A Jigsaw Puzzle with a Single Piece Missing

missing piece

Jonathan Chait writes,

A wide swath of evidence has established that the Trump administration attempted to trade diplomatic favors with Ukraine for investigations. Several aides testified, or communicated to each other at the time, that they understood this to be the policy. Trump demanded the investigations in public, implicitly dangled them in his phone call with Ukraine’s president, and his chief of staff Mick Mulvaney publicly confirmed the quid pro quo in a press conference. But every one of these pieces of testimony, in one form or another, fell short of the standard of (1) being sworn testimony (2) by a person who spoke directly to Trump AND (3) heard him explicitly condition the meeting and aid for the investigations. It was like a jigsaw puzzle with a single piece missing, the picture completely apparent. …

Well, so much for that.

Last night’s revelation that John Bolton’s forthcoming book reports the exact piece of evidence that Trump’s legal team insisted did not exist, that Trump specifically told Bolton that he was holding up the military aid in return for investigating the Bidens. Trump’s lawyers not only claimed this evidence did not yet exist, but called it one of the facts that “have not, and will not, change.”

The bind that Republican senators are in is readily apparent. (But if you need any help, check out the rest of today’s Chait piece.)

I have no idea what these fuckwits will wind up doing. But I know exactly and precisely what their least bad course of action is: adopt the Arius Aardvark Defense.

If I were, say, Cory Gardner, that would be my story and I would be stickin’ to it


Trump’s Impeachment “Defense”: A Trial Balloon

slashed balloon

In previous posts I outlined the Deny the Undeniable Defense, the Explain the Inexplicable Defense, the the Defend the Indefensible Defense, the Just Get Over It Defense. Actually, there is probably a fifth alternative: the Nancy Reagan Defense—Just Say No to impeachment and removal and don’t say a word more.

Right now the trial balloon is Explain the Inexplicable: admit that Ukraine was extorted, but “explain” that it wasn’t Trump doin’ the extortin’ but rather a confederacy of dunces claiming to speak in his name. This argument necessitates the defenestration of the said dunces.

Here is how matters appear to stand as of this afternoon.

  1. It has been clear for quite a while—and it remains true today—that all Trump’s options are bad, but his least bad option is to throw Mulvaney and Giuliani under the bus.
  2. Because of a variety of mental infirmities, Trump cannot grasp point one.
  3. So the House Freedom Caucus has decided to throw Mulvaney and Giuliani under the bus, on Trump’s behalf, claiming that Mulvaney and Giuliani, not Trump, were responsible for withholding military aid to Ukraine.
  4. One problem with the defense is that it isn’t true.
  5. A second problem with the defense is that its intended beneficiary—Donald J. Trump—will probably not go alone with it.
  6. A third problem is that the Designated Fall Guys will probably not take the fall. Because, among other things, taking the fall would probably expose them to criminal liability. Not to mention that their names will live in infamy.

Hence, Giuliani has lawyered up. And Mulvaney has lawyered up.

And Mulvaney has now asked to join a lawsuit names Donald J. Trump as a defendant, seeking a federal district court’s direction on whether Mulvaney should obey Trump or comply with the House subpoena for his testimony. The New York Times finds the latter development both anomalous and ironic, and spends a goodly number of paragraphs today, sucking its journalistic thumb over these goings on.

One plausible explanation for Mulvaney suing Trump is that it’s part of a well-thought out Machiavellian legal maneuver. Deep within the article, the Times writes,

A lawyer for Mr. Mulvaney alerted the White House Counsel’s Office about the pending filing, and the office raised no objections, according to a person close to Mr. Mulvaney. Some observers said Mr. Mulvaney’s goal may be not to oppose Mr. Trump, but to help him, as well as himself: In signaling that he would like the courts to decide whom he should side with, he is turning the decision over to a legal process that may continue well beyond the Democrats’ impeachment time frame.

One could elaborate on this theory, but I’m not going to do it.

The Times seems to think the more likely explanation is that Mulvaney has hired a real lawyer; that said real lawyer has advised his client that he’s in danger of taking a bullet for Trump; that the lawyer has counseled Mulvaney on some steps he needs to take to protect himself; and that Mulvaney is taking the advice.

That’s what I would guess, too.

Tutti Frutti O Rudy

Jonathan Chait, Trump’s Watergate Burglars, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, Just Got Arrested:

Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman were carrying out President Trump’s scheme to pressure Ukraine to investigate his domestic rivals. This morning, the two men were arrested on campaign-finance charges as they attempted to leave the country.…

The Wall Street Journal reports Fruman and Parnas had lunch with Giuliani yesterday, before their arrest at the airport with one-way tickets to leave the country. This might be taken as more reason to suspect that the men charged with carrying out Trump’s foreign policy in Ukraine had a less than innocent state of mind. CNN reports that the FBI and federal prosecutors are examining Giuliani’s financial dealings with his two clients, but did not say he is a target of the investigation.

Trump told reporters this afternoon he does not know Fruman and Parnas, despite having met and been photographed with them. He also expressed his hope that Giuliani is not indicted. Neither comment indicates enormous confidence in the innocence of the three figures.

The arrest of Parnas and Fruman is more evidence that Trump’s Ukraine scandal left a wide swath of evidence. Trump had to sideline legitimate diplomats, including the unfortunate Yovanovitch, and empower a bunch of lowlifes in order to turn U.S. diplomacy in the country into a low-rent extortion plot. It certainly doesn’t help him that a couple of his rather seedy accomplices are now under arrest.

What the Hell is Bill Bar Up To?

Ever since his appointment, it has seemed to me that Bill Barr is probably engaged in some Byzantine plot. Or plots. Something about Barr as Trump’s loyal lackey and Kool-Aid addict just does not add up.

Down at the progressive table here at Happy Acres, some of my brethren and sistern have asked incredulously whether I think Barr is “secretly a good person.” No, ladies and germs, Bill Barr is most assuredly not a good person. But there are different ways of being a bad person. There’s a straightforward way and a devious way.

Call me crazy, but I still think Barr’s mission, or maybe one of his missions, is to get Trump out of office with a Spiro Agnew-style deal for immunity from prosecution. It’s the best explanation that fits all the known facts, and I know of no evidence tending to falsify my hypothesis.

In the meantime, there is an impeachment to defend.

Rudy Giuliani has played a key role in getting Trump into his current mess. A defense strategy that involves throwing Giuliani under the bus is highly risky. But from the viewpoint of a Trump defender, a rational bad man, and a skilled lawyer, I could well see that throwing Giuliani under the bus would look like the least bad defense option.

‘Cause an indicted Giuliani might look less believable when he spills the dirt on Trump. And an indicted Giuliani might know that he can’t spill a lot of dirt on Trump without providing yet more evidence of his own criminal conduct.


Good morning—or afternoon, or evening, as the case may be—to today’s readers, who come from Australia, Canada, France, India, Kenya, Mauritius, South Africa, Spain, Thailand, and the United States. I hope all of y’all are finding this entertaining.