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Graham Says DOJ Will Probe Bidens, Warns Russia Probers ‘Going To Jail’

Reprinted with permission from DailyKos.

Sen. Lindsey Graham took to the Sunday talk shows to bask in the Senate’s nullification of Donald Trump’s impeachment for using the tools of his power to extort the Ukrainian government into providing him “dirt” on a Democratic election opponent. It is not just Trump who appears to feel unleashed; Graham, too, was eager to describe the next steps of the administration-led descent into American fascism.

A first step: Trump “private lawyer” Rudy Giuliani’s smear campaign against the Bidens is now moving into Attorney General William Barr’s Justice Department. Whatever Barr’s prior pretenses may have been, Barr is now explicitly establishing the means by which Rudy’s propaganda can be filtered into official “investigations” of Trump’s targeted enemies.

Throughout the House and press investigations into the Ukraine scandal, Trump Attorney General Barr either refused comment or denied that he was involved with the Giuliani efforts, despite Trump specifically naming both Barr and Giuliani as contacts for the Ukrainian president in the “transcript” of Trump’s now-infamous phone call. Whether this was a lie or not—and it is almost certainly a direct lie by a complicit Barr—such pretenses have now vanished.

On CBS’s Face the NationGraham said that the Department of Justice is now “receiving information coming out of the Ukraine, from Rudy.” Barr’s Justice Department, says Graham, has “created a process that Rudy could give information and they would see if it’s verified.”

And this, in turn, means the claims of Russian organized crime-tied Dmytro Firtash, seeking to exchange “dirt” on Biden in exchange for the U.S. Department of Justice dropping his indictments in this country, are now being funneled through Giuliani directly into a Barr-led Justice Department that seems more then agreeable to making such a trade.

That was not the only assertion from Graham that Republicans and the Trump administration would be adopting new fascist policies of targeting and retaliating against Dear Leader’s critics and enemies. Just after Trump removed multiple U.S. government officials (and a family member) who testified to the House impeachment committee despite Trump and Barr’s standing orders to refuse House subpoenas, Graham indicated that many of those who investigated Trump will be heading to prison.

“We’re not going to live in a world where as a Republican you get investigated from the day you’re sworn in, three years later they’re still coming after you,” said Graham, erasing both Whitewater and the Benghazi “investigations” from the nation’s history.

“Here’s what amazes me. The Russian investigation, what happened? Half the people behind the Russia investigation are going to go to jail,” the Republican told his Fox News host. “And Trump was cleared.”

This means that the president’s self-identified “personal lawyer”, acting on behalf of known-corrupt pro-Russian Ukrainian oligarchs and ex-officials and in concert with two now-indicted launderers of Russian cash, is now directly channeling conspiracy claims against Trump’s election opponent to the U.S. Attorney General’s office. There is no longer any pretense of Giuliani’s efforts not being state policy.

“When? Hopefully,” host Maria Bartiromo mugged.

“Well, just hang tight,” Graham responded.

We are now well into fascism, and it is the Republican Senate that is not merely looking the other way, but aggressively assisting Trump’s team in its implementation. Those that testified against Trump are being removed, despite laws seemingly barring such retaliation. The propaganda efforts against Trump’s targeted political foe spearheaded by Rudy Giuliani (financed, it should be noted, from Russia, as previous Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort was financed for his own role in manipulating Ukraine towards Russian interests while creating schisms between that country and the West) are now being pipelined directly into Barr’s Department of Justice.

Barr, whose department attempted to stifle the Ukrainian whistleblower complaint and worked to sabotage all investigation of Trump, has issued orders that he must be informed of and approve of any new investigations that touch on a 2020 campaign or candidate—both giving him direct access to any information potentially damaging to Trump’s foes while maintaining absolute power to block probes of Trump himself.

It is in this environment that Lindsay Graham, who has been one of the prime advocates of Trump’s new, law-bending authoritarian powers, has confidence that Trump’s prior investigators will be jailed. “Just hang tight,” he tells his propagandizing state media host.

The Weird Make-Believe Ukraine Of Trump And Giuliani

As long as we’re using Latin legal jargon to explain Donald Trump’s odd adventures in Ukraine, there’s an even better phrase than quid pro quo. It’s cui bono, which translates roughly “who benefits?”

As any reader of crime novels knows, if somebody wins two million bucks in the lottery and then mysteriously drops dead, the first thing the cops want to know is who gets the money? Cui bono?

And the answer regarding Ukraine is the usual one where Trump’s  concerned: Vladimir Putin. Trump’s groveling before the Russian strongman evokes satirical laughter on Moscow TV. Joe Conason quotes a Russian talk-show host: “Have you lost your minds that you want to remove our Donald Ivanovych?”

On another channel, Trump’s depicted singing while Putin plays the piano.

But why Ukraine? The reason’s twofold. The Russian dictator seized the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine in 2014, earning international economic sanctions and getting himself expelled from the G8. Soon afterward, Putin invaded the nation’s eastern provinces, starting a civil war that has cost 13,000 Ukrainian lives.

It’s to defend his country from Russian tanks that Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky desperately needed U.S. military aid voted by Congress but withheld by Trump to blackmail him into interfering in a U.S. presidential election. Trump not only demanded a (pardon me) trumped-up probe of Joe Biden, an opponent he seemingly fears; he wanted a live announcement on CNN.

(Evidently, the president imagines that the Biden family operates just like the Trumps: if there’s a loose dollar lying around, grab it. A New York judge recently fined the president $2 million for stealing from his own charity—money collected to benefit veterans. Any other American politician would be finished. But the Trump Cult sees no evil.)

No thanks to Trump himself, his scheme to soften up Ukraine for Putin failed. Seemingly without his knowledge, National Security Adviser John Bolton ordered the funds released. We’ll find out for sure what Trump knew if and when Bolton testifies, as he appears itching to do.

But that’s just half of the corrupt “favor” Trump demanded of Ukraine’s recently-elected president. The other half?

Do what the president says: Read the transcript.

“I would like you to find out what happened with this whole situation with Ukraine, they say CrowdStrike…,” Trump insisted. “I guess you have one of your wealthy people . . . The server, they say Ukraine has it.”

According to Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman’s testimony, the ellipses represent not incomplete sentences, but deletions. Even so, Trump’s references to “Crowdstrike,” wealthy Ukrainians, and the supposedly missing DNC server are unmistakable references to a nutball conspiracy theory cooked up either on the far-right fringes of the Internet or the Kremlin itself—assuming for argument’s sake that those are different things.

See, if Ukraine’s president could locate the mythical lost computer server, all of Trump’s problems would be magically solved: proving that it was Ukrainian operatives and not Russians that interfered in the 2016 presidential election. Who stole DNC emails and hid the evidence in a remote cave in the Carpathian Mountains. Somewhere in Ukraine, anyway.

And the infinitely cunning Hillary Clinton was behind the whole thing.

This is the bizarre fable Rudy Giuliani and his henchmen have been peddling in Kiev while trashing the reputations of American diplomats sensible enough to point out that it’s, well, totally insane.

So crazy you’d think even an intellectually-challenged victim of senile dementia would be skeptical.

But no. White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney. “Did he [i.e. Trump] also mention to me in passing the corruption related to the DNC server? Absolutely. No question about that. That’s it, and that’s why we held up the money.”

The president himself hints Hillary’s deleted private emails might be there too. “I still ask the FBI, Where is the server? How come the FBI never got the server from the DNC? Where is the server?”

Think of it: Chelsea Clinton’s wedding cake secrets; coffee dates; yoga sessions.

Alas, here’s the problem: There is no missing server, nor ever was.

The DNC hired Crowdstrike, a cybersecurity firm located in Sunnyvale, California, not Kiev, to investigate its security breach. (One co-founder, Dmitri Alperovitch, is an American born in Russia, not in Ukraine. He graduated from Georgia Tech.)

Crowdstrike’s investigation compiled data from a reported 331 separate servers and computers. It made exact forensic copies, which it subsequently shared with the FBI—the only such evidence that has ever existed. The company and intelligence agency investigators independently reached the same conclusion: The Russians did it.

In short, every word Trump, Giuliani, and company have said since the president’s bizarre 2018 Helsinki press conference with Putin—the one where he cowered like a frightened dog—has been absolute, abject nonsense.

Repeat: no hidden server exists for President Zelensky to find. No Ark of the Covenant, no Holy Grail, no Trumpian magic beans.

It’s sheer make-believe.

Giuliani Negotiated Deal With News Outlet Pushing His Ukraine Conspiracies

Reprinted with permission from ProPublica.

After John Solomon ran columns in The Hill that touched off a disinformation campaign against Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, the publication had discussions with Rudy Giuliani about a business venture.

As ProPublica revealed last month, Giuliani associate Lev Parnas had helped arrange an interview Solomon conducted with a Ukrainian prosecutor who claimed the Obama administration interfered with anti-corruption cases involving high-profile people, including Biden’s son Hunter. Giuliani, President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, trumpeted Solomon’s work on cable news. The Hill articles are now a central component of the Trump impeachment investigation.

Less than four months after Solomon’s reporting, Giuliani and The Hill actively pursued a deal to create a podcast together, with Solomon acting as an intermediary, according to emails obtained by ProPublica. The project, which never came to fruition for unclear reasons, featured the former New York City mayor interviewing various public figures. The emails include recordings of lengthy chats with the commissioner of Major League Baseball, Rob Manfred, and a retired Marine Corps general named James T. Conway.

The Conway interview largely concerned MEK, the dissident Iranian group that the United States had designated a terrorist group until 2012. MEK has paid Giuliani at least $20,000 for appearances and lobbying on its behalf. Conway declined to comment on the interview.

Giuliani told ProPublica that the podcast grew out of discussions with The Hill’s owner, Jimmy Finkelstein, a Republican and longtime friend who served as a fundraiser for Giuliani’s failed 2008 presidential run.

“I was talking to Jimmy about a podcast that didn’t happen,” Giuliani said in an email, adding that “John Solomon was just trying to help Jimmy get it done.”

Solomon repeatedly declined to comment, saying, “I refer you to The Hill for any matters involving Hill business.”

He said he had no formal business relationship with Giuliani.

“He has never had anything to do with my personal or private business, at all. He does not now, nor will he ever,” Solomon said.

The Hill, confirming the Giuliani discussions, said it was planning to create a “podcast network with a multitude of political voices from all sides.”

Giuliani said he was “never paid” for his podcast work. “I continue to believe that your interest in this is not legitimate,” he said in emails to ProPublica. “Don’t ever try to give me bull I’ve been around too long. This is a hit job on a perfectly legitimate situation.”

Giuliani himself seems to have had a wry attitude about his close relationship with Solomon. In late June, a month before Trump urged Ukraine’s leader to investigate his top political rival, the president’s personal attorney went to a London cigar shop with Parnas and his partner Igor Fruman.

Giuliani later emailed a photo of the moment to Solomon, with a subject line that began: “Smoked Filled Room.”

Federal prosecutors in Manhattan indicted Parnas and Fruman last month on allegations that they illegally funneled money into U.S. political campaigns. Giuliani is under investigation by the same office, according to multiple reports.

Details on Solomon’s role in the genesis of the campaign against Biden continue to emerge from the Democrats’ effort to impeach the president.

This month, the House committees carrying out the impeachment inquiry released text messages from September between Kurt Volker, Trump’s former special envoy to Ukraine, and Gordon Sondland, the ambassador to the European Union. Volker informs Sondland that Giuliani will “talk w Solomon” and that the president’s attorney had “urged” him to do the same.

Solomon told ProPublica last month that his reporting was accurate and defended his sourcing, saying, “No one knew there was anything wrong with Lev Parnas at the time.”

Internal records show The Hill’s higher-ups were concerned about Solomon’s mixing of journalism and business. At one point in 2017, the then-publisher warned in an internal memo that Solomon was engaged in “reputation killing stuff.”

The memo alleged that Solomon brokered a branded content deal while influencing news coverage that benefited the group that paid for the content. Solomon deferred comment about those deals to the Hill.

When asked if he was compensated for arranging those deals, he repeatedly declined to answer.

While Solomon has left The Hill, he continues to publish stories about Ukraine and the Bidens on his personal blog. He is also a Fox News contributor. Giuliani, in turn, continues to use his work to advance the counter-narrative that it was the former vice president, not Trump, who is mired in a scandal involving a foreign power.

On Nov. 5, for instance, Solomon published a story on his personal website that featured State Department emails that he said were evidence that the Ukrainian gas company on whose board Hunter Biden sat used its affiliation with the vice president’s son to leverage a meeting with a top State Department official to improve the firm’s image.

The next day, Giuliani posted an image on Twitter of one of the emails from Solomon’s story.

“Total smoking gun!” the president’s lawyer proclaimed.

 

Danziger: He Has Become What He Beheld

Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons and one novel. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.com.