed likely back in April that a little-known Ukrainian gas company would be propelled to the center of a massive US political scandal. But these are not ordinary times. On April 21, US President Donald Trump spoke by phone with Ukrainian president-elect Volodymyr Zelensky, who had just won a resounding victory at the polls. Kurt Volker, the US Special Representative for Ukraine negotiations, described it as a routine congratulatory call. But within days of Zelensky's win, the New York Times published a story that resurfaced questions about Democratic presidential contender Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, in Ukraine. At the center of the story -- pushed in good part by Rudy Giuliani, Trump's lawyer and political attack dog -- was the role of Hunter Biden on the board of Burisma, a natural gas company. The Bidens and Burisma were the focus of a July 25 call between Trump and Zelensky, a conversation that spurred a whistleblower complaint. "There's a lot of talk about Biden's son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the Attorney General would be great," Trump said, according to notes prepared by staff in the White House situation room. Trump was referring to investigations into Burisma, following on the insinuation -- an unproven one -- that Joe Biden tried to have Ukraine's top prosecutor ousted in 2016 to stop investigations of Burisma, to benefit his son. That version of events has not held up: Burisma had indeed been investigated, but at least one former official in the Ukraine prosecutor's office said the investigation into Burisma had already been shelved by the time Joe Biden lobbied for the replacement of Ukraine's prosecutor. Still, in the July 25 call, Zelensky appeared to promise to have a new prosecutor look into the case. "Since we have won the absolute majority in our Parliament, the next prosecutor general will be 100% my person, my candidate, who will be approved by the parliament and will start as a new prosecutor in September," he said, according to the transcript. Whether the Ukrainian government will deliver what Trump wants -- an investigation of the Bidens -- remains to be seen.

By Dan Mangan
Damning allegations against President Donald Trump and White House officials were exposed Thursday with the release by Congress of a complaint by a whistleblower who is a member of the U.S. intelligence community. Among them is the whistleblower’s belief that Trump’s actions were so obviously egregious that White House officials promptly launched a cover-up to minimize the chance that Trump’s efforts to have a foreign power dig up dirt on a leading Democratic presidential contender would become public. The complaint says that “more than half a dozen U.S. officials” provided information detailed in the report over a four-month period. Here are the biggest bombshell claims in the complaint:     Trump used the power of the presidency to pressure Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky to interfere in the 2020 election by launching an investigation of Democratic presidential contender Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden, who had served on the board of a Ukraine company. Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, was a “central figure” in that effort, who reached out to and met with key Zelensky advisers. Officials told the whistleblower that Ukrainian leaders were led to believe that a meeting or call between Zelensky and Trump would depend on whether Ukraine’s president “showed willingness to ‘play ball’ on the issues” that Giuliani was raising. Attorney General William Barr appeared to be involved in the effort to get Ukraine to cooperate with Trump’s desire for a probe of Biden. White House officials were “deeply disturbed” by a July 25 phone call Trump had with Zelensky. There were discussions “with White House lawyers because of the likelihood,” in the minds of officials, “that they had witnessed the President abuse his office for personal gain.” Senior White House officials intervened to “lock down” records of the call with Zelensky, which “underscored to me that White House officials understood the gravity of what had transpired in the call.” White House lawyers directed White House officials to remove the electronic transcript of the Zelensky call from the computer system where such transcripts normally are stored. That transcript then was loaded into a “separate electronic system” that is otherwise used to store and handle classified information of an especially sensitive nature. “One White House official described this act as an abuse of this electronic system because the call did not contain anything remotely sensitive from a national security perspective.”

By Eli Stokols Staff Writer
WASHINGTON — President Trump expressed disgust Thursday morning with the explosive whistleblower complaint, slamming the intelligence officer and the White House aides who helped him or her as “almost a spy” and suggested it was treason. Speaking at a private event in New York, Trump described reporters as “scum” and raged at the Democrats’ new impeachment proceedings, which were spurred by the whistleblower’s complaint alleging that Trump tried to strong-arm Ukraine’s leader to interfere in the 2020 election. The still-unidentified whistleblower acknowledged that he did not listen to Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky, but cited information from more than half a dozen U.S. officials over the past four months as part of “official interagency business.”

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