Why Social Distancing Doesn’t Seem to be Working

Why Social Distancing Doesn’t Seem to be Working

Why Social Distancing Doesn’t Seem to be Working

Short answer: it is.

On Monday, March 23, 2020, President Trump tweeted:

Tweet

The tweet appeared to indicate impatience with the effectiveness of social distancing. The President elaborated in his press conference that he was eager to see Americans get back to work, and was looking into ways to make that happen immediately after the 15 days of social distancing. His message contradicted nearly every medical expert in the country, many of whom believe that we may need to continue this for 8 weeks or even longer.

Because hundreds of thousands of people apparently agreed with the President’s tweet, it seems important to explain why our “new normal” of self-isolation is unlikely to show any noticeable effect during the rest of March, and why, as we watch the numbers go up dramatically and hear more and more tragic stories of hospital workers pushed beyond their limits, social distancing is nonetheless working and essential.

To understand this, we need to understand how this virus works. The current medical thinking is that coronavirus is spread by touching infected surfaces and then touching the mouth, eyes or nose. However, it is also spread by breathing exhaled microdroplets from an infected person. That is why it is so important to keep a distance of 6′ from others and assume that anyone could be infected.

Coronavirus has a median incubation period (you’ve caught it, show no symptoms, and are contagious) of 5.1 days. Some cases have a longer incubation period – up to 15.6 days. During that time, it is estimated that an infected person will spread the virus to 2-3 people. During their incubation periods, those people will also spread the virus to 2-3 people, and so on. Once each person begins to show symptoms, they will not immediately be added to the government statistics of “confirmed cases.” Most will wait for several days trying to decide if it is worth getting tested, especially given the limited number of tests that we have available in the United States. Those who get tested will likely have a 2-3 day wait before their test results come in, at which point, they will be added to the government statistics if they are infected.

This delay in data is why the President’s main adviser on this pandemic, Dr. Fauci, says that “if you think you’re in line with the outbreak, you’re already 3 weeks behind.” The effects of our lax attitude toward the virus will still be with us in 2-3 weeks, and similarly the effects of our actions to contain the virus will only begin to show up in 2 weeks at the earliest.

On March 16, the President released his plan for “15 Days to Slow the Spread.” While the plan is far less strict than it needs to be, it is America’s first real effort to contain the spread of the virus. Its effects will likely not become visible until April. In the meantime, the graph below shows what the rest of March is likely to look like in America, based on a spread rate of 32% per day, 20% of cases requiring hospitalization, a 35% increase in deaths per day, and 45,000 ventilators nationwide.

Chart
(Data recorded at 6pm ET each day from ncov2019.live/data)

This is possibly the worst situation for America to have an impulsive President whose life experience has been guided by easy solutions and instant gratification, and whose closest aides charitably describe his personality as “childlike.” The consequences of ending social distancing early would be severe and crippling for our country. Hopefully our governors will have more sense than the President and will increase, rather than decrease, measures to contain the spread.

There is good news and bad news for April if social distancing remains in effect. The good news is that the rate of spread will likely begin to slow in early April. Italy has finally had its first day of single-digit increases in the number of people needing hospitalization.

The bad news is that America’s hospital system will have already become overwhelmed by then. Particularly critical in this dynamic is the shortage of N95 masks that our hospital workers have experienced thus far. Nurses have been told to reuse masks, create their own masks, use bandanas, etc. As a result, they have been inadequately protected from the virus, and while masks finally seem to have begun to be made available, it may be too late for some of our nurses. This means that not only is their own health now at risk, but also that these nurses will be unable to continue working as they recover or need treatment themselves – all at a time when our hospitals are being pushed beyond their capacity.

The best thing that Americans can do to limit the spread of this virus and eventually get it under control is to continue social distancing measures and ideally to take precautions that are one or two steps more extreme than we think are reasonable at the moment.

We should also note that as China began practicing social distancing, they saw the virus begin to take hold in family clusters. If one person in the family had become infected before their confinement or while out getting supplies, they would spread the virus to other family members. If someone in the home shows symptoms (fever, dry cough), they need to be isolated in a room away from other family members, one family member needs to be assigned to care for them, and that caregiver needs to have limited exposure, wear whatever protective gear that they can when providing care, and take measures to sanitize themselves and exposed objects immediately after each incident of providing care.

China’s eventual solution involved many extreme steps, including taking people’s temperature at the entrances to public places like grocery stores, isolating the infected in stadiums and sectioned-off hospital wings until they recovered or died, and other steps that were even more severe. For our President to look at that and think that America’s trajectory will magically be different from China or Italy if we end social distancing after 15 days and “get back to work” is folly. If the projection above is accurate, by March 26, America will have far surpassed the total number of cases that China has had during the entire outbreak.

– rob rünt

30 Days in the Life of Coronavirus

30 Days in the Life of Coronavirus

30 Days in the Life of Coronavirus

The other day, I posted info on Facebook about how to avoid spreading coronavirus. A friend asserted that this was all just politically driven hysteria, and pointed out that during Obama’s Presidency, H1N1 killed over 12,000 Americans in a single year. The day that he wrote that, the American death toll from coronavirus was in the 40s.

While I countered that the coronavirus is highly contagious, I was still bothered by the stark contrast in the numbers, and began to wonder if perhaps my friend had a point about things being blown out of proportion.

To test the theory, I looked at the numbers and put together a model based on those numbers. What I found was alarming, and yet quickly appeared to underestimate the scope of what is coming. It should be a wakeup call to every American about the need to practice social distancing and all other CDC recommendations NOW.

The issue is not so much the number of people who will die, although the number is likely to be large. But the greater issue is the strain that will soon be placed on our country’s medical system. Due to inadequate measures taken thus far by our government and our fellow citizens, America may well be in for a crisis far eclipsing that of Italy. If you are not familiar with what is happening there, you need to be. There is little time left for us to avoid such a catastrophe. We need to dramatically alter what we are doing NOW.

To create the model, I relied on a few basic facts:

  • On 3/11, the number of confirmed cases in the U.S. was 1,267
  • On 3/14, the number of confirmed cases in the U..S. was 2,657
  • That equates to a daily increase of 28%
  • The death toll on 3/14 was 50 which would imply an approximate death rate of 1.88%
  • A study by the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP) determined that the maximum incubation period for the virus (no symptoms, but contagious) is 15.6 days
  • CIDRAP’s study determined that the median incubation period for the virus (no symptoms, but contagious) is 5.1 days
  • The CDC estimates that hospitalization will be needed for 20% of cases
  • Much of that hospitalization will require ventilators
  • America has approximately 45,000 intensive care units (ICUs) with ventilators

Below is the model, which assumes no significant change in behavior by Americans and no cure or vaccine available within the next month:

CoronavirusChart

Today was the first day of new data to compare with the model. As of this writing on 3/15, the number of cases in America is 3,552, and the number of deaths is 65 – both higher numbers than predicted in the model above.

The model is also graphed as the main image for this article, but is, of course, cut off at the top. Below is the full graph. The fact that it stops at April 12 was an arbitrary decision on my part to limit the data to 30 days: in reality, of course, the disease may continue to spread beyond that.

CoronavirusGraph-02

To summarize, the difference between H1N1 and coronavirus in terms of spread is that, without drastic measures, it is likely to kill more Americans by April 6 than H1N1 killed in an entire year. The calls for social distancing (6′), hand washing, avoiding touching the face, avoiding crowds, etc. are not hysterical hype, but rather are crucial and sensible measures that we all must take NOW.

The purpose of this piece is to raise public awareness in hopes of changing public behavior in time to prevent crippling or even collapsing our nation’s hospital system. We have little time left.

Sources:

Ncov2019.live/data

U.S. Center for Disease Control

Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy

Politifact

Vox

 

–  rob rünt

Gratitude.

Gratitude.

As the coronavirus continues to spread through our country, I want to express my deepest gratitude to all the people who will likely still need to work even when everyone else goes on lockdown:

  • Doctors, Nurses and Paramedics, all of whom have been, are currently, and will continue to be on the front lines treating those hit hardest and risking exposure to the virus themselves. They will be the ones dealing with the worst of what this brings us. I pray that they do not have to experience the kind of overwhelming tidal wave of patients that medical professionals in Italy and Iran are currently dealing with, but our country’s belated response indicates that our medical workers may be in for an extremely rough time.
  • Pharmacy Workers, who will still need to provide medications, not just to those with the virus, but to people with all other conditions that occur every day – including chronic conditions like diabetes, heart disease, HIV, and mental illness.
  • 911 Operators, who will still need to process and route our emergency calls.
  • Firefighters, who will still have to put out fires, help people having heart attacks and other medical crises, and will likely be called out to help some of the 20% of people who experience severe symptoms from the virus.
  • Police, who will still be called to address criminal activity, domestic disputes, and other situations that will continue to some degree regardless of what else is going on in our country.
  • Grocery Store Employees, who will still need to provide vital food and other goods to the public.
  • Truckers, who will still need to transport food, gasoline, medical supplies, and other goods across the country.
  • Dock Workers, who will still need to receive food, medical supplies, and other goods at our ports.
  • Gas Station Workers, who will still need to provide gasoline.
  • Trash Collectors, who will still need to collect our garbage, which never ends.
  • Utility Workers, who will still need to ensure continued electricity, natural gas, water, and phone service.
  • Postal Workers, who will still need to facilitate communications and the delivery of life essentials like Social Security checks.

These people, and many whom I’ve probably left out, are my heroes during this time, because while their contributions are often simply assumed to always be there, it is because of them always being there that they will be the people most vital to keeping our country running.

I am also grateful for the Americans who are voluntarily taking steps now to lessen the coming impact of the virus on our country:

  • People who are following the CDC guidelines to limit spread of the virus: their efforts now will reduce the stress on our medical system in the coming weeks.
  • People who are taking the time to seek out credible sources to learn about the virus and how it is spread.
  • Employers who provide paid sick leave so that their workers don’t feel pressure to come to work sick.
  • Employers who acknowledge the reality that people can have this virus with no symptoms for well over a week and still be contagious, and employers who are therefore allowing their employees to work from home when possible to reduce transmission.
  • Employees who stay home from work when they are sick, thereby keeping their coworkers from getting whatever they have
  • Landlords who are willing to be flexible with tenants who may miss one or more paychecks and therefore may not be able to pay their rent: these landlords’ compassion will reduce the degree to which homelessness ends up a side impact of this virus.
  • Bankers who are willing to be flexible with mortgage payments, and who can therefore have a similarly positive impact on our country.
  • School districts that are closing down and finding alternative ways to continue teaching kids at home.
  • Teachers who stay home when they are sick, and whose jobs may currently require them to be around sick kids all day.
  • Parents who keep their kids home when they are sick.

These people also deserve recognition for helping keep this virus as manageable as possible. Thank you.

– rob rünt

Funeral for a Friend

Funeral for a Friend

The acquittal of Donald Trump was an outrage – one of many over the past three years. But this one was different.

It’s not just that Republican Senators voted against hearing key witnesses like John Bolton who had important new testimony. It’s not that, with the exception of Mitt Romney, they voted to give the President no consequences, despite many of them privately saying that he was guilty, and despite some even admitting that what he did was impeachable. It’s not even the frightening new legal precedent that their vote ushered in, that a President can wrap his own reelection campaign into official U.S. policy – even if it diverges from publicly known official U.S. policy, even if it involves coercing another country to interfere in a U.S. election – if he believes that his own reelection is in the “public interest.”

Of course, it’s all of those things.

But it’s also the sheer brazenness of it all. Those Senators looked their country in the eye, looked at the Constitution, and said “all of this matters less to us than continuing to enable Donald Trump.”

In a moving and heartfelt speech before the Senate, Adam Schiff said, “If right doesn’t matter, it doesn’t matter how good the Constitution is. It doesn’t matter how brilliant the Framers were. Doesn’t matter how good or bad our advocacy in this trial is. Doesn’t matter how well written the oath of impartiality is. If right doesn’t matter, we’re lost. If the truth doesn’t matter, we’re lost.”

Those Senators made their statement loud and clear: to them, right doesn’t matter, truth doesn’t matter. Trump matters.

In an odd way, it was liberating. Many of us on the left have said over the past three years that there just has to come a time when Donald Trump will go too far, when Republican lawmakers will be shocked into a reawakening of what they once said their values were, when they will stop and say “my God, look what we have become – this is not us,” when they will finally serve as a moral bulwark and a check on this President’s power.

Their vote on Thursday made it crystal clear: for the vast majority of Republicans, that moment will never come. Nothing will be too much, too far, too grotesque to abandon Donald Trump and look elsewhere for leadership. They will not change. Trump will not change. He will not face consequences. He will only continuously avoid consequences, laugh at our outrage, and become further emboldened by it all. The moment of introspection and moral conscience that we have expected and hoped for from Republicans will not happen. It is a fantasy and a waste of mental energy. This is what we have.

It is sad, like the death of a loved one after years of hoping and praying that they would pull through from a long-lingering illness. But it is also freeing. There is no longer any need to waste time puzzling over what’s behind their actions – cult of personality, support for policy, blackmail, bribery, fear, political calculation, power grab. It doesn’t matter. They are what they are. They’re doing what they’re doing. It doesn’t matter why they’re burning down the house. What matters is that they’re doing it, water is desperately needed, and sitting around trying to figure out the cause of the fire or trying to reason with it wastes time while the house gets further engulfed in flames.

From here on, the course forward is clear, and the obstacles are clear. Donald Trump and the Republicans will do what they’re going to do, and it will be awful. Beyond policy, there will be voter suppression, cheating, foreign interference on a level that we have never experienced, deepfake videos and audio, and some of the ugliest campaign tactics that this country has seen.

But our energies must be focused on overcoming all of that to defeat Trump in November and to get as many Democrats elected as possible – it’s time for pissed off pragmatism. Some tools:

  • GET OFF SOCIAL MEDIA. You’re preaching to the converted.
  • Vote in the Primaries/Caucuses to have a say in who the Democrats’ Presidential nominee is.
  • Accept that our first choice may not be the Democrats’ final nominee, and we need to work our butts off for them anyway.
  • Volunteer for and donate to campaigns for House and Senate.
  • Spend our weekends registering nonvoters, who outnumber those who voted for either Clinton or Trump in 2016. Organizations that do this include the League of Women Voters.
  • Get involved in organizations like the Payback Project who are working specifically to defeat Republican Senators.
  • Take Election Day off work to drive voters to and from the polls all day.
  • Vote.

If all our efforts still don’t make a difference, we have a much bigger problem, but we have to do all that we can to ensure we do not face four more years of Donald Trump: America cannot survive it.

– rob rünt

 

 

Impeachment Trial: Choose Your Poison, America

Impeachment Trial: Choose Your Poison, America

The Senate impeachment trial of Donald Trump has left America on the brink of a decision between two horrible choices. We can empower a corrupt, amoral President to cheat in the 2020 Election without consequence, or we can enable a partisan Legislative Branch to embroil future Presidents in endless impeachments over non-impeachable acts. Neither is a good outcome.

The issue is not whether the President did what he is accused of. The issue is not even whether his actions were impeachable. Even some Republican Senators privately admit that Trump’s actions were wrong and impeachable.

The issues are our country’s highly unusual present circumstances, the flaws in the legal arguments by both sides, and the fact that supporting those flawed arguments without condition – on either side – establishes a perilous legal precedent that extends well beyond the Ukraine episode.

 

Unusual Circumstances

One unusual circumstance is simply the rarity of impeachment in our nation’s history, leaving us with little experience on which to base our thoughts about it.

Another is America’s current hyper-partisanship. Our nation’s Founders never anticipated 24/7 cable news and an internet that could allow every citizen to continuously marinate themselves in the reality of their choice – potentially to the exclusion of real facts. These separate realities keep us from truly hearing each others’ opinions even during face-to-face arguments: our ideas are not only competing on the grounds of differing logic and values, but on entirely differing “factual histories” regarding what has led up to the arguments in the first place.

Donald Trump himself adds to our unusual circumstances. He holds a sway over Republican lawmakers that is truly inexplicable. Even factoring in fear of tweets, the survival instinct of politicians, and a steady diet of Fox News, the fidelity and subservience to this President is bizarre.

As an example, in 2016, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) suggested that Trump had mafia ties, called him a “serial philanderer,” a “narcissist,” a “pathological liar,” and said that “morality doesn’t exist” for Trump. Now Cruz is an eager and aggressive defender of Trump.

Similarly, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) once believed that Donald Trump was a “kook,” “crazy,” and “unfit for office.” Now another Trump sycophant, Graham recently said that he was not interested in even hearing evidence or testimony against the President. This is the atmosphere in which the impeachment trial in the Senate is taking place.

Trump’s own behavior has added to the unprecedented political atmosphere. He has doubled down on his requests for foreign governments to interfere in America’s 2020 Election. He announced during a 6/16/19 interview with George Stephanopoulos that he would be open to hearing dirt that foreign governments might offer him on his opponents – something which the head of the FEC quickly pointed out would be illegal. And when his Ukraine activities were exposed, he publicly called on China to also investigate the Bidens during a 10/3/19 press conference. Perhaps committing a crime out in the open in broad daylight seems less criminal.

The President has also recently made a huge fundraising push for Senators who are jurors in his impeachment trial. He is believed to be using other behind-the-scenes “carrots and sticks” to ensure the votes of Republican Senators in his trial as well.

Lastly, the proximity of the 2020 Election – now just over nine months away – has also created an unusual situation. It added unique urgency for the House to move forward quickly with impeachment proceedings to prevent the President from engaging in further solicitation of interference by foreign governments before it was too late.

But Trump used that urgency to his advantage. He refused to comply with any House Democrats’ subpoenas for witnesses and documents, instead sending them off to be tied up in the courts for months or years. He then issued a blanket order that nobody in the Executive Branch was to cooperate with the investigation, potentially leaving the House without any key witnesses until past the 2020 Election, and allowing the President to continue soliciting help for his campaign from foreign governments. So the House chose not to wait for the courts, instead conducting impeachment hearings with the few witnesses and documents that they were able to get, so that they could move the issue on to the Senate for trial.

The resulting lack of key witnesses, however, enabled Trump’s defense team to say that the House had come to the impeachment trial “unprepared” because they did not have all of the witnesses and documents that they had subpoenaed, and had not waited for the court system (likely to be delayed further by numerous appeals) to compel them.

 

The Democrats’ Legal Flaw

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) argued passionately, skillfully and powerfully before the Senate for the President’s removal from office, making a strong case that Trump’s corruption, placement of self before country, and lack of judgment make him a danger to the nation that he leads. While Schiff’s case was strong, the wording of the Articles of Impeachment themselves gave Trump’s defense team a legitimate counter-argument.

The language of the Constitution is unclear regarding the level of criminal activity required to remove a President from office. The first Article of Impeachment from the House accuses Trump of “abuse of power.” While it is clear that the President did abuse his power, and it is undeniable that the Founders did not want a President to be able to abuse power, the wording of this charge is so vague and subjective that it could allow future Congresses to impeach based on simple policy disputes.

The President’s actions would fall under the specific crime of bribery, a crime which the Founders did specify as warranting removal from office. But Trump’s defense seized on the technicality of the “abuse of power” language to argue that the President should stay in office.

This is outrageous, leaving America with a dangerously corrupt President, but the legal precedent set by removing him from office for a vague “abuse of power” would also be dangerous to our country. Especially in our partisan political environment, the opposing political party will often consider disagreeable acts or policies by the President to be abuses of power. Making “abuse of power” impeachable could easily lead to impeachment and removal becoming a standard part of holding the office of President. Under such criteria for removal from office, for example, President Obama would likely have been impeached and removed for pushing forward the Affordable Care Act or other Executive Orders that the GOP viewed as abuses of power.

 

The Trump Team’s Legal Flaws

Trump’s legal team presented numerous arguments for the President: that we cannot know for certain what Trump’s thoughts and motives were when he pressured the Ukrainian President, that no new evidence or witness testimony should be allowed because the House should not have gone to trial without all the witnesses and documents, that the House had no key witnesses and therefore had a weak case, that removing Trump from office would overturn the American people’s 2016 vote (any impeachment and removal, by definition, overturns a vote).

But perhaps the most staggering argument about Trump’s coercion of the Ukrainian President was made by attorney Alan Dershowitz, who proclaimed “Every public official that I know believes that his election is in the public interest…. If a President does something which he believes would help him get elected, in the public interest, that cannot be the kind of quid pro quo that results in impeachment.”

Accepting this argument by acquitting Trump means that Trump’s political campaign activities can legitimately be wrapped into official U.S. foreign policy. So what will it be? A trade deal more favorable to China in exchange for an investigation into the Bidens? Inviting Russia to help America with election security issues in 2020? All good. Given this President’s particular penchant for pushing boundaries, it is almost certain that he will engage in more such acts – and probably more aggressively than he has until now – if acquitted.

While Dershowitz’s argument is a stunning deviation from our traditional understanding of the Constitution and Presidential power, the implications of it are all the more horrifying for America’s future when one considers that if the President is acquitted (as seems likely), the argument goes into the legal record as part of why he was acquitted. In other words, it becomes legal precedent. From then on, such Presidential misconduct is no longer even worthy of the Legislative Branch’s attention. It will already have been established that using the power of the Presidency for personal campaign activities is acceptable conduct.

Another argument put forward by Trump’s defense is that, with the election coming up in just nine months, it would be wrong to remove Trump from office. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) summed it up the day before he voted not to allow new evidence or witnesses: “There is no need for more evidence to prove something that has already been proven…. The question then is not whether the president did it, but whether the United States Senate or the American people should decide what to do about what he did.”

This might be a reasonable and defensible position under most questions about Presidential misconduct. But what Alexander said has been proven is that Trump used his Presidential power to pursue his own personal campaign advantage in the upcoming 2020 Election – an election whose outcome can easily be impacted by further misbehavior. So acquitting Trump also establishes the nonsensical legal precedent that a President cannot be removed from office during an election year, even for engaging in illegal activity to change the outcome of that election.

 

A Possible Solution

The House impeachment managers and the Trump defense team have both made their cases clearly and have had plenty of time to do so, given the Senate’s refusal to hear from new witnesses as damning new revelations coming out daily. The damage to the country by accepting either side’s arguments should be clear. Yet in our current political climate, where dire predictions have become commonplace, the warnings seem like hyperbole, and the predictions may fall on deaf ears with Senators. They are not hyperbole.

A small and unlikely hope exists for avoiding either of the potential Constitutional catastrophes. If Supreme Court Justice Roberts, who has been presiding over the trial, recognizes the perilous place that our Constitution is in as we teeter on the edge of either of two bad outcomes, he can step in. He is the one participant who has the potential to be objective, and presumably has the judicial wisdom to offer a solution.

One possibility is that he could allow the decision to proceed, but could weigh in on how the prosecution and defense arguments have diverged from the Constitution as we have known it. This would give those arguments less legal weight as precedent for handling future instances of Presidential misconduct.

Another possibility is that Justice Roberts could offer an alternative that is neither removal nor acquittal: censure. This would put on record and establish as precedent what many Republican Senators have acknowledged privately – that what the President did was wrong and unacceptable. It is not the degree of consequence that many Democrats think the President’s actions deserve, but it could alleviate some of the danger of simply acquitting the President, which Fox News commentators are already saying would mean that Trump should be seen as completely innocent.

Sadly, Roberts seems pained to intercede in the trial in any way, for fear of creating the perception that the Judicial Branch is just as biased and partisan as the Executive and Legislative Branches. Unfortunately, his courage is desperately needed right now. Without it, the best that we can likely say is that the U.S. Constitution had a pretty good 244-year run.

– rob rünt

What About Crowdstrike?

What About Crowdstrike?

Crowdstrike is the cybersecurity company that investigated the 2016 hacking of the DNC and Clinton Campaign servers and found the hack to have come from two Russian groups that they nicknamed “Cozy Bear” and “Fancy Bear.” U.S. Intelligence agreed with this assessment. Robert Mueller’s report (p. 36-50) also agreed, identifying the groups as Russian Military Units 26165 and 74455 of the GRU, an intelligence agency of the Russian military. Mueller issued indictments for 12 members of those groups.

During the House Intelligence Committee impeachment hearings, Republicans like U.S. Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) and U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) echoed a Russia-originated conspiracy theory that Ukraine had actually hacked the DNC and Clinton servers to frame Russia, and were assisted by Crowdstrike, because its owner is “Ukrainian.” Crowdstrike’s co-owner, Dmitri Alpertovitch, is a Russian-born American citizen.

Developing evidence that Crowdstrike was part of a Ukrainian effort to meddle in the 2016 election would help Putin by shifting blame from Russia and muddying the waters of the findings of Robert Mueller and the U.S. intelligence community. It would also give Trump an opportunity to claim that his 2016 victory was made without Russian interference, or at least in spite of Ukrainian interference.


“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.”

Donald J. Trump
President of the United States
(From transcript of 7/25/19 phone call between President Trump and Ukrainian President Zelensky)


“I don’t think that raising 2016 elections or Vice President Biden or these things I consider to be conspiracy theories […are…] things that we should be pursuing as part of our national security strategy with Ukraine.”

Kurt Volker
Former US Special Envoy to Ukraine
(11/19/19)


“Based on questions and statements I have heard, some of you on this committee appear to believe that Russia and its security services did not conduct a campaign against our country — and that perhaps, somehow, for some reason, Ukraine did. This is a fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves.”

Fiona Hill
Former White House Adviser, Former Senior Director for European and Russian Affairs
(11/21/19)


For more info, visit Trump-Ukraine Central


– rob rünt

What About the Bidens?

What About the Bidens?

Burisma Holdings is the largest Ukrainian company in the oil and gas sector. From 2014 to 2019, Hunter Biden, son of Joe Biden, served on Burisma’s Board of Directors and was paid $50,000/month. Because then-Vice President Joe Biden was American’s point person on Ukraine, many rightfully say that his son’s role at Burisma gave an appearance, at the very least, of conflict of interest.

Several of Ukraine’s Prosecutor Generals had investigated Burisma for corruption over the years, including during Hunter Biden’s time there. However, Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin, appointed in 2015, was notable for hampering a number of anti-corruption investigations, including investigations into Burisma. Consistent with official U.S. policy, and consistent with the wishes of the EU nations, in early 2016, Vice President Biden publicly called for Shokin to be removed from office as a condition of Ukraine getting $1 billion in loan guarantees from the United States. Shokin’s removal would, of course, do the opposite of benefitting Burisma, because it would mean the potential for a new Ukrainian Prosecutor General who would go after corruption.

During the House Intelligence Committee’s impeachment hearings, many Republicans pointed to Biden pushing for Shokin’s ouster as evidence of Joe Biden using U.S. government power in a corrupt effort to enrich his son. They equated this to Donald Trump withholding $400 million in U.S. military aid from Ukraine until Zelensky publicly announced investigations into Crowdstrike and Burisma. They equate the quiet, behind-the-scenes machinations of Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, with Biden’s public efforts.

Implicating Biden’s son and potentially Joe Biden himself serves Trump’s agenda by discrediting the candidate about whom Trump’s aides have said that Trump is most concerned in the 2020 election.

For then-Vice President Joe Biden to have been America’s point person on Ukraine while his son Hunter was serving. lucrative position on the board of a Ukrainian energy company gave, at best, the appearance of a conflict of interest. Was it right for Trump to ask Ukraine for an investigation of this specific situation? No. Would it have been appropriate to mention Burisma as one of many specific issues in the context of a broad statement encouraging Zelensky to take on corruption? Probably.

However, the withholding of Congressionally approved military aid, the use of a communications channel outside of the normal diplomatic channels, and the secrecy around Trump’s activities all points to the investigation of the Biden’s not being about corruption in Ukraine, but about domestic American politics.


“…in February of 2015, I raised my concern that Hunter Biden’s status as a board member could create the perception of a conflict of interest. Let me be clear, however: I did not witness any effort by any US official to shield Burisma from scrutiny. In fact, I and other US officials consistently advocated re-instituting a scuttled investigation of Zlochevsky, Burisma’s founder, as well as holding the corrupt prosecutors who closed the case to account.”

George Kent
Deputy Assistant U.S. Secretary of State for Eastern Europe and the Caucuses
(11/13/19)


“We fully anticipated the Ukrainians would raise the issue of meeting, of a meeting between the presidents. Ambassador Bolton cut the meeting short when Ambassador Sondland started to speak about the requirement that Ukraine deliver specific investigations in order to secure the meeting with President Trump. Following this meeting, there was a short debriefing during which Ambassador Sondland emphasized the importance of Ukraine delivering the investigations into the 2016 elections, the Bidens and Burisma. I stated to Ambassador Sondland that this was inappropriate and it had nothing to do with national security. Dr. Hill also asserted his comments weren’t proper.”

U.S. Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman
National Security Counsel Ukraine Expert, Director for European Affairs
(11/19/19)


“It’s not credible to me that former Vice President Biden would have been influenced in any way by financial or personal motives in carrying out his duties as vice president.”

Kurt Volker
Former US Special Envoy to Ukraine
(11/19/19)


“As I previously testified, I have known Vice President Biden for 24 years, he is an honorable man and I hold him in the highest regard. At no time was I aware of or knowingly took part in an effort to urge Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Biden.”

Kurt Volker
Former US Special Envoy to Ukraine
(11/19/19)


For more info, visit Trump-Ukraine Central


– rob rünt

Who Else Appears to Have Been Helping Trump?

Who Else Appears to Have Been Helping Trump?

According to testimonies during the House Intelligence Committee’s impeachment hearings people who appear to have been involved in helping the President commit potentially impeachable acts were:

  • Rudolph Giuliani, personal attorney for Donald Trump
  • Mick Mulvaney, White House Chief of Staff and head of Office of Management and Budget
  • Mike Pompeo, U.S. Secretary of State
  • Rick Perry, U.S. Secretary of Energy
  • Gordon Sondland, U.S. Ambassador to the European Union
  • Kurt Volker, former US Special Envoy to Ukraine
  • Ulrich Brechbuehl, Counselor to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo
  • Lisa Kenna, State Department Executive Secretary
  • Lev Parnas, associate of Rudolph Giuliani
  • Igor Fruman, associate of Rudolph Giuliani
  • Viktor Shoken, former Ukrainian Prosecutor General
  • Yuriy Lutsenko, former Ukrainian Prosecutor General

 


“I encountered an irregular, informal channel of US policy-making with respect to Ukraine, unaccountable to Congress, a channel that included then-Special Envoy Kurt Volker, US Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, Secretary of Energy Rick Perry, White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, and, as I subsequently learned, Mr. Giuliani. I was clearly in the regular channel, but I was also in the irregular one to the extent that Ambassadors Volker and Sondland including me in certain conversations. Although this irregular channel was well-connected in Washington, it operated mostly outside of official State Department channels.”

William Taylor
Acting U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine
(11/13/19)


“Over the course of 2018 and 2019 I became increasingly aware of an effort by Rudy Giuliani and others, including his associates, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, to run a campaign to smear Ambassador Yovanovitch and other officials at the US embassy in Kiev. The chief agitators on the Ukrainian side of this effort were some of those same corrupt former prosecutors I had encountered, particularly [inaudible 00:12:50] and Viktor Shoken. They were now peddling false information in order to extract revenge against those who had exposed their misconduct, including US diplomats, Ukrainian anti-corruption officials, and reform-minded civil society groups in Ukraine. During the late spring and summer of 2019 I became alarmed as those efforts bore fruit. They led to the ouster of Ambassador Yovanovitch and hampered US efforts to establish rapport with the new Zelensky administration in Ukraine.”

George Kent
Deputy Assistant U.S. Secretary of State for Eastern Europe and the Caucuses
(11/13/19)


“I do not understand Mr. Giuliani’s motives for attacking me, nor can I offer an opinion on whether he believe the allegations he spread about me. Clearly, no one at the State Department did. What I can say is that Mr. Giuliani should have known those claims were suspect, coming as they reportedly did from individuals with questionable motives and with reason to believe that their political and financial ambitions would be stymied by our anti-corruption policy in Ukraine.”

Marie/Masha Yovanovitch
Former US Ambassador to Ukraine
(11/15/19)


“From July 7, 2017, until September 27th, 2019, I was the lead US diplomat dealing with Russia’s war on Ukraine. My role was not some irregular channel, but the official channel.”

Kurt Volker
Former US Special Envoy to Ukraine
(11/19/19)


“The problem was that despite the unanimous positive assessment and recommendations of those of us who were part of the US presidential delegation that attended the inauguration of President Zelensky, President Trump was receiving a different negative narrative about Ukraine and President Zelensky. That narrative was fueled by accusations from Ukraine’s then Prosecutor General [Yuriy Lutsenko] and conveyed to the President by former Mayor Rudy Giuliani.”

Kurt Volker
Former US Special Envoy to Ukraine
(11/19/19)


“After weeks of reassuring the Ukrainians that it was just a scheduling issue, I decided to tell President Zelensky that we had a problem with the information reaching President Trump from Mayor Giuliani. I did so in a bilateral meeting at a conference on Ukrainian economic reform in Toronto on July 2nd, 2019 where I led the US delegation.”

Kurt Volker
Former US Special Envoy to Ukraine
(11/19/19)


 “The suggestion that we were engaged in some irregular or rogue diplomacy is absolutely false. Everyone was in the loop. It was no secret.”

Gordon Sondland
U.S. Ambassador to the European Union
(11/20/19)


“We followed the president’s orders.”

Gordon Sondland
U.S. Ambassador to the European Union
(11/20/19) 


“Secretary Perry, Ambassador Volker and I worked with Mr. Rudy Giuliani on Ukraine matters at the express direction of the president of the United States. We did not want to work with Mr. Giuliani. Simply put, we were playing the hand we were dealt.”

Gordon Sondland
U.S. Ambassador to the European Union
(11/20/19) 


“That included communications with Secretary of State Pompeo, his Counselor Ulrich Brechbuehl, and Executive Secretary Lisa Kenna within the State Department. They knew what we were doing and why.”

Gordon Sondland
U.S. Ambassador to the European Union
(11/20/19)


 “We saw [Giuliani] often on television making these statements, and I had already brought to Ambassador Bolton’s attention the attacks, the smear campaign against Ambassador Yovanovitch, and expressed great regret about how this was unfolding. And, in fact, the shameful way in which Ambassador Yovanovitch was being smeared and attacked, and I’d asked if there was anything that we could do about it. And Ambassador Bolton had looked pained, basically indicated with body language that there was nothing much that we could do about it, and he then, in the course of that discussion, said that Rudy Giuliani was a hand grenade that was going to blow everyone up.”

Fiona Hill
Former White House Adviser, Former Senior Director for European and Russian Affairs
(11/21/19)


“Over the following months, it became apparent that Mr. Giuliani was having a direct influence on the foreign policy agenda that the Three Amigos were executing on the ground in Ukraine. In fact, at one point during a preliminary meeting of the inauguration delegation, someone wondered aloud about why Mr. Giuliani was so active in the media with respect to Ukraine. My recollection is that Ambassador Sondland stated, “Dammit Rudy. Every time Rudy gets involved he goes and f–s everything up.”

David Holmes
Counselor for Political Affairs at the US Embassy in Ukraine
(11/21/19)


“Mr. Lutsenko also claimed that he had never received $4.4 million in US funds intended for his office, and that there was a tape of a Ukrainian official saying that he was trying to help Hillary Clinton win the 2016 election.”

David Holmes
Counselor for Political Affairs at the US Embassy in Ukraine
(11/21/19)


“Around the same time, I became aware that Mr. Giuliani, a private lawyer, was taking a direct role in Ukrainian diplomacy.”

David Holmes
Counselor for Political Affairs at the US Embassy in Ukraine
(11/21/19)


For more info, visit Trump-Ukraine Central


– rob rünt

Is There Another Explanation for What Happened With Ukraine?

Is There Another Explanation for What Happened With Ukraine?

One strategy used by criminal defense attorneys, especially when they know that the evidence points clearly to their client’s guilt, is to present as many alternative theories as possible to muddy the waters and sow doubt in the minds of the jury. During the House Intelligence Committee’s impeachment hearings, many Republicans on the committee have taken on this role. This section addresses those theories.

  1. This was all part of official U.S. foreign policy 
  2. Trump wanted to root out corruption in Ukraine 
  3. Trump wanted the EU to pay its fair share of Ukraine aid 
  4. Trump was being fiscally responsible with U.S. tax dollars 
  5. The Ukrainians didn’t even know that aid was being withheld 
  6. There was no pressure on Ukraine – President Zelensky said so 
  7. Zelensky didn’t do what Trump wanted, so no crime 
  8. Trump said emphatically “no quid pro quo” 
  9. These were rogue operators – Trump was not involved 
  10. It was legitimate to ask Ukraine to investigate the Bidens 
  11. It was legitimate to ask Ukraine to investigate Crowdstrike 
  12. This is how politics works: we pressure other countries 
  13. The Democrats keep changing the charges 
  14. The hearings were unfair or illegitimate 
  15. All testimony was meaningless because the Whistleblower didn’t testify 
  16. All testimony was meaningless because few of the witnesses actually talked with President Trump 
  17. It looks bad, but who knows what was really in the President’s heart


For more info, visit Trump-Ukraine Central


– rob rünt

It Looks Bad, But Who Knows What was Really in the President’s Heart

It Looks Bad, But Who Knows What was Really in the President’s Heart

This is true. None of us knows what the President was thinking, and this may be his best defense. Similarly, one does not know what is in the heart of the man in a mask pointing a gun at the bank teller and handing them a note saying “give me all the money.” He could just be making an ordinary withdrawal while exercising his Second Amendment rights and making an unusual fashion choice.

A reasonable person, looking at the evidence and witness testimony, would conclude that the President was abusing his power.


For more info, visit Trump-Ukraine Central


– rob rünt