The spiraling Ukraine scandal ensnares Bill Barr and Mike Pompeo as Trump becomes increasingly unhinged
It was another day of major breaking news stories adding detail to what we already know about Donald Trump's efforts to solicit foreign government assistance against a potential 2020 campaign rival and discredit the United States intelligence community's own conclusions identifying the Russian government as being behind a series of coordinated hacking and propaganda efforts targeting his 2016 foes.
• The Wall Street Journal is reporting that despite Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's insistence that he was not involved with the Trump-Giuliani request to the Ukrainian government to help dig up alleged "corruption" by an election opponent, Pompeo was in fact one of the administration officials listening in on the call while it happened.
• The New York Times is reporting that Trump made a similar request to the Australian prime minister not long after his call with Ukrainian President Zelensky—and that Attorney General William Barr personally asked Trump make that request. Trump asked the Australian leader to cooperate with a Trump administration effort intended to discredit U.S. intelligence determinations of Russian government interference in the 2016 elections, which continues to be a major Trump obsession.
• It was not a single phone call, or even two: The Washington Post reports that Trump Attorney General Barr personally requested assistance from UK and Italian intelligence officials for the Barr-Trump efforts to "investigate" the Robert Mueller probe and its conclusions. Barr's extensive reported involvement casts doubts on his claims that he was unaware that Trump provided his name as a contact for the Ukrainian president; on the contrary, it appears Barr was acting every bit as the point man for Trump's efforts to discredit the U.S. intelligence community and plant an "alternative" theory exonerating the Putin government.
• Three House committees have now issued a subpoena to Trump "personal lawyer" Rudy Giuliani requiring him to produce all documents relating to his work for Donald Trump in and pertaining to Ukraine. The subpoena sets an October 15 deadline for Giuliani to comply.
• Trump appears so far to have acted entirely on his own in withholding military aid to Ukraine, before his conversation with the Ukrainian president. The administration's stonewalling of both Democratic and Republican lawmakers asking for an explanation is now being reexamined as well.
• A furious and increasingly unhinged (if such a thing is possible) Trump lashed out repeatedly throughout the day. He suggested that Rep. Adam Schiff, heading the House impeachment inquiry into Trump's Ukrainian acts, should be arrested for "Treason"; he stated that his White House is "trying to find out" the (legally protected) identity of the whistleblower—possibly itself a crime. What the White House will not be doing, apparently, is organizing a more structured defense of Trump's actions even as he faces a now-likely impeachment vote.
• Despite Trump's claim that the whistleblower "knew almost nothing" about the Ukraine call, the whistleblower's report lines up quite accurately with the now-released readout of that call.
• Asked to comment on Trump's rhetoric of "treason" and "civil war", Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to condemn, or even address, Trump's remarks. He also noted that while the Senate would hold an impeachment trial, if the House voted for such, "how long you're on it is a whole different matter." Far-right militia groups, however, rallied to Trump's threat of a new "civil war."
• Rep. Schiff confirmed that the House Intelligence Committee will be obtaining 'unfiltered testimony' from the whistleblower who came forward to report the Trump administration's actions. The testimony will come "very soon," said Schiff, but the House will be taking "all the precautions we can" to protect the whistleblower's identity despite Trump's calls for their exposure.
• In a conspicuously timed declaration, the Russian government asserted Trump and his administration would need the Russian government's consent to publicize transcripts of Trump's conversations with Russian leader Vladimir Putin. The contents of those secret conversations continue to be widely speculated on.
• Trump appears to be a true believer in a bizarre conspiracy theory that claims it was Ukrainian actors, not the Russian government, that hacked Democratic National Committee servers during the 2016 presidential election. Or he isn't, and has simply latched onto the claim in an effort to "prove" the Russian government's supposed innocence. (All U.S. intelligence agencies are in agreement that the Russian government was behind the hacks.)
• Fox News broke the news that two of its own analysts, lawyers Joe diGenova and Victoria Toensing, have been working "off the books" to assist Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani's opposition research targeting presidential rival Joe Biden.
• So far, all Republican lawmakers are standing by Trump. But many are taking it farther, assisting him in spreading false information about the whistleblower who attempted to contact Congress about Trump's acts, about the contents of the conversation released by the White House, and about the laws governing such whistleblowing.
• Republican defenses of Trump's behavior are getting more strained as he ... continues to be Trump. Will there be a breaking point?