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).


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:


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


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.


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


Trump’s impeachment moves forward. So does the Trump-Russia Timeline. Another update is coming later this week.

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

FEBRUARY 2019: Giuliani Negotiates With Lutsenko on Possible Business Deal

JUNE 21, 2019: Trump Holds US Aid to Ukraine

REVISED: JULY 19, 2019: Sondland, Perry, and Mulvaney Email About Zelensky-Trump Call to Discuss Investigations; Pompeo Copied

AUG. 11, 2019: Sondland Keeps State Dept. in Loop

AUG. 22, 2019: Sondland Continues to Advise Pompeo about Ukraine Efforts

SEPT. 3, 2019: Sondland and Pompeo Email About Ukraine Visit

REVISED: SEPT. 9, 2019: Ambassadors React to Withholding Aid to Ukraine; Trump Involved

REVISED: NOV. 21, 2019: David Holmes Testifies Publicly

NOV. 22, 2019: Trump Repeats ‘Fictional Narrative’

NOV. 24-DEC. 1, 2019:Kennedy Repeats False Claim About Ukrainian Election Interference, Backtracks, and Then Repeats False Claim

NOV. 26, 2019: Pompeo Says Ukrainian Interference in 2016 Election Should Be Investigated

DEC. 1, 2019: Trump Declines to Have Attorneys Participate in First Judiciary Committee Hearing


This post first appeared at Dan Rather’s News & Guts on Dec. 2, 2019.

Trump’s former deputy national security adviser, Fiona Hill, chastised Republicans for promoting Russian propaganda. Trump and his defenders responded by intensifying their promotion of that propaganda. And it’s only begun.

Hill isn’t some supposed “Deep State” bureaucrat out to get Trump. She’s an expert on Russia who authored a book about Vladmir Putin that provides insights into the psychology of the enigmatic former head of the KGB. In April 2017, Trump chose her to be his deputy assistant and senior director for Europe and Russia on the National Security Council, which is in the White House. She held that position until July 19, 2019 — remarkably long tenure for any Trump senior appointee.

But Hill put her loyalty to the United States — her adopted country — above personal allegiance to Trump when she defied his edict not to cooperate with the House Intelligence Committee’s impeachment inquiry.

Hill’s Warning and the Corroborating Evidence

Nov. 21: Testifying before committee, Hill said:

“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.”

Nov. 22: The New York Times confirmed that in recent weeks — as Republican committee members of the House Intelligence Committee were pushing that Russian propaganda — the US intelligence community was informing US senators and their aides that Russia has been engaging in a years-long campaign to blame Ukraine for Russian hacking of the 2016 US presidential election.

The Trump/Republican Response

Nov. 22: Appearing on Fox & Friends, Trump repeated the Kremlin’s line that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 US presidential election. “A lot of it had to do, they say, with Ukraine,” he began, before promoting the lie that Ukraine possesses the DNC server that was hacked in 2016.

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

Nov. 25: On CNN, Kennedy seemed to backtrack: “I was wrong. The only evidence I have, and I think it’s overwhelming, is that it was Russia who tried to hack the DNC computer. I’ve seen no indication that Ukraine tried to do it.”

But Kennedy’s reversal lasted less than a week. Appearing on Meet the Press on Dec. 1, he said, “I think both Russia and Ukraine meddled in the 2016 election. I think it’s been well documented.”

Nov. 26: Asked at a news conference whether Ukrainian interference in the 2016 US presidential election specifically should be investigated, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo refused to condemn the Kremlin’s propaganda. Instead, he said, “Anytime there is information that indicates that any country has messed with American elections, we not only have a right, but a duty, to make sure we chase that down.”

As Republicans Speak, Putin Laughs

At a Nov. 20 economic forum in Moscow, Putin said he was pleased with the “political battles” diverting attention away from Russia: “Thank God, no one is accusing us of interfering in the US elections anymore; now they’re accusing Ukraine.”

Even bigger than the coming impeachment battle is the struggle to save the truth.

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

REVISED: MAR. 26-29, 2019: Giuliani Talks to Pompeo, Prepares List of Complaints About Bidens and Yovanovitch, Gives Materials to Pompeo

JULY 13, 2019: Sondland Emails Morrison

JULY 25, 2019: Ukrainians Ask US Officials About Military Aid

EARLY AUGUST 2019: White House Seeks After-the-Fact Legal Justification for Trump’s ‘Hold’ on Military Aid to Ukraine

SEPT. 1, 2019: Sondland Tells Pence About Concerns Regarding Aid to Ukraine; Pence Meets With Zelensky; Sondland Conveys Demand to Yermak; Taylor Receives Readout From Morrison

SEPT. 3, 2019: Sondland and Pompeo Email About Ukraine Visit

NOV. 6, 2019: Grassley and Johnson Seek Documents on Biden and Burisma

MID-NOVEMBER 2019: Senators Briefed on Russian Efforts to Blame Ukraine for 2016 Election Interference

NOV. 15, 2019: Grassley and Johnson Seek Financial Documents on Biden’s Son

NOV. 19, 2019: Lt. Col. Vindman Testifies Publicly

NOV. 19, 2019: Jennifer Williams Testifies Publicly

NOV. 19, 2019: Kurt Volker Revises Earlier Testimony

NOV. 19, 2019: Tim Morrison Testifies Publicly

NOV. 20, 2019: Sondland Testifies Publicly, Says Trump Directed His Effort, Confirms Quid Pro Quo

NOV. 20, 2019: Laura Cooper Testifies Publicly

NOV. 20, 2019: David Hale Testifies Publicly

NOV. 20, 2019: Putin Praises US ‘Political Battles’ and Says Americans Now Blame Ukraine for 2016 Election Interference

NOV. 21, 2019: Fiona Hill Testifies Publicly

NOV. 21, 2019: David Holmes Testifies Publicly

NOV. 21, 2019: Graham Launches Inquiry into Bidens, Burisma, Ukraine

NOV. 26, 2019: Court Orders McGahn to Testify; Justice Dept. Plans to Appeal


Five days of testimony from 12 witnesses before the House Intelligence Committee confirmed key facts that haven’t changed: Trump leveraged American power in an effort to get Ukraine to pursue investigations that would benefit him politically.

Those facts prove that Trump committed crimes: bribery, extortion, and obstruction. He also abused presidential power. The question is whether, as acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said, everyone should just “get over it.”

If you watched the hearings, you saw Republicans attacking witnesses and recycling discredited claims, namely:

  • Ukraine election interference. Trump’s former deputy national security adviser Fiona Hill called this a “false narrative” promoted by Russian intelligence services. Nevertheless, Trump and the Republicans are all in.
  • Burisma and former Vice President Joe Biden. That, too, is a false narrative. But don’t take my word for it. Read Jane Mayer’s thorough investigative report in The New Yorker: “The Invention of the Conspiracy Theory on Biden and Ukraine.”

I’ll have more to say about all of this in a future post.

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

MARCH – NOVEMBER 2016: Stone Remains in Touch With Trump Campaign

APRIL 2016: Stone Tells Trump Campaign About WikiLeaks Plans

JUNE – JULY 2016: Stone Speaks to Gates and Senior Campaign Officials About WikiLeaks

REVISED: JULY 22-31, 2016: Stone Tells Trump About Future WikiLeaks Disclosures; Trump Campaign Plans Strategy Based on Possible Releases

DEC. 6, 2018: Trump and Giuliani Allegedly Give Parnas and Fruman a Special Assignment

MAY 13, 2019: Trump Tells Pence Not To Attend Zelensky Inauguration

SHORTLY BEFORE MAY 20, 2019: Parnas Issues Ultimatum to Zelensky

REVISED: JULY 10-11, 2019: Sondland’s Meeting With Ukrainian Officials Raises Concerns; Hill and Vindman Report Incident to WH Lawyer Eisenberg; Bolton: ‘I Won’t Be a Part of Whatever Drug Deal Sondland and Mulvaney Are Cooking Up’

JULY 13, 2019: Sondland Emails Morrison to Schedule Trump-Zelensky Call

JULY 19, 2019: Sondland Emails Mulvaney and Perry: Zelensky Prepared to Receive Trump’s Call

REVISED: JULY 23, 2019: OMB: Trump Still Has Hold on Ukraine Aid

REVISED: JULY 25, 2019: Quid Pro Quo In Place For Trump-Zelensky Call

REVISED: JULY 25, 2019: Trump Calls Zelensky

REVISED: JULY 25, 2019: Vindman and Morrison Notify Eisenberg About Concerns With Trump-Zelensky Call; Eisenberg Moves Transcript to Classified System

JULY 26, 2019: Sondland Calls Trump From Kiev; Tells Morrison That Trump Is Directing Him

REVISED: SEPT. 1, 2019: Pence Meets With Zelensky; Sondland Conveys Demand to Yermak; Taylor Receives Readout From Morrison

REVISED: SEPT. 1, 2019: Taylor Asks Sondland About Ukrainian Quid Pro Quo; Sondland Says, ‘Call Me’; Sondland Says ‘Everything’ Depends on Investigations Into Biden and 2016 Election.

REVISED: SEPT. 7, 2019: ‘Sinking Feeling’ About Trump-Sondland Call

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

REVISED: SEPT. 12-13, 2019: Zelensky Confirms There Won’t Be a CNN Interview to Announce Ukrainian Investigations

SEPT. 18, 2019: Pence Tells Zelensky Hold on Military Aid Has Been Lifted

REVISED: OCT. 30, 2019: Christopher Anderson Testifies: Giuliani Was a Problem, White House Blocked State Dept. Condemnation of Russia

REVISED: OCT. 30, 2019: Catherine Croft Testifies About Pressure on Yovanovitch, Mulvaney’s 2017 ‘Hold’ Arms to Ukraine Due to ‘Anticipated’ Russian Reaction

NOV. 7, 2019: Jennifer Williams Testifies

NOV. 13, 2019: Taylor and Kent Testify Publicly; Taylor Mentions New July 26 Trump-Sondland Call

NOV. 15, 2019: Trump Releases Summary Memo of April 21 Call With Zelensky, Which Differs From Original White House Readout

NOV. 15, 2019: Yovanovitch Testifies; Trump Intimidates

NOV. 15, 2019: Stone Convicted on All Counts

NOV. 15, 2019: David Holmes Testifies


This post first appeared at Dan Rather’s News & Guts on Nov. 18, 2019.

Two phone calls to Trump on unsecured lines landed him in more trouble last week. The first provides more evidence that Trump embraced Russian assistance to help him win the presidency. The second reveals how Trump leveraged the power of that office in an international shakedown designed to help him keep it for a second term. Both calls expose Trump and his enablers lying to cover his tracks.

Call #1: Embracing Putin’s Help to Win in 2016

Trump supposedly fired Roger Stone from his campaign in August 2015. That allowed Trump and his campaign to claim a safe distance as Stone boasted publicly about his contacts with WikiLeaks — the principal vehicle through which Russia disseminated emails it had hacked and stolen from the Democratic National Committee’s computers. But phone records revealed the truth: Between March and November 2016, he had 39 calls with Trump, 126 calls with then-deputy campaign manager Rick Gates, and 153 calls with Paul Manafort.

At Stone’s trial last week, Gates testified about one of those calls. Shortly after WikiLeaks’ first release of DNC emails on July 22, 2016, Gates and two secret service agents were riding in a car with Trump to LaGuardia Airport. Stone called Trump on the phone. His name appeared on Trump’s caller ID, and Gates recognized Stone’s voice. Less than 30 seconds after hanging up, Trump told Gates that more information would be coming from WikiLeaks. And it did — throughout the summer and into the fall — as Trump praised WikiLeaks and Vladimir Putin kept the dirt flowing against Hillary Clinton.

But when special counsel Robert Mueller asked Trump about the campaign’s connections to WikiLeaks, he answered:

“I do not recall being aware during the campaign of any communications between [Roger Stone, Donald Trump, Jr., Paul Manafort, or Rick Gates] and anyone I understood to be a representative of WikiLeaks….”

“I do not recall” is a favorite lawyer-recommended escape hatch to avoid perjury. But it’s not a foolproof defense, especially for a client who claims to have “one of the greatest memories of all time.”

Call #2: Endangering US National Security to Win in 2020

The day after Trump’s July 25, 2019 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Trump’s million-dollar-contributor-turned-US Ambassador to the EU, Gordon Sondland, had a one-on-one meeting with Andriy Yermak, one of Zelensky’s top advisers. After the meeting, Sondland invited David Holmes, political counselor at the US embassy in Kiev, and two other embassy staffers to join him for lunch.

As they drank wine on the outdoor terrace of a restaurant where waiters circled nearby, Sondland pulled out his cellphone and called Trump. Although not on speakerphone, Holmes could hear Trump’s loud and recognizable voice as Sondland often held the phone away from his ear. Sondland told Trump that he was calling from Kiev and that Zelensky “loves your ass.”

“So, he’s gonna do the investigation?” Trump asked.

“[H]e’s gonna do it,” Sondland replied, adding that Zelensky will do “anything you ask him to.”

After the call ended, Holmes asked Sondland if it was true that Trump did not “give a s—t about Ukraine.” Sondland said it was true. When Holmes asked why, Sondland said that Trump cared only about “big stuff.” Holmes noted that there was “big stuff” going on in Ukraine, like a war with Russia. Sondland replied that he meant “big stuff” benefitting Trump, like the “Biden investigation” that Rudy Giuliani was pushing.

But in a sworn statement to the House Intelligence Committee, here’s what Sondland said about that day:

“On July 26th, Special Envoy Volker and I, along with others, met with President Zelensky in Kiev, Ukraine. This was a significant bilateral meeting involving large teams from the United States and Ukraine that had been planned by Special Envoy Volker’s team weeks in advance. It was planned weeks in advance, and was not, in any way, tied to the July 25th, 2019 White House call… During this July 26, 2019 meeting in Kiev, we were able to promote further engagement, including discussions about a future Zelensky visit to the White House.”

That’s it. Nothing about Sondland’s one-on-one meeting with Yermak. Nothing about his cellphone call to Trump.

And as for Giuliani’s mischief, Sondland testified, “Again, I recall no discussions with any State Department or White House official about former Vice President Biden or his son. Nor do I recall taking part in any effort to encourage an investigation into the Bidens.“

Sondland has already reversed his congressional testimony once, acknowledging that he “presumed that the [US] aid suspension had become linked to the proposed anti-corruption statement” and that in a Sept. 1 conversation, he told Yermak that “resumption of US aid would likely not occur until Ukraine provided the public anti-corruption statement….”

On Wednesday, Nov. 20, Sondland gets another chance — this time publicly. Perhaps he’s pondering Roger Stone’s Nov. 15 conviction: Five of the seven counts were for making false statements to Congress.

It Always Comes Back to Russia

In a closed session with the House Intelligence Committee, Tim Morrison, who resigned recently as Trump’s deputy assistant for national security, testified that he understood Sondland had taken instruction from Trump directly in communicating with Ukrainian officials. According to Morrison, Sondland said he could call Trump whenever he wanted. Between July 15 and Sept. 11, Sondland spoke with Trump approximately five times. (Dep. pp. 111-112, 120)

But when asked about Sondland on Nov. 8, Trump said, “I hardly know the gentleman.” Questioned specifically about their July 26 call, Trump claimed not to remember it:


Putin almost certainly has transcripts of Trump’s conversation with Sondland that Trump could review to refresh his recollection, according to former US Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul. “You make any call on an unclassified cell phone in Ukraine, that means Vladimir Putin has the transcript.” But in the intervening four months, the American public hasn’t seen it. The Russians call that “kompromat.”