By Robert A. Vella
This is day-3 of Donald Trump’s impeachment process. Events are moving at light-speed, and it appears that the president – who had escaped accountability in the Mueller investigation and countless other transgressions – has finally gone too far even for Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill. Yesterday, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a resolution calling for the release of the whistleblower complaint detailing Trump’s corrupt interactions with the Ukrainian government. That the demand was quickly complied with is very telling. It indicates that Trump has lost control over this situation, and that Congress’ tolerance for continued obstruction by his administration has come to an end.
A redacted copy of the formal whistleblower complaint filed by Inspector General Michael Atkinson has been submitted to Congress ahead of today’s testimony by acting Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Joseph Maguire. The still unnamed whistleblower has also agreed to testify before Congress if given official clearance by the DNI.
Here’s a summary of the main points in Maguire’s testimony before the House Intelligence Committee today (which is in progress as I write this):
- He asserted that both the whistleblower and the Inspector General have acted in good faith and that they obeyed the law.
- He agreed with the Inspector General’s determination that the whistleblower’s report represented a credible and urgent concern.
- He stated that the reason why he delayed releasing details of the whistleblower complaint to Congress (which was the first time that’s ever happened under the law) involved the unprecedented nature of the complaint, technical uncertainty over the law, and direction from the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) which advised that he wasn’t legally required to comply with the congressional subpoena.
- He admitted to discussing the complaint with the White House counsel’s office, but refused to divulge conversations he had with President Trump.
- He vowed to support the whistleblower’s intent to testify before Congress, and he agreed that “executive privilege” doesn’t apply on disputes involving foreign interference in U.S. elections.
Maguire’s rationale for the delay in releasing details of the whistleblower complaint is sure to focus further scrutiny on the Department of Justice under Attorney General William Barr which has acted as a personal protection agency for President Trump. More on that in the following links.
For Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, the impeachment strategy is steering towards a narrow scope limited to the current scandal while excluding the myriad of others including the obstruction of justice incidents documented by former Special Counsel Robert Mueller. The Democratic leadership feels that a broad scope would confuse the public, and that a narrower focus might give Republican lawmakers concerned about national security the room they would need to cross party lines.
In international news, the political woes of U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson continue to worsen, and the President of Israel has given beleaguered prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu the first chance to form a new government despite the results of the recent parliamentary election.
The disclosure to Congress of the whistle-blower’s complaint, coming less than 24 hours after Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that the House would pursue an official impeachment inquiry, underscored how rapidly things were changing now that lawmakers had pivoted to using their powers under the Constitution to weigh charges against the president.
It came as the number of House members supporting an impeachment inquiry reached 218 , a critical milestone that indicates there is a majority in the House willing to at least consider drafting and voting on articles of impeachment.
And even as the vast majority of Republicans said they believed Mr. Trump had done nothing wrong, all but two of them joined House Democrats in voting Wednesday in favor of a nonbinding resolution to condemn the Trump administration’s handling of the whistle-blower complaint. The measure demanded that the complaint be given to Congress, that the whistle-blower be instructed on how to contact the congressional intelligence committees and that Mr. Trump and his team “cease their public efforts to discredit the whistle-blower.”
WASHINGTON — The whistleblower complaint at the center of Congress’ impeachment inquiry alleges that President Donald Trump abused the power of his office to “solicit interference from a foreign country” in next year’s U.S. election. The White House then tried to “lock down” the information to cover it up, the complaint says.
The 9-page document released Thursday fleshes out the circumstances of a summertime phone call in which Trump encouraged his Ukraine counterpart to help investigate a political rival, alleges a central role for one of the president’s personal lawyers and a suggests a concerted White House effort to suppress the exact transcript, including by relocating it to a separate computer system.
Several Senate Republicans were privately stunned Wednesday and questioned the White House’s judgment after it released a rough transcript of President Trump’s call with the Ukraine president that showed Trump offering the help of the U.S. attorney general to investigate Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden.
One Senate Republican, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to speak candidly, said the transcript’s release was a “huge mistake” that the GOP now has to confront and defend — while the party argues at the same time that House Democrats are overreaching with their impeachment inquiry of Trump.
Publicly, two senators expressed serious concerns about the revelation, as cracks have begun to emerge with GOP lawmakers privately discussing Trump’s conduct and their party’s political standing.
Justice Department officials took less than a month to abandon an inquiry into President Trump’s communications with his Ukrainian counterpart about investigating former vice president Joe Biden — reigniting concerns among Democrats and legal observers that the law enforcement agency is serving as a shield for the commander in chief.
Just weeks after intelligence leaders asked the Justice Department and FBI to consider examining a summer phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, the head of the department’s criminal division determined there was not sufficient cause to even launch an investigation, senior Justice Department officials said.
Department officials and career public integrity prosecutors reviewed a rough transcript of the call and verified its authenticity, but — because a case was not opened — took no other steps, such as conducting interviews, the officials said. They looked only at whether Trump might have violated campaign finance laws, not federal corruption statutes, even though some legal analysts said there seemed to be evidence of both.
Johnson has been given 14 days to provide the details of the relationship after the Sunday Times reported that a company run by the tech entrepreneur received tens of thousands of pounds in public funding when Johnson was mayor.
The company also had access to overseas trade missions headed by the then mayor, according to the newspaper. The Sunday Times alleged Arcuri was given preferential treatment when it came to joining the missions, despite her business “not meeting the eligibility criteria for any of the three Johnson trade missions she attended in the space of just a year.”
LONDON (AP) — An unrepentant Prime Minister Boris Johnson brushed off cries of “Resign!” and dared the political opposition to try to topple him Wednesday at a raucous session of Parliament, a day after Britain’s highest court ruled he acted illegally in suspending the body ahead of the Brexit deadline.
Amid shouts, angry gestures and repeated cries of “Order!” in the House of Commons, Johnson emphatically defended his effort to withdraw Britain from the European Union by Oct. 31, with or without a separation agreement with the EU.
TEL AVIV, Israel — Israeli President Reuven Rivlin on Wednesday tapped Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of the right-wing Likud party to form a new government after receiving the final results of last week’s deadlocked election.
“The people of Israel don’t want new elections,” said Rivlin at the presidential residence in Jerusalem after handing the mandate to Netanyahu and passing over primary challenger, former three-star general Benny Gantz from the centrist Blue and White party. “Parties will need to compromise.”
Netanyahu, whose deal-making skills and alliances with right-wing and religious parties have helped make him Israel’s longest serving prime minister, now has 42 days to try and cobble together a government. If he fails to do so the opportunity could pass to the next candidate who the president thinks has the greatest chance of forming a government.