New York Times: “Mr. Zelensky, still deeply dependent on American assistance, has been signaling, in hardly subtle fashion, that he and his officials will not assist in the impeachment process, keeping quiet in particular about the fact that his government knew weeks earlier than it has publicly acknowledged that Mr. Trump had frozen nearly $400 million in military aid to Ukraine.”
Jonathan Chait: “President Trump is facing impeachment primarily for abusing his power for political gain, extorting a foreign country to discredit his political rivals. The secondary aspect of the plot is that the target of his extortion is hardly random. Ukraine is the victim of Russian aggression, and Russia’s continuing incursions into Ukrainian territory is the muscle that gave Trump’s threats leverage. Trump’s domestic interests are one intended beneficiary of his scheme. The other is Vladimir Putin…”
“Meanwhile, federal prosecutors charged yesterday evening that Lev Parnas, an associate of President Trump who represented him in Ukraine, was wired $1 million from a Russian bank account weeks before his arrest. Which is to say, Trump’s Ukraine plot appears to have been financed by Russia…”
“Rudy has worked as Trump’s lawyer for ‘free,’ but Parnas paid him half a million dollars for his work. If Parnas himself was being paid by Russian sources, this means the Russians were essentially subsidizing Trump, paying for the work themselves so he didn’t have to lay out a dime of his own money.”
New York Times: “President Trump’s re-election campaign has run menacing and misleading ads this fall accusing Joe Biden of corrupt dealings with Ukraine. Republicans in Congress are scrutinizing Mr. Biden’s son, pressing the State and Treasury Departments for information about his work for a Ukrainian energy company. The president himself has unleashed a stream of unfounded accusations against the Bidens and pushed for them to appear at a potential impeachment trial in the Senate.”
“As Mr. Trump faces impeachment for allegedly pressuring Ukraine to investigate Mr. Biden, he and his allies are now turning those same claims about Mr. Biden and his son into a key element of their defense. And they plan to continue to hammer at the Bidens’ Ukraine dealings as impeachment proceedings move into the new year.”
“There is no evidence that the elder Mr. Biden, while serving as vice president, improperly intervened in Ukraine to benefit his son. But the president’s advisers are betting that many voters will ignore the complexities of the allegations and absorb a simple message about a father using his influence to help his son.”
“Rudy Giuliani met Thursday in Ukraine with one of the key figures working to build a corruption case against Hunter Biden, the Ukraine official said in a Facebook post,” the Washington Post reports.
“The lawmaker, Andriy Derkach, posted photographs of himself meeting Giuliani in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, vowing to set up an anti-corruption group in the Ukraine parliament.”
The Atlantic: “The surreal story of how a comedian who played the Ukrainian president on TV became the president in real life — then found himself at the center of an American political scandal.”
“The senior White House lawyer who placed a record of President Trump’s July 25 call with Ukraine’s president in a top-secret system also instructed at least one official who heard the call not to tell anyone about it,” Politico reports.
“Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a decorated Army officer who served as the National Security Council’s director for Ukraine, told lawmakers that he went to the lawyer, John Eisenberg, to register his concerns about the call…”
“Eisenberg recorded Vindman’s complaints in notes on a yellow legal pad… The lawyers then decided to move the record of the call into the NSC’s top-secret codeword system—a server normally used to store highly classified material that only a small group of officials can access.”
“Vindman did not consider the move itself as evidence of a cover-up… But he said he became disturbed when, a few days later, Eisenberg instructed him not to tell anyone about the call”
Washington Post: “Morrison is expected to tell impeachment investigators on Thursday that the account offered by Ambassador William Taylor, is accurate, particularly that Morrison alerted him to the president’s and his deputies’ push to withhold security aid and a meeting with the Ukrainian president until Ukraine announced an investigation of the Bidens and 2016 election interference, the person said on the condition of anonymity to describe sensitive discussions.”
“Morrison will also say that he did not necessarily view the president’s demands as improper or illegal, but rather problematic for U.S. policy in supporting an ally in the region.”
Josh Rogin: “Democrats might not want to pin their impeachment hopes on his testimony Thursday, because there are three things Morrison is not: a whistleblower, a Never Trumper or a potential member of the Resistance… Morrison will likely try to stick to the facts, be honest and not burn his bosses or the president in the process. That won’t be easy.”
“Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) met in July with a former Ukrainian diplomat who has circulated unproven claims that Ukrainian officials assisted Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, a previously unreported contact that underscores the GOP senator’s involvement in the unfolding narrative that triggered the impeachment inquiry of President Trump,” the Washington Post reports.
“The meeting points to Johnson’s emerging role as the member of Congress most heavily involved in the Ukraine saga that has engulfed the White House and has threatened Trump with impeachment.”
“The White House’s trade representative in late August withdrew a recommendation to restore some of Ukraine’s trade privileges after John Bolton, then-national security adviser, warned him that President Trump probably would oppose any action that benefited the government in Kyiv,” the Washington Post reports.
“The August exchange between Bolton and Lighthizer over the trade matter represents the first indication that the administration’s suspension of assistance to Ukraine extended beyond the congressionally authorized military aid and security assistance to other government programs. It is not clear whether Trump directed Bolton to intervene over Ukraine’s trade privileges or was even aware of the discussion.”
“More than two months before the phone call that launched the impeachment inquiry into President Trump, Ukraine’s newly elected leader was already worried about pressure from the U.S. president to investigate his rival Joe Biden,” the AP reports.
“Volodymyr Zelenskiy gathered a small group of advisers on May 7 in Kyiv for a meeting that was supposed to be about his nation’s energy needs. Instead, the group spent most of the three-hour discussion talking about how to navigate the insistence from Trump and his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, for a probe and how to avoid becoming entangled in the American elections.”
Michael McKinley, a former top aide to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, told impeachment investigators that he resigned because he was upset that the Trump administration had wrestled Ukraine policy away from career diplomats, the New York Times reports.
“McKinley’s testimony was the latest in a string of accounts given by top career diplomats and administration officials to impeachment investigators about how experts were sidelined as the president pursued his own agenda on Ukraine.”
“Federal prosecutors in Manhattan are investigating whether President Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani broke lobbying laws in his dealings in Ukraine,” the New York Times reports.
“Federal law requires American citizens to disclose to the Justice Department any contacts with the government or media in the United States at the direction or request of foreign politicians or government officials, regardless of whether they pay for the representation. Law enforcement officials have made clear in recent years that covert foreign influence is as great a threat to the country as spies trying to steal government secrets.”
“The former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine whose abrupt ouster in May has become a topic of interest for House impeachment investigators said Friday that her departure came as a direct result of pressure President Trump placed on the State Department to remove her,” the Washington Post reports.
The New York Times says Yovanovitch “delivered a scathing indictment of his administration’s conduct of foreign policy, warning that private influence and personal gain have usurped diplomats’ judgment, threatening to undermine the nation’s interests and drive talented professionals out of public service.”
“Ms. Yovanovitch’s searing account, delivered at the risk of losing her job, could lend new momentum to the impeachment inquiry that imperils Mr. Trump.”
Yahoo News: “The Pentagon was confused. Hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid to Ukraine had been appropriated in late 2018 by Congress, intended to help fend off aggression by neighboring Russia. But well into 2019, as summer was edging toward autumn, the funds had still not moved.”
“Department of Defense officials began to worry that the funds would never make it to Ukraine, since the appropriations would expire with the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30. They even began to prepare a legal challenge to the freezing of the funds, leading to an unprecedented fight within the Trump administration.”
“The White House gave a politically appointed official the authority to keep aid to Ukraine on hold after career budget staff members questioned the legality of delaying the funds, a shift that House Democrats are probing in their impeachment inquiry,” the Wall Street Journal reports.
“President Trump’s order to freeze nearly $400 million in aid to Ukraine in mid-July is at the center of House Democratic efforts to investigate allegations that Mr. Trump used U.S. foreign-policy powers to benefit himself politically.”
“American diplomats who had pushed for the Trump administration to restore security funding to Ukraine were advised by the White House to play down the release of the money when it was finally approved,” the New York Times reports.
Said Brad Freden, acting deputy assistant secretary in a September 12 email: “Keep moving, people, nothing to see here…”
“The money is now at the heart of an impeachment inquiry by House Democrats into whether President Trump withheld a total of $391 million in funding as he sought damaging information on his political opponents from Ukraine’s newly-elected leader.”
“President Trump ordered the removal of the ambassador to Ukraine after months of complaints from allies outside the administration, including his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, that she was undermining him abroad and obstructing efforts to persuade Kyiv to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden,” the Wall Street Journal reports.
“State Department officials were told this spring that Ms. Yovanovitch’s removal was a priority for the president… Secretary of State Mike Pompeo supported the move.”
“President Trump’s rationale for why he withheld congressionally approved aid to Ukraine changed overnight,” Vox reports.
“On Monday, Trump told reporters that his decision to withhold aid to Ukraine — a decision seemingly at the heart of a whistleblower complaint roiling Washington — was over his concerns to ensure that the country’s new government was doing everything possible to root out corruption. But asked a similar question on Tuesday, Trump’s talking point suddenly changed to his frustrations about European countries not spending enough on foreign aid.”
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Jonathan Chait: Trump: I’d Like to Change My Ukraine Plea to “Not Guilty”