Lazy Caturday ReadsPosted: November 9, 2019
It has been an interesting week in the impeachment inquiry and next week should be even more interesting. Will John Bolton testify? He’s apparently OK with his lawyer leaking information to The New York Times: Bolton Said to Know of ‘Many Relevant Meetings’ on Ukraine, but Will Not Testify.
John R. Bolton, President Trump’s former national security adviser, knows about “many relevant meetings and conversations” connected to a pressure campaign on Ukraine that House impeachment investigators have not yet been informed of, his lawyer told lawmakers on Friday.
The lawyer, Charles J. Cooper, tucked the tantalizing assertion into a letter to the chief House lawyer in response to committee chairmen who have sought Mr. Bolton’s testimony in their impeachment inquiry but expressed unwillingness to go to court to get an order compelling it….
…hints about what Mr. Bolton might be able to add came as new details emerged from the impeachment inquiry about how an effort by Mr. Trump’s allies to use the United States’ relationship with Ukraine to accomplish the president’s political goals opened a bitter rift inside the White House.
According to testimony made public on Friday, the push, spearheaded in large part by Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, pitted Mr. Bolton, who sought repeatedly to resist it, against Mick Mulvaney, the acting chief of staff who senior officials said may have played a central role in carrying it out.
Trump is sucking up to Bolton this morning.
This from the NYT article makes me want to read Fiona Hill’s testimony this weekend.
Transcripts of testimony by Fiona Hill, the former senior director for Russia and Europe at the National Security Council, and Lt. Col. Alexander S. Vindman, the Ukraine expert there, described how the council under Mr. Bolton became consumed with trying to thwart Mr. Giuliani’s efforts to bend Ukraine policy to the president’s political advantage.
They said there was evidence Mr. Mulvaney was involved in setting up a quid pro quo in which Ukraine could not receive a White House meeting unless top officials there committed to investigations that Mr. Trump wanted. And they showed how the foreign policy officials most deeply knowledgeable about Ukraine were sidelined and forced to act as mere spectators — in some instances watching for Mr. Giuliani’s freewheeling appearances on cable news for clues — in dealing with the relationship with Kiev.
Ms. Hill said Mr. Bolton repeatedly sought to cut off the influence of Mr. Giuliani, whom he referred to as a “hand grenade.”
Mr. Bolton was “closely monitoring what Mr. Giuliani was doing and the messaging that he was sending out,” she told investigators, adding that he warned “repeatedly that nobody should be meeting with Giuliani.”
And Hill knows about Trump’s history with Russia.
Alexander Vindman’s testimony might be an interesting read too. He tore apart Trump propagandist John Solomon’s “reporting” on the fake Ukraine conspiracy. The Washington Post: ‘But you know, his grammar might have been right’: Lt. Col. Vindman bashed John Solomon in testimony.
In his deposition last month on Capitol Hill, Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman characterized as “false” the work of John Solomon, the former executive vice president for digital video at The Hill, according to a transcript released Friday. Vindman just might know: He has served as the top Ukraine hand at the National Security Council and watched as Solomon’s reports on the country in The Hill surfaced earlier this year. He gave his deposition as part of the House impeachment inquiry.Zeldin: Did your sources, though, say that everything was false or just parts of it were false?Vindman: I think all the key elements were false.Zeldin: Just so I understand what you mean when you say key elements. Are you referring to everything John Solomon stated or just some of it?Vindman: All the elements that I just laid out for you. The criticisms of corruption were false.Zeldin: You mentioned —Vindman: Were there more items in there, frankly, congressman? I don’t recall. I haven’t looked at the article in quite some time, but you know, his grammar might have been right.
Read more at the WaPo.
Alexander Nazaryan at Yahoo News: Testimony from Alexander Vindman and Fiona Hill caps a devastating week for Trump.
The week ended on a sour note for President Trump, with the public release of testimony by two national security council staffers — one current, one former — who expressed alarm over the way Trump officials pressured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky for political help at home. The campaign, orchestrated by Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and intended to harm Joe Biden, a political rival, is now the subject of an impeachment inquiry launched last month by the House of Representatives….
That scheme was managed by Giuliani, whose role in attempting to wrest political concessions from Zelensky was plainly troubling to career public servants unused to his unorthodox approach. “Rudy Giuliani is a hand grenade that is going to blow everybody up,” national security adviser John Bolton told Fiona Hill, a Russia hardliner on the National Security Council whose testimony was released on Friday.
The other transcript released on Friday is of the interview with Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a Ukraine expert at the NSC. Vindman remains at his job at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, right next to the White House, despite having been the subject of withering attacks by Trump and his allies. Bolton was fired in September, while Hill left her post in June.
The testimony of the two officials is bound to energize Democrats ahead of next week’s public hearings. It includes a denunciation by Vindman of the “inherent risk” of playing politics with world affairs and Hill’s flat assessment of the Republican talking point — that Ukraine “was launching an effort to upend our  election” — as “a fiction.”
Read the rest at the link. You can also read a good summary of the testimony highlights at CNN: We read all 2,677 pages of impeachment inquiry testimony released to date. Here’s what’s clear.
The New York Times has a background piece on John Eisenberg, the White House lawyer who is accused of ordering concealment of Trump’s Ukraine phone call: Ukraine Affair Thrusts White House Lawyer Into Center of Crisis.
Mr. Eisenberg has emerged as a central figure in the impeachment inquiry, appearing frequently in the new transcripts. House investigators want to question him, but he skipped a scheduled deposition this week….
Mr. Eisenberg, 52, served a decade ago as a Justice Department lawyer who worked on surveillance law. Interviews with more than two dozen current and former colleagues paint a portrait of a meticulous, conservative lawyer with a tightly wound and introverted, sometimes prickly manner.
Former associates questioned whether his experience made him an awkward fit for his current role, which requires rendering legal judgments in fast-moving crises arising from military and intelligence operations. The Trump transition team selected Mr. Eisenberg over many prominent Republican national security lawyers who had signed “Never Trump” statements.
That figures. At the DOJ, Eisenberg was a supporter of warrantless surveilance program.
During the George W. Bush administration, Mr. Eisenberg landed at the Justice Department’s powerful Office of Legal Counsel, where he came to focus on national security.
In Mr. Bush’s second term, Mr. Eisenberg was among a few executive branch lawyers who tried to put its contentious warrantless surveillance program onto firmer legal footing. Mr. Bush began the program after the Sept. 11 attacks based on an expansive claim of executive power, even though a 1978 law required court orders for wiretaps on domestic soil.
Mr. Eisenberg and the other lawyers developed a creative legal theory for why a court could lawfully issue orders blessing the program. They persuaded a judge in 2007 to do so. But another judge balked, and the administration turned to Congress to enact a new surveillance law instead.
Read more about Eisenberg at the NYT link.
According to Dana Millbank at The Washington Post, there are plenty of examples of Trump’s childish behavior in the impeachment inquiry transcripts: The United States is being run by a toddler.
More examples at the link.
I’m going to end there. Please share your thoughts and recommended reads in the comment thread below.