The Floodgates


I have been directed by the House of Representatives to inform the Senate. The House has passed h read seven nine eight a resolution appointing and authorizing managers but the impeachment trial of Don. John John from he has been held accountable. He has been impeached. He's been impeached forever. They can never erase that. There's conventional wisdom in Washington. That goes like this. Nancy Pelosi delayed the start of Donald Trump's impeachment trial for several weeks to four Senate Republicans. Not to rig it. And since it's Mitch. McConnell didn't agree to hear from witnesses or subpoenaed documents that means she lost but the conventional wisdom is wrong. She one to see why imagine policy referred the articles of impeachment right after the House passed them. McConnell could have buried the trial in the Christmas holiday or convenient right after the New Year Senate. Republicans have dismissed the charges or acquitted trump based on the bad faith argument that the house didn't hear from firsthand witnesses. All of whom of course trump ordered not to testify testify instead Pelosi created uncertainty. There'd be no trial until we know whether Republicans plan to engage in a cover-up or not what and that left every Republican senator hounded by a simple question would they allow witnesses or would they block them. McConnell didn't quote quote Unquote Cave but it sure seems like his members did Maine Senator. Susan Collins told reporters on Friday that she's working with a small group of fellow all over Republicans on ensuring witnesses in the trial. I can't imagine that only two witnesses that our democratic colleagues would WANNA call would would be called. Sally should the Senate consider new evidence as part of the impeachment. Trial Year Liberal Hack. I'm not talking. You're not gonNA comment. That delay also created an information vacuum. All the unknown concealed information about the Ukraine scheme could flow and it has flooded in if you think is the main inaccuracy or the main and live. That's being told that you feel like you can corrupt the president didn't know what was going on. President trump know exactly what was going on. You believe that Vice President Pence knew what he knew that his trip to the inauguration was contingent on on those investigations being announced again. I mean I know he went to Poland also to discuss this trump's behalf so he couldn't have. I know that was left. Parnasse one of trump's Ukraine scheme point man in an interview with Rachel Maddow Parnasse faces a lengthy prison sentence for for committing a number of crimes thinking. He had trump's protection but he didn't and so he's decided to tell all what he's revealed stunning and at the last minute and much of it has been folded into the official record that the Houses Impeachment Managers Aka the prosecutors will lay out to the Senate. This includes a letter from Rudy. Giuliani Juliani to Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelinski establishing trump skilled. It also includes the alarming suggestion that they all put the US ambassador to Ukraine. Marie Ivanovich Ivanovic under surveillance and at physical risk so the trial that will actually see when it begins next week. We'll be very different than the one we would have. Seen had Pelosi decided not not to play hardball. And through these revelations we can see why trump and McConnell are so desperate to cover everything up but as much as we've learned trump and his accomplices are clearly still hiding a great deal and they may still have the tools they need to keep us the public from ever learning the full full ugly truth about the shakedown of Ukraine. My guest this week. Is Kate Brennan. She's editorial director at just security and actually broke one one of the biggest stories about the scheme over the holidays while the articles of impeachment were sitting on Nancy Pelosi's desk we'll discuss these extraordinary developments. And what trump and McConnell in their desperation might do to prevent more of them from coming to light. I'm Brian Butler. And this is Rubicon. Kate Brennan welcomed Rubicon. Thanks so much for having me so you broke some pretty the important news about the Ukraine scandal after the House had impeached Donald Trump before it referred the articles to the Senate including some documentary evidence that trump ordered the government to withhold military aid to Ukraine directly Can you tell us just a little bit about what you learned and where it fits into the broader. Her Ukraine story sure so in December the Center for Public Integrity had sued the trump administration for emails between the Defense Department Hartman and the Office of Management and budget which is called mb in Washington and relating to the Ukraine story and the trump administration was ordered by a judge. Sh- release these e mails. which they you did and two batches but they did with really heavy redaction so most of the most the most interesting stuff had been blacked out and over the holidays a source provided me a set out of the emails but with the reductions lifted? So I got to read the full story. You know the full back and forth between the Pentagon ownby and what it revealed was on the one hand. It revealed that the Pentagon had made its objections to the hold. Really clear and concerns is legal concerns about the hold Loud and clear throughout the summer and then into the fall and the main worry was that the trump's hold on the military aid violated the Impoundment Control Act which mandates that the executive branch spend money. Exactly the way Congress appropriated it and if they want to change their mind or do something different you know. They don't have much wiggle room but if they are going going to they have to notify Congress and obviously in this case with the Ukraine aid. That never happened. And so as I was reading the emails I could see that these concerns from the Pentagon is much stronger than had been represented by the administration up until that point and then what also is clear from reading. The emails was what had been redacted was truly the most incriminating and embarrassing aspects of these emails so it also told the story of obstruction. And you know it's just another step that this White House has taken to keep this story from coming to light it. We should note that as we record this to today on Thursday today the GAO has determined that the administration broke the law. Exactly you mentioned the Impoundment Control Act by withholding is holding a DU crane so the concerns that they tried to cover up that they were discussing amongst themselves were were live and and and they unreal and now it comes out that the the people saying that you were GonNa be breaking the law by doing this correct exactly. So that's the the The person in question at the Pentagon her name is Elaine. mccusker she's the acting Pentagon comptroller and she said repeatedly. Look guys this is no joke. We're GONNA violate the Payment Control Act. And then in the early September she was basically like We are violating the impoundment control. Act We are not going to be able to spend this money. By September timber thirtieth and it will be impounded which means it will be it will be returned to the US Treasury and now Republicans have said in defense of trump. Look all the money was released. It's fine no harm done and what actually happened was by the time. The money was released on September eleventh. The Pentagon made it known to Congress. We are not going to be able to spend all this money be able to get it on contract by the weapons that Ukraine needs by the end of the fiscal year and so congress actually stepped in and wrote legislation that extended the money It was thirty five million dollars that was basically put in jeopardy by trump's hold i. It's interesting the way you characterize the the you know what you discovered this reporting. Is You know when your story broke. What sort of captivated The Democratic leaders in Congress and and and the media I think was the you know the disclosure of trump's direct involvement which which tends to You know sort of corroborate the the accusations against him in in the first article of impeachment but the implicit story is about the the justification or lack thereof for the reactions that you got to see under and and that that implication kind of also bolsters the second article of impeachment for for obstruction. You know where these documents were not turned over to Congress and when they were You know when a judge said that they needed to be released they tried to still conceal. Aw the damaging information from becoming public Books that the public would know and presumably the congress would know so in a sense it it's like a microcosm of the of the of the impeachment itself is how you see it. Yeah I think too you know I knew it was a big story but I wasn't quite ready for its impact and I think it's because I had missed or I had an I had overlooked this aspect of it that the reductions themselves showed a cover up and I was able to sort of lift. Lift the veil on that and in a way you know give power to the public like this is the stuff that they're not showing you And that gave it a lot of legs you know. In addition to what was actually in in the emails and like you said there was that line in it clear direction from police to hold which came at the end of August which by that point the Pentagon had made loud and clear like we. I think this is a legal. On the entire national security establishment had told the president. We don't support this hold. We think Ukraine should get the military aid. And even at that point you could could see in this email that directly from president trump and only president trump was this order. NOPE keep the hold on the money and I think that that you know that was just that line clear direction from police to hold is you know is the story. So you got to see another reductions the redacted versions themselves were foia it in a in an unobstructed impeachment inquiry. They would have been provided to Congress and included included in part of the factual record that the house considered as as it deliberated impeachment. Right that had been up to trump these would have been withheld from congresses concealed forever. You know not turned up in a in a foyer or anything. Is that your understanding that well absolutely and there are a number of emails for which that's remains. The case is there are these emails that the New York Times has sued the administration for between Robert Blair whose Mick Mulvaney who was the former director of Oh Oh NBA and is now the White House chief of staff and so his top aide at the White House. Is this Guy Robert Blair and this Guy Mike. Duffy and Mike Duffy Overseas National Security Programs at O. M. B. so Blair and Duffy. Were you know right in the middle of the communications about the hold. On on the Ukraine it went it was communicated from trump Komo Vini to Blair to Duffy out into the agencies to to mccusker at Dod et Cetera. And so there are these the set of emails between Blair and Duffy Daffy that the New York Times has sued for and the trump administration has said not only are we not gonNA release them redacted. We're not going to release them at all and like you said these would be emails. How's that if the executive branch were honoring Congress's constitutional right to do oversight of the executive branch they would have provided these in an impeachment inquiry? And then then that's just sort of one set of emails. There's also the entire question of what was going on at the State Department and you had all these witnesses during the investigation in the house. That came forward word from now. Their names are all going to leave me. Bill Taylor and Robert Hale and David Tale. Excuse me anyway. WHO said you know? I collected all of my emails. Wants this got started as I was directed to Congress and now they're sitting somewhere the State State Department won't provide them to Congress because the White House is telling them not to the same. They're a bunch of Pentagon e mails for which that's you know that's also the case And now with we. I know we'll talk about this in a little bit. But with the revelations that parnassus alleging about what was going on with The removal all of the US ambassador to Ukraine. Ivanovich Marie Ivanovich. You know. There's a huge question around these e mails. What would they reveal about what the State Department in and Mike Pompeo? What did they know about Any threats to her safety and what were the circumstances under which she was removed from that country And so there is still a lot out there in terms of documentary evidence that the administration is blocking that would reveal. You know shed so much On the story so we have to. We have to. We can only make assumptions about what is being concealed. We know from your reporting Psalm. Tom Of of what was in fact. Concealed from the impeachment inquiry in the trial is now underway. And what you learn what is in your. The story is not in the official impeachment record As far as you know. Does that mean that that the impeachment managers just that. This information is not available to them as they try. Try to persuade senators to convince trump or I mean H- how important is it that they managed to keep this stuff under wraps until after her. The articles were passed. Well I do know and it was kind of a you know an interesting moment for me just as an individual and a reporter. I believe my story story was entered into the record this week. That was transmitted with the articles of impeachment And I think that there's a you know. I think that the Parnis attacks that we saw this week. I think there's a record that goes with the articles now. I don't know how that's used. When they're making their case I think outside of the the technical aspects of it from my story you know the New York Times reporting about some really important meetings that took place that summer between trump and his national security advisors You know the new information that's coming out of love Parnassus the GAO report that you mentioned earlier. You know this finding finding that yeah the military hold violated the law All of that in a political sense is giving an enormous amount of momentum and I think you know whether it'll break the damn on Senate Republicans holding trump accountable. I mean I still people are pretty pessimistic. But the pressure is just like Ruben. Ratcheted up and ratcheted up. I think way more than had none of this come out in the interim from the time that the articles were voted on and then if they had been transmitted right away I think in the space that was created by Polisi holding them back and the amount of shoes that have dropped in the meantime have you know. Put the pressure on you know just made it feel more urgent and I think for the trump administration must make them feel incredibly really nervous. Because I don't think they know when the next shoe will drop. I think they know what shoes could drop because they know exactly what happened. But they don't know when they'll drop in like for example today Robert Hyde who's this Republican who's running running for Congress in Connecticut who was the one who was texting with I love Parnasse about possibly serving Marie Ivanovich in Ukraine. And you know whether or not they were like contemplating depleting a hit on her as it sounds like but that they've both denied sense His house was raided today by the FBI. So like who knows knows what's coming next is is how I see it i. I'm really glad you put it that way. Because you're scoop underscored to me exactly why. The trump administration obstructed congress in the first place in by Republicans particularly the Senate have done have signaled that the desire many of them have to keep as much new information from coming to light as possible but also I think illustrated a lesser disgust. Piece piece of the wisdom of Nancy Pelosi's decision to hang onto the articles for a few weeks Like we we tended to discuss that tactic through the lens of weather. It would force Mitch McConnell till admit defeat in some way or or or whether Senate Republicans individually would come out and say you know I'm I'm GonNa Not Vote for any motion. That doesn't allow us to call witnesses. And so you know now that the trial is getting underway and you know sure ince's of that sort have been made You see a lot of You Know Post Game Analysis of this decision. The policies gambit failed in some sense. But I think that's totally wrong right In part because this this flood of information that's coming out is is so unsettling that it seems like like it will make it very difficult for fifty one republicans to vote to shutdown new factfinding But also so because Pelosi kind of created as window right like that irrespective of what Republicans were going to do with their votes or how they were going to allow the trial to be structured assured the there was just this opening she created for people with information to to come forward right like. There's a strong indication that the Republicans in the Senate are leaning towards not allowing witnesses not allow documents To to come to light so in this limited period that Pelosi created stuff has started to come out Do you see. Do you see it that way or did you see it when you were reporting out your story that this was like an effect of of her having created some sense of uncertainty about when the trial would be allowed to start. I definitely didn't see it when I was reporting my story. I was sort of head down and you know oblivious because it's the holidays I'd his own I don't I'm not can't get in her head so I don't know how much I mean. She certainly didn't know in to some extent what was coming down the pike. I mean in terms of my own reporting I can see. That's for sure the partners I mean left parts had certainly indicated before that I believe if I'm remembering correctly like I'm GonNa Talk to Congress and I'm GONNA turn stuff. He might have already turned some of his documents over. So I think that and everybody's aware that this documentary evidence is out there So it I mean. In retrospect it seems like it was you know a wise move move on her part Trying to think there was something else you said but I'm now Oh I was thinking about how you said about Mitch McConnell and the Republicans like at this point they basically have to you know. New evidence has come forward and it now when they if they don't call witnesses and if they don't subpoenaed documents you know it'll look like they're not acting upon you know new evidence that's come forward that you really need you know. Oh you should be required to investigate and it reminded me you know on the one hand you think. Well they now have to do that like how could they their backs up against the wall but it reminded me as you're you're talking of the cavenaugh hearings and you know new. Witnesses came forward. And you know there was all this pressure to open up the FBI investigation. And they did did the sham process and call today so it's certainly not beneath them to do so do the question. What's the political cost? I I guess of doing it right right. The I mean the the Parnasse case. I'm I'm glad you mentioned it. I think it's like the most irrefutable refutable testament to the withholding the article strategy. Like he didn't his lawyer produce these incredible documents to the impeachment. Investigators and I think they like literally within hours of the House. Vote to refer the articles of impeachment to the Senate so like barely in time to be included in the factual record. And I wasn't aware that that your article had also gotten looped into the same factual records. So it you know the there. There is a quantifiable amount of information. That just was not known and to the impeachment investigators after they voted to impeach trump that became known to them before the trial began. And I think that makes it like fairly irrefutable refutable that the strategy strengthened the case itself completely apart from the question of how Republicans will vote destructor the trial or whether they'll allow allow any of this new information to affect their strong inclination to acquit trump. Did Gao finding. Today I mean I would put it in the same category gory it. It makes it really uncomfortable for the Republicans know violating the impoundment contract was not part of the you know was not an article of impeachment mint. But you now have this independent body saying the trump administration violated the law in connection to this story and you see already today today. Republicans sort of saying well the GAO's not that independent. which is you know? If that's your argument gets a losing argument And or you see them avoiding reporters they. Don't I want to comment on it. It's too it's too awkward And so the I will say from the time that the that the House voted on the articles to to where we are a day right now it is different information environment and it's a different a different political environment. I think for Senate Republicans that were already feeling a little bit uncomfortable up with just like cleaning their hands and making this go away as fast as they could. Yeah I think it was earlier today. Chuck Schumer tweeted something to the effect or said something to the effect of like you know. God Forbid Republicans. You know try to see all this information Render judgment against trump one way or another based on the incomplete record and then after they've already cast their votes to cover up whatever equipped trump the the whole truth comes out and not only have they voted for the cover it but the cover up fails retroactively and I'm watching. At least the Republican publican leadership grapple with this essential question. Like they must be aware now like it's like I think that they probably thought once the House House had voted to impeach trump that they would have a lot more control over the information environment Then they did when the house was running the show and the last two or three weeks have proven that they really don't right like there are still they're still foy they're still leakers. They're still witnesses. There's court cases that are ongoing and And these bombshells will continue to drop like in in the middle of the trial after the trial and so they are actually weighing this basic question. It's not cover up or no cover up it's it's Should we let all this information. Come out at once in the trial and then rip off the band aid and be done with it or let let it all Kinda dribble out slowly after we've already communicated with our votes our intention to to not let the public see this stuff. Yeah I'm two things I think they have to continue to obstruct because on you know I the information that's coming out is so damning and I can only imagine the information information that's being most closely protected like the Blair Duffy emails or whatever. The State Department e mails show are even worse. Like that's why we haven't haven't seen them And that's why you know the witnesses that haven't been allowed to testify Mulvaney. Blair Duffy John Bolton you know they have the worst stories to tell and so I can't imagine they take all right. Actually you know just that we can control. It will let everything come forward because it's You know it's like president. The president shooting someone Fifth Avenue. Like it's all GonNa be right there for us to see I think the other thing. That's a little tricky maybe for Democrats. It's not tricky but on the one hand there is plenty of evidence to explain what happened. between trump and Ukraine. And and you know him soliciting foreign interference in the election on that phone. Call the ties between asking for that investigation to Joe Biden and holding the military aid. The evidence is there that said. Is there more evidence out there absolutely so I think there's like this. Tricky thing that Republicans are also playing on where it's like. Well if you don't have the complete clete picture how on Earth Are you impeaching him. If there's all this stuff that still remains out there then you didn't do due diligence and so both things can be true. You can both have enough. Evidence is to move forward and there can also be plenty of evidence that still being obstructed and I think some of the allegations that Parnasse has raised just raise completely new questions like up until now the physical safety and the circumstances of Maria von riches being removed from Ukraine weren't part of the story really and as the FBI raid today shows the that's a new avenue investing of Investigation that cannot be you know just ignored or forgotten like we. I think the American public has a right to know Whether she was being threatened and back whom and where did it stop. How high up did it go? So a couple thoughts on that one is the this talking with the Republicans really have taken to about how this information coming to light just underscores that the house didn't do a very thorough job in its impeachment. Went totally allies. The point that trump has been impeached for obstructing the inquiry. Right like there's a reason. The House's factual record is incomplete complete and it's almost entirely because donald trump refused to cooperate with the inquiry. And so now he's they're going to have to vote on that article of impeachment and you the logic of what they're saying is that basically they're going to they're going to neuter their own institution and its power to compel executive branch disclosure of information. And I'm not sure for the trial will allow the impeachment managers to confront Senate Republicans with that contradiction that internal contradiction. And I'm curious to see like how how individual Republicans Republicans as a whole grapple with it The second thing is that I you know the the environment is uncertain enough that the White House is preparing for defections or at least is claiming to be preparing for defections on the question of witnesses and documents and trump himself after kind of pretending for awhile to want a fair trial. Trial now says that he might claim executive privilege if witnesses appear normally fights over that are resolved by AH accommodation between Congress and the executive branch or by courts. And I'm wondering how you think efforts to conceal information by citing privilege like this sort of last last all the information's flooding in. But he still has this thing that he can use to control it. How will efforts to conceal information by citing privilege play out in the context works of an impeachment trial where it's never really happened before I think where there's an opportunity to sort of take executive privilege to places it's never gone before the trump have been ministration? We'll do so I mean. They've kind of exerted like complete immunity from congressional invest. Oversight is their position and you know and then in a criminal setting they Say you know. The PRE president can't even be criminally investigated while in office. So you know as far as I can tell always argue it as far as you know. They'll stretch the law to its farthest point to protect him from The people testifying and evidence being provided against him In the impeachment setting. I'll be really curious to see how it plays out. And and John Bolton signifying if you subpoena me I'll come forward is just a mystery. You know what will happen there. If he doesn't fact testify justify will he. Then you know come forward but rely on executive privilege to sort of block revealing his most review Private discussions with the president that Relate to this story He he certainly can and you know. I think we'll just have to see what happens there. in closing thoughts for our listeners. any closing thoughts. I think today I mean there is so much going on right now between an you know from where I acidic just security. We're trying to balance you know analysis of The president's strike against Qasim Sulejmani and all of the legal issues. There are and you know all of the information there you know in the decision making that went behind that that we don't know yet to impeachment to the new revelations every day. There's just a lot to take in and you know today. The impeachment trial began And so I think it's just I guess as we're taping like justice assists stop and recognize the historical significance of what's happening in the Senate and You know paying attention to it. It's you know it can get almost. It's crazy that the impeachment of a president can get lost in the craziness of the new cycle and that but but you know it's an a really important moment in history and I only wish that All of the senators you know task task with the decision. There take it seriously as well. Yeah that's that's a good note to close on. Be a good citizen and pay attention Kate Brandon Thank you for joining us. Thank you. That's it for this week next week. Donald Trump's impeachment trial will have begun. And we'll hopefully have a clear sense of just how well or poorly Republican efforts to keep more incriminating information from coming to light fared and if they fared poorly who knows what will have learned. This show is produced by crooked media. It's it's written in hosted by me. Brian Butler Steven Hoffman is our producer and editor. If you enjoyed this episode please subscribe rate and reverse wherever you get your podcast uh-huh and.

Coming up next