Whew. The pace didn’t let up. We had a dose f Mulvaney madness, a battle of the meltdowns, the deep state nerds defied the White House and testified, McConnel said get ready for a six-days-a-week trial in the Senate, Rick Perry got thrown under the bus an said he’ll resign, Repub John Kasich came out for impeachment, and at the very end of the week, great reporting from Bloomberg helped clarify that it’s a Russia-linked oligarch fighting extradition who was the prime mover behind the “dirt on Biden” project. Here’s a rundown of it all.
Mulvaney’s Muddled Moment
Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney bravely (or perhaps foolishly) stepped into the fray on Thursday when he said (but didn’t say but really did say) that the White House withheld nearly $400 million in military aid to Ukraine to pressure Ukraine to carry out investigations that would benefit President Trump politically. In a televised briefing he told journalists that yes, the aid was withheld until Ukraine investigated an long debunked conspiracy theory that Ukraine was the culprit who hacked Democratic Party emails in 2016 — a theory that would extinguish the findings of the US intelligence community that Trump was elected with Russian help. Mulvaney punctuated his declaration with “get over it” …. but then hours later issued a “I didn’t say what you know I said” retraction that added to the sense of White House in disarray but provided Team Trump with some cover to disavow the original comments from Mulvaney.
Whose Meltdown Was It?
On Wednesday, at what was supposed to be a briefing by the administration to dem lawmakers about Syria, President Trump and Speaker Nancy Pelosi squared off. The meeting quickly devolved into name-calling and finger-pointing. Trump called Pelosi a “third-grade” politician, Pelosi told Trump that he had just gifted Russia the foothold in the Middle East they have always sought, and added: “All roads with you lead to Putin.” Trump also said: “I hate ISIS more than you do” and referred to Kurds as “communists” which he observed the dems would probably like. Pelosi walked out and announced Trump had had a meltdown; Trump then tweeted a picture of “Nervous Nancy” confronting him across the table, which went viral but not in the way Trump intended. The left embraced the photo, showing the only woman at the table literally standing up to Trumpp–Pelosi even used it as her twitter banner. And the beat went on . . .
And social media had plenty of fun with those to the right of Trump, who don’t seem to be enjoying the moment.
Defiance of the Deep State Nerds
This week it became clear that White House efforts to silence career government officials and keep them from testifying is a failure. Fiona Hill became the first White House official to stand up to efforts by Trump lawyers to silence her — firing back a letter to White House lawyers taking a firm and uncompromising position that privilege does not extend to potentially illegal acts, then went on to give ten hours of damaging testimony. She was followed by career State Department officers George Kent and Michael McKinnon. Even political appointee Gordon Sondland joined the fray, doing his best to clean himself in testimony that was self-serving but ultimately damaging Team Trump. Sondland defied previous orders from the State Department not to speak to House impeachment investigators and appeared behind closed doors for a sworn interview on Thursday. Sondland told investigators that in a White House meeting on May 23, with Secretary of Energy Rick Perry and Kurt Volker, Trump was asked to do a working phone call with Zelensky and arrange an Oval Office visit. “It was obvious to all of us that the key to changing the president’s mind on Ukraine was Mr Giuliani,” Sondland said. Also: “Inviting a foreign government to undertake investigations for the purpose of influencing an upcoming US election would be wrong,” Sondland told investigators. The military aid was “vital” and “should not have been delayed for any reason”
McConnell Forecasts Senate Trial
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made it clear to Republican senators on Wednesday they should be ready for an impeachment trial by late November that would carry through to the end of the year. “Under the impeachment rules of the Senate we will have to take the matter up,” McConnell said in a briefing with reporters after the meeting.
Under US constitutional procedures and Senate Rules, if the House passes articles of impeachment against the president, the Senate must conduct a trial which would be presided over by the chief justice of the Supreme Court. “The chief justice will be in the chair. We will have to convene every day after, six days out of seven,” McConnell said. “We intend to do our constitutional responsibility.”
Rick Perry Gets Close to the FIre, Resigns
Rick Perry’s role in the Ukraine matter came into sharper focus this week, with Ambassador Gordon Sondland pointing to Perry as the member of the “three Amigos” charged with maintaining contact with Rudy Giuliani. On the same day that Sondland testified, Perry announced he will be resigning as Energy seretary. Later, Perry stated that he would not honor a house subpoena, and has no intention of testifying.
Kasich Calls For Impeachment
Republican John Kasich supports impeachment
On Friday, John Kasich, the former Ohio governor who ran against Trump in 2016 for the Republican presidential nomination, said on Friday he supported the impeachment of the president. “The last 24 hours has really forced me to review all of this,” Kasich told CNN, adding that Mulvaney’s comments a day earlier were the “final straw”.
Is Firtash the Man Behind the Curtain?
The cherry on top of the week’s impeachment cake was a report in Bloomberg on Friday night that exiled Ukrainian oligarch Dimitry Firtash, who has been living in Vienna while fighting extradition to the United States for five years, appears to be the man behind the curtain in major respects when it comes to the efforts by Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman to dig up dirt on Joe Biden. Bloomberg traced how Firtash, once he lost a major court decision in July, dispatched Parnas and Fruman to dig up dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden last summer in an effort to get Rudy Giuliani’s help in the oligarch’s legal case. Dmitry Firtash, charged with conspiracy by the U.S. and living in Vienna, shuffled lawyers in July to add Joe diGenova and Victoria Toensing, vocal supporters of President Donald Trump who had worked with Giuliani. Around that time, some of Firtash’s associates began to use his broad network of Ukraine contacts to get damaging information on Biden, the people said.
So that’s the high points of Week 3. Stay tuned. More to come.