Has Trump Been Extorting Ukraine Literally Since The Beginning Of His Presidency? Looks Like Maybe!
This impeachment is much bigger than we thought. The Trump-Ukraine story is the Trump-Russia story. And holy crap, has Donald Trump been running this extortion play on Ukraine every single year of his presidency?
Those are a few thoughts that are going through our mind as we read the story David Ignatius published in the Washington Post on Friday. As Rachel Maddow noted on her show Friday night, Ignatius, writing on the editorial page of the Post, and indeed, the Post's editorial page in general, have had a knack for breaking big stories that turned out to be exactly correct. For instance, they posted this on September 5 of this year, just before we learned about the existence of the whistleblower:
They were right. They had Trump on holding up the military aid Ukraine desperately needed, and they had him on the why:
[W]e're reliably told that the president has a second and more venal agenda: He is attempting to force Mr. Zelensky to intervene in the 2020 U.S. presidential election by launching an investigation of the leading Democratic candidate, Joe Biden. Mr. Trump is not just soliciting Ukraine's help with his presidential campaign; he is using U.S. military aid the country desperately needs in an attempt to extort it.
When the Post editorial board or Ignatius says they've been "reliably told" something, you listen.
On Friday, the headline was "In Ukraine, the quid pro quo may have started long before the phone call." And when Ignatius says "long," he means LOOOOOONG.
Ignatius takes us back to the summer of 2017, when the guy who used to be president of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko, was trying very hard to get noticed by the new American presidential administration, only to be ignored and ignored and ignored. But then something funny happened! Rudy Giuliani went to Ukraine and met with Poroshenko and the now-former Ukrainian prosecutor general Yuriy Lutsenko in June of 2017, and a week later Ukraine announced it was memory-holing investigations into Trump's now-imprisoned campaign chair Paul Manafort, shunting them away from the real investigators and giving them to Lutsenko, so he could "Bill Barr" them:
On June 7, less than two weeks before Poroshenko's White House meeting, Trump's lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, had visited Kyiv to give a speech for the Victor Pinchuk Foundation, headed by a prominent Ukrainian oligarch. While Giuliani was there, he also met with Poroshenko and his prosecutor general, Yuriy Lutsenko, according a news release issued by the foundation.
Just after Giuliani's visit, Ukraine's investigation of the so-called black ledger that listed alleged illicit payments to former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was transferred from an anti-corruption bureau, known as NABU, to Poroshenko's prosecutor general, according to a June 15, 2017, report in the Kyiv Post. The paper quoted Viktor Trepak, former deputy head of the country's security service, saying: "It is clear for me that somebody gave an order to bury the black ledger."
Surprise, Poroshenko got his White House meeting June 20!
By the way, the New York Times also has great new reporting today on the extent of Poroshenko's efforts to butter up the Trump administration from the very beginning in order to win the administration's favor and convince America to help them fight the Russians. You should read it.
Ignatius then travels a little further down the timeline, to May 2, 2018, when the New York Times reported that Ukraine had quit cooperating with the Mueller investigation and had killed its own investigations into Manafort. The way it was reported, it sounded like it was Ukraine's idea, and they were just trying to be as sweet as they possibly could to the Trump administration, so that Trump would let them have the Javelin missiles they gravely needed to fight Russia.
The Times quoted one of Poroshenko's political pals at the time:
Volodymyr Ariev, a member of Parliament who is an ally of President Petro O. Poroshenko, readily acknowledged that the intention in Kiev was to put investigations into Mr. Manafort's activities "in the long-term box."
"In every possible way, we will avoid irritating the top American officials," Mr. Ariev said in an interview. "We shouldn't spoil relations with the administration."
Is it possible this wasn't just Ukraine's idea? That is what we are curious about, and what it sounds like House impeachment investigators are also curious about. Hell, we were curious about it at the time, because it sure did look like Trump was wheeling and dealing Ukraine, saying if you want your precious missiles, you'd better play ball. We said last year that it was just mighty interestin' how the same time that missile deal went through, Ukraine just so happened to "[kill] its own investigation into Paul Manafort, quit cooperating with the Robert Mueller investigation, and conveniently let Manafort's Russian spy business partner Konstantin Kilimnik hop the border to hide in Russia, where he can't be extradited." (You remember Kilimnik! Manafort's spy buddy, the one Manafort was passing internal Trump campaign Rust Belt polling models in the fall of 2016! And we still don't know why!)
Also, we feel like we should JUST MENTION that after all this great big hue and cry about "Joe Biden fired the prosecutor to kill an investigation even though there's literally no evidence of that," it sure would be a SHOCK to learn that maybe it was the Trump administration who leaned on a prosecutor to kill an investigation. Yes, it surely would be.
The Trump-Russia Story And The Trump-Ukraine Story Are The Same Story.
It would certainly appear that the Trump-Ukraine story is the same story as the Trump-Russia story, because it all goes back to Manafort, who (we believe) has always been the key to finding out what really happened in the 2016 election. It's notable that in the tranche of Mueller investigation memos BuzzFeed released this weekend, Manafort is shown back in 2016 perpetrating a conspiracy theory that actually Russia didn't hack the election, Ukraine did it. Also pushing that conspiracy theory? Manafort's Russian spy pal Kilimnik.
Fast forward to summer 2019, and the theme of Trump's crime call with Volodymyr Zelenskiy was that Trump wants Ukraine to announce investigations both into what REALLY happened during the 2016 election, and also into Trump's political rival Joe Biden, in order to help him ratfuck the 2020 election for himself. Those are the two things Rudy Giuliani has been focused on as well. They want to exonerate Russia (and Manafort!) on all charges and prove somehow that DEMOCRATS AND UKRAINE ARE THE REAL COLLUSION, and now they also want Ukraine to manufacture smears against Biden.
It's all the same story. Which makes it funny/not funny to know that Manafort is still running or consulting on this operation from prison, using (who else) Rudy Giuliani as a conduit.
Maybe part of why Trump thought he could get away with it with Zelenskiy -- why he thinks his call was so "perfect" -- is because he's gotten away with it before. Remember that all of this happened just after Robert Mueller "cleared" (did not remotely clear) him on charges of conspiracy with the Russians to steal the 2016 election. And since Trump and his cohort are extremely stupid criminals, it makes sense that they would keep robbing the exact same bank.
Last Wednesday, Democratic Rep. Gerry Connolly gave a little morsel of a clue to reporters looking for information on what's going on behind closed doors in the impeachment investigation:
"If I were an enterprising reporter, I'd spend a little bit of time on the issue of Javelin missiles," Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA) told reporters after stepping out of a closed-door deposition on Wednesday.
This is about to get a lot bigger.
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