Witnesses have started giving public testimony in the Trump impeachment hearings with the original whistleblower's accusations proving to be accurate, writes Lee Duffield.
THE WHISTLEBLOWER wrote in a detailed nine-page statement that the information came from very well-placed sources including “several” or “half a dozen” officials.
NAMES TO RECALL: VOLKER AND SONDLAND
In the few short weeks since, Volker resigned and both started giving strategic information to the Congressional inquiry in closed sessions, their information then made public.
Other accurate information identified key witnesses for the open hearings now under way on television, beginning with the current acting Ambassador to Ukraine, Bill Taylor. He tipped a bucket on Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudolph Giuliani, for running an “irregular policy channel” — declaring that the irregular channel had countermanded U.S. policy to back up Ukraine.
“Ukrainians were fighting Russians and counted on not only training and weapons but also the assurance of US support.”
Republican Party representatives are demanding that the whistleblower be unmasked for public interrogation, but the informant’s legal advisers say that would be for purposes of intimidation.
Taylor also had a story to indicate that Sondland knew even more than he had already conceded.
Gordon Sondland – a businessman, not a career diplomat, appointed Ambassador after donating heavily to the Trump inauguration – conceded on 6 November. He publicly went back on original statements that he was uninformed about deals with Ukraine.
Faced with evidence coming from others, he said that he did recall telling senior Ukrainian officials their country would not get military aid, unless they dug out information that would help the next Trump election campaign.
GOLD BADGE FOR “GOOD OIL” FROM THE WHISTLEBLOWER
The whistleblower may not end up causing the overthrow of Donald Trump; the American public might not notice or care about the revelations now coming out on live television, but a gold badge for whistleblowing would be in order for zeroing-in accurately on who and what.
Already, as first witness in the preliminary Congressional hearings into linkages between Trump and Ukraine, Kurt Volker had delivered a batch of official emails described in the New York Times as incriminating.
He had talked with senior Ukrainian figures about swapping favours with Trump, lending to the process the feeling of the Watergate proceedings against President Richard Nixon in 1974 — inexorable law closing in on the dodging man full of denials. As then, names keep coming up, senior officials like Volker not publicly in politics but suddenly in the spotlight, who are beginning to tell.
Said the NY Times:
Mr Volker, who was President Trump’s special envoy to Ukraine until his abrupt resignation late last month, is today a central player.
Mr Volker, who viewed his task as helping Ukraine remain independent against Russian aggression while working for a president with a curious crush on President Vladimir V. Putin, has emerged from his assignment as a man who seems a willing participant in an effort… to pressure a foreign government to investigate Democratic political rivals at home.
Friends counter that Mr Volker is another victim of the Trump era — a career diplomat who thought he could reconcile his own ambition and public service while working for a president who blurs the line between personal gain and the country’s interests.
LAWMAKERS AND “INNOCENTS” VERSUS SHARKS
Against the testimony of relative “innocents” like Volker are the damage control operatives of the U.S. Republican Party headed by the man himself, Donald Trump. Going on the basis that the law and law-abiding witnesses won’t matter if they can make a mess of the whole thing, they are calling it all “garbage” and obsessive money wasting at the expense of government business, while setting up government investigations against the investigators.
Nervous and shouting Trump may be, and lagging in opinion polls, but he still manages to keep his hold over rusted-on supporters.
Against that, there are now many like Volker and the original whistleblower, ready to disclose truths that cannot be ignored and Trump’s enemies mean business — they could well do him in.
HOW THE WHISTLEBLOWER SET OUT TO HELP
The author of the whistleblower document makes it vividly plain that the document is intended for public airing, marked “unclassified” and free of possible security impediments to publication.
It details a phone conversation on 25 July between Trump and President Zelensky, where Trump, who had withheld military aid, brought up the political favour. He wanted a rehash or restart of past corruption investigations into a gas company in Ukraine where Senator Joe Biden’s son was a board member.
The document’s author is careful to justify the complaint, in terms of professional responsibility and citizenship and legal obligations, citing regulations such as Executive Order (EO) 13526.
Lined up with formal procedure and calculated to be acted upon, it was sent to the Chairmen of the Senate and House of Representatives Intelligence Committees. In the latter case, the Chairman is Adam Schiff, a Democratic Party representative, bound to publish and act on it as he did.
The statement sets out to explain its sources and then directs potential investigators to persons who were involved in:
- withholding arms supplies or “intelligence support” from the Ukraine Government, until it was seen by the President how Zelensky “chose to act”; and
- asking the Ukrainians to get compromising information about the Democratic political candidate, Senator Joe Biden and his son.
ASSISTANCE TO THE CONGRESSIONAL INVESTIGATORS
It was also pointed out that several witnesses would have made their own “contemporaneous notes”, possibly not captured as White House lawyers began locking away evidence of the President’s conversation.
The whistleblower document gives information on potentially hostile or difficult witnesses, beginning:
‘The President’s lawyer, Mr Rudolph Giuliani, is a central figure in this effort. Attorney General Barr appears to be involved as well.’
POINTING THE FINGER AT GIULIANI
Giuliani is expressly targeted for setting up and taking part in many meetings with Ukrainian officials and politicians, with the document giving their agendas, attendance list, time and place (in Kiev, Washington, or Madrid).
The whistleblower document states:
I heard from multiple U.S. officials that they were deeply concerned by… Mr Giuliani’s circumvention of national security decision-making processes to engage with Ukrainian officials and relay messages… between Kiev and the President.
These officials also told me: that State Department officials including Ambassadors Volker and Sondland had spoken with Mr Giuliani in an attempt to “contain the damage” to U.S. national security; and… sought to help Ukrainian leaders understand and respond to the differing messages they were receiving from U.S. official channels on the one hand and from Mr Giuliani on the other.
Multiple U.S. officials told me that the Ukrainian leadership was led to believe that a meeting or phone call between the President and President Zelensky would depend on whether Zelensky showed willingness to “play ball”…
MISUSING THE POWER OF OFFICE
All these named actors are “big fish” in their own world, not the office clerks. How much all this information, from the one “concerned official”, might affect the impeachment investigation into Donald Trump will be shown as the Congressional Intelligence Committee and later the Justice Committee follow up the leads.
The whistleblower person offered one clear interpretation:
‘I have received information from multiple U.S. Government officials that the President of the United States is using the power of his office to elicit interference from a foreign country in the 2020 elections.’
Media editor Dr Lee Duffield is a former ABC foreign correspondent, political journalist and academic.
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