They Call It “Stupid Watergate”

Charles Pierce speaks for America:

Jesus H. Christ on work-release, this is what they thought they could put out there?

More than anything else, the events of this week reveal just how colossally stupid Donald Trump really is. There are not really vertabim transcripts made of White House phone calls, just notes taken as the calls are being made. The White House could have released just about anything and said, “these are the notes.” But what they did release confirms everyone’s worst suspicions.

After President Zelensky gushingly praised Trump for all the United States was doing for Ukraine — much more than the European Union, especially “Merkel” and “Macron,” Zelensky said, “We are ready to continue to cooperate for the next steps. specifically we are almost ready to buy more Javelins from the United States for defense purposes.”

To which the Supreme Moron replied,

I would like you to find out what happened with this whole situation with Ukraine, they say Crowdstrike… I guess you have one of your wealthy people… The server, they say Ukraine has it. There are a lot of things that went on, the whole situation…I think you’re surrounding yourself with some of the same people. I would like to have the Attorney General call you or your people and I would like you to get to the bottom of it. As you saw yesterday, that whole nonsense ended with a very poor performance by a man named Robert Mueller, an incompetent performance, but they say a lot of it started with Ukraine. Whatever you can do, it’s very important that you do it if that’s possible. The other thing, there’s a lot of talk about Biden’s son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the Attorney General would be great. Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it.

Crowdstrike, of course, is one of the cybersecurity companies that investigated the hacking of the DNC servers and connected the hack to Russian intelligence.

The business with Hunter Biden and the Ukrainian prosecutor I’ve written about before. The story I gleaned from earlier news accounts was that the prosecutor being discussed was notoriously corrupt and was causing problems with all the western powers, not just the U.S. Hunter Biden was on the board of an energy company owned by a Ukranian oligarch, and this prosecutor was after the oligarch. But I’ve not seen anything saying that Hunter Biden himself was under any threat of prosecution. Hunter Biden was being paid $50,000 a month because of the name Biden, by all accounts. Whether he actually did anything for the company I do not know.

On a trip to Kiev in March 2016, Vice President Biden threatened to withhold $1 billion in United States loan guarantees if Ukraine did not dismiss this prosecutor. So the guy was dismissed. And if anyone wants to investigate this further I’m fine with that. It was stupid for Hunter Biden to have taken the job, even if he didn’t do anything; the State Department should nave nixed it as a potential conflict of interest. And it would be fine with me if the backstory about the prosecutor being corrupt is investigated. It’s not clear to me what he was doing to cause international aggravation.

However, even if it turns out that Biden got the prosecutor fired only to save his son’s ass, which I very much doubt, that still doesn’t make what Trump did okay. And if Biden’s presidential bid becomes collateral damage in this fight, well, so be it.

Here is President Zelensky’s response:

Yes it is very important for me and everything that you just mentioned earlier. For me as a President, it is very important and we are open for any future cooperation. We are ready to open a new page on cooperation in relations between the United States and Ukraine. For that purpose, I just recalled our.ambassador from United States and he will be replaced by a very competent and very experienced ambassador who wtll work hard on making sure that our two nations are getting clciser [sic]. I would also like and hope to see him having your trust and your confidence and have personal relations with you so we can cooperate even more so. I will personally tell you that one of my assistants spoke with Mr. Giuliani just recently and we are hoping very much that Mr. Giuliani will be able to travel to Ukraine and we will meet once he comes to Ukraine. I just wanted to assure you once again that you have nobody but friends around us. I will make sure that I surround myself with the best and most experienced people. I also wanted to ·tell you that we are friends. We are great friends and you Mr. President have friends in our country so we can continue our strategic·partnership. I also plan to surround myself with great people and in addition to that investigation, I guarantee as the President of Ukraine that all the investigations will be done openly and candidly. That I can assure you.

I wanted to include some of the dialogue attributed to Zelensky because I am skeptical that’s what Zelensky said. It sounds too much like what Trump would have wanted Zelensky to say. However, it hardly matters. Trump may be too stupid to understand why this is a big deal, but the transcript clearly has him asking a foreign head of state to dig up dirt on a political opponent.

Skipping over some stuff that’s still pretty juicy — really, everybody should just read the whole thing — we get to Trump saying this:

I will have Mr. Giuliani give you a call and I am also going to have Attorney General Barr call and we will get to the bottom of it. I’m sure you will figure it out. I heard the prosecutor was treated very badly and he was a very fair prosecutor so good luck with everything.

Back to Charles Pierce:

And under the bus goes Rudy Giuliani and the Attorney General of the United States. They are shocked to find the president* already had climbed under there himself.

Jesus, these really are the mole people.

Jerry Nadler is calling for Barr to recuse himself from having anything to do with the impeachment inquiries. See also Paul Waldman, William Barr’s role is about to get a lot more scrutiny. The role of the Justice Department in hiding the whistleblower complaint has been noted.

Do also see Giuliani pursued shadow Ukraine agenda as key foreign policy officials were sidelined in today’s WaPo.

President Trump’s attempt to pressure the leader of Ukraine followed a months-long fight inside the administration that sidelined national security officials and empowered political loyalists — including the president’s personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani — to exploit the U.S. relationship with Kiev, current and former U.S. officials said.

The sequence, which began early this year, involved the abrupt removal of the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, the circumvention of senior officials on the National Security Council, and the suspension of hundreds of millions of dollars of aid administered by the Defense and State departments — all as key officials from these agencies struggled to piece together Giuliani’s activities from news reports.

Several officials described tense meetings on Ukraine among national security officials at the White House leading up to the president’s phone call on July 25, sessions that led some participants to fear that Trump and those close to him appeared prepared to use U.S. leverage with the new leader of Ukraine for Trump’s political gain.

As those worries intensified, some senior officials worked behind the scenes to hold off a Trump meeting or call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky out of concern that Trump would use the conversation to press Kiev for damaging information on Trump’s potential rival in the 2020 race, former vice president Joe Biden, and Biden’s son Hunter.

And their fears were justified; that’s exactly what Trump was doing. And Guiliani should rue the day he didn’t just retire from public life after 9/11.

But it gets better. The White House worked up talking points to be used to defend Trump and then, by mistake, emailed them to Democrats in Congress, one of whom gleefully made the points public.

And CNN is reporting that Trump was “incredulous” that his offer made to Nancy Pelosi yesterday to release the phone “transcript” didn’t nip the impeachment thing in the bud.

He had felt confident after phoning Pelosi earlier that morning. The drive for impeachment in her caucus had ramped up amid reports he pushed the Ukrainian President to investigate Joe Biden, and Trump was hoping to head off a clash. He figured he could de-escalate tensions by speaking with her directly.

It was after that call that Trump made the decision to release an “unredacted” version of the transcript of his July call — against the advice of aides such as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who warned him it would set a risky precedent. Trump wanted to undercut the argument from Democrats that he acted inappropriately, he said, and felt he had nothing to hide.

See? I’m telling you he’s too stupid to understand what it was he did wrong.

Now it’s coming out that the White House will issue a redacted version of the whistleblower complaint. I doubt that’s going to fly. Also:

Initially, the White House supported the decision not to send Congress the complaint, but according to the New York Times, officials there have changed their thinking, now believing cooperating with Congress could help negate the House’s official impeachment inquiry. President Trump is said to back the complaint’s release as well, reportedly because he does not believe it contains anything truly incriminating and because he, too, believes it will effectively counter the impeachment inquiry.

The administration may also allow the whistleblower to speak to congressional committees. A lawyer for the whistleblower sent a letter to Maguire Tuesday notifying him the official hoped to give congressional testimony; government lawyers responded with a letter telling the whistleblower the executive branch is working to find ways to make that testimony possible, while also protecting the whistleblowing process and executive privilege.

I don’t see how “executive privilege” can be evoked to quash a whistleblower complaint against the executive, or why the complaint would be redacted, especially if the only people who will see it are the members of the intelligence committees. I would think said members would have security clearances. I anticipate a fight to see the unredacted report and for the whistleblower to testify freely to the committees. Nothing less is going to be accepted, at this point. Robert Costa writes at WaPo,

Several Senate Republicans were stunned Wednesday and questioned the White House’s judgment after it released a rough transcript of President Trump’s call with the Ukraine president that showed Trump offering the help of the U.S. attorney general to investigate Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden.

One Senate Republican, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to speak candidly, said the transcript’s release was a “huge mistake” that the GOP now has to confront, even as they argue that House Democrats are overreaching with their impeachment effort.

There may be limits to how far some of these guys will go to defend Trump. Or maybe there are no limits. Get all the evidence, put it in front of the American people, and let Senate Republicans go on record that they put party over country. That works for me.

DALLAS, TX – SEPTEMBER 14: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at the American Airlines Center on September 14, 2015 in Dallas, Texas. More than 20,000 tickets have been distributed for the event. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)