TRUMP-RUSSIA TIMELINE UPDATE THROUGH DEC. 1, 2019

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

IT’S NOT JUST A “FALSE NARRATIVE,” IT’S RUSSIAN PROPAGANDA: TRUMP-RUSSIA TIMELINE UPDATE THROUGH NOV. 24, 2019

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

REPUBLICANS IN SEARCH OF A DEFENSE: TRUMP-RUSSIA TIMELINE UPDATE THROUGH NOV. 18, 2019

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

WHO ELSE HAS TRUMP’S NUMBER?

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:

https://www.c-span.org/video/?c4829585/president-trump-recall-july-26-phone-call-ambassador-sondland

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.”

TRUMP-RUSSIA TIMELINE UPDATE THROUGH NOV. 11, 2019

The pace is breathtaking. We’re doing our best to keep up. Suffice it to say that Trump’s very bad days are getting worse. And there’s no end in sight.

That is, until we get to the House vote on articles of impeachment and a trial in the Senate.

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

JUNE 14, 2016: Stone Wants Kushner’s Contact Info; Stone and Trump Exchange Phone Calls

REVISED: JUL. 31, 2016: Stone Calls Trump, Emails Corsi: ‘Malloch Should See Assange’

AUG. 2, 2016: Stone Emails Manafort About Assange

AUG. 3, 2016: Stone Emails Manafort About an Idea ‘To Save Trump’s Ass’

AUG. 16, 2016: Stone Emails Bannon: Knows How To Win, But ‘It Ain’t Pretty’

REVISED: OCT. 3-4, 2016: Stone, Prince, and Bannon Discuss WikiLeaks and Raising ‘$$$’

REVISED: JULY 2018: Trump Wants Yovanovitch Relieved in Ukraine

FEB. 11, 2019: Lutsenko Throwing Mud at Yovanovitch and Others at the State Department

MARCH 20-23, 2019: Story Lines Against Yovanovitch Unfold in US and Ukraine

REVISED: APR. 24-25, 2019: Yovanovitch Summoned to Return to Washington ‘On The Next Plane’; State Dept. No Longer Able to ‘Protect’ Her; Bolton Calls Giuliani a ‘Hand Grenade’

MAY 27, 2019: Giuliani Continues ‘Campaign of Lies’ Against Yovanovitch

MAY 30, 2019: Ukrainian Officials Concerned About Status of US Military Aid

JULY 2-3, 2019: Volker Tells Zelensky About Giuliani’s ‘Negative Narrative About Ukraine’, Needs to Signal ‘Cooperative Attitude’ Toward Trump’s Interests

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

REVISED: JULY 18, 2019: Taylor, Volker, and Others Learn About Hold on US Assistance to Ukraine and That the Directive Comes From Trump

REVISED: JULY 19, 2019: Giuliani, Volker, Sondland, and Taylor Exchange Text Messages Re: Effort to Get Ukraine to Investigate Biden

REVISED: JULY 25, 2019: Vindman and Morrison Notify Eisenberg About Concerns With Trump-Zelensky Call

DURING THE WEEK OF JULY 29, 2019: Intelligence Official Expresses Concern About Trump’s July 25 Call to CIA General Counsel; White House Already Aware of Concerns

REVISED: AUG. 17, 2019: Volker and Sondland Continue Discussions About Ukrainian Statement

REVISED: AUG. 17, 2019: Volker and Sondland Continue Discussions About Ukrainian Statement

SEPT. 1, 2019: Sondland Talks to Zelensky Aide In Warsaw

SEPT. 8, 2019: Taylor Describes Ukraine ‘Nightmare’

REVISED: SEPT. 11, 2019 White House Releases Ukraine Military Aid After Pentagon Deadline; Pentagon Scrambles To Pass Last-Minute Legislation

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

AROUND SEPT. 25, 2019: Trump Wants Barr to Hold Press Conference on Zelensky Call; DOJ Issues Statement

REVISED: OCT. 3, 2019: Volker Testifies to Congress, Says He Told Giuliani That Claims About Biden Were False

REVISED: OCT. 17, 2019: Sondland Testifies, Points Accusing Finger at Giuliani and Trump

OCT. 29, 2019: Giuliani Meets With Ukrainians Pushing Investigations

REVISED: OCT. 29, 2019: House Votes to Sanction Turkey

OCT. 30, 2019: Sullivan Says White House Counsel is Directing Stonewalling

OCT. 30, 2019: Christopher Anderson Testifies

NOV. 4, 2019: Sondland Revises Testimony to Admit Quid Pro Quo

NOV. 4, 2019: Parnas Has New Lawyer, Willing to Cooperate

NOV. 5, 2019: Joint Statement on US Election Security Released

NOV. 6, 2019: House Withdraws Kupperman Subpoena

NOV. 8, 2019: Mulvaney Defies Subpoena

NOV. 8, 2019: Bannon Testifies in Stone’s Trial: ‘Stone Was Access Point to WikiLeaks

SHAKEDOWN AND COVER-UP: A GUIDE TO THE IMPEACHMENT HEARINGS

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

When witnesses begin testifying publicly in the House impeachment inquiry this week, two issues will predominate:

1) The Shakedown: whether Trump tried to get Ukraine to investigate his political opponents — former Vice President Joe Biden and the Democratic National Committee.

2) The Cover-Up: whether Trump interfered with Congress’ investigation into The Shakedown.

Here’s a framework for organizing the testimony as you hear it.

#1: What was The Shakedown?

Trump wanted Ukraine to announce publicly its pursuit of two investigations:

  • Baseless claims relating to Biden and his son Hunter, who was a board member of the Ukrainian energy company Burisma. Earlier probes found no evidence of wrongdoing by the Bidens.
  • False claims that the Democratic National Committee conspired with Ukrainians to interfere with the 2016 US presidential election. Vladimir Putin promotes that right-wing conspiracy theory because it contradicts the unanimous conclusion of the US intelligence community that Putin directed what special counsel Robert Mueller called a “sweeping and systematic” attack to help Trump win.

#2: Who were Trump’s henchmen?

Rudy Giuliani was the point person for The Shakedown. His influence became apparent when he orchestrated the ouster of the US ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch.

  • Since mid-2018, Giuliani’s recently indicted associates — Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman — had been targeting Yovanovitch in an effort to facilitate their own corrupt deal involving a Ukrainian oil company.
  • In 2019, then-general prosecutor Yuriy Lutsenko, who had vowed revenge against Yovanovitch for her outspoken anti-corruption view, provided Giuliani with false information about her so that he would spread it.
  • Operating as Trump’s personal attorney, Giuliani carried out a “campaign of lies” culminating in Yovanovitch’s May 2019 dismissal. Trump specifically disparaged her in his July 25 call with Ukraine’s newly elected president, Volodymyr Zelensky.

On Nov. 13, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent will testify about this episode publicly. Yovanovitch will testify on Nov. 15.

Although not involved in the Yovanovitch episode, two more key players in The Shakedown were acting chief of staff and OMB Director Mick Mulvaney and US Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland. We turn to them next.

#3: What was Trump’s leverage?

For years, bipartisan support for Ukraine — a former Soviet satellite — has been a matter of US national security.

  • After Zelensky defeated Ukraine’s incumbent president Petro Poroshenko on April 21, 2019, he wanted a personal visit with Trump. A public display of support from America’s president was an essential element in the fledgling democracy’s survival against Russian aggression.
  • Trump also controlled the disbursement of almost $400 million in vital military aid that Congress had authorized to help fund Ukraine’s defense in its five-year war with Russia.

#4: How did The Shakedown unfold?

  • While Giuliani and Sondland pushed for Trump’s desired investigations, Trump delayed the personal meeting that Zelensky desperately sought.
  • By July 3: Trump ordered Mulvaney to place a hold on US military aid to Ukraine. The Defense Department later determined that providing the funds was in America’s national security interests and that the hold was illegal.
  • July 25: Trump told Zelensky that he wanted the investigations: “[T]he United States has been very, very good to Ukraine. I wouldn’t say that it’s reciprocal necessarily because things are happening that are not good but the United States has been very, very good to Ukraine… I would like you to do us a favor though…” Career diplomats listening to the call were alarmed and went to a White House lawyer who buried the transcript in a secret server.
  • July-September: Giuliani and Sondland kept the heat on Zelensky. But in late August, word of Trump’s hold became public and Congress was in an uproar. Still uncertain of the outcome and desperately needing the US aid, Zelensky planned a Sept. 13 appearance on CNN to announce the investigations that Trump demanded.
  • Sept. 9: The inspector general for the US intelligence community informed Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) that a whistleblower had filed an “urgent” and “credible” complaint relating to intelligence activity.
  • Sept. 10: Schiff demanded that the acting CIA director provide a copy of the whistleblower complaint.
  • Sept. 11: Trump released the hold and Zelensky cancelled his scheduled CNN appearance.

Trump’s July 25 call is a single scene in The Shakedown. On Nov. 13, acting Ambassador William Taylor will testify publicly to its surrounding context. So will Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent.

#5: What’s The Cover-Up?

On Sept. 25, Trump released the White House summary memorandum of his July 25 call with Zelensky. When the problems it created for him became apparent, Trump began a pattern of obstruction that continues.

  • Sept. 26-Present: Trump attacked the whistleblower — and didn’t stop.
  • Oct. 1: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo defied a congressional subpoena for documents and rejected the House’s request for testimony from five present or former State Department employees, including Yovanovitch, Kent, and Sondland.
  • Oct. 8: Trump’s White House counsel announced that Trump and his administration would not participate in the House impeachment inquiry. No documents, no witnesses, nothing.
  • Oct. 8 through Nov. 8: Several present and former officials defied Trump’s edict and confirmed every claim in the whistleblower’s complaint. Trump resorted to witness intimidation and character assassination.

#6: Is Trump’s conduct impeachable?

The US Constitution specifies the standard for impeachment: “Treason, Bribery, or other High Crimes and Misdemeanors.” That includes these crimes:

  • The Shakedown involved both sides of the same legal coin: bribery (“if you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours”) and extortion (“if you don’t scratch my back, I’ll break yours”). The Shakedown failed only because the whistleblower’s complaint surfaced and Trump was caught red-handed. Patriotic citizens then ignored his directive to stonewall. But even if Zelensky had refused to comply, Trump’s attempt alone is a crime.
  • The Cover-Up is obstruction of Congress’ effort to investigate The Shakedown.
  • Potential campaign finance law violations for soliciting contributions from foreign nationals also lurk in the background.

But proof of criminal conduct is not a prerequisite to impeachment because the President is held to a higher standard. For example, the House Judiciary Committee approved articles of impeachment against Richard Nixon for “violation of his constitutional oath faithfully to execute the office of President of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

Initially, Trump said his July 25, 2019 call with Zelensky was “perfect.” Now he wants it all to go away.

  • Oct. 24: Trump and his GOP defenders attacked what they called a “secret” House impeachment hearing process, even though Republican members of Congress had participated actively in those hearings.
  • Nov. 8: After the House voted to hold public hearings, Trump said those hearings shouldn’t happen.

Without facts to support any substantive defense, congressional Republicans are now testing two arguments. One throws Giuliani, Mulvaney, and Sondland under the bus as rogue players in The Shakedown. It won’t fly.

The other GOP position admits that what Trump did was wrong, but not illegal or impeachable. Eventually, only the “not impeachable” piece will survive. But if Trump’s conduct isn’t impeachable, what is?

TRUMP’S STONE WALL CONTINUES TO CRUMBLE: TRUMP-RUSSIA TIMELINE UPDATE THROUGH NOV. 4, 2019

The truth is making its way to the public. Trump’s own words in his July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky remain the most damaging evidence in the case against him. Beginning tomorrow, eyewitnesses will begin providing the context surrounding Trump’s misconduct. That context — both before and after — makes the call even more damning.

My next post will be “Shakedown and Cover-Up: A Guide to the Impeachment Hearings.” It will be available later today.

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

JULY 2018: Trump Wants Yovanovitch Relieved in Ukraine

REVISED: NOV. 25, 2018: Russia Captures Ukrainian Naval Vessels in Black Sea; EU Issues Immediate Condemnation; Trump Equivocates

REVISED: APR. 21, 2019: Zelensky Wins Ukraine Presidential Election; Trump Urges Him to Work With Giuliani on ‘Corruption’

APR. 24-25, 2019: Yovanovitch Summoned to Return to Washington ‘On The Next Plane’; State Dept. No Longer Able to ‘Protect’ Her

WEEK OF MAY 20, 2019: White House Learns That Ukraine is Concerned About Pressure From Giuliani

REVISED: JULY 10-11, 2019: Sondland’s Meeting With Ukrainian Officials Raises Concerns; Hill and Vindman Report Incident to WH Lawyer Eisenberg

REVISED: PRIOR TO JULY 18, 2019: Trump Orders Hold on Previously Authorized Military Aid to Ukraine; Pentagon Says Hold is Illegal

REVISED: JULY 18, 2019: Taylor, Volker, and Others Learn About Hold on US Assistance to Ukraine and That the Directive Comes From Trump

REVISED: JULY 25, 2019: Trump Calls Zelensky

JULY 25, 2019: Vindman and Morrison Notify Eisenberg About Concerns With Trump-Zelensky Call

REVISED: DURING THE WEEK OF JULY 29: Intelligence Official Expresses Concern About Trump’s July 25 Call to CIA General Counsel; White House Already Aware of Concerns

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

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

REVISED: SEPT. 30, 2019: Trump and Barr Pressing Foreign Leaders For Help

REVISED: SEPT. 30, 2019: Pompeo Senior Adviser McKinley Resigns

OCTOBER 2019: Ukraine Begins Overhauling Prosecutor’s Office

OCT. 16, 2019: McKinley Testifies 

OCT. 29, 2019: Vindman Testifies to Quid Pro Quo, Omissions in WH Summary Memo of July 25 Call

OCT. 29, 2019: House Votes to Sanction Turkey

OCT. 30, 2019: Sullivan Says White House Counsel is Directing Stonewalling

OCT. 30, 2019: Anderson Testifies

OCT. 30, 2019: Croft Testifies

OCT. 30: Republicans Pivot to New Talking Point: Quid Pro Quo Was Legal

OCT. 31, 2019: House Passes Impeachment Resolution

OCT. 31, 2019: Morrison Testifies

NOV. 3, 2019: Trump Threatens to Release Info on Vindman

NOV. 4, 2019: Eisenberg Defies House Subpoena