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Legal Scholar Points to Sondland Testimony as ‘Most Chilling’ Evidence Trump Used Power of Office for Private ‘Political Benefit’ 

Legal Scholar Points to Sondland Testimony as ‘Most Chilling’ Evidence Trump Used Power of Office for Private ‘Political Benefit’

“A candidate for president should resist foreign interference in our elections, not demand it. If we are to keep faith with the Constitution and our Republic, President Trump must be held to account.”

By Jake Johnson

Stanford Law School professor Pamela Karlan on Wednesday told House impeachment investigators that the “most chilling” evidence that President Donald Trump was pursuing his own political gain in Ukraine came from the November 20 testimony of Gordon Sondland, the U.S. Ambassador to the European Union.

“The country’s leading constitutional scholars testified under oath that Trump’s conduct meets the constitutional standard for impeachment.”
—Impeachment HQ

Karlan, one of four legal scholars to testify during Wednesday’s Judiciary Committee hearing, said she spent her entire Thanksgiving break reading transcripts from previous public impeachment hearings in the House Intelligence Committee.

The “most striking” line from the witness testimony, said Karlan, was Sondland’s claim that Trump did not care whether Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky actually opened an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden.

“He had to announce the investigations. He didn’t actually have to do them, as I understood it,” Sondland told impeachment investigators last month. “The only thing I heard from [Trump’s personal attorney Rudy] Giuliani or otherwise was that they had to be announced in some form, and that form kept changing.”

Karlan told the Judiciary Committee that Sondland’s testimony undermines the Republican narrative that Trump’s behavior toward Ukraine stemmed from geniune concerns about corruption.

“It is only in the president’s interest, it is not the national interest, that a particular president be elected or be defeated at the next election. The Constitution is indifferent to that.”
—Pamela Karlan, Stanford Law School

“What I took that to mean was this was not about whether Vice President Biden actually committed corruption or not,” Karlan said. “This was about injuring somebody who the president thinks of as a particularly hard opponent. That’s for his private beliefs.”

“There’s a lot to suggest here that this was about political benefit,” Karlan added. “What the Constitution cares about is that we have free elections. And so it is only in the president’s interest, it is not the national interest, that a particular president be elected or be defeated at the next election. The Constitution is indifferent to that.”

Three of the four legal scholars who testified Wednesday, including Karlan, said they believe Trump committed the “impeachable high crime and misdemeanor of abuse of power” by soliciting Ukrainian interference in the 2020 presidential election.

The lone outlier was George Washington University professor Jonathan Turley, who was called to testify by Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee.

During her opening remarks (pdf), Karlan said the evidence that has emerged from the House impeachment inquiry into Trump “reveals a president who used the powers of his office to demand that a foreign government participate in undermining a competing candidate for the presidency.”

“And it shows a president who did this to strong-arm a foreign leader into smearing one of the president’s opponents in our ongoing election season,” said Karlan. “Put simply, a candidate for president should resist foreign interference in our elections, not demand it. If we are to keep faith with the Constitution and our Republic, President Trump must be held to account.”

Karlan asked viewers to “imagine living in a part of Louisiana or Texas that’s prone to devastating hurricanes and flooding.”

“What would you think if you lived there and your governor asked for a meeting with the president to discuss getting disaster aid that Congress has provided for?” Karlan asked. “What would you think if that president said, ‘I would like you to do us a favor? I’ll meet with you, and send the disaster relief, once you brand my opponent a criminal.'”

Watch:

Impeachment HQ, a joint project of progressive groups Stand Up America and Defend the Republic, said in an email to supporters Wednesday that the first impeachment hearing in the House Judiciary Committee “has been absolutely devastating for Donald Trump.”

“The country’s leading constitutional scholars testified under oath that Trump’s conduct meets the constitutional standard for impeachment,” the groups said.

Source: Legal Scholar Points to Sondland Testimony as ‘Most Chilling’ Evidence Trump Used Power of Office for Private ‘Political Benefit’ | Common Dreams News

‘A Full on Cover-Up’: Official Testifies That Ukraine Call Transcript Trump Said Was ‘Perfect’ Left Out Key Details 

‘A Full on Cover-Up’: Official Testifies That Ukraine Call Transcript Trump Said Was ‘Perfect’ Left Out Key Details

“It was a doctored transcript. The White House cut out some of his words, refused to restore them, and hid the transcript in a secure server.”

by Jake Johnson

Bolstering allegations that the White House engaged in a cover-up to suppress evidence of wrongdoing by President Donald Trump, a National Security Council official who listened to Trump’s July conversation with Ukraine’s leader reportedly told House impeachment investigators Tuesday that the administration intentionally omitted key details from the rough transcript of the call it released last month.

The New York Times reported that Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the NSC’s top Ukraine expert, told House committees during his sworn deposition that the transcript left out “crucial words and phrases” that he unsuccessfully attempted to reinsert.

“Thanks to today’s impeachment testimony, we now know White House officials deleted key details out of the record of Trump’s Ukraine call before they released it. It was never a transcript. It was a cover-up.”
—Swing Left

“The omissions, Colonel Vindman said, included Mr. Trump’s assertion that there were recordings of former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. discussing Ukraine corruption, and an explicit mention by Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, of Burisma Holdings, the energy company whose board employed Mr. Biden’s son Hunter,” according to the Times.

“Colonel Vindman did not testify to a motive behind the White House editing process,” the Times added. “But his testimony is likely to drive investigators to ask further questions about how officials handled the call, including changes to the transcript and the decision to put it into the White House’s most classified computer system.”

The details emerging from Vindman’s testimony, which lasted more than 10 hours, were viewed by lawmakers and legal experts as more damning evidence of Trump’s misconduct and of his administration’s deliberate efforts to hide the wrongdoing from the public.

“Wow. This is just stunningly bad for the White House. A full on cover-up,” tweeted CNN legal analyst Susan Hennessey. “How much longer are congressional Republicans going to continue to go along with this?”

As Common Dreams reported, the White House decided to release the rough transcript of Trump’s call with Zelensky last month in an attempt to dampen outrage over a whistleblower complaint about the conversation, during which the U.S. president pressed Zelensky to investigate Biden.

Speaking to reporters outside the White House earlier this month, Trump said he “had an absolutely perfect conversation” with Zelensky and “on top of that, and maybe less importantly, frankly, but on top of that, we have a transcript of the conversation, fortunately, that’s perfect.”

“The transcript is a perfect transcript,” Trump added. “There shouldn’t be any further questions.”

Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) pointed to the president’s characterization of the transcript in a tweet responding to the Times report.

“This is damning: for weeks Trump called the call record which showed he sought foreign influence in our elections a ‘perfect transcript,'” said Beyer. “It was a doctored transcript. The White House cut out some of his words, refused to restore them, and hid the transcript in a secure server.”

Following Vindman’s deposition Tuesday, House Democrats unveiled a resolution detailing the next steps in their impeachment inquiry into Trump. The House is scheduled to vote on the resolution Thursday.

As NBC News reported, “the eight-page resolution calls for public hearings and lays out their general format, and specifically permits staff counsels to question witnesses for periods of up to 45 minutes per side, Democrats and Republicans.”

Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), a member of the House Judiciary Committee, said the resolution “will ensure a fair and public process for the American people to see the damning and full picture of the president’s betrayal.”

Source: ‘A Full on Cover-Up’: Official Testifies That Ukraine Call Transcript Trump Said Was ‘Perfect’ Left Out Key Details | Common Dreams News

Trump’s Glorification of ISIS Leader’s Gory Death Panned by Critics 

Trump’s Glorification of ISIS Leader’s Gory Death Panned by Critics

“Trump relishes describing ghastly violence.”

By Eoin Higgins

President Donald Trump’s announcement Sunday morning that the U.S. military killed Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in Syria on Saturday night was peppered with glorifications of the violence that led to the militant’s death that critics found unsettling.

“He died like a dog,” said Trump of al-Baghdadi.

The president recounted the militant leader’s last moments in detail in a Sunday morning news conference:

He died after running into a dead-end tunnel, whimpering and crying and screaming. The compound had been cleared by this time, with people either surrendering or being shot and killed. Eleven young children were moved out of the house un-injured. The only ones remaining were Baghdadi in the tunnel, who had dragged three children with him to certain death. He reached the end of the tunnel, as our dogs chased him down. He ignited his vest, killing himself and the three children. His body was mutilated by the blast, but test results gave certain and positive identification.

“Trump relishes describing ghastly violence,” tweeted CNBC reporter John Harwood.

Trump in his comments celebrated the courage of a military dog that assisted in the raid—a sharp contrast to how the president normally treats the four-legged animals in his rhetoric and in how he described the death of al-Baghdadi. 

“He both praised a dog and described Baghdadi as having died ‘like a dog,'” The Intercept‘s Medhi Hasan told Common Dreams. “Tells you much about his thought process—or lack thereof.”

In an apparent attempt to mimic former President Barack Obama’s iconic photo of the 2011 raid that killed 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden, the White House released a photo showing Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, and assorted generals sitting around a table. Hasan’s Intercept colleague Glenn Greenwald mocked the photo on Twitter.

The picture’s metadata, said photojournalist Pete Souza, indicates it was posed well after the fact, not taken live.

“The raid, as reported, took place at 3:30pm Washington time,” Souza tweeted. “The photo, as shown in the camera IPTC data, was taken at ’17:05:24.'”

Trump did not notify Democratic congressional leaders, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, of the raid beforehand, claiming he was concerned about “leaks.” Pelosi, in response, demanded the administration brief the House on the action.

Greenwald, on Twitter, wondered how the tension between Democrats’ instinct to criticize the president would reconcile with their past praise of Obama’s bin Laden raid. 

“It’s genuinely fascinating watching Democrats in real time struggle to figure out what to say about this,” said Greenwald. “They want to be patriotic and anti-ISIS, but also need a way to malign Trump without contradicting their gushing Obama praise over OBL: not an easy balancing act. Good luck!”

Source: Trump’s Glorification of ISIS Leader’s Gory Death Panned by Critics | Common Dreams News