In February 2014, Vice President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, was discharged from the U.S. Navy Reserve after testing positive for cocaine use. On April 21-22, 2014, Joe Biden, in his role as overseer of the Obama administration’s policy towards Ukraine, visited that country to urge its government to increase its natural gas production. That same month, British officials who were investigating allegations of money laundering by Burisma Holdings, a large Ukrainian natural gas company, froze a number of London bank accounts containing $23 million that belonged to Burisma owner and president Mykola Zlochevksy.
On May 13, 2014 — just three weeks after Joe Biden’s visit to Ukraine — Hunter Biden was appointed to the Burisma board of directors. That position paid him approximately $83,000 per month, even though he had no background or expertise in either Ukrainian matters or natural gas.
In February 2015 Yarema was succeeded as Prosecutor General by Viktor Shokin, who continued the Ukrainian investigation into Burisma.
From 2014 onward, Joe Biden consistently claimed that he knew nothing about his son’s arrangement with Burisma, and that he had never once spoken with Hunter about the latter’s overseas dealings. But this claim would be proven false in October 2020, when the New York Post published a bombshell report indicating that, according to an email retrieved from a computer hard drive that had been acquired by a Delaware computer repairman, Hunter Biden had introduced his father to Vadym Pozharskyi, an executive at Ukraine’s Burisma energy company, in April 2015. “Dear Hunter, thank you for inviting me to DC and giving an opportunity to meet your father and spent [sic] some time together. It’s realty [sic] an honor and pleasure,” the Pozharskyi email reads. An earlier email from May 2014 also showed Pozharskyi asking Hunter Biden for “advice on how you could use your influence” on the company’s behalf.
In September 2015, then-U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt, publicly called for an investigation into Burisma president Zlochevsky.
According to journalist John Solomon: “[In] January 2016 … the Obama White House unexpectedly invited Ukraine’s top prosecutors to Washington to discuss fighting corruption in the country. The meeting, promised as training, turned out to be more of a pretext for the Obama administration to pressure Ukraine’s prosecutors to drop an investigation into the Burisma Holdings gas company that employed Hunter Biden and to look for new evidence in a then-dormant criminal case against eventual Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, a GOP lobbyist.”
On February 2, 2016, the home of Burisma owner Zlochevksy was raided by the Ukrainian state prosecutor’s office. Joe Biden subsequently called Ukrainian president Poroshenko at least three times that same month, following the raid.
In March 2016 – while Prosecutor General Shokin was still actively investigating Burisma’s alleged corruption – Vice President Biden threatened to withhold $1 billion in U.S. loan guarantees to the Ukrainian government unless President Poroshenko agreed to fire Shokin immediately. Because the revocation of American aid would have been devastating to Ukraine, President Petro Poroshenko caved to Biden’s threat and fired Shokin on March 29. At the time of Shokin’s termination, he and other Ukrainian prosecutors were in the midst of preparing a request to interview Hunter Biden about his activities and the funds he was receiving from Ukraine.
In a sworn affidavit prepared for a European court, Shokin later testified that he had been told that the reason for his firing was that Joe Biden was troubled by the Burisma investigation. “The truth,” said Shokin, “is that I was forced out because I was leading a wide-ranging corruption probe into Burisma Holdings, a natural gas firm active in Ukraine and Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, was a member of the Board of Directors. On several occasions President Poroshenko asked me to have a look at the case against Burisma and [to] consider the possibility of winding down the investigative actions in respect of this company but I refused to close this investigation.”
And here is how Joe Biden himself – in a January 2018 speech at the Council on Foreign Relations – boastfully recollected his own role in getting Shokin fired:
“I was supposed to announce that there was another billion-dollar loan guarantee. I had gotten a commitment from [Ukrainian President] Poroshenko and from [Prime Minister] Yatsenyuk that they would take action against the state prosecutor [Shokin]. And they didn’t. So they said they had — they were walking out to a press conference. I said, nah, I’m not going to — or, we’re not going to give you the billion dollars. They said, ‘you have no authority. You’re not the president. The president [Obama] said’ — I said, ‘call him’ [Obama]. I said, ‘I’m telling you, you’re not getting the billion dollars.’ I said, ‘You’re not getting the billion. I’m going to be leaving here in,’ I think it was about six hours. I looked at them and said: ‘I’m leaving in six hours. If the prosecutor is not fired, you’re not getting the money.’ Well, son of a bitch. He got fired. And they put in place someone who was solid at the time.”
Biden claimed that he had pressured Ukraine to fire Shokin not because the prosecutor was investigating the vice president’s son, but rather, because Shokin himself was corrupt and incompetent. But that narrative was debunked by journalist John Solomon, who wrote in September 2019:
“Hundreds of pages of never-released memos and documents — many from inside the American team helping Burisma to stave off its legal troubles — conflict with Biden’s narrative…. For instance, Burisma’s American legal representatives met with Ukrainian officials just days after Biden forced the firing of the country’s chief prosecutor and offered ‘an apology for dissemination of false information by U.S. representatives and public figures’ about the Ukrainian prosecutors, according to the Ukrainian government’s official memo of the meeting. The effort to secure that meeting began the same day the prosecutor’s firing was announced. In addition, Burisma’s American team offered to introduce Ukrainian prosecutors to Obama administration officials to make amends, according to that memo and the American legal team’s internal emails.
“The memos raise troubling questions. If the Ukraine prosecutor’s firing involved only his alleged corruption and ineptitude, why did Burisma’s American legal team refer to those allegations as ‘false information’? [And] if the firing had nothing to do with the Burisma case, as Biden has adamantly claimed, why would Burisma’s American lawyers contact the replacement prosecutor within hours of the termination and urgently seek a meeting in Ukraine to discuss the case?”
In May 2020, leaked phone conversations between Biden and former Ukrainian President Poroshenko were made public by Ukrainian lawmaker Andriy Derkach, who also claimed to be in possession of proof showing that Burisma Holdings had paid then-Vice President Biden $900,000 in lobbying fees. In one of the leaked conversations — which took place after Ukrainian Prosecutor General Shokin had been fired and replaced with Yuriy Lutsenko — Biden told Poroshenko: “It’s going to be critical for him [Lutsenko] to work quickly to repair the damage that Shokin did. And I’m a man of my word. And now that the new Prosecutor General is in place, we’re ready to move forward to signing that new $1 billion loan guarantee.”
When Vice President Biden pressured the Ukrainian government to fire Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin in March 2016, by no means was that the only time a Democrat in recent years has used his political influence either to interfere in Ukrainian politics, or to facilitate Ukrainian interference in American politics. As John Solomon wrote in The Hill in September 2019:
In an audio recording from 2016, Artem Sytnyk, Director of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine, could be heard admitting that he was trying to boost the presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton by sabotaging that of Republican Donald Trump. Said Sytnyk in the recording: “Hillary, she is – how shall I put it? She belongs to the cohort of politicians who comprise the hegemony in the U.S. Both in the U.S. and the entire world, right? For us, it’s … sort of … better. For Americans … what Trump is doing is better for them.”
In 2016 as well, Sytnyk released a “black ledger” containing information designed to bring down then-Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort. Sytnyk was eventually tried and convicted in Ukraine for interfering in America’s 2016 presidential election.
The key figure who helped the Democratic National Committee (DNC) connect with the Ukrainian government in 2016 was DNC consultant Alexandra Chalupa, who had previously worked in the White House Office of Public Liaison during the Bill Clinton administration. Chalupa in 2016 worked directly with the Ukrainian embassy in the U.S. to portray [Trump campaign adviser Paul] Manafort in a negative light. The embassy, in turn, worked collaboratively with reporters who were researching Trump, Manafort, and Russia. The Ukrainian embassy’s then-political officer, Andrii Telizhenko, candidly stated that the Ukrainians “were coordinating an investigation with the Hillary team on Paul Manafort with Alexandra Chalupa” and that “the embassy worked very closely with” Chalupa.
In a 2016 email to the DNC’s Louise Miranda, Chalupa wrote: “Hey, a lot coming down the pipe. I spoke to a delegation of 68 investigative journalists from Ukraine last night at the Library of Congress, the Open World Society forum. They put me on the program to speak specifically about Paul Manafort. I invited Michael Isikoff, who I’ve been working with for the past few weeks, and connected him to the Ukrainians. More offline tomorrow, since there was a big Trump component you and Lauren need to be aware of that will hit in the next few weeks. Something I’m working on that you should be aware of.”
In January 2017, Politico reported:
“Ukrainian government officials tried to help Hillary Clinton and undermine Trump by publicly questioning his fitness for office. They also disseminated documents implicating a top Trump aide in corruption and suggested they were investigating the matter, only to back away after the election. And they helped Clinton’s allies research damaging information on Trump and his advisers, a Politico investigation found. A Ukrainian-American operative who was consulting for the Democratic National Committee met with top officials in the Ukrainian Embassy in Washington in an effort to expose ties between Trump, top campaign aide Paul Manafort and Russia, according to people with direct knowledge of the situation. The Ukrainian efforts had an impact in the race, helping to force Manafort’s resignation and advancing the narrative that Trump’s campaign was deeply connected to Ukraine’s foe to the east, Russia.”
In a July 20, 2017 letter to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) expressed his own concern regarding reports that Ukraine’s political leadership in 2016 had “opposed the candidacy of Donald Trump for president of the United States and worked with a Democratic National Committee consultant [Alexandra Chalupa] to undermine his campaign.” “This consultant,” wrote Grassley in a press release announcing the letter, “allegedly had various meetings with Ukrainian government officials, including embassy staff, to coordinate the dissemination of incriminating information about Trump campaign officials. It appears that this consultant was operating to advance the interests of both the Democratic National Committee, the Clinton campaign, and a foreign government, which would have required registration under FARA [the Foreign Agents Registration Act].”
In his letter to Rosenstein, Grassley, using footnotes to document the sources of the quotes he cited, wrote:
(Most of the information in this section is derived from Dan Bongino’s 2018 book Spygate: The Attempted Sabotage of Donald J. Trump, and Gregg Jarrett’s 2019 book The Russia Hoax: The Illicit Scheme to Clear Hillary Clinton and Frame Donald Trump.)
On April 12, 2016, Marc Elias – a lawyer from Perkins Coie, the international law firm representing the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign and the Democratic National Committee – retained the research and strategic intelligence firm Fusion GPS to conduct opposition research on Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. Fusion GPS, in turn, hired former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele to compile a dossier of allegations suggesting that Trump and his campaign had actively colluded with the Russian government to tilt the 2016 election in Trump’s favor. This opposition research/dossier was funded by three major sources: (a) Obama For America (OFA), Barack Obama’s official campaign arm, which paid Perkins Coie nearly $800,000 for “legal services” in 2016; (b) Hillary Clinton’s official campaign organization, Hillary For America, which paid just under $5.1 million to Perkins Coie in 2016 (DB); and (c) the DNC, which paid nearly $5.4 million to Perkins Coie in 2016.
In early July 2016, Christopher Steele met with the FBI. Around that same time – on July 5, 2016 – the Obama administration’s FBI Director, James Comey, publicly announced his recommendation that the DOJ should file no criminal charges relating to the Hillary Clinton email server controversy (wherein Mrs. Clinton had feloniously violated the Espionage Act many times). Almost immediately after Comey’s announcement, the FBI – driven by the anti-Trump animus of top officials at the Bureau and in the Obama administration’s Justice Department – secretly launched a formal counterintelligence investigation examining whether the Russian government had attempted to collude with the Trump campaign to sabotage Mrs. Clinton’s White House bid.
On July 11, 2016, Stefan Halper, who had served as a White House official in the Nixon, Ford and Reagan administrations, began working as a spy/informant implanted by the FBI into the Trump administration. His espionage operation went by the code name of “Crossfire Hurricane.”
FBI agent Peter Strzok, who had played a key role in absolving Mrs. Clinton of criminality vis-a-vis her email scandal, emerged as a major player in the counterintelligence investigation targeting Trump. To justify the investigation, Strzok and the FBI cited evidence that Russia’s military intelligence unit had hacked DNC computers a year earlier, in July 2015. But as the U.S. Director of National Intelligence (DNI) would later declare in its January 2017 Intelligence Community Assessment report – composed of data from the NSA, CIA, and FBI – there was absolutely no evidence that Trump’s campaign had ever engaged in any clandestine talks with Russian leadership or agents of the state. That is a vital piece of information, given that The Attorney General’s Guidelines for Domestic FBI Operations stipulates that the Bureau may not, under any circumstances, commence an investigation unless it can articulate a reasonable basis for doing so – namely, well-founded knowledge of “a particular crime or threatened crime.” Because such a basis did not exist in this case, writes Greg Jarrett, author of The Russia Hoax, “the probe was unlawful.”
A watershed moment in the probe against Trump occurred on July 29, 2016, when the FBI petitioned the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court for a FISA warrant granting permission to wiretap the phones of Carter Page, a minor Trump campaign adviser who had previously worked with the CIA dealing with Russians for years during the first term of the Obama administration, and who had made a trip to Moscow to speak at a commencement ceremony for the New Economic School earlier that month (July 2016). In short, the FBI decided to use Page’s past “ties” to Russia – unremarkable as they were – as a pretext to begin spying on Page. The decision to pursue a FISA warrant is a high-level matter, requiring the approval of top members of the FBI, the DOJ, and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
The scope of the wiretapping for which the FBI sought authorization would extend far beyond Carter Page. This is because of the so-called “two-hop rule” which governs such wiretaps, meaning that under a single warrant targeting Page, any Trump campaign associate with whom Page had communicated via text message or phone call during the brief months of his association with the campaign in 2016, would be fair game, as a direct connection, all the way through the end of the period when the warrant or its subsequent renewals might extend. Moreover, the “second-hop” connections of those initial contacts—meaning everyone with whom those people had communicated—would also be fair game. In other words, it is highly likely that almost everyone, if not everyone, on the Trump campaign staff would be included in the universe of first- and second-order contacts of Carter Page. Still further, the wiretapping would also allow the FBI to get its hands on any of Page’s stored communications (from the past) with those same first- and second-tier contacts.
The June 2016 FISA request was denied by the FISA court, however, on grounds that insufficient cause had been shown.
On August 9, 2016, FBI attorney Lisa Page, with whom Peter Strzok was having an extramarital affair, transmitted a text message asking Strzok: “[Trump’s] never going to become president, right?” Strzok replied: “No. No he’s not. We’ll stop it.” Six days later, Strzok wrote a text message telling Lisa Page that while “I want to believe … that there’s no way he [Trump] gets elected,” “I’m afraid we can’t take that risk.” To guard against that “unlikely” but not altogether impossible election outcome, Strzok explained, he and his likeminded comrades at the FBI were busy implementing an “insurance policy” by which a Trump victory could either be prevented from occurring at all, or could be subsequently overturned in the event that it did occur. This was obviously a reference to the Steele dossier and, most likely, the Crossfire Hurricane project.
Just a few days after Paul Manafort resigned as Trump’s campaign chairman on August 19, 2016, the FBI initiated a wiretap against Manafort; this wiretap would extend through early 2017. President Obama’s role in the overall “Trump collusion” probe was signaled by a September 2, 2016 text message in which Lisa Page told Peter Strzok that Obama “wants to know everything we’re doing.”
In early September 2016, Christopher Steele told DOJ official Bruce Ohr – whose wife was also working for Fusion GPS along with Steele and was assisting in the anti-Trump research – that he (Steele) was both “desperate that Donald Trump not get elected” and “passionate about him not being president.”
In mid-September 2016, Steele met with his State Department friend Jonathan Winer to discuss the dossier that he (Steele) was still busy compiling. Around that same time, Steele also flew to Rome to meet with and brief the FBI on his progress.
On October 19, 2016, Steele wrote his final report for the dossier, and the FBI authorized payment to him. All told, the FBI made 11 payments to Christopher Steele in 2016. The completed Steele dossier contained numerous allegations of close interactions — including quid pro quo agreements — between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin. Among its more salacious allegations were claims that: (a) Trump “hated” former president Obama so much that when he stayed in the Presidential suite of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Moscow, he had commissioned prostitutes to urinate on the bed used by the Obamas during an earlier visit; and (b) Trump’s engagement in a variety of “perverted sexual acts” and “sex parties” over the years, coupled with his past payment of bribes, would make him susceptible to blackmail if he were to win the presidency.
On October 21, 2016, the FBI and DOJ, newly armed with the Steele dossier, which mentioned Carter Page nine times, again petitioned for a FISA warrant authorizing the surveillance of Page’s communications – as well as the communications of everyone within the scope of the “two-hop rule.” In making their case to the FISA court, the FBI and DOJ deceived the FISA judge by inflating the importance and credibility of the dossier; obscuring the true partisan nature of the dossier’s authorship; downplaying the extent to which the dossier’s content was either fabricated or unverifiable; hiding the fact that the FBI itself had assessed the dossier “as only minimally corroborated”; asserting that a Yahoo News story about Carter Page’s Russia ties provided additional justification for the FISA warrant application, without disclosing that the Yahoo story had come from the very same source as the dossier—Christopher Steele; and hiding the fact that the dossier’s production had been funded by the Hillary Clinton campaign, the DNC, and Obama For America. (Sixteen months later, in February 2018, the House Intelligence Committee’s so-called “Nunes Memo” – named after Committee Chairman Devin Nunes – revealed that according to FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe, “no surveillance warrant would have been sought from the FISC without the Steele dossier information.”)
The October 21, 2016 FISA warrant application – which was signed by James Comey and Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates – was approved by the FISA court. This warrant would subsequently be renewed successfully three times, at intervals of approximately three months.
On January 6, 2017, James Comey met alone with Donald Trump to brief him on the allegations contained in Steele’s dossier. The dossier was eventually published in full by BuzzFeed.com on January 10.
On January 12, 2017, the FISA warrant against Carter Page received its first 90-day renewal. The renewal application was signed James Comey and Sally Yates.
On February 14, 2017, Comey gave a copy of a memo about his January 6th meeting with President Trump to a friend; he instructed that friend to share the contents of the memo with a reporter. Comey later explained – in testimony given under oath before the Senate Intelligence Committee on June 8, 2017 – that he had done this “because I thought that might prompt the appointment of a special counsel” to investigate possible Trump collusion with Russia.
On March 2, 2017, Attorney General Jeff Sessions – caving to Democratic Party outrage over certain past contacts between Sessions and the Russian ambassador to the United States – recused himself from any investigation into charges that Russia may have meddled in the 2016 presidential election. This set the stage for Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein to play a key role in that investigation.
On March 20, 2017, Comey publicly confirmed that the FBI was investigating “the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election and … the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia’s efforts.”
In early April 2017, a third wiretap warrant against Carter Page was approved by the FISA court. The renewal application was signed by James Comey and Acting Attorney General Dana Boente, the latter of whom had recently replaced Sally Yates.
At a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on May 3, 2017, James Comey stated that the FBI had opened investigations on more than one “U.S. persons” in connection with the bureau’s investigation into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia in the 2016 election. Comey declined to answer if Trump personally was under investigation.
On May 9, 2017, Trump fired Comey, based in part on the recommendations of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein. Andrew McCabe replaced Comey as acting FBI Director.
On May 17, 2017, Deputy AG Rosenstein appointed former FBI director Robert Mueller as special counsel to investigate any possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government’s efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election. Both Peter Strzok and Lisa Page immediately joined Mueller’s team of lawyers and investigators.
On June 29, 2017, the FBI renewed its surveillance warrant against Carter Page for the third and final time. Andrew McCabe and Rod Rosenstein sign the renewal application. This renewed warrant would remain in effect through September 2017.
In March 2019 – after nearly two years of painstaking investigation – Special Counsel Robert Mueller issued a 448-page report concluding that there was no evidence that President Trump or any members of his campaign had colluded with the Russian government to steal the 2016 election from Hillary Clinton. In the course of his investigation, which cost American taxpayers more than $40 million, Mueller employed 19 prosecutors (most of whom were hostile to President Trump) along with more than three dozen FBI agents and an analyst. His team issued some 2,800 subpoenas, 500 search warrants, and 280 demands for phone and e-mail records. Moreover, the Mueller team interviewed approximately 500 witnesses.
Later in 2019, the Department of Justice’s Inspector General, Michael Horowitz, would issue a devastating report exposing the FBI’s abuse of the FISA application process to obtain warrants to spy on Carter Page and, by extension, the entire Trump campaign. His report laid bare 17 separate “inaccuracies and omissions” that were never brought to the attention of the Office of Intelligence at any point during the filing of any of the four FISA applications. As the Daily Wire reports: “Seven of the inaccuracies and omissions related to the first FISA application, and these errors were carried on the three subsequent applications, along with [ten] additional errors.”
Special counsel Robert Mueller, who had already testified privately before two separate congressional committees — the House Judiciary Committee & the House Intelligence Committee — regarding his probe of President Trump’s alleged collusion with Russia during the 2016 presidential race, testified publicly — before those same two committees — on July 24, 2019. Mueller’s testimony was disastrous for Democrats, as it confirmed quite clearly that his long and costly investigation had not turned up any evidence of wrongdoing by Trump.
At that point, the Democrats turned their attention immediately to another “scandal.” They never apologized for having dragged the president and the American people through the proverbial mud — at enormous financial cost to the taxpayers, and at enormous political cost to the Republican Party. Indeed, the Republicans lost their majority in the House of Representatives in the 2018 midterm elections, in large part because the Democrat base had been whipped into a frenzy by completely fraudulent allegations of Trump-Russia collusion and Trump’s theft of the 2016 election, while many Republican voters were demoralized. Moreover, as the media’s constant rumblings about collusion, impeachment, and massive scandal grew throughout 2017 and 2018, a large number of Republican incumbents in Congress – 3 members of the Senate and 34 members of the House — simply had no stomach for the fight, and they resigned.
The new subject of the Democrats’ ongoing impeachment crusade would be a telephone conversation that occurred on July 25, 2019 — the very day after Robert Mueller’s catastrophic public testimony — between President Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
On August 12, 2019 — a mere eighteen days after that July 25 phone call had taken place — an unidentified “whistleblower” from the intelligence community filed a complaint in which he expressed his own “urgent concern” regarding the Trump-Zelensky conversation.
According to the new whistleblower, Trump on July 25th had asked Zelensky to look into why Ukrainian Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin had been fired in 2016 as a result of political and financial threats by then-Vice President Joe Biden. Some key excerpts from the whistleblower’s complaint:
Critics and opponents of President Trump claimed that the whistleblower’s allegations provided evidence that Trump had sought to pressure Ukraine’s new president, Zelensky, to dig up political dirt on Trump’s rival, Joe Biden, as a precondition to Ukraine receiving nearly $400 million in congressionally approved military aid from the United States. They also asserted that Trump, seeking to extract a political quid-pro-quo from Zelensky, had delayed the issuance of that aid for 55 days, until its release in September 2019.
It Was Obama & Biden, Not Trump, Who Had Denied Vital Aid to Ukraine
Joe Biden claimed that by delaying the issuance of vital military aid to Ukraine, President Trump had “used the power and resources of the United States to pressure a sovereign nation, a partner that is still under direct assault from Russia … to subvert the rule of law.” But in fact, it was the Obama-Biden administration that had refused to give that aid to Ukraine. As the New York Post explains:
“In 2014, after Russia annexed Crimea and began arming separatists in eastern Ukraine with tanks, armored vehicles and rocket launchers, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko came to Washington to plead for weapons to defend his country. In an impassioned address to a joint session of Congress — with Biden sitting directly behind him — Poroshenko said his country appreciated the nonlethal assistance he was getting, but declared ‘one cannot win a war with blankets.’
“The Obama-Biden administration was unmoved. The Wall Street Journal reported at the time that ‘President Barack Obama stuck to his refusal to provide weapons or other lethal military gear to Ukraine.’ Why?
“Team Obama feared that lethal aid would provoke Moscow. So what did the administration give him? Instead of rocket-propelled grenades, we provided food rations. As one frustrated former Pentagon official put it at the time, ‘What kind of message does that send anyway?’ …
“When Trump took office, he delivered a message of strength. In December 2017, the new administration announced that the United States would send the lethal aid to Ukraine that Poroshenko requested and Obama and Biden refused — the sale of $47 million worth of Javelin antitank missiles. In May 2018, after Ukraine tested its new Javelin missiles, Poroshenko exulted on Twitter ‘Finally this day has come!’ and personally thanked Trump ‘for supporting Ukraine and adopting a decision to provide Javelin antitank missile systems.’”
The Truth About the “Whistleblower” and the Trump-Zelensky Phone Call
As The Federalist website noted: “The formal complaint from an anti-Trump ‘whistleblower’ alleging various crimes by President Donald Trump is riddled with third-hand gossip and outright falsehoods…. The document itself is riddled not with evidence directly viewed by the complainant, but repeated references to what anonymous officials allegedly told the complainant.”
Under traditional whistleblower rules – which required whistleblowers to provide direct, first-hand knowledge of alleged wrongdoings – this “whistleblower” would not have been able to file his complaint. But sometime between May 2018 and August 2019, the intelligence community had secretly eliminated that rule; now, whistleblower complaints could be filed even by individuals who had only “heard about [wrongdoing] from others.”
When Democrats — claiming that Trump had engaged in a quid-pro-quo discussion wherein he made U.S. aid contingent upon a Ukrainian investigation of Biden — erupted with outrage and vowed to use Trump’s July 25 conversation with Zelensky as a reason to initiate a “formal impeachment inquiry” against the president, Trump declassified and made public a transcript of the conversation, as it had been transcribed by note-takers in the White House Situation Room. Below are the most noteworthy remarks made by both Trump and Zelensky in the course of their dialog:
• TRUMP: “I will say that we [the U.S.] do a lot for Ukraine. We spend a lot of effort and a lot of time. Much more than the European countries are doing and they should be helping you more than they are. Germany does almost nothing for you. All they do is talk and I think it’s something that you should really ask them about. When I was speaking to Angela Merkel she talks Ukraine, but she doesn’t do anything. A lot of the European countries are the same way so I think it’s something you want to look at but the United States has been very very good to Ukraine. I wouldn’t say that it’s reciprocal necessarily because things are happening that are not good but the United States has been very very good to Ukraine.”
• TRUMP: “I would like you to do us a favor though because our country has been through a lot and Ukraine knows a lot about it. I would like you to find out what happened with this whole situation with Ukraine, they say Crowdstrike [a Ukrainian-owned cybersecurity technology company that helped investigate the Democratic National Committee cyber attacks and connected those attacks to Russian intelligence services] … I guess you have one of your wealthy people… The server, they say Ukraine has it. There are a lot of things that went on, the whole situation. I think you’re surrounding yourself with some of the same people. I would like to have the Attorney General call you or your people and I would like you to get to the bottom of it. As you saw yesterday, that whole nonsense ended with a very poor performance by a man named Robert Mueller, an incompetent performance, but they say a lot of it started with Ukraine. Whatever you can do, it’s very important that you do it if that’s possible.”
• ZELENSKY: “Yes, it is very important for me and everything that you just mentioned earlier…. I guarantee as the President of Ukraine that all the investigations will be done openly and candidly.. That I can assure you.”
• TRUMP: Good, because I heard you had a prosecutor [Shokin] who was very good and he was shut down and that’s really unfair. A lot of people are talking about that, the way they shut your very good prosecutor down and you had some very bad people involved. [Trump attorney Rudolph] Giuliani is a highly respected man. He was the mayor of New York City, a great mayor, and I would like him to call you. I will ask him to call you along with the Attorney General. Rudy very much knows what’s happening and he is a very capable guy. If you could speak to him that would be great. The former ambassador from the United States, the woman, was bad news and the people she was dealing with in the Ukraine were bad news so I just want to let you know that. The other thing, There’s a lot of talk about Biden’s son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the Attorney General would be great. Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it… It sounds horrible to me.”
• ZELENSKY: “I wanted to tell you about the prosecutor. First of all, I understand and I’m knowledgeable about the situation. Since we have won the absolute majority in our Parliament, the next prosecutor general will be 100% my person, my candidate, who will be approved, by the parliament and will start as a new prosecutor in September. He or she will look into the situation, specifically to the company that you mentioned in this issue….”
• TRUMP: “I will have Mr. Giuliani give you a call and I am also going to have Attorney General Barr call and we will get to the bottom of it. I’m sure you will figure it out. I heard the prosecutor was treated very badly and he was a very fair prosecutor, so good luck with everything.”
On September 24, 2019, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that House Democrats would seek, because of what they viewed as the impropriety of President Trump’s July 25 phone call with Zelensky, to open an impeachment inquiry against Trump. House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff would be the lead investigator. (Schiff initially told reporters that he had not spoken directly with the whistleblower prior to the latter’s filing of his August 12 complaint. But the congressman’s claim was subsequently proven false by a New York Times story showing that Schiff actually had known about the whistleblower’s allegations before the complaint was even filed.)
On October 8, 2019, newsman John Solomon reported that a newly unearthed document showed that Ukrainian officials in the NABU — an FBI-like anti-corruption agency in Ukraine — had already opened a new probe into Burisma Holdings, the firm on whose board Hunter Biden had served, five months prior to the July 25, 2019 telephone conversation between Presidents Trump and Zelensky. “The U.S. government had open-source intelligence and was aware as early as February of 2019 [when Petro Poroshenko was still Ukraine’s president] that the Ukrainian government was planning to reopen the Burisma investigation,” said Solomon. “This is long before the president ever imagined having a call with President Zelensky. This is a significant shift in the factual timeline.” This information, Solomon added, had been omitted from the whistleblower’s complaint recently lodged against Trump. Solomon’s revelation was monumentally significant because it meant that Trump’s calls for a Ukrainian investigation of Biden and Burisma would not have changed anything; the investigation had already been active for five months.
On October 10, 2019, it was learned that the whistleblower was a career CIA analyst who had been detailed to the National Security Council at the White House, where he had worked with Joe Biden during the latter’s tenure as vice president.
On October 30, 2019, journalist Paul Sperry published additional information about the whistleblower:
More than two months after the official filed his complaint, pretty much all that’s known publicly about him is that he is a CIA analyst who at one point was detailed to the White House and is now back working at the CIA. But the name of a government official fitting that description — Eric Ciaramella — has been raised privately in impeachment depositions, according to officials with direct knowledge of the proceedings, as well as in at least one open hearing held by a House committee not involved in the impeachment inquiry. Fearing their anonymous witness could be exposed, Democrats this week blocked Republicans from asking more questions about him and intend to redact his name from all deposition transcripts.
RealClearInvestigations is disclosing the name because of the public’s interest in learning details of an effort to remove a sitting president from office. Further, the official’s status as a “whistleblower” is complicated by his being a hearsay reporter of accusations against the president, one who has “some indicia of an arguable political bias … in favor of a rival political candidate” — as the Intelligence Community Inspector General phrased it circumspectly in originally fielding his complaint.
Federal documents reveal that the 33-year-old Ciaramella, a registered Democrat held over from the Obama White House, previously worked with former Vice President Joe Biden and former CIA Director John Brennan, a vocal critic of Trump who helped initiate the Russia “collusion” investigation of the Trump campaign during the 2016 election.
Further, Ciaramella left his National Security Council posting in the White House’s West Wing in mid-2017 amid concerns about negative leaks to the media. He has since returned to CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia. “He was accused of working against Trump and leaking against Trump,” said a former NSC official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters.
Also, Ciaramella huddled for “guidance” with the staff of House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, including former colleagues also held over from the Obama era whom Schiff’s office had recently recruited from the NSC. Schiff is the lead prosecutor in the impeachment inquiry.
And Ciaramella worked with a Democratic National Committee operative who dug up dirt on the Trump campaign during the 2016 election, inviting her into the White House for meetings, former White House colleagues said. The operative, Alexandra Chalupa, a Ukrainian-American who supported Hillary Clinton, led an effort to link the Republican campaign to the Russian government. “He knows her. He had her in the White House,” said one former co-worker, who requested anonymity to discuss the sensitive matter.
Documents confirm the DNC opposition researcher attended at least one White House meeting with Ciaramella in November 2015. She visited the White House with a number of Ukrainian officials lobbying the Obama administration for aid for Ukraine….
A CIA officer specializing in Russia and Ukraine, Ciaramella was detailed over to the National Security Council from the agency in the summer of 2015, working under Susan Rice, President Obama’s national security adviser. He also worked closely with the former vice president [Biden]. Federal records show that Biden’s office invited Ciaramella to an October 2016 state luncheon the vice president hosted for Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi. Other invited guests included Brennan, as well as then-FBI Director James Comey and then-National Intelligence Director James Clapper.
Several U.S. officials told RealClearInvestigations that the invitation that was extended to Ciaramella, a relatively low-level GS-13 federal employee, was unusual and signaled he was politically connected inside the Obama White House.
Former White House officials said Ciaramella worked on Ukrainian policy issues for Biden in 2015 and 2016, when the vice president was President Obama’s “point man” for Ukraine. A Yale graduate, Ciaramella is said to speak Russian and Ukrainian, as well as Arabic. He had been assigned to the NSC by Brennan.
He was held over into the Trump administration, and headed the Ukraine desk at the NSC, eventually transitioning into the West Wing, until June 2017. “He was moved over to the front office” to temporarily fill a vacancy, said a former White House official, where he “saw everything, read everything.”
The official added that it soon became clear among NSC staff that Ciaramella opposed the new Republican president’s foreign policies. “My recollection of Eric is that he was very smart and very passionate, particularly about Ukraine and Russia. That was his thing – Ukraine,” he said. “He didn’t exactly hide his passion with respect to what he thought was the right thing to do with Ukraine and Russia, and his views were at odds with the president’s policies.” “So I wouldn’t be surprised if he was the whistleblower,” the official said.
In May 2017, Ciaramella went “outside his chain of command,” according to a former NSC co-worker, to send an email alerting another agency that Trump happened to hold a meeting with Russian diplomats in the Oval Office the day after firing Comey, who led the Trump-Russia investigation. The email also noted that Russian President Vladimir Putin had phoned the president a week earlier. Contents of the email appear to have ended up in the media, which reported Trump boasted to the Russian officials about firing Comey, whom he allegedly called “crazy, a real nut job.”
In effect, Ciaramella helped generate the “Putin fired Comey” narrative, according to the research dossier making the rounds in Congress, a copy of which was obtained by RealClearInvestigations. Ciaramella allegedly argued that “President Putin suggested that President Trump fire Comey,” the report said. “In the days after Comey’s firing, this presidential action was used to further political and media calls for the standup [sic] of the special counsel to investigate ‘Russia collusion.’”
Following is some key information about one of Ciaramella’s two attorneys, Mark Zaid, senior counsel with the Compass Rose Legal Group:
Following is some key information about the second of Ciaramella’s two attorneys, Andrew Bakaj:
Based on the allegations made by “whistleblower” Eric Ciaramella, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi launched an impeachment inquiry against President Trump on September 24, 2019, claiming that Trump had abused the power of the presidency. Initial depositions were taken before the House Intelligence, Foreign Affairs, and Oversight committees, which met jointly behind closed doors in the basement of the United States Capitol from October 11 through November 8, 2019. Only members of the three committees (47 Republicans and 57 Democrats) were permitted to attend. Witnesses were questioned by staff lawyers, and committee members were allowed to ask questions, with equal time being given to Republicans and Democrats. These closed-door hearings were then followed by televised public hearings which took place between November 13 and November 21, 2019.
A key matter around which the impeachment effort centered, was the fact that the Trump administration had temporarily delayed the distribution of $391 million in congressionally approved military aid to Ukraine. It was a 55-day delay, from July 18 to September 11, 2019. Trump’s accusers claimed that the delay was due to the president’s effort to pressure Ukraine into investigating Burisma and the Bidens, before the money would be released to Ukraine.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (on whether there had been a quid pro quo with Trump)
At a September 25, 2019 press conference in New York, Zelensky was asked: “Have you felt any pressure from President Trump to investigate Joe Biden and Hunter Biden?” Zelensky replied: ” I’m sorry, but I don’t want to be involved to democratic, open elections — elections of USA. No, you heard that we [Trump and I] had, I think, good phone call. It was normal. We spoke about many things. And I — so I think, and you read it, that nobody pushed — pushed me.”
And in a December 2, 2019 interview with reporters from Time magazine and three of Europe’s leading publications, Zalensky was asked: “When did you first sense that there was a connection between Trump’s decision to block military aid to Ukraine this summer and the two investigations that Trump and his allies were asking for? Can you clarify this issue of the quid pro quo?” Zelensky replied: “Look, I never talked to the President from the position of a quid pro quo.”
Mark Sandy (testifying on why U.S. aid to Ukraine had been delayed, and when the decision to delay that aid had been made)
In a closed-door hearing before the House Intelligence Committee in October 2019, Mark Sandy, an official at the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB), testified that the OMB had been instructed to withhold aid to Ukraine because President Trump was concerned “about other countries not contributing more to Ukraine.” Sandy made the revelation when he was asked what reason OMB official Michael Duffey had been given by the White House, regarding why the aid to Ukraine was to be delayed.
Below is the exchange where the revelation was made:
Question: At any point in time, from the moment that you walked into the [Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility] to anytime in history, has Mr. Duffey ever provided to you a reason why the President wanted to place a hold on security assistance?
Sandy: I recall in early September an email [from Mike Duffey] that attributed the hold to the President’s concern about other counties not contributing money to Ukraine.
Question: Was this the first time that you heard that the hold might be about some sort of concern that other countries are not providing sufficient support to Ukraine?
Sandy: We had received information requesting — sorry. We had received requests for additional information on what other countries were contributing to Ukraine.
Sandy subsequently went on to state that in early September, Duffey had sent him a number of inquiries about how much money other nations were contributing to Ukraine.
Though CNN reported that the OMB had taken action on withholding the aid to Ukraine on the evening of July 25, just hours after the Trump-Zelenskyy phone call, Republican congressman Lee Zeldin noted: “This is not true. There were multiple actions before July 25th.”
Zeldin’s claim is supported by a September 23, 2019 Washington Post story which said that according to three senior Trump administration officials, President Trump had instructed acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney to withhold the aid to Ukraine at least a week prior to the July 25 phone call. “Officials at the Office of Management and Budget relayed Trump’s order to the State Department and the Pentagon during an interagency meeting in mid-July, according to officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations,” the Post reported. “They explained that the president had ‘concerns’ and wanted to analyze whether the money needed to be spent.”
Laura Cooper (testifying on when Ukraine had first become aware of the hold on U.S. aid)
On October 23, 2019, Laura Cooper — the top Pentagon official overseeing U.S. policy towards Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia — testified behind closed doors, focusing mainly on the Trump administration’s decision, against the Pentagon’s recommendation, to withhold nearly $400 million of congressionally approved assistance to Ukraine. In her testimony, Cooper said that during a July 2019 meeting, many in the administration had raised concerns that Trump may have lacked the legal authority to freeze aid after Congress had approved it. “So the comments in the room at the deputies’ level reflected a sense that there was not an understanding of how this could legally play out,” Cooper testified. “And at that meeting, the deputies agreed to look into the legalities and to look at what was possible.” Noting that Ukraine was at war with Russia, Cooper also described Trump’s decision to delay aid as “unusual.” Further, she stated that she had a “very strong inference” that the Ukrainians knew there was a hold on U.S. funding as of August 20, 2019 — 26 days after the July 25 call between Trump and Zelensky. This suggests that Ukraine did not know that the U.S. had frozen the aid at the time of the July 25 call, thus undercutting claims of a quid pro quo during the Trump-Zelensky conversation.
George Kent (testifying on: [a] his own concern that Hunter Biden’s presence on Burisma’s board would be seen as a conflict of interest; [b] his opinion that, as a prerequisite for releasing the U.S. aid to Ukraine, President Trump had wanted Ukrainian President Zelensky to publicly announce that there would be an investigation into Burisma and the Bidens; and [c] his belief that an investigation into Burisma corruption was justified)
In a closed-door hearing on October 15, 2019, testimony was given by George Kent, who had served as Deputy Chief of Mission in Kyiv (2015 -18) and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs (September 4, 2018 to present). Kent testified that when Hunter Biden had joined the board of Burisma, he (Kent) had worried that Biden’s position with the gas company would complicate U.S. diplomats’ efforts to help Ukrainian officials understand the importance of avoiding conflicts of interest and the appearance of impropriety: “I raised my concerns that I had heard that Hunter Biden was on the board of a company owned by somebody that the U.S. Government had spent money trying to get tens of millions of dollars back [from], and that could create the perception of a conflict of interest. The message that I recall hearing back was that the vice president’s son Beau was dying of cancer, and that there was no further bandwidth [to] deal with family-related issues at that time… That was the end of that conversation.”
Also in his closed-door testimony, Kent told congressional investigators that, based exclusively on conversations relayed to him by others in the Trump administration who had been in contact with Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union:
In televised testimony before the House Intelligence Committee on November 13, 2019, Kent reiterated his “concern … that there was the possibility of a perception of a conflict of interest” related to Hunter Biden’s presence on the board of Burisma Holdings. “To summarize, we thought the [CEO of Burisma] had stolen money,” Kent said. “We thought a prosecutor had [taken a] bribe to shut the case.” When Minority House Intelligence Committee Counsel Steve Castor asked Kent if he was “in favor of that matter being fully investigated and prosecuted,” Kent replied: “I think, since U.S. taxpayer dollars were wasted, I would love to see the Ukrainian prosecutor general’s office find who the corrupt prosecutor was that took the bribe, and how much of it was paid.”
Also in his November 13 testimony, Kent reiterated his perception of a quid pro quo between President Trump and President Zelensky. He had the following exchange with Daniel Goldman, the lead Democratic attorney for the impeachment proceedings:
Goldman: Mr. Kent, that vital military assistance, that was not the only thing that President Trump was withholding from Ukraine. What else was contingent on Ukraine initiating these investigations?
Kent: Well, as we’ve talked earlier today, the possibility of a White House meeting was being held contingent to an announcement.
David Hale (testifying on: [a] the propriety of delaying aid to Ukraine; [b] his belief that Trump had not tried to use U.S. aid as leverage for forcing Ukraine to investigate Burisma; and [c] his belief that the Trump-Zelensky phone call was “perfectly normal”)
In closed-door testimony in early November 2019, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale testified that the U.S. had held up aid to Lebanon at roughly the same time, and in the same manner, as it had delayed aid to Ukraine. “Contrary to Democrats’ claims that the administration singled out Ukraine for the president’s own personal and political reasons,” said Breitbart.com, “Hale seemed to suggest that Trump’s actions were part of a ‘long overdue’ policy of paying closer attention to where foreign aid was going and how it was being spent. Hale, like many other witnesses, also testified that there had been no link between aid to Ukraine and the investigations that Trump had requested.” Hale also testified that he had “no knowledge” of any use of aid as leverage by which to pressure Ukraine to conduct investigations into the Bidens and Burisma, and that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had never discussed any such a strategy with him. Moreover, Hale testified that the transcript of the president’s July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Zelensky seemed “perfectly normal.”
Hunter Biden (conceding that he had exercised “poor judgment” in joining the Burisma board, and that his father’s political connections had “probably” enabled him to secure other high-paying positions as well)
Hunter Biden addressed his work in Ukraine in an October 2019 interview with ABC News’ Amy Robach, where he said: “In retrospect, look, I think that it was poor judgment on my part. Is that I think that it was poor judgment because I don’t believe now, when I look back on it — I know that there was — did nothing wrong at all. However, was it poor judgment to be in the middle of something that is … a swamp in — in — in many ways? Yeah. … I gave a hook to some very unethical people to act in illegal ways to try to do some harm to my father. That’s where I made the mistake. So I take full responsibility for that.”
In his November 2019 testimony in the public impeachment hearings, Morrison stated that Vindman’s bosses had been very much concerned about the manner in which Vindman was carrying out his duties. As the Daily Wire reports:
In a private deposition before the House Intelligence, Foreign Affairs, and Oversight Committees on October 17, 2019, Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, testified that he had told Bill Taylor, the U.S. Charge d’affaires for Ukraine, that President Trump had sought “nothing” from Ukraine, and that there had been “no quid pro quo” during the president’s July 25 telephone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
But in a November 20, 2019 House Intelligence Committee hearing, Sondland, who was not part of the July 25 phone call between Trump and Zelenskyy, delivered a mixed message about what President Trump had wanted from Ukraine. As the Daily Signal reports:
In his opening statement, Sondland said he became certain there was a quid pro quo in which Zelenskyy would get a White House meeting with Trump by announcing formal investigations by Ukrainian law enforcement of Burisma—an energy company where former Vice President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, was a board member—and of meddling by Ukraine in the 2016 presidential election in the U.S.
One of Trump’s personal lawyers, Giuliani, communicated this point, Sondland testified. “I know that members of this committee have frequently framed these complicated issues in the form of a simple question: Was there a ‘quid pro quo?’” Sondland said. “As I testified previously, with regard to the requested White House call and White House meeting, the answer is yes.”
He added: “Mr. Giuliani conveyed to Secretary Perry, Ambassador Volker, and others that President Trump wanted a public statement from President Zelenskyy committing to investigations of Burisma and the 2016 election. Mr. Giuliani expressed those requests directly to the Ukranians, and Mr. Giuliani expressed those requests directly to us. We all understood that these prerequisites [the investigations], the White House call, and the White House meeting reflected President Trump’s desires and requirements.… My own personal view—which I shared repeatedly with others—was that the White House meeting and security assistance should have proceeded without preconditions of any kind.”
However, Sondland told the committee that he had no direct knowledge of any conditions placed on the $391 million in military aid to Ukraine. “I don’t recall President Trump ever talking to me about any security assistance, ever,” he testified….
Democratic counsel Daniel Goldman pressed Sondland on whether it was reasonable to presume the military aid was being held until Ukraine’s announcement of the investigations. “President Trump never told me directly that the aid was conditioned on meetings,” Sondland replied. “The only thing we got from Giuliani was that the Burisma and the 2016 election [probes] were conditioned on the White House meeting. The aid was my own personal guess, based again on your analogy, 2 plus 2 equals 4.”
Goldman: “So you didn’t talk to President Trump?”
Sondland: “My testimony is that I never heard from President Trump that aid was conditioned on an announcement [of investigations] of elections.”
Goldman: “So, you never heard those specific words.”
Goldman: “Right? But-”
Sondland: “Never heard those words.”
Rep. Mike Turner, R-Ohio, pointed to [Rep. Adam] Schiff’s remarks to reporters earlier Wednesday that there was proof of an impeachable offense, and to a new CNN headline that he read as “Sondland ties Trump to withholding aid.”
“I’ve said repeatedly I was presuming,” Sondland said, referring to why the administration put a hold on the aid.
Turner: “So no one told you, Giuliani didn’t tell you. [Acting White House chief of staff] Mick Mulvaney didn’t tell you, [Secretary of State Mike] Pompeo didn’t tell you? Nobody else on this planet told you that Donald Trump was tying aid to these investigations. Is that correct?”
Sondland: “I think I’ve already testified to that.”
Turner: “No, answer the question. Is it correct that no one on this planet told you that Donald Trump was tying this aid to the investigations? Because if your answer is yes, then the chairman is wrong and the headline on CNN is wrong. No one on this planet told you that President Trump was tying aid to investigations, yes or no?”
Turner: “So, you really have no testimony today that ties President Trump to a scheme to withhold aid from Ukraine in exchange for these investigations?”
Sondland: “Other than my own presumption.”
Turner: “Which is nothing.”
Notably, the statement that, according to Sondland, Trump wanted Zelensky to issue before Trump would agree to release U.S. military aid to Ukraine, was never made. Zelenskyy never issued any such statement, and the aid to Ukraine was released anyway.
Also in his testimony, Sondland said: “I told Mr. Yermak [a top adviser to the President of Ukraine] that I believed that the resumption of U.S. aid would likely not occur until Ukraine took some kind of action on the public statement that we had been discussing for many weeks.” This was a reference to Trump’s alleged insistence that Ukraine announce that it would move ahead with two investigations: one into claims that Ukraine had helped Hillary Clinton’s campaign in the 2016 presidential election, and another related to Hunter Biden’s relationship with Burisma Holdings. (This testimony by Sondland contradicted his initial testimony during the impeachment inquiry in October, when he stated that he had never known that U.S. aid to Ukraine was contingent upon the investigations that Trump wanted. Sondland’s revised claim is further called into question by the fact that in the December 10, 2019 edition of Time magazine, Yermak is quoted disputing Sondland’s recollection as follows: “Gordon and I were never alone together. We bumped into each other in the hallway next to the escalator, as I was walking out. And I remember – everything is fine with my memory – we talked about how well the meeting went. That’s all we talked about.”)
Two additional key moments in Sondland’s testimony occurred when he twice acknowledged that Trump had never even hinted at wanting a quid-pro-quo in exchange for military aid to Ukraine. The Daily Signal reports:
Sondland said twice during his testimony that Trump explicitly told him that he didn’t want a quid pro quo with Ukraine. “I finally called the president. I believe I just asked him an open-ended question, Mr. Chairman,” Sondland told Schiff. Recalling the talk with Trump, he said he asked: “What do you want from Ukraine? I keep hearing all these different ideas and theories and this and that. What do you want?” Sondland continued, speaking of Trump: “It was a very short, abrupt conversation. He was not in a good mood. He said, ‘I want nothing. I want no quid pro quo. Tell Zelenskyy to do the right thing.’ Something to that effect. So, I typed out a text to Ambassador [William] Taylor. The reason for telling him this was not to defend what the president was saying. Not to opine on whether the president was being truthful or untruthful, but simply to relay ‘I’ve gone as far as I can go.’”
Republican counsel Steve Castor followed up on Sondland’s Sept. 9 call with Trump, and Sondland gave the same recollection with a little more color. “Rather than ask the president nine different questions, ‘Is it this, is it this, is it that,” I just said, ‘What do you want from Ukraine?’ I may have even used a four-letter word,” Sondland testified. “And, he said: ‘I want nothing. I want no quid pro quo. I just want Zelenskyy to do the right thing and do what he ran on,’ or words to that effect.”
Also in his testimony, Sondland had the following exchange with Rep. Jim Jordan:
Rep Jim Jordan: I thank the gentleman for yielding. Ambassador, when did it happen?
Gordon Sondland: When did what happen?
Rep Jim Jordan: The announcement. When did President Zelensky announce that the investigation was going to happen? On page 14 you said this, “Was there a quid pro quo?” Your opening statement, “As I testified previously with regard to the requested White House call, White House meeting, the answer is yes.” That there needed to be a public statement from President Zelensky. When the chairman asked you about the security assistance dollars, you said there needed to be a public announcement from Zelensky. So I’m asking you a simple question. When did that happen?
Gordon Sondland: Never did.
Rep Jim Jordan: Never did. They got the call July 25th, they got the meeting, not in the White House, but in New York on September 25th. They got the money on September 11th. When did the meeting happen again?
Gordon Sondland: Never did.
Rep Jim Jordan: You don’t know who was in the meeting?
Gordon Sondland: Which meeting are you referring to?
Rep Jim Jordan: The meeting that never happened. Who was in it? [crosstalk 00:44:22] You know how Zelensky announced it? Did he Tweet it? Did he do a press statement? Did he do a press conference? You know how that happened? I mean, you got all three of them wrong. They get the call, they get the meeting, they get the money. It’s not two plus two, it’s 0 for three. I’ve never seen anything like this.
Rep Jim Jordan: And you told Mr. Castor that the President never told you that the announcement had to happen to get anything. In fact, he didn’t just not tell you that, he explicitly said the opposite. The gentleman from Texas just read it. You said to the President of the United States, “What do you want from Ukraine?” The President, “I want nothing. I want no quid pro quo. I want Zelensky to do the right thing. I want him to do what he ran on.” What did he run on Ambassador Sondland?
Gordon Sondland: Transparency.
Rep Jim Jordan: And dealing with corruption, right?
Gordon Sondland: That’s right.
Rep Jim Jordan: Mr. Castor raised another important point. Why didn’t you put that statement in your opening statement? I think you said you couldn’t fit it in. Is that right? So we might be here for 46 minutes instead of 45.
Gordon Sondland: It wasn’t purposeful, trust me.
Rep Jim Jordan: Wasn’t purposeful?
Gordon Sondland: No.
Rep Jim Jordan: Couldn’t fit it in a 23 page opener. The most important statement about the subject matter at hand, the President unites in a direct conversation with you about the issue at hand, and the President says, let me read it one more time. “What do you want from Ukraine Mr President?” “I want nothing. I want no quid pro quo.” I want this new guy, brand new guy in politics, his party just took over. I want Zelensky to do the right thing. I want him to run on and do what he ran on, which is deal with corruption. And you can’t find time to fit that in a 23 page opening statement. You know what a quid pro quo is?
Gordon Sondland: I do.
Rep Jim Jordan: This for that, right? Looks to me like Ukraine got that three times. There was no this. We didn’t do anything or excuse me, they didn’t have to do anything. I’ve never seen anything like this. When the call came out, you all remember this? When the call came out, everyone said, we’re going to quid pro quo. That was what was in the call. And of course, that didn’t happen. That didn’t happen. Remember what the complaint said? Remember what the memo said, or the whistleblower? This call was frightening. This call was scary. All those things, none of that materialized. None of that materialized.
Sondland also had the following exchange with Rep. John Ratcliffe:
John Ratcliffe: Ambassador Sondland, I’m going to try and quickly move to summarize all of your direct communications with President Trump as it relates to this inquiry, and of course you can correct me if I get it wrong. On May 23rd you had a group meeting that included a, what you called a vanilla request about ending corruption involving Ukrainian oligarchs, correct?
Gordon Sondland: Correct.
John Ratcliffe: On July 25th you called President Trump to say you were on your way to Ukraine, but nothing of substance occurred on that call, correct?
Gordon Sondland: Correct.
John Ratcliffe: On July 26, you had a five minute call, a restaurant that you didn’t originally remember because it, according to your statement, this morning, “Did not strike me as significant at the time.” But once refreshed, recalled that the primary purpose was a rapper named ASAP Rocky, correct?
Gordon Sondland: Correct.
John Ratcliffe: And on September 9th, and most importantly, a reading from your deposition, you called President Trump to ask him, “What do you want from Ukraine?” He responded, “I want nothing. I want no quid pro quo. I want Zelensky to do the right thing. I want him to do what he ran on.” And what he ran on was fighting corruption, correct?
Gordon Sondland: Correct.
John Ratcliffe: And then lastly, on October 2nd, in a random in person meeting that you had an event for the Finnish president, you ran into President Trump and advised him that you’d been called to testify before Congress. And he said to you, “Good. Go tell the truth.”
Gordon Sondland: That’s correct….
John Ratcliffe: Okay, so stop me if there’s anything sinister or nefarious in any of this. A vanilla request about corruption, a call to say I’m on my way to Ukraine. A five minute call you didn’t remember is significant, but its primary purpose was to discuss a rapper, a call that you made where the president said, “I want nothing. I want no quid pro quo. I want Zelinsky to do the right thing. I want him to do what he ran on,” and him telling you to go tell Congress the truth. Anything sinister or nefarious about any of that?
Gordon Sondland: Not the way you present it.
John Ratcliffe: Okay, and that is the truth as you’ve presented it, correct?
Gordon Sondland: Correct.
John Ratcliffe: All right. Why that’s important Ambassador Sondland, is because none of that is hearsay. None of that is speculation. None of that is opinion. That is direct evidence and ultimately that is what if this proceeds to the Senate they’re going to care about. Unlike this proceeding, which has been based on largely speculation and presumption and opinion. This is direct testimony and direct evidence.
John Ratcliffe: And to that point, none of that included evidence about the Bidens and none of that included evidence about military assistance because President Trump never mentioned either of those to you, correct?
Gordon Sondland: That’s correct.
John Ratcliffe: So going back to the July 26th call, because it’s going to be a spectacle tomorrow, you didn’t remember it because it didn’t strike you as significant at the time. Is it fair to say that if the President of United States was asking you to do or say something improper or unlawful, that would have been significant to you?
Gordon Sondland: Yes.
John Ratcliffe: All right, and if that call was part of a bribery or extortion scheme that you were part of as Democrats have alleged, you’d remember that as significant, wouldn’t you?
Gordon Sondland: I was not a part and I would have remembered.
John Ratcliffe: I understand that and I agree with you. Let’s turn to the quid pro quo, because it’s been reported in the papers that this was blockbuster testimony today about quid pro quo in new evidence. To be fair to you, Ambassador Sondland, according to your statement today, as you say on page 14, as you testified previously, this was your opinion that there was a quid pro quo, correct?
Gordon Sondland: The 2016 Burisma and the, excuse me, the 2016 election and Burisma in return for the White House meeting. That’s correct.
John Ratcliffe: So you’ve shared that before. To that point, to be clear again on the part of it that relates to military assistance, though, you don’t have any direct evidence from President Trump about that part of it. That’s your two plus two part of the equation, right? The presumption, correct?
Gordon Sondland: Correct.
John Ratcliffe: All right, and you understand also that others disagreed. Yesterday we heard from Mr. Morrison, Ambassador Volker, they testified that they didn’t see a quid pro quo. Do you understand that?
Gordon Sondland: I understand that that’s what they said.
John Ratcliffe: Reasonable people could look at all of this and come to different conclusions, correct?
Gordon Sondland: Correct.
Jennifer Williams (testifying that while she had viewed the Trump-Zelensky phone call as “unusual” because it appeared to involve “a domestic political matter,” she “did not have enough information to draw any firm conclusions”; that she had never subsequently voiced any concerns about the phone call to any of her superiors in the Trump administration; and that Hunter Biden’s presence on the board of Burisma certainly had the potential for the appearance of a conflict of interest)
In her testimony before the House Intelligence Committee on November 19, 2019, Jennifer Williams, special adviser on Europe and Russia for Vice President Mike Pence, said the following in her opening statement:
“On July 25th, along with several of my colleagues, I listened to a call between President Trump and President Zelensky, the content of which has since been publicly reported. Prior to July 25th, I had participated in roughly a dozen other presidential phone calls. During my closed door deposition members of the committee asked about my personal views and whether I had any concerns about the July 25th call. As I testified then, I found the July 25th phone call unusual because in contrast to other presidential calls I had observed, it involved discussion of what appeared to be a domestic political matter.”
Later in the hearing, Williams said:
Also in the hearing, Williams had the following exchange with Steve Castor:
Castor: Ms. Williams, I want to turn to you for a moment. And you testified that you believed that transcript is complete and accurate other than the one issue you mentioned.
Williams: Substantively accurate, yes.
Castor: Now, did you express any concerns to anyone in your office about what you heard on the call?
Williams: My supervisor was listening on the call as well, so because he had heard the same information, I did not feel the need to have a further conversation with him about it.
Castor: And you never had any concerns with anyone else in the vice president’s office?
Williams: I did not discuss the call further with anyone in the vice president’s office.
Castor: So you didn’t flag it for the chief of staff or the vice president’s counsel or anyone of that sort?
Williams: Again, my immediate supervisor, Lieutenant General Kellogg was in the room with me.
Castor: Right. And after the call, did you in General Kellogg ever discussed the contents of the call?
Williams: We did not, no.
Castor: Okay. Now in the run up to the meeting in Warsaw, the vice president was meeting with President Zelensky September 1st in Warsaw. You were involved with the preparation of the vice president’s briefing materials?
Williams: I was.
Castor: And did you flag for the vice president parts of call that had concerned you?
Williams: No, we did not include the call transcript in the [inaudible] briefing book. We don’t normally include previous calls in [inaudible] briefing books.
Castor: So just wondering if the concerns were so significant, how come nobody on the vice president’s staff at least alerted him to the issue that President Zelensky might be on edge about something that had been mentioned on the 7/25 call?
Williams: Again, my supervisor had been in the call with me and I ensured that the vice president had access to the transcript in the moment on that day. As we were preparing for the September meeting with President Zelensky, the more immediate issue at hand was two days prior, the news had broken about the hold on the security assistance. So we were much more focused on the discussion that was likely to occur about the hold on security assistance for that meeting.
Castor: And to your recollection, you were in the meeting with President Zelensky and Vice President Pence?
Williams: I was.
Castor: And Burisma didn’t come up or the Bidens or any of these investigations?
Williams: No, it did not.
Also during the hearing, Rep. Elise Stefanik asked both Jennifer Williams and Alexander Vindman about the potential for a conflict-of-interest in Hunter Biden’s presence on Burisma’s board:
Stefanik: Well, I know that my constituents in New York 21 have many concerns about the fact that Hunter Biden, the son of the vice president, sat on the board of a corrupt company like Burisma. The Obama administration state department was also concerned and yet Adam Schiff refuses to allow this committee to call Hunter Biden despite our requests. Every witness who has testified and has been asked this has answered, yes. Do you agree that Hunter Biden on the board of Burisma has the potential for the appearance of a conflict of interest?
Vindman: Certainly the potential, yes.
Stefanik: And Ms. Williams?
Keith Kellogg (testifying that he had heard nothing improper in the July 25 phone conversation between Trump and Zelensky):
On November 19, 2019, Lieutenant General Keith Kellogg — Vice President Mike Pence’s National Security Adviser — released a statement saying that he was on President Donald Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and that he heard nothing improper in the conversation. Kellogg’s statement contradicted an October 2019 New York Times story indicating that Jennifer Williams, special adviser on Europe and Russia for Vice President Mike Pence, had: (a) “told lawmakers [in closed-door testimony] that she was taken aback by Mr. Trump’s insistence during the call that Mr. Zelensky open investigations into former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., a candidate for president in 2020, and his son Hunter Biden, who served on the board of a Ukrainian energy company while his father was in office; and (b) said that the conversation with Mr. Zelensky was ‘more political in nature’ than other calls with foreign leaders that she had listened to and that she felt it was ‘unusual and inappropriate.’” Kellogg’s statement also contradicted the testimony that Williams had provided that same day (November 19, 2019):
Wrote Kellogg in response to Ms. Williams’s remarks:
“I was on the much-reported July 25 call between President Donald Trump and President Zelensky. As an exceedingly proud member of President Trump’s Administration and as a 34-year highly experienced combat veteran who retired with the rank of Lieutenant General in the Army, I heard nothing wrong or improper on the call. I had and have no concerns. Ms. Williams was also on the call, and as she testified, she never reported any personal or professional concerns to me, her direct supervisor, regarding the call. In fact, she never reported any personal or professional concerns to any other member of the Vice President’s staff, including our Chief of Staff and the Vice President.
“Today, in her testimony before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Ms. Williams also accurately testified regarding the Vice President’s [Pence’s] preparation for and conduct during his September 1 meeting in Poland with President Zelensky. In her testimony, she affirmed that the Vice President focused on President Zelensky’s anti-corruption efforts and the lack of European support and never mentioned former Vice President Joe Biden, Crowdstrike, Burisma, or investigations in any communication with Ukrainians.”
Kurt Volker (testifying that there had been no quid pro quo, no bribery, and no extortion in the July 25 phone conversation between Trump and Zelensky)
On October 3, 2019, Kurt Volker, the former U.S. special envoy to Ukraine, and who had not been in on the phone call between Trump and Zelenskyy, testified that there had been no quid pro quo, no bribery, and no extortion. As the Daily Wire reported:
[In] former Special Envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker’s closed-door testimony to congressmen on the Foreign Affairs, Intelligence, and Oversight committees,… Volker’s opening testimony makes it clear there was no quid pro quo for Ukraine to investigate Trump’s political opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden. Trump did, however, need to be assured that Zelensky was committed to rooting out the corruption that has plagued the country and contributed to the Russian meddling claims from 2016 that have been investigated the past two years (Trump was absolved of collusion in that investigation).
Volker’s opening statement, obtained by The Daily Wire, stresses “five key points,” including that he was focused “on advancing U.S. foreign policy goals with respect to Ukraine” during his time as ambassador.
The third point Volker stresses is that “at no time was I aware of or took part in an effort to urge Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Biden.” He further states that in the text messages he provided, “Vice President Biden was never a topic of discussion.”
Volker went on to say that he repeatedly “cautioned the Ukrainians to distinguish between highlighting their own efforts to fight corruption domestically, including investigating Ukrainian individuals (something we support as a matter of U.S. policy), and doing anything that could be seen as impacting U.S. elections (which is in neither the united States’ nor Ukraine’s own interests).”
Volker also said he was not on the July 25 phone call between Trump and Zelensky at the center of the Democrats’ latest impeachment inquiry and was not aware Biden’s name was dropped until the transcript was released on September 25.
Volker also repeatedly states there was a “negative narrative” regarding Ukraine’s assistance in providing Hillary Clinton’s campaign with damaging information on Trump. The past history of Ukraine’s corruption was at the center of Trump’s hold on military assistance to the country.
Volker says he “was confident the [hold] would not stand” so he “did not discuss the hold with my Ukrainian counterparts until the matter became public in late August.”
This is yet more evidence that Ukraine was not even aware of the hold at the time Trump was allegedly demanding something in return for the money.
Later in his testimony, Volker says that he and a group that included Secretary of Energy Rick Perry, U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, and Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) met with Trump on May 23. The group, according to Volker, told Trump [that] Zelensky “represented the best chance for getting Ukraine out of the mire of corruption it had been in for over 20 years.” He said the group suggested the next 3-6 months would be telling and urged Trump to invite Zelensky to the White House.
“The President was very skeptical,” Volker says. “Given Ukraine’s history of corruption, that is understandable.”
Trump, according to Volker, said Ukraine was a corrupt country, full of “terrible people” who “tried to take me down.”
Volker became aware during this conversation that Trump’s negative feelings toward Ukraine were coming from his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani.
Trump signed a congratulatory letter to Zelensky a few days later and invited him to the White House. The date wouldn’t be set, but Volker says he “believed that the President’s long-held negative view toward Ukraine was causing hesitation in actually scheduling the meeting.”
About a month later, Volker says he was surprised to learn Giuliani was coming around to the conclusion that Ukraine’s past was just that.
“He mentioned both the accusations about Vice President Biden and about interference in the 2016 election, and stressed that all he wanted to see was for Ukraine to investigate what happened in the past and apply its own laws,” Volker says in his testimony.
Volker later says that Giuliani met with Zelensky adviser Andrey Yermak and that both called him to give their impressions of the meeting. “Neither said anything about Vice President Biden,” Volker says. The two said they talked about past corruption. Yermak said the country already planned to conduct investigations into what happened in the past.
When Yermak spoke with the Trump officials about crafting a statement from Zelensky regarding corruption, the draft shared with Volker didn’t mention Biden. Giuliani wanted it to mention “Burisma,” the company that employed Biden’s son Hunter and was investigated for potential corruption, but the former vice president’s name never came up.
Volker says the hold on military assistance was going on at the same time he was trying to connect Yermak and Giuliani but that he “did not perceive these issues to be linked in any way.”
On November 19 as well, Kurt Volker and Tim Morrison, a top National Security Council official who was on President Trump’s Ukraine phone call with Zelensky, both testified that there had been no quid pro quo, no bribery, and no extortion. Here is how they answered questions by Rep. Elise Stefanik:
Elise Stefanik: (01:22:45)
I wanted to start with a July 25th call between President Trump and President Zelensky. Mr. Morrison, you were on that call, and there was no mention of withholding aid on the call, correct?
That is correct, Councilwoman.
Elise Stefanik: (01:22:56)
And there was no quid pro quo, correct?
Elise Stefanik: (01:22:59)
Elise Stefanik: (01:23:01)
Elise Stefanik: (01:23:04)
And Ambassador Volker, I presume you got a readout of the call. Is that correct?
Kurt Volker: (01:23:10)
A very terse readout, but yes.
Elise Stefanik: (01:23:12)
In this terse readout of the call, Ambassador, from the US participants, was there any reference to withholding aid?
Kurt Volker: (01:23:19)
No, there was not.
Elise Stefanik: (01:23:19)
Any reference to bribery?
Kurt Volker: (01:23:21)
No, there was not.
Elise Stefanik: (01:23:22)
Any reference to quid pro quo?
Kurt Volker: (01:23:23)
No, there was not.
Elise Stefanik: (01:23:24)
Any reference to extortion?
Kurt Volker: (01:23:27)
No, there was not.
Elise Stefanik: (01:23:27)
And I presume you also got feedback from your Ukrainian counterparts as to how the call went. Did they mention the withholding of aid?
Kurt Volker: (01:23:34)
No, they did not.
Elise Stefanik: (01:23:35)
Did they mention any quid pro quo?
Kurt Volker: (01:23:37)
No, they did not.
Elise Stefanik: (01:23:37)
And did they mention any bribery?
Kurt Volker: (01:23:40)
No, they did not.
Elise Stefanik: (01:23:41)
And in fact, the day after the call, you met with President Zelensky. This would be on July 26th.
Kurt Volker: (01:23:47)
Elise Stefanik: (01:23:47)
And in that meeting, he made no mention of quid pro quo.
Kurt Volker: (01:23:51)
Elise Stefanik: (01:23:51)
He made no mention of withholding the aid.
Kurt Volker: (01:23:53)
Elise Stefanik: (01:23:54)
He made no mention of bribery.
Kurt Volker: (01:23:55)
Elise Stefanik: (01:23:56)
So the fact is, the Ukrainians were not even aware of this hold on aid. Is that correct?
Kurt Volker: (01:24:01)
Elise Stefanik: (01:24:02)
And in the coming weeks, you were in touch with Ukrainians as part of your official duties, and this included talking to Ukrainians over the phone, in person, on text. And the Ukrainians never brought up an investigation into the Bidens. Is that correct?
Kurt Volker: (01:24:16)
Elise Stefanik: (01:24:17)
They never brought up the withholding of the aid.
Kurt Volker: (01:24:20)
Elise Stefanik: (01:24:21)
They never brought up quid pro quo or bribery.
Kurt Volker: (01:24:24)
Let me bring up the aid. They did bring that up after the Politico article appeared on [crosstalk 00:24:28].
Elise Stefanik: (01:24:28)
I’m going to get to that, but until the Politico article, they did not bring it up.
Kurt Volker: (01:24:32)
Until then, no.
Elise Stefanik: (01:24:33)
And you said in your closed-door deposition, quote, “It never came up in conversation with them, and I believe they had trust in me that they would have asked if that was really what they were worried about.” Is that correct?
Kurt Volker: (01:24:45)
That is correct.
Elise Stefanik: (01:24:45)
And as you pointed out, the Ukrainians never even knew their foreign aid was on pause until the article was published in Politico in August.
Kurt Volker: (01:24:53)
Elise Stefanik: (01:24:54)
So they didn’t know during the call.
Kurt Volker: (01:24:56)
Elise Stefanik: (01:24:57)
And in fact, you had to correct Chairman Schiff on this timeline in the closed-door deposition. The chairman of this committee asked you, quote, “When they became aware that military assistance was being withheld for a reason you couldn’t explain, no one could explain, weren’t they under even greater pressure to give the president what he asked for on the call?”
Elise Stefanik: (01:25:17)
And you answered, Ambassador Volker, quote, “To my knowledge, the news about a hold on security assistance did not get into Ukrainian government circles as indicated to me by the current foreign minister, then diplomatic advisor, until the end of August.” Is that your testimony?
Kurt Volker: (01:25:33)
Yes, it is.
Elise Stefanik: (01:25:34)
And Chairman Schiff also got the facts wrong again when he asked you this, quote, “At the point they learned their aid was paused, wouldn’t that give them added urgency to meet the president’s request on the Bidens?” And you answered, Ambassador Volker, quote, “I think the Ukrainians felt like they are going in the right direction, and they had not done anything. They had not done anything on an investigation,” end quote. Isn’t it the case, Ambassador Volker, at one point, Chairman Schiff said to you when you were truthfully testifying, quote, “Ambassador, you’re making this much more complicated than it has to be,” end quote. It’s page 127 from the deposition. Is that correct?
Kurt Volker: (01:26:14)
I remember that.
Elise Stefanik: (01:26:16)
But the truth is, the facts are indeed not complicated, and I’m going to close out with two questions for the both of you. Did Ukraine open investigation into the Bidens? Mr. Morrison.
Not to my knowledge, ma’am.
Elise Stefanik: (01:26:28)
Kurt Volker: (01:26:29)
Not to my knowledge either.
Elise Stefanik: (01:26:31)
Did either of you ever have any evidence of quid pro quo? Mr. Morrison.
Elise Stefanik: (01:26:36)
Kurt Volker: (01:26:37)
I did not.
Elise Stefanik: (01:26:38)
Any evidence of bribery?
Kurt Volker: (01:26:40)
Elise Stefanik: (01:26:42)
Any evidence of treason?
Kurt Volker: (01:26:44)
No evidence of treason.
Elise Stefanik: (01:26:46)
With that, I yield back.
Volker also had the following exchange with Rep. Michael Turner:
Turner: [Y]ou had a meeting with the President of United States, and you believe that the policy issues that he raised concerning Ukraine were valid, correct?
Kurt Volker: Yes.
Turner: Did the President of United States ever say to you that he was not going to allow aid from the United States to go to the Ukraine unless there were investigations into Burisma, the Bidens or the 2016 elections?
Kurt Volker: No, he did not.
Turner: Did the Ukrainians ever tell you that they understood that they would not get a meeting with the President of the United States, a phone call with the President of United States, military aid or foreign aid from the United States unless they undertook investigations of Burisma, the Bidens or the 2016 elections?
Kurt Volker: No, they did not, no.
Turner: Pretty much Ambassador Volker, you just took apart their entire case. I mean, if the President of United States does not believe or intend it, and the Ukrainians don’t understand it, and you’re the only one who actually stands in between them. Now I ask if Ambassador Volker, the three amigo thing or whatever that they’re trying to disparage you with, you’re not part of an irregular channel, right, Ambassador Volker, aren’t you the official channel?
Kurt Volker: That is correct.
Turner: Explain that. Explain how you’re the official channel and not an irregular channel.
Kurt Volker: I was appointed by the Secretary of State, Secretary Tillerson in July of 2017 to be the US Special Representative for Ukraine negotiations. That’s a role that’s different from Assistant Secretary of State or different from ambassador in Ukraine. That role is particularly focused on the diplomatic activities surrounding the efforts to reverse Russia’s invasion and occupation of Ukraine. It is Minsk Agreement implementation. It is the Normandy process with France and Germany. It is support from NATO. It is support for sanctions from the European union. It’s the OSCE and the monitoring missions. It is the efforts of individual allies like Poland, like the UK, like Canada that are supporting Ukraine. It is work at a senior level in the inner agency with Secretary of Defense.
Turner: Excellent. Great descriptor. I’m going to cut you off there. Ambassador Volker, you are also one of the few people who had actually spoken to Giuliani, the so called irregular channel. Again, all these other people had feelings and understandings about what Giuliani was doing. Did Giuliani ever tell you that United States aid or a meeting with the President of the United States would not occur for the Ukrainians until they agreed to an investigation of Burisma, the Bidens, or the 2016 election?
Kurt Volker: No. Yeah. Everything I heard from Giuliani I took to be his opinion.
Turner: Excellent. So I would assume then that the Ukrainians never told you that Giuliani had told them that in order to get a meeting with the president, a phone call with the president, military aid or foreign aid from the United States, that they would have to do these investigations.
Kurt Volker: No.
David Holmes (In his testimony, Holmes stated that: [a] he had heard Gordon Sondland speak to President Trump in a July 26, 2019 phone call from a restaurant where Holmes and Sondland were dining together; and [b] he had gotten the impression, from what he could hear of that phone call, that both Trump and Sondland were in agreement that the goal was to extract a quid pro quo from Zelensky. But when pressed on this matter during his testimony, Holmes admitted that: [a] he had not been able to hear much of Trump’s side of the phone conversation; [b] he had not taken notes of what was said in the conversation; [c] he had been drinking wine with Sondland at the time when that phone call took place; and [d] he had subsequently told at least nine people about the Trump-Sondland conversation.)
On November 20, 2019, State Department staffer David Holmes, who was not on the July 25th call between Presidents Trump and Zelensky, said in his opening statement: “Upon reading the transcript [of the July 25 phone call between Presidents Trump and Zelensky], I was deeply disappointed to see that the President raised none of what I understood to be our interagency agreed-upon foreign policy priorities in Ukraine and instead raised the Biden/Burisma investigation.” Holmes also testified that he had heard Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland on a July 26 phone call with Trump at a restaurant in Kyiv after the Sondland had purchased a bottle of wine for everyone at the table to share. In that call, said Holmes, Sonldand had told Trump that President Zelensky “loves your ass” and would be willing to commit to the investigations.
Also in his testimony, Holmes claimed that he had heard Trump say “investigations,” and that in a subsequent conversation, Sondland had said that President Trump wanted to investigate the “Bidens.” Sondland, in his own testimony, disputed Holmes’s assertion, claiming that he recalled having said “Burisma,” and not “Bidens.”
In his November 20 testimony as well, Holmes said that he had a clear recollection of the conversation because of its unusual nature. But in previous closed-door testimony, Holmes admitted that he had not been able to hear the entire conversation between Sondland and Trump, and that he could only hear one side — Sondland’s — for much of the call.
Also on November 20, Holmes testified that: (a) he had not taken notes of what was said in the Trump-Sondland phone conversation about Ukraine, even though he typically took notes on almost every conversation he heard; (b) he had been drinking wine with Sondland at the time of the July 26 phone call; and (c) he had told six of his friends that he had heard President Trump speaking with Sondland. According to Breitbart.com writer Joel Pollack, Republican congressman Jim Jordan “counted at least nine people Holmes had spread the story to, despite its possible implications for U.S. national security and foreign policy.”
On December 4, 2019, the House Judiciary Committee convened its hearing in the impeachment investigation into President Trump. The Committee brought in four constitutional lawyers to debate what, exactly, constitutes “high crimes and misdemeanors” and whether Trump had committed any of those offenses. Before initiating the hearing, Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, in a closed-door session with Democrats, summed up what his approach to the hearings would be, as follows: “I’m not going to take any sh*t.”
Testimony from Noah Feldman, Pamela Karlan, Michael Gerhardt, and Jonathan Turley
The professors who testified before the House Judiciary Committee on December 4 were Noah Feldman (Harvard Law School), Pamela S. Karlan (Stanford Law School), Michael Gerhardt (University of North Carolina School of Law), and Jonathan Turley (George Washington University Law School). Three of the four experts called to testify were hand-picked by the Democrats; the Republicans’ single choice was Professor Turley, a Democrat himself. Professors Feldman, Karlan and Gerhardt concurred that President Trump had committed “the impeachable high crime and misdemeanor of abuse of power.” Professor Turley disagreed.
Professor Feldman interpreted the “high Crimes and Misdemeanors” impeachable offense as meaning “abuse of the office of the presidency for personal advantage or to corrupt the electoral process or to subvert the national security of the United States.” He added that “if we cannot impeach a president who abuses his office for personal advantage, we no longer live in a democracy. We live in a monarchy or we live under a dictatorship.”
Then Professor Feldman jumped to the conclusion, based on “the testimony presented to the House” – virtually all of which was second, third or fourth hand – that President Trump had abused the official power of his office by seeking “a personal political and electoral advantage over his political rival, former vice president Joe Biden, and over the Democratic Party.” Professing to channel the Founding Fathers’ thoughts, and speculating about what James Madison and Alexander Hamilton would say to him in a conversation held in the afterlife, Feldman said that those Founders “would expect the House of Representatives to take action in the form of impeachment” against President Trump.
Professor Feldman claimed that President Trump’s actions constituted bribery under the Constitution. Trying to explain away the significance of the fact that Ukraine received, with no strings attached, the security assistance that had been temporarily placed on hold, Feldman asserted that even attempting to withhold aid from Ukraine was impeachable. President Trump’s legitimate concerns about lingering corruption in Ukraine, Ukraine’s interference in the 2016 presidential election, and the failure of European nations to contribute their fair share to Ukraine’s defense, were clearly irrelevant to Feldman.
Professor Karlan also testified testified as to her understanding of the Founding Fathers’ intentions. She proceeded from the unproven claim that President Trump had “used the powers of his office to demand that a foreign government participate in undermining a competing candidate for the presidency,” to declare that the Founding Fathers would have been horrified.
Karlan also presented a “what-if” scenario designed to show the gravity of Trump’s wrongdoing:
“Imagine living in a part of Louisiana or Texas that’s prone to devastating hurricanes and flooding. What would you think if, when your governor asked the federal government for the disaster assistance that Congress has provided, the president responded, ‘I would like you to do us a favor. I’ll meet with you and send the disaster relief once you brand my opponent a criminal’? Wouldn’t you know in your gut that such a president had abused his office, betrayed the national interest, and tried to corrupt the electoral process? I believe the evidentiary record shows wrongful acts on that scale here. It shows a president who delayed meeting a foreign leader and providing assistance that Congress and his own advisers agreed served our national interest in promoting democracy and limiting Russian aggression.”
In the course of her testimony as well, Karlan sarcastically claimed that Trump’s decision to name his youngest (age 13) son “Barron” was a reflection of the president’s desire to have royal status for himself and his family. “The Constitution says there can be no titles of nobility. So, while the president can name his son Barron, he cannot make him a baron,” said Karlan.
Karlan had previously donated significant sums of money to the presidential campaigns of Democrats: $2,000 to Hillary Clinton (2007), $1,250 to Barack Obama (2007-08), and $1,000 to Elizabeth Warren (2019). She also has contributed money to such notable Democrats as Russ Feingold, Tammy Duckworth, Barbara Boxer, Cynthia McKinney, and others.
The third constitutional expert to testify on behalf of the Democrats’ impeachment narrative was Professor Gerhardt. He claimed that President Trump’s behavior was “worse than the misconduct of any prior president.” In offering his views as to why President Trump should be impeached, Gergardt contradicted what he had said seven years earlier when defending then-President Barack Obama at a House Judiciary Committee hearing on the Obama administration’s abuse of power. “The fact that a president’s constitutional choices have political ramifications does not make them political or purely partisan acts,” Professor Gerhardt had said back then. “Nor should those ramifications be confused with the arguments that support, or oppose, the constitutional judgments in question…. For myself I think it is pretty obvious that there has been no abuse of power.”
Professor Gerhardt said of President Trump: “I just want to stress—if what we’re talking about is not impeachable, then nothing is impeachable. The record compiled thus far shows the president has committed several impeachable offenses, including bribery, abuse of power, and soliciting of personal favor from a foreign leader to benefit himself personally, obstructing justice, and obstructing Congress.” “I cannot help but conclude that this president has attacked each of the Constitution’s safeguards against establishing a monarchy in this country,” Gerhardt added. “If Congress fails to impeach here, then the impeachment process has lost all meaning, and, along with that, our Constitution’s carefully crafted safeguards against the establishment of a king on American soil.”
Gerhardt wrongly stated that “the ‘favor’ [which Trump] requested from Ukraine’s president was to receive – in exchange for his release of the funds Ukraine desperately needed — Ukraine’s announcement of a criminal investigation of a political rival,” Joe Biden. But in fact, the “favor” mentioned in the call memo detailing President Trump’s July 25th phone call with President Zelensky had nothing to do with the Bidens. It was a request for the opening of an investigation into alleged Ukrainian interference in the 2016 presidential election. There was no direct factual evidence that President Trump had tied the release of U.S. aid to Ukraine to any announcement of any investigation. The aid was not discussed at all during the July 25th call, according to the call memo. In fact, the Ukrainians did not even know about the hold on the aid until late August. The aid was released on September 11th without any conditions pertaining to an investigation announcement.
Gerhardt, like Karlan, is also a longtime Democratic donor. For instance, he has given money to the presidential campaigns of Bill Clinton ($250 in 1992), Al Gore ($250 in 2000), John Kerry ($500 in 2004), and Barack Obama ($1,250 in 2007-08). Moreover, he has donated $4,250 to the DNC Services Corporation, and $3,250 to the Democratic Party of Ohio.
Finally, Professor Turley had his turn. Noting that he is not a Trump supporter and did not vote for him, Turley said: “I believe this impeachment not only fails to satisfy the standard of past impeachments, but would create a dangerous precedent for future impeachments.” He added that “impeachments have to be based on proof” and not on “presumptions.”
Turley pointed out such obvious deficiencies in the Democrats’ case as a “lack of evidence of a corrupt intent.” As for the charge of obstructing Congress by not turning over requested materials, he said that President Trump had gone to the courts and “he’s allowed to do that. We have three branches, not two.” Turley told the committee members, “If you make a high crime and misdemeanor out of going to the courts, it’s an abuse of power, it’s your abuse of power.” And he criticized the Democrats’ rush to judgment on impeachment, remarking that “fast is not good.”
Additional noteworthy remarks from Turley included the following:
Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz’s Dramatic “Raise Your Hand” Moment:
Perhaps the most dramatic moment in the December 4 hearing was when Florida Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz said: “So let’s see if we can get into the fact. To all of the witnesses: If you have personal knowledge of a single material fact in the Schiff report, please raise your hand.” After none of the witnesses raised their hand, Gaetz said, “And let the record reflect: no personal knowledge of a single fact.”
Gaetz then laid out a devastating summary of the evidence that had been presented in the Intelligence Committee hearings headed by Adam Schiff, by witnesses who all – without a single exception — had been called by the Democrats. The Republicans and President Trump had been permitted to call exactly zero witnesses. Here is what Rep. Gaetz said: “And you know what, that continues on the tradition that we saw from [Intelligence Committee Chairman] Adam Schiff. Where Ambassador [William] Taylor could not identify an impeachable offense. Mr. [George] Kent never met with the president. Fiona Hill never heard the president reference anything regarding military aid [to Ukraine], Mr. [David] Hale was unaware of any nefarious activity with aid, Colonel [Alexander] Vindman even rejected the new Democrat talking point that ‘bribery’ was invoked here. Ambassador [Kurt] Volker denied that there was a ‘quid pro quo.’ Mr. [Tim] Morrison said there was nothing wrong on the call. The only direct evidence came from Gordon Sondland, who spoke to the President of the United States, and [reported that] the president said, ‘I want nothing, no quid pro quo.’”
One day after Feldman, Karlan, Michael Gerhardt, and Turley had testified, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced — on December 5, 2019 – the filing of articles of impeachment against President Trump. She began by characterizing Trump as a man who sought, like the British king from whom America had declared independence 243 years earlier, to also rule as an omnipotent monarch, as a king:
“Let us begin where our founders began in 1776: ‘When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bonds which have connected them with another.’ With those words, our founders courageously began our Declaration of Independence from an oppressive monarch, for among other grievances the king’s refusal to follow rightfully passed laws. In the course of today’s events, it becomes necessary for us to address, among other grievances, the president’s failure to faithfully execute the law. When crafting the Constitution, the founders feared the return of a monarchy in America. And having just fought a war of independence, they specifically feared the prospect of a king-president corrupted by foreign influence.”
A few moments later in her remarks, Pelosi said:
“The facts are uncontested. The president abused his power for his own personal political benefit at the expense of our national security, by withholding military aid and a crucial Oval Office meeting in exchange for an announcement of an investigation into his political rival. Yesterday, the Judiciary Committee, at the Judiciary Committee, the American people heard testimony from leading American constitutional scholars who illuminated without a doubt that the president’s actions are a profound violation of the public trust. The president’s actions have seriously violated the Constitution, especially when he says, and acts upon the belief, ‘Article II says I can do whatever I want.’ No. His wrongdoing strikes at the very heart of our Constitution. A separation of powers, three co-equal branches, each a check and balance on the other.”
Pelosi’s claim that Trump had stated that Article II of the Constitution “says I can do whatever I want,” is a blatant lie by Pelosi. Trump never said any such thing. Pelosi cherry-picked words that the president had said in a completely different and very narrow context, and she used them to support her claim that the president saw himself as being above the law. The Trump comment about Article II was taken from a June 2019 interview with George Stephanopoulos on ABC, where the president said:
“Look, Article II, I would be allowed to fire [special counsel] Robert Mueller. Assuming I did all of the things, I said I want to fire him. Number one, I didn’t. He wasn’t fired. Number one, very importantly, but more importantly, Article II allows me to do whatever I want. Article II would allow me to fire him. I wasn’t going to fire him. You know why — because I watched Richard Nixon firing everybody, and that didn’t work out too well.”
Trump was saying, very specifically and correctly, that the authority given to him by Article II allowed him to fire special counsel Robert Mueller if he chose to do so, though ultimately he never did. The president most certainly did not claim that Article II placed him above the law, or above the separation of powers in the Constitution. Pelosi’s allegation was a willful, premeditated, malicious lie.
Still later in her remarks, Pelosi said:
“Our democracy is what is at stake, the president leaves us no choice but to act because he is trying to corrupt, once again, the election for his own benefit. The president has engaged in abuse of power, undermining our national security and jeopardizing the integrity of our elections. His actions are in defiance of the vision of our Founders and the oath of office that he takes to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.
“Sadly, but with confidence and humility, with allegiance to our Founders, and a heart full of love for America, today I am asking our chairman to proceed with articles of impeachment.”
On December 7, 2019, the House Judiciary Committee released a 52-page report — written by 20 Democrat staffers — designed to provide a legal and constitutional justification for President Trump’s impeachment. The report argued, among other things, that a president could be impeached for “illegitimate motives” even if his actions were “legally permissible.” Said the report: “The question is not whether the President’s conduct could have resulted from permissible motives. It is whether the President’s real reasons, the ones in his mind at the time, were legitimate.”
Breitbart.com writer Joel Pollak pointed out a number of additional noteworthy facts about the Democrat report, including the following:
At a press conference in the Capitol Building on December 10, 2019, House Democrats unveiled their articles of impeachment against president Donald Trump, accusing him of abusing the power of his office and obstructing Congress’s attempts to investigate him.
“Today, in service to our duty to the Constitution and to our country, the House Committee on the Judiciary is introducing two articles of impeachment, charging the president of the United States, Donald J. Trump, with committing high crimes and misdemeanors,” said House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler. “The first article is for abuse of power. It is an impeachable offense for the president to exercise the powers of his public office to obtain an improper personal benefit while ignoring or injuring the national interest. That is exactly what President Trump did when he solicited and pressured Ukraine to interfere in our 2020 presidential election.”
“[W]hen he was caught,” Nadler added, “when the House investigated and opened an impeachment inquiry, President Trump engaged in unprecedented, categorical, and indiscriminate defiance of the impeachment inquiry. This gives rise to the second article of impeachment for obstruction of Congress.”
Wall Street Journal editorial page editor Paul Gigot said: “This would be the first impeachment in American history — if it proceeds, as it will — without a specific criminal statute or crime that the president who is impeached would have allegedly committed.”
On December 11, 2019, Jerrold Nadler opened the hearing to debate the two articles of impeachment against President Trump by saying the following:
Tonight, we begin consideration of two articles of impeachment against President Donald J. Trump.
The first article charges that the President used the powers of his public office to demand that a foreign government attack his political rivals.
The second article charges that the President obstructed the congressional investigation into his conduct. Other Presidents have resisted congressional oversight, but President Trump’s stonewall was complete, absolute, and without precedent in American history.
Taken together, the two articles charge President Trump with placing his private, political interests above our national security, above our free and fair elections, and above our ability to hold public officials accountable.
This Committee now owes it to the American people to give these articles close attention, and to describe their factual basis, meaning, and importance.
I believe that three questions should frame our debate.
First, does the evidence show clearly that the President committed these acts?
Second, do they rise to the level of impeachable high crimes and misdemeanors?
Third, what are the consequences for our national security, for the integrity of our elections, and for our country if we fail to act?
To the first question, there can be no serious debate about what President Trump did.
On July 25 of this year, when he spoke by telephone to President Zelensky of Ukraine, President Trump had the upper hand. Ukraine had been invaded by Russia. Zelensky had only recently been elected. He badly needed our help. He needed it in the form of military aid already appropriated by Congress because of our national security interests in Ukraine. And he needed help in the form of an Oval Office meeting, so he could show the world that the United States stands with him against Russian aggression.
President Trump should have been focused on America’s national security and on the interests of the American people on that call.
Instead, he completely ignored them to push his own personal, political interests.
President Trump asked for a favor. He wanted Ukraine to announce two bogus investigations: one into former Vice President Biden, his leading opponent in the 2020 election, and another to advance a conspiracy theory that Ukraine, not Russia, attacked our elections in 2016.
These were not legitimate requests. Neither was supported by the evidence. One investigation was designed to help President Trump conceal the truth about the 2016 election. The other was designed to help him gain an advantage in the 2020 campaign. Both were divorced from reality— and from official U.S. policy.
The evidence proves that these requests were not related to any real interest in rooting out corruption. President Trump eagerly does business with corrupt governments every day.
The evidence shows that President Trump did not care if real investigations took place. A public announcement that the government of Ukraine was investigating his rivals would have been enough for him to release the aid, whether or not an actual investigation ever took place.
After the call, President Trump ratcheted up the pressure. He dangled the offer of an Oval Office meeting. He withheld $391 million in military aid. His personal lawyer traveled to push the Ukrainians directly. The President deployed other agents, including outside the official channels of diplomacy, to make his desires clear.
By September, President Zelensky was ready to comply and to announce the two fake investigations. Then the scandal broke into the open. Caught in the act, the President was forced to release the aid.
When the House of Representatives opened an inquiry into the President’s actions, President Trump did everything in his power to obstruct the investigation. He declared across-the-board resistance. He ordered every official in the federal government to defy all subpoenas related to the inquiry. At his command, the Administration also refused to produce a single document related to the inquiry. Not one.
To put this obstruction into context, during the Watergate hearings, President Nixon turned over recordings of his conversations in the Oval Office; later, President Clinton handed over his DNA.
President Trump’s obstruction was, by contrast, absolute.
Those are the facts. They are overwhelming. There is no denying them.
Having reviewed the evidence, we come to our second question: Is the President’s proven conduct impeachable?
The answer is simple: absolutely.
Under Article I, the President can be impeached for high crimes and misdemeanors.
The highest of high crimes is abuse of power. It occurs when a President uses his official powers to serve his own personal, selfish interests at the expense of the public good. To the founding generation that had fought a king and won our freedom, it was a specific, well-defined offense.
The first article of impeachment charges President Trump with abuse of power. The article describes President Trump’s conduct and lays out two aggravating factors that we must consider: In pressuring Ukraine for a personal favor, President Trump both betrayed our national security and attempted to corrupt our elections.
When the President weakens an ally who advances American security interests by fighting an American adversary, the President weakens America.
And when the President demands that a foreign government investigate his domestic political rivals, he corrupts our elections. To the Founders, this kind of corruption was especially pernicious. Free and fair elections are the bedrock of our democracy.
If our elections are corrupt, everything is corrupt.
The President faces a second article of impeachment for his ongoing efforts to obstruct a lawful investigation of his conduct. We have never, in the history of our nation, seen a President categorically defy Congress in this manner.
If the President can first abuse his power and then stonewall all congressional requests for information, Congress cannot fulfill its duty to act as a check and balance against the Executive — and the President becomes a dictator.
Later tonight, you will hear more about both articles — and how they describe a pattern of behavior that President Trump seems determined to repeat, again and again. My colleagues will also address various procedural objections that have been raised in the President’s defense.
But there is one of those objections that I wish to address right away. Some ask, why not take more time? Why is this necessary now? Why not let the next election handle it?
This brings us to the third and final question: What is the risk if we do not act?
Over the past 94 days since the House investigation began — indeed, over the past three years — one indisputable truth has emerged: If we do not respond to President Trump’s abuses of power, the abuses will continue.
We cannot rely on an election to solve our problems when the President threatens the very integrity of that election. Nor can we sit on our hands while the President undermines our national security — and while he allows his personal interests and the interests of our adversary Russia to advance.
The President’s personal lawyer was in Ukraine again just last week.
That was not three years ago. That was not three months ago. That was Saturday. President Trump’s continuing abuses of power jeopardize our security and our elections. The threat is urgent. If we do not act — now — what happens next will be our responsibility as well as his.
I will close with a word to my Republican colleagues. I know you. I have worked with many of you for years. I consider you to be good and decent public servants.
I know this moment must be difficult, but you still have a choice.
I hope every member of this Committee will withstand the political pressures of the moment. I hope that none of us attempt to justify behavior that we know in our heart is wrong. I hope that we are able to work together to hold this President — or any President — accountable for breaking his most basic obligations to the country and to its citizens.
And while you think about that choice, please keep in mind that — one way or the other — President Trump will not be president forever.
When his time has passed, when his grip on our politics is gone, when our country returns, as surely it will, to calmer times and stronger leadership, history will look back on our actions here today. How would you be remembered?
We have each taken an oath to support and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. I hope to be remembered for honoring that oath. I hope you feel the same.
And so, with a heavy heart but clear in my duty to our country, I support these articles of impeachment. I urge my colleagues to support them as well.
I yield back the balance of my time.”
Former Assistant United States Attorney Andrew C. McCarthy wrote on January 3, 2020:
“The president directed his underlings and executive branch components not to comply with congressional demands for information. To be clear, Congress has undeniable constitutional authority, broad in scope, to conduct oversight of the executive branch. The president, with all the authority of a peer branch of government, has extensive privileges of confidentiality, rooted in Article II, particularly when it comes to communications with his staff and high executive officials. Congress, however, is empowered to probe, especially when its concern is presidential malfeasance, or the activities of executive branch agencies Congress has created — such agencies, after all, are led by officers subject to Senate confirmation, and Congress both underwrites them with taxpayer funds and limits their operations by statute. Consequently, President Trump has legitimate authority to defy congressional demands for information, but that authority is not limitless. […]
“Democratic-controlled congressional committees used information demands coupled with public political pressure (intensified by their media allies) in an effort to induce administration compliance. The president, however, had a strong counterpoint: Congress was claiming to conduct an impeachment inquiry while refusing to vote to authorize such an inquiry — a nakedly political strategy to attempt to protect nearly three dozen Democrats who hold seats in Trump-friendly districts where impeachment is unpopular (those seats being vital to maintaining the majority).
“Democrats were deceptively branding their investigation an “impeachment inquiry” while actually conducting it under the ordinary oversight authority of six committees (led by the Intelligence and Judiciary Committees). While his responsive rhetoric bristled with Trumpian overkill, the president’s strategy was sensible: Deny cooperation at least until Democrats took a vote to approve the impeachment inquiry they claimed to be conducting. The Democrats finally voted at the end of October. Trump, however, continued to be defiant when the resolution approving the inquiry failed to provide him basic due-process protections that had been extended in prior presidential impeachments, and when the committees held palpably partisan hearings in which he was effectively denied the right to present a defense.
“In sum, this was political wrangling. High profile, to be sure, this being only the fourth substantial effort to impeach a president in American history, but political nonetheless, and thus unfit for judicial intervention. The Constitution arms both political branches with arsenals to battle it out, so prudent judges often demur when asked to intervene. In modern times, though, our litigious society has lost sight of the fact that the principal check on the political branches is supposed to be we the people, through the ballot box, not the unaccountable courts. Both Congress and presidents have become quicker to resort to the judges when they think doing so may sway the court of public opinion, and many judges are all too willing to jump into the political fray.
“That’s what has happened. On Friday, in fact, the D.C. Circuit court of appeals is scheduled to hear a pair of resulting cases: one triggered by the House Judiciary Committee’s demand that the administration disclose grand jury material from the Mueller probe, said to be vital to the impeachment inquiry; the other by the same committee’s attempt to compel testimony from former White House counsel Don McGahn.
“Meantime, several weeks ago, the House issued a subpoena for Charles Kupperman, Trump’s former deputy national security adviser. Kupperman filed a lawsuit to block the subpoena but said he would testify if the court ruled that Congress’s demand for his information overcame any privilege claims. John Bolton, formerly Trump’s national security adviser and Kupperman’s boss, signaled that he would take the same position. So did Mick Mulvaney, the president’s acting chief of staff and budget director.
“In a transparently tactical counter-measure, the House vacated the Kupperman subpoena and persuaded another judge to dismiss his case as moot. In effect, Democrats calculated that it was not worth risking an embarrassing loss in court or a drawn-out litigation that would extend the House inquiry into the 2020 campaign season. Instead, they could stomp their feet about Trump’s obstruction and summarily impeach him over it. So suddenly, the testimony of top presidential aides, which we were previously told was critical, turned out not to be so critical — just as Democrats once claimed the so-called whistleblower’s testimony was critical, but now accuse the president and his supporters of endangering the man’s life by seeking his testimony (the fact of the whistleblower’s coordination with Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff’s staff having inconveniently surfaced in the interim).
“With that obstruction charge in mind, though, consider this amazing fact: The court challenges involving the Mueller grand jury materials and McGahn’s testimony were brought by the House. The same House that impeached President Trump when current and former administration officials sought to litigate non-disclosure and executive privilege issues, has itself gone to court to litigate non-disclosure and executive privilege issues. That is, when House Democrats seek judicial intervention, we’re supposed to see that as vindication of the rule of law. When the Trump administration seeks judicial intervention, that’s to be seen as an impeachable offense.
“The hypocrisy is breathtaking, but even worse is the Democrats’ reckless trivialization of impeachment. […]
“The Democrat-controlled House’s impeachment for obstruction is both partisan and frivolous. Of course a president should not thwart legitimate congressional inquiries. Neither, however, should Congress trample on the president’s legitimate confidentiality privileges — just as the executive branch’s sweeping investigative powers must not be exploited to intrude on lawmakers’ communications with their staffers. If the government is to function well, each political branch must respect the other’s need for frank consultations. The built-in tension between the imperatives of accountability and confidentiality is obvious . . . which is why inter-branch disputes are common, and why they nearly always get worked out in negotiations.
“On this score, it must be noted that the Trump administration has not typically been stingy. White House counsel McGahn and numerous other administration officials were made available to Special Counsel Mueller, even though the president could have claimed privilege. When Mueller’s report was completed, Attorney General Bill Barr made nearly all of it available to Congress and the public, even though redactions based on privilege claims could have been justified. (The Justice Department’s withholding of a small amount of grand jury materials is driven by D.C. Circuit precedent, which makes disclosure outside the governing rule illegal — a rule prescribed by Congress, which House Democrats, tellingly, did not even attempt to amend before seeking court intervention.)”
On December 17, 2019. President Trump wrote a six-page letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, objecting to the impeachment process and saying that Democrats had “cheapened the importance of the very ugly word.” Trump concluded his letter by saying: “While I have no expectation that you will do so, I write this letter to you for the purpose of history and to put my thoughts on a permanent and indelible record.” To read his letter in its entirety, click here.
Some noteworthy excerpts:
After approximately eight hours of debate on December 18, 2019, the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives approved two articles of impeachment against President Trump. The final votes on the two articles were largely along party lines. Article 1 (Abuse of Power) received 230 votes in favor and 197 votes against. Article 2 (Obstruction of Congress) received 229 votes in favor and 198 against. All Republicans voted against both impeachment articles. The only defections were on the Democrat side. Two Democrats voted against Article 1, with one Democrat, Tulsi Gabbard, voting present. Three Democrats voted against Article 2, with Tulsi Gabbard again voting present. Representative Justin Amash, Independent of Michigan, voted yes on both articles.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi opened Wednesday’s debate on the floor of the House by declaring that lawmakers are “custodians of the Constitution.” She and several of her female Democrat colleagues wore black attire in the House chamber to signify what they described as a “somber day.”
Harvard-trained attorney Joseph Klein wrote in FrontPage Magazine:
“The media are describing December 18th as a ‘historic’ day. They point out that President Trump is now only the third president to be impeached in U.S. history and the first president to be impeached while seeking re-election. Yet, what truly makes this day ‘historic’ is the extremely low bar this impeachment has set for the impeachment of future presidents. For the first time in history, the majority party controlling the House of Representatives has weaponized impeachment to interfere with the people’s right to choose, in less than one year’s time, who they want as their president. From this point forward, it will be much easier for the party controlling the House to justify voiding the election of a president from the opposing party, with impeachment serving as just another partisan tool in their toolbox….
“The Founding Fathers envisioned impeachment as an extraordinary constitutional remedy to be used only as a last resort to check a lawless president who violates the public trust. Alexander Hamilton warned in Federalist Papers 65 that ‘the greatest danger’ in the House impeachment process is ‘that the decision will be regulated more by the comparative strength of parties, than by the real demonstrations of innocence or guilt.’ Mr. Hamilton worried about the ‘animosities, partialities, influence, and interest on one side or on the other.’ He observed that ‘the most conspicuous characters’ guiding that impeachment process in the House will be ‘too often the leaders or the tools of the most cunning or the most numerous faction.’”
Following the vote, Republican senator Ted Cruz said: “Never before in history has a president been impeached without even a single article alleging any criminal conduct — without an article alleging even any federal law was violated.”
On December 19, 2019, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that she would not send the articles of impeachment over to the Senate until she could obtain more information about how the trial would be run. She also said that she would not appoint impeachment managers — House members who would serve as prosecutors — until Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell clarified what the trial would look like. With Congress in recess for the holidays, this meant that the articles would sit in limbo for a significant period of time.
Even though the Democrats had allowed the Republicans to call no witnesses at all during the Intelligence Committee and Judiciary Committee hearings, they now demanded that at least four new witnesses be permitted to testify during the Senate trial, even though the House had chosen not to call them during their hearings. They also demanded that neither Hunter Biden, Joe Biden, or the “whistleblower” be called to testify. Failure to adhere to these demands, said the Democrats, would mean that the Senate was not providing “impartial justice” or a “fair process.”
Said Senator Charles Schumer regarding Hunter Biden: “No one ― not a single person I’ve heard, even those who want Hunter Biden ― have even alleged that he has knowledge of the fact case the House is presenting. This shouldn’t be for Democrats to bring in their favorite conspiracy theories and for Republicans to bring in theirs. This is an august and solemn proceeding…. He’s a distraction.”
Similarly, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff had previously said that testimony from the Ukraine “whistleblower” would be “redundant and unnecessary.”
On January 15, 2020, Pelosi sent the articles of impeachment to the Senate, saying: “So sad, so tragic for our country that the actions taken by the president undermined our national security, to violate his oath of office, and to jeopardize the security of our elections, the integrity of our elections, has taken us to this place. So, today we will make history when the managers walk down the hallway, we will cross a threshold in history, delivering articles of impeachment against the President of the United States for abuse of power and obstruction of the House.” She then celebrated the occasion by signing the articles with more than a dozen different commemorative pens, which she subsequently gave away to members of the House of Representatives, like the House managers who would be in charge of making the case for impeachment in the Senate trial.
Pelosi also announced that the seven managers who would be tasked with making the House’s case in the upcoming Senate trial would be Democratic Representatives Jerry Nadler and Hakeem Jeffries of New York, Adam Schiff and Zoe Lofgren of California, Val Demings of Florida, Sylvia Garcia of Texas, and Jason Crow of Colorado.
Under the U.S. Constitution, a two-thirds majority of the Senate is required to convict the president. On February 5, 2020, the Senate acquitted Trump on both counts. The votes, sharply divided along party lines, were 52–48 to acquit on the first count and 53–47 to acquit on the second count. Republican Mitt Romney became the first senator in U.S. history to vote to convict an impeached president from his own party, voting “guilty” on the first count.
Impeachment Inquiry Hearing Transcripts
November & December, 2019
Ukrainian Efforts to Sabotage Trump Backfire
By Kenneth Vogel and David Stern
January 11, 2017
Life, Liberty & Levin (Part 1)
By Mark Levin
November 24, 2019
Life, Liberty & Levin (Part 2)
By Mark Levin
November 24, 2019
Life, Liberty & Levin (Part 3)
By Mark Levin
November 24, 2019
The Truth About Donald Trump, Joe Biden and Ukraine
By Stefan Molyneux
September 25, 2019
Has Trump Impeachment Been a Legitimate Process—Or Partisan Weapon?
Heritage Foundation interview with Ted Cruz
December 17, 2019