Opinions, Context & Ideas from the TPM Editors TPM Editor's Blog

Just How Far Back Does The Trump-Ukraine Pressure Campaign Go?

Ukrainian oligarch Ihor Kolomoisky stands to benefit quite a bit from the Trump administration.

I published a story on Monday showing why Kolomoisky might be personally interested in helping out with Giuliani’s search for dirt, and how the oligarch appears to have put himself in a position to do so.

But Kolomoisky’s involvement raises key indications that the pressure campaign began far earlier than has been reported.

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It's All Too Absurd

I saw a few emails from TPM Readers yesterday evening arguing that yesterday’s hearing didn’t go well for the Democrats and hasn’t gone well generally since the action moved to the Judiciary committee. I don’t know whether I believe that or not. I suspect most TPM Readers are watching far too closely to get a sense of how this all seems to loosely committed or only partially attentive voters. But let me share with you my own reaction: I had difficulty watching yesterday’s proceedings because I simply find the whole exercise too absurd. I skipped most of it.

This entire exercise comes down to whether or not a President can solicit bribes from foreign heads of state, whether he or she can demand that foreign governments intervene in U.S. presidential elections to help them hold on to power. You either think that is okay or you don’t.

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Today's Agenda: Articles Of Impeachment

Good morning and happy Tuesday, December 10. This morning, House Democrats will announce articles of impeachment against President Trump, the fourth president in the history of the national to face removal from office. Here’s more on that and other stories we’re following. 

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Kings, Presidents and Foreign Subversion

After the Stuart Restoration, Charles II sought to loosen his dependence on Parliament by among other things receiving subsidies (large cash payments) from Louis XIV, King of France. The ability to supply tax revenue for impoverished Kings is basically the root of all parliamentary power in what is now the United Kingdom. At the time the King being in the pay of a foreign King wasn’t without controversy. But it didn’t seem absurd on its face, as it would to us today, because in many ways the theory was that the King owned the country.

There were limits on his power – the key one being that he could only properly fund his government with taxes from parliament. And that gave Parliament critical leverage. But the King owned his power. His sovereignty and the bundle of powers he used to enforce it were his. Any sense of what was in the public interest or his personal interest was an irrelevancy or not even entirely comprehensible because again, he was King. He didn’t just have the powers. He owned them. In a sense he owned the whole country.

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An Absolute Must-Read

I cannot recommend this morning’s exclusive from Josh Kovensky strongly enough. It’s a complicated enough story that it is hard to capture briefly. But in sum, there’s a whole half of the Trump/Giuliani collusion campaign in Ukraine that barely anyone has scratched the surface of and Josh has the story. The key theme of Giuliani’s trips has been looking for crooks in Ukraine trying to keep out of jail either in Ukraine or the U.S. and offering them protection if they’ll intervene in the 2020 U.S. presidential election. We’ve heard a lot about Dmitry Firtash, the oligarch who’s funded and organized much of the effort, and the corrupt former prosecutor Yuriy Lutsenko. But equally involved has been Ihor Kolomoisky, one of the country’s other top five oligarchs and widely seen — at least until recently — as Zelensky’s patron. The same pattern, facing charges in the U.S., hiring another high-powered Trump-aligned attorney, trying to make nice with Trump by using American intermediaries to make accusations against the Bidens. An amazing story. Read it here.

Today's Agenda: When The Impeachment Inquiry And Russia Probe Collide

Happy Monday, December 9. We’ve got a busy day ahead of us. The House Judiciary Committee will begin its second public impeachment hearing at 9:00 a.m. ET and the 400-plus page Justice Department inspector general’s report on the origins of the Russia probe is set to be made public around the same time. Here’s more on that and other stories we’re following.

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Gramps, Tell Me About the First Duncan Hunter

TPM Reader LB takes us down memory lane. And he’s right. We’re talking now about Rep. Duncan Hunter and his imminent resignation from Congress in the wake of his guilty plea to federal campaign finance charges. But Rep. Hunter inherited the seat from his dad Duncan Hunter, Sr. Pops Hunter never got indicted but he was notoriously crooked and came close to getting pulled down in the wake of the Duke Cunningham scandal back in 2005/2006. (There was a crew of this Southern California GOP Reps who all had problems on the criming front.) Let’s hear from LB

John Light mentioned in this morning’s email that the Golden Duke awards are coming soon. It reminded me of the blatantly corrupt Randy “Duke” Cunningham, from whom the Dukes got their name, The blatancy of the corruption included the shopping price list of how much it would cost to bribe him. Bigger the favor, the higher the cost.

That led me to remember that Duke’s best friend in the House was another name that has been prominent in the news the last several months, Duncan Hunter, although right name, wrong person. Of course the elder Duncan Hunter, best friend of Duke Cunningham, is the father of Duncan Hunter, Jr., who just plead guilty to stealing campaign funds for his personal use (Turns out the pet rabbit liked flying in first class. Who knew?). I used to be in that district, but was saved with the redrawing of the maps in 2010, putting me in a safe Democratic district, with Susan Davis as our rep. (She announced her retirement a few months ago. But, it’s a safe Democratic District, so I don’t think it goes to red.)

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Go Big or Go Small?

I was watching the cable shows yesterday afternoon and the constant refrain was infighting among House Democrats over whether to ‘go big’ on impeachment or keep articles narrowly focused on Ukraine. I know this is a basic question being debated. I don’t know how acrimonious it really is. But I did spend some time last week familiarizing myself with the thinking of those on the Hill who want a more expanded approach. And at least as presented it made a fair amount of sense to me, both substantively and politically.

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House Impeachment Articles/Report May Contain Some Surprises

Here’s a heads up on something. There are a number of questions about what kind of articles of impeachment will be voted against President Trump and what wrongdoing they will cover. But it’s generally assumed that we know the relevant facts those articles will be based on. Don’t be so sure.

The actual articles, the report that goes with it and the evidence presented at a Senate trial will likely contain at least one pretty substantial surprise – and not a good one for President Trump.

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