Do Numbers Count?
We did not have, until now, any way to connect our president, Donald J Trump to any actual criminal conduct in either Russia or Ukraine. We had no concrete proof of high crimes and misdemeanors. The House of Representatives would not have voted to hold a formal impeachment inquiry without considerable evidence of high crimes and misdemeanors. Many Americans have seen the president’s disregard for our constitution, our traditions, and our system of checks and balances as worrisome. Books have been written on the subject, like How Democracy Dies by Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt. No matter how many times the Republicans say this is all about overturning the 2016 election, there are plenty of Americans who know this is not the case.
But I have to ask, do numbers count? Even without proof that Trump had actually done anything unconstitutional or unlawful the number of connections between Trump’s campaign staff and Russia and Ukraine during the 2016 campaign and immediately after the inauguration, the number of Trump references to Russia, and his interactions with both Russia and Ukraine are extraordinary. America does not usually have a lot of business in this part of the world, the part that was in a Cold War with us, that isolated itself behind an Iron Curtain. It could all be about business, but talk of getting rid of the sanctions on Russia is definitely about politics.
In fact Russia is in the process of invading eastern Ukraine in an attempt to annex (steal) several Ukrainian oblasts (provinces). Still Ukraine has many connections to Moscow and all this activity by Trump’s guys may have been, in part, an attempt to open a back door into Putin’s Russia. Although many attempts were made by many “friends” of Trump to open such a back door, there is no proof that any of these attempts actually succeeded. Perhaps this explains Trump’s continued hyper-interest in Ukraine. An article in today’s Washington Post suggests that Trump has actual animosity towards Ukraine. Or perhaps Trump has no faith that he can win an election without cheating.
As we approach the 2020 election we again begin to hear more and more references to Russia and those sanctions and to Ukraine right up to the moment of the now famous phone call. (As I write this Jonathan Capehart is reading aloud the transcript of this Ukraine/Trump phone call in front of a crackling TV fire a lá Franklin Roosevelt thus beating Trump to it). You would think with all the hair-on-fire reactions to Trump’s coziness with Putin and Russia and his campaign staff’s many illegal financial ops in Ukraine that Trump would have stayed far away from Ukraine in the run up to this elections.
But it seems that once he gets a bee in his bonnet he cannot let it go and the current bee in his bonnet is a whole hive. Biden and his son Hunter are bees buzzing around in Trump’s brain because he likes to have plenty of dirt on potential political opponents so he can effectively demonize them. Then he is still after Hillary and still trying to help out his whatever, Putin, by pursuing a discredited theory that it was actually Ukraine that interfered in our 2016 election thus getting Putin off the hook and closer to seeing those sanctions go away. Why an American president is so obsessed with Putin, and other dictators and why Americans are traipsing all over Kiev in Ukraine are questions we want to know the answers to.
Here are names connected with Trump and with Ukraine: then and now:
Then: Mueller investigation
Leshchenko, a Ukrainian legislator fighting corruption. He exposed the illegal payments made by Mr. Yanukovych’s party to Paul Manafort, Trump’s 2016 campaign chair
Michael T Flynn – resigned as national security advisor – 1 week earlier a sealed proposal was delivered to his office, outlining a way for Trump to lift sanctions on Russia.
Felix Sater – a business associate who helped Trump seal deals in Russia
Michael Cohen – president’s personal lawyer who delivered the sealed proposal to Michael Flynn. Michael Cohen is married to a Ukrainian woman and tried to help relatives start an ethanol business there so he, at least, had legitimate business in Ukraine. He delivered the sealed proposal which suggested a way to bring peace between Russia and Ukraine, (this was written by a Ukrainian lawmaker Andrii Artemenko trying to rise in the political opposition movement in Ukraine with the help of Paul Manafort). This proposal was not sanctioned by the government of Ukraine.
It was thought that Trump possibly wanted to end Russian sanctions and wanted to create a back channel to Moscow through Ukraine.
[As I make this list Rachel Maddow is talking about a new article by David Ignatius which says president Poroshenko of Ukraine was trying to get a meeting in the oval with the newly installed president Trump. He wasn’t getting anywhere until Giuliani went to Ukraine. Magically, after this visit in 2017, Ukraine stopped an investigation into Paul Manafort and then Poroshenko got his meeting with Trump and his javelin missiles.
Rachel asks, was this a rehearsal for what Trump did recently? Was this a quid pro quo he got away with which emboldened Trump to try again. There have been references to the Black ledger case. This ledger included the name of Paul Manafort and the huge sum he had been paid, but after the “bargain” with Poroshenko the Black Ledger disappeared – poof.]
Back to my list:
Rick Gates – a Trump campaign aide was Manafort’s longtime junior business partner.
Alex Vander Zwaan – London lawyer, had contacts with Rick Gates and another unnamed person based in Ukraine.
Konstantin Kilimnik , Russian/Ukrainian– a longtime business associate of Manafort and Gates.
Sam Patten – Republican operative and lobbyist – pleaded guilty because he was not registered as a foreign agent for his work with “Ukrainian bigwigs”
During the Mueller investigation we learned the following from reporters who investigated the people called in to testify:
“Donald J. Trump and 18 of his associates had at least 140 contacts with Russian nationals and WikiLeaks, or their intermediaries, during the 2016 campaign and presidential transition, according to a New York Times analysis.”
and, in case you are not a New York Times fan,
“There are now more than 101 known points of contact between the Trump campaign and Russian-government linked people or entities, including 23 meetings or calls.”
Now: Impeachment inquiry
Rudy Giuliani and his associates Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman (these two have been indicted for campaign finance violations.) Rudy Giuliani’s activities in Ukraine on behalf of the president were happening long before the fateful phone call.
“The three amigos” all were busy in Ukraine pushing Trump’s agenda:
Rick Perry was the Head of Energy Department– after being called to testify before the impeachment inquiry he quit his cabinet position
Kurt Volker – US Special Representative to Ukraine
Gordon Sondland – US ambassador to EU
Bill Taylor – US chargé d’affairs in Ukraine who questioned holding up military aid in exchange for “oppo” information for the 2020 election
Ukrainian oligarch – Dmytro Firtash has been mentioned in connection with these events. There is a current attempt to bring him to America to testify.
Three Ukrainian Presidents involved because each had involvement with Americans connected to Trump:
Viktor Yanukovych (former president – said to be “stooge of Putin”)
Zelensky – current president of Ukraine
Viktor Shokin – Prosecutor General in Ukraine – forced out for blocking prosecution of corrupt officials and oligarchs
Lutsenko – new prosecutor general – also at war with anti-corruption group backed by
Serhiy Leshchenko – a liberal legislator and journalist who fights corruption
Marie Yovanovitch – US Ambassador to Ukraine recently relieved of her duties for no apparent reason. – She said the new prosecutor was still blocking corruption probes.
Conspiracy theory – Lutsenko said that George Soros was involved with Biden and Hunter Biden. He said that Yovanovitch gave him a list of people not to prosecute, which she says did not happen.
When did we ever spend this much time and energy and have this many Americans who were not spies interacting with Russians and Ukrainians and bugging Ukrainian presidents? (Right now on my TV Louie Gomert – (Rep.) is threatening Civil War if Democrats impeach Trump, which makes me nervous because Democrats are not the ones who have been stockpiling guns. Don’t they sound a bit desperate?) (Michael Steele (who has distanced himself from the Republican Party, asks, would we really have a Civil War over this man, over Trump, really?) This Russia-Ukraine-Impeachment is obviously incendiary.
Ukraine is known to be a very corrupt country, which means that the government protects oligarchs who basically steal from the Ukrainian people and the treasury like a bunch of crooks. Trump seems to many of us to be our most corrupt president ever, perhaps because he is so crude and so blatant about it. Is this simply a case of crooks of a feather flock together? Except this is like a flock of crows that wants to pick our government clean and leave it as road kill. This amount of interaction with a nation which governs by fear and intimidation, a nation with a system of government we have fought against (Vietnam, Korea) losing the lives of our young men and women, should be problematic to all Americans. Why isn’t it?
And Ukraine is fighting for survival right now, both survival from corrupt and selfish men, and in an actual military operation to repel Russia from its threatening position within its borders. Despite Ukraine’s internal struggles we find Trump’s “troops” all over Ukraine selfishly “phishing” for Trump’s dirt on an opponent to “fix” the 2020 election (and possibly end those sanctions on Russia by blaming election interference in 2016 on Ukraine, not Russia). Since when have we been so cavalier about a nation so at risk. Given all of this it is not really out of line to hope that Trump gets stung by one or more of those bees he can’t seem to get out of this bonnet.
After I posted this article two more interesting reads came up in online news media:
Michelle Goldberg’s article explaining more Ukraine complexities.
Photo Credit: From Google Image Searches – New York Post