Lazy Caturday Reads

By Midori Yamada

Good Morning!!

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….

By Tetsuo Takahara

…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.

By Cheryl Wilson

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.

Kazuaki Horitomo

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.

In the pages of The Hill, Solomon poured starting fluid on the idea that former vice president Joe Biden had pressed for the ouster of a Ukrainian prosecutor so as to lessen the pressure on the company where his son, Hunter Biden, held a board seat. Part of this Solomon oeuvre included an interview with then-Ukrainian prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko, who alleged that former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch had presented him a do-not-prosecute list.

There’s no evidence for such a deed. Lutsenko later retracted the claim, and Vindman called it “preposterous” in his deposition.

Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.) decided to press Vindman on his conclusion that Solomon was pushing bogus reporting.

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.

To check on Solomon’s reporting, Vindman had quizzed his “interagency colleagues” at the State Department and the intelligence community. He asked for “background” and wanted to know if there was “anything substantive in this area.”

Read more at the WaPo.

By Kamwei Fong

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 [2016] 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….

By Didier Lourenco

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.

He has tantrums. He rips up paper. He disregards facts. He believes crazy conspiracies. He’s erratic and ill-informed. Those around him walk on eggshells, trying to prevent him from doing the geopolitical equivalent of sticking his finger in an electrical socket.

U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, a Trump donor and political appointee, described Trump’s style: “President Trump changes his mind on what he wants on a daily basis. I have no idea what he wanted on the day I called him.” Sondland also spoke about Trump’s “completely inconsistent” behavior: “The funny part is that he was railing about the problems with Ukraine in our meeting, but I think shortly after that he sent essentially an unconditional invitation to President Zelensky to come visit him.”

By Hiroshige

Sondland testified about Trump’s unreasonableness (“He sort of went on and on and on about how Ukraine is a disaster and they’re bad people”), limited attention (“He didn’t even want to deal with it anymore, and he basically waved and said, ‘Go talk to Rudy’”) and poor judgment (“Taking directions from the president, as I must, I spoke with Mr. Giuliani … Please know that I would have not recommended that”). Likewise, George Kent, the deputy secretary of state overseeing Ukraine, painted a picture of aides trying to soothe a childlike Trump. “Initially the president did not want to sign a congratulatory letter, and he actually ripped up the letter that had been written for him,” Kent testified. “But by the end of the meeting he’d been convinced.”

Republicans’ questions suggest they, too, accept that the president is not entirely rational; they urged witnesses to respond as “if you are in President Trump’s world,” whether Trump’s views are “reasonable or not” and “fair or not.”

For example: “If the president, for whatever reason, true or untrue, develops a feeling that he’s got an ambassador that isn’t loyal to him, he’s going to bring them home, correct?”

And: “If you try to get inside the president’s head, I mean, he may have been searching for the name ‘Burisma’ but couldn’t grasp it so he spits out ‘Biden’?”

More examples at the link.

I’m going to end there. Please share your thoughts and recommended reads in the comment thread below.

26 Comments on “Lazy Caturday Reads”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    Have a great Veterans Day weekend, Sky Dancers!!

  2. bostonboomer says:
    • bostonboomer says:

      It’s fun read.

      It’s not unheard-of for one candidate in a large presidential field to become unpopular with the others. In 2004, established Democrats made no secret about their dislike for Howard Dean, the relatively unknown governor of Vermont who said he represented “the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party.” During the 2008 Republican primary, Mitt Romney was so disliked by his rivals that only Ron Paul would speak with him backstage before debates. Barack Obama wasn’t popular among his rivals at the beginning of his 2008 race.

  3. bostonboomer says:

  4. bostonboomer says:

    Wow. This is after she won the Senate seat, but she’s focused on how we deal with Trump’s win.

    • quixote says:

      Reminds me a bit of how Hillary’s first statements after it was all stolen and done in 2016 was to keep us moving forward and not despairing.

  5. dakinikat says:

    Wonderful Cat pictures! I have a feeling that Ghouliani will be indicted by Christmas if Bolton takes the seat. He looks like he’s in so deep he’ll die in jail.

    • bostonboomer says:

      Thanks. The one with the banjo is the guy who does tattoed cats. I posted one last week.

  6. bostonboomer says:

  7. bostonboomer says:

  8. dakinikat says:

    Well, LSU is certainly having a good day so far

  9. dakinikat says:

  10. bostonboomer says:

    Alabama has been crushed and stomped into dust.

  11. dakinikat says:

    Hey BB: Did you see this?

    • bostonboomer says:

      Yes I did. I read his book awhile back.

    • quixote says:

      The signs have pointed to the Dump being suborned decades ago. Just one small but total tell: Putin is the only person he’s polite to.

      But if the signs have been out there for people with zero security clearance, then what’s with the US intelligence agencies? How did they manage to totally miss it?

      And if they knew, how could they let this guy move on the Preidency?