By Robert A. Vella
Late Tuesday, the House Intelligence Committee filed its investigative impeachment report to the House Judiciary Committee which will begin the process of determining impeachment charges against President Trump on Wednesday. The report detailed new evidence which didn’t emerge in the two weeks of witness testimony heard last month, and it also implicated the ranking Republican member of the Intelligence Committee (Devin Nunes) in Trump’s scheme to pressure the Ukrainian government (by withholding desperately needed military aid already approved by Congress) into interfering in the 2020 U.S. presidential election on his behalf.
The new evidence is comprised of phone call and text logs between Trump’s “personal lawyer” Rudy Giuliani, Giuliani’s criminally indicted associates (Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman), Mr. Nunes, the White House’s Office of Management and Budget, and other White House phone numbers. Witness testimony confirmed that the OMB illegally withheld the Ukrainian military aid, and the decision for it to do so is under intense scrutiny. It was improper for Giuliani, not being a government official, to have any role in the OMB decision or to have any direct contact with that office. The fact that he did, and that Nunes, Parnas and Fruman were also involved, is likely to expand the House’s impeachment inquiry.
In related news, the third highest official at the State Department (David Hale) and Trump-ally Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) have publicly refuted the Russian-planted conspiracy theory being pushed by Trump and some of his supporters in Congress which attempts to falsely shift blame for foreign interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election from Russia to Ukraine.
In other news, congressman Duncan Hunter (R-CA) has pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations.
WASHINGTON — House Democrats on Tuesday asserted that President Trump abused his power by pressuring Ukraine to help him in the 2020 presidential election, releasing a 300-page impeachment report that found that Mr. Trump “placed his own personal and political interests above the national interests of the United States.”
The report by Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee was a sweeping indictment of the president’s behavior, concluding that his actions sought to undermine American democracy and endangered national security. They left it to another committee to decide whether to formally recommend Mr. Trump’s impeachment and removal, but the report laid out in searing fashion what are all but certain to be the grounds on which the House moves to impeach the president.
“The founding fathers prescribed a remedy for a chief executive who places his personal interests above those of the country: impeachment,” it said.
WASHINGTON – Phone records released Tuesday by three House committees as part of their draft impeachment report detailed previously unreported contacts between President Donald Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, the White House, top House Republican Rep. Devin Nunes, and Hill columnist John Solomon.
As Solomon wrote opinion columns in early April 2019 attacking U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, according to AT&T phone records produced by the Intelligence Committee, he was in frequent phone contact with Giuliani and his associate Lev Parnas.
The Committees also obtained records showing phone calls and texts between Giuliani and Nunes, the top Republican on the Intelligence Committee, on April 10. Parnas and Nunes also spoke on the phone several times on April 12.
According to the Committees, on April 23, Giuliani had three short phone calls with a White House phone number, all under 20 seconds long, following by an eight and a half minute long call with an unidentified number.
After the call with the unidentified number, Giuliani spoke with a phone number associated with then-national security adviser John Bolton.
Giuliani then had three phone calls that day with numbers associated with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and eight calls with White House phone numbers. In July, OMB took steps to eventually put a hold on the security assistance to Ukraine.
Further phone records showed contact between Giluani and the White House and OMB in August, at the same time Giuliani corresponded with U.S. envoy Kurt Volker about setting up a meeting between Trump and the Ukrainian president.
On Aug. 7, Volker texted Giuliani urging him to update Trump of their progress in Ukraine. Giuliani did not respond to Volker, but the day after, Giuliani called White House, White House switchboard, or OMB numbers several times. Giuliani texted numbers associated with the White House, and also had a longer call with an unidentified number.
The House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday released its report on its central findings in the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, and buried within it were details on multiple phone calls between Republican Rep. Devin Nunes of California and several key figures implicated in the inquiry.
Nunes is the ranking member on the House Intelligence committee and one of Trump’s staunchest defenders in Congress.
The report said that in April, “phone records show contacts” between Nunes, former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, the Ukrainian businessman Lev Parnas, and the investigative reporter John Solomon.
Solomon has written several articles for The Hill peddling conspiracy theories about Ukrainian election interference, and Giuliani is Trump’s personal lawyer.
The State Department’s No. 3 official on Tuesday flatly rejected a conspiracy theory pushed by President Donald Trump and his personal attorney that it was Ukraine who systematically interfered in the 2016 election, not Russia.
In a Senate Foreign Relations hearing on U.S. policy toward Russia, David Hale, the department’s undersecretary for political affairs, succinctly summed up the findings of the U.S. intelligence community in response to questioning from the panel’s top Democrat, Sen. Bob Menendez.
“Secretary Hale, did Russia interfere in the 2016 election in favor of Donald Trump?” the New Jersey Democrat asked.
“Yes, the intelligence community assessed that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at our presidential election,” Hale replied, reading from what appeared to be a prepared response.
“Was the Kremlin’s interference in our 2016 election a hoax?” Menendez followed up, echoing the president’s own language, and eliciting a swift “no” from Hale.
“Are you aware of any evidence that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 U.S. election?” Menendez continued, to which Hale responded: “I am not.”
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham on Tuesday said he is “1,000% confident” that Russia, not Ukraine, meddled in the 2016 US presidential election, breaking from President Donald Trump and others in his party who have pushed the discredited conspiracy theory.
“It was the Russians. I’m 1,000% confident that the hack of the DNC was by Russian operatives, no one else,” the South Carolina senator told reporters on Capitol Hill.
He reiterated his stance to CNN saying, “I’ve got no doubt that it was the Russians who stole the DNC emails. It wasn’t Ukraine. Russia was behind the stolen DNC emails and (John) Podesta and all that good stuff.”
Graham continued later in the same interview: “So as to the Ukraine, they had zero to do with the hacking of the DNC and the stealing of the emails. Whether or not people from the Ukraine met with DNC operatives, I don’t know. All I’ve seen is press reports that no one has validated.”
Hunter, who represents the northeastern San Diego area, had previously denied dipping into campaign funds to pay for a slew of personal expenses, including video games, an Italian vacation, groceries and bedding.
Hunter pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to misuse campaign funds and now awaits sentencing. Though he faces up to five years in prison, Assistant US Attorney Phillip Halpern told CNN following the guilty plea that he would seek a sentence of about 14 months. He also said he has not ruled out jail time for Hunter’s wife, Margaret, who pleaded guilty to a similar charge earlier this year.