• The Video of Donald Trump Telling Associates to “Get Rid of” Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch Has Been Released

    On Friday, ABC reported that a recording by Lev Parnas from April 2018 captured President Donald Trump telling associates that he wanted to “get rid” of the United States Ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch. On Saturday, a lawyer for Parnas released the full video.

    The video, which according to BuzzFeed was released by Joseph Bondy, a lawyer for Parnas, is over an hour long.

    (The video is not actually in the tweet below. It’s a still with a play button added to it. The full video is at the bottom of this post.)

    In its report about the video, PBS describes one of the key moments:

    About 42 minutes into the video, Parnas appears to say, “The biggest problem there, I think where we need to start, is we gotta get rid of the ambassador. She’s still left over from the Clinton administration.”
    Trump then appears to say, “Where? The ambassador to Ukraine?”
    Parnas replies, “Yes. She’s basically walking around telling everybody ‘Wait, he’s gonna get impeached, just wait.’”
    A few seconds later, Trump appears to say, “Get rid of her! Get her out tomorrow. I don’t care. Get her out tomorrow. Take her out. OK? Do it.”
    Bondy said Parnas attended the dinner along with Igor Fruman, another of Giuliani’s business associates. Both Parnas and Fruman have been indicted on federal charges, including violating campaign finance laws.

    When ABC News first reported the news on Friday, Dan Friedman described the same exchange:

    “[A]n intimate April 2018 dinner at Trump’s Washington hotel that included, among others, the president and Lev Parnas, the since-indicted associate of Rudy Giuliani. According to the news outlet, a voice that sounds like Trump states during the recording: “Get rid of her! Get her out tomorrow. I don’t care. Get her out tomorrow. Take her out. Okay? Do it.” Trump said this, according to ABC, after Parnas told him that Yovanovitch was a “problem” and was “basically walking around telling everybody, ‘Wait, he’s gonna get impeached. Just wait.’” It’s not clear exactly who Trump was instructing to “get rid of her.”

    You can watch the full video below.

  • The Trump Legal Team’s Entire Defense Is Just Recycled Fox News Talking Points

    Watching the impeachment trial today, I was struck by how old the arguments Trump’s defense put forward were. It was the same nonsense we’ve been hearing for months. Literally. And there’s a very good reason for that: All of these arguments have indeed been on Fox for months.

    My colleague Dan Friedman catalogued and debunked the “blizzard of lies” that Trump’s legal team unleashed in the Senate today.

    They noted that “security assistance flowed” to Ukraine in September without Zelensky announcing the investigations Trump wanted. The release of the aid, of course, only came after a whistleblower complaint drew intense media scrutiny. As House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), one of Democrats’ impeachment managers, memorably put it: The Trump administration released the aid because “they got caught.” Trump’s lawyers simply pretended the release of the aid came without public pressure. Purpura also argued that Trump had increased lethal US support for Ukraine, an argument that overlooks the president’s alleged subverting of that very policy to benefit his presidential campaign.

    All of these arguments made the rounds in conservative media for months. I suppose it shouldn’t be a surprise that the messaging aligns, since the White House sent out talking points to right wingers in September, mere weeks after the scandal erupted, which were subsequently (no surprise here) parroted throughout the echo chamber.

    In November, Trump himself delivered the talking points in A Very Special Episode of Fox & Friends. In December, House Republicans released a 123-page “report” on the impeachment investigation that Media Matters described as just a “recitation of Fox talking points.”

    These cats have had months to come up with something—anything—that might constitute a remotely credible, even reasonable, defense. And they failed. The defense strategy at this trial was never to convince Senators that Trump didn’t do anything wrong. It was and is to convince them that the waters are sufficiently muddy they can get away with exonerating the president of any wrongdoing.

    On The Practice and other courtroom shows, there’s an episode once or twice a season when the defense attorneys decide they can’t win on the merits, and then someone, struck with a moment of brilliance, says, “What if we go for jury nullification?” And then someone else responds, “That never works. But dammit, it’s our only shot.” The only difference between that scene in The Practice and the impeachment trial is that in the Senate, there was no doubt it would work. Because even though the jury in a fictional courtroom drama might surprise during sweeps, Republican lawmakers in the Trump era never do.

  • Mike Pompeo Freaked Out at an NPR Reporter Friday. He Just Released a Statement That Is…Not Good.

    Michael Candelori/ZUMA

    On Friday, NPR reporter Mary Louise Kelly revealed a loony interaction she had with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo following an interview in which she had the temerity to ask about the scandal at the heart of the President’s current impeachment trial, one in which Pompeo himself has been implicated.

    “He asked if I could find Ukraine on a map. I said yes, and he called out for aides to bring us a map of the world with no writing,” she said. “I pointed to Ukraine. He put the map away. He said, ‘People will hear about this.'”

    I have some questions about this: How long did it take the aides to find a map of the world with no words on it? Did they print it out? Do they have it handy? Is this a quick quiz Pompeo often imposes on visitors? Separately, and most importantly, does Trump’s Secretary of State think this is appropriate behavior? 

    On Saturday, Pompeo released a statement that didn’t explain the provenance of the wordless map but does shed light on his views about professionalism. It…isn’t good.

    A bunch of Trumpian nonsense about the media being the real villain is not surprising with this administration, but the last line is what makes this really blow my mind.

    “It is worth noting that Bangladesh is NOT Ukraine.”

    Pompeo is saying that Mary Louise Kelly, who graduated from Harvard with degrees in French and European Studies, has a masters from Cambridge in European Studies, and served as NPR national security correspondent for years, didn’t know where Ukraine was. He’s also saying she lied in her statement yesterday. There is no reason on earth to believe Mary Louise Kelly does not know where Ukraine is. It’s even more preposterous that she confused it with Bangladesh! There is also no reason to doubt her account of the event. But these details naturally do not impede Pompeo from doubling down and attacking her.

    A man after Trump’s heart!

    Here is the interview that set Pompeo off. The least he deserves is that you give it a listen.

     

  • “People Will Hear About This,” Says Pompeo After Cursing at Reporter. Happy to Help!

    Jacquelyn Martin/AP

    A Friday interview between NPR’s Mary Louise Kelly and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo took a contentious turn when Kelly, who anchors the All Things Considered afternoon news show, moved from questions on Iran to some harder queries on Ukraine. After the interview wrapped up, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo cursed at her and asked the reporter to identify on an unmarked map the location of Ukraine. She did.

    “People will hear about this,” he then said.

    As always, I am happy to help: Did you hear? Secretary of State Mike Pompeo got fussy about being asked about reports his department failed to offer protection to Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch. He was sensitive when Kelly asked about the advisor who resigned from the State Department because it didn’t “offer support to Foreign Service employees caught up in the impeachment inquiry on Ukraine.” He was mad because he thought they were there to only talk about Iran.

    His request for Kelly to place a finger on the map did not go well. I wonder why?

    I will be playing this game to prepare for future fits from leaders of our nation.

  • Report: Trump and Parnas Discussed Firing Ukraine Ambassador in 2018—At Trump’s Hotel

    Julia Weeks/AP

    It’s the corruption, stupid. According to a new report, President Donald Trump said nearly two years ago that he wanted Marie Yovanovitch, the former US Ambassador to Ukraine, removed from her post.

    ABC News reported Friday that it had obtained an audio recording of an “intimate” April 2018 dinner at Trump’s Washington hotel that included, among others, the president and Lev Parnas, the since-indicted associate of Rudy Giuliani. According to the news outlet, a voice that sounds like Trump states during the recording: “Get rid of her! Get her out tomorrow. I don’t care. Get her out tomorrow. Take her out. Okay? Do it.” Trump said this, according to ABC, after Parnas told him that Yovanovitch was a “problem” and was “basically walking around telling everybody, ‘Wait, he’s gonna get impeached. Just wait.’” It’s not clear exactly who Trump was instructing to “get rid of her.”

    Efforts by Giuliani, assisted by Parnas, to remove Yovanovitch are a key part of the scheme that has resulted in Trump’s impeachment and his ongoing trial in the Senate. Giuliani has said he wanted Yovanovitch out because she was an obstacle to his effort to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to announce investigations that would help Trump politically.

    The ABC report further belies Trump’s never-credible claim that he does not know Parnas. It also suggests that efforts to force out Yovanovitch were underway more than a year before her eventual removal from her post and before Zelensky’s May 2019 election. 

    But it also highlights something simpler: the extraordinary access and apparent influence on US policy Parnas and other big political donors have enjoyed under Trump. Parnas contributed about $100,000 to Trump’s presidential campaign and the GOP in late October 2016, the first of a series of major contributions that won him access to Trump and a slew of top Republicans.

    The dinner at which Trump reportedly asked for Yovanovitch’s removal came 18 days before the recorded date of a $325,000 donation that Parnas and his partner, Igor Fruman, gave to a pro-Trump SuperPAC, America First Action. They made the contribution through a Delaware shell company, a step that drew federal scrutiny and resulted in the October 2019 indictment of Parnas and Fruman on campaign finance violations.

    There is no dispute that Parnas’ campaign donations were the reason he was able to make his case personally to Trump. And while the precise motives behind Parnas’ desire to oust Yovanovitch remain unclear, it is striking that his campaign contributions enabled him to badmouth a US ambassador directly to the president and influence US policy toward Ukraine.

    That this occurred in the for-profit hotel Trump continues to operate, in what critics charge is open defiance of the Constitution, makes it all the more striking—an especially pungent example of the stink with which the Trump presidency has infused Washington.

  • So You Want to Plan an Impeachment Trial? Don’t Forget the Milk and Cookies.

    A Republican prop during a House Judiciary Committee hearingJonathan Ernst/AP

    The impeachment trial of President Donald Trump is a test of our nation’s institutions and traditions. And that has meant, for many of us, learning about them.

    During the trial, a new set of rules are imposed. Senators become jurors. Aides are restricted to sitting in the back of the chambers—if they get in at all. Cellphones must be left outside in a special cubby made by Capitol Hill carpenters specifically for this event. 

    The leader of all these logistics is the Senate’s sergeant-at-arms and doorkeeper. (Yes, that’s the full title.) Originally, it was just doorkeeper—a position created in 1789 because of the “single-most-pressing problem confronting the Senate at its birth,” according to the Senate’s website: “its inability to keep a majority of members in the Capitol long enough to organize and begin the business of government.” Over time, the role became multifaceted. James Ziglar, sergeant-at-arms during the impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton, sums it up as a combination of chief operating officer, chief enforcement officer, and chief protocol officer. “You know, following the protocol rules when a king or somebody comes to the Capital, [making sure] they’re treated the way they’re supposed to be—blah, blah, blah,” he explained. It’s “unusual” for all the roles to come into play at once, he says, “but all of [them] do show up when you’re having an impeachment trial.”

    As the long days of argumentation and deliberation continue—senators have been stuck in chambers late every night of the hearings so far—some are starting to test the anachronistic rules. At least four have brought milk in with them (aside from water, milk is the only drink allowed). Another weird rule: There is no food allowed on the floor—except for the candy stocked in a special desk occupied, since 2015, by Sen. Patrick Toomey and by Sen. Rick Santorum during the impeachment of Bill Clinton. (I think it’s healthy and good to imagine our leaders deciding things on a steady diet of lactose and high-fructose corn syrup.)

    To understand why such rules are important and all the other quirks that come with this particular event, we asked Ziglar, now a senior counsel at Van Ness Feldman, an environmental law firm, about studying Andrew Johnson’s trial, former Chief Justice William Rehnquist’s love of desserts, and the importance of arcana.

    How did you prepare for impeachment? It was only the second one at that point, the first modern one.

    When I took the sergeant-at-arms job in November 1998, it was only a month and a few days before they actually impeached President Clinton. It was pretty clear to me right away when I got there that I needed to be boning up on impeachment and how it occurs in the Senate.

    The way I went about it was: One, just spending all kinds of time studying the Andrew Johnson trial. I read Bill Rehnquist’s book. I spent a lot of time with the Senate historian and parliamentarian. They were all scrambling, too, to understand, to go back and review all the records from that trial.

    I then assembled a committee of people. It was about half Democrats and Republicans. We worked together to survey all the things we could come up with that might happen in a trial. We figured it out.

    Why did you choose to keep certain traditions? For example, I read that the current Senate sergeant-at-arms reportedly has to announce at the start of each session that everyone must be quiet “on pain of imprisonment.” Did you have to do that?

    Oh yeah.

    That originated in the Andrew Johnson trial. Remember, the senators—when they are sworn in and they go into so-called “impeachment trial mode”—they are sitting there as triers of the impeachment articles. They are in many ways jurors. They are required to remain silent and pay attention.

    And the proclamation that you make—that I made at the beginning of every trial session just like the sergeant-at-arms is doing now, just like the sergeant-at-arms did in the Andrew Johnson trial—is reminding them that they’re to remain silent and that there’s a punishment. 

    Were there other things you updated? Or kept from Johnson?

    Well, there was a lot. I remember that there was printing the impeachment tickets. We had a long discussion about how the tickets ought to look and what they ought to say. We went back and got the impeachment tickets from Andrew Johnson. And if you notice, there’s a striking similarity between the two.

    A storage unit for phones stands next to the entrance of the Senate chamber.

    Bill Clark / ZUMA

    How about the modern problems: iPads and laptops and cellphones? A carpenter made a cabinet with cubbyholes for folks to place their electronics for this impeachment. Was there an equivalent during your time?

    We didn’t have cellphones and iPads and stuff like that. I mean, there were cellphones around, of course, but they weren’t ubiquitous.

    We did have to have tables that fit in the well of the Senate. In fact, if you watch what’s going on—right as we speak—those tables that the House managers are sitting at and the president’s council is sitting at, they’re the tables that were actually made for the Clinton trial. We put them into government storage, never thinking they’d have to use them again. But here we are.

    Another example that I think I saw on the floor: They have a little step, a stool-like thing. We had some senators who were quite short, like [former] Sen. Barbara Boxer [from California] and Sen. [Barbara] Mikulski from Maryland. We had to give them something so they could stand up a little higher to see over the lectern.

    And in our particular case, Chuck Ruff, the president’s council, was in a wheelchair. So we had to create a table for him to be able to make his presentations. 

    For the trial you organized, was there—as today—haggling over how many cameras should be in the chamber?

    That wasn’t a big discussion. I believe C-SPAN and some others wanted more TV cameras in the chamber. We almost let them do it. But Sen. [Robert] Byrd objected to it at the last minute. So we used the existing technology for that.

    We’ve been wondering about how aides work in all of this too. They’re locked out basically. It’s different from normal, right?

    Very different. Non-senators aren’t allowed to be on the floor or to be standing in the back, period. They could sit in the seats that were provided around the edge of the chamber. In fact, the only person that was really allowed to stand at the back was me.

    Really?

    Yes, because my job was to make sure everything was going okay. While I sat in my chair most of the time, I did from time to time go back and I’d stand on the Democratic side for a while, stand on the Republican side for an equal amount of time—so that I wasn’t showing favoritism.

    But a lot of people didn’t like [the fact that aides weren’t allowed]. You have to sit down. You can’t talk. You can’t jump up and give your senator a message or anything like that.

    I’m going to change gears a bit. I want to know what it was like during the trial. I read that Chief Justice Rehnquist was grumpy and so you got him dessert during the breaks. Is that true?

    Yes. Well, I knew Rehnquist well. He and I worked together at the Justice Department. I was on his Senate confirmation team, and I was a law clerk myself at the Supreme Court when Rehnquist was a justice. So, we had a long history together.

    Well, he was grumpy not about having to be presiding. He was grumpy about the constant breaks they were taking and how much time was wasted. His time was being wasted waiting for the Senate to come back.

    So he was a little grumpy about it. He had a lot of other things to do.

    I had lunch with him one day. I said, “Okay, chief, you’ve been real grumpy lately,” and “What can I do to make you happier?”

    He got a little smile. He said, “Yeah, I guess I have.” And he said, “Well, I like cookies-and-cream ice cream and chocolate chip cookies. And we’ve got these long breaks. If you could arrange to have ice cream and a chocolate chip, that’d make me a lot happier.”

    I said, “You’ve got a deal.”

    From then on, when we had a long break, I always made sure my staff went down to the Senate dining kitchen—we kept ice cream and cookies down there—and bring it up.

    Guess what? He was a much happier guy.

    The other thing I read was that you busted him gambling with nickels and dimes.

    I walked in and he was playing cards with two of his clerks and his executive assistant. And there were nickels and dimes on the table. I think they were playing poker. I said to him, “Chief, I don’t know if you know this, but I’m chief law enforcement officer in the Senate also, and gambling’s not allowed. And I’m sure you’re not gambling in here, but I got to run out for a second for a quick meeting.”

    So I just walked outside the door, closed it, and waited for about five minutes, and then walked back in. Of course, all the money was gone, but there were little pieces of paper, with one, five, and 10 written on them. They were spread all around the table.

    There’s a tendency to assume traditions like the Senate’s are all ridiculous or arcane. But can they be a good thing in time of impeachment?

    What I learned in the Senate—and I worked in the Senate back in the ’60s and ’70s—is that precedents are important. The Senate is a place where people tend to be institutionalists. They tend to follow procedures. And ceremonial things from the outside can look kind of silly, but they’re not actually. Things we did in Clinton’s impeachment tried to emphasize to these folks—the senators—the historical importance of what they were doing, and it made them think back to the founders and framers, and what they were thinking about.

    These arcane things, as we call them, and some of this pomp and circumstance, I think they’re very important, frankly.

  • A House Impeachment Manager Just Trolled Lindsey Graham on the Senate Floor

    J. Scott Applewhite/AP

    Throughout the impeachment process, Republicans have argued that because Donald Trump hasn’t been accused of breaking a criminal statute in the Ukraine scandal, there is no reason for him to be removed from office. That’s nonsense. “High crimes”—one of the justifications for impeachment established by the framers of the Constitution—aren’t limited to violations of criminal law, but can instead encompass other kinds of abuse of power. Who says so? Legal scholars, for one. But so did one of President Donald Trump’s staunchest defenders, as Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y), one of the House managers in Trump’s trial, pointed out Thursday.

    Nadler showed a two-decade-old video of Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who is now one of the senators deciding Trump’s fate, but at the time was a House manager in Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial. Let’s cut to the tape:

    “I think that’s what they meant by ‘high crimes,'” Graham said in 1999. “Doesn’t even have to be a crime. It’s just when you start using your office, and you’re acting in a way that hurts people. You committed a high crime.”

    And where was Graham when Nadler played the clip? 

  • How Many Impeachment Lies Can You Find in This Trump Tweet?

    ZUMA

    After setting a personal record for most tweets in a single day, President Donald Trump was back on his favorite social media platform Thursday morning, tearing into Democrats, the impeachment trial, and billionaire presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg. 

    But one tweet stood out, because it was packed with so many brazen lies:

    Let’s break these down one-by-one.

    1. Trump lie: Democrats are now demanding “witnesses that the House never sought.” Earlier this week, Senate Democrats attempted to subpoena four Trump administration officials, including former national security adviser John Bolton and White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney. Senate Republicans blocked those efforts on party-line votes. House Democrats had requested testimony from all four of those officials during last year’s impeachment hearings, and all four refused to comply after the White House ordered them not to cooperate.
    2. Trump lie: House Democrats wouldn’t give us witnesses. The House called four witnesses that Republicans lawmakers—who were working in close coordination with the White House—requested: Kurt Volker, Tim Morrison, David Hale, and Jonathan Turley. 
    3. Trump lie: House Democrats “would not give us lawyers.” In fact, the House Judiciary Committee invited both Trump and his legal defense team to participate in the proceedings but, surprise, they rejected the offer. “House Democrats have wasted enough of America’s time with this charade. You should end this inquiry now and not waste even more time with additional hearings,” White House counsel Pat Cipollone wrote in a December letter declining the invitation.

    Trump’s Thursday morning tweet isn’t exactly a surprise. After all, his lawyers rattled off a host of lies during their appearances on the first day of the Senate impeachment trial. But it demonstrates the misinformation echo chamber both Trump and his allies are relying on to help them survive this historic trial.

  • Donald Trump Did a Zillion Tweets Today and Each One Is Terrible

    Ting Shen/ZUMA

    As day two of his impeachment trial began in the Senate, President Donald Trump departed Switzerland, en route to Washington, DC.  

    The trip to Davos, a high-powered conference for the jet set and global elite, was “very successful,” the third president ever to be impeached said. “For USA.” 

    Had the conference not gone well for other countries? Unclear. What was it George Washington said during his Second Inaugural? “Screw ’em” or some such? 

    The flight went…well, it went. The flight flew and didn’t crash. So in that sense, it was a good flight. But how did the flight go in relative terms to most flights? Maybe not so great.

    The president broke a personal record for most tweets and retweets. 

    He did some retweets of people saying nice things about him.

    He retweeted some videos of himself complaining about democrats.

    He retweeted some compliments from his sons, Don Jr. and Mike.

    He retweeted some weird tweets by the guy who runs social media for his campaign.

    He tweeted “no pressure” before immediately retweeting a set of tweets from a congressman credibly accused of failing to report sexual abuse

    He then sent about a million retweets of crazy people I am not going to bother putting here.

    Finally, he topped it off with a Trump golden classic, threatening immigrants:

    “We wish he could have stayed in Davos longer,” many Americans and no Swiss thought.

    tl;dr: Donald Trump spent this Wednesday the same way he spends most Wednesdays, the only difference being this Wednesday he was live-tweeting Fox News on a plane and also facing removal from office in the Senate.

     

  • Watch Adam Schiff Lay Out His Case Against Trump to Open Day 2 of the Impeachment Trial

    Chip Somodevilla/Getty

    On the second day of the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump, lead House impeachment manager Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) summarized the argument for impeachment and rebuked the president for “abusing the power of his office to seek help from abroad to improve his reelection prospects at home.”

    “President Trump pressured the president of Ukraine to publicly announce investigations into two discredited allegations that would benefit President Trump’s 2020 presidential campaign,” Schiff said. “When the Ukrainian president did not immediately assent, President Trump withheld two official acts to induce the Ukrainian leader to comply: a head of state meeting in the Oval Office, and military funding.”

    Trump’s gravest misstep, according to Schiff, was his withholding of military aid from Ukraine. “President Trump withheld hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid to a strategic partner at war with Russia to secure foreign help with his reelection,” he said. “In other words, to cheat.”

    He continued, “The president used official state powers available only to him and unavailable to any political opponent to advantage himself in a democratic election. His scheme was undertaken for a simple but corrupt reason: to help him win reelection in 2020. But the effect of his scheme was to undermine our free and fair elections and to put our national security at risk.”

    Watch the video below: