Tuesday Reads: Public Impeachment Hearings Begin TomorrowPosted: November 12, 2019
Tomorrow should be an interesting day, as the impeachment inquiry goes public for the first time. NPR has all the details: Impeachment Hearing FAQ: Who Will Testify And How The Questioning Will Work.
Public impeachment hearings begin Wednesday, and the first round of witnesses includes three career public servants who have testified behind closed doors that President Trump did link military aid and a White House meeting for Ukraine with a promise to investigate one of the president’s domestic political opponents….
The first hearing is on Wednesday beginning at 10 a.m. ET. The second hearing is scheduled for 9 a.m. ET on Friday. You can watch live on NPR.org and listen to special coverage on many local public radio stations….
William Taylor, the top diplomat in Ukraine, told investigators that he learned shortly after he was tapped for his post that there was a parallel foreign policy channel set up that he believed undermined U.S. national security interests.
George Kent,the deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, described how Rudy Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, went against the traditional bipartisan approach regarding U.S. support for Ukraine in an effort to push for political investigations.
Marie Yovanovitch was ousted from her post as the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine in May after a campaign led by Giuliani to criticize her performance and alleged lack of support for the president’s policies. She recounted in her closed-door testimony that she was told by Ukrainians to “watch my back” because Giuliani’s associates were pushing their business interests and viewed her as an obstacle.
More at the NPR link.
Rank-and-file bureaucrats who work in the federal agencies that handle national security will defy the directive of the White House to stay quiet, instead describing what they saw as they went about, in their view, just doing their jobs.
Their role in recounting to the public how President Trump and his allies attempted to enlist Ukraine to investigate his political rivals will not come without risk. All but one of the 11 career Foreign Service staff, military officers and Pentagon officials who first testified in closed-door depositions in the Capitol basement are still in government.
They’re back at work following the extraordinary private testimony they gave starting Oct. 3 in the impeachment inquiry into the president they work for. For now, they’ve faced no efforts to punish them for telling House investigators that normal diplomacy was bypassed by a rogue foreign policy to benefit Trump politically, their lawyers say. However, former Ukraine ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, who is scheduled to testify publicly on Friday, is close to retirement and told House investigators that she felt “threatened” by the president — and worried about her pension and her employment.
Top White House political appointees failed to comply with subpoenas to testify. So the accounts of longtime professional staff have driven the fact-finding by the House Intelligence Committee. Their testimony provides a striking contrast with some aides who have left the Trump administration in frustration — only to keep their observations private.
“The American people do not know the extent to which they now benefit from these anonymous professionals in the federal government,” said Timothy Naftali, a historian at New York University and former director of the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum. “The way to understand how the Trump team subverted national security is to understand the experts, the neutral professionals who are describing how foreign policy is supposed to be conducted.”
CNN examines the Russian reactions to the impeachment drama: Putin has relished US political chaos. He may now fear Trump’s impeachment.
On Russian state television, tightly controlled by the Kremlin, support for Donald Trump in his current impeachment battle is absolute. After all it is Russia, they sometimes joke, that got the US president elected in the first place!
Of course, allegations of meddling in the 2016 US presidential election, which swept Trump into office, are officially denied in Russia. But they are often referenced, even on serious television news shows, with a sarcastic wink.
“Have you lost your minds that you want to remove OUR Donald Ivanovich,” bawls Vladimir Soloviev, host of “Evening,” a pro-Kremlin current affairs program which has been focusing on the US impeachment proceedings….
“The chaos brought by Trump into the American system of government is weakening the United States,” Karen Shakhnazarov, CEO of Mosfilm Studio and a regular guest on Russian state television, tells the studio audience.
“America is getting weaker and now Russia is taking its place in the Middle East. Suddenly, Russia is starting to seriously penetrate Africa. So, when they say that Trump is weakening the United States — yes he is and that’s why we love him. The more problems they have, the better for us,” Shakhnazarov says
Read the rest at CNN.
The New York Times has a great background article on the Ukraine matter. It’s long and involved, so I’ll just post the link here for anyone who wants to read it: Trump, Ukraine and Impeachment: The Inside Story of How We Got Here.
As usual, the White House is in chaos in the lead-up to public hearings. The Washington Post reports: White House infighting flares amid impeachment inquiry.
The White House’s bifurcated and disjointed response to Democrats’ impeachment inquiry has been fueled by a fierce West Wing battle between two of President Trump’s top advisers, and the outcome of the messy skirmish could be on full display this week, according to White House and congressional officials.
Acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney has urged aides not to comply with the inquiry and blocked any cooperation with congressional Democrats. Top political aides at the Office of Management and Budget, which Mulvaney once led, have fallen in line with his defiant stance, the officials said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to talk freely about the behind-the-scenes developments.
Mulvaney’s office blames White House counsel Pat Cipollone for not doing more to stop other government officials from participating in the impeachment inquiry, as a number of State Department officials, diplomats and an aide to Vice President Pence have given sworn testimony to Congress.
Cipollone, meanwhile, has fumed that Mulvaney only made matters worse with his Oct. 17 news conference, when he publicly acknowledged a quid pro quo, essentially confirming Democrats’ accusations in front of television cameras and reporters. Cipollone did not want Mulvaney to hold the news conference, a message that was passed along to the acting chief of staff’s office, according to two senior Trump advisers, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. A Mulvaney aide said a team of White House lawyers prepared him for the news conference and never said he should not do it.
Head over to the WaPo to read the rest.
Adam Schiff released more transcripts yesterday, breaking more news.
Betsy Swan at the Daily Beast: Mulvaney’s OMB Held Up Lethal Ukraine Aid in 2017 for Fear of Russian Reaction.
Under Mick Mulvaney’s leadership, the Office of Management and Budget temporarily put a hold on the delivery of anti-tank missiles to Ukraine in 2017 because of concerns their arrival would upset Russia, according to former White House official Catherine Croft….
Croft told congressional impeachment investigators that after the Trump administration greenlit the delivery of Javelin missiles to Ukraine in late 2017—the first delivery of lethal aid to the country since Russian separatists seized territory in its Eastern region in 2014—Mulvaney’s office held it up.
“Did you understand why?” asked the congressional staffer questioning her.
“I understood the reason to be a policy one,” she replied.
“What was the policy one?”
“In a briefing with Mick Mulvaney, the question centered around the Russian reaction,” she continued.
“What was the concern about the Russian reaction?” asked the staffer.
“That Russia would react negatively to the provision of Javelins to Ukraine,” she said.
Laura Cooper, the top Pentagon official overseeing U.S. policy regarding Ukraine, told House impeachment investigators last month that President Donald Trump directed the relevant agencies to freeze aid to Ukraine over the summer, according to a transcript of her testimony released Monday.
Cooper, during Oct. 23 testimony before the three House committees leading the impeachment inquiry into Trump’s Ukraine dealings, testified that she and other Pentagon officials had answered questions about the Ukraine assistance in the middle of June — so she was surprised when one of her subordinates told her that a hold had been placed on the funds after an interagency meeting in July.
“I got, you know, I got a readout from the meeting — there was discussion in that session about the — about OMB [Office of Management and Budget] saying that they were holding the Congressional Notification related to” Ukraine, Cooper testified, according to the transcript.
Cooper, according to the transcript of her testimony, described the hold as “unusual.”
Cooper said that she attended a meeting on July 23, where “this issue” of Trump’s “concerns about Ukraine and Ukraine security assistance” came up. She said the president’s concerns were conveyed by acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney.
Days later, on July 26, she testified that she found out that both military and humanitarian aid had been impacted.
Asked if the president was authorized to order that type of hold, Cooper said there were concerns that he wasn’t.
You can also read a lengthy summary of the latest transcripts at Politico: ‘Alarm bells’: What Cooper, Croft and Anderson told impeachment investigators.
Also at Politico, Laura Glover has an interesting piece on how the Senate could end up removing Trump: There’s a Surprisingly Plausible Path to Removing Trump From Office.
By most everyone’s judgment, the Senate will not vote to remove President Donald Trump from office if the House impeaches him. But what if senators could vote on impeachment by secret ballot? If they didn’t have to face backlash from constituents or the media or the president himself, who knows how many Republican senators would vote to remove?
A secret impeachment ballot might sound crazy, but it’s actually quite possible. In fact, it would take only three senators to allow for that possibility.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said he will immediately move to hold a trial to adjudicate the articles of impeachment if and when the Senate receives them from the House of Representatives. Article I, Section 3, of the Constitution does not set many parameters for the trial, except to say that “the Chief Justice shall preside,” and “no Person shall be convicted without the Concurrence of two thirds of the Members present.” That means the Senate has sole authority to draft its own rules for the impeachment trial, without judicial or executive branch oversight….
…according to current Senate procedure, McConnell will still need a simple majority—51 of the 53 Senate Republicans—to support any resolution outlining rules governing the trial. That means that if only three Republican senators were to break from the caucus, they could block any rule they didn’t like. (Vice President Mike Pence can’t break ties in impeachment matters.) Those three senators, in turn, could demand a secret ballot and condition their approval of the rest of the rules on getting one.
So . . . what stories are you following today?