About thebellyofthebeast

Adjunct professor at Northwestern University Law School, regular contributor to Dan Rather’s “News & Guts,” creator/curator of the Trump-Russia Timeline at “News & Guts” and “Just Security,” 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). 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).

TRUMP’S LAWYERS: ANYTHING BUT THE TRUTH

This post first appeared as “Trump’s Lyin’ Lawyers” on Dan Rather’s News & Guts on Jan. 25, 2020.

Never lie to a judge or jury. Every trial lawyer knows that cardinal rule of advocacy. But in their arguments on Jan. 21, Trump’s lawyers violated it. Repeatedly. With the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court presiding and the entire US Senate sitting as judge and jury.

It was only the beginning.

Sekulow

Trump’s personal attorney Jay Sekulow led off.

Lie #1: The House did not afford Trump “due process”: “During the proceedings that took place before the Judiciary Committee, the president was denied the right to cross-examine witnesses, the president was denied the right to access evidence, and the president was denied the right to have counsel present at hearings.”

Truth: House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) invited Trump to participate in the hearings, even though he had no “due process” obligation to do so. White House counsel Pat Cipollone rejected the invitation in a lengthy screed that concluded, “[W]e do not intend to participate….”

Lie #2: The Mueller report found no collusion and no obstruction: “It came up empty on the issue of collusion with Russia. There was no obstruction. In fact, the Mueller report — to the contrary of what these managers say today — came to the exact opposite conclusions of what they say.”

Truth: Mueller’s charge was limited to investigating crimes, so he expressly excluded any determination about “collusion” because it’s not a legal term. Mueller did find:

  • “The Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election in sweeping and systematic fashion.”
  • “[T]he investigation also identified numerous links between the Russian government and the Trump Campaign.”
  • “[T]he Russian government perceived it would benefit from a Trump presidency and worked to secure that outcome, and [] the Campaign expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts.”

As for obstruction, Mueller expressly refused to exonerate Trump, even though Justice Department policy precluded him from indicting a sitting president. But he described 10 episodes of Trump’s possible obstruction and, for many of them, concluded that the evidence was sufficient to prove it.

Cipollone

White House counsel Pat Cipollone is paid by American taxpayers to represent the office of the president, not Trump personally. He and Trump have crossed the line separating those two jobs.

Lie #3: Continuing Sekulow’s theme that Trump did not receive “due process,” Cipollone asserted that Republican members of the House Intelligence Committee were not allowed entry into the secure room where private hearings occurred: “The proceedings took place in a basement of the House of Representatives. … Not even [House intelligence Committee Chairman Adam] Schiff’s Republican colleagues were allowed into the SCIF.”

Truth: Forty-eight Republican members of three House committees — including the Intelligence Committee — were permitted to attend the hearings in the SCIF. Subsequently released transcripts prove that many of those Republicans even questioned witnesses.

Lie #4: US aid to Ukraine was delivered “on time.”

Truth: Congress’ nonpartisan watchdog, the Government Accountability Office, concluded that Trump’s aid freeze broke a law — the Impoundment Control Act. Trump did not lift the freeze in time to disburse all of it as required by the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30, requiring Congress to pass an extension of the deadline. “Had that provision not been included, then any unobligated funds as of September 30th would have expired,” according to OMB official Mark Sandy.

This list is not exhaustive.

It Will Get Worse

Outside the Senate chamber on Jan. 22, Sekulow said, “Adam Schiff today talked about quid pro quo. Notice what’s not in the articles of impeachment: allegations or accusations of quid pro quo. That’s because they didn’t exist.” The White House then tweeted a video clip of Sekulow’s nonsense.

CNN’s Jake Tapper was among many who called him out: “That’s Jay Sekulow falsely stating in the articles of impeachment there are no allegations or accusations of quid pro quo.” Tapper continued, “It’s true that the words quid pro quo, ‘this for that,’ do not appear in the articles of impeachment. But they certainly do describe this for that.” Tapper then read from the portion of impeachment article one outlining Trump’s quid pro quoand said, “I am not a lawyer. But does that not describe a quid pro quoto the letter?”

https://www.cnn.com/videos/politics/2020/01/22/sekulow-quid-pro-quo-imopeachment-fact-check-tapper-vpx.cnn/video/playlists/trump-ukraine/

I am a lawyer and yes, Jake, it definitely does.

Trump’s legal team now has an opportunity to infect the proceedings and the body politic with whatever narrative they choose, regardless of its veracity. Unless the Senate votes to call witnesses — as 70 percent of Americans favor — the House impeachment team won’t have an opportunity to respond.

Sometimes the purpose of a lie isn’t to get people to believe it. It’s to get people to doubt everything — including the truth.

TRUTH NOW OR LATER? TRUMP-RUSSIA TIMELINE UPDATE THROUGH JAN. 19, 2020

The Trump-Russia Timeline is a compilation of what the public knows. The continuing revelations prompt an obvious question: What else is out there?

Next week, senators will vote on whether to allow witness testimony during the impeachment trial. The latest polls show that a vast majority of Americans — 66 to 80 percent — favor it.

All Democratic senators favor allowing witness testimony, which has occurred in every prior impeachment. Do Republican senators want to learn the truth now or later? That’s the only question because, make no mistake, eventually the truth will come out. All of it.

When it does, Republicans who opposed witness testimony at Trump’s trial will have to explain to their constituents why their willful ignorance in the short run somehow served the country’s best interests in the long run.

And the short run could be very short indeed.

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

FEB. 10, 2019: Toensing and Giuliani Exchange Texts Regarding Yovanovitch’s Firing

FEB. 17, 2019: Toensing Presses for Information on Yovanovitch’s Status

MARCH 23-29, 2019: Text Messages Suggest Yovanovitch is Under Surveillance in Kiev, But Parnas Later Says She Wasn’t

MAR. 29, 2019: Nunes’ Aide in Contact with Parnas

APR. 12-19, 2019: Parnas Sets Up Interviews with Nunes’ Aide

APR. 23, 2019: Giuliani Texts Parnas About Yovanovitch

MAY 7, 2019: Parnas, Giuliani, and Others Meet Privately

MAY 10-11, 2019: Giuliani Seeks Meeting With Zelensky, Gets Rebuffed

MAY 12, 2019: Parnas Tells Ukrainian Officials That US Will Halt All Aid and Pence Won’t Attend Inauguration Unless They Investigate the Bidens

JULY 3, 2019: Parnas Tells Giuliani: ‘Going to Vienna’

EARLY NOVEMBER 2019: Russians Hack Burisma

NOV. 8, 2019: Trump Considers Accepting Putin Invitation to ‘Victory Parade’

JAN. 3, 2020: Trump Withholds More Emails

JAN. 6, 2020: Bolton Says He’ll Testify in Senate Trial

JAN. 7, 2020: Prosecutors Seek Prison Time for Flynn

JAN. 10, 2020: Trump Says He’ll Try to Block Bolton Testimony

JAN. 13, 2020: Barr Requires That He Approve FBI Counterintelligence Investigations Into Political Campaigns

JAN. 14, 2020: Flynn Moves to Withdraw Guilty Plea

JAN. 15, 2020: House Votes to Send Articles of Impeachment to Senate

JAN. 15-16, 2020: Parnas Speaks Publicly, Implicates Trump, Pence, Pompeo, Bolton, and Barr

JAN. 16, 2020: GAO Finds OMB Broke the Law by Withholding Aid

JAN. 16, 2020: Ukraine Opens Investigation into Russian Hack of Burisma

JAN. 16, 2020: Ukraine Opens Investigation into Possible Surveillance of Yovanovitch

JAN. 16, 2020: Trump’s Senate Impeachment Trial Begins

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