Impeachment Trial in the Senate

By the end of next week, the Articles of Impeachment will be approved and sent to the Senate.  The trial of impeachment in the Senate will likely be confined to two to three weeks  in January 2020.   It will be run by Republicans and made to help Donald Trump.   In fact, at times, it may seem an impeachment trial is  a honorable exercise, to undo the damage from the House of Representatives.   It is a foregone conclusion that Trump will be acquitted of two articles against the him.  The voting in the Senate will be nearly entirely along party lines – meaning Trump will be acquitted.   I am 100% certain of this.

After the acquittal vote, there will be a moment of party unity among  Republicans.   Their speeches will be similar,  using such phrases as “totally exonerated” and “proved to all that the charges were baseless.”   They will in the process vilify Rep. Adam Schiff, Jerry Nadler and Nancy Pelosi and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.    The Democrats acted deplorably and despicably.  The only reason for the impeachment was because they knew none of their candidates could beat him in November.   At least that will be the spiel – are we that naive?

There is intense discussion right now among Republicans on how to make the trial in the Senate one of “vindication and exoneration.”   Trump sees this as a time to glorify the achievements of the Republican party and vilify the Democrats.  It is as if you went to a ball game, and one team could pick the umpire.    This is free time on television, so why not?  I won’t watch much.

For me, it will be a sad day.  It will say to all future presidents that as long as you hold the majority in the Senate, then Article 2 of the Constitution doesn’t really apply.   I agree the bar for impeachment must be high.  The evidence must be solid.  The conduct of the president must clearly show he committed “high crimes and misdemeanors.”  Each of the Articles has been proven:  I.  Trump approved military aid for Ukraine conditional on announcements of two investigations to help him win elections and II.  He obstructed justice by refusing to let key witnesses testify at the impeachment inquiry.

Obviously, Trump has the authority to veto military assistance.   He also could have made an announcement, that he would attach conditions to the aid.    He did neither of these.  Instead, he had his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani and Ambassador Gordon Sondland to set up the “announcements” which would help support false accusations against Joe Biden.

It will be a sad day for the idea of elections free of outside interference.  It will be a sad day for the role of Congress to investigate wrong doing by the president, because the subpoenas now don’t mean much.  Trump and Republicans can celebrate his “exoneration” but he will forever be remembered in the history books, as the fourth president to be impeached by Congress.

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

Articles of Impeachment

The Articles of Impeachment as a pdf document can be open and saved in the link shown below.  It’s only 9 pages.   Many have commented on the narrow focus of the articles is likely  to keep them simple for the public to understand.  I agree but  I suspect there are other reasons.  Due to the Republican majority in the Senate, it is a foregone conclusion that  Senate will vote to acquit the President on all charges.   It’s just the way a political trial goes. If there had been more articles, there would have been more acquittals.  The Senate vote will be a sad day, as Donald Trump will be celebrating his victory over the “Dems”  as broadcasted over Fox News,  it will reinforce the idea that all this was one big “witch hunt.”  The vote will just political, as the evidence makes a powerful case for Trump to be found guilty.

The inquiry proceeded rapidly.  Adam Schiff made a good point, that to work through the courts to compel appearances by the witnesses and production of documents would likely have given Donald Trump an extra year to continue the abuse of power.    A second reason is political.  Democratic candidates such as Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders need to be free to campaign and not held captive to impeachment proceedings.   Donald Trump had started with big rallies in the swing states, such as Florida,  while Democrats are focused on the primary races.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

articles of impeachment

Who is telling the truth in the impeachment hearings

Politicians lie.  They all do it.  But they also get caught doing it.  That’s the purpose of fact checking organizations.  Trump supporters have a lot to explain, and their defense of Trump includes a lot that is just not true.  I encourage my followers to fact check what they read here, and it really isn’t hard. Also, “main stream media” such as CNN and the print media, including  the New York Times and Washington Post are very reliable sources of information.  The House Intelligence Committee puts an incredible amount of raw information,  i.e. transcripts of testimony and documents on their website.  It is hard to keep up with all of this, but it is out there.

It is very consistent for Trump to launch a counter offensive attack on impeachment, by supporting and often retweeting  statements by Republican senators, which are without foundation, when his actions are indefensible.

Here is a short list of statements  which are absolute rubbish:

Question 1: Did President Barack Obama immediately fire all Bush-appointed ambassadors “the day he was elected office”?

FALSE

As is the custom, Obama immediately replaced most — not all — of Bush’s politically appointed ambassadors. Obama did not remove any of the career appointees to ambassadorships.

Sources:  Factcheck.org and politifact.com

Question arises because Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch was recalled after a smear campaign was launch against her by people close to Donald Trump, including Rudy Giuliani and Representative Pete Sessions.  There is a lot more to this story, but Trump got caught before he could put a political appointee into the Ambassador position.

Question 2:   Is it true that several news organizations reported that Ukraine meddled in the 2016 election. Senator Kennedy states, “It’s been well documented in the Financial Times, in Politico, in The Economist, in the Washington Examiner, even on CBS, that the prime minister of Ukraine, the interior minister, the Ukrainian ambassador to the United States, the head of the Ukrainian Anti-Corruption League, all meddled in the election on social media and otherwise,”

A:   From Politifact.com:

FALSE

We found that these articles paint a picture of Ukrainian leaders fearful of Russia and of Trump’s comments that took a more conciliatory stance on Russian aggression. The news coverage shows Ukrainians preferred Hillary Clinton because she was tough on Russia. However, the articles don’t show a vast, top-down approach ordered to boost Clinton.

Kennedy mentioned The Economist multiple times. The Economist’s U.S. editor John Prideaux told us: “We are a bit puzzled by Sen. Kennedy citing us to the effect that Ukraine meddled in the 2016 elections.”

Republicans frequently mention a 2017 Politico article, which focused on the work of a Democratic political contractor who tried to dig up dirt on Trump and his advisers. We vetted it and found that the GOP has used its findings selectively.

Question 3:  Is Sen. John Kennedy similar accusation true?  The Senator says former Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko “actively worked for Secretary Clinton.

FALSE

Answer by Politifact.com – see link.

His sources are  completely lacking.   It didn’t get the “Pants on Fire” designation, but it should.

Question 4:  What about the 2017 Politico story that shows the Sen. Kennedy statements are true?

FALSE

A:  “The article did not state that the Ukrainian government conspired with the Clinton campaign or the DNC,” said Melissa Cooke, a booking manager for Politico, in an email. “It also emphasized that the acts of Ukrainian officials to raise questions about Trump were not comparable to Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, and reported that the then-Ukrainian government was trying to make amends with then-President-elect Trump.”

Senator John Kennedy is a Republican from Louisiana.

Question 5: Is Trump’s statement true: “They never thought, Dan, that I was going to release that call, and I really had no choice because Adam Schiff made up a call,” Trump said Nov. 15. “He said the president said this, and then he made up a call.”

FALSE 

Trump has repeated this statement numerous times.  Schiff already had the released memo, and was just giving a “dramatized synopsis” of key points.  See link.

—-

I’m stopping at 5 false statements for now.  For more false statements,  please follow this link to politifact.org   (Fact-checking Impeachment Claims) .    One of the few true claims came surprisingly from Fox News, and their legal analyst who stated it is perfectly legal to have witnesses testify in private.  I’ve included this link at the end.

There will be an enormous number of false statements, coming from Rep. Jim Jordan,  Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Attorney diGenova and his wife, Victoria Toensing (see link below), Sen. John Kennedy from Louisiana, and of course, Donald Trump.  I encourage everyone to check out these links and dig in more to get the truth.  It doesn’t come from Facebook or Twitter, that’s for sure.

In the coming few weeks, the false statements will increase.   Republicans know when the impeachment goes to the Senate, they have the votes to acquit Trump.   It is highly likely they will not only acquit him, but cast the Democrats as the true villains,  is concocting false evidence against Trump, because they can’t  deal with their loss in 2016 or because they can’t  win the election

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

Sen.  Kennedy claims that Ukrainian President Poroshenko actively worked for Clinton is False

What we know about the Politico story at the heart of a Ukraine conspiracy theory

Did Obama Fire All Bush-Appointed Ambassadors?

Donald Trump gets Ukraine phone memo timeline backwards

Exclusive: Giuliani Ally Pete Sessions Was Eyed for Top Slot in Ukraine

Fox News analyst correct: Impeachment inquiry is following rules by questioning witnesses in private

Other Fact checking resources:

AP FACT CHECK: Trump and the people he forgets he knew

Politifact.com

Republicans Cherry-Pick Facts on Impeachment

Factcheck.org

Trump + Trade

I just thought the link below really said everything.  Trade is one area which Trump has nearly complete control.  Except every time he slaps on a tariff against a country, they retaliate with tariffs on the US.   It is a “lose-lose” policy as the tariffs are passed through to the consumer.    Nothing positive ever seems to emerge from Trump’s actions.  He has threaten Brazil and Argentina with tariffs, because their currencies are weak. A lot of this is not particularly rational.

Trump was handed a reasonable and rational approach to China’s violation of trade agreements.  It was called the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement.    But, it unified  our Asian, Canadian  and South American  trading partners to  force compliance of fair trade with China.   But it was long and complex,  It was also negotiated by President Obama.   So, the US withdrew from the agreement.

Withdrawing from international agreements, and going it alone, may look like it’s putting US interest first.  Actually, it puts us last.    We’ve lost our leadership role in the UN, NATO and the Paris Accords on Climate Change.  Because Trump wants all the glory, all he can do is eliminate regulations and agreements.   And disrupt free trade with tariffs.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Link

Trade is the one area Trump has complete control

 

 

What Trump wanted

Sondland testified:

“He [Zelenskiy]  had to announce the investigations. He didn’t actually have to do them, as I understood it.”

That’s really huge admission.

Dr. Pamela Karlan, the Stanford law professor testifying today, got it so perfectly right, what Sondland’s statement implied.  It was a smear campaign, not for the FBI or the Department of Justice, but for commentators on Fox news and Trump campaign rallies.   Those dealing in alt-right sleaze conspiracies were all primed and ready to go.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

CNN (Nov 21, 2019) The huge Gordon Sondland revelation almost everyone missed

Kudos to Chris Cillizza of CNN.

 

More on the Sondland call that may not exist

I was glad that the House Intel Committee also raised doubts on the existence of a  second September call between Sondland and the President.    In their December 3, 2019 report, it is stated:

“A call on September 9, which would have occurred in the middle of the night, is at odds with the weight of the evidence and not backed up by any records the White House was willing to provide Ambassador Sondland.”

Just heard CNN saying the same thing .  News travels fast!

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

 

 

Ukraine Scandal – the call that perhaps never occurred

Nov 27 (Washington Post):

“This is Ambassador Sondland speaking to me,” Trump said outside the White House last week, looking down to read notes he’d taken of Sondland’s testimony. “Here’s my response that he just gave: ‘I want nothing. . . . I want nothing. I want no quid pro quo.’ ”

Seems Trump feels  his defense is ironclad, because it is based on the sworn testimony of Ambassador Sondland.  If the Democrats are going to accept everything else that Sondland testified to, as the truth and was incriminating, then it stands to reason that they have to accept his recollection of this phone call.

I don’t agree that everything that came from Sondland was the truth.  The other phone calls could  be corroborated.   This “September 9 call” is suspicious and  I think evidence is mounting that the call did not occur.    The White House could immediately dispel this idea, as they have the phone records.  The State Department has Sondland records and will not provide them to Sondland.  Note Sondland is still the Ambassador to EU.

The Republicans on the House Intel Committee kept after Ambassador Sondland to be more detailed on the “no quid pro quo” call.  Sondland said that because the State Department would not allow him access to his records and he wasn’t much of a note taker, he could not be sure of the details.

It is very possible that the Sept 6 to 9 time period, just one phone call was made to Trump.  In this phone call, he stated that there was “no quid pro quo” but then said what was specifically required to release the aid.   An announcement by the Chief Prosecutor was not enough.   It had to be from Zelenskiy.  I think in Trump’s mind, he was on the winning side.  The worse the fighting was with the Ukraine, the more likely that he would comply with Trump’s demands.

Unlike Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump doesn’t email.  I think by using 3 amigos (Kurt Volker, Gordon Sondland and Rick Perry) as plus  Rudy Giuliani, to the Ukraine, Trump thought he could by-pass normal Foreign Service protocol.  Of course, it meant getting rid of our US Ambassador to Ukraine, Maria Yovanovitch, because she had three undesirable qualities:  honesty, intelligence and experience, and wasn’t going to be a good fit in the dirt seeking political  missions of Donald Trump, helping him get re-elected.  See CNN link.

The links below are very compelling.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Link:

Just Security:  Here’s the Proof that the Quid Pro Quo call never occurred

Washington Post Witness testimony and records raise questions about account of Trump’s ‘no quid pro quo’ call

CNN  Opinion (Nov 17)  What Rudy and ‘Three Amigos’ were up to

Ambassador Sondland – Appeasing the boss

I listened to Ambassador Gordon Sondland and found him very straight forward, honest and sincere.  He confirmed his cell phone call to  Trump on July 26, 2019, while having lunch in a restaurant in Ukraine.  His testimony highlighted he understood how Trump operated – as the call was very short and to the point.  It was an all good news for Trump as he let Trump know that the Ukraine President would do anything Trump asked.   But there was more to Soldland’s “special assignments” with the Stockholm brawl.   This probably flew under the radar, except for those in the hip-hop world.   See CNN link.

Sondland was the founder and CEO of Provenance Hotel chains, which owns 19 hotels across the US.  He was many ways, like Trump, because his company  created distinct and classy hotels,  13 of which  received reader-choice awards from Conde Nast.  He is a very generous man,  Sondland made contributions to the Oregon community, including a $1 million endowment to the Portland Art Museum, where he served as its chairman from 2009 to 2011, to allow free admission for children. He had limited governmental work before Donald Trump nominated him as Ambassador to the EU.  He was nominated by Trump and confirmed as Ambassador in  July 2018.  See links below.

Since Ukraine is not part of the EU normally Ambassador Sondland would not be involved in US foreign relations with this country.  “President Trump has not only honored me with the job of being the US ambassador to the EU, but he’s also given me other special assignments, including Ukraine,” he told a Ukraine media outlet in July (see CNN link).

The impeachment inquiry heard testimony from Ambassador Sondland and David Holmes.  David Holmes is serving as Counselor for Political Affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine.  He testified at the House Intel Committee on November 21.   Holmes testimony pretty much confirmed what others were saying – that Trump was looking for political dirt on the Biden’s and the 2016 election.

Adam Schiff was laser focused on the Ukraine scandal and Holmes testimony was critical, as he overheard Trump on Sondland’s cell phone.    Sondland contributed one million dollars to Trump’s Inauguration – not to his campaign.    Smart business man to wait until there is a victor before making a contribution.

Trump doesn’t give a shit about the Ukraine, just winning the election

Trump figured Ambassador Sondland to the EU would be his “go to” man.  (The Atlantic Monthy agrees with me and the link is shown at the bottom).    However, Sondland loyalty did not extend to ignoring a subpoena or pleading the Fifth in front of the committee.   Ambassador  Sondland called Trump on July 26, a day after Trump’s call to Zelensky.  As reported by CBS News (link is provided at bottom with transcript of the David Holmes  testimony):

Holmes said he was sitting near Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, at a restaurant in Kiev and could hear him speaking to Mr. Trump, who said, “So, he’s gonna do the investigation?” referring to Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky. Holmes testified that Sondland replied, “He’s gonna do it” and added that Zelensky would do “anything you ask him to.”

Holmes testified that the call was also unusual because such a call with the president would generally take place in a more secure setting, not on a cell phone. He noted that at least two of the three mobile networks in Ukraine are owned by Russian companies, and the U.S. generally assumes mobile communications in Ukraine are being monitored.

This followed by a comment by Sondland that Trump doesn’t give a shit about Ukraine, just winning the election.

Stockholm Street Brawl: the bizarre  saga of Mr. Rakim Mayers enters the impeachment inquiry

But the overheard conversation  delved into some really critical international crisis,  the infamous  Stockholm street brawl.  (Yes, I am being facetious!).

The quick summary:  A rapper from the US by the name of A$AP Rocky (Rakim Mayers) and 3 of his group  got into an altercation as they were walking on the street in Sweden on June 30,  2019.  Mayers’s group is on a hot streak and were in the middle of a European concert tour.    Mayers was arrested by authorities, totally messing up his European tour.    Mayers’ lawyer said he  acted only in self defense.  (see link).  Almost immediately,  this street brawl went viral, with hashtag #JusticeforRocky with various clips of the fight on network station TMZ.  In court,  Mayers was accused of assault against  Jafari  Mustafa who was beaten, kicked, and cut with broken bottles and taken to the hospital.   Mayers plead innocent and lost in  court  The court ruled, based on the injuries that this wasn’t self defense.    Mayers got off very lightly with a fine of $1,270, served no additional  jail time and could go home.

And you have to be thinking, how could this Stockholm street brawl possibly get to the level of the President of the US and Ambassador to the EU, when he was on a special assignment to the Ukraine (helping Trump dig up dirt on the Bidens).  And then into testimony in the House Impeachment inquiry.

From June 30 to late July, 2019,    things really snowballed.   Trump on July 19 said First Lady Melania Trump first brought Rocky’s detention to his attention. At the time, he said: “Many, many members of the African-American community have called me, friends of mine, and said, ‘Could you help?’ So I personally don’t know A$AP Rocky, but I can tell you he has a lot of support from the African-American community in this country. And when I say African-American, I can really say from everybody in this country, because we are all one.”  Kanya West and Kim Kardashian husband  got involved.   Mayers family contacted Al Sharpton, obviously to turn up the heat.  Congressman Adriano Espillant was a Democrat from Mayers district, so he contacted the State Department, which in turn contacted the Embassy in Sweden.   This is pretty routine if an American is in jail for some time in a foreign country,  particularly if it is a hostile country,  just to get the basic facts.  But, my God this is Stockholm, where the justice system is just fine.   Contrary to reports, Mayers was doing just fine in jail.

Being this story was all over the Internet and TMZ, the entertainment network,  Trump sent his Presidential Envoy for Hostage Negotiations, Robert O’Brien to Stockholm.  There wasn’t really much to do, as the  On top of that, Sweden was warned that there would be serious consequences if Mayers was not released.

— Sondland:  Play the race card

Now back to what happened on July 26 as David Holmes recounted his lunch with Sondland.   David Holmes testified at the impeachment inquiry that Sondland told Trump that Rocky “should have plead guilty.”  Sondland then told Trump that Sweden “should have released him on your word” and advised him to “let [Rocky] get sentenced, play the racism card, give him a ticker-tape when he comes home.”

Note this is Amb. Sondland talking.   We don’t know what Trump said.  It is Sondland first stroking Trump’s ego by telling him that Sweden should have upended their legal system for Trump, letting the 6 million dollar man go (it would be also illegal).  Then he tells Trump, he could still come out the hero against the obvious Swedish racism, winning votes at home after the trial.  Six million dollars Mayers, with a $1200 fine and no jail time for being found guilty of assault, doesn’t get a ticker tape parade.

I think what Trump saw in Gordon Sondland someone who understood marketing.  Everything done to make the President Trump look good.  What happen to Mayers wasn’t important, it was the perception of power and  Trump could bully world leaders. In this case, to free Mayers would require the Prime Minister of Sweden to violate their laws of non-interference.

Links:

Wikipedia Gordon Sondland

CNN: Gordon Sondland, hotelier turned diplomat, wasn’t always a Trump supporter

Wikipedia:  ASAP Rocky

Atlantic Monthly: As the Rich Get Richer, the Ambassadors Get Worse

Atlantic Monthly Gordon Sondland’s Damning—But Delayed—Testimony

Swedish PM warns Trump rapper ASAP Rocky won’t get special treatment

CNN: Trump blasts Sweden PM over ASAP Rocky

Daily Show (pretty funny) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MjVUgIaSQdE

 

 

Hunter Biden

Donald Trump, Rudy Giuliani and likely Mike Mulvaney were out to smear Joe Biden, because he looked like the most likely Democratic candidate in 2020.  In the process, they would have to smear his son, Hunter Biden.  Trump didn’t care about the truth.    There were enough bits of truth  where falsehoods could be inserted.  Giuliani and Mulvaney just did what the President wanted.   There was a lot of collateral damage, including the firing of Ambassador Yovanovitch.     Burisma was code for the Bidens.

The Republicans wanted Hunter Biden to testify at the impeachment inquiry in order to create a false narrative  that the good mayor of NYC, Rudy  Giuliani  was so concerned about the Ukrainian company, Burisma, and prior connection with Hunter Biden, that he flew to Ukraine to launch his own investigation and uncover the truth.  The truth of the matter is   Giuliani went to Ukraine for two reasons – as Trump’s personal lawyer to help Trump win 2020 by creating a scandal built on lies , and to make himself rich (really richer) dealing with corrupt politicians in Ukraine and two con artists posing as investors with a made up company, called Global Energy Partners.

What was revealed in the inquiry, was that after the Ukrainian revolution, corruption was widespread, and the US and other countries grew concern that at the very top of government, Chief Prosecutor Viktor Shokin, would do nothing  to investigate corruption including the natural gas company, Burisma.  Typically, when faced with illegal actions, corrupt officials seen a chance to get a piece of the action.    I have included the biographical summaries of Viktor Shokin and others.  .

Here’s the complete story as summarized by Wikipedia:

In the aftermath of the 2014 Ukrainian revolution, Mykola Zlochevsky faced a money laundering investigation,[27][28] and his company Burisma Holdings, the largest natural gas producer in Ukraine,[8] assembled a “high-profile international board” in response.[29][28] Biden, then an attorney with Boies Schiller Flexner, was hired to help Burisma with corporate governance best practices, and a consulting firm in which Biden is a partner was also retained by Burisma.[30][31][32] Chris Heinz, John Kerry’s stepson, opposed his partners Devon Archer and Hunter Biden joining the board in 2014 due to the reputational risk.[28] Among those who joined the board of directors in April 2014 were Biden, Archer and former Polish president Aleksander Kwaśniewski.[33] Biden served on the board of Burisma until his term expired in April 2019,[34] receiving compensation of up to $50,000 per month in some months.[15][35][36] Because Vice President Biden played a major role in U.S. policy towards Ukraine, some Ukrainian anti-corruption advocates[37][38] and Obama administration officials expressed concern that Hunter Biden’s having joined the board could create the appearance of a conflict of interest and undermine Vice President Biden’s anti-corruption work in Ukraine.[8][28] While serving as vice president, Joe Biden joined other Western leaders in encouraging the government of Ukraine to fire the country’s top prosecutor, Viktor Shokin,[39][40] who was widely criticized for blocking corruption investigations.[41][42] The Ukrainian parliament voted to remove Shokin in March 2016.[43][44]

In 2019, President Donald Trump and his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, claimed that Vice President Biden had actually sought the dismissal of Shokin in order to protect his son and Burisma Holdings,[45][37] however, there is no evidence that this was what happened.[39][46] There has also been no evidence produced of wrongdoing done by Hunter Biden in Ukraine.[47] The Ukrainian anti-corruption investigation agency stated in September 2019 that the current investigation of Burisma was restricted solely to investigating the period of 2010 to 2012, before Hunter Biden joined Burisma in 2014.[48] Shokin in May 2019 claimed that he was fired because he had been actively investigating Burisma,[49] but U.S. and Ukrainian officials have stated that the investigation into Burisma was dormant at the time of Shokin’s dismissal.[28][49][50] Ukrainian and United States State Department sources have maintained that Shokin was fired for failing to address corruption, including within his office.[46][38][51]

As usual,  Wikipedia backs up it facts with several references, which can be found online.

The Board of Directors do not run a company.  It is very commonplace to select outside directors to help establish the legitimacy of a company. A former Burisma board member, ex Polish President Kwasniewsky,  has stated that Hunter Biden was on the board of Burisma because of his name.   See link below.  I usually don’t quote from Fox News, but this article comes from a first hand account of Hunter Biden, and directly contradicts the Trump- Giuliani narrative.

It seems Hunter Biden and Joe Biden were part of the solution, not the problem with Burisma.   According to Wikipedia:  “Ukrainian prosecutor general Yuriy Lutsenko said in May 2019 that Hunter Biden had not violated Ukrainian law. After Lutsenko was replaced by Ruslan Ryaboshapka as prosecutor general, Lutsenko and Ryaboshapka said in September and October 2019 respectively that they had seen no evidence of wrongdoing by Hunter Biden.[39][58][59]”  According to the testimony at the impeachment inquiry,  the IMF and others in the European community were glad when VP Biden demanded the firing of Viktor Shokin, so anti-corruption prosecutions could go forward.

The Republicans would love to put Hunter Biden  in the spotlight because he has abused drugs and alcohol in the past by his own admission.   He was divorced in 2016, and Republicans would have a field day with his ex-wife’s accusations, as reported in Refinery29:  “In 2016, Hunter’s wife Kathleen Biden filed for divorce, stating in the motion filed a year later that Hunter “created financial concerns for the family by spending extravagantly on his own interests (including drugs, alcohol, prostitutes, strip clubs, and gifts for women with whom he has sexual relations), while leaving the family with no funds to pay legitimate bills.” After the divorce, he went on to date his late brother’s widowed wife, Hallie Biden.”   Pretty juicy stuff.  Republicans would also love to focus on Hunter Biden’s dismissal from the Naval Reserves because he tested positive for cocaine.

So:  Republican talking points would be a long one,  really coming down hard  on Hunter Biden’s past personal problems.   Somehow, this made the dirt collecting mission of Giuliani permissible.   Trump continues his attacks on Hunter Biden.

None of these problems seem to affect his legal and business consulting career.  Today, he is re-married and by all appearances, is doing well.  See links below.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

Wikipedia: Hunter Biden 

Wikipedia:  Viktor Shokin

Refinery29:  Hunter Biden Opens Up About Struggles With Addiction

Why Giuliani Singled Out 2 Ukrainian Oligarchs to Help Look for Dirt

AP/ Fox Business News:  Hunter Biden hired because of his name: Burisma board member

Nice to see Fox Business News doing some news reporting!

USA Today: Trump’s conspiracy theories thrive in Ukraine, where a young democracy battles corruption and distrust

And there’s tons more:   Wikipedia: Dmytro Firtas    

(Conspiracy advocates, take a look at the names,  William Barr,  Victoria Toensing, Joseph diGenova,  Rudy Giuliani,  Dmytro Firtas accused of bribery).  Money doesn’t talk, it swears (Bob Dylan).

Wikipedia:  ” As vice president, Joe Biden had urged the Ukrainian government to eliminate middlemen such as Firtash from the country’s natural gas industry, and to reduce the country’s reliance on imports of Russian natural gas. Firtash denied involvement in collecting or financing damaging information on the Bidens.[86]”

The bigger scandal is how Putin worked with the corrupt oligarchs in Ukraine.

Investigation #1 – 2016 elections interference

I’ll admit this – the narrative of the two investigations in return for aid money gets long and complicated, due to the many official involved and various meetings and encounters.   And as in any organization, there were a lot of short hand expressions, such as “2016 elections” which needs some explanation. So, here is how Trump laid it all out:

Trump began, “A lot of it had to do, they say, with Ukraine. They have the server, right? From the DNC — Democratic National Committee. The FBI went in and they told them ‘get out of here, you’re not getting it, we’re not giving it to you.’”

He continued, “They gave the server to CrowdStrike, or whatever it’s called, which is a company owned by a very wealthy Ukrainian. And I still want to see that server. You know the FBI has never gotten that server, that’s a big part of this whole thing. Why did they give it to a Ukrainian company?”

When Doocy asked Trump “Are you sure they did that? Are you sure they gave it to Ukraine?”, the president seemed to wobble, saying “Well, that’s what the word is.”

It’s is very wrong on a whole series of levels.   It begins with a huge lie.  One of the founder of Crowdstrike, is Dmitri Alperovitch, is  a Russian-American who has lived in the US since 1994 with no connections to the Ukraine.  The other two co-founders are George Kurtz and Gregg Morrison and are as American as apple pie.   I felt a bit silly looking up where each of the co-founders were born.  So the narrative begins with a “Pants on fire” lie.   When a computer gets hacked, the signs of the hack can be pretty subtle and not discovered for months.  A small piece of code, had been inserted into the server, which facilitated unauthorized  access to critical files.  There is no need to physically remove the server and dust for fingerprints.

The  Democratic National Committee (DNC) called Crowdstrike,  to determine if, in fact, the security had been breached and information stolen.    The top priority  is to remove any unauthorized code on the system to prevent future access. A secondary objective would be to figure out the origins of the code.   The code in this case, has been identified as

Now, there is a badly misconstrued morsel of truth, in what Trump is saying.    The DNC did decline an odd request by the FBI to allow the illegal access to continue, in order to get more evidence on the hacker activities.  I think this was very reasonable given the elections were 5 months away and a miserable time to conduct a sting operation.  From the Daily Beast website:

The DNC turned down one unusual FBI request early in the hack investigation. The bureau wanted access to the DNC’s network while the Russians were still in it, most likely to stage a counter operation against the GRU. The DNC declined, perhaps reluctant to have two intelligence agencies playing capture-the-flag in their systems five months before a presidential election. The DNC later authorized Crowdstrike to share full copies of the hacked servers with the bureau, giving the FBI access to the same evidence Crowdstrike had.

The GRU is the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Russian military.  The full copies of the server would generally be referred to as “cloned copies”  allowing the forensic experts to examine an exact copy of the operating system at the time the copy was made.  Crowdstrike turned over all  copies of the servers it made and all analysis to the FBI, who reached the same conclusion that the hack came from Russia.   Other organizations made the same conclusion.     Robert Mueller secured Grand Jury indictments on 12 GRU agents responsible for interference in US elections, including hacking.

But just for grins, let’s follow the Trump’s crazy story.   The FBI comes knocking on the door demanding the DNC  turn over the server.  Instead of complying with the FBI,  the IT guys at the DNC call Crowdstrike,  which takes physical possession of  the server  and puts it on a plane to the Ukraine.  I guess they do this in the dead of night, so nobody sees them pulling out all the equipment.  (fails the laugh test).      Now, Ukraine has total access to all the Democratic emails, by way of Crowdstrike operating under the orders of the DNC and they subsequently  leak them to Wikileaks.  We know that the FBI and others involved in computer forensics got the cloned copy of the server and concluded that this hack was done by the Russians.   So it follows that Crowdstrike would have to alter the cloned copy, inserting a false Russian code,  and putting their growing billion dollar company at risk.  Also, after removing the server,  Crowdstrike had to install an exact duplicate server, also in the dead of night, so nobody would notice the equipment is missing.   These systems work 24/7, with all kinds of security checks and backups.

So, is there anyone besides Trump  promoting this stuff?   Yes.  Vladimir Putin for one, who early on pointed the finger at the Ukraine, after the usual denials.  Similarly, he denied the assassination attempt in 2018,  on Sergei and Yulia Skripal.    There are three other individuals as far as I can tell.  Two other conspiracy have been convicted for lying to the FBI:  Paul Manafort and Roger Stone.  It was pretty obvious that these two individuals were desperately looking for ways  to avoid long sentences.  Also, helping the general cause cause was Julian Assange (Wikileaks)  who said he did not get the emails from Russian agents, but did not point the finger at Crowdsource or Ukraine.    Julian Assange remains in prison in England,   Obama did not extradite him to the US, so this of course feeds into the conspiracy narrative.   Trump said he would, but the stature of limitations may run out.  Also, he will be claiming his right as  journalist,  Of course, there are a whole slew of radical right wing websites which love to spin conspiracy theories.  But it isn’t easy to find a promoter who hasn’t been sued or imprisoned.    Almost forgot- Rudy Giuliani promotes this stuff because Trump wants him to.    When you are a personal  attorney, you stick with your client come hell or high water.   And Mike Pompeo has turned his head so many times, he’s getting neck pain.

Dr. Fiona Hill really nailed it at the inquiry, when she pleaded to the committee to reject these wild conspiracy theories, and accept the collective conclusions of the intelligence community and Mueller investigation, that Russia had interfered with the US elections.  Trump attempted to resurrect and reinforce a debunked theory about Ukraine’s “theft” of the DNC servers via Crowdstrike by withholding military aid to Ukraine is an impeachable offense.  Yet I believe the Senate will acquit him, as the Republicans hold the majority.   I am hoping that this victory will be short lived, when the US electorate overturns his Senate win.

I’ve only included a few links, because so much can be found by Google searches, including the incisive statements by Dr. Hill.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

Wired:  July 16, 2016:   Here’s What We Know About Russia and the DNC Hack

(Wired got it right more than 3 years ago!  –  yet this, the FBI and Intelligence community couldn’t convince Trump)

Daily Beast:  Updated Oct 16, 2019: The Truth About Trump’s Insane Ukraine ‘Server’ Conspiracy

Trump Explodes About Ukraine Conspiracy on ‘Fox & Friends’

“Are You Sure They Did That?” Even Fox Questions Trump’s Ukraine Conspiracy Theory

Wikipedia:  Crowdstrike company

Daily Beast: June 17, 2018:  Trump’s ‘Missing DNC Server’ Is Neither Missing Nor a Server

Impeachment Inquiry and Bribery (Nov 21)

Ok, I plead guilty to watching the impeachment inquiry  testimony for hours at a time.  I listen to both Republicans and Democrats members of the Intel Committee.   It is  like a courtroom drama, except there is no neutral judge to disallow certain testimony, the defense is not allowed to call their own witnesses, and the jurors on impeachment are obviously  biased.  Democrats get to decide on the rules.    The partisan nature of impeachment is part of our system.   The general charge is that Trump violated the constitution by conditioning the military aid to the Ukraine on an announcement of two investigations, one involving Ukraine’s involvement in the 2016 elections and the second on the Bidens, to help Trump win in 2020.

Several tactics have been used to defend the president.  The first is to attack the witnesses as partisan, just out to embarrass Trump  which has been a terrible disaster.   Trump started this attack in very disrespectful attacks on  Ambassador Yovanovitch, who was subjected to a smear campaign in the State Department, and officials there knew about it.  Rep Jim Jordan is easily identified in the hearings as he does not wear a suit jacket.  His job is  the witness attack dog and he sought to discredit Lt. Col. Vindman, who received excellent reviews from his superiors.  All witnesses strongly supported Trump’s policies of providing lethal military aid to the Ukraine.  So, really every time he questions a witness, they seem partisan, but in the direction of Trump rather than Obama’s policies.  It continually backfired.

The second line of defense is to focus on the ultimate outcome, which is Ukraine  got the aid without having to announce an investigation.  But as every lawyer knows, bribery does not require the completion of the bribe in exchange for something of value.  The third line of defense is to consider holds on assistance a fairly routine occurrence.  Again, this fails because the reasons for the hold were for political dirt to for the 2020 election.   There is no other analogous case.   Finally, Jordan has forcefully put forward that none of the witnesses have proved that a specific demand for “Biden dirt” came from an email or conversation with Trump.   Schiff was quick to point out that proof of bribery does not require this and corrupt officials are not likely to put into writing that they are interested in bribing the government of a foreign government.

So, as the testimony goes on, you can mark down the number of times we have (1) Character attack, witness bias (2) They got the money anyway  (3) Holds are common place and (4) Evidence lacking tying Trump to a bribe.  I might also add a number 5 defense, in that Trump’s aid to Ukraine was much better than Obama’s, which has failed because witnesses, if asked, are agreeing with this, and it tends to weaken the character attack defense.  I might add a number 6 defense in which to point out inconsistencies from prior testimony.  It is a kind of “are you lying now or were you lying in your first deposition” or “how is it that you claim this, as other witnesses/documents show the direct opposite?” .  I call  this a bit of the war of words.

Democrats have their tactics too, as they are trying to show how all the testimony fits together, and at times they oversimplify things.

Throughout all of this, I still wish the impeachment inquiry was finished with as I feel it will end with the Senate acquitting Trump, and he will be using the word “hoax”  – as in impeachment hoax and Russian investigation hoax about a million times from now until election day.  Still the evidence is strong – see CNN summary.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

CNN Opinion: Trump and bribery claim: Does the shoe fit?

They all lie!

This is the response I get when I tell a Trump supporter of Trump’s trouble with the truth.  He’s been amazingly consistent with lying throughout his career in real estate (see Wikipedia link below).   Just recently,  Trump stated that some of the DACA recipients were “harden criminals.”   Of course, that is a lie, because they would be immediately disqualified for the program if they have any convictions.  His record of 4% totally true statements from politifact.com website is really unbeatable among politicians.

Yes, they all lie, but nobody tells as many lies in both critical domestic and foreign areas as Trump.  He never admits he was wrong.  He is very self centered and often exaggerates his own success, while ignoring the accomplishments of others.

So, how does Trump’s record stack up with Biden, Sanders and Warren.  Or with Obama.   Trump is clearly the winner – far and above the biggest liar of  them all.

I used Politifact, and summed up the percentages each of them were as far as truthfulness (True, Mostly True and Half Truth):

Warren  (17% true, 38% mostly true, 42% half true)  =  87%
Sanders (13% true, 36% mostly true, 26% half true) =   65%
Biden   (13% true, 23% mostly true, 25% half true)  =   62%
Obama  (20% true, 27% mostly true, 26% half true)  =  73%
Trump   (4% true, 10% mostly true, 14% half true)  =  28%

Pretty incredible difference.   If I sum up the false and pants on fire category, the rankings would be:

Trump  = 50%
Obama = 13%
Warren =  0%

Of all the politicians,  Elizabeth Warren ranks the most truthful,  followed closely by the other Democrats.  Warren has made one statement considered mostly false or 13%.  Donald Trump is the most dishonest by almost any measure. Politifact does not consider how often a person repeats a lie.   The Washington Post does, and the tally in October 2019 came to an incredible 13,435 lies or misleading statements, over 993 days or 13.5 lies per day.  See links below.

Other websites have reveals many false claims from President Trump.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

Politifact.com

Wikipedia:  Veracity of statements by Donald Trump

Factcheck.org Oct 11, 2019 Trump’s error filled cabinet meeting

https://www.factcheck.org/

Was Mueller’s Appointment legal?

I heard this accusation before and pretty much just thought it was total nonsense.  The idea was one could ignore everything Mueller investigated, because his appointment was unconstitutional.

I was surprised when I listened to a speaker on a conservative law forum, featured on C-Span, addressing this issue.   He had obviously thoroughly researched this topic.  I did not know the history of this issue.   These arguments have been used twice in District Court and rejected and then again in the Appellate Court,  where the three judge panel rejected all the arguments.  Once it gets rejected on appeal and not reviewed by the Supreme Court, it becomes case law – Mueller’s investigation was legal in the opinion of the court.

In 2018, a series of well written articles were published and posted online, detailing why Mueller’s investigation was illegal, written by Steven Calabresi,  a Professor of Law at Northwestern University.

Of course Donald Trump’s immediately ceased on this with his rapid fire tweeting  machine, to be telling his millions of followers that the investigation which he claims exonerated him (of course, it didn’t clear him of obstruction of justice) was UNCONSTITUTIONAL.

So, in what’s this all about?  The President nominates and the Senate approves “Principal Officers” such as US Attorneys and heads of Departments may appoint “Inferior Officers” per Article II of our constitution.   Robert Mueller was considered an inferior officer because the Justice Department could supervise his activities and fire him if necessary.   At the core of Professor Calabresi’s arguments, it seems, is the contention that Mueller was given so much authority, he fit better into the definition of a principal officer than an inferior officer.  The Appellate court disagreed and I’ve posted their opinion.

Consider for a moment if the case had succeeded.   It would require the President to nominate and the Senate to approve the Special Prosecutor.   It would be very difficult to imagine this ever happening, so we would have lost an important means of keeping government accountable, particularly at the highest level.  There will officials in high office who will abuse their power.  No one in a democracy is  above the law.

The Miller case is one for the textbook, thanks to the challenge by Trump supporters.  It adds clarity to Article II, Section 2 of our Constitution.  In the future,  any similar challenges on the authority of any Special Counsel appointment will be quickly dismissed in the courts as long as the Justice Department retains the right to dismiss the Counsel and clearly defines the scope of the investigation.    Unfortunately, claims that Mueller’s appointment was unconstitutional will live on, in podcasts, social media,  political conspiracy books, and their ilk.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

The Hill: US Law is not on the side of Mueller

Washington Post: Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s appointment is valid

District Court concludes Mueller’s Appointment is valid

(The above legal opinion is pretty steeped in law and Department rules.  Per the Washington Post, “The separate constitutional challenge to Mueller’s appointment was brought by Stone’s associate Andrew Miller, who has been trying to block a grand jury subpoena from the special counsel’s office. Miller was held in contempt by a lower-court judge for failing to testify before the grand jury as part of Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the last presidential election.”  )

Note on the very nuanced analysis of obiter dictim on page 9 :  Obiter dictim: A judge’s incidental expression of opinion, not essential to the decision and not establishing precedent.

Trump-Ukraine Scandal: Public Opinion

C-Span has a program called Washington Journal, which allows callers to give their opinions.  They must identify themselves as being either Democrats,  Republicans or Independents and it seems they try to get a good blend of callers from these three groups.   In this case, the moderator was completely neutral.

On the issue of the impeachment inquiry, a caller described it as a totally “made up” story.  And she had her facts.  Adam Schiff had talked to the whistle blower before the whistle blower had submitted a complaint.  Also,  Schiff denied he or anyone on his staff had contact with the whistle blower.  So, this proved to the caller that everyone was lying and what was going on was just a lot of dishonest people out to get the President.   The conspiracy idea was that Adam Schiff told the whistle blower what to report, so he could get the president impeached.   He then rounded up a few dozen traitors in the State Department and told them what to say.   He must have manufactured other evidence like text messages and emails.   The news media was either complicit or just went along with this giant  hoax.

One piece of this conspiracy  immediately begins to fall apart.  Adam Schiff did not have any contact with the whistle blower – but apparently someone on his staff did, but not at a detailed level of the issues.  The whistle blower was asking what the proper way to file a complaint under the whistle blower protection laws.   What this staff person told the whistle blower is you need to get an attorney and go through proper channels.  No short cuts permitted to the House Intelligence Committee.

The evidence is really mounting against President Trump of trying to get dirt on Biden in exchange for approved military aid.   I  think this is a crime of  extortion and an abuse of presidential power.   The first day of public hearings will be on Wednesday, November 13.   The current chargée d’affaires,  to Ukraine, Bill Taylor and the Deputy Assistant to the Secretary of State, George Kent, will testify.  I believe Counsel for the Democrats and Republicans  will do the questioning for 45 minutes each.   There won’t be any surprises.   I can say this because both individuals have testified extensively in closed sessions and the transcripts have been released on the House Intelligence Committee website.   So this hearing is not likely to add to the House inquiry.   It is more to legitimize the inquiry to the public.

Trump said today (Nov 8)  that there should be no open impeachment inquiry.  Pretty amazing as  Trump and other Republicans were highly critical of the closed sessions.

I hope the C-Span caller will tune in along with many Americans who have doubted the process.  This is not a witch hunt, hoax or fake news.  It is real and extremely serious.    I have included the biographies of both Bill Taylor and George Kent below.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

Wikipedia:  William Taylor

Wikipedia:  George Kent

 

 

 

2020 Election forecasting

I saw a headline that Moody had an election forecast model which shows Trump wins by a landslide.  I thought immediately that this can’t be.  Landslides happen when a very popular president runs for re-election, and wins big in certain key states.

Moody has a forecast model, which uses economic variables to predict election winners.   They produced 3 elections scenarios:  (1) Democrats win by a narrow margin (2) Republicans win by a narrow margin and (3) Republicans win by a wide margin.   The difference in these three models is the % turnout of the opposition party (Democrats) in the election.   Republicans win if this % Democratic turnout is average or below average.  Democrats win with a high Democratic turnout.  Of course, this turnout will not be known until after the election.   It is really what every election strategist will tell their candidate, that it isn’t enough to get people to agree with you,  you have to get them to vote for you.

Rule 1:  You need to fire up your base at election time or at least more than your opponent.

Moody’s work predicts every outcome but a Democratic landslide.   Moody’s considered 3 models, all using economic data, state-by-state.  I’ve included their model description in the links.   The approach passes my quick “six state reasonable check.   Regardless of the model and turnout,  Republicans win in TX 38,  GA 16, and TN 11 while Democrats win CA 55, NY 29 and IL20.  Postal  codes are followed by the electoral votes (EV)).   Moody predicts that all toss up states go to Trump when Democrat turnout is low or average.  I’m skeptical of this result.   They include all elections from 1980 to 2016.  I believe the earlier elections with Reagan victories may have skewed their results.  No candidate can win in New York, California and Texas anymore.

I’m particularly skeptical of Moody’s  wide margin win case,  with Trump beating Democrats  380 to 158 electoral votes.  That’s a solid win but not a landslide by historical standards.   Crushing victories haven’t happened for 3 decades.   The more recent landslides  were: 1972 Nixon vs.  McGovern with 520 EV,  1980 Reagan vs. Carter 489 EV and 1984 Reagan vs Mondale 525 EV.   Yet Reagan crushed Carter in 1980, he won just 50.7% of the popular vote. Nixon won by a landslide and a solid popular vote of 60.7%, yet resigned two years with the Watergate scandal.   I won’t go there- this blog already getting long!

Rule 2: You don’t have to be popular in every state, just the ones that count.

I tried to compare Moody’s work to everyone else making forecasts, but it just got too complicated.  I’m sticking with my  list of 5 solid toss up states of MI 16,  WI 10, PA  20. FL 29 and AZ 11, made on my Aug 19 blog. I also included the extra 2 contenders for the “who knows” list:  NC 15 and  NH 4,  plus 2 Republican leaners,  GA 16 and OH 18,  both with sizable EVs.    All total  these nine states have 145 electoral votes and will decide the election.

As far as the solid Republican vs Democrat vote,  I think the Democratic candidate begins more solid support.  In the link given below, the safe EV for Democrats varies from 183 to 209.  The Republicans can count on a safe 125 EV although there is certainly an upside to this.  If we look at states which went Republican since year 2000, the EV count is 179.  See link below.

Following Rules 1 and 2 are important.  I’d like to add this final rule.

Rule 3:  Election forecasts do not necessarily get better with time.    Forecasts showing one candidate to win,  can actually help the opposing candidate.

My case in point is all the polls in 2016 showed Hillary Clinton would win Florida.  But they all showed the race to be very close.   The candidate may be popular but that’s not enough – see Rule 1.   Hillary Clinton was widely predicted to win the 2016 election and this gave Trump supporters more incentive to vote.

Every time a candidate appears to be ahead in a swing state, the opposing candidate will double their efforts.  The “close the gap” strategy precludes any landslide elections.    Each candidate will target the swing states with every trick in the book.

Stay tuned,

Dave

Links:

Moody’s Model

270toWin.com

Wikipedia: Presidential elections