Trump’s ambassador to the EU says what we all know about his ex-boss: He’s a ‘dick’

A U.S. ambassador appointed by former President Donald Trump has written in his new memoir that his ex-boss was a “dick” and a “narcissist.” We hope there’s more, because that’s not revelatory news to anyone with a brain in their head.

Gordon Sondland was appointed to his role in 2018, two years after donating $1 million to Trump after the 2016 election. The former hotelier, like all of Trump’s appointees, had zero skills or experience for the job, but that didn’t stop him from taking it.

His new book, titled, The Envoy: Mastering the Art of Diplomacy with Trump and the World, will be published on Oct. 25, The Guardian (which got an advance copy of the book) reports. 

RELATED STORY: Georgia's GOP has challenged 65,000 voter registrations this year, analysis shows

Campaign Action

Barnes and Noble describe Sondland’s book as a “behind-the-scenes look at Trump, his cabinet, and an international diplomacy you’ve never seen before—written by someone with no scores to settle, no hidden agenda, no check to cash, and no fucks to give.”

In the book, Sondland, 64, compares working for Trump to “staying at an all-inclusive resort. You’re thrilled when you first arrive, but things start to go downhill fast. Quality issues start to show. The people who work the place can be rude and not so bright. Attrition is a huge problem. And eventually, you begin to wonder why you agreed to the deal in the first place.”

That said, according to Sondland, he was following Trump’s order in the blackmail phone call of the recently elected president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy. He confirmed the whole quid pro quo with Trump and Zelenskyy during his 2019 testimony to the House Intelligence Committee in Trump’s first impeachment hearing.

Sondland explained at the time that Trump wanted Zelenskyy to investigate Hunter Biden, and in exchange, Zelenskyy would get military aid to Kyiv and an Oval Office visit, The Washington Post reports.

In his book, Sondland brushes off the whole thing, writing that “Quid pro quos happen all the time,” adding that “studies that show when married men pitch in and clean the bathroom, they have more sex.” Who’s the dick now?

Sondland didn’t earn any friends by testifying about folks such as Mike Pompeo, the former secretary of state, who was deeply connected to the infamous Trump-Zelenskyy phone call.

Mostly Sondland just drags his former boss, describing an Oval Office with loud country music “blasting from inside” and Trump spending more time “vetting the theme music for his next rally” than preparing for meetings with foreign dignitaries.

“Trump does focus on some details, and this is an important one,” Sondland writes. “Never mind that the Oval Office sounds like a country western bar, and we are supposed to be prepping for a visit with a foreign leader.”

At one point, Sondland writes that he once reminded Trump in 2016, “you were kind of a dick to me when we first met,” and, according to The Guardian, Sondland made reference to the former president’s narcissist tendencies.

Sondland’s testimony during Trump’s first impeachment: 

Donald Trump and his MAGA allies came close to overthrowing our democracy on January 6, and they will try again if they win in 2022. The best thing you can do is to help get out the Democratic vote for the midterms, and we need everyone to do what they can. Click here to find all the volunteer opportunities available.

Want to ruin an insurrectionist's day? Chip in $5 to help defeat MAGA militants running for office in eight battleground states this November.

History 101: Parallels between Putin’s Russia and Hitler’s Germany, plus U.S. reaction then and now

Battlefield developments regarding the brutal, unprovoked, imperialistic Russian invasion of Ukraine appear multiple times on this site’s front page every day—with good reason. For starters, Moscow has the world’s second largest military, and more nuclear weapons than any other country. Truly understanding the conflict means looking beyond what’s happened since hostilities began and examining history.

For example, although many of us have a vague sense that Vladimir Putin and Adolf Hitler share some similarities as aggressive warmongers, it’s important to provide substance to supplement that vague sense—and to connect the history to the present both in terms of events in Europe and the reaction of our own country to the two dictators’ bloodthirsty acts.

The First World War officially ended at the stroke of the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918—an appalling six hours after the countries involved had signed the armistice agreement. How many soldiers died in combat during those final six hours? Almost three thousand, and the last one was an American.

The conflict decisively altered the map of Central and Eastern Europe.

Before:

After:

Four states that had ruled over large swathes of territory were defeated, and their dynasties overthrown: the Austro-Hungarian, Ottoman, Russian, and German empires. The Ottoman Empire dissolved, and the Turkish Republic that emerged in its place was limited to the Turkish heartland of Anatolia and, in Europe, a tiny bit of land surrounding Istanbul (they had lost much of their territory in Europe in the Balkan Wars that immediately preceded WWI).

The war led to fundamental change in Russia. The country became a democracy for a few months in 1917, and then, thanks to the Bolsheviks, transformed into the Soviet Union near the end of that year. By losing the war, it lost control over Finland, as well as the Baltic states of Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia, which all became independent, while the territory known now as Moldova went from being Russian to Romanian. However, during the Second World War, the USSR reacquired all of these, except Finland—of which it did get a small slice—and added a large block of eastern Poland as well.

Austria-Hungary, the patrimony of the Habsburg dynasty, split apart completely. Most importantly for our purposes, its dissolution left millions who identified as ethnic Germans as either minorities in newly created states such as Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Yugoslavia, or in the rump-Austrian Republic. The Treaty of Versailles barred the newly created Austria from joining their territory to that of Germany, a step—known in German as Anschluss—that its leaders and most citizens wanted to take, rather than remain an independent state.

As for Germany, the Hohenzollern family abdicated the throne and democracy became its form of government. Elected leaders drew up a new constitution in the city of Weimar, which gave its name to the era running from the end of the war until Hitler’s takeover in 1933. The Versailles Treaty mandated that Germany hand over Alsace-Lorraine to France, a small piece of land to Belgium, a province to Denmark, and, in the East, one city (Memel) to Lithuania, as well as a large chunk of territory to Poland—which was reconstituted 123 years after having been forcibly partitioned by neighboring states. Large numbers of people who identified as Germans were now citizens of the new Poland, living in what became known as the “Polish Corridor.”

Germany had been the predominant military power on the European continent since its unification in 1871—accomplished in the wake of its crushing defeat of France, which had held that title for over two centuries. The country had a long tradition of militarism, and most Germans held martial values in high regard. They were proud of the nation’s military strength and battlefield victories. On the whole, Germany felt humiliated and was left wanting revenge after their defeat in WWI. Some Germans, in particular on the right, wanted nothing more than to undo the war’s outcome.

These revisionist desires were a major factor fueling Hitler's ability to win support—he was going to make Germany great again—and, ultimately, provided the basis for his aggressive foreign policy in the 1930s. As noted on the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum website:

Revision of the Versailles Treaty represented one of the platforms that gave radical right wing parties in Germany, including Hitler's Nazi Party, such appeal to mainstream voters in the 1920s and early 1930s. Promises to rearm, to reclaim German territory, particularly in the East, and to regain prominence again among European and world powers after a humiliating defeat, stoked ultranationalist sentiment and helped average Germans to overlook the more radical tenets of Nazi ideology.

During the Weimar era, Germany’s relations with its neighbors were not exactly placid, but at least war was avoided. After 1923, when the conflict over reparations payments was resolved, Germany had a “productive working relationship” with the two large West European democracies, Britain and France, and officially accepted the territorial losses along its western borders. German relations with its eastern neighbors were less settled, to be sure. However, In 1928, Germany signed the Kellogg-Briand Pact, which officially outlawed war “as an instrument of national policy.”

Five years later, Adolf Hitler had become chancellor of Germany. Through the violence and deceit he employed in the initial weeks of his rule, he became absolute dictator—the Fuehrer. Hitler’s military and foreign policy contains strong parallels to what we are seeing from Putin’s Russia today.

not carbon copies

The two are not carbon copies, to be sure. Nazi Germany’s commitment to murderous antisemitism and genocide—its meticulously developed and executed plan to kill every Jew, along with Roma and other groups deemed racially or otherwise inferior—is not something we are seeing from present-day Russia, although their war crimes against Ukrainian civilians are certainly despicable. Nevertheless, virtually from the time Hitler took power, he began his quest to reverse the results of WWI and alter his country's borders, a quest that brought Europe into war.

One of Hitler’s guiding principles was that ethnic Germans—those with, in his terms, German blood—needed to be “regathered" into the German state after being left outside it. The most egregious injustice, in the eyes of the Nazis, were those people whose territories were part of non-German states, such as Poland and Czechoslovakia, where they were being supposedly "mistreated."

Among his earliest steps, in 1936 Hitler took full control of the Rhineland—the demilitarized zone west of the Rhine River, on the border with France. Then, in 1938 he sent German troops into Austria and achieved the long-sought Anschluss. Later that year, he used the threat of force to acquire the Sudetenland—a part of western Czechoslovakia that bordered Germany, where German-speakers lived—although he promised that he’d then leave the rest of the country alone. In March 1939, he broke that promise. German forces marched in and took the rest of the Czech part of the country, and set up a Nazi-puppet regime in the Slovak half.

Hitler then turned his focus to Poland. After enacting a non-aggression pact with the Soviet Union—which included a “secret protocol” by which the two countries agreed to divide Poland between them—Nazi Germany invaded its eastern neighbor on Sept. 1, 1939, and plunged Europe into the Second World War.

the many similarities

Russia's story over the past three-plus decades contains many similarities. The end of the Cold War and the breakup of the Soviet empire—which, in Putin's words from 2005, constitute "the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century"—stand as the equivalent of Germany’s defeat in WWI.

Within Russia, one generation after the end of the USSR, the autocratic Putin had dismantled the Yeltsin-era democracy that followed Soviet communism. Although the post-Soviet democracy did look shaky right from the start—people were talking about "Weimar Russia" as early as 1995—Putin is the person who delivered the death blow. Timothy Snyder, the preeminent historian of totalitarianism, has characterized Putin’s Russia as a fascist government, and contended that it is currently waging “a fascist war of destruction” in Ukraine. In this insightful New York Times op-ed piece, Snyder explores significant commonalities in the nature of the Putin and Hitler regimes.

Since first taking power in 2000, Putin has also ushered in an abrupt close to a period of relatively good relations with Russia's neighbors, which culminated in the signing of the NATO-Russia Founding Act in 1997. The document states that “NATO and Russia do not consider one another adversaries and cites the sweeping transformations in NATO and Russia that make possible this new relationship.” After Putin became president, he cast aside those sentiments as easily as he takes off his shirt for photo-ops.

It’s also worth noting that in the 1994 Budapest Memorandum, Russia made a guarantee to “respect the independence and sovereignty and the existing borders of Ukraine,” in return for Kyiv turning its share of the Soviet nuclear arsenal over to Moscow. Putin has made clear that agreement isn’t worth the paper on which it’s written.

The Russian president’s overarching goal has long been to reverse previous territorial losses born by his country. Much like Hitler, his revisionism focuses on recovering lands populated by his people’s ethnic kin (or those, like Ukrainians, he claims are kin, even if they reject such an identity). An estimated 25 million people who identified as ethnically Russian suddenly found themselves living outside the Russian Federation when the Soviet Union broke up in 1991. Some moved back to Russia, while others went elsewhere, but approximately 20 million or more remain living in Russia’s near abroad.

but our people ...

Exactly as Hitler did regarding ethnic Germans in the Sudetenland and Poland in the 1930s, Putin has been employing rhetoric decrying how Russian-speakers in the former USSR were supposedly being mistreated. Putin used this to justify military action against Georgia in 2008—where South Ossetia and Abkhazia have large ethnic Russian populations—and Ukraine, both in 2014, when it outright annexed Crimea and put troops into eastern Ukraine, as well as now.

Thinking beyond places where Moscow currently has armed forces or otherwise exercises control today (i.e., Belarus)—which also includes Transnistria, a breakaway, Russian-speaking part of Moldova bordering on Ukraine that has de facto sovereignty—significant numbers of people identifying as Russian live in every post-Soviet state. The largest in raw numbers reside in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. Most ominously for European security, Russian-speakers also constitute large percentages of the population in Lithuania (15%), Estonia (30%) and Latvia (34%). These last three are members of NATO, but Russia has attempted to sow “disruption and discontent” in those countries nonetheless.

To take the long view, one can characterize European history from German unification in 1871 through 1945 as being centered around that country’s push to expand its borders and dominate the continent, and the period from 1945 to the present as being dominated by a similar push from Russia. Many once thought the latter push ended in 1991, but, as with Germany, a second phase began fewer than twenty years after the first one met defeat. The apocryphal Mark Twain quote applies here: "History doesn't repeat itself, but it often rhymes."

the difference in U.S. responses

We can also explore parallels, as well as differences, between the U.S. response to the outbreak of the Second World War and to Russia’s aggression toward Ukraine. Concerning the former, Franklin Roosevelt faced significant isolationist sentiment in the U.S. These were embodied by the strong restrictions contained in the Neutrality Acts of 1935 and 1936, which imposed a U.S. embargo on the sale of all arms and military supplies to any party involved in a war. However, after Hitler’s invasion of Poland, FDR overcame the opposition of isolationists and began aiding the enemies of Nazi Germany.

First, President Roosevelt convinced Congress to allow him to sell military equipment on a “cash and carry” basis—as long as Britain and France could pay up front and get what they had bought home on their own, such sales were allowed. France fell to Hitler in June 1940, and Britain needed much more help, so FDR and newly minted British Prime Minister Winston Churchill got creative.

Next, the U.S. sent 50 outdated but still useful destroyers to help the British protect against a naval invasion of their island in return for 99-year leases on British bases in the Caribbean and off the Canadian coast. By the end of 1940, it was clear that far more was needed, so FDR introduced legislation, the Lend-Lease Act, that would authorize the necessary assistance without requiring any payment from those receiving it. It passed in March 1941. Here’s more on the act’s impact:

Roosevelt soon took advantage of his authority under the new law, ordering large quantities of U.S. food and war materials to be shipped to Britain from U.S. ports through the new Office of Lend-Lease Administration. The supplies dispersed under the Lend-Lease Act ranged from tanks, aircraft, ships, weapons and road building supplies to clothing, chemicals and food.

By the end of 1941, the lend-lease policy was extended to include other U.S. allies, including China and the Soviet Union. By the end of World War II the United States would use it to provide a total of some $50 billion in aid to more than 30 nations around the globe, from the Free French movement led by Charles de Gaulle and the governments-in-exile of Poland, the Netherlands and Norway to Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, Paraguay and Peru.

Let’s compare FDR to our two most recent presidents: Donald Trump and Joe Biden. First, we have The Man Who Lost An Election And Tried Steal It. Sticking just to what became public, we know that he not only sucked up to Putin, but he also engaged in a long-running extortion campaign aimed at getting Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to smear Biden in hopes of weakening the Democrat for the 2020 campaign. You might remember that when Zelenskyy sought to buy Javelin missiles in 2019, to protect against the Russian invasion he rightly feared, Fuck a L’Orange replied “I would like you to do us a favor, though.” Trump wanted the Ukrainian president to announce that his government was going to investigate Biden for argle-bargle. That’s what brought about his first impeachment. It wasn’t exactly a Rooseveltian response to a request for help made by a country facing attack.

President Biden, on the other hand, responded to the Russian invasion by strongly supporting Ukraine, with a robust diplomatic effort and billions of dollars in military assistance. His echoing of FDR even includes a revival of the historic Lend-Lease Act in the form of the Ukraine Democracy Defense Lend-Lease Act of 2022. Just one more way Biden is the polar opposite of Trump.

The response of the U.S. and its NATO allies to Putin’s attack on Ukraine demonstrates a key difference between now and the events of Hitler’s day. Despite unleashing the greatest evil humanity has yet seen—and hopefully ever will see—the Nazi leader actually found military allies. The Nazi-led Axis included Italy, Hungary, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Croatia, and Romania in Europe, as well as Japan, because other countries not only had fascist governments too, but also shared Hitler’s aggressive desire to remake the map in their favor (democratic Finland, which was attacked by the USSR in 1939 and again in 1941, fought with the Axis as well after the second attack before reaching an armistice and switching sides in 1944).

Thus far, Putin’s Russia fights alone (except for tiny Belarus) against a country whose military efforts—and even its overall government functions—are being funded to a significant degree by the rest of Europe plus the U.S. The European Union in late June even made Ukraine an official candidate to join. NATO is working together more successfully than it has done in decades, coordinating their efforts to help Kyiv and punish Moscow. Furthermore, with the forthcoming accession of Sweden and Finland—the latter of which shares an 830-mile border with Russia—NATO will have more resources and strength than ever with which to contain Putin’s aggression.

Hitler’s war divided Europe (please note that, in addition to the countries fighting with Germany, the USSR was his “de facto ally,” as seen in the simultaneous Nazi/Soviet 1939 invasion of Poland, an alliance that lasted until he invaded the Soviet Union in 1941) whereas Putin’s war has united Europe against him. This is the great success of the institutions—NATO and the EU—created in the post-WWII years to incentivize democracy and peace on the continent. Hitler succeeded to the degree that he did because pre-WWII Europe lacked such institutions.

However, having the institutions exist on paper isn’t enough. Joe Biden deserves much credit for the NATO response to Ukraine, in particular given how much his disgraced predecessor weakened the U.S. relationship with NATO. Of course, Trump is now trying to “rewrite history” on this. Why not, I guess? He’s lied about literally everything else.

Ian Reifowitz is the author of  The Tribalization of Politics: How Rush Limbaugh's Race-Baiting Rhetoric on the Obama Presidency Paved the Way for Trump (Foreword by Markos Moulitsas)

Democracy in peril: Trump’s Ukraine pressure campaign began months before Zelenskyy took office

Ukraine may have saved our democracy and its own back in 2019 by resisting Donald Trump’s efforts to pressure the country’s government into announcing an investigation of Joe and Hunter Biden.

What many people don’t realize is that Rudy Giuliani had already begun pushing to get the Ukrainian government to announce such an investigation as early as January 2019, when he met in New York with Ukraine’s Prosecutor-General Yuriy Lutsenko. That’s months before Volodymyr Zelenskyy, running on an anti-corruption platform, won the April 21, 2019, presidential run-off election against incumbent Petro Poroshenko. Biden officially announced his candidacy just four days later.

I would recommend that everyone read the Ukrainegate timeline prepared by Just Security, an online forum that analyzes U.S. national security policy. It outlines the complex chain of events in the campaign to pressure Ukraine that eventually resulted in Trump’s first impeachment. And there was a a quid pro quo offered to Poroshenko—although it did not involve withholding weapons, according to the Just Security timeline.

The Wall Street Journal reported that in late Feburary 2019, Giuliani’s associates Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman met with Poroshenko to press him to initiate an investigation of Hunter Biden and a debunked theory that Ukraine had interfered in the 2016 presidential election to help Hillary Clinton. They said if Poroshenko went along he would be rewarded with a state visit to the White House. That would have been a boon to Poroshenko, who was in a tough campaign for reelection against Zelenskyy.

Now imagine an alternate history in which Ukraine’s top prosecutor had announced an investigation of the Bidens in March 2019. Poroshenko was pushed to the brink, but did not yield to the pressure.

Poroshenko and Trump in 2017

It would have come completely out of the blue, since there was no “perfect” phone call or whistleblower at the time. Just think about how CNN or The New York Times would have reported on the investigation. How would Biden have reacted to a nasty smear campaign against his sole surviving son, who was in a fragile state as he struggled to recover from substance abuse problems? 

New York Times story dated Feb. 26, 2019 said Biden had held a family meeting earlier that month in which there was a “consensus” that he should run for president. But at the same time, Biden acknowledged in a speech at the University of Delaware that he had been uneasy about “taking the family through what would be a very, very, very difficult campaign” against Trump. “I don’t think he’s likely to stop at anything, whomever he runs against,” Biden said.

If Ukraine had done Giuliani’s bidding, Biden might very well have decided against entering the race. At best, Biden would have entered the campaign as a weakened frontrunner, with a dark cloud hanging over his head. Either way, Democrats would have faced an even more contentious primary contest, which might have yielded a weakened candidate whom Trump would have had a better chance of defeating.

A second Trump term would have posed an undeniable threat to our democracy. As for Ukraine, Vladimir Putin’s puppet would have continued undermining NATO and done little to help Kyiv resist Russian aggression.

In Trump’s mind, Ukraine, not Russia, was his enemy. 

***

Let’s look more closely at what happened in the months before Zelenskyy’s inauguration on May 20, 2019. What happened after his inauguration was well-documented by Daily Kos’ Laura Clawson in March 14’s “Trump’s Ukraine extortion campaign didn’t begin or end with `I would like you to do us a favor.”

In August 2018, polls showed that Biden was leading Trump in a head-to-head matchup, and also leading the potential Democratic primary field. Biden indicated that fall that he was strongly considering a 2020 presidential bid. Around the same time, Giuliani Partners was hired by the Boca Raton, Florida, company Fraud Guarantee, co-founded by Parnas, a Ukrainian-American businessman. Giuliani ultimately was paid $500,000 for undisclosed business and legal advice, according to Reuters.

Lev Parnas in 2020
Parnas and his associate Igor Fruman were later convicted in a campaign fraud finance case, for using funds from a foreign investor to try to influence political candidates through campaign donations. There was a $325,000 donation to the pro-Trump American First PAC from a shell company set up by Parnas and Fruman. That was enough for both men to get invited to an exclusive donors’ dinner in April 2018 with Trump at his Washington hotel, at which both men urged the president to fire U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, an anti-corruption crusader, claiming that she was unfriendly to Trump, The Washington Post reported
Parnas and Fruman became Giuliani’s facilitators and translators as he revved up efforts to go after Biden, even though he had yet to declare his candidacy.
 

WAS RUDY A “USEFUL TOOL” FOR A DISINFORMATION CAMPAIGN BY RUSSIAN INTELLIGENCE?

Now there’s one big unanswered question: Was Giuliani wittingly or unwittingly acting as a “useful tool” to spread disinformation prepared by Russian intelligence aimed at derailing Biden’s presidential campaign? It’s not implausible, because U.S. Intelligence has already confirmed that Russia was spreading disinformation about Biden’s mental health
Giuliani and Trump in 2016
The Washington Post reported in October 2020 that U.S. intelligence agencies had warned the White House in 2019 that Giuliani was the target of an influence operation by Russian intelligence and being used to feed disinformation to Trump. Giuliani did ask Ukraine to probe accusations that Ukrainian officials plotted to rig the 2016 presidential election in Hillary Clinton’s favor, by leaking evidence against Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign manager. Giuliani wanted Ukraine to investigate a mysterious Democratic National Committee server that Trump believed was hidden in Ukraine.
During the November 2019, House Intelligence Committee hearings, Fiona Hill, the former Russia expert for the National Security Council, called out House Republicans for pushing the conspiracy theory that Ukraine, not Russia, meddled in the 2016 presidential election.
“This is a fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves,” Hill said.
Giuliani was pushing allegations that Biden, while vice president to Barack Obama, pushed to get Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin dismissed, in order to avoid a corruption investigation of Ukraine’s Burisma energy company, whose board members included Hunter Biden. But Giuliani could not have come up with this conspiracy theory on his own, because it was totally baseless. It’s logical to assume that this notion was spoon fed to Giuliani, who eagerly swallowed it.
One method used by Russian intelligence operatives is to put ideas into the head of someone who is receptive to the same goal—in this case derailing Biden’s candidacy. The notion that Biden stood a good chance of defeating Trump in 2020 must have really stuck in Giuliani’s craw. It was Biden who turned “America’s mayor” into a national laughingstock in an October 2007 Democratic presidential debate.

“Rudy Giuliani. There’s only three things he mentions in a sentence — a noun, a verb, and 9/11. There’s nothing else! There’s nothing else! And I mean this sincerely. He’s genuinely not qualified to be president,” Biden said.

At the time, Giuliani was the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination. He ended up running one of the most humiliating campaigns in modern U.S. political history, raising more than $60 million and winning only one delegate before dropping out. Giuliani then vanished into the political wilderness for eight years, only to reemerge as Trump’s personal lawyer and hatchet man.

Giuliani had access to Trump, who had repeatedly expressed his willingness to get dirt on his political opponents from foreign sources. Giuliani’s international consulting practice had clients in Ukraine dating back to at least 2008, including Kyiv’s Mayor Vitali Klitschko, the former heavyweight boxing champion.
During Trump’s first impeachment trial, Giuliani put out this intriguing tweet:

...incriminating documents. It was already a fully-intact bribery/extortion case. The reason you don’t know about it is because of the cover up by the corrupt Democrats and their establishment media!

— Rudy W. Giuliani (@RudyGiuliani) January 27, 2020

The dossier was allegedly handed to Giuliani sometime in the fall of 2018. That raises some obvious questions: Who prepared it? What were its contents? Who were the witnesses? And who gave the dossier to Giuliani?

There are many possible suspects. A month before Trump’s first impeachment trial, NBC News published a guide to the controversial figures helping Giuliani dig up dirt on the Bidens in Ukraine. The story noted that “most of them have ties to pro-Russian political figures or oligarchs.” Three names stand out in this rogues’ gallery: Andriy Derkach, a pro-Russia member of Ukraine’s parliament; Kostiantyn Kulyk, a former prosecutor; and Dmytro Firtash, a Ukrainian energy tycoon with deep ties to Russia.

Derkach studied at the FSB intelligence service academy in Moscow in the 1990s. Washington Post columnist Josh Rogin wrote that a top-secret CIA assessment had concluded that Putin and his top aides are “probably directing” a Russian foreign influence operation which involves Derkach, identified by U.S. intelligence as a Russian agent, who has been providing anti-Biden information to Giuliani.

Kulyk did prepare a seven-page, English-language dossier in late 2018 that accused Hunter Biden of corruption related to his service on Burisma’s board, according to The New York Times. The dossier also made the dubious claim that U.S. diplomats covered up for crimes committed by the Bidens. Ukrainian officials said Kulyk had ties to a warlord in eastern Ukraine, accused of working for the Russian intelligence services. It’s not clear whether this was the same dossier that Giuliani was referring to in his tweet.

Firtash has been fighting extradition from Austria to the U.S. on bribery and racketeering charges. Parnas has alleged that Giuliani offered help with Firtash’s U.S. legal problems, in exchange for helping with the hunt for compromising information on the Bidens. Federal prosecutors also alleged that Parnas received a $1 million loan from a lawyer for Firtash. 

Firtash was also involved in investment projects with Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort, who previously was paid millions of dollars to work as a political consultant for Ukraine’s pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych.

HOW GIULIANI PUT THE SQUEEZE ON UKRAINE BEFORE ZELENSKYY’S ELECTION 

At the annual White House Hannukah party on Dec. 6, 2018, Parnas and Fruman held a private meeting with Trump and Giuliani. CNN reported that Trump tasked them to pressure the Ukrainian government to investigate the Bidens, according to associates of Parnas. 

Parnas and Giuliani in 2018

In December 2018, Parnas and Fruman arranged a Skype call between Giuliani and Shokin, the former Ukraine prosecutor general who was the source of the debunked reports that Joe Biden had him fired to stop him from investigating wrongdoing in Burisma.

Biden actually was among multiple Western officials who had urged Ukraine to dismiss Shokin from his post at the country’s top prosecutor because of his insufficient efforts to combat corruption.

Bloomberg News reported that Giuliani met for the first time with then-Ukraine Prosecutor General Yuri Lutsenko in New York on Jan. 25-26, 2019. Giuliani held another meeting with the Ukrainian prosecutor in Warsaw, Poland, in mid-February. Parnas and Fruman attended both meetings.

And then in late February we get to the quid pro quo, with Giuliani’s associates telling Poroshenko that if Ukraine announced an investigation of the Bidens, he would be rewarded with a state visit to the White House.

Yet why didn’t the Trump administration try to extort Poroshenko by withholding shipments of lethal weapons? Perhaps because there might have been a previous quid pro quo.

In March 2018, the Pentagon approved the sale of 210 Javelin anti-tank missiles to Ukraine. In early April, a Ukraine anti-corruption prosecutor froze four cases involving Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign manager, The New York Times reported. Ukraine also announced it was halting all cooperation with the Mueller investigation. One of the cases resulted from the mysterious black ledger. In August 2016, Ukraine officials revealed the existence of a secret ledger, which appeared to detail payouts totaling $12.5 million to Manafort for his work as a consultant to Yanukovych.

But there was a catch that rendered the Javelin sale mostly symbolic. The U.S. insisted that the missiles be stored in western Ukraine, hundreds of miles from the frontlines in the eastern Donbas region, where Ukrainian forces were battling pro-Russian separatists, The Atlantic reported.

During their early 2019 meetings, Lutsenko fed some information to Giuliani, including bank records that detailed Burisma’s payments to Hunter Biden. But the records did not indicate any wrongdoing by Hunter Biden, according to a New Yorker profile of the Ukrainian prosecutor. Lutsenko told The New Yorker that he suggested to Giuliani that, if U.S. authorities opened an investigation into the Bidens’ activities in Ukraine, the prosecutor-general’s office would share any relevant information.

But Lutsenko soon realized that what seemed most important to Giuliani was to get him to announce investigations into the Bidens and into claims of Ukrainian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, according to The New Yorker. Lutsenko said he didn’t have any grounds to open such investigations under Ukrainian law. Lutsenko said he sensed that Poroshenko was worried that publicly announcing such investigations would damage Ukraine’s relations with the Democratic Party.

Ukraine had enjoyed strong bipartisan support until Trump came along. Trump’s Republican loyalists were already spouting conspiracy theories put forth by Russian intelligence that Ukraine had meddled in the 2016 election to help Clinton.

“I was near the red line, but I didn’t cross it,” Lutsenko told The New Yorker. “I was wondering what kind of game he (Giuliani) was playing. I felt like we were getting scammed.”

WE NEED A COUNTERESPIONAGE INVESTIGATION OF TRUMP, GIULIANI, MANAFORT, ET AL.

Imagine the consequences today if Poroshenko and Lutsenko had crossed that red line back in early 2019.

Instead, Giuliani and his associates were back at square one with Zelenskyy’s election. That set in motion the series of events leading to Trump’s “perfect” phone call to Zelenskyy, the arms-for-dirt extortion plot, and the president’s eventual impeachment (the first one, anyway).

The Mueller probe barely uncovered the tip of the iceberg, because its scope was limited to looking only into collusion between Russia and Trump during the 2015-2016 presidential campaign.

The DOJ should make a deal with Parnas and/or Fruman to reduce their sentences in exchange for information about whether Russian intelligence used Giuliani to interfere in the 2020 election by undermining Biden’s campaign. It is also high time that a counterespionage investigation be opened against Manafort, if it is not already under way.

And above all else, we need a comprehensive investigation of Trump’s dealings with Vladimir Putin and Russian oligarchs over the decades. With the help of former Attorney General William Barr and others, Trump has been able to escape any consequences for his ties to Russia.

Our nation will never be secure until these criminals are exposed and held to account.

Republicans don’t want to talk about their past actions on Ukraine. They should have to

Oh, hey, Republicans don’t think anyone should be talking about how they had Donald Trump’s back when he withheld military aid from Ukraine to extort personal political favors, and Politico is ready to report on just how unimportant Republicans think that was, drawing on quotes from six Republicans and, to rebut, one single Democrat.

Republicans “don’t see a shred of comparison” between Trump’s extortion effort and President Joe Biden not giving exactly the aid Republicans now claim to want the U.S. to send Ukraine, Politico reports. Republicans “are brushing off any suggestion that their frustration with Biden’s pace of Ukraine aid is at odds with their earlier defense of Trump’s posture toward Kyiv.” 

It took three Politico reporters to come up with this, an article that alternates between the reporters’ paraphrasing of Republican dismissals, Republican quotes (sample: “That was the biggest nothing-burger in the world that resulted in an impeachment by the House,” according to Sen. Kevin Cramer), and a few carefully chosen facts about what exactly it is that Republicans are dismissing.

RELATED: Two years ago, they voted against impeachment. Now suddenly they're deeply concerned for Ukraine

But lots of facts didn’t make it into Politico or are mentioned only in passing. The Washington Post reports, for instance, on the dozens of Senate Republicans who are attacking Biden for not sending more aid to Ukraine after they voted against the government funding bill including $13.6 billion in Ukraine aid. That vote and the funding at issue do not make a single appearance in the Politico article about how Republicans don’t think their past defense of Trump withholding support from Ukraine has any relevance to the current situation.

On that one, Republicans are deploying the “I voted against the thing I say I support because there were also things I opposed in the bill” argument, but as Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy said in response, “Inside every piece of legislation are elements that many of us disagree with. Inside that budget that you voted against are all sorts of things that I disagree with. But in the end, in order to govern the country, you have to be able to find a path to compromise.”

Or, as Democratic Sen. Brian Schatz put it, “It’s very simple: If you don’t vote for the thing, you’re not for the thing,” Schatz said. “That is literally our job, to decide whether we are for or against things as a binary question.”

Republicans decided they were against impeaching Donald Trump for withholding military aid to Ukraine to extort personal political favors from Zelenskyy. Quite a few of them decided they were against aid for Ukraine if it involved also funding the rest of the U.S. government. And they’re getting plenty of space in Politico to explain why the first was merited without being challenged on their reasoning or asked about the second.

RELATED STORIES:

Trump's Ukraine extortion campaign didn't begin or end with 'I would like you to do us a favor'

Republicans suddenly claim to be the biggest allies of the nation they once denounced as corrupt

Is The Washington Post’s Ashley Parker kidding with this Ukraine aid take? Unfortunately not

The New York Times usually wins the awards for the worst, shallowest political coverage most driven by the imperative of normalizing Republican extremism and attacking Democrats. But Washington Post White House Bureau Chief Ashley Parker has dropped in with a doozy of an entry. She’s taken the serious problem of a brutal war and how the United States can respond without risking a broader and even more devastating war, and making it all about the optics.

It’s appalling that she would write that war-news-as-fashion-analysis sentence,* and it’s worse that this is the sentence she was proud to use to represent her story in the tweet. “Look how clever I am,” that tweet screams. “Aren’t I just at the pinnacle of my profession?” Which, sure, given that her specific profession is the kind of media that caused every other reporter in the White House press briefing room on Wednesday to ask Press Secretary Jen Psaki the exact same question—not because they expected her answer would change, but so their networks would have their own reporters on video asking the same not very interesting question.

RELATED: The price of 'we need to do more' is much higher than most people realize

President Joe Biden’s comments, Parker wrote, “at times took on an almost defensive tone,” a total flipping mystery of an observation in a story blatantly aimed at putting Biden on the defensive. Parker then goes on to offer three-plus paragraphs of concrete actions Biden has taken to support Ukraine and attempt to get Russia to back away from war before writing, “But since the actual war between Russia and Ukraine began three weeks ago, Biden and his European counterparts have articulated no clear end game, and Wednesday’s Biden-Zelensky juxtaposition offered something of a split screen, with the U.S. president and his team trying to explain why the administration was falling short on meeting Zelensky’s stirring request.”

They’re not trying to explain why they’re falling short. They’re explaining why a U.S.-imposed no-fly zone would be a very bad idea—and even many Republicans committed to attacking Biden agree on that point, though many are urging him to send fighter jets, a move Psaki explained would cross the line from providing defensive weapons to sending offensive ones. As Psaki also said, “If we were President Zelenskyy, we would be asking for everything possible as well, and continuing to ask for it.” Zelenskyy is doing what he should be doing as the leader of his country. Biden’s job is to lead this country, and as long as there is any other possible option, that means avoiding war with Russia.

About Republicans, by the way: Parker quotes two of them—Sens. Ben Sasse and Susan Collins—urging the administration to send fighter jets. What she doesn’t do is what should be mandatory every time a Republican who was in office in 2020 is quoted on Ukraine: Describe how they voted on the impeachment of Donald Trump for withholding nearly $400 million of military aid and public shows of support from Ukraine and Zelenskyy while Trump engaged in a pressure campaign aimed at getting Zelenskyy help him harm Biden’s political prospects.

In a reasonable media environment, one does not get to go from defending the withholding of aid to demanding the immediate, not fully considered, provision of an entirely new category of powerful military equipment without facing some serious questions about one’s partisan motives. But as Ashley Parker went all in on showing us with this story, this is not a reasonable media environment.

* To be clear, fashion analysis is an important thing when done well. In this case, it was embarrassingly misplaced. Because it was shallow, unserious fashion analysis, it added to the overall offense of this article.

RELATED:

Trump's Ukraine extortion campaign didn't begin or end with 'I would like you to do us a favor'

The U.S. economy is beating the world, thanks to Joe Biden, but you wouldn't know it from the media

Two years ago, they voted against impeachment. Now suddenly they’re deeply concerned for Ukraine

Following Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s emotional appeal to Congress and President Joe Biden to help his country defend itself against Russia, top Republican leaders did the only thing they could think to do: use their cheering of Zelenskyy as cover to attack Biden.

Despite dressing their attacks on Biden in the language of support for Zelenskyy and Ukraine, Republicans didn’t exactly hide the real point. “The longer President Biden waits, trying to figure out excuses to not offend Putin, it's costing lives in Ukraine,” said House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, the day after Russia announced sanctions on Biden and a slate of other Democrats, but no Republicans, and just over two years after he and every other Republican, with the exception of Sen. Mitt Romney, voted against impeaching Donald Trump for withholding military aid from Ukraine to extort political favors.

RELATED: Trump's Ukraine extortion campaign didn't begin or end with 'I would like you to do us a favor'

When you're going straight to “excuses not to offend Putin,” you’re making it clear where your interests lie, and it’s not sincerely with the Ukrainian people. 

Scalise’s fellow House Republican leader Elise Stefanik led her statement on Zelenskyy’s address with an attack on Biden’s “weakness and delay.” This is a return to form for Stefanik, who started the month with a message to Ukraine that managed not to blame Biden for Putin’s invasion, after her initial response had been aimed at Biden. Stefanik didn’t just vote against impeaching Trump: She was a key part of his impeachment defense, rising in the ranks of Republicans on the basis of that performance. For Stefanik, the inquiry into Trump having withheld military aid as part of an effort to get Ukraine to tarnish his domestic political opponent was a prime opportunity to try to tarnish Trump’s domestic political opponent—Joe Biden, the same person she is now holding responsible for Vladimir Putin’s actions.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell also went straight to Biden. McConnell had on Tuesday said Biden was guilty of “hesitancy and weakness,” and on Wednesday said, “the message to President Biden is that he needs to step up his game.” McConnell voted to acquit Trump of withholding military aid to extort Ukraine.

Republican attacks on Biden implied that the distance between their preferred policies and his were bigger than they really are. Most Republicans agree that a U.S.-imposed no-fly zone would be a bad idea. “It remains my view that putting — if that means putting U.S. troops or pilots in Ukraine, I think the answer is no,” McConnell said. He, like many other Republicans, is drawing the line for attacking Biden between the drones and other equipment Biden is sending and the airplanes McConnell claims to support. (McConnell would still find a way to attack Biden if Biden sent dozens of planes tomorrow.)

Biden is out here trying to walk the line between aiding Ukraine and avoiding World War III, and Republicans are simply looking for any excuse they can manufacture to attack him.

RELATED STORIES:

Russian oligarchs' yachts are being seized. What does Putin think he can seize from Jen Psaki?

Republicans suddenly claim to be the biggest allies of the nation they once denounced as corrupt

Cawthorn isn't alone as a Republican crapping on Ukraine. He just has bad timing

Trump’s Ukraine extortion campaign didn’t begin or end with ‘I would like you to do us a favor’

Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine didn’t come from nowhere: Russia had invaded and annexed part of Ukraine in 2014 and there has been an ongoing war ever since, with thousands of people killed on both sides. Donald Trump’s efforts to extort Ukraine came in the midst of that war, and have to be understood in that context. Trump had very real leverage over Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, because Zelenskyy was desperate for U.S. support during a war and Trump used that leverage to apply pressure over a period of months.

Trump’s pressure campaign wasn’t just that of a larger country against a smaller one. It was against a smaller country at war with a larger one, where the aggressor in that war—Russia—was watching and reading the tea leaves about the United States’ level of support for Ukraine. Again and again, Trump left Ukraine hanging and let Vladimir Putin know that U.S. support for Ukraine was conditional at best.

The House Intelligence Committee’s impeachment inquiry report from 2019 lays it out in detail, as Asha Rangappa noted. From the moment Zelenskyy won his election in April 2019, Trump was dangling the possibility of public shows of support and then yanking them back. In their initial phone call after Zelenskyy’s win, Trump invited him to the White House—an invitation Ukrainian officials then sought to pin down and make real, without success. Trump initially said he would send Mike Pence to Zelenskyy’s inauguration with the U.S. vice president’s presence standing as visible evidence of support, only to keep Pence home and send Energy Secretary Rick Perry instead. This was as Rudy Giuliani was ramping up his efforts to get Zelenskyy to announce investigations into supposed corruption involving the Biden family and supposed Ukrainian interference in the 2016 U.S. elections.

Trump explicitly connected his reluctance for a White House visit for the Ukrainian president to Ukraine having supposedly “tried to take me down” in 2016. This was false. As Russia expert Dr. Fiona Hill said in her impeachment inquiry testimony about claims that Ukraine interfered in the U.S. elections, “This is a fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves. The unfortunate truth is that Russia was the foreign power that systematically attacked our democratic institutions in 2016.”

Next, Trump personally froze nearly $400 million in military aid to Ukraine—aid appropriated by Congress and supported by officials throughout the federal agencies responsible for sending it, except those who were first and foremost Trump loyalists. And a quid pro quo was repeatedly communicated to Ukraine: Make a public announcement of investigations into the Biden family and interference in the elections if you want the White House visit and the military aid. No actual investigations are needed. Just the public announcement of them.

“On July 2, in Toronto, Canada, Ambassador Volker conveyed the message directly to President Zelensky, specifically referencing the ‘Giuliani factor’ in President Zelensky’s engagement with the United States,” according to the impeachment inquiry report. “For his part, Mr. Giuliani made clear to Ambassadors Sondland and Volker, who were directly communicating with the Ukrainians, that a White House meeting would not occur until Ukraine announced its pursuit of the two political investigations. After observing Mr. Giuliani’s role in the ouster of a U.S. Ambassador and learning of his influence with the President, Ukrainian officials soon understood that ‘the key for many things is Rudi [sic].’”

This pressure ratcheted up with Trump’s July 25 phone call with Zelenskyy, the one in which he responded to Zelenskyy’s request to buy more Javelin anti-tank missiles with, “I would like you to do us a favor, though.” And it became still stronger as the hundreds of millions of dollars in aid continued to be frozen. 

On Aug. 28, 2019, Politico reported on the hold-up of the aid. The following day, Ambassador William Taylor sent Secretary of State Mike Pompeo a first-person cable in which “He explained the ‘folly’ of withholding security assistance to Ukraine as it fought a hot war against Russia on its borders. He wrote that he ‘could not and would not defend such a policy.’” But on the same day, with the aid freeze now public, Trump cancelled a trip to Warsaw for a World War II commemoration event, a trip on which he was scheduled to meet with Zelenskyy. Instead, he sent Pence.

At the meeting, President Zelensky expressed concern that even an appearance of wavering support from the United States for Ukraine could embolden Russia. Vice President Pence reiterated U.S. support for Ukraine, but could not promise that the hold would be lifted. Vice President Pence said he would relay his support for lifting the hold to President Trump so a decision could be made on security assistance as soon as possible. Vice President Pence spoke with President Trump that evening, but the hold was not lifted. 

Zelenskyy—the guy who has stayed in Kyiv at the risk of his own life during Russia’s invasion—buckled under the pressure. He booked an interview on CNN to announce the investigations Trump was demanding. Instead, as more of the story of the extortion campaign trickled out and the House announced investigations, Trump unfroze the aid. 

Trump’s pressure on Ukraine—on Zelenskyy—wasn’t just about one phone call. And the pressure wasn't just about the specific military equipment Ukraine wanted. It was about sending a message to Putin that U.S. support for Ukraine was wobbly. 

Cawthorn’s Ukraine take isn’t so shocking if you’ve been paying attention to Republicans since 2016

This week, Rep. Madison Cawthorn’s take on Ukraine makes him stand out. “Remember that Zelenskyy is a thug,” Cawthorn said in a video obtained by North Carolina news station WRAL. “Remember that the Ukrainian government is incredibly corrupt and is incredibly evil and has been pushing woke ideologies.”

It’s a bold statement, coming at a time when 61% of Republicans have a positive view of Republican President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, according to one poll—and Cawthorn did try to walk it back a little. But Cawthorn isn’t so out of step with his party if you look at the last few years rather than the last few weeks. For that matter, some prominent Republican voices continue to boost Vladimir Putin and suggest that Ukraine had it coming. 

The loudest Republican with the biggest platform carrying Putin’s water at this point is Fox News personality Tucker Carlson, who most recently jumped on board with Russian disinformation claims that the U.S. and Ukraine have a joint bioweapons program. Also buying into the bioweapons lab propaganda was Rep. Thomas Massie—one of the three Republicans who voted against a House resolution supporting Ukraine—who attached his concern about the issue to a tweet by Glenn Greenwald. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene has been critical of Putin recently, but she appeared at a white nationalist event less than two weeks ago at which Putin and the invasion of Ukraine were cheered on, and as recently as January, Greene was one of a significant number of prominent Republicans—led by Donald Trump—who were arguing against U.S. support for Ukraine.

Going back a little further than that, during Trump’s first Ukraine-centered impeachment, a standard Republican talking point was that Ukraine was incredibly corrupt, “one of the three most corrupt countries on the planet,” according to Rep. Jim Jordan.

But the groundwork for the extortion attempt that led to Trump's first impeachment had been laid years before that, in large part by former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, whose work for pro-Russian candidates and the oligarchs who supported them contributed both to political turmoil in Ukraine in recent decades and to the Republican move toward support for Putin. In one key incident, supposed grassroots anti-NATO protesters who attacked U.S. Marines doing exercises with the Ukrainian military were not so grassroots after all—they were plants set up by politicians for whom Manafort consulted. That incident in turn was cited by Putin when he annexed Crimea, as evidence that people there would welcome the Russian move.

With Manafort as Trump’s campaign manager—consulting with Russian oligarchs and employing a Russian spy all the while—military support for Ukraine was removed from the platform at the Republican National Convention. And all of that is before Trump withheld military aid from Ukraine while pressuring Zelenskyy to help Trump destroy Biden’s 2020 chances.

So Madison Cawthorn’s anti-Ukraine comments may seem shocking this week. But it’s not that Cawthorn is out of step with his party’s last several years of Ukraine-Russia policy. It’s just that he’s apparently too slow on the uptake to change his message quite as quickly as his fellow Republicans did.

Republicans suddenly claim to be the biggest allies of the nation they once denounced as corrupt

It’s taken Republicans a little while to figure out their approach to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but—for now at least—they’ve settled on pretending to be the best friends Ukraine ever had. It falls apart immediately if you look at the Republican record over the past few years, but it’s what they’re going with.

Most notoriously, of course, there are these 10 words: “I would like you to do us a favor, though.” That’s what Donald Trump said as he withheld military aid in an attempt to extort Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy into manufacturing dirt on now-President Joe Biden for Trump’s personal political gain. And every single Republican other than Sen. Mitt Romney thought this was just fine. Great, really. Many actively defended Trump’s actions, which often meant trashing Ukraine. But that’s not all.

In the midst of trying to defend Trump, Rep. Jim Jordan called Ukraine “one of the three most corrupt countries on the planet.” He also condemned efforts to fight corruption in Ukraine as themselves corrupt because Biden was involved.

House Minority Whip Steve Scalise has pointed to the same ouster of a corrupt prosecutor in Ukraine as problematic because it involved then-Vice President Biden threatening to withhold aid if the prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, wasn’t fired. “If you go back to when Joe Biden was vice president, he bragged about how he withheld a billion dollars in aid to Ukraine, when Joe Biden was vice president, because he said he wanted a prosecutor to get fired, who ultimately from reports we saw was fired,” Scalise said Tuesday. The difference here is that Biden was, as a public matter of administration policy, talking about aid that would be withheld as part of an international anti-corruption effort, with the European Union and the International Monetary Fund also calling for Shokin’s firing. It’s kind of different from a secret phone call and an ask seeking personal benefit.

According to Scalise, “President Zelenskyy had called President Trump to thank him for the leadership that he provided.” In reality, it was part of Zelenskyy’s desperate efforts to get some kind of public show of support from the United States that might help ease the threat Ukraine faced from Russia, and the call came as Trump’s informal emissaries, led by Rudy Giuliani, were pressuring him to announce the very same corrupt investigation that Trump then asked for as “a favor” when Zelenskyy asked to buy Javelin missiles.

In their effort to rewrite how Trump’s first impeachment speaks to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and the Republican view of Ukraine more generally, Republicans like Scalise are returning to an old talking point. “When President Zelenskyy was asking for things like Javelin missiles that the Biden and Obama administration said no to, President Trump said yes and actually helped Ukraine get those tank-busting missiles that they needed and frankly, they’ve been using,” Scalise said. In that, he echoed Trump's February statement claiming, “it was me that got Ukraine the very effective anti-tank busters (Javelins) when the previous Administration was sending blankets.” 

The Obama administration didn’t send lethal aid like Javelins in part because officials were concerned that the Ukrainian army didn’t have the capability to use them. But that changed over time—as we’re seeing, the Ukrainian military has dramatically improved since 2014, when Russia annexed Crimea. What the Obama administration did send was not blankets but UAVs, armored Humvees, counter-mortar radars, night vision devices, and more. And when Trump did send Javelins, it was only after his advisers convinced him that it would be good for U.S. defense contractors.

Now that Republicans have figured out that supporting Ukraine is their best bet, politically speaking, they are all in—to the point where you have to worry they’re going to do their best to provoke a nuclear war. Immediately after the invasion, Republicans were blaming Biden for not having stopped it. They’ve since moved on to blaming him for not doing enough to end it. “If Joe Biden won’t make him pay, the Republican Party must,” Sen. Tom Cotton said in a speech on Monday. But what does that look like when a no-fly zone would mean a world war? That’s the kind of question that needs to take precedence above making a president from the opposite party look bad. But putting anything above partisan concerns is not how Republicans operate.

Rep. Elise Stefanik shifts her message on Russia-Ukraine, at least for nearly two minutes

Rep. Elise Stefanik, who was a key part of the Republican effort to fight Donald Trump’s first, Ukraine-related impeachment in the House, has a message for the people of Ukraine. It’s not an apology for her support of Trump’s extortion of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in an attempt to gain an election advantage over now-President Joe Biden. But—and this is big coming from Stefanik—her message sticks to Ukraine and Russia without overtly attacking Biden.

Last week, as Russia invaded Ukraine, Stefanik was part of a statement from House Republican leaders that blamed Biden for “appeasement,” and she released her own statement railing as much against Biden as against Putin. So her new video message (see below) to the people of Ukraine and to Zelenskyy is a real departure for her. Is that because, in speaking in theory to Zelenskyy, she wanted to avoid echoes of Trump withholding military aid from Ukraine in an attempt to get Zelenskyy to manufacture a scandal about Biden? Is it in some minor way a recognition that Biden’s approach—assembling a major international response with devastating sanctions on Russia—is looking more successful than Republicans were hoping? 

Either way, what Stefanik also isn’t doing is putting distance between herself and Trump. While her descriptions of Putin as “a gutless, bloodthirsty, authoritarian dictator” and a “war criminal” are a far cry from Trump’s descriptions of Putin as “smart” and “savvy” and “genius,” Stefanik is part of a broader Republican pattern of criticizing Putin while refusing to answer questions about Trump’s praise.

But Stefanik’s role in defending Trump’s attempted extortion of Ukraine makes her approach here particularly nauseating. This is someone who rose to prominence in her party by participating in stunts intended to disrupt the impeachment inquiry, and relentlessly tried to use the inquiry into Trump’s extortion effort to promote the very thing he had been getting at to begin with, dragging Biden and his son Hunter into her questioning at every opportunity. For her to act like she has had the welfare of the people of Ukraine at heart all along is staggeringly dishonest. But then, the entire Republican approach to this issue is staggeringly dishonest.

My message to the people of @Ukraine and @ZelenskyyUa: The United States of America stands firmly with you against Russia’s unprovoked and heinous attack on your country. pic.twitter.com/s4d96sWxb2

— Rep. Elise Stefanik (@RepStefanik) March 1, 2022

To the people of Ukraine, the United States of America stands firmly with you against Russia’s unprovoked and heinous attacks on your country. Your bravery, sacrifice, and resistance against a gutless, bloodthirsty, authoritarian dictator is a beacon of hope for freedom and democracy around the world.

A beacon of hope, but I’m not going to say a word about my party’s leader calling those unprovoked and heinous attacks “savvy.”

As a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee, I was honored to lead a bipartisan group of congressional members to Ukraine in 2018. I met with the wonderful Ukrainian people and experienced the beauty of your culture and country. Most importantly, I saw firsthand the importance of the security partnership between our two countries to counter Russian aggression, combat Vladimir Putin’s disinformation, and defend democracy and freedom. Today, I remain committed to strengthening that partnership by working with my colleagues to increase military support for the Ukrainian armed forces and establish strong and effective deterrents to counter Putin’s hostility.

It cannot be emphasized enough that these are the words of someone who defended Trump for withholding $400 million of military aid from Ukraine in an effort to gain political advantage at home. 

Additionally, we are working to sanction Putin and his corrupt oligarch cronies immediately and permanently terminate construction of the Nord Stream II pipeline, end Russian energy exports around the world, and provide additional military and financial support to Ukraine. I will not stop fighting until Ukraine receives the resources it deserves and Putin is cut off and isolated from the international community. As you continue your fight against the evil desires of the war criminal Vladimir Putin, all of Ukraine and the Ukrainian people are in our prayers and we will stand behind you in support of this fight for your country. Never stop fighting for a sovereign, self-governing, and free Ukraine.