So Busted

If you haven’t already read the NY Times’s Behind the Ukraine Aid Freeze: 84 Days of Conflict and Confusion (The inside story of President Trump’s demand to halt military assistance to an ally shows the price he was willing to pay to carry out his agenda), don’t wait too long to do so. It’s fascinating stuff.

Interviews with dozens of current and former administration officials, congressional aides and others, previously undisclosed emails and documents, and a close reading of thousands of pages of impeachment testimony provide the most complete account yet of the 84 days from when Mr. Trump first inquired about the money to his decision in September to relent.

What emerges is the story of how Mr. Trump’s demands sent shock waves through the White House and the Pentagon, created deep rifts within the senior ranks of his administration, left key aides like Mr. Mulvaney under intensifying scrutiny — and ended only after Mr. Trump learned of a damning whistle-blower report and came under pressure from influential Republican lawmakers.

The name Mulvaney keeps coming up in this thing. As Charles Pierce says, lots of people are feeding Mulvaney to the wolves. He was, the article says, a “key conduit for transmitting Mr. Trump’s demands for the freeze across the administration.” And all kinds of people scattered through many offices of government were involved in at least a piece of this mess.

Greg Sargent has a good synopsis of the piece and argues that life has just gotten a lot harder for Mitch McConnell.

What makes all this new information really damning, however, is that many of these officials who were directly involved with Trump’s freezing of aid are the same ones Trump blocked from appearing before the House impeachment inquiry.

This should make it inescapable that McConnell wants a trial with no testimony from these people — Democrats want to hear from Mulvaney, Bolton, Duffey and Blair — precisely because he, too, wants to prevent us from ever gaining a full accounting.

We now have a much clearer glimpse into the murky depths of just how much more these officials know about the scheme — and just how much McConnell and Trump are determined to make sure we don’t ever learn. That’s so indefensible that it might even breach the levee of the media’s both-sidesing tendencies.

Colin Kalmbacher writing for Law and Crime points to the illegality of the whole mess.

Attorneys for the White House and the Department of Justice (DOJ) scrambled to piece together a legal justification after President Donald Trump withheld military aid to the Ukraine earlier this year.

According to the New York Times, those efforts were focused on sidestepping the Impoundment Control Act of 1974–a law which requires the executive branch to notify Congress if and when already-appropriated funds are being withheld. And, in service of that goal, various attorneys developed a somewhat novel legal theory.

Basically, the argument was that the hold on the funds had to be kept secret because of ongoing negotiations about “corruption.” But Kalmacher goes on to explain that the law doesn’t give the administration any discretion on funds appropriated by Congress. If for some reason he doesn’t want the money to be spent as appropriated, he has to go back to Congress about it.

So busted.