Watching the impeachment “inquiry,” something that keeps striking me is this: no one seems to be able to point to any evidence that Trump’s supposed pressure on Ukraine actually happened.
It’s hard to keep up with the leaks, but what we know is that in two phone calls with Zelensky Trump congratulated him on his election, noted that we have been helping Ukraine, and asked Zelensky to pursue apparent corruption.
The complaint is that this might hurt a political opponent — who admitted in a widely-disseminated video that he did pressure Ukraine with a threat of withholding aid, which was effective. It also happened to help protect the company from which his son Hunter was receiving a pretty damned lucrative sinecure. But putting that aside, the defense is “but that was the administration’s policy.”
It would seem the obvious retort is “so what?” Why was protecting Hunter’s phony-baloney job supported by U.S. policy?
It’s not as if the Obama administration was unaware of the issue: Ambassador Yovanovitch testified under oath that she was prepared by her coaches for her confirmation hearing that she might need to deal with that and to refer questions to the vice president’s office. This is a pretty clear admission that the Obama administration knew there was something hinky about Hunter’s sinecure in 2014.
In any case, we’re still presented with the argument that withholding aid is okay if it’s part of the president’s policy and the glaring fact of Biden threatening to withhold it was an overt threat, at least as he tells the story.
Of course, we know that what eventually happened is the Obama administration did withhold aid even after they got their pound of flesh, converting the military aid into blankets and MREs.
This as opposed to Trump suggesting it would be nice if these things got investigated.
But “A-ha! The aid was withheld!”
Okay, first of all, “withholding aid” seems at best to be sort of a conditional sin, only an issue when convenient, but in any case, we know that the Ukrainians weren’t even aware that the aid had been slowed until it no longer was.
We also know that corruption in the previous administration had been an issue; it was actually Zelensky who brought up the issue of Burisma, not Trump; that no investigation was ever started, and that the actual principals in Ukraine — Zelensky and ((the Foreign Minister)) — deny ever feeling any pressure to investigate. In fact, we know that Zelensky brought up Burisma, not Trump.
And we know that the previous administration in Ukraine was actively working to interfere in the 2016 election — but in Clinton’s favor.
Of course, that’s from the famously pro-Trump, alt-right Politico, so make of that what you will.
It seems that Trump’s Ukraine problems come down to applying weakly ineffectual pressure to Ukraine to get them to investigate a corrupt company whose corruption was well-enough known in 2014 that they supplied their nominee for ambassador with talking points to deflect questions; that Trump agreed with the current president that the previous, famously corrupt administration should be investigated; and that the Trump administration applied that weakly ineffectual pressure by withholding aid until they were satisfied that the new Ukrainian administration appeared to be acting against corruption without telling anyone in Ukraine about it.
Oh, and one other thing — pressing Ukraine, even in such a weak fashion, to investigate the corruption of the previous administration was so upsetting to LTC Alex Vindman that he was described as “visibly shaken” by Whistleblower 1 (WB1), who we’re not supposed to know was probably Eric Ciaramella, a CIA analyst very closely tied to the Democrats, to Biden, to the Clintons, and to the Obama administration.
The puzzles seem to continue to add up here. Let’s think back to the original complaint. As NPR reported:
A White House official (WB2) listening to President Donald Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukraine’s president described the call as “crazy” and “frightening” and was “visibly shaken,” according to notes taken by the intelligence official who filed a formal whistleblower complaint after speaking with the official, and others.
Back at the beginning, when I was asking “Who Does the Whistleblower Know,” I asked a question that still puzzles me:
It seems Trump asked Zelensky for two things: an investigation into Crowdstrike, the company that performed the forensic examination of the DNC servers in lieu of the FBI, and cooperation in investigating the Biden’s — pere et fils — involvement in the suspended prosecution of Ukrainian company Burisma, which employed Hunter Biden. This is what is supposed to have been “crazy” and “frightening” and left WB2 “visibly shaken.”
Now, what could have been so emotionally charged in that call? The transcript seems relatively low-key: no shouting, no screaming, and if there were any threats they were phrased very diplomatically.
We’ve got good reason to believe now that Vindman was “Whistleblower 2,” WB1
Eric Ciaramella‘s original source. Who, WB1 Eric Ciaramella assures us, was “visibly shaken” by the mildest hint that Trump would like the Zelensky administration to investigate CrowdStrike and corruption in the previous Ukrainian administration.
Vindman was a subject-matter expert on Ukraine, with close ties to the previous Ukrainian administration. This isn’t controversial, that’s the reason Vindman had a White House post. Now, he’s “visibly shaken” that the previous Ukrainian administration might be investigated.
And an odd aside: Congressional Democrats were actively pressuring Ukraine not to investigate before Trump was asking for an investigation. Now they’re pressing for impeachment claiming that Trump is investigating his political opponents. House Democrats object to an investigation of what was happening in the previous Ukrainian investigation, the same question that left Vindman “visibly shaken.”