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New Study: HCBUs Move Low-Income Black Students into the Middle Class!

Dear Commons Community,

The Chronicle of Higher Education has a featured article this morning highlighting the success of black colleges (HCBUs) in moving poorer black students into the middle class.  The graphic above comes from a study that identifies the success of HCBUs in this regard.

Here is an excerpt from the article.

“Historically black colleges and universities have far smaller endowments and a far larger share of low-income students than predominantly white institutions do. Yet black colleges raise students up the ladder of economic success at rates comparable to white colleges, according to a study to be released today by the Rutgers Center for Minority Serving Institutions.

A report on the study, drawing on data from the Opportunity Insights project at Harvard University, compared the trajectories of students who attended 50 HBCUs against those who went to mostly white institutions in the same regions. Two-thirds of HBCU students from low-income families, meaning those with household incomes of roughly $25,000 or less, ended up earning at least middle-class incomes by their early to mid-30s. Seventy percent of low-income students at mostly white colleges reached the middle class or higher by that age, according to the report, “Moving Upward and Onward: Income Mobility at Historically Black Colleges and Universities.”

Over all, almost 70 percent of HBCU students achieved what the researchers describe as incomes that are middle class or higher.

The notion that black colleges are pipelines to the middle class will not surprise people who work at the institutions, which have been serving that role for generations. Still, the research team — a multi-institution collaboration led by Robert A. Nathenson of the University of Pennsylvania — presented its findings as an empirical validation for a segment of higher education that has long been forced to defend itself against outside critics. HBCUs, the report notes, face funding cuts, doubts about their value, and questions about the constitutionality of their federal funding. Critics portray HBCUs as “anachronistic appendages of a racist past,” as one of the report’s authors, Marybeth Gasman of Rutgers, has written.

But the report, while validating HBCUs, also identifies a troubling counter-trend facing their graduates. For students who come from higher-income families, a “stark difference” exists between blacks’ and whites’ ability to maintain privilege across generations, said Nathenson, a sociologist employed as a research specialist with the Consortium for Policy Research in Education at Penn’s Graduate School of Education. Better-off HBCU students have a 50-percent chance of replicating their parents’ affluence, the study found. Students from white colleges have a 60-percent chance.

That difference probably results from the structural racism of American life, Nathenson argued, rather than factors tied to the colleges. Earlier studies have also identified the “difficulty African American families face maintaining socioeconomic gains across generations,” Nathenson noted. For example, 60 percent of white people who have a parent with a four-year college degree also go on to earn such a degree, according to an analysis published this year by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis; the figure for African Americans is 34 percent.”

In sum, the HCBUs are among the jewels of American higher education.

Tony

 

New York Times Editorial:  Why the Trump Impeachment Inquiry Is the Only Option!

Dear Commons Community,

The New York Times Editorial Board laid out in detail yesterday the case for the impeachment of Donald Trump.  It covers the history of impeachment, the grounds for impeachment and the case against Trump.  Here is an excerpt:

“It is quite possible, though by no means assured, that an impeachment inquiry will produce political benefits for Mr. Trump. He and many of his supporters draw energy and a sense of purpose from conflict. They relish defining themselves in opposition to enemies real and imagined. Further, weary of bickering in Washington and anxious about paying for health care or housing or schooling or wars without end, many Americans may choose to tune out.

The imperative of constitutional accountability outweighs such fears. Mr. Trump is testing the norms and limits of the American system of government. He has left Congress no other recourse than considering impeachment to prevent future presidents from emulating and even expanding upon his piratical application of executive power…

…The decision to impeach a president is inherently political, in the sense — the noble sense — that it must be made in the public interest. But it should never be political in the narrow sense of being dictated by the latest poll or the next election. This is a moment for political courage. Americans deserve a government devoted to addressing their real problems. But to get that, they need a government balanced as the founders intended, with free and fair elections and a president checked by Congress from the selfish exercise of extraordinary power. Mr. Trump has disparaged and degraded the institutions of American governance, and it is now time for them, in historic rebuke, to demonstrate the majesty of representative democracy.”

The majesty of our democracy is indeed at stake!

The full editorial is below.

Tony  

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Why the Trump Impeachment Inquiry Is the Only Option

The Editorial Board

Sept. 27, 2019

 

The peaceful transfer of presidential power through free and fair elections is the crowning glory of American democracy. It concretizes the people’s will, conferring legitimacy, assuring stability. President Trump may have finished second in the popular vote, but he is the legitimate president. In the normal course of events, his mismanagement of the nation’s affairs would be left for the electorate to repudiate, through support of a challenger in a primary race or, failing that, in the general election.

But the course of events is not normal. Mr. Trump campaigned as an iconoclast, but it became clear early in his administration that his disruptiveness was aimed less at bringing fresh thinking to bear on stale policymaking than at assaulting the vital institutions of governance themselves. He has attacked the legitimacy of law enforcement, of intelligence agencies, of Congress and of the courts — of anyone he judges to threaten him politically.

For nearly three years, public-spirited people have debated whether each instance of executive overreach by Mr. Trump and his lieutenants went far enough to require the traumatic recourse of an impeachment inquiry. They have wondered at what point the checks and balances of American governance might have to be restored by means of the most radical check of all.

That point has now been reached.

The American people have learned over the past week that Mr. Trump, during a July phone call, pressed the president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, to investigate Joe Biden, one of his leading political rivals, according to a written summary of the conversation released by the White House. What’s more, Mr. Trump offered the assistance of the Justice Department in that investigation. These facts are not in dispute, which is why some of the president’s die-hard defenders are trying to dismiss the conversation as an inconsequential instance of the president’s bad judgment.

But it was so much more dangerous than that. A president’s use of his power for his own political gain, at the expense of the public interest, is the quintessence of an impeachable offense. It was, in fact, one of the examples the Constitution’s framers deployed to explain what would constitute “high crimes and misdemeanors,” the standard for impeachment.

Have other presidents conducted foreign policy with re-election in mind? Of course. But there is no known precedent for a president pressuring a foreign nation to tear down a political rival. (As a candidate in 1968, Richard M. Nixon tried to sabotage peace talks to end the Vietnam War, but the details didn’t become public knowledge until decades later.)

Have other presidents conducted foreign policy with re-election in mind? Of course. But there is no known precedent for a president pressuring a foreign nation to tear down a political rival.

Mr. Trump appears to have applied more than just verbal pressure. Just days before the call with President Zelensky, Mr. Trump froze nearly $400 million in military aid to Ukraine, aid that Congress had judged to be in America’s national security interest. He released those funds weeks later, and only under intense bipartisan pressure from Congress. Even the president’s reliable ally Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, has said he did not receive an explanation for why Mr. Trump chose to withhold those funds.

The president has insisted that he raised the matter with Mr. Zelensky because Mr. Biden, as vice president, had engaged in criminal conduct. Mr. Biden has denied that; Mr. Trump has provided no evidence; and previous investigations have found no evidence of wrongdoing. But consider the hypothetical that Mr. Trump was correct about Mr. Biden. Would that legitimize the president’s behavior? No. If the president had evidence, his White House counsel should have shared it with the Department of Justice and let the F.B.I. do its job, in coordination with Ukrainian counterparts.

White House aides appear to have recognized that Mr. Trump egregiously overstepped, and to have tried to cover up his actions. According to the complaint filed in August by a whistle-blower in the intelligence community and released publicly on Thursday morning, there was a discussion among “White House lawyers about how to treat the call because of the likelihood, in the officials’ retelling, that they had witnessed the president abuse his office for personal gain.” At the direction of White House lawyers, the whistle-blower says, these officials “intervened to ‘lock down’ all records of the phone call, especially the word-for-word transcript that was produced.” And “this was ‘not the first time’” White House officials had done this, according to the complaint.

Some of Mr. Trump’s defenders assert that no criminal statute prevents a president from soliciting foreign interference in American elections. But the law is clear that impeachment does not require a crime. In fact, the absence of a criminal statute to restrain this sort of abuse of authority only reinforces the need for Congress to act in accordance with the aims of the framers of the Constitution. As Alexander Hamilton wrote in Federalist No. 65, impeachment was provided as a response not just to crimes but to acts that were an “abuse or violation of some public trust.” During this administration, Americans have discovered to their sorrow the degree to which past presidents were constrained not by specific laws but only by tradition, character and an understanding of the framers’ intent. Mr. Trump has proved immune to such considerations.

Of course, the president has committed previous offenses that many critics argued justified an impeachment inquiry months if not years ago. During the 2016 campaign, he appears to have violated federal election law by directing his personal lawyer Michael Cohen to pay $280,000 in hush money to two women who say they had sex with Mr. Trump. Mr. Cohen testified that Mr. Trump continued to reimburse him for making those payments into 2017, after Mr. Trump became president.

In office, he has also repeatedly sought to obstruct federal investigations. And his companies – which he has refused to divest or place in a blind trust – actively solicit business from foreign governments and leaders. Those governments have spent vast sums at Trump properties, enriching the president in possible violation of the emoluments clause of the Constitution, which prohibits foreign gifts.

But an impeachment inquiry was not necessary to deal previously with those transgressions, because the system was working: The courts were dealing with some charges, and the special counsel overseeing the Russia investigation, Robert Mueller, with others. Trump lieutenants were going to prison for their crimes, and despite various efforts by the administration to suppress the truth, an aggressive press ensured the American people learned enough about the dark dealings of Mr. Trump and his associates to inform their decisions in the next presidential election.

White House aides appear to have recognized that Mr. Trump egregiously overstepped, and to have tried to cover up his actions.

This board has made clear its own view of Mr. Trump’s unfitness for his office. We have opposed Mr. Trump not only because of his personal transgressions, divisiveness and dishonesty, but also because of the substance of many of his policies — on the environment, immigration, taxes, trade and other matters. But provided Mr. Trump was acting within the law, he had the absolute right to pursue his chosen course and be judged upon it by the electorate, one way or another, in 2020.

The disclosures about the president’s pressure on Ukraine have changed that picture. They have revealed Mr. Trump to be working to subvert the 2020 election, undermining the proper electoral check on presidential misbehavior. The Constitution provides only one fail-safe in such a situation, and that’s why the House was right this week to announce a formal impeachment inquiry, under the purview of the Judiciary Committee.

After all, Americans have seen this playbook before. During the 2016 campaign, Mr. Trump called on Russia to find emails he hoped would embarrass Hillary Clinton: “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” he bellowed then at a campaign news conference in Florida. Mr. Mueller subsequently showed that Russian agents tried to hack into Mrs. Clinton’s personal servers that same day. He eventually secured the indictment of 12 Russian agents in a hacking scheme, and more than a dozen more Russians in a disinformation campaign. They were trying to divide Americans and help Mr. Trump win.

Now, as president, Mr. Trump evidently feels free to demand such interference directly. In fact, Mr. Trump spoke to the Ukrainian president the day after Mr. Mueller had testified to Congress about the magnitude of Russian interference, its continuing menace and Mr. Trump’s efforts to obstruct the investigation. That Mr. Trump was not dissuaded by the response to Mr. Mueller’s findings from seeking political aid from another foreign source suggests he has learned nothing except that he is free to try anything — that a president may use the office as he chooses to promote his re-election.

We don’t have to guess at what he believes. In July, he said it out loud, telling a group of teenagers and young adults that under Article II of the Constitution, “I have the right to do whatever I want as president.”

During an impeachment inquiry, the Judiciary Committee has enhanced power to obtain documents from the executive branch and to compel the testimony of the president’s aides. The theory is that the House is dealing with a matter both momentous and urgent, and that in doing so it must operate more like a federal court than an oversight body. That may help Congress overcome Mr. Trump’s past refusals to let it perform its oversight function. “We’re fighting all the subpoenas,” Mr. Trump said in April.

Among the Democrats, some voices are already clamoring for the House to rush to judgment, and perhaps even to narrow its focus to the Ukraine incident. Those would be mistakes. The House now has a duty not to use an impeachment inquiry to seek political advantage but to protect the integrity of the next election by using its powers to conduct a methodical and fair investigation of impeachable behavior.

That Mr. Trump was not dissuaded by the response to Mr. Mueller’s findings from seeking political aid from another foreign source suggests he has learned nothing.

The Judiciary Committee can, and should, seek to require the appearance of presidential aides who have previously claimed immunity from testimony, like Don McGahn, the former White House counsel. It can, and should, seek to compel the disclosure of documents the White House has claimed to be shielded by executive privilege or grand jury protections.

Yet much of Mr. Trump’s behavior should remain outside the scope of the inquiry. The founders intended impeachment as a remedy for committing treason, bribery or high crimes and misdemeanors. While the exact meaning of the last phrase ultimately rests on the judgment of the House, lawmakers would be wise to construe it narrowly, as concerning the same type of conduct as treason and bribery: placing private above public interest.

That is the difference between the justified effort to remove President Nixon from office, for misconduct that amounted to an assault on the integrity of the political system and the rights of private citizens, and the unjustified and unpopular impeachment of President Bill Clinton, for lying under oath about an affair. This is not the moment to seek to investigate Mr. Trump for tax fraud, unless it is tied to impeachable conduct.

It is quite possible, though by no means assured, that an impeachment inquiry will produce political benefits for Mr. Trump. He and many of his supporters draw energy and a sense of purpose from conflict. They relish defining themselves in opposition to enemies real and imagined. Further, weary of bickering in Washington and anxious about paying for health care or housing or schooling or wars without end, many Americans may choose to tune out.

The imperative of constitutional accountability outweighs such fears. Mr. Trump is testing the norms and limits of the American system of government. He has left Congress no other recourse than considering impeachment to prevent future presidents from emulating and even expanding upon his piratical application of executive power.

Just three times before in American history have presidents been subject to impeachment inquiries. The first time, in 1868, when Andrew Johnson was prosecuted by Congress for defying an act meant to limit his constitutional powers, this board deplored Mr. Johnson’s behavior but opposed impeachment, arguing that the matter should be left to the voters. (Mr. Johnson’s position, that it was within his power to fire the secretary of war despite a law intended to constrain him, was ultimately affirmed by the Supreme Court.)

The third time, in 1998, this board supported an impeachment inquiry into charges against Mr. Clinton, citing “the need to have those charges resolved in an open, orderly way.” After the inquiry, the board supported censure rather than impeachment as the appropriate punishment for Mr. Clinton’s transgression.

In between — the second time, in 1973 — this board urged President Nixon to resign rather than submit to the “agony” of an impeachment inquiry that would otherwise be necessary because of “his deliberate violations of the letter and the spirit of the Constitution.” And it concluded that if he would not resign, the impeachment process “would validate the Constitution’s procedure for restraining a lawless president” and “leave Mr. Nixon’s partisans satisfied that he had received due process.”

That last objective is a proper one, yet a hard one to achieve, particularly in this era, when political factions feel entitled to their own facts and so many lawmakers confuse party loyalty with patriotism. Already, Democratic and Republican groups are raising funds off the news of an impeachment inquiry, squaring off to alternate as offense and defense, as though this is all just a lucrative game for insiders. That such behavior is not surprising makes it no less repulsive.

The decision to impeach a president is inherently political, in the sense — the noble sense — that it must be made in the public interest. But it should never be political in the narrow sense of being dictated by the latest poll or the next election. This is a moment for political courage. Americans deserve a government devoted to addressing their real problems. But to get that, they need a government balanced as the founders intended, with free and fair elections and a president checked by Congress from the selfish exercise of extraordinary power. Mr. Trump has disparaged and degraded the institutions of American governance, and it is now time for them, in historic rebuke, to demonstrate the majesty of representative democracy.

 

 

President Trump’s Special Representative for Ukraine, Kurt Volker, Resigns!

Image result for kurt volker

 

Dear Commons Community,

Donald Trump’s special representative for Ukraine, Kurt Volker, resigned suddenly on Friday, and generated lots of speculation as to his reasons.

A whistleblower complaint from within the intelligence community, released on Thursday, described Volker as trying to “contain the damage” from efforts by Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani to press Ukraine to investigate Democrats.

Volker, who had served in the position on a part-time, unpaid basis since 2017, had sought to help Ukraine’s government resolve its confrontation with Russia-sponsored separatists.

The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives, who are conducting an impeachment investigation of Trump, have sought testimony from Volker relating to a July 25 phone call in which Trump encouraged Ukraine’s president to investigate Joe Biden, a political rival.

Volker’s resignation was first reported by the State Press, a student-run publication at Arizona State University.  Volker was a career diplomat and currently serves as Executive Director of the John McCain Institute for International Leadership which was formed in 2012 and is named after U.S. Senator John McCain from Arizona. Based in Washington, D.C., the McCain Institute is part of Arizona State University.

I think in the coming weeks, we will hear a lot more about Mr. Volker during Congress’ impeachment investigation.

Tony

New Yorker Cover Depicts Trump and Giuliani Murdering Uncle Sam!

Dear Commons Community,

The cover for the upcoming edition of the New Yorker depicts President Trump and his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani as mobsters who are murdering Uncle Sam.

Trump and Giuliani have been embroiled in a scandal surrounding a July 25 phone call the president had with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky during which he asked the foreign leader to investigate his potential 2020 opponent Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden.

The president also suggested that Zelensky work with Giuliani, who has been operating his own investigation into the matter, and Attorney General William Barr.

The imagery for the cover, which was done by Barry Blitt, specifically shows the president and former New York City mayor holding Uncle Sam over the railing of a bridge with Uncle Sam’s feet stuck in a block of cement so he’d drown.

“On Tuesday, Nancy Pelosi announced that the House of Representatives would be pursuing a formal impeachment inquiry against President Trump,” the New Yorker said of the image.

The outlet continued, “The news came after a whistle-blower’s complaint, which was released to the public on Thursday and alleges that Trump — with the help of Rudy Giuliani — has been using ‘the power of his office to solicit interference from a foreign country in the 2020 election.’ Barry Blitt, ever the first responder, takes on the drama in the cover for next week’s magazine.”

The image is funny but incredibly sad!

Tony

Rudy Giuliani — World’s Worst Best Friend!

Image result for rudy Giuliani

Rudy Giuliani Wiping His Brow on a Recent Television Interview

Dear Commons Community,

Gail Collins had a column in the New York Times earlier this week entitled,  Rudy Giuliani — World’s Worst Best Friend!  Essentially she is saying that the former Mayor of New York City has gone off the rails regarding the Ukraine scandal and that “He’s loud and he’s confused..”   Here is an excerpt.

“…Among other accomplishments, our person-without-portfolio managed to get rid of the respected U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch. Giuliani seems to believe she was in collusion with liberal megadonor George Soros in a plot to destroy Paul Manafort. Or something. Very hard to get inside the Rudy mind.

It’s a dark and winding territory. Remember that fabled appearance on CNN with Chris Cuomo?

“So you did ask Ukraine to look into Joe Biden?”

“Of course I did!”

“You just said you didn’t!”

“No, I didn’t ask them to look into Joe Biden.”

People, if you had a pal who needed only two or three minutes of airtime to contradict himself, a pal who was deeply unphotogenic to the point of scary, a pal who had no formal relationship whatsoever to the federal government, would you encourage him to speak about foreign affairs on your behalf? A lot?

See, this is why Trump is president and you’re not.”

The full column is below.

Tony

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Rudy Giuliani — World’s Worst Best Friend!

By Gail Collins

Sept. 25, 2019

Rudy Giuliani is the Trump administration’s point man on Ukraine. Just remember that, and everything else will make a lot more sense.

“I think it’s incredible the way he’s done,” the president of the United States said Wednesday about his personal lawyer, who specializes in going on television and babbling incoherently.

We don’t know precisely what Giuliani’s diplomatic role is, given the fact that he’s not a government employee. His job seems mainly to be finding some proof that when Joe Biden was vice president, he was up to some shady Ukraine business in order to help out his son, Hunter.

Rudy certainly has Donald Trump’s ear — and more clout than the beleaguered State Department. “Mr. Giuliani is a highly respected man,” Trump told the president of Ukraine. “He was the mayor of New York City, a great mayor, and I would like him to call you.”

As mayor, Giuliani’s was most famous for his 9/11 performance, which was more impressive if you ignored the fact that he’d located the city’s emergency command at the World Trade Center, despite police warnings that the towers had previously been bombed by terrorists. In a way, he’s playing a similar role now — he’s assigned to deal with a crisis he’s helped create. How often did you worry about Ukraine before Rudy picked up the case?

Among other accomplishments, our person-without-portfolio managed to get rid of the respected U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch. Giuliani seems to believe she was in collusion with liberal megadonor George Soros in a plot to destroy Paul Manafort. Or something. Very hard to get inside the Rudy mind.

It’s a dark and winding territory. Remember that fabled appearance on CNN with Chris Cuomo?

“So you did ask Ukraine to look into Joe Biden?”

“Of course I did!”

“You just said you didn’t!”

“No, I didn’t ask them to look into Joe Biden.”

People, if you had a pal who needed only two or three minutes of airtime to contradict himself, a pal who was deeply unphotogenic to the point of scary, a pal who had no formal relationship whatsoever to the federal government, would you encourage him to speak about foreign affairs on your behalf? A lot?

See, this is why Trump is president and you’re not.

The saga Giuliani’s peddling is that when Joe Biden was vice president, he got a top Ukraine prosecutor tossed out of office for investigating Hunter Biden’s business deals in that country. Actually, most of the Western world had loathed said prosecutor for his corruption. But Trump definitely likes Rudy’s story better.

Especially the part about Biden’s kid making large chunks of money from jobs he would never have gotten if his father had been, say, a high school principal in Ohio. We will pause here to recall that Eric and Donald Trump Jr. make their living by running around collecting millions in hotel business from Republican supporters. Rudy Giuliani’s son is serving as a public liaison assistant to President Trump. Moving forward.

During his unending march through TV interviews, Giuliani declared that Trump never threatened to withhold Ukrainian aid unless he was given the goods on Joe Biden. Then added that he couldn’t really “tell you if it’s 100 percent.” The president’s main confidant appeared to be saying there’s a chance — 10 percent? 30? 97? — that Trump actually did inform the head of a foreign government he wasn’t going to get the military funding Congress had authorized unless he came up with some dirt on a potential presidential opponent. Wow.

Rudy and Donald have a lot in common. They’ve both been married three times. Giuliani is now being sued for divorce by his latest spouse, who said he had turned into a “different man.” A presumably less reliable version than the one who, as mayor, held a press conference to announce he was breaking up with his then-wife without ever notifying the person in question.

Anyhow, current wife Judith Giuliani claimed that he had taken up with another woman, and that she could testify to his failings as “a spouse and a nurse.” Some Rudy-watchers wondered if that was a reference to his drinking. All we know for sure is that this is a guy who must make Donald Trump feel as if he’s had an exceptionally righteous personal life.

There’s a lot Trump likes about his pal. Undoubtedly including the way he’ll yell “Shut up, moron!” at a fellow panelist — even on Fox News.

Trump forcefully defended Giuliani Wednesday when he was meeting with Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky, a seemingly cheerful 41-year-old former TV star who very reasonably said he didn’t “want to be involved” in American politics. The two presidents seemed to get along very well. This was possibly because Zelensky has learned the importance at flattering Trump at every turn.

Or maybe it’s their joint show business background. Zelensky starred in a TV series about an idealistic teacher who winds up becoming — yes! — Ukraine president. Our experiment with entertainers hasn’t been quite as successful. If only we’d elected, say, Homer Simpson instead. The First Pal would have been an underemployed barfly, and the whole world would be much happier.

 

Eight Takeaways from the Whistle-Blower Complaint!

Dear Commons Community,

Yesterday, the House Intelligence Committee  released a declassified version of a whistle-blower complaint about President Trump’s effort to press the leader of Ukraine to launch an investigation into former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., a leading contender for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.

It also released a letter from the intelligence community’s inspector general that investigated the complaint and found that it was credible and raised an urgent concern. These files, and the Trump administration’s efforts to block Congress and the public from seeing them, have led to heightened calls among Democrats to impeach Mr. Trump.

Below are eight takeaways from the complaint courtesy of The New York Times.

Tony

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  1. White House officials believed they had witnessed Trump abuse his power for personal political gain.

The White House officials who told me this information were deeply disturbed by what had transpired in the phone call. They told me that there was already a “discussion ongoing” with White House lawyers about how to treat the call because of the likelihood, in the officials’ retelling, that they had witnessed the President abuse his office for personal gain.

In a July 25 phone call with the Ukrainian president, Mr. Trump brought up American aid to that country — without explicitly mentioning that he had just frozen a military aid package of hundreds of millions of dollars — and then pressed the Ukrainian leader to investigate Mr. Biden. After that call, multiple White House officials told the whistle-blower that they were concerned that Mr. Trump was abusing the power of the presidency “to solicit interference from a foreign country in the 2020 U.S. election.”

  1. White House lawyers tried to hide the reconstructed call transcript — and had done so before.

In the days following the phone call, I learned from multiple U.S. officials that senior White House officials had intervened to “lock down” all records of the phone call, especially the official word-for-word transcript of the call that was produced — as is customary — by the White House Situation Room. This set of actions underscored to me that White House officials understood the gravity of what had transpired in the call.

The whistle-blower writes that White House lawyers “directed” White House officials to remove records of the July 25 call from the system where such documents are normally stored and place it instead in a system for storing highly classified information, like files related to covert actions, even though it did not meet the criteria, in order to limit the number of officials who could see it. A White House official told the whistle-blower that it was an “abuse” of that system to instead use it to hide politically sensitive information.

And in an appendix to the complaint, the whistle-blower wrote that White House officials had said this was “not the first time” that a presidential transcript had been treated in that way, “solely for the purpose of protecting politically sensitive — rather than national security sensitive — information.”

The complaint does not name the White House lawyers. But they would certainly either work for or include the top attorney there — Mr. Trump’s White House counsel, Pat A. Cipollone.

  1. The State Department saw Giuliani’s rogue outreach to Ukraine for Trump as a threat to national security.

Starting in mid-May, I heard from multiple U.S. officials that they were deeply concerned by what they viewed as Mr. Giuliani’s circumvention of national security decisionmaking processes to engage with Ukrainian officials and relay messages back and forth between Kyiv 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; …

The whistle-blower recounts the struggles by the senior United States diplomats to deal with the confusion created by the president dispatching his personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, to pressure Ukrainian officials to develop dirt against the Bidens, both in the run-up to the July 25 call and its aftermath. Multiple officials said that Ukrainian leadership was led to believe that any meeting or phone call between Mr. Trump and Ukraine’s new president would depend on whether the latter was willing to “play ball” on Mr. Giuliani’s demands.

  1. Trump’s push for investigations coincided with a “sudden change of policy with respect to U.S. assistance for Ukraine.”

I learned from U.S. officials that, on or around 14 May, the President instructed Vice President Pence to cancel his planned travel to Ukraine to attend President Zelenskyy’ s inauguration on 20 May; Secretary of Energy Rick Perry led the delegation instead. According to these officials, it was also “made clear” to them that the President did not want to meet with Mr. Zelenskyy until he saw how Zelenskyy “chose to act” in office.

This is one of two manifestations of pressure on Ukraine by the Trump administration in advance of the July 25 call. The whistle-blower cautioned that he or she did not know for certain whether this action was connected with the broader understanding that Mr. Trump wanted Mr. Zelensky to “play ball” on Mr. Giuliani’s demands. The whistle-blower recounted the episode in a partly redacted appendix along with a discussion of Mr. Trump’s blocking of the military aid package Congress appropriated to help Ukraine defend itself from Russian aggression:

On 18 July, an Office of Management and Budget (OMB) official informed Departments and Agencies that the President “earlier that month” had issued instructions to suspend all U.S. security assistance to Ukraine. Neither OMB nor the NSC staff knew why this instruction had been issued. During interagency meetings on 23 July and 26 July, OMB officials again stated explicitly that the instruction to suspend this assistance had come directly from the President, but they still were unaware of a policy rationale. As of early August, I heard from U.S. officials that some Ukrainian officials were aware that U.S. aid might be in jeopardy, but I do not know how or when they learned of it.

The appearance that Mr. Trump was using foreign policy as leverage to pressure Ukraine into producing dirt on a political rival is at the heart of the calls to impeach him.

  1. A widely criticized Ukrainian prosecutor piqued Trump’s and Giuliani’s interest by floating allegations to The Hill — but then backtracked.

In several public comments, Mr. Lutsenko also stated that he wished to communicate directly with Attorney General Barr on these matters. The allegations by Mr. Lutsenko came on the eve of the first round of Ukraine’s presidential election on 31 March. By that time, Mr. Lutsenko’s political patron, President Poroshenko, was trailing Mr. Zelenskyy in the polls and appeared likely to be defeated. Mr. Zelenskyy had made known his desire to replace Mr. Lutsenko as Prosecutor General. On 21 April, Mr. Poroshenko lost the runoff to Mr. Zelenskyy by a landslide.

The whistle-blower traces Mr. Trump’s July 25 call back to claims put forward by a former top Ukrainian prosecutor, Yuriy Lutsenko, and his allies to a conservative opinion contributor for The Hill, John Solomon, in the spring of 2019. Mr. Solomon is known for writing investigative-style pieces that foster a narrative that Mr. Trump’s enemies are up to nefarious misdeeds, which are often then amplified by the Fox News host Sean Hannity.

In a video interview and several articles, Mr. Solomon floated a number of claims by Mr. Lutsenko, including that Ukrainian officials had illegally colluded with Democrats to interfere in the 2016 presidential election to help Hillary Clinton, purportedly by leaking financial records that prompted the resignation of Mr. Trump’s campaign chairman, Paul Manafort. Mr. Solomon also amplified Mr. Lutsenko’s assertion that the Obama-appointed ambassador to Ukraine, a longtime career diplomat, had given Mr. Lutsenko a “do not prosecute list.” A third claim that Mr. Solomon put forth was Mr. Lutsenko’s allegation that Mr. Biden had pushed to fire a previous top Ukrainian prosecutor, Victor Shokin, in order to quash a purported criminal investigation into a Ukrainian company on whose board his son Hunter Biden sat.

In fact, the Obama administration, Western supporters of Ukraine and anti-corruption activists all wanted Mr. Shokin out because he was widely seen as an obstacle to reform and refused to bring corruption cases. The State Department called Mr. Lutsenko’s claim about a do-not-prosecute list “an outright fabrication,” and in May Mr. Lutsenko walked back his allegations about the Bidens, stating that there was no evidence they had done anything wrong.

Mr. Lutsenko, who succeeded Mr. Shokin, was initially seen as a better prosecutor, but his image tarnished over time. The whistle-blower complaint noted that, “Mr. Lutsenko has no legal training and has been widely criticized in Ukraine for politicizing criminal probes and using his tenure as Prosecutor General to protect corrupt Ukrainian officials.” But Mr. Trump and Mr. Giuliani remained intent on investigating what he had told Mr. Solomon. The State Department has since recalled the ambassador, and in the July 25 phone call, Mr. Trump was apparently referring to Mr. Lutsenko when he told the Ukrainian president that, “I heard you had a prosecutor who was very good and he was shut down and that’s really unfair.”

On Thursday, Mr. Solomon defended his work, tweeting, “I stand by my stories 100 percent.”

  1. The whistle-blower raised concerns about Barr’s involvement.

In the course of my official duties, 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 solicit interference from a foreign country in the 2020 U.S. election. This interference includes, among other things, pressuring a foreign country to investigate one of the President’s main domestic political rivals. The President’s personal lawyer, Mr. Rudolph Giuliani, is a central figure in this effort. Attorney General Barr appears to be involved as well.

In the complaint, the whistle-blower said he had heard from other officials that Mr. Trump, in his July 25 call, urged the Ukrainian president to work with Attorney General William P. Barr in investigating the Bidens.

This was accurate, according to a reconstructed transcript of the call made public on Wednesday; among other things, it says that Mr. Trump told the Ukrainian president, “There’s a lot of talk about Biden’s son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the Attorney General would be great. Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it…”

And after Mr. Zelensky promised to have his new top prosecutor open the investigations that Mr. Trump was demanding, and asked if the United States had any information it could share for that purpose, Mr. Trump thanked him and said, “I will tell Rudy and Attorney General Barr to call.”

A senior Justice Department official said this week that the White House had not directed Mr. Barr to investigate the Bidens, but would not say whether or not there was any such investigation.

  1. The inspector general kept the whistle-blower’s identity secret.

The Complainant’s identity is known to me. As allowed by law, however, the Complainant has requested that the ICIG not disclose the Complainant’s identity at this time. For your information, the Complainant has retained an attorney, identified the attorney to the ICIG, and requested that the attorney be the Complainant’s point of contact in subsequent communications with the congressional intelligence committees on this matter.

This passage, which comes from the letter by Michael Atkinson, the inspector general for the intelligence community, shows he withheld the identity of the whistle-blower when transmitting the complaint to Joseph Maguire, the acting director of national intelligence, with the expectation that Mr. Maguire would then send it to Congress under a whistle-blower law. Mr. Maguire and the Trump administration initially refused to do so, although they relented this week. Mr. Maguire testified on Thursday that he still does not know the identity of the whistle-blower.

  1. The inspector general flagged mitigating information, but concluded the complaint was urgent and credible.

The Complainant’s Letter acknowledges that the Complainant was not a direct witness to the President’s telephone call with the Ukrainian President on July 25, 2019. Other information obtained during the ICIG’s preliminary review, however, supports the Complainant’s allegation that, among other things, during the call the President “sought to pressure the Ukrainian leader to take actions to help the President’s 2020 reelection bid.” Further, although the ICIG’s preliminary review identified some indicia of an arguable political bias on the part of the Complainant in favor of a rival political candidate, such evidence did not change my determination that the complaint relating to the urgent concern “appears credible,” particularly given the other information the ICIG obtained during its preliminary review.

This passage, also from Mr. Atkinson’s letter, acknowledges that the whistle-blower did not have direct knowledge of the July 25 call and suggests that the whistle-blower may not support Mr. Trump politically. But Mr. Atkinson, a Trump appointee, nevertheless concluded after a preliminary investigation that the information the whistle-blower put forward was credible and raised an urgent concern that Congress needed to see.

 

Time Magazine Has Trump Painted Himself into a Corner!

President Donald Trump paints himself into a corner on the cover of the Oct. 7 issue of Time magazine.

Dear Commons Community,

Time Magazine’s cover depicts Donald Trump as having painted himself into a corner because of the Ukraine scandal.  I hope it is right but I am not sure that the Republicans, especially those in the U. S. Senate would agree.  They hold the “trump” cards in any impeachment proceeding.

Tony

Transcript of Trump’s Ukraine Phone Call Is Not Word for Word!

Image result for trump ukraine president

President Donald Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky

Dear Commons Community,

The text of the phone call between President Donald Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had every major media and news provider devoting extensive coverage to its release yesterday.  However, after the White House announced that the transcript of the phone call would not be redacted, it turns out that there are portions that have been left out.   As reported by the Associated Press.

“The five pages released by the White House documenting President Donald Trump’s phone conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky are not a word-for-word transcript of the call.

A “CAUTION” note included at the bottom of the first page of the text released Wednesday explains that the rough transcript “records the notes and recollections of Situation Room Duty Officers and NSC policy staff assigned to listen and memorialize the conversation in written form as the conversation takes place.”

The transcript was prepared using voice recognition software, along with note takers and experts listening in, according to senior White House officials. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss White House document preparation.

The Situation Room is a secure meeting space in the basement of the White House West Wing where the president and members of the National Security Council, or NSC, discuss sensitive foreign and domestic policy issues. It is staffed 24 hours a day.

The “caution” note goes on to explain that several factors can affect the accuracy of the recording. It cites poor telecommunication connections and “variations in accent and/or interpretation” among them. Zelenskiy spoke through a translator.

The word “inaudible” is used to indicate portions of a conversation the notetaker was unable to hear.

During the call, Trump was upstairs in the White House residence while downstairs, in the Situation Room, officials listened in and set about to memorialize the conversation, as is standard practice.

The call lasted 30 minutes.

The resulting memorandum, or rough transcript, was classified as “Secret’ and “ORCON, for “originator controlled,” to prevent its spread throughout the federal government.”

Tony