Nov 202019
 November 20, 2019  Posted by at 7:35 pm Primers Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  29 Responses »

Rembrandt van Rijn The resurrection of Christ 1639


Man, I don’t want to do this but I get drawn back in all the time. I haven’t followed the latest episode of the Schiffwives of DC live today, I wasn’t behind my laptop, but I did make a bunch of notes on my phone and mailed them to myself. And all the time I’m thinking: we do remember how this all started, don’t we?

Ukrainegate got started on the premise that Trump wanted to hurt Joe Biden for the 2020 election. But what we see today from Gordon Sondland, and before from Taylor, Volker, Vindman, et al, goes back to spring/summer 2019, a year and a half before the election. Isn’t that premise at least a little bit flimsy, then?

Yeah, Joe Biden was leading in the Dems polls earlier this year, but there are now 28 candidates if I’m not mistaken, and Biden is not shoe-in for the nomination. So is Trump playing the same kinds of games he’s accused of playing with Biden with a handful of others, Bernie, Warren, Buttigieg? How much of this makes sense to you?

Tyler Durden earlier today said something to the effect that Sondland was supposed to be the BIG ONE, but that Taylor, Volker, Vindman were previously going to be just that as well, and turned out not to be. And that reminded me of Russiagate, in which every week or even day there were announcements of this is the BIG ONE, and we all know where that went: Robert Mueller turned out to be America’s biggest loser in decades.

So isn’t it perhaps a reasonable assumption (just as Trump targeting Biden for 2020 is also merely an assumption for now) that what Trump was looking for is fact finding about what happened in 2016? See, I would think it IS reasonable. We’re talking assumptions, not facts, no matter how much either side wants to believe their view is the BIG ONE.

And sure, I’ll admit that I have trouble believing that Trump wanted to hit Biden because of 2020, and I find it more credible that he wanted to figure out what happened in 2016, if only because that is what -perhaps indirectly, but still- led to the Mueller investigation and him being investigated from even before he took office.

And, this is again me speaking for myself, I don’t find Joe Biden’s line that “nothing has ever been proven” about him, his son Hunter and Burisma, particularly strong, because there’s never been an investigation. Or, rather, if we may believe former Ukraine prosecutors, investigations were shut down more than once.

In that light, how crazy exactly is/was it for Trump to ask Zelensky for such an investigation? Only Ukraine can do that, it’s not like the FBI can, or at least not officially. Biden/Burisma/Ukraine warrants an investigation, and saying no such thing should happen because “nothing has ever been proven” is the -apple- cart before the horse. So why are they trying to sell us the idea that Trump wanting to find this out is close to Judas betraying Jesus?


As I said, I was following proceedings on my phone earlier, and this headline from the Guardian stuck out: “Sondland’s Bombshell Testimony Blows Holes In Trump’s Ukraine Defence”. And that was after I read Tyler Durden quoting Michael Every at Rabobank:

“Impeachment rumbles on in the US, and while one’s reading of events depends on one’s political leanings, an objective analysis shows very little damage being done to Trump so far.”

And I thought: yeah, not damage to Trump, but what about to the nation? Here are two quotes form BBC and Guardian “live commentaries” on the Sondland testimony. Because these things change on the fly, it’s not much use adding URL’s. But just read them and tell me what you think. Note that both news outlets are strongly anti-Trump.

Sondland put two and two together and figured out the military aid was conditioned on the investigations, he said: “President Trump never told me directly that the military aid was conditioned on the investigations,” Sondland said, but Giuliani said “the Burisma and 2016 elections were conditioned on the White House meetings.” That contradicts Bill Taylor testimony about the nature of the quid pro quo, that Sondland told Taylor that Trump demanded investigations for aid. But “I never heard from president Trump that aid was conditioned on an announcement of elections [sic],” Sondland says. 

Now Sondland is talking about a phone conversation in which Trump told him there was no quid pro quo. Earlier Sondland had said he took the president at his word. Now Sondland is saying he and everyone else knew there was a clear quid pro quo.  Sondland said after “frantic emails to me and to others about the security assistance” from ambassador Bill Taylor, Sondland called Trump and asked, “what do you want from Ukraine… what do you want?”
It was a very short abrupt conversation, he was not in a good mood. He said I want nothing, I want nothing, there’s no quid pro quo. Tell Zelenskiy to do the right thing.”


And then this, I don’t remember if it was BBC or Guardian, but what’s the difference anyway?:


Vice president Mike Pence’s office denies that the scene with Sondland in Warsaw happened. From Pence chief of staff Marc Short, per @maggieNYT: “Marc Short responds to Sondland: “The Vice President never had a conversation with Gordon Sondland about investigating the Bidens, Burisma, or the conditional release of financial aid to Ukraine based upon potential investigations…”

1/ “Ambassador Gordon Sondland was never alone with Vice President Pence on the September 1 trip to Poland. This alleged discussion recalled by Ambassador Sondland never happened…” 2/ “Multiple witnesses have testified under oath that Vice President Pence never raised Hunter Biden, former Vice President Joe Biden, Crowdstrike, Burisma, or investigations in any conversation with Ukrainians or President Zelensky before, during, or after the September 1 meeting”.


Presumption, assumptions, interpretations and “I thought (or I was sure) he meant” are not facts. They are what they are: personal reflections on what someone thought they had observed. They mean zilch in a court of law. or rather, they are not the kind of thing that can get someone convicted: witnesses in a court room may say what they think happened, but no judge or jury can convict based solely on that.

You need evidence. You need the body. You need the weapon. You need the BIG ONE. But Sondland, like all witnesses before him thus far, doesn’t have the BIG ONE. Or it would have been presented by now, either by him or by Adam Schiff. How many more of these supposed witnesses are we going to have to listen to in the Schiff theater?

I fully agree with people who say Schiff himself should be sworn in and conduct his theatrics under oath. Presently, he can say what he wants, accuse Trump of whatever he wants, and he can never be held to account for any of it. As he attempts to hold Trump accountable for a myriad of things that a myriad of civil servants “think” he meant to say or do. The playing field must be leveled. This is not a fair game.

Moreover, do remember that this whole impeachment thing must go to the Senate to get any real meaning; until it does it’s just a circus in which the clowns – or any of the animals- cannot be held to account. And the crows will insist that Jumbo did it. But, you know, that’s still just Disney, it’s entertainment.


Please support the Automatic Earth on Paypal and Patreon so we can continue to publish.

Top of the page, left and right sidebars. Thank you.