It’s been a while since I’ve repeated this, but it’s important to remember, this whole impeachment story is, at root, super simple: the President of the United States attempted to withhold needed military assistance — money designated by Congress — from an ally in exchange for political dirt on a 2020 opponent. That’s it. That’s the whole story.
And yesterday, that part of the story became a HELL of a lot clearer when the current ambassador to Ukraine, Bill Taylor, testified to Congress. Taylor delivered a 15-page opening statement, which is the only part of his testimony that we are currently privy to, but it is a humdinger. You should set aside 10-15 minutes to read it for yourself.
- Taylor described an explicit quid pro quo:
Ambassador Sondland also told me that he now recognized that he had made a mistake by earlier telling the Ukrainian officials to whom he spoke that a White House meeting with President Zelensky was dependent on a public announcement of investigations — in fact, Ambassador Sondland said, “everything” was dependent on such an announcement, including security assistance. He said that President Trump wanted President Zelensky “in a public box” by making a public statement about ordering such investigations.
- The White House had set up two channels for Ukraine policy: the “official State Department” one and the clown show being run by “The Three Amigos”:
I found a confusing and unusual arrangement for making U.S. policy toward Ukraine. There appeared to be two channels of U.S. policy-making and implementation, one regular and one highly irregular. As the Chief of Mission, I had authority over the regular, formal diplomatic processes, including the bulk of the U.S. effort to support Ukraine against the Russian invasion and to help it defeat corruption. This regular channel of U.S. policy-making has consistently had strong, bipartisan support both in Congress and in all administrations since Ukraine’s independence from Russia in 1991.
At the same time, however, there was an irregular, informal channel of U.S. policy-making with respect to Ukraine, one which included then-Special Envoy Kurt Volker, Ambassador Sondland, Secretary of Energy Rick Perry, and as I subsequently learned, Mr. Giuliani.
- Trump demanded that Ukraine “pay up” before he would “sign a check” — basically, the President was treating taxpayer dollars as his own cash to distribute to Ukraine, but only after they gave him what he wanted, a publicly-announced investigation into Biden:
Before these text messages, during our call on September 8, Ambassador Sondland tried to explain to me that President Trump is a businessman. When a businessman is about to sign a check to someone who owes him something, he said, the businessman asks that person to pay up before signing the check. Ambassador Volker used the same terms several days later while we were together at the Yalta European Strategy Conference. I argued to both that the explanation made no sense: the Ukrainians did not “owe” President Trump anything, and holding up security assistance for domestic political gain was “crazy,” as I had said in my text message to Ambassadors Sondland and Volker on September 9.
- Taylor went to the front lines of the Ukrainian war with Russia and saw for himself that Ukrainian soldiers would die if the aid wasn’t released.
Ambassador Volker and I traveled to the front line in northern Donbas to receive a briefing from the commander of the forces on the line of contact. Arriving for the briefing in the military headquarters, the commander thanked us for security assistance, but I was aware that this assistance was on hold, which made me uncomfortable.
Ambassador Volker and I could see the armed and hostile Russian-led forces on the other side of the damaged bridge across the line of contact. Over 13,000 Ukrainians had been killed in the war, one or two a week. More Ukrainians would undoubtedly die without the U.S. assistance.
- Taylor, at John Bolton’s urging, sent Secretary of State Mike Pompeo a cable outlining his concerns about withholding the aid:
Near the end of Ambassador Bolton’s visit, I asked to meet him privately, during which I expressed to him my serious concern about the withholding of military assistance to Ukraine while the Ukrainians were defending their country from Russian aggression. Ambassador Bolton recommended that I send a first-person cable to Secretary Pompeo directly, relaying my concerns. I wrote and transmitted such a cable on August 29, describing the “folly” I saw in withholding military aid to Ukraine at a time when hostilities were still active in the east and when Russia was watching closely to gauge the level of American support for the Ukrainian government. I told the secretary that I could not and would not defend such a policy. Although I received no specific response, I heard that soon thereafter, the Secretary carried the cable with him to a meeting at the White House focused on security assistance for Ukraine.
- Taylor wasn’t given a readout of the call between President Check Signer and President Zelensky, and he thought it was weird that when the diplomats themselves called Zelensky, The Three Amigos didn’t want anyone transcribing the call:
I sensed something odd when Ambassador Sondland told me on June 28 that he did not wish to include most of the regular interagency participants in a call planned with President Zelensky later that day. Ambassador Sondland, Ambassador Volker, Secretary [Rick] Perry, and I were on this call, dialing in from different locations. However, Ambassador Sondland said that he wanted to make sure no one was transcribing or monitoring as they added President Zelensky to the call.
On July 25, President Trump and President Zelensky had the long-awaited phone conversation. Strangely, even though I was Chief of Mission and was scheduled to meet with President Zelensky along with Ambassador Volker the following day, I received no readout of the call from the White House. The Ukrainian government issued a short, cryptic summary.
Alright, so this testimony, it’s BAD for the White House, like SUPER BAD. (I want to see that cable, Mike Pompeo, and I bet Adam Schiff wants to see it, too.)
And so the best they could come up with was that the Ukrainians didn’t know the military aid was being withheld so NO QUID PRO QUO!
Neither he (Taylor) or any other witness has provided testimony that the Ukrainians were aware that military aid was being withheld. You can’t have a quid pro quo with no quo.” Congressman John Ratcliffe @foxandfriends Where is the Whistleblower? The Do Nothing Dems case is DEAD!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 23, 2019
Yeah, about that: “…word of the aid freeze had gotten to high-level Ukrainian officials by the first week in August, according to interviews and documents obtained by The New York Times. The problem was not a bureaucratic glitch, the Ukrainians were told then. To address it, they were advised, they should reach out to Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, according to the interviews and records.”
Also, the White House spokesperson, Stephanie Grisham, is trying to claim that Bill Taylor is a “radical unelected bureaucrat.” FUN FACT: Taylor is a West Point graduate who served during Vietnam who was the ambassador to Ukraine under George W. Bush before BEING APPOINTED AS AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE UNDER DONALD JOSEPHINE TRUMP. So, great story, Steph.
So then, let’s fast-forward to today. Laura Cooper, a top Defense Department official overseeing Ukraine policy, arrived to testify before Congress today (which is in and of itself interesting — signaling that Defense Department employees, like the State Department employees, might be willing to testify), but her testimony was interrupted by a bunch of GOP goofballs.
Led by dum-dum Florida Representative Matt Gaetz, a group of about two dozen House Republicans stormed into the SCIF where Cooper was testifying — a SCIF is a secure room used to contain classified information — and demanded to be a part of the investigation being led by Adam Schiff. A bunch of these dummies tweeted that they were inside Schiff’s “secret chamber” which means they brought their phones with them inside the SCIF which could certainly lead to them losing their national security clearances and might actually be a crime.
Oh, and also? THERE ARE REPUBLICANS IN THE HEARINGS. The reason these idiots weren’t allowed inside the hearing is because they are not on the relevant committees. Too bad, so sad. Take it up with the Republican House leadership.
Footage of the Republicans preparing for their “protest”:
Anyway, they’ve been kicked back out again. Cool stunt, bros. That all y’all got?
Oh wait, you’re also going to argue that “abuse of power” isn’t a crime? Yeah, this is maybe why you don’t go to Big Dick Toilet Salesman for legal advice.
Meanwhile, one of the White House’s claims is “WHAT? WE’RE LOOKING INTO CORRUPTION. DON’T YOU THINK CORRUPTION IS BAD?”
Except … “…the administration sought to cut a program called International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement. Among the goals of the program, as described in White House budget documents, is “helping U.S. partners address threats to U.S. interests by building resilience and promoting reform in the justice and law enforcement sectors through support to new institutions and specialized offices, such as Ukraine’s National Anti-Corruption Bureau and Special Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office.”
The program directs specific sums of money to individual countries. In 2019, $30 million was directed to Ukraine, after Congress rejected an administration request to cut the sum to $13 million. In its 2020 budget request, released in March, the administration again sought to cut the program’s spending on Ukraine to $13 million.”
“In another example, the administration sought to streamline a number of overseas democracy assistance and foreign aid accounts under one larger umbrella called the Economic Support and Development Fund. The White House believed that consolidation would cut those programs by more than $2 billion. This fund, too, is aimed at fighting corruption in countries around the world, among other goals, according to White House budget documents. Spending in Ukraine for the accounts in question was $250 million in 2018; the White House has asked for $145 million in 2020 under the new iteration of the program.”
Elsewhere, in a case unrelated to impeachment, one of President Laws Don’t Apply to Me’s lawyers literally argued in court today that if the President shot a man on Fifth Avenue, not only would he be immune to prosecution while he was in office, he couldn’t even be investigated. LOL, GOOD LUCK WITH THAT ARGUMENT, SHITBIRD.
Anywayyyyy, Amber? Have something to say?
In Other TV News
Hey — another new show has been renewed, a show that I enjoy and genuinely thought would not be renewed, a show I SHOULD BE HATE-BLOGGING, BUT NOOOOOOOOOOOO. Check out the link to find out which one, and my gallery with all the other renew/cancel predictions.
Vince Gilligan has no plans for any more Breaking Bad movies … but also keeps the door open.
OH GOD DAMN: Lori Loughlin could be facing up to 50 years in prison for the college admissions scandal. THAT’S WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU PISS OFF PROSECUTORS, AUNT BECKY.
Happy 15th anniversary, Paul Rudd’s appearances on Conan! (Skip to about 3:45 if you want to get to the heart of the joke):
Wait, there are TCM Classic cruises? No thank you, please.
Oh, Henry Thomas. Get some help dude. (Henry Thomas is from San Antonio and was living there when I was in college. He was a complete asshole to me at a bar once, actually pulled a “Do you know who I am?” and I’ve never gotten over it.)
Sex Monster News
An update on the Astros story that I wrote about yesterday: Apparently, Taubman was targeting one female reporter in particular when he was screaming about how FUCKING HAPPY he was that a domestic abuser was on the roster, a reporter who had tweeted repeatedly about domestic abuse over the years. According to NPR, Taubman had complained in the past “that some of the reporter’s informational tweets — promoting domestic violence hotline telephone numbers, for example — appeared moments after Osuna entered several Astros games in relief.”
Jeff Luhnow: “What we really don’t know is the intent behind the inappropriate comments he made. We may never know that because the person who said them and the people who heard them, at least up to this point, have different perspectives.”-https://t.co/lrqYEXY4oo
— Chandler Rome (@Chandler_Rome) October 23, 2019
THIS ISN’T A GODDAMNED MYSTERY. SHE TWEETED ABOUT DOMESTIC VIOLENCE, TAUBMAN RESENTED HER FOR IT, HE ACTED LIKE A FUCKING ASSHOLE. CASE CLOSED.
Just, gross. Fire him, Astros. And fire whoever directed that pissy statement accusing Sports Illustrated of lying.
Keeping with our clown theme:
The Houston Astros public relations department: pic.twitter.com/ocOJLH6bHs
— Temporary WorkStros Fan🥴 (@NombreEsWorkman) October 22, 2019
Oh cool, NBC renewed its contract with NBC News President Noah Oppenheim in the middle of their sexual harassment scandal and knowing full well that Ronan Farrow was coming for him. “It is deeply disturbing that Comcast CEO Brian Roberts would show such poor judgment and renew its contract with Noah Oppenheim knowing full well that he was facing allegations of enabling sexual abusers in the workplace and had a record of silencing survivors and stories of survivors in the newsroom,” said Shaunna Thomas, co-founder and executive director of UltraViolet, an advocacy organization for women. “This is a mistake that Comcast and NBC Universal will regret.”
Even more charges against Cuba Gooding Jr., you guys.
This is an alarming case in which a cop who was fired for being a pedophile sued a newspaper who reported on his case, and now the newspaper — whose reporting was accurate — is on the verge of bankruptcy. EVERYTHING IS SUPER GREAT AND FINE AND NO NEED TO WORRY AT ALL.
- RuPaul’s Celebrity Drag Race is in the works at VH1. !!!!
- Four special episodes of Adventure Time have been ordered at HBO Max.
- A Good Christian Bitches adaptation set in high school is in the works at The CW.
- Mavenhood, a social media drama, has been bought at NBC.
- Chain of Command has received a put pilot order at Fox.
- The Squad, an esports comedy that is different from the esports comedy that is being developed at CBS, is being developed at NBC.
- The Cleaning Lady, an Argentinian mob drama, will be adapted at Fox.
- Birth, Wedding, Funeral has been ordered by HBO Max. It’s part of an overall deal with Lisa Ling.
- A documentary about Patrice O’Neal is in the works at Comedy Central.
- Home on the Road has been set at the Magnolia Network.
- January 22nd has been set at HBO Max.
- The Beach House has been acquired at Shudder.
- Sulphur Springs has been ordered at Disney Channel.
- Louis Theroux has set up his own production company, Mindhouse Productions. (he made an amazing Scientology documentary that you should watch if you’re at all interested: My Scientology Movie) They are working on projects that Netflix and Amazon are interested in.
- Dwayne Wade has signed a development deal with WarnerMedia.
- Hugh Laurie is working on an Agatha Christie project for BBC.
- Jared Harris and Lee Pace are going to star in Foundation at Apple TV+.
- Judd Hirsch will join God Friended Me.
- Sophia Bush is joining the cast of Love, Simon on Disney+.
- Olivia Scriven has been cast in Mrs. America on FX.
- Matt Cohen, the hot doctor/priest (yup) formerly on General Hospital, is joining Entertainment Tonight.
- Sean Pertwee will guest star on Prodigal Son on Fox.
- Austin Crute, Nik Dodani, Andrew Jacobs, and Chloë Levine are joining the cast of Trinkets on Netflix.
- Daniel Goddard is leaving The Young and the Restless.
Mark Your Calendars
- Seth Meyers: Lobby Baby will premiere on Netflix on November 5 and if you’re a Seth Meyers fan you’ll enjoy this trailer:
- Deputy will premiere on Fox in January.
- Let it Snow will debut on Netflix on November 8.
- The Devil Next Door will premiere on Netflix on November 4.
- I’m With the Band: Nasty Cherry will debut on Netflix on November 15.
- XFL games will kick off on Fox and ABC in February. (We’re really trying to do this again? Ugh.)
Al Burton, Creator of Charles in Charge and Win Ben Stein’s Money and producer on several 80s hits, including Facts of Life, Diff’rent Strokes, Silver Spoons, The Jeffersons and One Day at a Time.
James Schmerer, Writer on CHiPs and MacGyver.
Castle Rock: Introducing Annie Wilkes. Season premiere. Hulu
Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner Featuring David Chang: Having been to a number of his restaurants, I will eat anything David Chang tells me to. Series premiere. Netflix
The Oval: The White House is featured in this new soapy drama series, but look, nothing Tyler Perry can possibly come up with will be as insane as what we are all currently living through. Series premiere. 8 p.m., BET
World Series Game 2: C’MON ‘STROS. LET’S DO BETTER, GUYS. 6:30 p.m., Fox
- Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon: Michael Douglas, Kathryn Hahn, Jenny Lewis
- Late Night with Seth Meyers: Jessica Biel, Jesse Plemons, Brooks Wheelan, Terence Higgins
- The Late Show with Stephen Colbert: Ronan Farrow, Andrea Savage
- The Late Late Show with James Corden: Demi Moore, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jay Larson
- Jimmy Kimmel Live: Sen. Bernie Sanders, Bill Murray, Ellie Kemper, the National
- Conan: Tim Robbins
- Watch What Happens Live: Jenna Dewan, D’Andra Simmons
- A Little Late with Lily Singh: Justin Hartley, Lea Michele
|Harry and Meghan: An African Journey
|FOX||The World Series