Rudy Giuliani has lots to worry about this week. He has refused to comply with a subpoena in the impeachment inquiry and says that he doesn’t need a lawyer. But Ken begs to differ. Giuliani did have a lawyer write up a letter defying the subpoena, which Josh and Ken agree was the written equivalent of giving the middle finger.
Adding to Giuliani’s full plate, federal prosecutors are looking into whether he may have broken foreign lobbying laws. And Ken says investigators are almost definitely trying to flip Giuliani associates Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman. They were indicted last week on campaign finance charges.
Despite warnings from the White House about executive privilege, several key figures are testifying in the congressional impeachment inquiry. Former EU ambassador Gordon Sondland will testify Thursday and clearly doesn’t want to go down with the Trump ship. Less clear is whether Trump’s dismissal of former Ukraine ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, while politically risky, is evidence of anything impeachable. And, former White House foreign policy advisor Fiona Hill spoke with impeachment investigators this week. Her lawyers argued in their own letter that executive privilege may not apply to her testimony because of possible government misconduct.
Recognize the legitimacy of this podcast
White House counsel Pat Cipollone sent a letter to Congress laying out why they won’t be participating in the impeachment inquiry. Ken says it’s eight pages of bloviation and very short on rule of law. And what’s really new here? Shouldn’t we have expected this reaction from President Trump and the White House legal team? Ken says this shows a level of defiance from the White House that hasn’t been there before, but what happens if a court eventually makes a call on the relative powers of the legislative and executive branch? Josh says that’s the real uncharted territory here. But, as Ken notes, this is a specific defiance of a specific constitutional procedure: the Constitution is clear that the House has the “sole power to impeach” and this letter essentially says the White House doesn’t recognize that power.
Plus: why hasn’t there been a vote in the House to proceed with impeachment? How long could it take for Congress to get what they’re seeking from EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland? A federal judge in New York rejected President Trump’s argument he and his people and entities are immune from federal and state investigations -- this is the case where New York state is seeking his tax returns. If New York succeeds, will we get to see them? Maybe. Is Rudy Giuliani right that there’s a conspiracy to remove the president -- in other words, is it RICO? And wait, is Rudy Giuliani Donald Trump’s lawyer?
A lot of Republicans are defending President Trump’s call with the Ukrainian president because the contents of the whistleblower’s complaint are hearsay. But that’s a weird defense -- we already have independent confirmation of a lot of the events described in the complaint. Ken and Josh discuss hearsay, and whether anything the president said or did in those calls broke the law. Abuse of power? Bribery? Thing of value? Witness tampering? Obstruction of justice? Ken says some might make a better case than others.
Plus, will current and former State Department officials obey congressional subpoenas or obey Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who doesn’t want them to talk? And did Congressman Adam Schiff commit treason, like President Trump says?
President Trump. Ukraine. Joe Biden. Impeachment.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi met with her caucus on Tuesday and announced the House is beginning a formal impeachment inquiry of President Trump. The impetus for this is a whistleblower report Congress hasn’t seen, because the acting director of national intelligence overruled his inspector general, saying Congress isn’t entitled to see it. But we’ve been learning more and more about what’s in that report, and it seems to concern President Trump’s dealings with Ukraine. On Wednesday morning, the White House released an approximate transcript of this conversation, and it shows Trump pushing Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky for an investigation of the Bidens and urging him to work with Rudy Giuliani on such an investigation.
Is pushing a foreign country to investigate your political rival, withholding aid from that country, possibly linking the two matters -- is any of that a crime?
And regarding impeachment: since President Trump and his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, essentially admitted to this on national TV, do Democrats have what they need or is an investigation or inquiry necessary? Ken and Josh discuss Democrats’ impeachment strategy, and the politics of assembling either a broad or narrow impeachment articles. Should the president’s lies about the hush money payments figure into this?
All kinds of privilege
The White House claims top advisers have absolute immunity from testifying to Congress about their interactions with the president. Is there any legal basis for that? And does either side of the argument want a court to weigh in on this? Not really. Ken White tells us why. Former Trump campaign chair Corey Lewandowski, who testified (or rather, tried very hard to not give any answers to any questions about possible incidents of obstruction of justice) in a House Judiciary Committee hearing, never served in the White House. Does executive privilege extend to him in any way? What remedy does Congress have in this situation?
Then: one of the foreign emoluments cases is back in the news. A federal trial judge in New York threw out a suit from the group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington on behalf of hotels that compete with Trump hotels in Washington DC, but a three-judge panel from the Second Circuit Court of Appeals has brought it back because the New York judge had too narrow a view of standing. Standing, of course, is the issue that has tripped up the other emoluments cases.
Plus: listener questions about Andrew McCabe, the Manhattan district attorney subpoenas eight years of Trump’s tax returns, and a very specific discussion about the Department of Justice and Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh.