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The Latest on the Donald Trump Impeachment Inquiry: Chuck Todd Stands Up to Senator Ron Johnson

By Dustin Rowles | Politics | October 6, 2019 |

By Dustin Rowles | Politics | October 6, 2019 |


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Sunday Morning at 10:45: At this point, there’s an overwhelming amount of evidence proving that Donald Trump pressured Ukranian President Zelensky to investigate Joe Biden and his son. There are text messages. There is a second whistleblower. There is a Republican Senator on record showing quid pro quo. There is zero question that Donald Trump committed an impeachable offense.

He committed crimes. Trump isn’t even denying that anymore. He (and many of the Republicans) are trying to change the conversation from, “I didn’t do it,” to, “I did it, but there was nothing wrong with it.” In the meantime, Trump is lashing out at anyone that doesn’t toe the line: Yesterday, he called for Mitt Romney’s impeachment on Twitter, which is Trump’s attempts to silence Romney. According to House Republicans, Trump is also blaming Rick Perry for encouraging him to make the call to Zelensky, though I don’t know why Trump would want to cast blame on someone else for a “perfect” call (and no one for a second believes that Rick Perry is capable of being the mastermind behind anything). But this is what Trump does. He shifts blame, and then he tries to silence his critics by siccing his base upon them.

It might work, too. The only way to remove Trump from office is if a number of Republicans and other White House officials break ranks. I have no idea if that will happen. You’d think given the level of loyalty that Trump shows his cabinet members, advisors, aides, and other staff members that they would be quick to turn on him, but that is not the case. It is worth noting, however, that even Tucker Carlson now concedes that what Trump did was wrong, although he argues that it doesn’t rise to the level of an impeachable offense.

The whistleblower’s lawyer, meanwhile, now says that “multiple officials” have come forward.

Still, so far it looks unlikely that Republicans will break from Trump, even if many of those in the Senate do not care for him. The firewall is holding. I’m not sure how bad things have to get for those Republicans to finally break ranks — publicly asking China to investigate Biden, making death threats on a whistleblower, and calling for the impeachment of one of their own hasn’t shaken them. What will?

(All due respect, George, but why not ask this question of your wife, too?)

Meanwhile, where the hell has this Chuck Todd been for the last 4 years?

Johnson was one of the few Republicans who would show up on the morning shows this Sunday, while zero White House officials would appear.


————-

4:45: Can we impeach now? A TRUMP APPOINTEE and the top lawyer at the CIA made a criminal referral against Trump before the public knew about the whistleblower’s complaint, but the DOJ shut it down. From NBCNews:

Weeks before the whistleblower’s complaint became public, the CIA’s top lawyer made what she considered a criminal referral to the Justice Department about the whistleblower’s allegations that President Donald Trump abused his office in pressuring the Ukrainian president, U.S. officials familiar with the matter tell NBC News.

The move by the CIA’s general counsel, Trump appointee Courtney Simmons Elwood, meant she and other senior officials had concluded a potential crime had been committed, raising more questions about why the Justice Department later closed the case without conducting an investigation.

4:20: House leaders have subpoenaed records from Mike Pence for “any role you may have played” in the Ukraine matter, according to the NYTimes.

Meanwhile, this seems very damning: Back in August, Trump told Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson that he could not tell Ukranian President Zelensky that aid was on its way. From USA Today:

“I was surprised by the president’s reaction and realized we had a sales job to do,” Johnson said during a constituent stop in Sheboygan. “I tried to convince him (in August) to give me the authority to tell President Zelensky that we were going to provide that. Now, I didn’t succeed.”

Johnson told reporters Trump said he was considering withholding the aid because of alleged corruption involving the 2016 U.S. election.

“What happened in 2016? What happened in 2016? What was the truth about that?” Johnson said about Trump’s concerns.

Johnson told the Wall Street Journal on Friday that Sondland told him that Ukraine would appoint a prosecutor who would, as Johnson put it, work to “get to the bottom of what happened in 2016 — if President Trump has that confidence, then he’ll release the military spending.”

“At that suggestion, I winced,” Johnson told the Wall Street Journal. “My reaction was: Oh, God. I don’t want to see those two things combined.”

He said he asked Trump about it and Trump denied it.

“He said — expletive deleted — ‘No way. I would never do that. Who told you that?’” Johnson told the Wall Street Journal.

With his comments Friday, Johnson made clear that he was aware of allegations Trump was withholding aid to Ukraine for political reasons weeks before the public knew of the accusation.

That seems significant, no? And again let me remind you that Trump thought of the Ukrainians that they are “all corrupt, and they tried to take me down” in 2016, because he still believes that the Ukrainians tried to sabotage his election chances by helping Hillary Clinton, which is pure conspiracy.

—-

3:20: Marco Rubio is a spineless coward.


At least Mitt Romney stepped up.

But don’t expect more from Romney.

11:55: I mean, seriously: It could not be any more clear.

Meanwhile, Trump is giving another presser, and it is terrible, but unless he says something incriminating or truthful, I’m reluctant to cover it, because even though Trump is obviously lying, the more times people hear that Joe Biden is corrupt, the more they start to believe it. That’s how Trump operates. It’s also how Goebbels operated. Repeat a lie often enough and people start to believe it, and to a certain extent, covering Trump’s ravings during pressers and on Twitter only benefits Trump, even if the majority of us believe that he’s embarrassing himself.

And you think the Times is bad about both-siderism? I mean, it obviously can be, but I read an article from the Omaha World-Herald this morning, which I assume is probably the leading paper in Nebraska. All the Congress members in Nebraska are Republicans, so the entire piece is filled with quotes from Republican Senators and Representatives, and you can guess what they’re saying. People in Omaha who read the paper do not have Democratic Congressional members to push back on those quotes, so Nebraskan readers are getting one side of the story, so of course, many of them don’t know better because the truth is not being reported. It’s frustrating and scary.

Meanwhile, in Missouri, one of their Senators is asking for an investigation into Biden. Trump is getting exactly what he wants: The appearance of impropriety where there is none. Republicans are basically saying, “Maybe you can come for Trump, but you can’t come for all of us, and the more Republicans who pull stunts like this, the more it becomes about Biden.

A lot of us, who don’t want or don’t believe that Biden will be the nominee, may not raise too much fuss about what we think is obviously fake news. But if Warren wins the nomination, Trump and the rest of the Republicans will do the same damn thing to her. They will find something, and they will use it as a predicate for an investigation. It doesn’t matter if there is any wrongdoing. It matters that they create the illusion of it.

——

Let’s all just back up for a moment here and remind ourselves that this impeachment inquiry is all about. These are the facts:

Rudy Guiliani, the personal attorney of the United States, essentially ran a months-long shadow government, in which he made several visits to Ukraine in an effort to convince them to investigate a natural gas company called Burisma, upon which Hunter Biden sat on the board. A former Ukranian prosecutor known to the rest of the world as corrupt was fired in 2016 because Joe Biden — as VP — and a host of other world leaders had pressured the Ukranian government to fire him, not because the prosecutor had threatened to investigate Burisma, but because he was corrupt and known to other world leaders to be corrupt. There is zero evidence of wrongdoing where it concerns Hunter Biden and Burisma.

Guiliani, on behalf of Trump, also wanted the Ukrainian government to investigate a baseless conspiracy theory that suggested the Ukrainian government had access to a secret server that somehow would have shown that it was the Ukrainians interfering in the 2016 election on behalf of Hillary Clinton in an effort to sabotage Trump’s election efforts. This server does not exist, except in the mind of Donald Trump, who has convinced himself that the Russians didn’t interfere on behalf of Trump in 2016, but that the enemy of the Russians — the Ukrainians — did. In his mind, he needs this to be true, because he cannot accept that he won the election based on the meddling of the Russians.

Trump does not like Ukrainians, and he doesn’t trust the Ukrainian government. The United States Congress, however, had approved military aid to Ukraine. Trump didn’t want to provide that aid until the new Ukranian President, Zelensky, agreed to investigate the Bidens and this non-existent server. Trump’s advisors, including Tom Bossert, tried to convince Trump that these conspiracy theories were not true. Likewise, Kurt Volker and others in the State Department tried to convince Rudy Giuliani that these conspiracy theories were not true. Nevertheless, Rudy at one point gave the State Department a packet of materials and asked the them to investigate a number of conspiracy theories, which Mike Pompeo agreed to do.

After Zelensky won the election, Rudy Giuliani, in conjunction with the State Department, arranged a phone call between Trump and Zelensky, but only on the condition that Zelensky would investigate the Bidens. Before the phone call, Guiliani and a number of diplomats drafted a statement that Zelensky was meant to read after the phone call that would have committed him to investigating the Bidens. In that phone call, Trump asked Zelensky to “do him a favor,” and it is clear that the both the military aid and the existence of a U.S./Ukranian relationship was dependent upon that favor.

It’s unclear what Zelensky’s frame of mind was in all of this. It is clear that the Ukranian diplomats were uncomfortable with these arrangements, but at the same time, Zelensky is in a war with the Russians. Congress sides with Ukraine, but Trump sides with the Russians, and Zelensky clearly understood that if he were going to get that much-needed aid, he would have to “play ball” with Trump’s demands.

The damning text messages, which were released this morning, make clear that the U.S./Ukraninan relationship was dependent upon Zelensky agreeing to investigate the Bidens. At one point in the text messages, a U.S. diplomat to Ukraine texted US Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, “As I said on the phone, I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign.”

All of this is the heart of the impeachment inquiry. Trump wanted the Ukranian government to investigate a political enemy in an effort to both disprove that Trump won the election in 2016 with the Russians help and to smear his 2020 political rival. Does it matter if there is evidence of wrongdoing involving Burisma? No. All Trump wants is the headline, “Ukraine investigates Joe and Hunter Biden,” because Donald Trump knows that he can “But her emails” that headline to destroy Joe Biden’s election efforts. The truth is not important to Donald Trump. All he cares about is creating the illusion of impropriety, as he did with Hillary in 2016. Even without that headline, Trump is making every effort to associate Joe Biden with “corruption.”

Trump understands that he cannot win the 2020 election with his ideas. His only strategy is to destroy his rival with “fake news” and suppress turnout for his opposition in the hopes that his smaller but very loyal base is enough to defeat his opponent at the polls. The ability to tweet out the above 6 times a day every day until the election is all he wants. Alternatively, I suspect, Trump would like an excuse to imprison or threaten to imprison his opponent, or at least run on a “lock him up” campaign. He plans to reproduce his 2016 playbook.

It’s still very unclear, however, whether the impeachment process will be successful. Regardless of how much evidence of impeachable wrongdoing the Democrats unearth, it is unlikely that the Republican Senate will vote to remove Trump from office. Democrats, however, are trying to demonstrate to the majority of Americans that Trump violated the Constitution, and hopefully, the fact that Trump used the office of Presidency for personal gain and repeatedly obstructed justice will damage Trump’s reelection efforts. Most importantly, hopefully, it will prevent Trump from trying again to cheat as we head into an election year.




Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here or follow him on Twitter.


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