It may be Thanksgiving, but that doesn’t mean a break from new impeachment-related news. All of it, as usual, is bad for Donald Trump, Rudy Giuliani, and the other conspirators in the Ukrainian extortion scheme that has now landed Trump in a House impeachment inquiry.
A brief summary of yesterday’s revelations, machinations, and general goings-on:
• Place your bets as to when Trump personal “lawyer” Rudy Giuliani will be arrested in an attempt to flee the country: Every day brings new revelations of Giuliani apparently looking to profit off his cozy relationship with Trump by hiring himself out to a series of international oligarchs and money launderers who need “favors” from the Trump administration and, most pointedly, Attorney General William Barr’s Justice Department. Giuliani lobbied the Justice Department for favorable treatment of a wealthy Venezuelan energy executive named as an uncharged co-conspirator in a billion-dollar Florida money laundering case. That executive, Alejandro Betancourt López, hosted Giuliani’s Madrid meeting with Andriy Yermak, top aide to Ukrainian President Zelensky, during which Giuliani pressed Yermak to open the two investigations now central to the impeachment case against Trump.
• Selling access to Trump and to the Justice Department may turn out to be a major source of Giuliani’s income: The Washington Post reports that Giuliani had prepared a $200,000 draft agreement to represent Ukrainian official Yuri Lutsenko, and that Giuliani had assured Lutsenko he could arrange a meeting with Attorney General William Barr. Lutsenko worked with Giuliani in the ultimately successful effort to oust the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine.
• Seeing a pattern yet? After previous adamant denials, Giuliani now acknowledges he met with a lawyer for disgraced Ukrainian oligarch Dmytro Firtash, currently fighting extradition to the United States, during his pursuit of Biden “dirt.”
• Smarting from the new public presumption that Giuliani may be indicted any moment now, Trump began pre-distancing himself from his “lawyer”: “I don’t know” what Giuliani was doing in Ukraine, claimed Trump. “I didn’t direct him” to dig up dirt on Biden. (Note that the faux-“transcript” of Trump’s call with the Ukrainian president specifically directs Zelensky to work with Giuliani to investigate Biden.) This puts Giuliani in a precarious, but possibly familiar, spot.
• Ambassador Gordon Sondland, who admitted during his public impeachment testimony that he directly pressured Ukrainian officials for Trump’s demanded investigations but insisted he did not realize the corrupt intentions behind those demands, has now been accused by three women of sexual assault.
• A federal judge temporarily stayed her ruling compelling former White House counsel Don McGahn to honor a congressional subpoena for testimony and documents. Attorney General Barr now has seven days to prepare an expected appeal.
• Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, an ex-House Republican described by witnesses as using his office to further the Trump-Giuliani Ukraine scheme, continues to suggest merit to the pro-Russian Trump conspiracy theory suggesting Ukraine, rather than Russia, was the real culprit behind 2016 election hacking. This theory, promoted in large part by Russia itself, is known to be manifestly false.
• While the House Judiciary Committee has politely invited Trump or his counsel to attend the first impeachment hearing scheduled by the committee, a December 4 hearing on the process and history of impeachment, it is vanishingly unlikely Trump will take them up on the offer.
• Trump’s curious hostility towards Ukraine, including the repetition of Russian rhetoric against the country, extends far beyond the demand for two politically favorable “investigations.”
• Republicans have been using Trump’s similar unilateral hold of congressionally authorized aid to Lebanon as evidence that the Ukrainian hold was, for this White House, a standard practice. This likely backfired, as the unexplained (and apparently illegal) refusal to deliver mandated Lebanon aid is now coming under increased scrutiny itself.