Book Review: “Nothing is True and Everything is Possible”/”This is Not Propaganda”

Book Review: “Nothing is True and Everything is Possible”/”This is Not Propaganda”

Shortly after the 2016 US Election, a journalist named Sarah Kendzior urged Americans to immediately write down their memories, their beliefs, their values, and what they know to be real and true, because those things were about to get very squishy for us. She wanted us to have a snapshot of our pre-Trump reality, a reference point to look back to, an anchor to moor us as we began to drift further out into a sea of craziness and disinformation. She said this based on her own extensive studies of authoritarian governments.

More than five years later, her prescience appears to have been spot on. “Fake news” – a term originally coined by the mainstream press to describe fictional clickbait articles (often created overseas) – was quickly rebranded by 2016 candidate Trump to describe the mainstream media themselves. Fact-checking of President Trump’s bold-faced lies was met with doubling down rather than the traditional responses of shame and contrition. Amid this nonstop deflection and distraction, many Americans eventually came to have a harder and harder time teasing out the truth in a given situation.

Distortions have always existed in the press – if nothing else, in the editorial decisions about what is “news” and what is not worthy of coverage. But the news has now fragmented into completely different realities (some of them by definition false realities), and each American is living their lives, and basing their choices, on which of those realities they have chosen. By November 5, 2020, for example, CNN, NPR, NBC, and even Fox News had acknowledged the election of Joe Biden. But on right-wing media upstarts NewsMax and OANN, Trump still appeared poised to win the election three weeks later, and conservatives abandoned Fox News by the hundreds of thousands to plant their flags in these more appealing oases of information. On January 6, some Americans watched a frightening banana-republic-style attempt to overturn a legitimate democratic election. Other Americans saw the same events – and continue to see them – as courageous attempts by noble-hearted patriots to prevent the results of a banana-republic-style “rigged election” from being carried through to their corrupt fruition.

It is in this new Through-the-Looking-Glass environment that I have been reading the works of Peter Pomerantsev, a British journalist who was born in Ukraine – then still a part of the USSR – as his dissident father was repeatedly being brought in for interrogation by the KGB. Pomerantsev’s two books provide astoundingly valuable insights into America’s current situation.

In “Nothing is True and Everything is Possible: The Surreal Heart of the New Russia,” written in 2014, Pomerantsev provides colorful, engaging, and at times deeply amusing vignettes into the evolution of post-Soviet Russia from a land of fresh optimistic idealism, to a place of opportunistic lawlessness that created overnight winners and losers, to a kleptocratic authoritarian regime that keeps an impenetrable hold on power using a shrewd development in propaganda. Pomerantsev’s unique perspective as a now-Westerner inside Russia allows a powerful understanding of this metamorphosis.

The unstructured fluidity in early post-Soviet Russia, asserts Pomerantsev, allowed previously state-owned assets – media, oil production, etc. – to be grabbed up by those with the wits, money, or brute thuggishness to do so. Millionaires and power brokers were created overnight. Organized crime began to flourish, as Russian mafia found easy cash in blackmailing and extorting new business owners. This corruption eventually became a part of the Russian system itself – for all practical purposes, a coequal branch of government – as Putin took power and threatened imprisonment to any wealthy oligarch who refused to give him a cut of their often-ill-gotten earnings.

Pomerantsev looks into the lives of a variety of Russians: billionaire media moguls, bar-cruising prostitutes, city historians, reality show stars, political activists, a pre-teen boy turned national celebrity by his morbid obesity, a falsely imprisoned businesswoman, a nationalist Christian biker gang, a supermodel driven to suicide by a self-actualization cult, a lavishly partying millionaire playboy, and a small-time Mafioso/wannabe movie producer. Tying all of them together is a new Russian culture of delirium, a hazy yet psychedelically vivid combination of Zef-esque lifestyle, Cirque de Soleil surrealism, reality show drama, political theater, performance art, and tabloid sensationalism.

This culture is no accident. It is the result of a rather ingenious advance in propaganda developed by long-time friend of Vladimir Putin, Vladislov Surkov – a development that coincidentally and symbiotically emerged alongside the cultural fragmentation caused by the internet and social media. With a background in metallurgy, fine art and public relations, Surkov came up with the idea of an entertaining, never-boring politics that is both highly emotional and thoroughly disorienting and disempowering. Rather than the clumsy, ham-fisted propaganda of past authoritarians, where the powerful suppress all dissent and project their own worldview as the only acceptable line of thought, Surkov’s propaganda embraces a diversity of dissenting voices – and even supports them.

Politically adversarial groups are funded, encouraged, and their extremes magnified. On issue after issue – racism, the environment, worker’s rights – the stunningly cynical goal is to play different sides against each other, emotionally amplifying conspiracy theories, controversies, and extremists, while also culturally magnifying beliefs in the supernatural, cultism, rage, the spectacle of the absurd and the grotesque and the breathtakingly beautiful, until such a sense of disequilibrium is created amongst the population that the formation of any critical masse of unified dissent becomes impossible, because nobody can get a firm grasp on what is true. The goal is not a victory for any “side” or the ability of any particular ideology to prevail. Rather, the goal is simply the unending and energy-consuming distraction and confusion of conflict itself. The blizzard of lies, fabrications and “fake news” serve not to convince, but merely to sap the stamina of anyone motivated enough to seek out a definitive truth. Politics, culture, and life in general become a crazy hall of mirrors where each individual sees a different distortion, and reality is fluid, shifting, watery, elusive, continuously bombarded by new waves of disinformation and emotion.

The effect of this on many Russians has been a wry cynicism, a knowing skepticism, a smirking disbelief in any news story, and even a sullen dislike of the government behind it all. As Russia’s state media export, RT (formerly Russia Today), beckons in its slogan, “Question More.” But despite all the distrust and negative feelings held by many Russians, any resulting dissent is potently dulled by a paralyzing apathy brought on by the overwhelming task of convincing more than a couple people of anything amid the ceaseless swirl of competing ideas, conspiracies, controversies, and “news.” When everyone is urged to “question more,” there will always be a shaky detail that can eventually be unearthed to destroy the credibility of an entire narrative and send things back to square one.

If reading any of this feels a bit familiar in 2021 America, that is no accident either. Putin began exporting this approach to social manipulation in earnest during the 2016 Election, and the boisterous, grievance-driven Presidency of an erratic, constantly gaslighting reality TV star could not have been a better vehicle to give it fertile ground. We are currently in the midst of a major shift in how America operates. While some may console themselves that the bogeyman is gone now that a reasonable human being is President, such self-reassurance is like a survivor treading water in the ocean who feels relief at a shark that was successfully driven off. The problem wasn’t that shark, or even the twenty others circling unseen below the surface. The problem is that we are adrift in dangerous waters, and until that issue is addressed, the sharks will keep coming.

Pomerantsev closes his first book with a brief look at how Russia’s wealthy have chosen to preserve their riches through purchases of such concrete items as real estate in stable countries like the UK and United States, away from the greedy claws of the lawless government of Russia.

This ending is a good segue into Pomerantsev’s next book, 2019’s “This is Not Propaganda: Adventures in the War Against Reality.” This book expands on the ideas in “Nothing is True” to look at how the use of social media, real-world actions, and astroturf campaigns – sometimes coordinated using tactics similar to Putin’s/Surkov’s – have recently enabled right-wing strong men to come into power in country after country worldwide: Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines, Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, Recep Erdogan in Turkey, Donald Trump in the United States. In a sea of uncertainty and confusion, a strong leader with clear, simple answers seems to provide welcome comfort to some.

The strategic magnification of select ideas and stories by bots, cyborgs (bots accompanied by real people paid to follow up with a human touch on any one-on-one responses) and anonymous internet trolls has resulted in a new means of dealing with undesirable truths and ideologies. Activists and journalists are finding themselves individually targeted with threats of murder, rape, or other violence – not by an oppressive government, but by their fellow citizens inspired by manipulation on social media and elsewhere. Even friends and family begin spouting hostile content that has been amplified to them by bots. More disturbing still are the people who carry things one step further into the real world, harassing these dissidents and reporters with frightening phone calls, knocks at the door, and even escalations to actual violence.

Pomerantsev talks with some of the individuals who create these types of campaigns, as well as those on the receiving end. The most fascinating part is Pomerantsev’s synthesizing of disparate events to uncover patterns that are invaluable to understand – how an online campaign against an individual evolves, how the use of bots can effectively turn activists away from their crucial interconnectedness and collapse otherwise potent social and political movements, how something as benign as an online group formed around a shared interest in yoga can ultimately be used to install a brutal dictator. In the end, understanding these dynamics is the key to combating them.

Both of Pomerantsev’s books profoundly illuminate the new social, cultural, interpersonal, political, technological, and media waters that we find ourselves in today. The old paradigms of left vs right, or even powerful vs oppressed, no longer apply in the way that they once did, and Pomerantsev provides a useful nautical map to reorient ourselves and remind us of our moorings as we slip further out to sea. I highly recommend reading both books, in order.

– rob rünt

Photo of Bolsonaro taken by: Palácio do Planalto

Photo of Putin from: http://www.kremlin.ru

Photo of Trump by: Gage Skidmore

Photo of Erdogan from: the official website of the President of Ukraine

Donald Trump was a Gift

Donald Trump was a Gift

Like many Americans, I spent the past four years anxious, depressed, fearful, outraged, disgusted, and frustrated. I was not sure that America would come out intact on the other side of the Trump Presidency. Many are now comforting themselves that “the guardrails of democracy held.” That is the wrong message.

The reason that the guardrails held was that Trump was an impulsive, institutionally ignorant, mentally unstable buffoon who broadcast his every thought on Twitter, and whose attempts at authoritarianism were thwarted by his clumsiness and personal abrasiveness. America may not be so fortunate next time: a charming, institutionally savvy wannabe authoritarian who chooses to keep their intentions to themselves and surrounds themselves with sharp people could do far more damage.

The gift of Donald Trump is that his relentless insistence on pushing boundaries exposed weaknesses in our system that we never would have seen – bizarre scenarios and obscure areas of Constitutional law. The opportunity that we now have is that Democrats control the White House, Senate, and House of Representatives. They have the power to fix as many of those problems as possible – all without having to fight off credible accusations of partisanship over weakening the Presidency or imposing rules on the legislature. They have fewer than two years to do it.

This article will shine a spotlight on some of the questions raised by the Trump Presidency, and provide links at the end so that the reader can easily contact their legislators and the President with their own ideas for solutions.

  • How do we ensure foreign citizens or governments do not funnel campaign money to American political candidates (through NGOs like the NRA or Planned Parenthood, for example) – donations whose use can later be used to blackmail those politicians?
  • Should there be additional requirements to be President beyond age and citizenship?
  • How do we ensure that candidates for federal office are not compromised by foreign governments? Should they be required by law to disclose the last 5-10 years of their tax returns during their campaign? Should they undergo some kind of security clearance? How could a security clearance be misused by those conducting it?
  • Should elected federal officials be required to undergo an annual mental health evaluation? How could that be misused by those conducting the evaluation?
  • What safeguards does democracy have if the Legislative Branch refuses to hold a President accountable due to partisanship, blackmail, threats of violence, fear of primary challenges, or some other factor?
  • How can we better clarify the rules around impeachment? Can a President be impeached after their term has ended for acts committed while President? Must the House complete the impeachment hearing before the President leaves office? Must the Senate complete the impeachment trial before the President leaves office? Is there a statute of limitations on impeaching a President for impeachable offenses done while in office? What is the purpose of impeachment? Should there be a requirement that both sides in an impeachment trial can call witnesses without majority approval by the Senate?
  • If a President ignores a subpoena from the House or Senate, should there be consequences?
  • Can a sitting President hold campaign events at the White House?
  • If a President does something, is it legal by definition? Can an appointed Special Counsel or the Department of Justice charge a sitting President with a crime, or does the President’s office make the President immune?
  • When a President uses the power of the United States to influence a foreign leader, what is the difference between that being a legitimate political act and being extortion?
  • The President controls the Executive Branch, which includes the Department of Justice. Should a President be able to investigate their political opponents? If yes, should there be limits on this? How would this impact 2016 FBI investigations into connections between Russia and the Trump Campaign? How would it have impacted a desire by Trump in 2020 to investigate Joe Biden?
  • Should any part of the U.S. military ever be used to subdue American citizens?  If yes, what limits should be in place? What authorizations should be required? Who can call an end to it?
  • How should domestic terrorists be handled in the U.S.? Should they potentially be subject to electronic surveillance? Who determines the groups that are considered domestic terrorists? How can that definition be kept (relatively) immune to the winds of partisanship? 
  • A President is sworn to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” What does that mean? Is there a concrete way to identify when a President fails to fulfill their oath?
  • The 25th Amendment allows for the Vice President to replace the President if the President is unable to do his/her job. Either the President can declare themselves unfit, or the President’s Cabinet can join with the Vice President in declaring the President unfit. Both of these safety valves arguably failed America during Trump’s term. Should there be a third option? What should that be? If the third option requires action by the Legislative Branch, could it be misused in a partisan way? If the third option requires a vote of the people, what would be required (signatures, etc) to trigger that vote?
  • The First Amendment has limits, such as falsely yelling “fire” in a crowded theater. Should there be limits on political speech that incites violence? If yes, how do we determine that the speech caused the violence? Are elected federal officials exempted from such an exception?
  • Should there be First Amendment limits on the press presenting information that is false and inflammatory? How would that impact breaking news stories about, for example, actual corruption that has not been proven? What if there has actually been widespread election fraud that has not been fully proven?
  • One thing that makes hacking of our elections difficult for foreign adversaries is its decentralized nature: states and even counties all have their own way of doing things. Should there be minimum standards that all federal elections should be required to meet, such as an anonymized printed record of the votes, anonymized printed receipts for voters, etc? What kind of regulations or procedures should be a part of voting by mail to ensure that mail-in votes cannot easily be decried as fraudulent? 
  • Can the will of the voters be changed after they have voted? Can a political party’s electors contradict the voters that they are supposed to represent? Can a state legislature overturn its state’s results in a Presidential election? Can a Vice President nullify a state’s choice for President?
  • Is the electoral college still serving America’s needs, or is it obsolete and in need of being replaced by the popular vote or some other formula?
  • Should elected federal officials be required to put their financial investments in a blind trust wholly controlled by someone else?
  • Should it be illegal for elected federal officials to operate a business while in office? What about their immediate family members? How does that impact a desire for people other than millionaires to run for office?
  •  How do we add more clarity to the Emoluments Clause to prevent a President from profiting personally from their elected role?
  • Should U.S. Senators and Representatives individually be given a 24/7 security detail?

These are a few of the questions that I believe need to be officially addressed in the wake of Donald Trump’s Presidency. If you think of any others, please write them in the comments. Below are links to find out who your Representative and Senators are, and how to contact them and the President with your ideas.

Find your U.S. Representative. You have one.

Find your U.S. Senator. You have two.

How do I contact the White House?

– rob rünt

What Would You Have Done?

What Would You Have Done?

Imagine a fictional 2012 America. Barack Obama is running for his second term against Donald Trump, who many people feel is a mentally unstable white supremacist wannabe dictator. At every campaign rally, Obama says that he’s hearing that Republicans are going to cheat and steal the election. On election night, Obama thankfully appears to be well ahead of Trump, but by morning, Trump is suddenly leading Obama and wins. Obama does not concede. Instead, he says that there were significant voting irregularities and even tampering with voting machines, and without those, he would have won by a landslide, as it looked like he would on election night.

Fox News and Alex Jones assure everyone that the election was perfectly fair and nothing underhanded happened, but the news outlets that you go to for information repeat Obama’s claims of an election that was very questionable and may in fact have been stolen. Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer say that the election raised serious questions that need to be looked into. Your friends say the same, and send you videos and articles that they say show clear evidence of ballots being changed, batches of Obama votes being thrown out, batches of Trump votes being brought out from under tables, vote counters keeping observers at a remote distance, and voting machines being reprogrammed. Some states hold recounts at Obama’s request, but Obama raises questions about how the votes were recounted and who did the counting.

Despite the videos and the constant questions that you’re hearing on the news, from politicians, from your friends, and from the President whom you’ve trusted for four years, things keep moving forward to inaugurate Donald Trump. You fear the totalitarian government that Obama has repeatedly said that Trump will impose. Obama announces, with affirmation from some Democratic Senators and Representatives, that there is one chance to save America from a Trump Presidency: during an obscure ceremony that has normally barely been noticed, the Vice President can call into question the vote counts from some states, and if he does so, it will allow for the possibility of Obama rightfully serving a second term.

Obama posts on social media and sends out emails encouraging Americans who want to see him remain President to come to Washington DC for a “Save America” rally on the day of that ceremony, to encourage the Vice President to “do the right thing.” Obama says that it’s going to be a wild time. You care about your country. You believe that America’s democracy is about to be stolen, and you want to protect your country from the fascist regime that you are certain will come if Trump becomes President. You buy a plane ticket, book a hotel room, and attend the rally. You hear Obama, less than 75 feet away from you, say that the future of the country is at stake, that you have to fight to save it or you won’t have a country left, that Republicans have done unprecedentedly criminal things to thwart his legitimate and rightful election. He ends the emotional rally encouraging you and the rest of the crowd to march on the Capitol.

What would your mental state have been at that point? Having started marching from the “Save America” rally, would you believe that you were headed to the Capitol to save your country? Might you see it as your patriotic duty to take action to prevent a Trump Presidency? If people around you at the Capitol became unruly, would you leave immediately, or might you possibly start thinking of the founding of America that you had learned about in school, and see this moment on the Capitol steps as a time that you need to be a patriotic hero for your country in a battle just as important as that waged by people 250 years ago who fought for our nation’s independence? How far would you be justified in going against a government that was ignoring your concerns about democracy and was instead bulldozing forward installing an illegitimately elected fascist?

To be certain, there were opportunistic neo-Nazis and white supremacists in the crowd on January 6, 2021, just as there are often violent antifa and anarchist elements among protests of the left. But it is doubtful that they were anything more than a small minority among the rioters. Most of the Capitol crowd saw themselves and the situation through the lens of standing patriotically against an election stolen by people who want to see America become another China. Yes, this was completely divorced from reality, but it was what they believed. California State Assemblyman Randy Voepel said of the riots “This is Lexington and Concord. First shots fired against tyranny. Tyranny will follow in the aftermath of the Biden swear in on January 20th.” One rioter going through the halls of the Capitol shouted “This is 1776!”

This is in no way to justify their actions, but merely to explain them. The people who stormed America’s Capitol on January 6 have been called terrorists, insurgents, insurrectionists, seditionists, rioters, a mob attempting a coup. From the world of objective, factual reality, all of those are accurate and appropriate descriptions of their actions. The rioters who broke into the Capitol Building are now being arrested, and many will likely face years in prison, as they should. They are America’s Taliban. The ones who planted bombs and plotted kidnappings are America’s al-Qaeda. They are a threat to America and deserve long prison sentences.

But it is too simplistic to just dismiss them as nut jobs and walk away. It is important – not to them, but to the rest of us – that we recognize that the source of their terroristic act was the delusion that they were defending the U.S. Constitution from a coup via a fraudulent election. That belief is very real to them, and to many others who were not at the Capitol. That belief persists, and will last long past the Inauguration of Joe Biden. It is dangerous to allow that belief to simply be smothered without being addressed. Among Republicans, 35% blame Joe Biden for the events of January 6 – a leap of logic that would not even have occurred to most Americans – and the majority of Republicans would like to see Trump able to run for President again.

The most unifying thing that Biden can do for our country is to have a thorough investigation of all the election fraud allegations, conducted by a team of investigators from the reality-based community working together with a team of investigators chosen by Trump supporters and Q-Anon believers who Trump supporters see as legitimate. The purpose of the investigation would be to uncover the truth, a thorough report on which would begin to help Trump supporters see that they were lied to about election fraud. The truth is almost certainly that America had a legitimate election with about as many irregularities as we have in every election, and no grand scheme to change votes, manufacture votes, or destroy votes. However, the people who most need to be convinced of that currently believe something very sinister. It is vital to America’s future that we whittle away at the cult of Trump, and such an investigation would be an excellent first step.

– rob rünt

Dear Trump Supporters

Dear Trump Supporters

Dear Trump Supporters,

     It’s been a wild four years, hasn’t it? Lots of ups and downs. It’s been great to see your values implemented in our country. Among the highlights:

  • American taxpayers paid to build a wall.
  • Federal deficits grew by $666 billion during Trump’s first year, and have now grown by nearly $4 trillion from when he took office. It takes a real businessman to know how to spend money like that.
  • America’s national debt has gone from $20 trillion to $26 trillion since Trump became President – think how much bigger he can make it with 4 more years.
  • America is now viewed globally with concern and pity – nobody’s laughing at us anymore.
  • Worldwide, people trust the President of the United States less than Russia’s Vladimir Putin or China’s Xi Jinping.
  • The pain to America’s farmers from the China trade war has been graciously softened by giving farmers the dignity of billions in government handouts.
  • The government has failed to locate the parents of 545 children separated at the border, a childhood trauma consistent with your family values.
  • Your fellow citizens, and more importantly, your own children, have been provided a daily demonstration of the importance of character.
  • Republicans will likely gain a comfortable 6-3 majority on the Supreme Court with the confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett, albeit using situationally shifting Senate rules (but why would consistently applying the rules be important in confirming a Supreme Court Justice?).
  • Coal industry jobs have decreased over the past 4 years under Trump, but at least coal miners aren’t being trained for jobs in renewable energy.
  • Americans’ taxpayer dollars have unprecedentedly gone directly into Trump’s personal businesses to cover food and lodging for his security and staff whenever he stays at one of his many commercial properties.
  • The Washington swamp has been largely drained and replaced by the best people, although many of the best people ended up in prison, which happens with every President’s associates.
  • There has been unusually high turnover among Trump’s staff and Cabinet, because the best people sometimes turn out to be losers, nobodies, opportunists – people like Dan Coats, John Bolton, Jim Mattis, John Kelly, HR McMaster, Nikki Haley, and Rex Tillerson.
  • I hate to even mention the c-word, but there’s also COVID-19 – aren’t you sick of people bringing that up? Only 225,000 Americans have died so far – far more per 100,000 people than in most other countries. That’s a figure that can be hard to justify when you’re “pro-life.” But the President has made clear that we would have had 2 million deaths if we had done absolutely nothing – an approach that no experts were advocating. 2 MILLION! It could have happened! And as the President said just recently, America is rounding the corner on coronavirus – with over 85,000 new cases yesterday (the highest number on record for us), it should be over any day now.

     But the Trump Presidency hasn’t been all fun and games for you. Probably most unpleasant has been having to explain your support for him. You wish that he’d stop his annoying tweeting, you know that he’s rude and obnoxious and immature and an egomaniac, and you wish that he’d denounce white supremacists more forcefully and clearly, and without having to be prompted to do it. You spent the early part of his Presidency defending yourself, as if your support for him was somehow a reflection of your own character. You’d tell people that you aren’t a racist, or dumb, or a gullible mark who fell for a slick con man selling snake oil. But no justification was ever good enough for them, and they finally just stopped talking to you, instead just looking at you as if they actually did think that you were racist or dumb or gullible. It’s been tiring – exhausting really – and it’s frankly offensive that anyone would actually think that of you. And yet every day, the President says or does something new that brings up the whole thing all over again. YOU ARE NOT DONALD TRUMP – you just voted for him. Why can’t people get that straight?

     Despite the prospect of four more years of this tediousness and occasional outright hostility, it’s desperately important not to let Joe Biden get elected. Trump has repeatedly said that Biden spent 40 years in Washington and got nothing done, but that 40-year track record of doing nothing will surely dramatically change now. And his modesty, compassion and decency are all just an act that fooled even his friends like Lindsey Graham for decades. Rest assured, Joe Biden is a foaming-at-the-mouth communist who secretly strangles puppies and tortures kittens for fun.

     By voting for Donald Trump, you have a chance once more to completely own the libs! The glee that you experience from that vote, that vengeful poke in the eye to the people you can’t stand, may result in a brain drain from the U.S. as many suburbanites on the left flee what they are concerned is a nation swirling the drain into authoritarianism and economic/social collapse. But your vote can make America great as it rounds the corner to something like nobody’s ever seen before. And when America comes away deeply diminished from its dalliance with Donald Trump, his words will offer you comfort: you knew he was a snake before you took him in.

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