'It’s just cascading at this point': Twin revelations by Trump aides put the president at the crux of 2 criminal infractions

'It’s just cascading at this point': Twin revelations by Trump aides put the president at the crux of 2 criminal infractions
Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead

Thursday marked the day when even Donald Trump's own people placed him squarely at the center of the impeachment inquiry into his efforts to extort Ukraine for personal political gain.

Major Trump donor and Ambassador to the E.U. said in written testimony Thursday that he and his team had agreed to involve Rudy Giuliani in Ukraine diplomacy at "the president’s explicit direction.”

Trump chief of staff Mick Mulvaney told reporters Thursday that holding up aid until Ukraine look into a conspiracy theory about Democratic servers in 2016 "certainly was part of the thing that he was worried about."

The twin revelations put Trump at the crux of two criminal infractions: soliciting a thing of value from Ukraine in an election and using military aid as leverage to get that thing of value. It was the culmination of two weeks of testimony from career public servants illustrating that Giuliani wasn't simply running a shadow foreign policy on his own—he was doing it at the direction of Trump. Who ordered the recall of career diplomat Marie Yovanovitch from Ukraine? Trump. Who wanted the investigation into the Democratic servers and the Bidens? Trump. Who did Sondland call when another career diplomat told him it was "crazy" to withhold aid for "help with a political campaign"? Trump.

“Based on the president’s direction, we were faced with a choice,” Sondland wrote in his testimony, depicting an impossible scenario in which they could give up on diplomacy with Ukraine altogether, or they could integrate Giuliani, Trump's personal emissary, into the diplomatic efforts.  Energy Secretary Rick Perry also said in a Wall Street Journal interview that Trump pushed him to consult with Giuliani.

It's just like the rough transcript of the July 25 phone call indicated a couple weeks, Trump pressured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to seek the counsel of Giuliani. "Rudy very much knows what’s happening, and he is a very capable guy," Trump told Zelensky. "If you could speak to him that would be great. The former ambassador from the United States, the woman, was bad news, and the people she was dealing with in the Ukraine were bad news so I just want to let you know that." In other words, forget about the career diplomat, she's "bad news." My guy is Giuliani and you should follow his lead.

From now on, whenever someone says Giuliani said something or did something, he did so at the direction of and with the blessing of Trump.

Former Watergate prosecutor Nick Akerman told the Washington Post that there's no question surrounding what role Trump played in this imbroglio in the way that there initially was about President Richard Nixon's role. “All these individuals, all testifying that this is what happened," he said, "It’s just cascading at this point.” Part of what tripped up Trump, Ackerman added, is that he was forced to rely on career diplomats, not loyalists, to do at least some of his bidding.

“This is a situation where you’ve got a lot of people who are career people, extremely smart people who certainly don’t want their reputations smeared,” Akerman said. “Trump had to use these foreign services people and professionals. He didn’t speak Ukrainian and Russian. He couldn’t communicate his threat without these people. He was forced to use people whose loyalty was to the U.S. government and Constitution and not to him.”

Apparently the very stable genius fell a little short in the language department.

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