September 26, 2019

Whistleblower report reveals how far Trump’s dubious ethics have spread
Report indicates there were a lot of people involved in Trump’s scheme to tamper in the 2020 election and prosecute opponents * Trump-Ukraine whistleblower complaint: read it in full Donald Trump at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland on Thursday. Photograph: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty ImagesThe critics are calling it “horrifying,” “pure dynamite,” and “INSANE”.It’s a blockbuster that arrived too late for summer, but with the president obsessing, Congress investigating and main street America processing, the buzz around a whistleblower complaint about Donald Trump released early on Thursday appears likely only to grow.Some have predicted it will end with Trump impeached, the Republican party in tatters and multiple officials attached to the president and the White House out of jobs and possibly defending themselves against criminal charges.The Harvard constitutional law professor Laurence Tribe said attorney general William Barr had worked himself into a predicament on par with the attorney general under Richard Nixon.“Bill Barr is up to his eyebrows in the criminal conspiracy,” Tribe tweeted. “He’s Trump’s John Mitchell. Mitchell ended up in prison. It’s all unraveling.”What could one document hold to generate so much huff?In short, the complaint is a record of a months-long attempt by Trump to extract from Ukraine two silver bullets, one that would “prove” his opponents cheated in the last election, and one that would win him the next election.If that seems like a lot to hope for from Ukraine – if the plan seems a bit implausible, wild even – no one, of any political stripe, can be heard at the moment to be saying that it was a good plan.But the complaint indicates with damning detail that that was indeed the plan; that Trump went a long way toward carrying it out; that he was helped in his scheme by his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, as well as by lawyers and officials in the White House and apparently in the departments of justice and state allegedly including Barr; and that the Ukrainians had begun to try to understand what silver bullets Trump wanted and where they could get them, so as not to risk missing out on US aid worth hundreds of millions of dollars.Through a spokesperson, Barr has denied involvement. Speaking on Fox News, Giuliani has enthusiastically detailed his involvement, but said he was working at the behest of the state department, which the state department has denied.What appears to have so alarmed career government ethics and oversight officials, however, is the extent to which the now released complaint reveals that Trump’s ethical rot, as they perceive it, has spread beyond the Oval Office, beyond the White House, beyond the cabinet and through the government.A section of the whistleblower document. Photograph: Jim Bourg/ReutersAmong its many revelations, the complaint says in a footnote that somebody in the White House is in the habit of taking transcripts of Trump’s conversations out of the relatively accessible system where they normally would be filed and putting them into a standalone “codeword-level” computer system normally reserved for America’s top secrets “solely for the purpose of protecting politically sensitive – rather than national security sensitive – information”.Trump used to have a safe for hush money deals he made with women that was kept by a friend who published the National Enquirer. The complaint indicates that that same arrangement is still in effect, only now the deals have to do with Trump’s political enemies, and the safe is the one they usually use to keep records for things like flying five helicopters into Pakistan at midnight.The overriding sense is there were a lot of people involved in a scheme by the president to both tamper in an upcoming election and to prosecute political opponents, with the help of a foreign government, secured in part by holding up hundreds of millions of dollars in aid previously appropriated by Congress.The whistleblower complaint says it is based on the account of “more than half a dozen US officials”. In accurately describing the contents of a 25 July phone call between Trump and the Ukrainian president – though the whistleblower was not on the call – the complaint says “approximately a dozen White House officials” and at least one state department official listened to the call. After that, “multiple” state department and intelligence officials were briefed on the call, the complaint says.The complaint indicates knowledge of guilt on the part of officials involved, describing a “‘discussion ongoing’ with White House lawyers about how to treat the call because of the likelihood, in the officials’ retelling, that they had witnessed the president abuse his office for personal gain”.That knowledge of guilt appears to have endured for months. According to the complaint, seven months before the July phone call, Giuliani met in New York with a Ukrainian prosecutor who later made public statements propping up both a conspiracy theory threatening to Joe Biden and a conspiracy theory accusing Democrats of collaborating with Ukraine to throw the 2016 election.Those were the two silver bullets Trump was after, as made plain in a summary of the July call released on Wednesday.The Ukrainian prosecutor, Yuriy Lutsenko, was valuable, and Trump leaned on the new Ukrainian president to hold him over, the complaint alleges. Trump brought up the prosecutor in the July phone conversation, according to the summary, and received assurances from the Ukrainian president that he would put the right man on the job.It appears, then, that Trump made an effort to sow corruption in the Ukrainian government, by pressuring the president to appoint a prosecutor general preferred by Trump for that prosecutor’s willingness to hunt for Trump’s silver bullets or maybe to make some.Donald Trump and William Barr at the White House in Washington on 9 September 2019. Photograph: Andrew Harnik/APMeanwhile a lot of people in the US government knew about this plan, and had watched its mechanisms unfold, according to the whistleblower complaint. “Attorney general Barr appears to be involved as well,” the complaint alleges.Yet while Barr allegedly participated in the Ukrainian plan – although he denies having contacted Ukrainian officials at Trump’s behest, as Trump repeatedly assured the Ukrainian president Barr would – Barr also is actively overseeing justice department inquiries relating to the plan, including one internal inquiry that determined that the plan did not violate campaign finance laws banning campaigns from accepting anything “of value” from foreign sources.The “complaint makes Barr’s decision to not recuse and [the justice department] decision to not undertake even cursory investigation indefensible,” tweeted Susan Hennessey, executive editor of the Lawfare blog. “Barr had secured a legacy as former [attorney general] & stalwart [justice department] institutionalist. Now his name will forever be associated with the worst degradations of the Department.”Reasonable people concerned about how far Trump’s rot has spread have been waiting for a document that would tear away the tiles and reveal all the termites – tax returns, or emails, or special counsel Robert Mueller’s report.Not one has, until, possibly, the nine-page document released on Thursday, which among other things demonstrated that however far the decay has gone, there are unnamed officials working in the US government who still remain untouched.
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