Trump denounces impeachment inquiry as a ‘coup’•US President Donald Trump denounced the impeachment inquiry as a „coup” US President Donald Trump denounced the impeachment inquiry as a „coup” (AFP Photo/SAUL LOEB)Washington (AFP) – Donald Trump on Tuesday denounced the impeachment inquiry threatening his presidency as a „coup,” as his administration pushed back hard against the investigation.Trump’s comments came after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pressed to prevent or delay five former or current State Department staffers from testifying in the investigation probing accusations that Trump abused his office by seeking dirt from Ukraine on a 2020 election rival.”As I learn more and more each day, I am coming to the conclusion that what is taking place is not an impeachment, it is a COUP,” Trump tweeted.It is „intended to take away the Power of the People, their VOTE, their Freedoms, their Second Amendment, Religion, Military, Border Wall, and their God-given rights as a Citizen of The United States of America!” he wrote.”The Greatest Witch Hunt in the history of our Country!” he said.Pompeo meanwhile accused three Democratic House committee heads conducting the impeachment inquiry of „an attempt to intimidate, bully and treat improperly the distinguished professionals of the Department of State.”But Democrats accused the top US diplomat of „stonewalling” the investigation and, according to media reports, scheduled interviews with at least two of the diplomats who both had direct involvement in the Ukraine matter.- First clash in impeachment fight -It was the first major clash of the days-old impeachment probe, pointing to a dramatically mounting political and legal siege as Trump battles to save his presidency.Trump faces the possibility of becoming only the third president ever impeached by Congress, which could lead to his going on trial in the Senate.Democrats decided last week to seek impeachment after a whistleblower complaint, supported by a White House call transcript, showed Trump pressuring Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky to supply him with politically useful information on Democratic former vice president Joe Biden.Biden is the most likely Democrat to challenge Trump’s reelection bid next year.The first move of the three powerful House Democrats — Adam Schiff of the Intelligence Committee, Eliot Engel of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and Elijah Cummings of the Oversight Committee — was to subpoena Pompeo and Trump’s private lawyer Rudy Giuliani for documents and to summon the five diplomats to testify.”Secretary Pompeo was reportedly on the call when the President pressed Ukraine to smear his political opponent,” they said.- Pompeo warned against obstruction -Pompeo’s letter suggested that the committees could be forced to subpoena the five diplomats, and that the State Department and White House could seek to limit what they can talk about.”I will use all means at my disposal to prevent and expose any attempts to intimidate the dedicated professionals whom I am proud to lead,” Pompeo said.But news reports said the State Department’s former special envoy to Ukraine, Kurt Volker, would testify Thursday and that the ex-ambassador to Kiev, Marie Yovanovitch, would appear behind closed doors on October 11.Volker had been sought by Giuliani to help pressure Zelensky, while Yovanovitch was removed earlier this year as ambassador after she reportedly resisted that effort.The three committee heads warned Pompeo in a statement Tuesday that any effort to prevent witnesses from speaking to them was „illegal and will constitute evidence of obstruction of the impeachment inquiry.”Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani suggested he might not comply with a House subpoena issued on Monday.Giuliani spent months earlier this year contacting Ukraine officials to encourage them to investigate Biden, whose son had business ties to Ukraine.- Trump attacks Schiff, whistleblower -While Pompeo and Giuliani battled the House committees, Trump also stepped up his personal attacks on Schiff, the leader of the impeachment investigation, as well as the anonymous whistleblower.”Why isn’t Congressman Adam Schiff being brought up on charges for fraudulently making up a statement and reading it to Congress,” he asked.”It is just another Democrat Hoax!”On Monday, Trump said the White House was trying to get more information on the whistleblower, whose identity is protected by law.But politicians from both parties warned the president against threatening or attempting to unmask the whistleblower, who was reported to be a CIA analyst.
The Extra-Secret White House Computer System, Explained
WASHINGTON — The whistleblower who revealed President Donald Trump’s attempt to pressure Ukraine’s leader to open investigations that could benefit him politically also accused White House officials of essentially hiding a rough record of the conversation by placing it in the same highly restricted computer system for closely guarded government secrets.
In his complaint, the whistleblower cited White House officials who portrayed the storage of the call record in that system as “solely for the purpose of protecting politically sensitive — rather than national security sensitive — information” and labeled it an “abuse.” Here is how the restricted storage system works, according to interviews with more than a half-dozen former National Security Council staff members who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
How do aides usually store records of presidential calls with foreign leaders?
Most of the time, the National Security Council — the foreign policy arm of the White House — memorializes presidential phone or video calls with foreign heads of state on the so-called TNet system, the officials said. This is a top-secret-level computer network that is the main platform the aides use to do their jobs. It connects with a top-secret network called JWICS, which is more widely used elsewhere in the executive branch.
TNet has access controls and auditing safeguards. For example, it keeps track of who created or uploaded files, who looked at them, who modified them and how and who printed them out. When officials create a “package” — essentially, a new file — in TNet, they can set controls so any colleague who works on a particular subject, like European affairs or counterterrorism, has access.
What goes in TNet?
Officials can store any file that is classified to the top-secret level — the highest classification — so long as it is not “code word,” a term referring to a specialized category of even more delicate top-secret information that officials are permitted to know about only if they have been granted specific access to it.
Officials with a general top-secret security clearance will not be given code-word clearance to learn about covert activities unrelated to their work. For example, an aide working on North Korea policy would not have been told about planning for the 2011 raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan. Similarly, files containing intelligence supporting the planned raid were not stored in the ordinary TNet system.
What President Donald Trump Said:
“Rep. Adam Schiff illegally made up a FAKE & terrible statement, pretended it to be mine as the most important part of my call to the Ukrainian President, and read it aloud to Congress and the American people. It bore NO relationship to what I said on the call. Arrest for Treason?”
— comment posted on Twitter.
This is exaggerated.
Trump was referring to statements made by Rep. Adam B. Schiff, D-Calif., during a congressional hearing last week about the July 25 phone call between Trump and the president of Ukraine. That call is part of a whistleblower complaint that led Democrats to begin an impeachment hearing.
Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, did not claim to be reciting from the reconstructed transcript of the call and said he was conferring “the essence” of the conversation, “shorn of its rambling character and in not so many words.” But he did speak in first person, leaving an impression that he was quoting Trump.
Later in the hearing, Schiff said that his “summary of the president’s call was meant to be at least part in parody.” Schiff described Trump’s side of the call as a “classic organized crime shakedown.” His account veered from the transcript in chronology and details at points, and seemed intended to put additional attention on the implication that Trump was demanding something from Ukraine in return for the assistance the United States had provided the country, but it generally tracked with the transcript’s version of what Trump said on the call.
First, Schiff said President Volodymyr Zelenskiy of Ukraine expressed “his interest in meeting with the president and says his country wants to acquire more weapons from us to defend itself.”
The transcript, which was not verbatim and contained several ellipses, does show Zelenskiy saying Ukraine is “almost ready to buy more Javelins from the United States for defense purposes.” Later in the call — not before Trump spoke, as Schiff suggested — Zelenskiy thanked Trump for his invitation to visit Washington and said he was hopeful for a future meeting.
Then, according to Schiff, Trump essentially responded, “We’ve been very good to your country, very good. No other country has done as much as we have, but you know what, I don’t see much reciprocity here. I hear what you want. I have a favor I want from you, though.”
This is supported by the transcript in which Trump is quoted as saying the United States does “much more than the European countries are doing.”
What Trump Said:
“And it got almost no attention, but in May, CNN reported that Sens. Robert Menendez, Richard Durbin and Patrick Leahy wrote a letter to Ukraine’s prosecutor general expressing concern at the closing of four investigations they said were ‘critical.’ In the letter, they implied that their support for U.S. assistance to Ukraine was at stake and that if they didn’t do the right thing, they wouldn’t get any assistance. Gee, doesn’t that sound familiar? Doesn’t that sound familiar?”— at a news conference on Sept. 25
This is exaggerated.
The three Democratic senators did write a letter to Yuriy Lutsenko, then Ukraine’s prosecutor general, in May 2018. Trump’s claim of an implied ultimatum is a matter of interpretation, but the letter does not include an overt threat of withholding foreign aid if Ukrainian officials “didn’t do the right thing.”
In the letter, the senators expressed concerns over a New York Times report that Lutsenko’s office had frozen investigations related to the special counsel investigation led by Robert Mueller because officials were wary of offending Trump. They also asked Lutsenko three questions about Ukraine’s cooperation with Mueller and whether Trump or his aides had tried to impede any cooperation.
“As strong advocates for a robust and close relationship with Ukraine, we believe that our cooperation should extend to such legal matters, regardless of politics,” they wrote, adding, “If these reports are true, we strongly encourage you to reverse course.”
The only direct mention of foreign aid was in relation to The Times’ reporting about the limited cooperation with Mueller’s investigation: “The article notes that your office considered these cases as too politically sensitive and potentially jeopardizing U.S. financial and military aid to Ukraine.”
What Trump Said:
“Chris Murphy literally threatened the President of Ukraine that, if he doesn’t do things right, they won’t have Democrat support in Congress. So you’re going to look all of this up.”— at a news conference on Sept. 25
Sen. Christopher S. Murphy, D-Conn., met with Zelenskiy in Ukraine this month as part of a bipartisan congressional delegation.
In interviews this month, Murphy has said he advised Zelenskiy against investigating former Vice President Joe Biden based on political pressure from Trump’s aides and allies. He also noted that Zelenskiy was worried about the suspension of foreign aid.
The Times reported on Sept. 9 that Murphy “said he urged Mr. Zelenskiy not to heed the requests from Mr. Giuliani, warning that to do so could threaten bipartisan support for Ukraine in Washington.”
“So I went there to make it clear to him that the worst thing that he could do for the U.S.-Ukraine relationship was to get involved in an election here in the United States,” Murphy said in a Sept. 22 appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
In a statement responding to Trump’s claim, Murphy said his position was unchanged: “In the meeting Republican Sen. Ron Johnson and I had with President Zelenskiy three weeks ago, I made it clear to him that Ukraine should not become involved in the 2020 election and that his government should communicate with the State Department, not the president’s campaign. I still believe this to be true.”
What Trump Said:
“I gave you anti-tank busters that — frankly, President Obama was sending you pillows and sheets. And I gave you anti-tank busters.”— in a news conference on Sept. 25
This is exaggerated.
The Trump administration in 2018 approved the sale of anti-tank missiles and launch units to Ukraine in 2018.
While President Barack Obama declined to supply Ukraine with lethal weapons, his administration did approve of other forms of military aid, which Trump dismissed as “pillows and sheets.”
Between the 2014 and 2016 fiscal years, the United States committed more than $600 million in security assistance to Ukraine, according to the Congressional Research Service. That included “counterartillery and countermortar radars, secure communications, training aids, logistics infrastructure and IT systems, tactical UAVs and medical equipment.”This article originally appeared in The New York Times.© 2019 The New York Times Company
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