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)

19 thoughts on “They Call It “Stupid Watergate”

  1. The good thing about a formal impeachment inquiry is that it squashes down the extent to which this thing can be litigated in the media or on Twitter. From here on, until the house votes on it, what happens in the committee hearings is what matters. And the committees will have now have more leverage to get the evidence and testimony they want to consider. The committees will become the focus.

  2.  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.

    I'm not agreeing with this. If I was offered over a half-mill a year, just to make some phone calls, do some photo ops, and maybe get a few meetings that someone without the surname and connection of "Biden" could get, I think that's fine. 

    Look, he couldn't have known that Ukraine would have a cruddy prosecutor, who everyone would agree had to go; there's no evidence that anything he did was wrong, or even was investigated. While I'll grant that "political celeb/influencer" isn't the noblest profession on the planet, this isn't Jared Kushner making deals in the middle east using Presidential access; this is a sinecure given to a fellow with some notable phone contacts and golfing buddies, who is (remember, the GOP was slopping over with this with the Mueller report) innocent until proven guilty. 

    I have a desire to say something like that – to show I'm fair minded, to show that I'm not dismissing any *actual* concerns. The thing is, to do so grants good faith to the complaint, and we already know there's as much good faith here as Benghazipalooza and ButterEmails!. (The exclamation mark is part of "ButterEmails!", which is why I included the period at the end.) And the fact of the matter is,"famous-for-daddy kid with prior legal problems got a sinecure for a nice chunk of spending money," isn't a story – any more than "Barack Obama met with an educational reform advocate to discuss education reform (who, admittedly, a long time back, was part of a domestic 'terror' group)".

    (I use the scare quotes because, per my understanding, the Weathermen only attempted property damage at the time whatsisname was a member. I don't think it's correct to call an organization a "terror" group if you're afraid they're going to hurt just-property. A criminal conspiracy? Sure; lawless vigilantes/marauders? Sounds good. But I don't live in "terror" of someone, say, slashing my tires, or even sledge-hammering my car. ) 

    I think it's important to reject the entire framing. This is like the tarmac meeting – on its face, it's stupid to think that Clinton and Lynch met for any reason other than a social call, given that it was a pure chance meeting. Okay, but there, at least, there was wall-to-wall press coverage and an *active* conspiracy theory. Here, we have the perspective of years to look back and say "the adult kid got an offer to trade in his name and contacts for big bucks; lots of people in his position get, and take,  such opportunities; show me actual *wrongdoing*, not a bit of embarrassingly good luck for the relative of a powerful person, before you can tell me there's a story."

    • Somebody named Biden whose daddy happens to be VP is offered a job that pays $50K per month, a job for which Junior isn't remotely qualified, and you see nothing wrong. As a matter of opinion, I don't think Joe did anything for the company that Junior *worked* for. And Junior probably was careful not to promise he could influence what Daddy who happens to be VP can do. SO it's all legal.

       It's pay-to-play whether a Democrat does it or a Republican does it. This isn't new. Read Zephyr Teachout's book titled, "Corruption in America." The founders installed the emoluments clause to prevent the appearance of impropriety by any federal employee.  

      I didn't like how HRC did her fundraising, very similar to how Joe Biden is doing his fundraising, behind closed doors with very wealthy donors who expect a return on investment. The standard on the librel Interwebs dictates that it's wrong and scandalous when a Republican does it bt it's legal and smells like perfume when it's done by a Democrat.

      Hunter Biden deserves to be ripped in public for his greed. He grabbed easy money because it was legal. The morality was very similar to Cohen shaking down people for access to Trump.  

      • I'm with you on this one. I took time to run around inside my house for 20 minutes ranting and raving about the utter. obvious stupidity in the entire arrangement. Does anyone here actually believe The Moron when he said that his boys would run his companies just fine and there would be NO communications with them about his companies while he was the President. It doesn't matter to me whether Hunter got help or info from Joe or not, The appearance of the possibility is enough to avoid doing it.

      • Hunter Biden deserves to be ripped in public for his greed. He grabbed easy money because it was legal. The morality was very similar to Cohen shaking down people for access to Trump.  

        Um… so, let me make sure I understand you.

        A guy who *might* have a bit of access – might get a call returned, might get a golf date set up – is "very similar" to someone who *has* access, and is expressly *selling* it. 

        If that's your argument, I disagree. If it's not, I'm confused. 

        See, if someone said they wanted to pay me fifty grand a month for my SQL Server skills, well, I'm okay with that.

        If they said "actually, you know a lot of people, and can get us in to talk to a lot of people;" I'm okay with that, too, so long as what I'm doing is aboveboard and ethical, and, so long as I'm not the one-and-only path to that person. Knowing these people, I might know how to pitch a deal to them, or what concerns they might have, so I might be able to help the company tune their pitch to win a contract – but the company still has to deliver! So I don't see the problem. 

        I might grant you that there are some ethical questions; and I'll certainly grant you that there *are* things Hunter Biden could have done that would have been wrong to do. However, so far, all we know is, some people thought it was worth a half mill a year to have him on the board; and he thought it sounded worth his time and efforts. Until we know more, the only thing I'm concerned about is the GOP once again trying to use the powers of the United States, and other governments, to attack their political enemies. 

        Even if there were a time to discuss the ethical implications, I feel that time isn't "now" – it will be after the GOP's latest crimes have been confessed to. 

  3. Well, Pelosi has got her votes for articles of impeachment secured in her back pocket. Now the Repug Senators have to start working out their strategy of whether they are going to fold or stand when the impeachment question ( conviction portion) is put before them. I suspect that come March of 2020 when the impeachment articles are finally delivered they'll pretty much know which why they are going to go.

  4. Regarding tRUMP and his clearly visible stupidity and ignorance (something we NYers knew for decades, AND TRIED TO WARN THE COUNTRY ABOUT!  But his MAGAts were even more stupid and ignorant than – and about as bigoted as – their Dear Leader, and paid no heed), I'd like to quote two of America's greatest philosophers.

    Bugs Bunny:  What a dope. What a MAROON!!!

    And Foghorn Leghorn:  Ah say, Ah say, that boy's about as sharp as a beachball!

    I may add more tomorrow.  For now, nighty night, all!


  5. The Republican senators want to vote in secret. They want to vote for some articles and against others.

    My favorite part is about Barr.

    "I want you to call my attorney general(prosecutor) and my personal attorney(fixer).  And some would pretend this is a lovely conversation.

  6. Of course he thought he could get away with it, he's treated the government like his personal bath toy since he took office.

    Trump is the kind of bully who brazenly breaks the rules just because he can, and dares anybody to stop him.

  7. The Twit tweeted:

    "Knowing all of this, is anybody dumb enough to believe that I would say something inappropriate with a foreign leader while on such a potentially “heavily populated” call."

    YES!!! I'm that dumb, because he's that dumb!

    • "Yeah, we'd have to believe you were dumb enough to spill Israeli intelligence to the Russians, and then *confirm* it was Israeli by saying you never *said* it was Israel! And, hey, if *that* ever happened, to a GOP President, the… uh… silence was quite deafening, in point of fact."

  8. The BEST part, is that the whole Republican Party is "TEH STOOOOOOPID!!!!!*



    You can't make this shit up!!!!!!

    *But we always knew that, didn't we?

  9. The Repugs have gone to ground. It's like radio silence. I guess they are waiting for the all clear to sound. Lindsey Graham is the only one out there who is trying to shape a narrative in defense of Trump. I feel kinda bad for Lindsey with his hopes of a Supreme Court Justice nomination just vanishing before his eyes..

     We'll see what tomorrow brings. I'm hearing that a lot of eyes and ears in the White House were aware of what was going on with Trump's lawlessness, but only one set had the courage to connect with a conscience. I think that's where the wall going to break down. When the whistle blower starts to name names of who knew what, it's going to become a frenzy of save your own ass at the expense of your co-workers.

    While Karen Pense is thumbing through back issues of House and Garden looking for decorating ideas?

  10. Poor Lindsey Graham. After daddy John passed away, he adopted daddy Donald. He is the only person in America who believes Trump has big, strong hands.

    Some might consider taking back things they wrote about Nancy Pelosi:

    "She [Pelosi] has been telling everyone who cared to listen that Trump is self-impeaching, meaning that it was only a matter of time before Trump provided incontrovertible evidence of his abuse of power. She was right on that score."


  11. It is amazing how morally obtuse Trump and his suck-ups are. Pelosi looks like a genius, keeping her powder dry until the right, clear-as-day incident came up, despite all the clamor to act now.

    What will be interesting is the next act: 1) what kind of revolt, if any, will occur within the GOP, and 2) to what degree the corrupted US government, particularly the courts, will continue to protect Trump.

    • I hope the Dems handle the scandal effectively. When I saw Trump answer one of the questions put to him by one of the reporter, he replied, "you'll have to ask Rudy". I've heard that line before where it was, "you'll have to ask Michael". He's sowing confusion, and that's part of his method to avoid getting pinned down.

    • I hope the Dems handle the scandal effectively. When I saw Trump answer one of the questions put to him by one of the reporter, he replied, "you'll have to ask Rudy". I've heard that line before where it was, "you'll have to ask Michael". He's sowing confusion, and that's part of his method to avoid getting pinned down.

  12. When I first saw the not-a-transcript, I thought Ukraine's president's lines must have been written by Pence. That was some high-quality ass-kissing, right there.

    If the Republicans were that upset about someone taking a do-nothing job with a foreign government, they should have said something about Paul Manafort. But then, "it's only wrong when a Democrat does it."

Comments are closed.