Louisiana Republican Sen. John Kennedy now has company among Senate Republicans in his efforts to infest the impeachment debate with pro-Putin talking points that Ukraine was the real culprit in election interference in 2016. That's despite all the evidence. That's despite the entire intelligence community telling them otherwise. That's despite David Hale, the No. 3 official at the State Department, testifying Tuesday to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that he is not aware of a single scrap of evidence that Ukraine had anything to do with the election.
But still they persist. Sen. John Barrasso, a Wyoming Republican who is also a member of the Senate leadership and is close to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, told reporters that Kennedy "has pointed out I think eight different stories" to show Ukraine and Russia "both meddled," but wouldn't elaborate on what he called meddling. "I'm not going to get in the middle of a fight that you want to have picked," he said when pressed for details.
McConnell himself refused to slap the conspiracy theory down. "The intelligence committees have the ability to look at any of these suggestions," he said Tuesday. "My view is that's something for Senate Intelligence to take a look at it, and I don't have a particular reaction to it." His particular reaction is deeds, not words—refusing to take up election security legislation from the House to protect the next election from malign foreign interference.
The most alarming comments, though, came from Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr of North Carolina. His committee has actually conducted an investigation that found, definitively, that Russia was the culprit in interference in the 2016 election, "that [Internet Research Agency] social media activity was overtly and almost invariably supportive of then-candidate Trump," and that the IRA worked "at the direction of the Kremlin."
Additionally, the report said that the "Committee found that the Russian government tasked and supported the IRA' s interference in the 2016 U.S. election." But on Tuesday, Burr said, “There’s no difference in the way Russia put their feet, early on, on the scale—being for one candidate and everybody called it meddling—and how the Ukrainian officials did it."
"No difference," he said. He also said, "Every elected official in the Ukraine was for Hillary Clinton. Is that very different than the Russians being for Donald Trump?" The ranking member on Burr’s committee, Virginia Democratic Sen. Mark Warner, was not amused. "The idea that any other country had that kind of effort is just plain false," he told reporters. "There is absolutely no factual basis for this Ukrainian election interference/CrowdStrike nonsense. None," he tweeted. "Spreading this discredited conspiracy theory only serves to advance Russia's ongoing disinformation campaign against the United States."
Not every Republican is doing Putin's bidding. Sens. Lindsey Graham, John Thune, and Mitt Romney all pushed back on the idea that Ukraine made any attempt to influence the election. But it's telling and frightening that their leader, Mitch McConnell, and their intelligence chair are leaving the question open. Just as Putin wants it. "Thank God," he told a group last month, "no one is accusing us of interfering in the U.S. elections anymore; now they’re accusing Ukraine."
As the House works toward impeachment, there's reportedly internal discussion and some conflict over expanding the articles brought beyond the confines of the Ukraine investigation. Apparently some moderates "wary of impeachment blowback in their GOP-leaning districts."
Members of the Judiciary Committee are considering drafting articles that include the 10 possible instances of obstruction outlined in special counsel Robert Mueller's report as well as results of other investigative and oversight work into the many instances of Trump's emoluments violations. One of the members who spoke to Washington Post reporters on the record is Judiciary Rep. Pramila Jayapal, Democrat from Washington. "One crime of these sorts is enough, but when you have a pattern, it is even stronger. […] If you show that this is not only real in what’s happening with Ukraine, but it’s the exact same pattern that Mueller documented . . . to me, that just strengthens the case." Intelligence Committee member Rep. Mike Quigley of Illinois agrees. "It's hard to ignore the extraordinary documentation and the weight that Mueller put behind the instances of obstruction detailed in his report."
Some of the so-called moderates pressuring House Speaker Pelosi on the issue, the Post reports, want to "keep impeachment narrowly focused on Ukraine, a strategy they believed would help them weather any political backlash in next November’s elections." Others supposedly "have actually encouraged leadership to let them vote against some articles of impeachment on the House floor while backing others, a move that would allow centrists taking heat back home to show a degree of independence from their party’s left flank and their leadership."
Here's what every House Democrat should be thinking about: the trust put in them by the citizens who voted for them to fulfill their oath of office. If they need a reminder: "I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God."
But if they want to think politically, they should be thinking about making the strongest possible case against Trump. That will demonstrate to voters just how craven, unpatriotic, and dangerous the Republicans supporting him continue to be.
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky is shrewdly telling Donald Trump to put his action where his mouth is. Trump and the White House have been insisting that the quid pro quo Trump demanded of Zelensky in the phone call that has led to the House impeachment investigation was really all about encouraging the country to fight corruption in order to receive U.S. assistance. That assistance is critical for Zelensky to leverage against his biggest threat, Vladimir Putin.
In an interview with Time and three European publications, Zelensky explained that he needs U.S. support in upcoming peace talks with Putin, though his expectations are low. His concern is that allies and would-be allies will point to Trump's charges of corruption in Ukraine to deny the country assistance: "When America says, for instance, that Ukraine is a corrupt country, that is the hardest of signals." While he denied again that he and Trump discussed the withholding of aid contingent on his announcing an investigation of the Bidens or Ukraine's fictitious interference in the 2016 election (what else can he do, needing the U.S.?), he criticized the freeze on aid. "If you're our strategic partner, then you can't go blocking anything for us," he said. "I think that's just about fairness. It's not about a quid pro quo."
So what's he doing about it? Fighting corruption, starting with officials linked to Rudy Giuliani's pressure campaign. He plans to kick more than 500 prosecutors out of government by the end of the year, and one of the first to go is Kostiantyn Kulyk. Kulyk is one of the key officials who worked with Giuliani, and, according to his former associates who spoke with The Washington Post, wrote a seven-page memo of cooked-up dirt that was passed on to Giuliani. Zelensky's new prosecutor general, Ruslan Ryaboshapka, who he told Trump in July is "100 percent my person," is also reviewing previous investigations into the owner of Burisma, the natural gas company that employed Hunter Biden.
Zelensky's anticorruption effort seems to be not just a ploy to get Western aid, one senior Western diplomat told the Post, but also a real desire to answer income inequality and advance his country. "Zelensky told me, ‘It's morally wrong for people to be dying and for all this wealth to be around,'" the diplomat said. "It's the first time in all these years I've heard an official really talk that way. To be so genuinely appalled."
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Adam Schiff is giving members of his committee just 24 hours to read and give the green light to his report recommending articles of impeachment against Donald Trump.
House Judiciary Committee chairman Rep. Jerry Nadler has seen the report, and said it includes evidence of “collusion” with Russia, as well as Ukraine.
On Monday, Schiff will reportedly provide the entire report to committee members. They will have to sign off on it no later than Tuesday due to the first hearing in Nadler’s committee on Wednesday. That hearing will review the supposed constitutional basis for impeachment. Most assume Democrats will agree with and approve of Schiff’s report.
Not that actual evidence seems to matter much to Democrats. A majority of Dems favored an impeachment inquiry by August 1–almost a week-and-a-half before the so-called “whistleblower” contacted Schiff to complain about the Trump’s phone call with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky.
Many speculate that Democrats are worried about letting impeachment affect the 2020 presidential primary. Several U.S. Senators who are running for the White House will have to leave the campaign trail. They are also worried the public doesn’t want impeachment and that could be reflected by a Trump victory next November.
Adam Schiff is only giving his committee 24 hours to review & sign off on his impeachment report
They're not even pretending to take this impeachment seriously
Why the rush?
Could it be because the IG report is coming out on the 9th?
But the Democrats rush to impeach this President without even knowing why has been a factor from the very beginning. On the same day that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced an impeachment inquiry, Trump had already announced that he had declassified the transcript of the phone call with Ukraine’s president.
Still, Pelosi did not want to wait for the evidence. Clearly, this has always been all about politics. Even the Intelligence Committee rushed its proceedings before any supposed evidence was available to congressional members.
Nadler says President Trump has until Friday to respond to a request to participate in the Judiciary Committee’s impeachment proceedings.
Russia has done this before. And I’m not even talking about the Soviet era, when the USSR simply took control of various governments by direct force of arms. No, I’m talking about stealthily subverting another country’s election and placing its puppet into power. That’s what Russia did to Poland-Lithuania during the 18th century.
How many of you, I wonder, knew that Lithuania was once the largest country in Europe? Moreover, that was before it joined with Poland to become, for a time, not only the dominant power in Eastern Europe, but also one with a significant degree of democracy. Before I discuss this history, I must mention the brilliant scholar and teacher under whom I studied it in graduate school, Andrzej Kaminski. One of my favorite memories from those classes was when the professor, a native Polish speaker, responded to a student’s request for more time to complete an assignment by saying, “My nose bleeds for you.”
After the enactment of the Union of Lublin in 1569, the Commonwealth of Poland-Lithuania was an elected, constitutional monarchy, where the king’s powers were counterbalanced by a parliament that was no rubber stamp. Although the right to elect the king and members of the legislature was limited to male noblemen, the nobility was estimated to be somewhere between 8-15% of the population—far higher than in any other European country at the time.
In 1610 Poland-Lithuania looked for a moment like it might come to dominate Russia after winning a series of battles with the country and having the son of its king crowned tsar.
In the end, however, the tables were turned. Russia began grabbing more and more territory from its western neighbor. The end result was the Partitions of Poland which, between 1772 and 1795, divvied up the country’s remaining territory among Austria, Prussia, and Russia—with the latter taking the lion’s share. How did this happen? It’s a long story, but in short, it’s because significant elements of the country’s political leadership sold it out to Moscow:
During the reign of Władysław IV (1632–48), the liberum veto was developed, a policy of parliamentary procedure based on the assumption of the political equality of every "gentleman", with the corollary that unanimous consent was needed for all measures. A single member of parliament's belief that a measure was injurious to his own constituency (usually simply his own estate), even after the act had been approved, became enough to strike the act. Thus it became increasingly difficult to undertake action. The liberum veto also provided openings for foreign diplomats to get their ways, through bribing nobles to exercise it. Thus, one could characterise Poland–Lithuania in its final period (mid-18th century) before the partitions as already in a state of disorder and not a completely sovereign state, and almost as a vassal state, with Russian tsars effectively choosing Polish kings. This applies particularly to the last Commonwealth King Stanisław August Poniatowski, who for some time had been a lover of Russian Empress Catherine the Great.
As Eric Lohr, an American University historian specializing in Russia, summarized it, “By the early 18th century, Russia was routinely meddling in internal Polish electoral politics.” This should sound quite familiar to Americans in the era of Donald Trump.
Vladimir Putin’s Russia interfered in our elections in 2016, as U.S. intelligence agencies have clearly documented. Not only that, but Moscow has spent years denying it and deflecting blame by spreading the false rumor that Ukraine—a country that, like 18th-century Poland, it wants to weaken and ultimately dominate—was the one who did it.
Any objective analysis would treat those Russian denials as no more trustworthy than, for another example, Russian claims that they strictly follow all the anti-doping rules that govern international athletics (not only did they cheat, they invented fake evidence to try and discredit the whistleblower who exposed their cheating. Let’s hope Trump doesn’t copy Putin on that score as well.)
Putin’s success in placing his chosen candidate in the Oval Office is so thorough that Trump and his allies are now parroting the false rumor about Ukrainian meddling—one that clearly benefits Russian interests—in their bogus impeachment defense. Reported The New York Times,
The Republican defense of Mr. Trump became central to the impeachment proceedings when Fiona Hill, a respected Russia scholar and former senior White House official, added a harsh critique during testimony on Thursday [November 21]. She told some of Mr. Trump’s fiercest defenders in Congress that they were repeating “a fictional narrative.” She said that it likely came from a disinformation campaign by Russian security services, which also propagated it.
In a briefing that closely aligned with Dr. Hill’s testimony, American intelligence officials informed senators and their aides in recent weeks that Russia had engaged in a yearslong campaign to essentially frame Ukraine as responsible for Moscow’s own hacking of the 2016 election, according to three American officials. The briefing came as Republicans stepped up their defenses of Mr. Trump in the Ukraine affair.
The revelations demonstrate Russia’s persistence in trying to sow discord among its adversaries — and show that the Kremlin apparently succeeded, as unfounded claims about Ukrainian interference seeped into Republican talking points. American intelligence agencies believe Moscow is likely to redouble its efforts as the 2020 presidential campaign intensifies. The classified briefing for senators also focused on Russia’s evolving influence tactics, including its growing ability to better disguise operations.
As Dr. Hill noted in her testimony, “The Russians have a particular vested interest in putting Ukraine, Ukrainian leaders in a very bad light.” Trump and his buddies—from Rep. Devin Nunes, the ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, to Sen. John Kennedy of Louisiana—are playing right along, doing Putin’s bidding (although Kennedy backtracked and pretended he hadn’t understood the question he’d been asked).
Even Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who had said in July 2017, "I am confident that the Russians meddled in this election, as is the entire intelligence community," and then declared that he stood by that assessment a few months later—after Trump said that he believed Putin’s denial—is now toeing the Kremlin’s line. Pompeo this week was asked if our government, along with that of Ukraine, should investigate the debunked claim that Kyiv, not Moscow, had interfered in our election by stealing those infamous emails from the Democratic National Committee. Rather than again reaffirm what he said in 2017, Pompeo instead backed his boss and said, ”Any time there is information that indicates that any country has messed with American elections, we not only have a right, but a duty to make sure we chase that down.” As Politico put it, he “appeared to bolster the conspiratorial claim, promoted by President Donald Trump, that it was Ukraine that hacked the DNC server in the 2016 White House race.”
We can hear the chuckling all the way from Moscow.
Here's how Putin feels about the impeachment hearings: "Thank God nobody is accusing us any more of interfering in the U.S. elections.""Now they're accusing Ukraine" pic.twitter.com/zQ14uRgWKG
Putin, ever so clever, yukked it up last month about sticking his fingers into our elections next year as well. More ominously, in 2018 he suggested that even if the people responsible for interfering in our 2016 elections were Russian citizens, they might well have been Jews.
Repulsive Putin remark deserves to be denounced, soundly and promptly, by world leaders. Why is Trump silent? Intolerance is intolerable. https://t.co/ZxQHvIWs5w
It’s important to remember that The Man Who Lost The Popular Vote has acted in ways that align with Russian interests since long before the impeachment inquiry began. He isn’t just cozying up to Putin to save his presidency—cozying up to Putin has defined his presidency.
There are striking parallels between the actions of some corrupt members of the early modern Polish nobility—those who placed their narrow personal interests above those of their country—and those of Trump and his ever-Trumper allies who are placing the interests of their party, or simply its leader, above those of our country.
In both cases, the actions of these sellouts allowed a foreign power—the same one, in fact—to exercise what certainly appears to be a significant degree of control over the country they were sworn to serve. Just ask the Poles how well that worked out for them in the long run.
Working for Donald Trump in any capacity falls within one of the lower bolge of Dante’s Inferno. Trump has run through White House officials faster than he’s scarfed cheeseburgers, and while it may seem like there’s an endless stream of would-be Trump-stars lining up to be the next person shot out the door, there’s a reason that 9 out of 10 top positions on the National Security Council are currently occupied by no one and that Mick Mulvaney and Jared Kushner are assigned to do so many things so, so poorly.
But when it comes to the position of his personal attorney, Trump has special demands. It’s not that he calls on his legal counsel to be especially well-versed in the law. It’s more the other thing—the thing where he demands that they be the icebreaker in any illegal activity, and make so much noise that they distract from the fact that Trump is engaged in serious criminal activity. When Michael Cohen was at the helm, he described that role as being Trump’s “fixer.” In the midst of the Russia investigation, Trump ran through a whole list of attorneys, but even the massive mustache of Ty Cobb couldn’t seem to satisfy Trump’s need for someone who was willing to be even louder and more obnoxious than Trump—a very difficult demand. Then came Rudy Giuliani.
Giuliani and Trump are a match made in marketing hell: twin egomaniacs who can never admit an error, who double down on every lie, and who are absolutely incapable of feeling shame even when their lies cause incalculable damage to others. Both of them seem to genuinely feel that they are God’s gift to mankind, even when they’re using their divine office to crap on everyone so unlucky as to be not them. All of which is going to make the breakup just insanely fun to watch.
And it’s coming. Every single witness in the impeachment inquiry pointed their finger at Giuliani as the number one source of extortion, corruption, and plain old chaos. Trump has already begun the process of cutting Giuliani free, of claiming that Giuliani was just an attorney he knows, who happened to be in Ukraine, doing something, and you’d have to ask him to figure out what that might be. Certainly not anything to do with Trump. That Trump invoked Giuliani specifically for his work in Ukraine, specifically for the task of ratf#cking Joe Biden, directly in his “perfect” phone call with the president of Ukraine only makes the whole thing infinitely better.
But while Rudy is trying to remember where he stashed all his supposed insurance against being dumped by Trump, let’s take another stroll down memory lane ...
Michael Cohen wasn’t just Trump’s arm-twister for the decade running up to the 2016 campaign; he thought he was was Trump’s friend. So when Trump went from declaring Cohen a “great man” and defending their relationship in April of 2018 to this just two weeks later … it stung.
Mr. Cohen, an attorney, received a monthly retainer, not from the campaign and having nothing to do with the campaign, from which he entered into, through reimbursement, a private contract between two parties, known as a non-disclosure agreement, or NDA. These agreements are.....
But Cohen genuinely did have “insurance.” He had a recording of his conversations with Trump in which Trump not only directed him to make payoffs to the two women whose statements he was working with the National Enquirer to bury, but even instructed Cohen on just how to make those payments so that they would be more difficult to track.
None of that stopped Trump from denying that he had ever done anything wrong, or that he had even been aware of what Cohen was doing. When Trump went on Fox News at the end of 2018, Cohen was no longer described as his personal attorney, longtime friend, or the guy whose office was next to Trump’s for a decade. Instead he was just “a lawyer,” and “I never directed him to do anything wrong,” and "Whatever he did, he did on his own.”
2018 also brought us that incredible period of Cohen-Giuliani overlap, in which Giuliani was explaining that everything that Cohen had done at the instructions of Trump was perfectly okay, with The New York Times reporting, “’They funneled through a law firm, and the president repaid it,’ Mr. Giuliani told Sean Hannity, the Fox News host.”
Well, when you’ve made campaign finance law-violating payments to adult entertainers to blackmail them into staying quiet about the affair you had when your wife was home with a newborn … that’s all good then. That was also the period in which Giuliani got to explain that Cohen was paid almost half a million for “doing no work” for Trump.
It took all the way until March of 2019 before the public got the chance to see Cohen testify against Trump … shortly before he was fitted for an orange jumpsuit.
And now it’s Giuliani’s turn. On Tuesday, Trump was once again reaching out to one of his right-wing media pals, telling Bill O’Reilly that Giuliani was an attorney who “had other clients,” and that whatever he was doing in Ukraine, it had nothing to do with Trump. Giuliani is exactly where Cohen was in May of 2018.
It doesn’t really matter whether Giuliani has a drawer full of Trump recordings—if he did, security expert Giuliani would have likely delivered them to the press by butt dial long before now. But this time there’s already a big chunk of insurance out there in the form of the “transcript” Trump produced of his phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. That document, even with inaccuracies and missing words, turns out to be the gift that keeps on giving.
And what really does seem perfect is that, after all the times Giuliani released information in an attempt to defang its damaging potential, it was the time that Trump decided to run forward with such information without Giuliani that shows how the two of them were roped together in this scheme.
One thing is clear: Donald Trump is ready to send Rudy Giuliani down the same slide that Giuliani helped to grease for Michael Cohen. And this time, he can get William Barr to play the Rudy role, which was the Cohen role, which was the Roy Cohn role. Being Trump’s attorney means that your first job is disposing of Trump’s previous attorney.
On Tuesday, The New York Times reported that Donald Trump’s suspension of military assistance to Ukraine caused two members of the Office of Management and Budget to resign immediately. OMB official Mark Sandy reported that “frustrations about not understanding the reason for the hold” caused one unnamed member of the White House staff to depart, while a second followed on the grounds that the whole action was illegal.
The idea that Trump could withhold aid to Ukraine for any reason at all seems to be at odds with the actual language of the authorizing legislation. That legislation did require that Ukraine be certified to have met guidelines for fighting corruption and promoting democracy, but the task of determining whether or not Ukraine had cleared that hurdle was assigned to the Department of Defense, and as DOD official Laura Cooper testified in the impeachment hearings, the assistance was cleared on May 23. At that time, the DOD even wrote a letter to members of Congress informing them that the assistance to Ukraine was good to go.
As the website Just Security makes clear, there are only a very few things that can be used to justify a delay in disbursing funds that have been authorized by Congress, signed into law, and certified as meeting the requirements set forth in legislation. None of them applies in this case. Trump’s hold on funds to Ukraine is an “abuse of its apportionment authority and constituted an illegal deferral.” And, as Sandy testified, the Trump White House was made well aware that the hold was illegal—and it did it anyway.
During the impeachment hearings, Devin Nunes, Jim Jordan, and others on the Republican bench attempted to diminish the scale of what Trump did in Ukraine by pointing out that assistance to other countries either was on hold or had been delayed. That’s true—and in some cases it wasn’t illegal, because the legislation in those cases included additional circumstances that allowed a deferral of assistance. But there’s at least one other instance in which Trump has delayed assistance that is at least as bad as the case of Ukraine. Because that assistance remains delayed, with no stated reason, and it’s causing even more disruption in a Middle East that Trump has already turned up to a boil.
As Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy points out, Trump has pulled all funds that were supposed to go to the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF). After years of being torn apart by proxy forces from Iran and Syria, and decades of being used as a pawn in a larger game of regional control, Lebanon is poised to bring itself together around a unified force that crosses religious boundaries and pushes back against extremists on both sides. Congress has authorized $105 million to assist the LAF in reducing the role of Hezbollah and pushing back against growing threats of Russian invasion. But Trump suspended that aid, without providing a reason.
As Reuters reported in October, protests in Beirut recently led to the resignation of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri. But that’s a good thing. Because, as the Brookings Institute details, it shows that Hezbollah’s role in the war-torn country is weakening, and that the LAF has “responded with admirable courage, restraint, and independence in defying calls by Hezbollah leaders and private pleas from the presidential palace to clear the streets.” These protests were a welcome sign of growing freedom and respect for human rights in an area where military force has all too frequently given power to extremists.
Lebanon and the LAF are in a position where the long-fractured society and nation could begin the difficult process of reintegrating, but only if they can protect themselves from forces coming in from Syria—including Russian forces.
Today anti-corruption, anti-elite (inc Hezbollah) protests are erupting all over Lebanon. ItÃ¢Â€Â™s an exciting moment. But Iranian backed Hezbollah is fighting back, confronting the young, often female led protest movement. The LAF is the only force that can protect the protesters.
By withholding funds, Trump is leaving the protesters open to attack by Hezbollah, and opening the nation to invasion by forces that, just as in Ukraine, see the delay in the disbursal of U.S. funds as a sign that the United States is no longer interested in acting as a partner.
Lebanon is a nation on the brink. Donald Trump is pushing it in the wrong direction. Just as in Ukraine, he could be opening them up to Russian control. And he’s not even bothering to provide an excuse.
One of the chilling moments in testimony from this week in the impeachment hearings into Donald Trump held by the House Intelligence Committee came from Dr. Fiona Hill, a former National Security Council Russia expert. "Russia's security services and their proxies have geared up to repeat their interference in the 2020 election," she told the committee in her opening statement. "We are running out of time to stop them."
We are also running out of experts in the government to do so. Jeanette Manfra, a top official with the Department of Homeland Security's Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, announced Thursday that she is stepping down. "After 12 years at DHS, I’ll be leaving @CISAgov at the end of this year," Manfra tweeted. "This is not an easy decision, as it's been one of my greatest honors to work alongside such a remarkable team on this incredibly important mission."
That follows last month's blockbuster resignation of White House computer security chief Dimitrios Vastakis, who blasted the administration in his exit letter. "The White House is posturing itself to be electronically compromised once again," he wrote. That follows an exodus of at least a dozen top- or high-level officials who have resigned or been pushed out of the cybersecurity offices in the administration. "Allowing for a large portion of institutional knowledge to concurrently walk right out the front door seems contrary to the best of interests of the mission and organization as a whole," Vastakis warned.
At the same time, the Federal Election Commission has been rendered powerless with the resignation of its vice chairman, Matthew Petersen. That left the FEC with too few commissioners to have the necessary quorum to make decisions. Since 2015, when Moscow Mitch McConnell became Senate majority leader, not a single new commissioner to the FEC has been confirmed. So there's no elections watchdog anymore, and a shrinking cybersecurity community to combat foreign intrusions.
It's almost like Moscow Mitch is inviting Russia to collude and interfere in 2020.
Fiona Hill, who served as a top Russia adviser to President Trump, testified at an impeachment hearing on Thursday that a longtime Clinton insider showed her a copy of the Steele dossier a day before it was published by BuzzFeed News.
Hill testified that Strobe Talbott, the former president of the Brookings Institution, shared the salacious document with her on Jan. 9, 2017. At the time, Hill was a director at Brookings, a left-of-center foreign policy think tank. She joined the Trump White House in early 2017 as senior director fore European and Russian affairs on the National Security Council.
A day after Hill’s exchange with Talbott, BuzzFeed published the dossier, which was authored by former British spy Christopher Steele and funded by the Clinton campaign and DNC.
Hill’s testimony establishes yet another link between Steele’s dossier work and Clinton world. Talbott is a longtime Clinton associate who served in the Bill Clinton administration in the 1990s. His brother-in-law is Cody Shearer, a Clinton-linked operative who is the author of a Trump dossier of his own that closely mirrors allegations made by Steele.
Steele, a former MI6 officer, revealed in an Aug. 1, 2018 court filings as part of a dossier-related lawsuit that he provided Talbott with information from his dossier because of Talbott’s position on the State Department’s Foreign Affairs Advisory Board, which provides foreign policy advice to the secretary of state and other officials at Foggy Bottom.
“As regards disclosure to Strobe Talbott (if relevant to this claim), the Defendant relies on US Department of State Foreign Affairs Policy Board,” reads the Steele court filing.
Steele relied on another State Department contact to push the dossier into government channels. The former spy met in Summer 2016 with Jonathan Winer, who served at the time as special envoy to Libya. Winer shared some of Steele’s information with other State Department officials. He also helped arrange an Oct. 11, 2016 meeting between Steele and Kathleen Kavalec, who then served as deputy assistant secretary for European and Eurasian affairs.
Hill met Steele in 2016, though she said in a Nov. 14 deposition that she did not know that he was investigating Trump at the time.
She also cast doubt on Steele’s work and his motivations. She said in her deposition that she thought Russians fed Steele disinformation about President Trump. She also said that Steele, who owns a private intelligence firm in London, would “constantly try to drum up business” during their meetings.
Hill told Rep. Devin Nunes on Thursday that she does not recall the specific date when she met Steele in 2016. She said in her deposition that she first met Steele when she served as a national intelligence analyst in the 2000s. Steele was Hill’s counterpart at MI6, she said.
Hill, who left the National Security Council in July, said in her deposition that she was “shocked” to learn that Steele was the author of the dossier. When she read the report, Hill said she had “misgivings and concern that [Steele] could have been played.”
She also said in the Nov. 14 deposition that she believed Russia’s disinformation efforts were successful.
“There’s been a cloud over President Trump since the beginning of his presidency, and I think that’s exactly what the Russians intended,” she said.
Ed MacMahon, the attorney for Lev Parnas—the indicted pal of Rudy Giuliani—says Parnas helped Rep. Devin Nunes in his "investigations" in 2018 intended to undermine Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian election-meddling. Parnas helped Nunes, the ranking member on the Intelligence Committee now conducting impeachment hearings, arrange meetings and calls in Europe.
That includes a four-day trip Nunes and three of his aides—Derek Harvey, Scott Glabe, and George Pappas—took at the end of November 2018. A four-day trip that cost the American taxpayers just over $63,000. This trip, and Nunes’ work, has been focused on trying to kick up enough dirt to suggest that the Mueller investigation wasn't spurred by Russia's interference in the 2016 election and the Trump campaign, but by some nefarious global Deep State effort to make nude photos of Donald Trump public. Or something. MacMahon did not tell the Daily Beast, which broke the story, what precisely Nunes was after and what the "investigation" entailed.
Parnas has been a busy guy on behalf of Trump. You'll remember he's the one, along with colleague and other friend of Rudy Igor Fruman, who was given a secret "James Bond mission" from Trump at last year's White House Hanukkah party, designed to pressure Ukraine into an investigation of Joe Biden and his son Hunter.
If Nunes or his Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy had a single shred of integrity, Nunes would be recused from the impeachment proceedings. Instead, he is there on behalf of Trump to try to derail the process.