This is How Politics Works: We Pressure Other Countries

This is How Politics Works: We Pressure Other Countries

“I have news for everybody: get over it. There’s going to be political influence in foreign policy. That is going to happen. Elections have consequences, and the foreign policy is going to change from the Obama administration to the Trump administration.”

Mick Mulvaney
White House Chief of Staff
(Press conference on 10/18/19)


It is absolutely true that the United States pressures other countries to enact policies that we agree with. We often use financial pressure and “carrot and stick” tactics. The difference here is that those actions are taken for America’s national security interest, not for an individual’s personal interest.


“I found the July 25th phone call to be unusual, because in contrast to other presidential calls I had observed, it involved discussion of what appeared to be a domestic political matter.”

Jennifer Williams
Official at the State Department detailed to Vice President Mike Pence
(11/19/19)


“I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. It was probably an element of shock, that maybe in certain regards, my worst fear of how our Ukraine policy could play out was playing out, and how this was likely to have significant implications for U.S. national security.”

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


“In retrospect for the Ukrainians it would clearly have been confusing. In hindsight, I now understand that others saw the idea of investigating possible corruption involving the Ukrainian company Burisma as equivalent to investigating former Vice President Biden. I saw them as very different — the former being appropriate and unremarkable, the latter being unacceptable. In retrospect, I should have seen that connection differently, and had I done so, I would have raised my own objections.”

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


For more info, visit Trump-Ukraine Central


– rob rünt

It was Legitimate to Ask Ukraine to Investigate the Bidens

It was Legitimate to Ask Ukraine to Investigate the Bidens

Republicans argue that it was legitimate for Trump to want Ukraine to investigate Joe and Hunter Biden. Hunter Biden potentially made millions working for Burisma, despite having little obvious relevant experience in the energy industry. His father, then-Vice President Joe Biden, was overseeing the U.S. relationship with Ukraine. At best, this has a strong appearance of conflict of interest.

However, President Trump’s approach – having his private attorney, Rudy Giuliani,  pushing for the investigations behind the scenes, telling Zelensky to “talk to Rudy,” keeping the career diplomats in the dark, hiding the call transcript on a classified server – all seem to indicate an intent that was itself corrupt. And while the family of a political opponent should not be immune to investigation, such an investigation would need to be conducted in a way that rigorously avoids conflict of interest. That did not happen in Trump’s request to investigate the Biden’s.


“It is improper for the President of the United States to demand a foreign government investigate a US citizen and political opponent. It was also clear that if Ukraine pursued an investigation into the 2016 election, the Bidens and Burisma, it would be interpreted as a partisan play.”

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


“I participated in the July 10th meeting between National Security Advisor Bolton and then Ukrainian chairman of the National Security and Defense Council, Alex Danylyuk. As I remember, the meeting was essentially over when Ambassador Sondland made a general comment about investigations. I think all of us thought it was inappropriate.”

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


“The specific instruction [from John Bolton] was that I had to go to the lawyers, to John Eisenberg, our senior counsel for the National Security Council, to basically say, ‘You tell Eisenberg Ambassador Bolton told me that I am not part of this, whatever drug deal that Mulvaney and Sondland are cooking up.’”

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

These Were Rogue Operators – Trump Was Not Involved

These Were Rogue Operators – Trump Was Not Involved

“I came to realize that I had first-hand knowledge regarding certain events on July 26 that had not otherwise been reported and that those events potentially bore on the question of whether the president did in fact have knowledge that those senior officials were using the levers of diplomatic power to influence the new Ukrainian president to announce the opening of a criminal investigation against President Trump’s political opponent.”

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


“Ambassador Sondland placed a call on his mobile phone, and I heard him announce himself several times along the lines of Gordon Sondland holding for the President. It appeared that he was being transferred through several layers of switchboards and assistance, and I then noticed Ambassador Sondland’s demeanor changed and understood that he had been connected to President Trump. While Ambassador Sondland’s phone was not on speaker phone, I could hear the president’s voice through the ear piece of the phone.
“The President’s voice was loud and recognizable, and Ambassador Sondland held the phone away from his ear for a period of time, presumably because of the loud volume. I heard Ambassador Sondland greet the President and explained he was calling from Kiev. I heard President Trump then clarify that Ambassador Sondland was in Ukraine. Ambassador Sondland replied, yes, he was in Ukraine and went on to state that President Zelensky ‘loves your ass.’ I then heard President Trump ask, ‘So he’s going to do the investigation?’
“Ambassador Sondland replied that, ‘He’s going to do it,’ adding that ‘President Zelensky will do anything you ask him to do.’ Even though I did not take notes of these statements, I have a clear recollection that these statements were made.”

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


“Everyone was in the loop.”

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


For more info, visit Trump-Ukraine Central


– rob rünt

Trump Said Emphatically “No Quid Pro Quo”

Trump Said Emphatically “No Quid Pro Quo”

“He [President Trump] said, ‘I want nothing. I want no quid pro quo. I just want Zelensky to do the right thing, to do what he ran on.’”

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


Republican’s on the House Intelligence Committee have tried to make much of this, as did President Trump, claiming that this was proof positive that the President had done nothing wrong.

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However, the conversation between Sondland and Trump that resulted in that quote happened on September 7, 2019 – before which, several relevant events had already occurred, including:

  • August 12:  Whistleblower complaint is filed.
  • August 26:  Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson sends a letter to acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire describing the Whistleblower complaint, saying that it “appears credible” and is a matter of “urgent concern.”
  • September 2:  A reporter asks Vice President Pence publicly to give definite  assurance that there is no connection between the withheld Ukraine aid and an investigation into the Bidens.
  • September 3:  A bipartisan group of U.S. Senators sends a letter to Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney expressing “deep concerns” about the withheld Ukraine aid. 

“During our meeting, during our call on September 8th, Ambassador Sondland tried to explain to me that President Trump is a businessman. When a businessman is about to sign a check to someone who owes him something, the businessman asks that person to pay up before signing the check. Ambassador Volker used the same language several days later while we were together at the Yalta European Strategy Conference.”

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


Fiona Hill:  “It was very apparent to me that that was what Rudy Giuliani intended, yes – intended to convey that Burisma was linked to the Bidens, and he said this publicly repeatedly.”

Mr. Goldman:  “And Mr. Holmes, you also understood that ‘Burisma’ was code for ‘Bidens’?”

David Holmes:  “Yes.”


“The delegation then met with President Zelensky and several other senior officials. During the [July 26, 2019] meeting, President Zelensky stated that during the July 25th call, President Trump had “three times, raised some very sensitive issues” and that he would have to follow up.”

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


For more info, visit Trump-Ukraine Central


– rob rünt

Zelensky Didn’t Do What Trump Wanted, So No Crime

Zelensky Didn’t Do What Trump Wanted, So No Crime

This is similar to saying “I tried to rob the bank, but someone called the cops and I wasn’t able to get the money.” Attempting to commit a crime is still a crime. Attempted robbery is a crime. Attempted murder is a crime, Attempted bribery is a crime. Attempted extortion is a crime. Not being successful at it is not a legitimate defense.


For more info, visit Trump-Ukraine Central


– rob rünt

There was No Pressure on Ukraine – President Zelensky Said So

There was No Pressure on Ukraine – President Zelensky Said So

Zelensky has three very powerful reasons to say that Trump had not pressured him:

  1. Zelensky was elected on an anti-corruption agenda. Publicly acknowledging pressure from Trump could cast doubt among the Ukrainian people regarding his motives if he moved forward with the requested investigations. It is reasonable to think that he may have believed that he needed to do those investigations to ensure Ukraine’s safety.
  2. Ukraine is dependent on military aid from the United States. If Trump had demonstrated that he had the power and the will to stop the flow of that aid, Ukraine’s survival could depend on Zelensky staying on Trump’s good side.
  3. Russia is watching all of this like a wolf watches a flock of sheep, looking for any sign of weakness. Zelensky and Ukraine benefit by giving the appearance that all is normal in the U.S.-Ukraine relationship, and there are no weak links that can be exploited by Russia.

For more info, visit Trump-Ukraine Central


– rob rünt

Trump was being Fiscally Responsible with U.S. Tax Dollars

Trump was being Fiscally Responsible with U.S. Tax Dollars

Given Ukraine’s issues with corruption and the desire for more help from the EU, this could be a reasonable concern. However, the parties involved all somehow had the impression that the issue was something else.

The idea of President Trump being fiscally responsible also strains credibility: America’s national debt has soared past $23 trillion under his stewardship, and his golf trips while in office have cost U.S. taxpayers over a fourth the cost of the Congressionally approved Ukraine aid.


“I asked Ambassador Sondland if it was true that the President did not ‘give a s–t about Ukraine.’ Ambassador Sondland agreed that the President did not ‘give a s–t about Ukraine.’ I asked why not, and Ambassador Sondland stated that the President only cares about ‘big stuff.’ I noted that there was ‘big stuff’ going on in Ukraine, like a war with Russia, and Ambassador Sondland replied that he meant ‘big stuff’ that benefits the President, like the ‘Biden investigation’ that Mr. Giuliani was pushing.”

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


“I tried diligently to ask why the aid was suspended, but I never received a clear answer. In the absence of any credible explanation for the suspension of aid, I later came to believe that the resumption of security aid would not occur until there was a public statement from Ukraine committing to the investigations of the 2016 election and Burisma, as Mr. Giuliani had demanded.”

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


For more info, visit Trump-Ukraine Central


– rob rünt

Trump Wanted to Root Out Corruption in Ukraine

Trump Wanted to Root Out Corruption in Ukraine

Ukraine has problems with corruption. That was why the Ukrainian people elected Zelensky: he promised to tackle corruption. Our U.S. ambassadors to Ukraine saw reason for optimism, and conveyed that to President Trump.

At no point before the Whistleblower Report did Trump communicate anything to Ukraine about corruption in general. Instead, he called for two specific investigations, both of them into matters that appeared to serve his own political interests.

The first investigation, into Crowdstrike, was based on a discredited conspiracy theory that the Russia was framed by Ukrainian company in 2016 to hide the fact that the Ukrainian government was doing the hacking. Generating evidence of this would help Trump by making it appear that he did not have Russian help in 2016. It would also help Russia by turning attention away from them as the culprits in the election meddling.

The second investigation was into Burisma, a company where Democratic Presidential candidate Joe Biden’s son had worked and received a large amount of money. At the time, Joe Biden was Vice President and was tasked with U..S.-Ukraine relations. Generating evidence of corruption in this investigation could discredit Joe Biden and effectively remove the potential candidate about whom Trump had expressed the most concern.

If President Trump’s concern was corruption, why not encourage Zelensky to fight hard against corruption in general, instead of only specifying these two investigations?


For more info, visit Trump-Ukraine Central


– rob rünt

Did President Trump Obstruct Justice on Ukraine?

Did President Trump Obstruct Justice on Ukraine?

What is Obstruction of Justice? The Legal Definition


Merriam Webster Online states that the legal definition of obstruction of justice is:

The crime or act of willfully interfering with the process of justice and law especially by influencing, threatening, harming, or impeding a witness, potential witness, juror, or judicial or legal officer or by furnishing false information in or otherwise impeding an investigation or legal process


In the Mueller Report, Special Counsel Robert Mueller described 10 different types of acts by the President that could be considered obstruction of justice. In the Ukraine case, President Trump appears to have again obstructed justice in a number of ways:

  1. Attempting to conceal evidence
  2. Impeding witnesses and potential witnesses
  3. Intimidating witnesses and potential witnesses
  4. Intimidating members of Congress


Obstruction: Attempting to Conceal Evidence



The transcript of the July 25, 2019 call with President Zelensky raised concern for many when they heard it, including U.S. Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman. When Vindman saw the readout of the call, he noticed a couple of omissions, and submitted them to ensure that the call record was accurate. His submissions were not included, and the call transcript was quickly put on a top secret server in the White House that only six people have access to. The server is generally used only for information related to highly sensitive national security matters. Why did the record of such a “perfect call” need to be hidden away from others?

Shockingly, when asked for a transcript of the call, President Trump quickly made the transcript available to the public, despite its supposedly highly sensitive nature. Did the released version include everything that was in the version on the server? During testimony, Vindman was asked about the reason for the transcript being put on the top secret White House server:


“My understanding is that this was viewed as a sensitive transcript.”

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


Adam Schiff:  “Both of you recall President Zelensky in that conversation raising the issue or mentioning Burisma, do you not?”

Jennifer Williams:  “That’s correct.”

Alexander Vindman:  “Correct.”

Adam Schiff:   “And yet the word Burisma appears nowhere in the call record that’s been released to the public. Is that right?”

Jennifer Williams:  “That’s right.”

Alexander Vindman:  “Correct.”

(11/19/19 Testimony)



Obstruction: Impeding Witnesses or Potential Witnesses



The President has made extensive use of the concept of “executive privilege,” claiming that it immunizes anyone in his Administration from testifying before Congress. Consistent with that logic, he has prevented a number of witnesses – some under subpoena – from testifying in the impeachment hearings. Among those witnesses and potential witnesses are:

  • John Bolton – Former U.S. National Security Adviser
  • Mike Pompeo – U.S. Secretary of State
  • Mick Mulvaney – Acting White House Chief of Staff
  • Rick Perry – U.S. Secretary of Energy
  • Mike Pence – Vice President


Obstruction: Intimidating Witnesses or Potential Witnesses



The President has made numerous threatening statements during the course of the impeachment hearings. Many of his statements were issued in plain sight on Twitter and Facebook, as they were during the Mueller investigation. If you do not perceive the quotes below as threatening, imagine yourself being the subject of such public pronouncements made by the most powerful man in the country – a man with legions of fanatical followers, some of whom have already become violent toward targets of similar statements that he has made in the past.


Intimidating the Person(s) Who Spoke to the WhistleBlower


“I want to know who’s the person who gave the Whistleblower the information because that’s close to a spy. You know what we used to do in the old days when we were smart with spies and treason, right? We used to handle it a little differently than we do now.”

Donald Trump
President of the United States
(Speaking to his staff at the United States Mission to the United Nations on 9/26/19. America has executed spies in the past.)


Intimidating the Whistleblower


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Intimidating Witness Marie Yovanovitch


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“It’s very intimidating. … I mean, I can’t speak to what the president is trying to do, but I think the effect is trying to be intimidating.”

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

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Intimidating Witness Jennifer Williams


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Intimidating Witnesses in General


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Obstruction: Intimidating Members of Congress



Intimidating Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA)


“Shifty Schiff – Little Shifty Schiff [audience boos]. He’s got the little, little 10 inch neck.”

Donald Trump
President of the United States
(Speaking at a rally in Louisiana on 11/15/19)


“Right now, you have a kangaroo court headed by Little Shifty Schiff. We don’t have lawyers, we don’t have witnesses, we don’t have anything,” said the President. “It’s a scam, it’s a big scam.”

Donald Trump
President of the United States
(Speaking at the White House on 11/20/19)


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Intimidating Members of Congress in General


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For more info, visit Trump-Ukraine Central


– rob rünt