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Name: Chris Bastian
Gender: Male
Hometown: Brooklyn, NY
Home country: USA
Member since: 2002
Number of posts: 55,550

Journal Archives

John Delaney campaign ad: "Real Solutions"

"Must See TV"


Closing arguments underway in Roger Stone trial

Source: NBC News

WASHINGTON — Closing arguments began on Wednesday in Roger Stone's federal trial on charges he lied to Congress.

A veteran Republican political operative and longtime confidant of President Donald Trump, Stone was indicted in January as part of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian electoral tampering.

He is accused of lying to lawmakers about his attempts to communicate with the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks, tampering with witnesses and obstructing a House Intelligence Committee investigation into whether the Trump presidential campaign coordinated with Russia to tip the 2016 election.

Several witnesses have highlighted how Trump campaign associates were eager to gather information about emails the U.S. says were hacked by Russia and then provided to WikiLeaks.

Read more: https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/donald-trump/closing-arguments-underway-roger-stone-trial-n1081626?cid=sm_npd_ms_tw_ma

Why Almost Nobody Will Defend the Iowa Caucuses

New York Times

Iowa officials are accustomed to twisting themselves into rhetorical pretzels to justify the state’s antiquated caucus system. They have argued it gives lesser-known candidates — like Jimmy Carter in 1976 — an opportunity to parlay retail politicking skills into an electoral breakout.

The state is more than 90 percent white, rankling officials and activists who say the Democratic electorate there does not match the party’s diversity elsewhere.Credit...Jordan Gale for The New York Times

They’ve used their political clout to keep the first spot in line. When Tom Perez, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, was campaigning for his post in 2017, he got the Iowa delegation to switch its support to him after pledging to protect Iowa’s first-in-the-nation status. (Other candidates for party chair, including Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind., also pledged to keep Iowa first.) Mr. Perez declined to be interviewed about the Iowa caucuses.

Troy Price, the chairman of the Iowa Democratic Party, argued in an interview Tuesday that Iowa’s population, which is 90.7 percent white, was in fact plenty diverse.

Ari Flesicher: "It's Not Working"


Devin Nunes: It doesn't matter if Ukraine was "out to get Trump" as long as Trump THOUGHT they were

Everybody got that?

Democrats schedule two additional closed-door witness depositions

Source: The Hill

Democrats on Wednesday announced two more planned closed-door depositions amid their first public impeachment hearing, in a sign investigators are intent on conducting further private interviews even as the probe enters its public phase.

According to an official working on impeachment, David Holmes, who worked at the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine, is expected to testify in closed session on Friday. Mark Sandy, an official at the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB), is expected to testify privately on Saturday.

Their attendance however is not guaranteed. The committees have noticed depositions with administration officials who ultimately defied subpoenas seeking their testimony, citing White House orders blocking their appearances.

The announcement came just as members of the House were questioning two senior U.S. diplomats, William Taylor and George Kent, about the Trump administration's policy toward Ukraine.

Read more: https://thehill.com/policy/national-security/470262-democrats-schedule-two-additional-closed-door-witness-depositions

GOP senators plan to pressure Erdogan during unusual White House meeting

Source: Politico

Republican senators plan to urge Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to change his mind about buying Russian missiles and to stick up for U.S. Kurdish allies in an unusual meeting at the White House.

President Donald Trump will host a small group of Republicans who will speak to Erdogan on Wednesday, including Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Jim Risch of Idaho, Ted Cruz of Texas, and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. Rick Scott of Florida has also been invited. Republican senators have threatened to sanction Turkey or Erdogan after his incursion into Kurdish Syria.

“The strategy here is that Erdogan has chosen the S400 as the system of choice from Russia and we would be there to encourage President Erdogan not to follow that route,” said Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), another attendee. “I’m hopeful that the president can push back on the S400.”

“I have long described Turkey as a problematic ally,” Cruz said. “Turkey has far too frequently been antagonistic to U.S. interests, and in particular their assault on and violence against the Kurds is deeply problematic.”

Read more: https://www.politico.com/news/2019/11/13/gop-erdogan-russian-missiles-070539

Read: Chairman Adam Schiff's opening statement at today's impeachment hearings

Source: Politico

In 2014, Russia invaded a United States ally, Ukraine, to reverse that nation’s embrace of the West, and to fulfill Vladimir Putin’s desire to rebuild a Russian empire. In the following years, thirteen thousand Ukrainians died as they battled superior Russian forces.

Earlier this year Volodymyr Zelensky was elected president of Ukraine on a platform of ending the conflict and tackling corruption. He was a newcomer to politics and immediately sought to establish a relationship with Ukraine’s most powerful patron, the United States. The questions presented by this impeachment inquiry are whether President Trump sought to exploit that ally’s vulnerability and invite Ukraine’s interference in our elections? Whether President Trump sought to condition official acts, such as a White House meeting or U.S. military assistance, on Ukraine’s willingness to assist with two political investigations that would help his reelection campaign? And if President Trump did either, whether such an abuse of his power is compatible with the office of the presidency?

The matter is as simple, and as terrible as that. Our answer to these questions will affect not only the future of this presidency, but the future of the presidency itself, and what kind of conduct or misconduct the American people may come to expect from their Commander-in-Chief.

There are few actions as consequential as the impeachment of a President. While the Founders did not intend that impeachment be employed for mere differences over policy, they also made impeachment a constitutional process that the Congress must utilize when necessary.

The facts in the present inquiry are not seriously contested. Beginning in January of this year, the President’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, pressed Ukrainian authorities to investigate Burisma, the country’s largest natural gas producer, and the Bidens, since Vice President Joe Biden was seen as a strong potential challenger to Trump.

Giuliani also promoted a debunked conspiracy that it was Ukraine, not Russia, that hacked the 2016 election. The nation’s intelligence agencies have stated unequivocally that it was Russia, not Ukraine, that interfered in our election. But Giuliani believed this conspiracy theory, referred to as “Crowdstrike,” shorthand for the company that discovered the Russian hack, would aid his client’s reelection.

Giuliani also conducted a smear campaign against the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch. On April 29, a senior State Department official told her that although she had “done nothing wrong,” President Trump had “lost confidence in her.” With the sidelining of Yovanovich, the stage was set for the establishment of an irregular channel in which Giuliani and later others, including Gordon Sondland – an influential donor to the President’s inauguration now serving as Ambassador to the European Union - could advance the President’s personal and political interests.

Yovanovich’s replacement in Kyiv, Ambassador Bill Taylor, is a West Point graduate and Vietnam Veteran. As he began to better understand the scheme through the summer of 2019, he pushed back, informing Deputy Assistant Secretary Kent and others about a plan to condition U.S. government actions and funding on the performance of political favors by the Ukrainian government, favors intended for President Trump that would undermine our security and our elections.

Several key events in this scheme took place in the month of July. On July 10th, Ambassador Sondland informed a group of U.S. and Ukrainian officials meeting at the White House that, according to Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, a White House meeting desperately sought by the Ukrainian president with Trump would happen only if Ukraine undertook an investigation into “the energy sector,” which was understood to mean Burisma and, specifically, the Bidens. National Security Advisor Bolton abruptly ended the meeting and said afterwards that he would not be – quote – “part of whatever drug deal Sondland and Mulvaney are cooking up on this” – end quote.

A week later, on July 18, a representative from OMB, the White House agency that oversees federal spending, announced on a video conference call that Mulvaney, at the direction of the President, was freezing nearly $400 million in security assistance authorized and appropriated by Congress and which the entirety of the U.S. national security establishment supported.

One week after that, Donald Trump would have the now infamous July 25 th phone call with Ukrainian President Zelensky. During that call, Trump complained that the U.S. relationship with Ukraine had not been “reciprocal.” Later, Zelensky thanks Trump for his support “in the area of defense,” and says that Ukraine was ready to purchase more Javelins, an antitank weapon that was among the most important deterrents of further Russian military action. Trump’s immediate response: “I would like you to do us a favor, though.”

Trump then requested that Zelensky investigate the discredited 2016 “Crowdstrike” conspiracy theory, and even more ominously, look into the Bidens. Neither of these investigations were in the U.S. national interest, and neither was part of the official preparatory material for the call. Both, however, were in Donald Trump’s personal interest, and in the interests of his 2020 re-election campaign. And the Ukrainian president knew about both in advance — because Sondland and others had been pressing Ukraine for weeks about investigations into the 2016 election, Burisma and the Bidens.

After the call, multiple individuals were concerned enough to report it to the National Security Council’s top lawyer. The White House would then take the extraordinary step of moving the call record to a highly classified server exclusively reserved for the most sensitive intelligence matters.

In the following weeks, Ambassador Taylor learned new facts about a scheme that even Sondland would describe as becoming more insidious. Taylor texted Sondland, “Are we now saying that security assistance and WH meeting are conditioned on investigations?”

As summer turned to fall “t kept getting more insidious,” Mr. Sondland testified. Mr. Taylor, who took notes of his conversations, said the ambassador told him in a September 1 phone call that “everything was dependent” on the public announcement of investigations “including security assistance.” President Trump wanted Mr. Zelensky “in a public box.” "President Trump is a businessman,” Sondland said later. “When a businessman is about to sign a check to someone who owes him something, the businessman asks that person to pay up before signing the check."

In a sworn declaration after Taylor’s testimony, Sondland would admit to telling the Ukrainians at a September 1st meeting in Warsaw “that resumption of U.S. aid would likely not occur until Ukraine provided the public anti-corruption statement that we had been discussing for many weeks."

The President’s chief of staff confirmed Trump’s efforts to coerce Ukraine by withholding aid. When Mick Mulvaney was asked publicly about it, his answer was breathtaking: "We do that all the time with foreign policy . . . I have news for everybody: get over it. There's going to be political influence in foreign policy. That is going to happen.” The video of that confession is plain for all to see.

Some have argued in the President’s defense that the aid was ultimately released. That is true. But only after Congress began an investigation; only after the President’s lawyers learned of a whistleblower complaint; and only after Members of Congress began asking uncomfortable questions about quid pro quos. A scheme to condition official acts or taxpayer funding to obtain a personal political benefit does not become less odious because it is discovered before it is fully consummated. In fact, the security assistance had been delayed so long, it would take another act of Congress to ensure that it would still go out. And that Oval Office meeting that Zelensky desperately sought – it still hasn’t happened.

Although we have learned a great deal about these events in the last several weeks, there are still missing pieces. The President has instructed the State Department and other agencies to ignore Congressional subpoenas for documents. He has instructed witnesses to defy subpoenas and refuse to appear. And he has suggested that those who do expose wrongdoing should be treated like traitors and spies.

These actions will force Congress to consider, as it did with President Nixon, whether Trump’s obstruction of the constitutional duties of Congress constitute additional grounds for impeachment. If the President can simply refuse all oversight, particularly in the context of an impeachment proceeding, the balance of power between our two branches of government will be irrevocably altered. That is not what the Founders intended. And the prospects for further corruption and abuse of power, in this administration or another, will be exponentially increased.

This is what we believe the testimony will show — both as to the President’s conduct and as to his obstruction of Congress. The issue that we confront is the one posed by the President’s Acting Chief of Staff when he challenged Americans to “get over it.” If we find that the President of the United States abused his power and invited foreign interference in our elections, or if he sought to condition, coerce, extort, or bribe an ally into conducting investigations to aid his reelection campaign and did so by withholding official acts — a White House meeting or hundreds of millions of dollars of needed military aid — must we simply “get over it?” Is that what Americans should now expect from their president? If this is not impeachable conduct, what is? Does the oath of office itself – requiring that our laws be faithfully executed, that our president defend a constitution that balances the powers of its branches, setting ambition against ambition so that we become no monarchy – still have meaning?

These are the questions we must ask and answer. Without rancor if we can, without delay regardless, and without party favor or prejudice if we are true to our responsibilities. Benjamin Franklin was asked what kind of a country America was to become, “A Republic,” he answered, “if you can keep it.” The fundamental issue raised by the impeachment inquiry into Donald J. Trump is: Can we, keep it?

Read more: https://www.politico.com/news/2019/11/13/adam-schiff-opening-statement-at-todays-impeachment-hearings-070429

Diplomat testifies Trump cared more about investigations of Biden than Ukraine

Source: CNN

The top US diplomat in Ukraine, Bill Taylor, told Congress in new testimony Wednesday that President Donald Trump cared more about an investigation of former Vice President Joe Biden than he did about Ukraine.

Taylor on Wednesday revealed in his opening statement he'd learned additional information, testifying at the first House impeachment hearing that his staff was told the President's interest in Ukraine was the "investigations of Biden."

Taylor testified that an aide told him of a phone conversation Trump had with US Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland on July 26, one day after Trump's phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Taylor's aide, who was accompanying Sondland to meetings in Kiev with Ukrainian officials, could hear Trump asking Sondland about the investigations, Taylor testified. Sondland "told President Trump that the Ukrainians were ready to move forward," Taylor said.

Taylor testified that his aide later asked Sondland what Trump thought of Ukraine.

Read more: https://www.cnn.com/2019/11/13/politics/public-impeachment-hearings-day-1/index.html
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