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Trump-Ukraine Affair Page 1


Donald J. Trump used the powers of the presidency to bully Ukraine into digging up damaging information on a political rival, Democrat Joe Biden; that is an abuse of power and an impeachable offence, that is an abuse of power is against the law and the constitution of the United States. Donald J. Trump is pushing the Russian version of the 2016 election interference to protect Trump and defend Putin. Donald J. Trump has corrupted the white house, the DOJ, the state department and other government departments and agencies to protect and defend Donald J. Trump. Instead of putting America first, they are putting Trump and Putin first. Anyone who is a government employee that puts Donald J. Trump before America and the constitution is not patriot. The oaths they have taking are to America and the constitution not to any individual.

Anyone who puts Donald J. Trump above America and the constitution are not protecting nor defending America have broken the oath they have sworn to America and the constitution. Donald J. Trump and many in the Republican Party believe Trump is above our laws he is not. Donald J. Trump has committed abuse of power, obstruction of justice, bribery, extortion, illegal use of public monies, betrayed the public trust. Donald J. Trump has committed high crimes and misdemeanors numerus times; the Trump-Ukraine Affair is just the latest example. Donald J. Trump is up to it again seeking help from a foreign government remember when Trump asked the Russians for help to get Hillary Clinton’s emails, 5 Hours later Russian hackers went after Hillary Clinton's emails, then he blamed her for seeking help from the Russians.

We have heard this story before remember the last cover story it was about adaptions, this time the cover story is they were trying to find out about corruption. Once again, Trump has been caught with his hand in the cookie jar and once again, he tried to place the blame on someone else as he always does, never taken the blame not matter what he does. Get informed read the information provide below to make you own determination on the Trump-Ukraine Affair.

Read more about the Trump-Ukraine Affair:


Trump-Russia Affair

Before the Trump-Ukraine Affair there was the Trump-Russia Affair, Donald J. Trump, his son and an unknown number of people from the Trump campaign may have conspired (colluded) with the Russians to help elect Donald J. Trump. The Trump-Ukraine Affair should make you rethink the Trump-Russia Affair. The lie then was it was about adaptions the lie this time is it was about corruption. more...

The Ukraine Scandal Was in Plain Sight

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. more...

Rudy Giuliani's Ukraine ‘Investigation’ Stars Some of Kyiv's Most Dubious Characters

The president's lawyer went to Ukraine to discredit impeachment with a parallel narrative, but corruption fighters know his "witnesses" have little or no credibility.
by Anna Nemtsova

KYIV, Ukraine—The witnesses stand, with their right hands raised, as if being sworn in for, well, an impeachment hearing. Only this is not in Congress. The cast of obscure Ukrainians—a group seen at home as odious and discredited—are appearing in a television show with President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudolph Giuliani, in what he casts as an investigation that parallels the process in Congress.

It would only be credible in a parallel world. Andrii Telizhenko, a former Ukrainian diplomat, has been helping Giuliani produce the show for OAN, the One America News Network, a conservative channel now favored by Trump. OAN is publicizing the two-part broadcast this weekend, promising “witnesses who destroy [House Intelligence Committee Chairman] Adam Schiff’s baseless impeachment case against President Trump.”

“Watch top Ukrainian officials testify under oath the side of the story Schiff doesn’t want you to hear,” proclaims the YouTube promo for the broadcast.

But “top officials” they definitely are not. Indeed, Giuliani’s choice of guest stars in his would-be reality show, and his wider cast of sources, caused shock among many in Kyiv’s establishment who know their questionable backgrounds in considerable detail.

Hill says Trump ignored warnings on Ukraine conspiracy theory

CBS News - National Security Council expert Fiona Hill confirmed during her testimony on Thursday that President Trump ignored his top advisors when they informed him that the cospiracy theory that Ukraine was involved in the 2016 U.S. election interference was indeed false. Asked if she believed President Trump "instead listened to Rudy Giuliani's views," she responded: "That appears to be the case, yes." State Department official David Holmes said Russia wanted to deflect responsibility for its own interference and drive a wedge between the U.S. and Ukraine. Video

Jimmy Finkelstein, the owner of The Hill, has flown under the radar. But he's played a key role in the Ukraine scandal

By Oliver Darcy and Brian Stelter, CNN Business

New York (CNN Business) James "Jimmy" Finkelstein, the owner of The Hill newspaper, is not a widely known media executive, but he is one of the era's most consequential. Finkelstein resides at the nexus of President Trump, Rudy Giuliani, and John Solomon, the now-former executive at The Hill and current Fox News contributor who pushed conspiracy theories about Ukraine into the public conversation. While Solomon has received significant media attention for his work at The Hill, Finkelstein has stayed out of the headlines, despite having himself played a crucial role in the saga.

Beyond his relationship with Solomon, Trump, and Giuliani, Finkelstein was Solomon's direct supervisor at The Hill and created the conditions which permitted Solomon to publish his conspiratorial stories without the traditional oversight implemented at news outlets. And he has kept a watchful eye on the newspaper's coverage to ensure it is not too critical of the President. As one former veteran employee of The Hill told CNN Business, "Solomon is a symptom of the larger problem of Jimmy Finkelstein." This story is based on more than a dozen interviews with current and former staffers at The Hill, in addition to people familiar with other relevant pieces of information.

Those people described a staff still in "revolt" over Solomon's columns and the way they were handled, including a lack of communication to employees about them even after the articles were thrown into serious question by witnesses in the impeachment inquiry. After CNN Business reached out to a representative for Finkelstein and The Hill for comment Sunday night, the paper's editor-in-chief sent staff a note Monday morning notifying employees that editors "are reviewing, updating, annotating with any denials of witnesses, and when appropriate, correcting any [of Solomon's] pieces referenced during the ongoing congressional inquiry."

Finkelstein and a spokesperson for The Hill declined to comment for this story. Solomon did not return multiple requests for comment. Solomon, however, has previously defended his reporting, including as recently as Sunday when he said during a Fox News appearance he was "in consultation with some lawyers right now" about taking some legal action against some of his critics. In an email, Giuliani attacked CNN's reporting and questioned whether it would be a "wise use" of his time to respond to a list of detailed questions CNN posed to him. "Write what you want," Giuliani wrote, "If it's fair I'll be happily surprised?" Full Story

Trump has considered firing official who reported whistleblower complaint to Congress: report

By Justine Coleman

President Trump has considered firing the official who reported the whistleblower complaint to Congress, The New York Times reported Tuesday. The president has weighed getting rid of the intelligence community's inspector general, Michael Atkinson, because he provided the whistleblower complaint to Congress that sparked the impeachment inquiry, four people familiar with the discussions told the Times. Trump was reportedly upset when the whistleblower report was published in September and has considered firing the inspector general more recently because he does not understand why Atkinson shared the complaint, one source told the Times.

The whistleblower report detailed how Trump asked the Ukrainian president to investigate unfounded corruption allegations into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son days after withholding military aid from the country. Trump has blasted the inspector general on Twitter and indicated that he thinks Atkinson should have to testify in the impeachment inquiry alongside the whistleblower. It is unknown how far the consideration of firing Atkinson went, with two sources telling the Times they thought Trump was just venting and not talking about serious consequences for the inspector general. However, the president condemned former FBI Director James Comey and former Attorney General Jeff Sessions before he removed them for disloyalty.

Inspector generals are supposed to remain independent from partisan beliefs and provide objective accountability. People close to Trump told the Times that they thought removing Atkinson could damage the president going into the impeachment proceedings; his firing of Comey led to the appointment of former special counsel Robert Mueller to investigate his campaign's alleged ties to Russia. Full Story

Trump's obsession with Ukraine has deep roots: Is it all a cover-up for his 2016 crimes?

Mueller documents reveal that Paul Manafort pushed Ukraine conspiracy theory on Trump during the 2016 campaign
By Heather Digby Parton

During the 2016 campaign candidate Donald Trump was always a bit odd about Russia. He claimed he knew Russian President Vladimir Putin, then denied he knew him a dozen different times. He insisted that the Russian president thought he was a genius based upon a mistranslated comment. We now know that the entire top tier of Trump's campaign was eager to accept "dirt" from Russia on his Democratic opponent in June of 2016. But in real time one of the first clues that something was weird with Trump and Russia was the fact that his campaign changed only one aspect of the Republican platform: military aid to Ukraine, of all things.

Robert Mueller was unable to prove there was anything nefarious about that request, only concluding that the Trump campaign adviser who made it had conversations with the Russian ambassador and had called Trump's top foreign policy adviser, Jeff Sessions, at the time. Why this was the only policy change in the entire convention remained a big mystery.

It's now been reported that Ukraine has been on Trump's mind since at least June of 2016, when news reports started to surface about Russian hacking of the Democratic National Committee. According to documents released to BuzzFeed under the Freedom of Information Act, Trump's campaign chairman at the time, Paul Manafort, told him that Ukraine was likely responsible for the hacking, not Russia. As time went on and it became obvious that the hackers were actively helping his campaign, Trump latched on to that alternative narrative.

According to interviews with Manafort's deputy Rick Gates, who participated in the campaign at the highest level, this theory was first shared by none other than Konstantin Kilimnik, a pro-Russian Ukrainian with apparent ties to Russian intelligence who served as Manafort's conduit to Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, to whom Manafort owed millions of dollars. This theory was evidently passed around at meetings with top campaign officials as they tried to figure out how to access the hacked material themselves.

Gates also told Mueller's team that Gen. Michael Flynn, Trump's first national security adviser, agreed that it was likely Ukraine had done the hack, because U.S. intelligence agencies were so incompetent that their conclusion it was the Russians had to be incorrect.  Apparently, Flynn believed he could use his intelligence sources to get hold of those "missing emails." It never occurred to any of them, apparently, that Russia wasn't trying very hard to hide its tracks for a reason.

Just after the Republican convention in July 2016, Trump was asked about the Russian invasion of Crimea. In fact, it was at the same press conference when he made the famous "Russia, if you're listening" comment that he said this: Full Story

Manafort pushed conspiracy theory blaming Ukraine for election hacking as far back as 2016

By Katelyn Polantz and Kevin Bohn, CNN

Washington (CNN) - President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort blamed Ukrainians for the hack into computers of the Democratic National Committee during the 2016 campaign rather than the long-held conclusion of US intelligence that the Russians played a role in the election meddling, newly released documents from special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation show.

The documents are notes from interviews the Mueller team conducted with witnesses, including former Trump deputy campaign chairman Rick Gates, who served alongside Manafort. "Gates recalled Manafort saying the hack was likely carried out by the Ukrainians, not the Russians," read a summary of one interview done with Gates. Manafort has extensive ties to Ukrainian politicians and businessmen and is serving prison time for fraud and for illegally lobbying in the US on their behalf, among other crimes. The newly released documents show how far back some people in the Trump political operation theorized Ukraine's unsubstantiated role in the Democratic hacking.

Read the interview notes

Trump has continued pushing this conspiracy theory as he has asked for investigation into Ukraine's possible role in the 2016 campaign and as he has also called for investigations of Joe Biden and his son Hunter, who served on the board of a Ukrainian natural gas company. There is no evidence of wrongdoing by Joe or Hunter Biden. The newly released documents are part of a group of Mueller interview notes released Saturday to CNN, after CNN and BuzzFeed sued the Justice Department seeking the records from the Mueller investigation. Full Story

Trump's Ukraine scandal: Who's who?

By Zachary B. Wolf, CNN
                                            
(CNN) - The fast-moving scandal involving President Donald Trump and allegations that he pressured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate his political rival Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, has upended politics in Washington, DC, and turned Democrats toward an impeachment investigation. There is no evidence that either Biden did anything wrong. The whistleblower: An anonymous government worker - with access to White House officials - who filed an official complaint against the President claiming that multiple officials had concerns that Trump was using his public office to seek personal political gain from a foreign power not just through his July 25 phone conversation with Zelensky but through emissaries including Trump's lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, as well as, possibly, Attorney General Bill Barr.
                                
The complaint also alleges a coverup by White House staffers who sought to bury Trump's conversation with the Ukrainian President by placing a rough transcript of it in a computer system reserved for highly classified material. Donald Trump, President of the United States: Just as he was trying to move on from allegations his campaign colluded with Russians against Hillary Clinton in 2016, Trump was ramping up efforts to get Ukraine to stir up trouble for his prospective 2020 challenger Biden. He used official channels to ask the Ukrainian President to look into the Biden family, openly asking Zelensky for a favor during a phone call on July 25 and then suggested his attorney meet with Ukrainian officials. In the July 25 phone call, the Ukrainian President mentioned plans to buy US-made Javelin missiles -- which he needs to help guard against potential Russian provocations. At the very same time, Trump was sitting on nearly $400 million in aid to Ukraine, which he has argued was on hold while he leaned on European countries to give more to Ukraine. more...

'A Full on Cover-Up': Official Testifies That Ukraine Call Transcript Trump Said Was 'Perfect' Left Out Key Details

"It was a doctored transcript. The White House cut out some of his words, refused to restore them, and hid the transcript in a secure server."
by Jake Johnson, staff writer
                                
Bolstering allegations that the White House engaged in a cover-up to suppress evidence of wrongdoing by President Donald Trump, a National Security Council official who listened to Trump's July conversation with Ukraine's leader reportedly told House impeachment investigators Tuesday that the administration intentionally omitted key details from the rough transcript of the call it released last month. The New York Times reported that Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the NSC's top Ukraine expert, told House committees during his sworn deposition that the transcript left out "crucial words and phrases" that he unsuccessfully attempted to reinsert. "The omissions, Colonel Vindman said, included Mr. Trump's assertion that there were recordings of former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. discussing Ukraine corruption, and an explicit mention by Ukraine's president, Volodymyr Zelensky, of Burisma Holdings, the energy company whose board employed Mr. Biden's son Hunter," according to the Times.
                                
"Colonel Vindman did not testify to a motive behind the White House editing process," the Times added. "But his testimony is likely to drive investigators to ask further questions about how officials handled the call, including changes to the transcript and the decision to put it into the White House's most classified computer system." The details emerging from Vindman's testimony, which lasted more than 10 hours, were viewed by lawmakers and legal experts as more damning evidence of Trump's misconduct and of his administration's deliberate efforts to hide the wrongdoing from the public. "Wow. This is just stunningly bad for the White House. A full on cover-up," tweeted CNN legal analyst Susan Hennessey. "How much longer are congressional Republicans going to continue to go along with this?" more...

Nunes Aide Is Leaking the Ukraine Whistleblower’s Name, Sources Say

Derek Harvey, a former intelligence analyst, has also been spreading disinformation about an aide to Adam Schiff.
The Daily Beast
By Spencer Ackerman, Sam Brodey, Adam Rawnsley
                                
A top aide to Rep. Devin Nunes has been providing conservative politicians and journalists with information—and misinformation—about the anonymous whistleblower who triggered the biggest crisis of Donald Trump’s presidency, two knowledgeable sources tell The Daily Beast. Derek Harvey, who works for Nunes, the ranking Republican on the House intelligence committee, has provided notes for House Republicans identifying the whistleblower’s name ahead of the high-profile depositions of Trump administration appointees and civil servants in the impeachment inquiry. The purpose of the notes, one source said, is to get the whistleblower’s name into the record of the proceedings, which committee chairman Adam Schiff has pledged to eventually release. In other words: it’s an attempt to out the anonymous official who helped trigger the impeachment inquiry.
                                
On Saturday, The Washington Post reported that GOP lawmakers and staffers have “repeatedly” used a name purporting to be the whistleblower during the depositions. The paper named Harvey as driving lines of questioning Democrats saw as attempting to determine the political loyalties of witnesses before the inquiry. A former official told the Post that Harvey “was passing notes [to GOP lawmakers] the entire time” ex-NSC Russia staffer Fiona Hill testified. “Exposing the identity of the whistleblower and attacking our client would do nothing to undercut the validity of the complaint’s allegations,” said Mark Zaid, one of the whistleblower’s attorneys. “What it would do, however, is put that individual and their family at risk of harm. Perhaps more important, it would deter future whistleblowers from coming forward in subsequent administrations, Democratic or Republican.”
                                
Zaid has represented The Daily Beast in freedom-of-information lawsuits against the federal government. The whistleblower is not Harvey’s only target. Another is a staffer for the House intelligence committee Democrats whom The Daily Beast has agreed not to name due to concerns about reprisals against the staffer. Harvey, both sources said, has spread a false story alleging that the whistleblower contacted the staffer ahead of raising internal alarm about President Trump’s July 25th phone call attempting to get a “favor” from Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelensky to damage Trump’s rival Joe Biden. In right-wing circles, contact with Schiff is meant to discredit the whistleblower as partisan. The eagerness of Republicans to go after the intelligence committee staffer so alarmed Democrats that they raised the issue with GOP leadership, according to a senior official on the intelligence committee. “We are aware of these unsupported and false attacks on a respected member of our staff,” the official told The Daily Beast. “It is completely inappropriate, and we have previously urged the Republican leadership to address this situation.” more...

Ukrainian Oligarch Seethed About ‘Overlord’ Biden for Years

Dmytro Firtash’s lawyers say his team had to investigate Joe Biden to defend their client. One expert says Biden pushed reforms that cost the oligarch up to $400 million per year.
By Betsy Swan, Adam Rawnsley
                                
Indicted Ukrainian gas oligarch Dmytro Firtash spent more than $1 million hiring key figures in Republican efforts to investigate the Biden family. His lawyers—who often go on Fox News to defend President Trump—say they needed the dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden to demonstrate that Firtash’s prosecution was politically motivated. But the two men have a history. Two Ukrainian gas industry experts say the gas-market reforms pushed by Biden and others in 2014 and 2015 hit Firtash in the wallet, and badly. One knowledgeable outside observer estimated that the 2014 and 2015 gas reforms and legislation cost him hundreds of millions of dollars. On Dec. 9, 2015, Biden gave a speech to Ukraine’s parliament. He praised the protesters who forced out Ukraine’s Russia-friendly president, he recited Ukrainian poetry, and he called for reforms to Ukraine’s gas market, too.
                                
“The energy sector needs to be competitive, ruled by market principles—not sweetheart deals,” he said, basking in the audience’s repeated applause. Firtash, who built his fortune in part through a rather sweet gas-trading deal, hated it. Earlier this year—more than three and a half years after the talk—he was still seething. Firtash told The Daily Beast that the Ukrainian parliamentarians in the audience were humiliatingly subservient to Biden. “He was the overlord. I was ashamed to look at this. I was repulsed.” — Dmytro Firtash. “He was the overlord,” Firtash said. “I was ashamed to look at this. I was repulsed.” Now people linked to Firtash are at the heart of Republicans’ efforts to find dirt on Biden, and a document Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani has said is key to his theory of Biden World malfeasance was produced for Firtash’s legal team.
                                
The reporter who published that document, The Hill’s John Solomon, is a client of Firtash’s new lawyers, Victoria Toensing and Joe DiGenova. Over the summer, Trump pressured Ukraine’s president to cooperate with Giuliani’s efforts. That pressure stunned many Republicans and gave House Democratic leadership the impetus they had long sought to announce an impeachment inquiry. And two Giuliani associates reportedly brought up Firtash’s name when talking about their plans for Ukraine’s energy sector. Those two associates also worked with Giuliani to find dirt on Biden, and they’ve both been charged with financial crimes. On top of that, Firtash’s lawyers say one of them, Lev Parnas, has worked as a translator for his legal team. Firtash’s blunt assessment of Biden’s speech at the parliament and influence on Ukraine—shared earlier this year with The Daily Beast and published here in full for the first time—highlights how a battle over the future of Ukraine bled into the highest levels of American politics. Firtash’s company did not respond to requests for comment. Biden’s campaign called Firtash “a Kremlin-friendly Ukrainian oligarch who’s been wanted on bribery and racketeering charges in the U.S. since 2014.” more...

Fact check: What Trump has been getting wrong on Biden and Ukraine

By Daniel Dale
                                
Washington (CNN) - President Donald Trump is facing intense criticism over a July phone call during which, according to a person familiar with the matter, he pressed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate the son of former Vice President Joe Biden, a leading candidate to face him in the 2020 presidential election. Under fire, Trump has revived one of his favorite defensive tactics: trying to turn the spotlight onto his opponent. Trump has made a series of allegations about Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden over the last week. The essence of Trump's argument is that Joe Biden was improperly trying to help Hunter, who served on the board of a Ukrainian natural gas company, when Joe Biden pressured the Ukrainian government to fire the country's prosecutor general. But there are significant holes in Trump's story. Some of his allegations have been false. Others have been missing important context.
                                
Trump's missing context:
                                
What happened with the Ukrainian prosecutor: In castigating Biden's effort to get the prosecutor general fired, Trump has declined to mention an important fact: a whole lot of other people were also trying to get him fired at the time. 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. more...

The Crazy CrowdStrike Conspiracy Theory

By Jonah Goldberg
                                
The suggestion that 'the server' is being hidden in some Ukrainian warehouse is straight-up bonkers. The impeachment drama is already a three-ring circus, with a full complement of clowns to the left and the right. But if you’ve ever been to a three-ring circus, you know that it’s hard to take it all in at once. I want to focus on one detail that hasn’t gotten enough attention: the “missing” DNC server that the president believes might be in Ukraine. If you’ve paid any attention to the impeachment drama, you know the basics. The center-ring story is that President Trump allegedly tried to pressure Volodymyr Zelensky, the new president of Ukraine (by withholding military aid and an Oval Office meeting) to investigate former vice president Joe Biden. In his now-infamous phone call with Zelensky, Trump asked for a “favor” in two parts. The second part, which everyone focuses on, was the request for the Ukrainians to work with Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, and Attorney General William Barr in an investigation of Biden and Biden’s son Hunter.
                                
The first part of the favor is far less controversial. Trump asked Zelensky to look into the status of the DNC email server that the FBI and former special prosecutor Robert Mueller say was hacked by the Russians ahead of the 2016 election. Remember, this is the same Mueller whom the president cites for his “total exoneration” from the Russian collusion allegation. According to the rough transcript released by the White House, Trump said, “I would like you to find out what happened with this whole situation with Ukraine, they say CrowdStrike . . . I guess you have one of your wealthy people . . . The server, they say Ukraine has it.” This favor is less controversial because Trump’s defenders don’t controvert it. It’s central to their defense. They concede Trump asked for this favor, contending that by the time Trump got to the “other thing” he wanted from Zelensky — an investigation of Biden — he was no longer asking for a “favor” at all. Trump would never ask for a quid pro quo to smear a political opponent, they insist. But asking for an investigation into the server? That’s entirely appropriate.
                                
After all, there’s an official investigation into how the FBI launched its Russia/Trump probe in the first place. Asking for help with that is wholly legitimate. In White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney’s disastrous press conference last week, he admitted there was an attempted quid pro quo with Ukraine. (“Get over it,” he exclaimed.) But in Mulvaney’s version of events, it didn’t have anything to do with Biden. It did, however, have to do with “the corruption related to the DNC server.” But here’s the thing: This is nuts. There’s a conspiracy theory, popular in the Oval Office and the swampier corners of the Internet, that the hacking of the DNC’s email servers wasn’t orchestrated by Russia but by Ukraine — to benefit Hillary Clinton! This makes no sense for countless reasons we don’t have space for. But it’s worth noting that in the most popular version of this story, the DNC hack was an inside job, conducted by a low-level staffer named Seth Rich, who was then murdered to keep him from exposing the plot to frame the Russians. CrowdStrike, a cybersecurity firm, was hired to analyze the server — which was actually more than 140 different servers. Rather than take possession of the server(s), CrowdStrike made digital copies of the whole shebang. This was allegedly a cover-up. As Trump tweeted in 2018, “Where is the DNC Server, and why didn’t the FBI take possession of it? Deep State?” more...

It looks like the Trump administration's pressure campaign against Ukraine may have gone further than freezing military aid

By Sonam Sheth
                                
The United States in late August withdrew its recommendation to restore some of Ukraine's trade privileges, The Washington Post reported Thursday. The move came after John Bolton, then President Donald Trump's national security adviser, informed the US trade representative, Robert Lighthizer, that Trump would most likely oppose any action that benefited Ukraine's newly elected government headed by President Volodymyr Zelensky, the report said. It's unclear whether Trump directed Bolton to convey that message to Lighthizer or whether he was even aware of it. But The Post's reporting adds yet another layer to a growing portrait of the Trump administration's actions as it tried to pressure Ukraine to launch investigations that would politically benefit Trump ahead of the 2020 election. At the time the US was said to withdraw its recommendation to restore certain trade privileges to Ukraine, the president and his allies were engaged in what has been called a shadow foreign-policy campaign that involved stalling a nearly $400 million military-aid package to Ukraine.
                                
Bill Taylor, the US's chief envoy to Ukraine, testified to Congress this week that the decision to freeze aid was part of Trump's effort to force Zelensky to cave to his demands for investigations. The Post's reporting indicates that the pressure campaign may have extended to more than just the security assistance. Taylor was one of nearly a dozen current and former government officials who testified as part of Congress' impeachment inquiry examining claims that Trump used his public office for private gain. A career foreign-service officer and war veteran, Taylor gave the most damning testimony to date against the president, directly implicating him as ordering the US to freeze military aid unless Zelensky acceded to his demands.

Taylor's testimony appears to be at odds with what Gordon Sondland, the US ambassador to the European Union, told lawmakers last week, and at least one House Democrat said it could open Sondland up to a perjury charge. Taylor testified that shortly after he became the US's acting ambassador to Ukraine in June he realized there were two channels through which US policy toward Ukraine was conducted: an official one, which was spearheaded by Taylor, and an unofficial one led by Sondland, Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, Energy Secretary Rick Perry, and the US's special representative to Ukraine, Kurt Volker. more...

Trump administration sought billions of dollars in cuts to programs aimed at fighting corruption in Ukraine and elsewhere

Democrats have slammed White House insistence that Trump was focused on corruption — not Bidens — when he blocked Ukraine aid funds.
By Erica Werner
                                
The Trump administration has sought repeatedly to cut foreign aid programs tasked with combating corruption in Ukraine and elsewhere overseas, White House budget documents show, despite recent claims from President Trump and his administration that they have been singularly concerned with fighting corruption in Ukraine. Those claims have come as the president and his administration sought to explain away a July phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, during which Trump pressured his counterpart to open investigations into Joe Biden and his son Hunter, and into a debunked conspiracy theory involving a hacked Democratic National Committee computer server. “I don’t care about politics, but I do care about corruption. And this whole thing is about corruption,” Trump told reporters earlier this month when discussing the Ukraine issue. “This whole thing — this whole thing is about corruption.”
                                
The phone call is central to the impeachment inquiry by House Democrats. The Democrats have accused Trump of holding back a congressionally approved military aid package for Ukraine until Zelensky publicly committed to launching investigations into the Bidens. On Tuesday, the senior U.S. diplomat in Ukraine — acting ambassador William B. Taylor Jr. — told lawmakers that Trump made the release of military aid to Ukraine contingent on public declarations that it would investigate the Bidens and the 2016 election.

Trump, acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and other administration officials have insisted repeatedly that their goal in delaying the military aid package to Ukraine was to ensure corruption was addressed in that country — not to produce political benefit to Trump. “There were two reasons that we held up the aid. We talked about this at some length. The first one was the rampant corruption in Ukraine,” Mulvaney said on “Fox News Sunday.” “Corruption is a big deal; everyone knows it,” he said. (The second reason was to ensure that other nations contributed to Ukraine’s defense, Mulvaney said.) more...

Ukrainian President and advisers discussed pressure from Trump weeks before taking office

By Rene Marsh, CNN
                                
(CNN) - Two weeks before taking office, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and his team discussed the pressure they were already feeling from the Trump administration and President Donald Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani to publicly launch investigations that would benefit the US leader, according to a source familiar with discussions at the meeting. The source told CNN that Zelensky and his team specifically mentioned the pressure they were feeling to open "corruption" investigations into Burisma, the Ukrainian natural gas company on whose board former Vice President Joe Biden's son sat. The source said the meeting was originally scheduled to discuss energy issues but the meeting evolved into a discussion on how to handle the pressure from Trump's orbit. Among those present in the May 7 meeting were Zelensky advisers Andriy Yermak and Andriy Bogdan.
                                
Also involved were an executive for the Ukrainian state-owned natural gas company and American Amos Hochstein, a former diplomat and energy expert. The Associate Press first reported this story, citing three people familiar with the meeting. The meeting happened about two weeks after Zelensky and Trump spoke for the first time. A White House readout of that call said the two leaders discussed working together to "root out corruption." Trump has said he did not pressure Zelensky to investigate the Bidens. It is not clear whether the President specifically asked for investigations of Ukraine's role in the 2016 election or the energy company that had hired Biden's son, Hunter, to its board.

There is no evidence of wrongdoing by either Biden in Ukraine. The President has said the White House would release the call transcript but that has not happened to this point. The White House has released a transcript of a separate call that took place on July 25, in which Trump repeatedly pushed Zelensky to investigate the Bidens. The source said that even in those early weeks, Zelensky and his team realized Ukraine's relationship with the US -- including a potential face-to-face meeting with Trump -- could be at stake if they did not support the continuation of investigations like Burisma. more...

Judge orders State Department to release Ukraine records in 30 days

By Zachary Cohen, CNN
                                
Washington (CNN) - A federal judge Wednesday gave the State Department 30 days to release Ukraine-related records, including communications between Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and President Donald Trump's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani. In response to an emergency motion from the watchdog group American Oversight, Judge Christopher Cooper ordered lawyers for the group and the State Department to come together to narrow the scope of the documents in the request -- eliminating those that would likely be exempt from release -- and produce documents in the next 30 days.

Cooper said that he could not think of a third party exemption that would prevent the release of correspondence between Giuliani and top State Department officials regarding Ukraine. "The judge zeroed in on communications with Rudy Giuliani to be most subject to public disclosure. Why? Because he doesn't work for the government," American Oversight Executive Director Austin Evers told reporters after the hearing. more...

8 Trump officials made stunning revelations about how the president and Giuliani weaponized the State Department

By Sonam Sheth
                                
In the weeks since House Democrats launched a formal impeachment inquiry into whether President Donald Trump used his public office for private gain, current and former officials have come out of the woodwork to testify against the president. At times defying orders from the White House itself, these officials' revelations paint a stark portrait of a concerted effort from the highest levels of the Trump administration to leverage US foreign policy for the president's political benefit.

They also show how he employed his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and top cabinet officials to bend federal agencies to suit his needs. Chief among those is the US State Department which, according to testimony from current and former officials, was used as part of an effort to circumvent career diplomats and policy experts and carry out a shadow foreign-policy agenda with respect to Ukraine. At least eight current and former officials have so far testified, or are planning to testify, about how the State Department was used as a vehicle for Trump and Giuliani's political goals:

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