By Robert A. Vella
We end this week with new impeachment revelations, how Steve Bannon’s testimony during the Mueller investigation forced him to testify yesterday against Donald Trump ally Roger Stone, and how U.S. intelligence agencies are planning to thwart foreign meddling in the 2020 election.
New impeachment revelations
Under questioning from Rep. Peter Welch (Vt.) and other Democrats, Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman said “there was no doubt” about what Trump wanted when he spoke by phone July 25 with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky — particularly in contrast with an April call between the two leaders shortly after Zelensky’s election.
“The tone was significantly different,” Vindman said, according to a transcript of his Oct. 29 deposition released Friday. Vindman, who as a senior White House official listened in on both calls, went on to tell Welch: “I’m struggling for the words, but it was not a positive call. It was dour. If I think about it some more, I could probably come up with some other adjectives, but it was just — the difference between the calls was apparent.”
Welch asked Vindman if he had any doubt that Trump was asking for investigations of his political opponents “as a deliverable” — in other words, as part of a quid pro quo.
“There was no doubt,” Vindman said.
Months before President Trump pressed Ukraine’s newly installed leader to investigate Joe Biden’s son and allegations of interference in the 2016 U.S. election, two associates of Rudy Giuliani urged the prior Ukrainian president to announce similar probes in exchange for a state visit to Washington, according to people familiar with the matter.
A late February meeting in Kyiv between Lev Parnas, Igor Fruman and then-Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko took place at the offices of Ukrainian general prosecutor Yuriy Lutsenko, the people said. It came soon after Messrs. Parnas and Fruman met with Mr. Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, and Mr. Lutsenko in New York in late January and again in Warsaw in mid-February, Mr. Giuliani has said.
Mr. Lutsenko also attended the late February meeting, the people said. Mr. Poroshenko didn’t ultimately announce that he was opening those investigations. Mr. Lutsenko, the prosecutor, gave an interview to the Hill in March in which he said he was opening an investigation into alleged interference by Ukrainians in the 2016 U.S. election. He also said he had evidence he wanted to present to the U.S. Justice Department related to former Vice President Joe Biden and Burisma Group, a Ukrainian gas company where Mr. Biden’s son, Hunter, was a director. Two months later, in an interview with Bloomberg, Mr. Lutsenko said he had no evidence of wrongdoing by the Bidens.
President Donald Trump’s acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney approved a White House meeting with the president for the Ukrainian leader on condition Ukraine announced investigations tied to Trump’s political rival Joe Biden, according to testimony released on Friday.
Gordon Sondland, the ambassador to the European Union, “blurted out” that Mulvaney had approved the meeting if the Ukrainians announced an investigation of Burisma, a gas company that formerly employed Hunter Biden, the former vice president’s son, said Fiona Hill, a national security council member who was deposed last month by the congressional committees pursuing an impeachment inquiry against Trump.
Hill’s account was corroborated by simultaneously released testimony by another firsthand witness to the conversation, Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman.
(Bloomberg) — President Donald Trump’s acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney asked a judge to determine whether he must comply with a House Intelligence committee subpoena to testify in its impeachment hearings.
Mulvaney is seeking to be added to the lawsuit of Charles Kupperman, the former deputy of National Security Advisor John Bolton, who previously asked the same judge to decide if he must testify even though he was ordered not to by the White House. Bolton is in the same position and has said he would comply with a subpoena if ordered by a judge.
The House had withdrawn Kupperman’s subpoena, saying it would rely on an order in a separate case, involving the demand for testimony from former White House Counsel Don McGahn.
But Kupperman said that order wouldn’t apply to him, and asked the judge to rule on his request. His case is before U.S. District Judge Richard Leon, who was appointed by former President George W. Bush.
Republican lawmakers have sought to hijack several impeachment depositions in a crusade for information on the whistleblower who sparked the inquiry, according to a review of the transcripts by The Daily Beast.
Efforts from Republican lawmakers and their counsel to elicit information on the whistleblower—both by asking leading questions and asking point-blank for the person’s identity—were repeatedly batted down by Democrats, and in one case the attorney of the witness in disputes that became increasingly caustic.
Last week, The Daily Beast reported that Derek Harvey, an aide to Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, provided notes for House Republicans ahead of the high-profile testimonies of Trump administration appointees with the name of the alleged whistleblower. The goal was that once the transcripts became public, so would the name of the individual.
Bannon testifies against Roger Stone
WASHINGTON (AP) — Donald Trump’s campaign viewed Roger Stone as an “access point” to WikiLeaks and tried to use him to get advanced word about hacked emails damaging to Hillary Clinton, a former top presidential adviser testified Friday.
In reluctant testimony, former campaign CEO Steve Bannon told a federal court that Stone, on trial for lying to Congress and witness tampering, had boasted about his ties to WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange, alerting them to pending new batches of damaging emails.
“The campaign had no official access to WikiLeaks or to Julian Assange,” Bannon told the court. “But Roger would be considered if we needed an access point.”
It was the first time that anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign acknowledged in court that they had actively sought material from WikiLeaks, which released emails that U.S. intelligence agencies determined had been hacked by the Russian government in order to damage Clinton.
Intelligence agencies’ election plans
WASHINGTON — On Friday afternoon, almost a year before the 2020 presidential election, the intelligence community published new guidelines outlining how officials will decide how and when to notify potential victims of foreign interference in U.S. elections.
According to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), the intelligence community’s top agency in charge of coordinating information sharing between its 17 members, the new framework will “supplement” existing laws on victim notification and aim to “protect the American people” and “secure the integrity of our elections” by more quickly making information about threats available.
The new guidelines aim to create a clear path to disclosing sensitive information about specific threats to the owners and operators of election infrastructure, to targets of interference, to other “affected entities,” to Congress or to the American people, according to a written overview of the new policy by the ODNI. Critically, it says, “Partisan politics shall not play a role in the decision to provide notifications.”