Of rats and Democrats 16

The Democratic majority in the House of Representatives is guilty of abuse of power and conspiracy to overthrow a duly elected president.

We quote from an article (well worth reading in full) by Michael Anton at the Claremont Review.

People capable of feeling shame would not have immediately followed up the Russiagate hoax fiasco with another transparently phony—and in “substance” nearly identical—attempt to remove President Trump from office, overturn the 2016 election, and shower deplorable-Americans with contempt and hatred. But our ruling elites have no shame. …

The Democrats, the corporate-Left media (CLM), the permanent bureaucracy or “administrative state”,and the “deep state” (which is not precisely the same thing), along with a few Republicans, have “publicly voiced” many causes for removing the president—a few specific but most maddeningly, yet safely, vague.

From the beginning—that is to say, from November 9, 2016—impeachment has been a cause in search of a trigger, an occasion. The president’s enemies hoped they’d finally hit pay dirt when an anonymous “whistleblower” alleged that the president made, or attempted to make, foreign aid to Ukraine contingent on that country’s government investigating his likely 2020 challenger. Or, in other words, that Trump attempted to “collude” with a foreign power to influence an American election. …

If we are to take the current “publicly voiced” cause at face value, then we may say that the entire Washington establishment, plus most of the country’s elites, are trying to remove the president from office on the basis of an anonymous individual’s private opinion of the content of one phone call he heard about second or possibly even thirdhand. A phone call, let’s remember, of which we have extensive notes that almost, but not quite, constitute a transcript—in other words, whose content everyone in the country can examine for himself.

That the “telcon” (national security geekspeak for what people are calling the “transcript”) does not support the “publicly voiced” cause is made plain by two facts. First, you can read it yourself and see that it doesn’t say what it is alleged to say. Second, if it did say what the president’s enemies want it to say, they could just quote it verbatim, which they never do, instead of deliberately mischaracterizing it, which they always do.

Only two substantive points make the phone call at all interesting. First, President Trump very plainly wants to get to the bottom of the entire, still-obscure “election-meddling” story of 2016. That includes not just “deep state” attempts to prevent his election and to set him up for removal should the first effort fail, but also allegations of Russian hacking against American targets, including the Democratic National Committee. It appears—and the Justice Department apparently agrees—that some actors within Ukraine may have had something to do with some of this, possibly colluding … with a shady, Democrat-linked tech firm called CrowdStrike, though we as yet know nothing like the full story. Trump wants to know and asked the Ukrainian president for his help in finding out. …

The second question President Trump asked the Ukrainian president is another “publicly voiced” cause to seek his removal. That question regarded a specific instance of a well-known Washington-insider phenomenon. It is a measure of how insouciantly our elites accept and even welcome the immense corruption of our government that they raise not a single eyebrow at the phenomenon that underlay the president’s question: exactly how is it that well-connected Americans with no particular or relevant skill sets can “earn” enormous sums of money for doing, essentially, nothing?

The “specific instance” was to do with Hunter Biden being paid an enormous sum for doing nothing but getting his dad, Obama’s Vice-President Joe Biden, to threaten to withhold funds in aid to Ukraine if its government didn’t stop investigating corruption in the firm that was … well, to put it bluntly, bribing Hunter. Joe Biden did as he was asked. President Trump wanted to have the matter investigated and said so in the phone call to a new Ukrainian leader.

Understand this plainly: Trump may well be impeached, ostensibly, for asking about this corrupt arrangement. But no one is ever impeached for engaging in it. Nor can our elites, who almost all benefit from this system one way or another, muster the integrity to do, or even say, anything against it.

Though currently central to the “publicly voiced” case, this charge is not the only one levelled [against President Trump in connection with the phone call]. It is also insinuated that the administration somehow acted improperly by not making the telcon available within the government to a wide enough range of bureaucrats. But that’s preposterous.

Such documents are inherently products of the executive branch. They may be shown to, or withheld from, absolutely anyone the president and his senior staff want. To argue anything else is to presuppose that bureaucrats whom the president doesn’t know and likely will never see somehow are entitled—have a “right”—to review anything and everything they wish. Does this sound reasonable to anyone not out to get Trump? Would you run your business this way? Or would you try to limit information—especially sensitive information—on a “need-to-know” basis? Formally, the U.S. government insists that it operates according to the latter principle, but in reality, everyone in Washington believes himself so important that he becomes indignant when not allowed to see what he believes by right he ought to see.

Then ask yourself: assuming the president and his team did try to limit access to this or other documents, why would they do that? Perhaps to prevent illegal and damaging leaks? What could possibly give rise to that concern? I dunno—maybe because this has been, and continues to be, the most leaked-against White House and administration in the history of the United States government?

When one thinks for a second about the impact this particular document has already had—the president may well be impeached over it, on the say-so of precisely such a bureaucrat from whom his team allegedly tried, but evidently failed, to withhold it—can one blame Trump or his team for trying to limit the dissemination of internal documents? A saner response is to wish they had restricted the circle even more. The detail, alleged in the press, that the “whistleblower” (more on him below) heard it from a friend who heard it from a friend, etc., does not, to say the least, suggest any kind of cover-up. …

[But] “cover-up” is the latest “publicly voiced” charge. A member of the National Security Council staff  [Lt.-Col. Vindman] alleges that he attempted to include language in the telcon that others insisted on excluding. This is held to be a very serious charge.

Here’s what they’re not telling you. The document, as noted, is not a transcript; there’s no stenographer on the line and such calls are not recorded. Several people, however, will be listening and taking notes for the express purpose of creating the telcon. These will include duty officers in the White House Situation Room, who are not necessarily—and are not expected to be—experts on the country being called; rather, they are covering the call simply because it takes place during their shifts. These duty officers, with the aid of impressive but not infallible voice recognition software, prepare a first draft of the telcon. Since neither the voice recognition software nor human notetakers can catch every word perfectly, sometimes “Inaudible” appears in brackets. But ellipses—about which much is currently being made—represent not omissions but natural pauses in the conversation. This is before we even get into the thorny issues raised by sequential translation, which is necessary for most foreign leader calls.

After the first draft of the telcon is prepared, the duty officer hands it over to the National Security Council’s (NSC’s) executive secretary (ExecSec), the office responsible for all NSC paper flow and records management (among other things). ExecSec then routes the telcon to specific individuals, whom the national security advisor has personally authorized to review it, for their “chop” or edits. The person responsible for shepherding the document through this phase of the process is the “country director”, the NSC staffer who coordinates policy and handles documents with respect to a given country or countries. The country director will, in almost all cases, have been listening to the call. He will check the draft telcon against his notes and make corrections, even as others cross-check against their own notes. These will include the relevant senior director (the country director’s boss) and others, up to and including the national security advisor.

The key takeaway here is that the country director is the not highest or final authority on the content of the call. He’s one person who heard it; others may have heard it or parts of it differently. And the country director does not have the final say over what the telcon says. He works in a chain of command and has superiors. His senior director—who presumably was also on the call—can overrule him. If other “equities” such as classification or legal issues are affected, the senior director for intelligence programs and the legal advisor can as well. Ultimately the final say falls to the national security advisor—who, in almost all cases, would also have been listening to the call.

The person alleging a cover-up, Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Vindman, was, at the time, the country director for Ukraine. But the way he’s being presented—and has presented himself—is meant to convey a much grander impression. No less than the “whistleblower”, he is being sold as a patriotic, dedicated, impartial, non-partisan, career officer simply standing up for what’s right. …

But he is also, unquestionably, a mid-level officer in the U.S. Army working a mid-level staff job at the National Security Council, i.e., someone who as such has no standing even to serve as the final arbiter of a telcon, much less make policy or remove a president.

We actually don’t know what language the country director was prevented from including in the telcon, but we do know … that “the phrases do not fundamentally change lawmakers’ understanding of the call”. …

At least the country director [Vindman] was actually in the NSC chain of command and so had some standing to weigh in on the issue. This cannot be said of the so-called “whistleblower”, who of course is nothing of the sort—not as defined by law nor in any commonsense understanding. As to the former, the statute is clear: officials qualify for legal protection if they blow the whistle on activities within their own organizations and relevant to those organizations’ official duties. There is no possible way to interpret this particular “whistle” as consistent with that standard. By definition, the president’s phone call was not conducted under the auspices of the “whistleblower’s” “home agency” (reportedly the CIA) nor did it have anything to do with intelligence matters. …

The “whistleblower” reportedly wasn’t on the call and never saw the telcon. Given that several—probably at least a dozen—others were and did, why didn’t one of them lodge a complaint? One—our country director—did complain to the NSC’s top lawyer, who could find no wrongdoing. The others? Nothing. Is it possible most of them also saw no wrongdoing? …

But then the question arises: complain to whom? Neither the NSC nor its parent organization, the Executive Office of the President (EOP), have a formal whistleblower process. If one wishes to make a complaint, one has five options: complain within your chain of command, complain to the lawyers, complain to the White House chief of staff, complain to Congress, or complain to the press. Even our country director declined four of these five avenues, and all the others apparently declined them all. Why? Perhaps someone calculated that the optics would be better—more “disinterested,” less nakedly political—if the complaint came from somewhere else, a “patriotic career civil servant just doing his job”. …

The “whistleblower” was just a tool, witting or not (I’m betting on the former) to get something new going after the ignominious collapse of Russiagate. His usefulness over—indeed, his presence in the drama now counterproductive—we are instructed to forget he ever existed. …

It was a dirty plot. How did it begin? Who leaked (inaccurate) information about the phone call to “a friend” who leaked it to “a friend” who leaked it to his friend the “whistleblower”. Or was that not really how the “whistleblower” came to know about it?

Vindman, the “country director”, is the obvious suspect for the original leak: “One [who was on the call] —our country director—did complain to the NSC’s top lawyer, who could find no wrongdoing.”

Did Vindman then report the call to Adam Schiff? (Had Schiff asked him to report anything he could use against the President? Very possibly.)

If so, Schiff would need to account for the leak reaching him, and Vindman would certainly not let himself be named as the leaker. A stooge had to be found to take on the role of the leaker  a “whistleblower”.  Someone who would be “good for the optics”.

Did Schiff consult with Biden, and did Biden suggest Eric Ciaramella – who has been named on social media as the “whistleblower” – be employed in that role? Or did Vindman suggest him?

Who is Eric Ciaramella?

The Washington Examiner reports:

[Eric] Ciaramella is a career CIA analyst and was the Ukraine director on the NSC from 2016 until the summer of 2017. In October 2016, he was [Joe] Biden’s guest at a State Department banquet. …

Ciaramella could be told to say that he had heard about the call “from a friend who had heard about it from a friend” and had been shocked and appalled by what he heard.

But there would be no obvious reason why he would take his complaint to Adam Schiff. A plausible explanation for Schiff finding out about it had to be invented. 

Well, what if there happened to be someone on Schiff’s staff who knew Eric Ciaramella? 

There wasn’t, but that was a lack easily remedied.

The alleged whistleblower filed an Aug. 12 complaint with the Intelligence Community inspector general about the July 25 phone conversation between Trump and Zelensky …

 … which he “had heard about from a friend who had heard about it from a friend” …

after meeting with a House Intelligence Committee aide on Schiff’s staff about the call

Hey presto! Suddenly there was someone on Schiff’s staff to whom Ciaramella might reasonably confide his outrage. Who was this “aide on Schiff’s staff”?

Sean Misko, who [had] worked with alleged Ukraine whistleblower Eric Ciaramella at the NSC during the Obama and Trump administrations”, was hired by Schiff [on July 26] the day after the phone call between President Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Both Ciaramella and Misko started their tenures during the Obama administration and left during the first year of the Trump administration. The Washington Examiner was told by a former senior White House official that both had a close, “bro-like” relationship while working at the NSC together.

Smell a rat? There’s a whole stinking nest of them.

Michael Anton again:

The worst charge thus far alleged against President Trump is that he attempted to make $400 million in aid to Ukraine contingent on that country’s government investigating possible corruption by the Bidens. This is the much hoped for “smoking gun,” the “quid pro quo”—as if the foreign policy of any country in history has ever been borne aloft on the gentle vapors of pure altruism. …

I don’t see it. Especially since a) no aid was actually withheld; b) no investigation was actually launched; c) the American people don’t care about Ukraine and would probably prefer to get their $400 million back; and d) they would inevitably ask: so were, in fact, Joe Biden and his son on the take from a foreign government? And if it looks like they might have been, why, exactly, was it improper for the president to ask about it?

Trump’s enemies’ answer to the last question is: because the president was asking a foreign government to investigate a political opponent for purely personal gain. Really? Is potential corruption by a former vice president—and potential future president—and his family a purely private matter, of no conceivable import or interest to the public affairs of the United States? That’s what you have to insist on to maintain that the request was improper. That’s the line we can expect the Democrat-CLM axis to flog, shamelessly and aggressively. But will a majority of Americans buy it? Especially since career officials at the Department of Justice already determined, and anti-Trump witnesses appearing before Representative Adam Schiff’s secret star chamber reluctantly conceded, that nothing Trump did or is alleged to have done was technically, you know, illegal.

And besides all that, aren’t all relations between nation-states conducted on the perpetual understanding of quid pro quo? Isn’t quid pro quo what all diplomacy is about: the exchange of envoys; the setting up of embassies and consulates; treaties? Isn’t even the giving of aid done in wistful hope for some reward (such as a supportive vote in the UN)? What is trade between countries – or, come to that, what is all trade – but a system of quid quo pro?

A system of honest, open, mutually beneficial quid pro quo is what international trade needs to be. And President Trump is working to make it so. Part of that effort may involve asking the more trustworthy leaders of foreign governments to investigate corruption, even if an American Democratic leader and his son get caught in the sweep.