About thebellyofthebeast

Adjunct professor at Northwestern University's School of Law and its Weinberg College of Arts & Sciences, contributing editor to ABA "Litigation" and "The American Lawyer," and author of "The Lawyer Bubble - A Profession in Crisis (2013), "The Partnership - A Novel" (2010), "Crossing Hoffa - A Teamster's Story" (2007) (A "Chicago Tribune" Best Book of the Year), and "Straddling Worlds: The Jewish-American Journey of Professor Richard W. Leopold" (2008). Recently retired after 30 years at Kirkland & Ellis LLP. Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers. Graduated from Harvard Law School (magna cum laude) and Northwestern University (combined B.A./M.A. in economics, with distinction and Phi Beta Kappa).

ASSASSINATION TIMELINE: CHANGING JUSTIFICATIONS, BUT PUTIN IS A CLEAR WINNER

This post first appeared at Dan Rather’s News & Guts on Jan. 12, 2019.

According to a USA Today poll taken on Jan. 7-8, 52 percent of Americans think that the killing of Maj. Gen. Qassim Soleimani was “reckless.” Fifty-five percent believe that it made the US less safe. Only 24 percent say it made America safer. An ABC/Ipsos poll taken on Jan. 10-11 reached nearly identical results.

But there is one clear winner: Vladimir Putin. It’s possible that all he had to do was make a phone call. And now Trump and his administration can’t come up with a consistent justification for the killing.

Making a Martyr

Soleimani was Iran’s top military commander and one of the most revered leaders in the Islamic Republic. He worked to destabilize Iraq, drive America out of the country, and spread Iranian influence throughout the Mideast — a goal that Iran shared with its powerful ally, Russia. Unlike Osama Bin Laden who remained in hiding, Soleimani operated in plain sight for decades and was always an easy target for American forces.

But both Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama had rejected killing him as too provocative. Until Jan. 2, so did Trump — and for good reason. Soleimani’s death immediately united Iranians against America and energized pro-Iranian forces in Iraq.

So now, after the US has spent more than a trillion dollars and sacrificed the lives of nearly 5,000 American service members over the past 17 years, the Iraqi parliament has voted to expel all American forces from the country.

For Putin, who has worked to increase his influence in the region, Soleimani’s martyrdom was a small price to pay for that outcome.

How Did It Happen?

The fraught history of US-Iran relations goes back decades, but here’s a timeline of what we know about the most recent events:

Dec. 27, 2019: Rockets launched against an Iraqi military base kill a US civilian contractor and injure several American and Iraqi service members. The US blames the Iranian-backed militia, Kataib Hezbollah, which denies responsibility.

Dec. 28: Considering a menu of Pentagon options, Trump rejects the most extreme one: killing Soleimani.

Dec. 29: Putin calls Trump. The first report of their conversation comes from the Kremlin, which issues a readout stating that “Putin thanked Trump for information — “transmitted through the channels of US special services” — that “helped thwart terrorist acts in Russia.” It also notes noted that they discussed issues of mutual interest, agreeing to “continue bilateral cooperation in combating terrorism.” The White House has not revealed the call, so reporters traveling with Trump ask about it. Not until the next day, does the White House say that Putin called Trump to “thank him for information the United States provided that helped foil a potential holiday terrorist attack in Russia. Both Presidents committed to continuing counterterrorism cooperation between the two countries.” According to the White House, “The Presidents also discussed the state of relations between the United States and Russia and future efforts to support effective arms control.”

Dec. 29: The US attacks Iranian-backed militias in Iraq and Syria, killing at least 25 fighters and wounding 50 others.

Dec. 31: Protesting the attack, pro-Iranian military groups storm the US embassy in Baghdad. The protests end on Jan 1.

Jan. 2: Surprising his military advisers, Trump reverses course and orders Soleimani’s killing, which occurs shortly after midnight on Jan 3. The same night, the US fails in its attempt to kill Abdul Reza Shahlai, an Iranian commander in Yemen who helps finance armed groups across the region.

Jan. 4: As required under the War Powers Act, Trump notifies Congress of his justification for Soleimani’s assassination.

 Jan. 5: The Iraqi parliament votes to expel all US forces from Iraq. Hundreds of thousands of mourners flood the streets of Tehran. Iran announces that it will end all commitments to limit nuclear fuel production. The military adviser to Iran’s supreme leader promises retaliation against the US at military sites. Trump reiterates his threat to bomb cultural sites and warns of sanctions against Iraq if it forces US troops to leave the country. Preparing for Iranian retaliation, the US suspends the fight against ISIS.

 Jan. 7: Iranian missiles attack two Iraqi military bases housing American troops.

Jan. 8: Addressing the nation, Trump says that Iran’s attacks resulted in no American casualties. He also says that the US will immediately impose “additional punishing sanctions on the Iran regime” and that he is reviewing other options to respond to the Iranian strike. Later that evening, Iran accidentally shoots down a Ukrainian passenger jet, killing all 176 people on board.

Jan. 10: The Trump administration imposes new economic sanctions against Iran.

Trump’s Credibility Crisis

At any time over the past three years, Trump could have ordered the killing of Soleimani. He didn’t. Why now?

 Jan. 3: Secretary of State Mike Pomeo declares, “The world is a much safer place today. And I can assure you that Americans in the region are much safer today after the demise of Qassem Soleimani.” Yet as he spoke, the State Department was urging American citizens to “depart Iraq immediately.”

Jan. 3: Pompeo says the killing was necessary to disrupt an “imminent attack” that could have cost American lives in the region.

But on Jan. 4: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) says that Trump’s required submission to Congress under the War Powers Resolution “raises more questions than it answers,” including “serious and urgent questions about the timing, manner and justification of the administration’s decision to engage in hostilities against Iran.”

Jan. 5: Pompeo moves away from “imminence” to emphasize Soleimani’s past actions as proof of his continuing but unspecified threat to Americans.

Jan. 9: Trump offers a new rationale: Soleimani was planning attacks against US embassies in Baghdad and elsewhere. But Democrats who received a classified briefing on Jan. 8 say they saw no evidence of embassy plots.

Jan. 10: Pompeo walks back Trump’s embassies claim, saying, “There is no doubt that there were a series of imminent attacks that were being plotted by Qasem Soleimani, and we don’t know precisely when and we don’t know precisely where, but it was real.”

Jan. 12: Secretary of Defense Mark Esper says he saw no intelligence about Iran posing an imminent threat to US embassies:

https://twitter.com/atrupar/status/1216365680871821312

And Then There’s Impeachment

 Jan. 10: Buried in the 28thparagraph of the front-page story in The Wall Street Journal print edition is this nugget:

“Mr. Trump, after the strike, told associates he was under pressure to deal with Gen. Soleimani from GOP senators he views as important supporters in his coming impeachment trial in the Senate, associates said.”

A subsequent story in The New York Times suggests that Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) is one of them.

It Always Comes Back to Russia

When Trump equivocated on US support for Ukraine, Putin won a major geopolitical victory. When Trump abandoned America’s Kurdish allies in Syria, Putin won again. As Iraq demands that the US leave its country, Putin is winning yet again.

Inquiring minds would like to see a transcript of his Dec. 29 phone call to Trump.

TRIAL OR NO TRIAL: TRUMP-RUSSIA TIMELINE UPDATE THROUGH JAN. 5, 2019

As Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) keeps pushing to get Trump’s impeachment behind both of them, more damning evidence keeps seeping out. Just Security published a trove of previously redacting Trump administration emails. Then former national security adviser John Bolton announced that he would testify at the impeachment trial in response to a subpoena.

McConnell insists that he “has the votes” necessary to get what he wants, which is no real trial at all, followed by a quick acquittal of Trump. That tells Americans everything they need to know about Trump’s complete takeover of what was once the Republican party. As incriminating evidence continues to emerge — as it will — they will have a lot of explaining to do. For some reason, they don’t care.

Here is a list of the latest updates to the Trump-Russia Timeline at Dan Rather’s News & Guts and Just Security:

JUNE 19, 2019: Mulvaney Aide Tells OMB to ‘Hold Up’ Ukraine Aid; Trump’s Team Is Asking Questions

JUNE 27, 2019: Mulvaney Asks Aide About Holding Assistance to Ukraine

REVISED: BY JULY 3, 2019: Trump Orders Hold on Previously Authorized Military Aid to Ukraine; Pentagon Says Hold Is Illegal

JULY 26, 2019: National Security Community Unanimously Supports Ukraine Aid; Pentagon Concerned About Legality of Trump’s ‘Hold’

AUG. 9, 2019: Defense Department Warns That Time is Running Out on Disbursing Ukraine Aid

AUG. 28-29, 2019: Defense Department Rejects OMB Talking Points, Reiterates Warning About Delays in Ukraine Aid

AUG. 30, 2019: Pompeo, Bolton, and Esper Try to Convince Trump to Release Aid to Ukraine

SEPT. 9, 2019: Ukraine Aid Disbursement Jeopardized

SEPT. 10, 2019: OMB Tells Defense Department It Can Withhold Aid; DOD Responds: ‘You Can’t Be Serious. I am speechless.’

REVISED:SEPT. 11, 2019: White House Releases Ukraine Military Aid, But It’s Too Late

JAN. 3, 2019: Judge Allows Parnas to Provide Materials to House Intelligence Committee

TRUMP-RUSSIA TIMELINE UPDATE: MUELLER REPORT OBSTRUCTION ITEMS

During the holiday break, we incorporated new and revised entries based on Volume II of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report. It describes Trump’s obstruction of the Russia investigation. As Trump and Don McGahn exhaust appeals of the lower court’s order compelling McGahn’s congressional testimony, that topic is increasingly relevant.

But with or without McGahn’s testimony, Mueller’s evidence will be relevant to the second article of impeachment against Trump. It includes this ticking bomb:

“These actions [relating to Ukraine] were consistent with President Trump’s previous efforts to undermine United States Government investigations into foreign interference in United States elections.”

Trump may have thought that he was out of Mueller’s woods. He’s not.

Here is a list of the Mueller obstruction updates to the Trump-Russia Timeline at Dan Rather’s News & Guts and Just Security:

REVISED: FEB. 14, 2017: Trump Considers Public Explanations for Flynn Resignation, Tells Christie ‘Russia Thing Is All Over’ and to Contact Comey

FEB. 22-23, 2017: Trump Wants McFarland to Resign, Requests Letter About Flynn; Directs Priebus to Reach Out to Flynn

REVISED: MARCH 2, 2017: Sessions Recuses Himself From Russia Investigation One Hour After Trump Says He Shouldn’t

REVISED: MARCH 3, 2017: Trump Vents Anger About Sessions Recusal

MAR. 5-6, 2017: FBI Asks White House for Flynn Records; Trump Wants to Know if He’s Being Investigated

MAR. 9, 2017: Comey Briefs Congressional ‘Gang of Eight’

MAR. 21, 2017: Trump ‘Getting Hotter and Hotter’ About Comey

REVISED: MAR. 25-26, 2017: Trump Calls Coats and Rogers For Help in Russia Investigation

LATE MARCH-EARLY APRIL 2017: Trump Tells Flynn to ‘Stay Strong’

REVISED: MAY 17, 2017: Former FBI Director Robert Mueller Named Special Counsel, Assumes Control of Counterintelligence Investigation into Trump

SOMETIME BETWEEN MAY 17 and JULY 19, 2017: Trump Asks Sessions to ‘Unrecuse’ Himself

JUNE 17, 2017: Trump Tells McGahn to Have Rosenstein Remove Mueller; Asks Christie for Reaction

JUNE 22, 2017: Discussions About June 9, 2016 Trump Tower Meeting

JUNE 28-29, 2017: Hicks Sees Trump Tower Meeting Emails, Shares Concerns with Trump

JULY 21-22, 2017: Trump Orders Priebus to Demand Sessions’ Resignation; McGahn Overrules Trump

AUG. 18, 2017: Cohen Initial Draft Statement to Congress is Filled With Lies; Shares it With Trump’s Lawyers Who Discuss Possible Pardon

AUG. 27, 2017: Cohen Speaks With Trump’s Lawyer About Testimony

REVIISED:SEPT. 19, 2017: Michael Cohen Issues False Statement on Trump Tower-Moscow to Shape Narrative for Other Witnesses

SEPT. 20, 2017: Trump’s Lawyer to Cohen: Trump is Pleased

OCT. 16, 2017: Trump Complains to Sessions: Investigate Clinton

REVISED: OCT. 24-25, 2017: Cohen Appears Before Congress; Testifies Falsely

REVISED: NOV. 22-23, 2017: Flynn Withdraws from Joint Defense Agreement with Trump; Trump’s Lawyers Make Threats

DEC. 6, 2017: Trump Suggests That Session ‘Unrecuse’ Himself

JAN. 26, 2018: Trump’s Attorney to McGahn’s Attorney: Deny Story That Trump Wanted McGahn to Fire Mueller

FEB. 4, 2018: Priebus Says He Never Heard That Trump Wanted to Fire Mueller

FEB. 5-6, 2018: Trump Tells McGahn to Lie; McGahn Refuses

PUTIN ECHOES TRUMP/GOP TALKING POINTS, TRUMP’S POPULARITY SLIDES: TRUMP-RUSSIA TIMELINE UPDATE THROUGH DEC. 26, 2019

Happy New Year!

The circle is complete. Trump and his Republican defenders spout lies masquerading as talking points. Putin repeats those Trump/GOP lies. And then Trump retweets Putin’s remarks.

On Dec. 19, the AP reported Vladimir Putin’s reaction to Trump’s impeachment:

“The Democratic party, which lost the elections, is now trying to revise this history through the means that they have at their disposal — first by accusing Trump of collusion with Russia. But then it turned out there was no collusion. It could not form the basis for impeachment, and now there is this made-up pressure on Ukraine.” He adds, “It’s unlikely they will want to remove their party member from office based on what are, in my opinion, completely fabricated reasons.”

The next day, Trump retweeted the AP’s summary of Putin’s remarks:

Trump and Putin are allies. Their common enemy is the US Constitution’s separation of powers and every American who opposes Trump.

Just let that sink in.

Putin’s Vote Doesn’t Count

The reaction of US voters to Trump’s impeachment is a stark contrast to Putin’s. According to a Politico/Morning Consult poll taken on Dec. 14-15 — after the House Judiciary Committee voted to approve two articles of impeachment, but before the full House vote on Dec. 18 — 50% of all registered voters wanted Trump impeached and removed from office.

Another Politico/Morning Consult poll taken on Dec. 19-20 following the House vote showed 52% of registered voters favoring Trump’s conviction in the Senate.

A daily tracking poll from MSN reported that as of Christmas Day, 55% of likely voters wanted Trump convicted in the Senate.

The day Nixon resigned, 57% of voters wanted him gone. His popular approval rating was still 24%.

Let those numbers sink in too.

Here is a list of the latest updates to the Trump-Russia Timeline at Dan Rather’s News & Guts and Just Security:

SUMMER 2016: Manafort Pushes Ukraine Conspiracy Theory

FEB. 2, 2017: Putin Blames Ukraine for Election Interference

REVISED: JULY 7, 2017: Trump Meets Putin, Confiscates Interpreter’s Notes Afterwards; Blames Ukraine for Election Interference

JULY 25, 2019: OMB Reiterates Hold on Ukrainian Aid

NOVEMBER 2019: Giuliani Says He Wanted Yovanovitch ‘Out of the Way’

DEC. 11, 2019: Taylor Relieved of Duties

REVISED: DEC. 11-17, 2019: Prosecutors Seek to Revoke Parnas’ Bail; Court Denies Request

DEC. 16, 2019: Judge Sets Flynn Sentencing Date

DEC. 17, 2019: Gates Sentenced

DEC. 18, 2019: Judge Dismisses State Court Charges Against Manafort

DEC. 18, 2019: House Impeaches Trump

DEC. 19-20, 2019: Putin Blasts Impeachment; Trump Retweets AP Story

WHAT’S BARR’S END GAME? TRUMP-RUSSIA TIMELINE UPDATE THROUGH DEC. 15, 2019

Why does the attorney general of the United States keep attacking the Justice Department he leads? His latest target is the DOJ’s highly regarded inspector general, Michael Horowitz, whose report confirms that the FBI properly launched the Trump-Russia probe. The IG’s report is important, but far more significant is Barr’s escalating assault on the public’s confidence in America’s justice system, intelligence community, and free press.

Barr’s Track Record

Since his confirmation on Feb. 14, 2019, Barr has nurtured Trump’s distractions, as the Trump-Russia Timeline reveals.

Mar. 22: Mueller submits his final report to Barr, along with summaries for immediate distribution to the public. Among other things, the report concludes that: i) Russia engaged in a “sweeping and systematic” attack on the 2016 US presidential election; ii) Vladimir Putin wanted Trump to win; and iii) the Trump campaign embraced the help. Describing the factual basis for the FBI investigation that began on July 31, 2016, Mueller debunks Trump’s claim that the Bureau was out to get him. Mueller also details Trump’s obstruction of the investigation.

Mar. 24: Barr rejects Mueller’s carefully crafted summaries of the report and issues his own misleading one.

Mar. 25: In a letter, Mueller accuses Barr of promulgating a narrative that “does not fully capture the context, nature, and substance” of his work or his report’s conclusions. “There is now public confusion about critical aspects of the results of our investigation,” Mueller writes. “This threatens to undermine the central purpose for which the Department appointed the Special Counsel: to assure full public confidence in the outcome of the investigations.”

Barr is unmoved. So as Trump’s lies about Mueller’s report — “Total Exoneration, No Collusion, No Obstruction” — infect the body politic, Barr doesn’t release Mueller’s actual summaries.

Apr. 10: Testifying before the Senate Appropriations Committee, Barr says, “I think spying did occur” on the Trump campaign. FBI Director Christopher Wray, a Trump appointee, rejects Barr’s politically charged characterization of the agency’s conduct as it engaged in legitimate law enforcement activities.

Apr. 18: The DOJ finally releases a redacted version of Mueller’s report, revealing Barr’s earlier deception about Mueller’s findings.

Before May 13: IG Horowitz’s investigation into the origins of the FBI’s Trump-Russia investigation has been underway for more than a year. Nevertheless, Barr appoints US Attorney John Durham to lead another inquiry into that subject. 

Sept. 13: IG Horowitz completes his report, concluding that the FBI had a proper basis for opening the Trump-Russia investigation and finding no evidence of political bias or improper motivation in the decision. He sends his report to the Justice Department and the FBI for review.

Week of Sept. 23: Barr and Durham travel to Italy where Barr asks officials to cooperate with Durham’s investigation. Barr has also asked officials in Australia and Great Britain for assistance.

Oct. 25: After The New York Times reports that Durham’s inquiry into the origins of the Russia investigation has become a criminal investigation, Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), co-chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee tweets:

https://twitter.com/MarkWarner/status/1187746347841212417

Dec. 9: The Justice Department releases Horowitz’s report. Immediately, Barr attacks Horowitz’s key conclusion about the origins of the FBI probe, saying, “The FBI launched an intrusive investigation of a US presidential campaign on the thinnest of suspicions that, in my view, were insufficient to justify the steps taken.”

Simultaneously, Durham weighs in with his unprecedented assault on Horowitz’s conclusions: “Last month, we advised the inspector general that we do not agree with some of the report’s conclusions as to predication and how the FBI case was opened.”

But on Dec. 11, Horowitz testifies that Durham’s statement surprised him. In their prior discussions before the report’s release, Durham had agreed that the FBI’s information was sufficient to open an investigation. Their only point of disagreement was whether the FBI should have launched the probe as a “preliminary” or “full” one — a distinction without a difference given the dozens of indictments, convictions, and guilty pleas that resulted. 

Dec. 10: In an NBC interview, Barr goes further: “I think our nation was turned on its head for three years based on a completely bogus narrative that was largely fanned and hyped by a completely irresponsible press.” Barr even suggests that the FBI may have acted in “bad faith.”

The End Game

“Investigating the investigators” has been a centerpiece of Trump’s strategy to discredit the Trump-Russia probe and distract attention from the actual results of the investigation: Top members of Trump’s 2016 campaign are now convicted criminals, including national security adviser Mike Flynn, campaign manager Paul Manafort, deputy campaign manager Rick Gates, personal attorney Michael Cohen, and personal adviser Roger Stone. Russians who helped Trump win the election have been indicted.

After the revelations of President Richard Nixon’s abuse of the Justice Department during Watergate, the DOJ insulated itself from presidential political interference. Under Trump and Barr, those days are gone. In fact, “investigate the investigators” has morphed into a new theme: If investigations into the investigators don’t produce the results Trump wants, keep attacking and start another one.

The loss of an independent Justice Department has catastrophic consequences. Facts and truth become casualties. Public trust erodes. Undermining confidence in the nation’s law enforcement agencies, intelligence community, and free press becomes an attack on democracy itself. And it can lead to an autocratic end game that no American patriot should embrace.

Here is a list of the latest updates to the Trump-Russia Timeline at Dan Rather’s News & Guts and Just Security:

DEC. 7, 2019: Giuliani Returns From Ukraine, Reports to Trump

DEC. 7, 2019: Cruz Blasts Media, Says Ukraine Also Interfered in US Election

DEC. 9, 2019: Zelensky Meets With Putin

DEC. 9, 2019: Horowitz Finds No Evidence of Political Bias in Russia Investigation; Finds Errors in Page’s FISA Warrant Process

DEC. 9-10, 2019: Barr Disagrees With Horowtiz’s Report

DEC. 10, 2019: House Announces Articles of Impeachment

DEC. 10, 2019: Lavrov Visits White House, Denounces Russia Investigation 

DEC. 11, 2019: Horowitz Testifies Before Senate

DEC. 11, 2019: Prosecutors Seek to Revoke Parnas’ Bail

DEC. 11, 2019: OMB Issues New Legal Memo Defending Hold on Ukraine Aid

DEC. 12, 2019: McConnell Coordinating Impeachment Trial With White House

DEC. 13, 2019: House Judiciary Approves Two Articles of Impeachment

JUST SHOW UP: IT’S WORKING IN HONG KONG

Sometimes defending democracy just means showing up. When enough people make their presence known, the media cover it and politicians take note.

On Tuesday, Dec. 17, concerned citizens throughout the country have an opportunity to show up. Click on this link for details and the location nearest you.

Why Show Up Now?

The day after the scheduled demonstrations, the House of Representatives will vote on two articles of impeachment. Trump’s only argument boils down to two words: So what?

You decide. Here are the undisputed facts.

1. Ukraine Needs America

Apr. 21, 2019: Ukraine’s newly elected president, Volodymyr Zelensky, needed continuing US support in Ukraine’s war against Russian aggression. Symbolically, that meant a personal meeting with America’s president. Practically, it meant receiving almost $400 million in US military aid that Congress had authorized.

2. “Talk with Rudy”

May 23: After returning from Zelensky’s inauguration, US Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland, US Special Representative to Ukraine Kurt Volker, and Secretary of Energy Rick Perry — dubbed the “three amigos” — briefed Trump. They expressed their enthusiasm for Ukraine and urged a prompt Trump-Zelensky meeting to demonstrate America’s support. Trump pushed back, telling them that Ukraine had “tried to take me down” in the 2016 election. He told them to “talk with Rudy.”

For months, Giuliani had been trying to get Ukraine to pursue an investigation into the disproven conspiracy theory that Ukrainian officials interfered in the 2016 election to help Hillary Clinton. According to Trump’s former deputy national security adviser and Russia expert, Fiona Hill, “This is a fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves.”

But that didn’t stop Trump or Rudy.

3. Giuliani Pushed Baseless Stories Against Biden

Giuliani also wanted Ukraine to pursue an investigation into the Bidens — former Vice President Joe Biden and Burisma, a Ukrainian company where his son Hunter served on the board. That, too, is a discredited conspiracy theory. Even the former Ukrainian general prosecutor who had initially pushed the false claim later admitted that Hunter Biden had done nothing wrong.

July 19: US Special Representative Kurt Volker — whom Republicans on the House impeachment committee later asked to testify publicly — told Giuliani not to believe the self-serving allegations that Ukraine’s former general prosecutor was asserting against Biden:

“I also said that it is not credible to me that former Vice President Biden would have been influenced in any way by financial or personal motives in carrying out his duties as Vice President… the accusation that Vice President Biden acted inappropriately did not seem at all credible to me.”

But that didn’t stop Trump or Rudy.

4. “I’d Like You To Do Us A Favor Though”

“Mr. Giuliani’s requests were a quid pro quo for arranging a White House visit for President Zelensky,” Sondland testified.

Video link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-7ZBJZRJu9g

Then Trump increased the pressure by ordering acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney to put a “hold” on US aid to Ukraine.

July 25: During his call with Zelensky, Trump emphasized America’s support for Ukraine. But there were strings: “I like you to do us a favor though”— pursue investigations into Ukrainian interference in the 2016 US election and the Bidens.

July 26: Shortly after meeting with one of Zelensky’s top advisers, Sondland used his cellphone to call Trump from the outside terrace of a Kiev restaurant. David Holmes, political counsel to the US embassy in Kiev, heard Trump’s voice on the other end.

Sondland to Trump: Zelensky “loves your ass.”

Trump to Sondland: “So, he’s gonna do the investigation?”

Sondland to Trump: “He’s gonna do it.” Zelensky will do “anything you ask him to.”

Video link: https://www.cnn.com/videos/politics/2019/11/21/david-holmes-impeachment-hearing-opening-statement-call-sot-vpx.cnn/video/playlists/trump-impeachment-hearing-day-one/

Sept. 1: Sondland reiterated Trump’s demand: No White House meeting unless Zelensky announces investigations into the 2016 election and the Bidens. Trump wanted Zelensky “in a public box.” “Everything” depended on it, including almost $400 million in desperately needed security assistance. 

5. Trump and Republicans Repeat Russian Propaganda

Nov. 21: Testifying publicly, Fiona Hill chastised Republicans on the House impeachment committee:

“Based on questions and statements I have heard, some of you on this committee appear to believe that Russia and its security services did not conduct a campaign against our country — and that perhaps, somehow, for some reason, Ukraine did. This is a fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves.”

Video link: https://www.c-span.org/video/?c4832424/nsc-official-warns-pushing-russian-fictional-narrative-ukraine

Nov. 22: The New York Times confirmed that in recent weeks US intelligence officials had informed US senators and their aides that the Kremlin has engaged in a years-long propaganda campaign to promote the fictional narrative about Ukraine.

The same day on Fox & Friends, Trump repeated the fictional narrative.

Nov. 24: Appearing on Fox News, Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) said he didn’t know if Ukraine or Russia was responsible for hacking the DNC server and Clinton campaign emails.

Fiona Hill knows that none of this is lost on Vladimir Putin, the former head of the KGB. On Nov. 20, Putin told an economic forum in Moscow, “Thank God, no one is accusing us of interfering in the US elections anymore; now they’re accusing Ukraine.”

Video link: https://twitter.com/McFaul/status/1198027709751840768

6. Trump’s Enablers Are Still Pushing Baseless Stories and Russian Propaganda

Trump’s defenders in the Senate are intensifying Trump’s smear of Biden.

Nov. 6: Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Ron Johnson (R-WI) asked the State Department for documents relating to Burisma and the Bidens.

Nov. 15: Sens.Grassley and Johnson asked the Treasury Department for “suspicious activity reports” of financial transactions relating to Hunter Biden and Ukraine.

Nov. 21: As Fiona Hill was testifying, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-SC) launched an inquiry into the Bidens and Ukraine.

Dec. 7: Giuliani returns from a weeklong trip to Europe where he continues to press for more information feeding the same propaganda and misinformation that Trump was using in his July 25 call to President Zelensky.

Dec. 8: On Meet the Press, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) echoes Russian propaganda about Ukraine election interference.

So What?

Trump leveraged American power against a vulnerable ally in an effort to gain a domestic political advantage. Starting with Ambassador William Taylor’s observation that such behavior was “crazy,” witness after witness after witness testified without contradiction that Trump subverted US foreign policy and compromised national security. Then he ordered his entire administration to stonewall the investigation into his misconduct. As witnesses defied his edict and testified, Trump tried to intimidate them.

The US Constitution provides a remedy for these crimes and abuses of presidential power: impeachment and removal from office. But whether the undisputed facts will produce that outcome is an open question.

Americans who show up will make all the difference.

SIMPLIFYING THE HOROWITZ REPORT: TRUMP-RUSSIA TIMELINE UPDATE THROUGH DEC. 8, 2019

As impeachment moves forward, Trump and his defenders offer distractions. The Dec. 9 report from the Justice Department’s inspector general, Michael Horowitz, shouldn’t work as one of them. To be sure, the report raises troubling questions about the process by which the FBI obtains foreign intelligence surveillance (FISA) warrants. But with respect to the Horowitz report, only three points matter to the current controversy surrounding Trump’s impeachment:

First, the Horowitz report has nothing to do with Trump’s shakedown of Ukraine and his cover up of those actions by stonewalling Congress. Nothing.

Second, the Horowitz report destroys the lie that Trump has been telling for years, namely, that even before his election, a “deep state” inside the FBI was out to get him and that the Russia investigation “hoax”/”witch hunt” resulted from that effort. Horowitz found no “documentary or testimonial evidence that political bias or improper motivation influenced the decisions” to open the Trump-Russia investigation and then to pursue it.

Likewise Horowitz found that, despite contrary claims from Trump and his defenders, the infamous Steele dossier was not the impetus for the Russia investigation, which began on July 31, 2016. In that respect, Horowitz found that Steele’s materials played “no role.” The FBI opened the investigation after learning that George Papadopolous had told an Australian diplomat in a London bar that the Russians had a trove of damaging Hillary Clinton emails The Russians were willing to assist in the dissemination of use those emails to help Trump win.

Third, the FBI committed errors and omissions in the application and renewals for a FISA surveillance warrant on Carter Page. But it did not even seek such a warrant until October 2016 — three months after it had opened the Trump-Russia investigation and long after Page had left the Trump campaign. Here too, Horowitz found no evidence that political bias or improper motives played any role in the warrant process for Page.

As Trump’s impeachment draws nearer, ignore Trump and Republicans trying to move the conversation to the Horowitz report. It’s irrelevant to the facts proving Trump’s shakedown of Ukraine and Trump’s subsequent cover-up. The GOP has yet to mount a factual defense to those charges.

Here is a list of the latest updates to the Trump-Russia Timeline at Dan Rather’s News & Guts and Just Security:

MAR 20, 2019: Solomon Publishes False Attack on Yovanovitch; Parnas Involved

APR. 1 – 12, 2019: Solomon Smears Biden; Parnas Exchanges Calls With Giuliani and Solomon; Nunes in Contact With Giuliani; Giuliani in Contact With White House and Possibly OMB

APR. 23, 2019: Giuliani Has Calls With Parnas, White House

APR. 24-25, 2019: Giuliani Has Calls With White House and Possibly OMB; Yovanovitch Gets Evening Call in Kiev Summoning Her to Washington ‘On The Next Plane’

APR. 25, 2019: Biden Officially Announces Presidential Bid

REVISED: APRIL 28-29, 2019: State Dept. No Longer Able to ‘Protect’ Yovanovitch; Bolton Calls Giuliani a ‘Hand Grenade’

JUNE 19, 2019: Trump Promotes Russian Propaganda About Ukraine Election Interference, Raises Questions With OMB

JULY 30, 2019: Ukraine Official Concerned About US Aid

AUG. 8, 2019: Giuliani Contacts White House and Possibly OMB

AUG. 12-13, 2019: Volker Receives Zelensky’s Draft Statement on Corruption

REVISED: AUG. 13, 2019: Giuliani, Volker, and Sondland Revise Zelensky’s Statement on Corruption

DEC. 2, 2019: PoliticoReports That Senate Intelligence Committee Found No Evidence of Ukrainian Interference in the 2016 US Election

DEC. 3, 2019: House Intelligence Committee Releases Report on Impeachment

DEC. 3, 2019: House Votes Against Allowing Russia in G-7

DEC. 3, 2019: House Intelligence Committee Sends Impeachment Report to Judiciary Committee

DEC. 3-4, 2019: Giuliani Meets With Ukrainian Former Prosecutors and Politicians as Part of Effort to ‘Debunk the Impeachment Hoax’

DEC. 4, 2019: Constitutional Law Experts Testify Before House Judiciary Committee

DEC. 6, 2019: White House Reject Invitation to Participate in House Judiciary Committee Hearings on Impeachment

DEC. 7, 2019: House Judiciary Committee Issues Report on Grounds for Impeachment