Thursday, November 14, 2019

How and Why Trump Dropped His Extortion Scheme

Volodymyr Zelensky, with his extortionist
on Sept. 25 at the UN
The Republican defense against the extortion-for-military-aid impeachment case against Trump emerged yesterday out of the mouth of the mouthiest Republican on the congressional panel:
“You have to ask yourself: What did President Zelensky actually do to get the aid? The answer is nothing. He did nothing. He didn’t open any investigations. He didn’t call Attorney General Bill Barr. He didn’t do any of the things that House Democrats say that he was being forced and coerced and threatened to do. He didn’t do anything because he didn’t have to.” 
--Congressman Jim Jordan (R-Oh.), yesterday
We'll set aside the obvious here, that trying to extort someone is the crime, whether you're successful or not. What I'm interested in is the timeline under Trump's decision to release the military aid to Ukraine and call off the demand for political dirt on the Bidens. It's pretty clear the whistleblower's whistling, along with the resulting spotlight, ended the scheme.

Timeline: How/Why Extortion Got Scotched

July 3 -- The day that Col. Alexander Vindman discovers there's an unexplained hold on aid to Ukraine.

July 10 -- National Security Advisor John Bolton cuts short a White House meeting with Ukrainian officials when Gordon Sondland says he has an agreement with Mick Mulvaney that Ukraine's president would get a meeting with Trump if Ukraine agreed to launch investigations. Thrown out of Bolton's office, Sondland nevertheless kept pressing his "drug deal" for an investigation of the Bidens. So far, the Ukrainians don't appear to know that military aid is being withheld.

July 18 -- In a secure call with national security officials, a staff member of the White House Office of Management and Budget announces there's a freeze on Ukraine aid until further notice, based on a presidential order to the budget office. How Col. Vindman knew about the freeze over two weeks earlier is unclear, but he probably knew it via John Bolton.

July 25 -- Trump talks to Ukrainian President Zelensky, complains that the Ukrainians aren't really very grateful for all the help they get from the US and asks for a favor.

August 12 -- Whistleblower files his formal complaint (though he had previously filed a draft complaint anonymously to the CIA's general counsel). He knows all about the attempted extortion of Ukraine, the holding up of military aid, and the role of Rudy Guiliani.

August 13 -- White House lawyers learn of the whistleblower's complaint.

August 14 -- Justice Department learns of the whistleblower's complaint, declines to follow up with investigation.

August ?, prior to the 28th -- There's worry in Kiev: Catherine Croft, the special adviser for Ukraine at the State Department, says two Ukrainians reach out to her to ask about the status of the military assistance.

August 28 -- publishes "Trump holds up Ukraine military aid meant to confront Russia." That cat is now fully out of the bag.

September 9 -- Three US House committees launch the investigation into allegations that Trump, his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, and possibly others, tried to extort the Ukrainian government to help the president's reelection campaign by digging up dirt on Joe Biden and his family.

September 11 -- Trump suddenly and without explanation releases the aid to Ukraine.

November 13 -- Rep. Jim Jordan says there can't be anything wrong because Ukraine got its aid and never had to produce any dirt on Biden. So where's the problem?

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