By Robert A. Vella
My hip and back pain continue to improve, but it’s still uncomfortable for me to spend much time online researching, writing, and blogging. Sitting for extended periods is out of the question, and other positions like standing aren’t much better. Regardless, I’ve managed to compose a summary review of this week’s news without links which readers might find helpful.
On the same day (yesterday) that Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign dirty trickster Roger Stone was convicted on all seven felony counts, including lying to congress, obstruction of justice, and witness tampering, Trump committed the same last crime by tweeting disparaging remarks about former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch while she was testifying before the House of Representatives’ impeachment inquiry. His impulsive blunder triggered immediate and broad condemnation (e.g. from former Independent Counsel Ken Starr), compelled Republican members in the hearing to tone down their questioning and praise her long and distinguished diplomatic service, and to which Yovanovitch subsequently testified as feeling personally intimidated by. Other impeachment witnesses scheduled to testify next week, particularly Gordon Sondland who has not been completely truthful so far, would also be inclined to feel intimidated.
Yovanovitch’s testimony primarily addressed the smear campaign launched against her and her later ouster from that assignment by President Trump, plus Rudy Giuliani and his two Soviet-born associates who have been indicted by federal prosecutors, because she was an obstacle to their plan to coerce the new Ukrainian president (Zelensky) into digging up dirt on 2020 presidential candidate Joe Biden by withholding desperately needed military aid already approved by Congress. Two days before (Wednesday), the acting head of the U.S. embassy in Ukraine William Taylor and State Department expert on Ukraine George Kent testified that the withholding of military aid was clearly an attempt by Trump to exact a Ukrainian investigation of Biden.
Aside from those public testimonies, one of Taylor’s assistants (David Holmes) who overheard an unsecured phone call between Trump and U.S. ambassador to the European Union – Gordon Sondland – gave a private deposition to the House of Representatives on Friday declaring that Trump explicitly wanted Zelensky to investigate Biden. Today, an Office of Management and Budget official is giving a similar deposition reportedly to declare that someone in the White House assigned a political operative to withhold the military aid to Ukraine because the OMB refused due to its illegality.
Stone will be sentenced in February and is estimated to get 5-11 years in prison. If Trump pardons him, it would be a tacit admission that former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian collusion during the 2016 election was warranted since Stone’s crimes were intended to protect Trump. If Trump does not pardon him, it could open the floodgates to much more witness testimony on a range of criminal cases against Trump and his family.
Meanwhile, Ukraine’s government is seeking a meeting with Russia to negotiate an end to their ongoing conflict in a move that has surely been hastened by the scandal with Trump. Vladimir Putin, sensing an opportunity to further his regional aims, is balking at the proposal.
National Security Advisor John Bolton, who was fired by Trump in September for opposing his backchannel moves in Ukraine, has signed a multimillion dollar book deal. Will it be a tell-all? We’ll see. We’ll also see if he plans to testify against Trump pending the results of a court case.
Senate Republicans blocked a vote on gun control on the same day that a mass shooter killed two people at a Santa Clarita, California high school. Trump’s anti-immigration point-man Stephen Miller has been tied to white supremacist organizations. Turkey’s President Erdogan showed an anti-Kurd propaganda film at the White House which upset some Republican senators like Lindsey Graham.
Russia has taken over a vacated U.S. military base in northern Syria. U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson is taking heat for delaying a report on Russian meddling in the 2016 Brexit vote. Bolivia is in turmoil after Evo Morales fled to Mexico in a reported military coup. Venice, Italy has suffered the worst flooding in half a century.