By Robert A. Vella
Two stories are on the docket today. One regards follow-up reporting and speculation on President Trump’s secret conversations with foreign officials over the summer which prompted the Inspector General for the U.S. intelligence community to file a formal whistleblower complaint with Congress, and the other concerns unusual hurricane activity in the western hemisphere while students around the world are protesting against government and business inaction on climate change.
Speculating on Secrets
Yesterday, Inspector General Michael Atkinson testified privately before the House of Representatives about President Trump’s secret communications with foreign leaders which occurred in July and August. Although he didn’t reveal any specific details, he did testify that multiple incidents had occurred which were reported to him by a source within the U.S. intelligence community. Atkinson’s decision to file a formal whistleblower complaint with Congress resulted from the urgent nature of the incidents. The legal responsibility to provide Congress with specific details of the complaint fell to Trump’s acting Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Joseph Maguire who simply refused to do so. That, in turn, triggered outrage from House Democrats and more defiance from the White House in yet another example of blatant authoritarianism by the Trump administration.
Regardless of the official secrecy, the news media has kept digging into this story. It was reported today that Trump and his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani have had discussions with new Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky which apparently involved giving U.S. military aid in exchange for discovering scandalous information about Trump’s likely Democratic opponents in 2020 – particularly about Joe Biden. If proven true, it would be a clear violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act which prohibits bribing foreign officials and would obviously be an impeachable offense. It is also consistent with Trump’s crime-boss mentality and behavior which were the focus of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
It should also be noted here that Ukraine’s independence from Russia is tenuous and ultimately depends on its ability to defend itself militarily. Furthermore, it appears that Atkinson’s whistleblower filing threw a giant monkey-wrench into Trump’s plan.
Questions about Mr. Trump’s discussions with the Ukrainians involve his allies, including his personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani, who hoped to persuade Kiev to investigate matters that could help Mr. Trump politically.
According to government officials who handle foreign policy in the United States and Ukraine, Mr. Giuliani’s efforts created the impression that the Trump administration’s willingness to back Mr. Zelensky was linked to his government’s readiness to in turn pursue the investigations sought by Mr. Trump’s allies.
Around the same time, a separate issue was brewing. Congressional aides and administration officials who work on Ukraine issues had become concerned that the White House was slow-walking a military assistance package for Kiev, according to people involved in an effort to free up the assistance.
Last week, the two issues merged when Mr. Schiff and two other Democratic House committee chairmen requested the transcript of Mr. Trump’s call with Mr. Zelensky from the State Department and the White House as part of an investigation into whether Mr. Trump and Mr. Giuliani were misappropriating the American foreign policy apparatus for political gain.
The Democrats indicated they planned to examine whether the delay in the assistance “is part of President Trump’s effort to coerce the Ukrainian government into pursuing politically motivated investigations.”
The next day, Mr. Schiff wrote to Mr. Maguire seeking information about the whistle-blower complaint.
And the following day, the White House released the military assistance to Ukraine, with little explanation.
Breeding like Roaches
Sure, it’s the middle of hurricane season. But this is ridiculous.
The six named storms whirling at once this week in the Atlantic and Pacific set a record, forecasters reported.
“While Humberto and Kiko were spinning in the Atlantic and Eastern Pacific, four new tropical cyclones formed Tuesday: Imelda and Jerry in the Atlantic Basin, and Mario and Lorena in the Eastern Pacific Basin,” the Weather Channel reported.
This combined number of active storms in both basins was believed to tie a modern record, set in September 1992, according to National Hurricane Center forecaster Eric Blake.
He tweeted Tuesday that “they are forming like roaches out there.”
BERLIN — Hundreds of thousands of protesters in Australia, many of them children who skipped school, kicked off a day of demonstrations around the world against climate change in the run-up to a U.N. summit in New York.
Rallies to open the “Global Climate Strike” took place on Friday in 110 towns and cities across Australia, including Sydney and the national capital, Canberra. Demonstrators called for their country, the world’s largest exporter of coal and liquid natural gas, to take more drastic action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Smaller protests took place in Asia, from the Philippines to Hong Kong and India.
Rallies were also planned in Europe, Africa and the United States, where organizers say more than 800 events are expected Friday.