Two articles of impeachment against Trump

RNZ (BBC) – Trump impeachment: Democrats unveil formal charges

The Democratic-controlled US House Judiciary Committee has unveiled charges against President Donald Trump, a key move in impeaching him.

The first article revealed by committee chief Jerry Nadler accuses Mr Trump of abuse of power and the second accuses him of obstructing Congress.

He is alleged to have committed “high crimes and misdemeanours” (a phrase from the US Constitution) on two counts, outlined by Mr Nadler:

  • The first allegation is that he exercised the powers of his public office to “obtain an improper personal benefit while ignoring or injuring the national interest”, by allegedly pressuring Ukraine to interfere in the 2020 presidential election
  • The second allegation is that “when he was caught, when the House investigated and opened an impeachment inquiry, President Trump engaged in unprecedented categorical and indiscriminate defiance of the impeachment inquiry…”, thereby obstructing Congress

The charges are set out in detail in a Judiciary Committee document.

Mr Trump “sees himself as above the law”, Mr Nadler said. “We must be clear, no-one, not even the president, is above the law.”

In the July phone call to Ukraine’s leader, Mr Trump appeared to tie US military assistance for Ukraine to its launching of investigations that could help him politically.

In return for those investigations, Democrats say Mr Trump offered two bargaining chips – $400m of military aid that had already been allocated by Congress, and a White House meeting for President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Democrats say this pressure on a vulnerable US ally constitutes an abuse of power.

The first investigation Mr Trump wanted from Ukraine was into former Vice-President Joe Biden, his main Democratic challenger, and his son Hunter. Hunter Biden joined the board of a Ukrainian energy company when his father was President Barack Obama’s deputy.

The second Trump demand was that Ukraine should try to corroborate a conspiracy theory that Ukraine, not Russia, had interfered in the last US presidential election. This theory has been widely debunked, and US intelligence agencies are unanimous in saying Moscow was behind the hacking of Democratic Party emails in 2016.

Impeachment has to be passed by the Democrat controlled House of Representatives, and then would go to a trial before the Republican controlled Senate where a conviction would require a two thirds majority. Of course it is highly political.

And of course Trump denies he did anything wrong and again claims to be the subject of a ‘witch hunt’.

But his claims mean little. He has a habit of public denial and trying to portray himself as a victim, which is lapped up by supporters.

And he also has an extensive record of attacking anyone who does anything he doesn’t like.

And he tries to turn the accusations on his accusers. This is standard Trump strategy. His protestations and attacks are meaningless as far as the impeachment process goes, it is just playing to his base who will likely largely lap up his rhetoric and bull.

Meanwhile, this article details the history and the involvement of someone closely involved in all of this – The Indispensable Man: How Giuliani Led Trump to the Brink of Impeachment

Step by step, he has escorted President Trump to the brink of impeachment. Mr. Giuliani himself is now under criminal investigation by federal prosecutors in the very office where he enjoyed his first extended draughts of fame nearly four decades ago. The separate troubles he has gotten his client and himself into are products of the uniquely powerful position he has fashioned, a hybrid of unpaid personal counsel to the president and for-profit peddler of access and advice.

Practically no name, other than Mr. Trump’s, was mentioned more than Mr. Giuliani’s at the impeachment hearings and in a subsequent Democratic report that described him as the hub of a grievous abuse of presidential power (or legitimate advocate for Mr. Trump, in the Republicans’ minority response).

Mr. Giuliani has been the voice in Mr. Trump’s ear when others could not be heard, and served as the voice of Mr. Trump in places where presidents dare not go.

Each modern impeachment saga — of Richard M. Nixon, Bill Clinton and now Mr. Trump — has been shaped not by grievances over policy differences, but by human vanities and appetites. In this case, those include Mr. Giuliani’s, which have run in strong currents for decades, unconcealed.

An ironic story from Giuliani’s past:

Years before, he had shown that working with virtually nothing, he could cultivate the mere existence of investigations to his political benefit.

Early in his first term as mayor, facing criticism over patronage hires, Mr. Giuliani and aides announced spectacular claims that a widely respected commissioner in the previous administration, Richard Murphy, had overspent his budget by millions of dollars for political reasons. Moreover, computer records seemed to have been destroyed in a suspicious burglary. The heat shifted from the reality of Mr. Giuliani’s patronage hires to the wispy vapors of the Murphy investigation.

A year later, it emerged that Mr. Murphy had neither overspent nor done anything wrong, and that no records had been destroyed or stolen. Mayor Giuliani shrugged.

“This happens all the time,” he said. “And you write about those things all the time. Sometimes they turn out to be true. And sometimes they turn out to be wrong.”

Maybe the impeachment charges turn out to be true, Maybe they turn out to be wrong. But the damage will be have been done anyway.

The big question is who is most damaged.

If the Senate find Trump not guilty, as is widely expected, Trump will claim exoneration and victory, and the Republicans who excused him will hope that propping up one of the most prominent of political charlatans won’t damage their re-election chances too much.

And it is  big political risk for the Democrats. If too many people think that this is  pointless political stunt then their re-election prospects may be set back.

The biggest damage is likely to be to US governance and democracy overall, if that reputation has any lower to go.

Meanwhile as expected both sides are claiming that the just released Horowitz report is damaging to the other side.


Trump’s ‘no collusion’ claims unravelling

Donald Trump and his supporters have adamantly claimed there was ‘no collision’ between his campaign and Russia leading up to the 2016 US election, but that is unravelling. One of Trump’s got to media spokespeople has shifted the goal posts substantially, now saying there was no collusion just by Trump himself.

Even if Trump was not directly involved with Russian collusion, if his campaign manager, fixit lawyer, son, daughter or son-in-law were colluding during his campaign it would not be credible to claim he knew nothing about it.

For some reason CNN was used to walk back the ‘no collusion’ claim

CNN – Rudy Giuliani just totally contradicted 18 months of ‘no collusion’ talk from Donald Trump

If you know anything about the White House’s reaction to the ongoing special counsel probe into Russia interference in the 2016 election, it’s these two words: “No collusion.”

Trump, as well as his top aides — everyone from senior counselor Kellyanne Conway to White House press secretary Sarah Sanders — has insisted since the start of Robert Mueller’s special counsel investigation in spring 2017 that no one in the Trump campaign colluded with the Russians to help his candidacy and hurt that of Hillary Clinton. In a single answer to a question about the Mueller probe last January, for example, Trump unleashed an epic seven(!) “no collusion” assertions. Here’s just a piece of that (bolding mine):
“Well, again John, there has been no collusion between the Trump campaign and Russians or Trump and Russians. No collusion. When I watch you interviewing all the people leaving their committees, I mean, the Democrats are all running for office, trying to say this that — but bottom line, they all say there’s no collusion. And there is no collusion.”
Trump’s Twitter feed, too, is choked with “no collusion” talk. According to the indispensable Trump Twitter Archive, Trump has tweeted the words “no collusion” 60 separate times, with the first coming on May 12, 2017 and the most recent happening on January 6.

All of which brings me to Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani’s interview with CNN’s Chris Cuomo on Wednesday night. And these lines from Giuliani, in particular:

“I never said there was no collusion between the campaign, or people in the campaign. I said the President of the United States. There is not a single bit of evidence the President of the United States committed the only crime you can commit here, conspiring with the Russians to hack the DNC.

But it looks like straight out bullshitting about what he ‘never said’. On Fox News in July 2018:

Fox News’ Guy Benson: “Regardless of whether collusion would be a crime, is it still the position of you and your client that there was no collusion with the Russians whatsoever on behalf of the Trump campaign?”

Giuliani: “Correct.”

This repositioning of ‘no collusion’ claims looks to be forced by what is now known.

When Giuliani started claiming that there was “no collusion” between the campaign and the Russians, we didn’t know that campaign chairman Paul Manafort had not only met with Konstantin Kilimnik, a Russia with ties to the country’s intelligence service, but had shared polling data on the 2016 race. Or that Kilimnik is a focus of Mueller’s probe.

And it appears that Mueller has already written a draft report on his inquiry into collusion. It looks like Giuliani is trying to distance Trump himself from what may be revealed.

If, say, Mueller finds collusion but not by Trump, the President and Giuliani will now say: We told you! No collusion between Trump and the Russians. This is all one big witch hunt! Mueller didn’t find anything.

If Trump could maintain some level of credibility with his base, it would make it that much harder for GOP lawmakers — especially in the Senate — to turn on him in impeachment proceedings.

None of that, however, should excuse what Giuliani was up to on Wednesday night. He was purposely trying to rewrite the history of his defense of the President of the United States in an ongoing investigation into how Russia sought to influence a national election on US soil.

And it is unlikely Giuliani is doing this without Trump being in on the ‘adjusted claim’.

One of those causing problems for Trump’s claims of co collusion is his ex-lawyer Michael Cohen, now convicted of lying to Congress.

Buzzfeed:  President Trump Directed His Attorney Michael Cohen To Lie To Congress About The Moscow Tower Project

President Donald Trump directed his longtime attorney Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about negotiations to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, according to two federal law enforcement officials involved in an investigation of the matter.

Trump also supported a plan, set up by Cohen, to visit Russia during the presidential campaign, in order to personally meet President Vladimir Putin and jump-start the tower negotiations. “Make it happen,” the sources said Trump told Cohen.

And even as Trump told the public he had no business deals with Russia, the sources said Trump and his children Ivanka and Donald Trump Jr. received regular, detailed updates about the real estate development from Cohen, whom they put in charge of the project.

Cohen pleaded guilty in November to lying about the deal in testimony and in a two-page statement to the Senate and House intelligence committees. Special counsel Robert Mueller noted that Cohen’s false claim that the project ended in January 2016 was an attempt to “minimize links between the Moscow Project and Individual 1” — widely understood to be Trump — “in hopes of limiting the ongoing Russia investigations.”

Now the two sources have told BuzzFeed News that Cohen also told the special counsel that after the election, the president personally instructed him to lie — by claiming that negotiations ended months earlier than they actually did — in order to obscure Trump’s involvement.

Cohen admitting being involved with collusion with Russia blows the ‘no campaign collusion’ denials out of the water.

The standard Trump response is to attack and try to discredit anyone threatening him. And that’s what is happening here.

If you believe Giuliani…

McCabe seeks immunity, Giuliani seeks diversion

Former deputy director of the FBI Andrew McCabe, sacked two days before he was due to retire, has asked for immunity in order to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

And Rudy Giuliani, supposedly acting as a lawyer for Donald Trump but spending more time on diversionary PR, claims that Trump is being framed. This is playing to public opinion but has no effect on legal implications – and is a risky PR strategy.


“This is a textbook case for granting use immunity,” Michael Bromwich, an attorney for McCabe, wrote Monday in a letter to Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the chairman of the judiciary panel.

“Mr. McCabe is willing to testify, but because of the criminal referral, he must be afforded suitable legal protection,” Bromwich said. “Accordingly, we hereby request that the Judiciary Committee authorize a grant of use immunity to Mr. McCabe.”

McCabe was fired in March, two days before his retirement, for a “lack of candor” during interviews with the office of the inspector general (OIG) and the FBI’s Office of Professional Responsibility about his role in authorizing FBI contacts with the media about the Clinton probe.

Bromwich decried “a stream of leaks” from the Justice Department about McCabe’s case in his letter to Grassley. He said leaks from the agency revealed the OIG made a criminal referral on McCabe to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington, D.C.

“Even though Mr. McCabe committed no crime, these leaks have forced us to acknowledge the criminal referral,” said Bromwich, who added that he and McCabe “are outraged by these leaks.”

Immunity is warranted because “Mr. McCabe is eager to give such testimony; he has a legitimate fear of criminal prosecution based on the criminal referral that has already been made, the irregularities in the process by which he was terminated, and the improper command influence that continues to be exercised by the President of the United States.”

Bromwich has accused President Donald Trump of improperly targeting McCabe in a series of tweets about political donations that McCabe’s wife received in 2015 from then–Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe of Virginia, a longtime Clinton ally.

It’s hard to know what all this means until it plays out.

It’s more obvious what Giuliani is up to. CNBC: Giuliani says Mueller’s team is trying to frame Trump

Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani says special counsel Robert Mueller’s team is trying to frame President Donald Trump.

Giuliani, who has been serving as Trump’s lawyer amid the Russiascandal, says Wednesday in Israel that Mueller’s team includes “13 highly partisan Democrats … (who) are trying very very hard to frame him to get him in trouble when he hasn’t done anything wrong.”

Speaking to the Globes capital market conference in Tel Aviv, Giuliani says Trump has the power to pardon himself but won’t because he is innocent.

That looks like a hypothetical diversion.

It was the latest in Giuliani’s often contradictory comments surrounding the probe into Russia’s potential meddling in U.S. elections.

Giuliani has become a lightning rod during his tenure on Trump’s team, drawing the president’s ire for a series of scattershot interviews.

There must be some method in Giuliani’s madcap media mushing but while it may divert from the key issues in the short term it could blow back badly.

The Mueller investigation will plod on. Despite attempts by some to claim a lack of legal details now means something, what ends up in court and what ends up proven will have to be waited for, perhaps for some time yet.

In the meantime the circus will continue. One guaranteed loser is US credibility. The Russians could hardly have hoped for a better election outcome.

Giuliani did not have “his facts straight”

In the ever changing story about the hush money payment to ‘Stormy Daniels’, one of Trump’s latest revolving door lawyers, Rudy Giuliani, appears to be in damage control after putting his foot in his mouth in an interview yesterday. He now claims he didn’t have his facts straight.

With issues involving Trump ‘facts’ seem to be fluid statements of convenience, but as they change it is difficult to differentiate mistakes and lies. A lawyer speaking on a serious legal matter involving the President should have his facts straight before going on public television.

Reuters: Trump lawyer Giuliani defends legality of porn star payment

Hours after President Donald Trump said his lawyer Rudy Giuliani did not have “his facts straight,” the former New York mayor issued a statement on Friday saying $130,000 in hush money paid to an adult-film star before the 2016 election was not an election law violation.

Giuliani late on Wednesday revealed that Trump had repaid Cohen for the $130,000 the lawyer had provided to Daniels. Trump previously had denied knowing about the payment.

The next morning, Trump said on Twitter that Cohen was paid back through a monthly retainer, not campaign funds, to stop Daniels’ “false and extortionist accusations.”

Giuliani on Thursday had connected the payment to Stormy Daniels by the president’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, to keep quiet about a 2006 sexual encounter she said she had with Trump to the election, remarks that raised the possibility that the transaction violated federal election law.

“There is no campaign violation. The payment was made to resolve a personal and false allegation in order to protect the President’s family. It would have been done in any event, whether he was a candidate or not,” Giuliani said in a brief statement “intended to clarify the views I expressed over the past few days.”

Giuliani in a TV interview on Thursday wondered what would have happened if the Daniels’ claim of an affair had come up in a debate between Trump and his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, adding, “Cohen made it go away. He did his job.”

“Rudy is a great guy, but he just started a day ago. But he really has his heart into it. He’s working hard. He’s learning the subject matter,” Trump said.

“He’ll get his facts straight,” Trump added, though he did not specify the statements by Giuliani to which he was referring.

If Giuliani did not have ‘his facts straight’ that is appalling incompetence for a lawyer dealing with something like this.

Even Fox News raises questions in Giuliani clarifies statements on Stormy payment

Rudy Giuliani put out a three-point clarification Friday regarding comments he made in bombshell interviews this week about the hush-money payment to porn star Stormy Daniels and more, just hours after President Trump said the latest addition to his legal team would “get his facts straight.”

Notably, Giuliani did not walk back the statement that Trump reimbursed Cohen, in his clarification on Friday. But he tried to clear the air on several other potentially problematic statements.

Earlier Friday, Trump defended Giuliani as a “great guy” who “just started days ago” and said “he’ll get his facts straight.”

“When Rudy made the statements—Rudy is great, but Rudy has just started and he wasn’t familiar with everything,” Trump said Friday in a press gaggle at Joint Base Andrews. “He’s a special guy and he understands that this is a witch hunt.”

Also from Fox – Judge Nap: Giuliani’s Claim That Trump Didn’t Know About Stormy Daniels Payment Is ‘Unworthy of Belief’

On “Fox & Friends,” Napolitano said that Giuliani’s claim that Trump gave Cohen $130,000 and didn’t know where it was going is “unworthy of belief.”

He said it’s up to the American public to decide if they believe Trump is the kind of person who would “pour money down a hole” without asking to whom the money was going and for what purpose.

“How would Michael Cohen know that Stormy Daniels needed to be silenced?” he added.

Napolitano said the good news is that if the money came from Trump’s personal funds, then Giuliani is correct that there was no campaign finance violation.

“But it does create a problem because the president has said that he knows nothing about this. This is a problem between the president, his personal morality, his wife and his base on one side, and the president and the law on the other side,” Napolitano explained.

Whatever the facts, and Trump is known to often not care about facts and to bareface lie, this just makes aspects of his presidency more of a farce – a dangerous farce given what can be at stake.


Trump claims ‘absolute immunity’, lawyer admits Cohen repayment

A couple of stories on the continuing Trump legal challenges – Trump has claimed absolute immunity on beneficial use of assets owned by his family while he is president, and one of his lawyers contradicts Trump on a ‘hush money’ payment made by another of his lawyers.

Reuters: Trump claims immunity, asks court to toss foreign payments suit

President Donald Trump has again asked a U.S. court to dismiss a suit accusing him of flouting constitutional safeguards against corruption by refusing to separate himself from his business empire while in office, claiming “absolute immunity.”

The lawsuit, filed by the state of Maryland and the District of Columbia, accused Trump of violating the U.S. Constitution’s “emoluments” clause that bars U.S. officials from accepting gifts or other payments from foreign governments without congressional approval. The same clause also bars the president from receiving gifts and payments from individual states.

“If Plaintiffs want to sue the President for acts taken while in office, they must sue him in official capacity. But he is absolutely immune from any suit, including this one, seeking to impose individual liability premised on his assumption of the Presidency itself,” Trump’s lawyer William Consovoy wrote in a court filing on Tuesday.

“The Supreme Court has concluded that the costs to the Nation of allowing such suits to distract the President from his official duties outweigh any countervailing interests. That choice must be respected,” Consovoy added.

Trump, whose businesses include a host of real estate properties as well as golf courses and a Virginia winery, handed day-to-day management to two of his sons. But the plaintiffs said Trump has not disentangled himself and is vulnerable to inducements by people, including foreign officials, seeking to curry favor.

Trump is reported to frequently use resorts and hotels owned by him or his family for presidential purposes. I don’t know if he can successfully claim absolute immunity.

Meanwhile, a twist in the Stormy Daniels story: Giuliani Says Trump Paid Back His Lawyer for Daniels Payment

President Donald Trump reimbursed his personal lawyer for $130,000 in hush money paid to a porn actress days before the 2016 presidential election, Rudy Giuliani, one of Trump’s attorneys, said Wednesday, appearing to contradict the president’s past claims that he didn’t know the source of the money.

During an appearance on Fox News Channel’s “Hannity,” Giuliani said the money to repay Michael Cohen had been “funneled … through the law firm and the president repaid it.”

Asked if Trump knew about the arrangement, Giuliani said: “He didn’t know about the specifics of it, as far as I know. But he did know about the general arrangement, that Michael would take care of things like this, like I take care of things like this for my clients. I don’t burden them with every single thing that comes along. These are busy people.”

The comments appeared to contradict statements made by Trump several weeks ago, when he said he didn’t know about the payment to porn actress Stormy Daniels as part of a nondisclosure agreement she signed days before the presidential election. Giuliani later suggested to The Wall Street Journal that while Trump had repaid the $130,000, Cohen had settled the payment to Daniels without Trump’s knowledge at the time.

Guiliani’s revelation seemed aimed at reducing the president’s legal exposure. But outside experts said it raised a number of questions, including whether the money represented repayment of an undisclosed loan or could be seen as reimbursement for a campaign expenditure.

So Giuliani seems to be claiming that Trump paid back Cohen from his own money but had no idea what it was for.

But this may have made things murkier given Trump’s confusing claims.

Asked aboard Air Force One last month whether he knew about the payment, Trump said flatly: “No.” Trump also said he didn’t know why Cohen had made the payment or where he got the money.

In a phone interview with “Fox and Friends” last week, however, Trump appeared to muddy the waters, saying that Cohen represented him in the “crazy Stormy Daniels deal.”

This is one storm in a presidency that doesn’t look like fizzling out any time soon.

Trump runs his legal defences like his presidency, at times making strong claims (like of absolute immunity), but often all over the place.


In the meantime, with the North Korea and Iran issues remaining prominent, Trump’s approval rating has spiked a bit in the polls.

Republicans “in a state of panic”

NZ Herald focusses on the apparent disarray and dismay in the Republican Party over the Donald Trump problem.

It’s an odd time to be panicking, two weeks after confirming Trump’s nomination.

Republicans in state of panic

Senior Republican figures were growing increasingly concerned about Trump’s behaviour following his criticism of the family of a dead Muslim American soldier and his refusal to back the re-election campaign of Paul Ryan, the House speaker.

Frustration at Trump’s divisive tactics and insulting comments reached new heights yesterday, with several extraordinary developments:

Intervention plot

Senior Republicans including GOP chairman Reince Priebus, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich were reportedly considering an “intervention” meeting with Trump. They hoped to talk Trump into “a dramatic reset of his campaign”, NBC reported.

“A new level of panic hit the street,” Scott Reed, chief strategist for the US Chamber of Commerce, told the Washington Post. “It’s time for a serious reset.”

Gingrich, a Trump ally, said his friend currently stood no chance of beating Hillary Clinton in November. “The current race is which of these two is the more unacceptable, because right now neither of them is acceptable. “Trump is helping her to win by proving he is more unacceptable than she is.”

Reince Priebus, chairman of the GOP, was said to be “livid” over Trump’s behaviour.

A Plan B candidate?

There were reports that some Republicans were exploring what the process would be should Trump himself pull out of the race. ABC reported that if Trump pulled out before early September, it would be up to the 168 members of the Republican National Committee to choose a successor.

Changing candidates now would probably be no less disastrous. Howe gas the ‘Grand Old Party’ got itself into this dire situation?

Trump was remorseless yesterday, taking to Twitter to state: “There is great unity in my campaign, perhaps greater than ever before. I want to thank everyone for your tremendous support. Beat Crooked H!”

Manafort also attempted to give the impression that there was no panic within the Trump camp, telling Fox News: “The candidate is in control of his campaign and I’m in control of doing the things that he wants me to do in the campaign. The only need we have for an intervention is maybe with some media types who keep saying things that aren’t true.”

The Trump campaign accusing “some media types” of saying things that aren’t true is more than a little ironic.

Trump doesn’t just say things that are untrue, he keeps repeating them even when they have been proven to be untrue.

Trump was given a lot of political oxygen by the media through his campaign, he used them and they used him for attention seeking.

Now the media seems to have largely turned highly critical of Trump his campaign team seems at a loss as to how to deal with that and also the poll slide.

I think this was all inevitable.