Saturday, 23 November 2019

A Simple Guide to Ukrainegate, for people who are not interested in the subject

I don't imagine you are following the attempt to impeach Donald Trump too closely, gentle non-American reader. 

There seems little point, as the U.S. Senate will not vote to remove him from office.

So what's it all about and who is in the right?  

Obviously, at first sight, Hunter Biden appears in a bad light and so does Donald Trump.

This is what distinguishes the Ukrainian story from the Russian story, the allegation that Mr Trump was being blackmailed by Vladimir Putin and was a danger to American national security. 

It was pretty obvious from the start that that story had no substance. The people who appeared in a bad light in that story were the CIA, FBI and MI6.

Some people said that the investigation was an attempted coup by the deep state and other people reacted with irrational fury to the suggestion, but it was the administration trying to get rid of Donald Trump. The word 'coup' and the phrase 'deep state' are a case of de gustibus non disputandum.

Ukraine is full of Americans playing various games. Hunter Biden was one and sat on the board of a shady Ukrainian oligarch's energy company, in a corrupt sector of a very corrupt economy. 

He was paid most months more than $166,000 from the spring of 2014 till the autumn of 2015, a period when Vice President Biden was the main U. S. official dealing with Ukraine.

He was paid that much because of who he was and what influence he might have had.

This absolutely raises legitimate and important questions about his father, though I, perhaps naively, see no reason to suspect that the old man did anything wrong. 

I imagine that he is only guilty of having an embarrassing relative, as many politicians do (Billy Carter, Sir Mark Thatcher, Tony Blair's father-in-law, etc).

And if Joe Biden did not do anything wrong, there is no reason to think the son did anything wrong. 

He probably just seized the main chance and a legal, though unattractive, way of making money out of his father's position. 

Although I am just guessing here and
 perhaps I am naive - see this timeline supplied by
journalist John Solomon, who has provided Donald Trump's lawyer Rudi Guiliani with much of his information about the way the Biden family made money in and from Ukraine.

Ukraine has been an American satellite since the 2014 Revolution and all sorts of wild stories are circulating about corruption there, some including the Bidens.

President Trump tried to get the Ukrainians to investigate the matter, obviously for his own political advantage, though without saying that military aid was dependent on their agreeing to do so. 

He wouldn't have to, you might suppose. They would have known on which side their bread was buttered, you'd imagine, except that they were not even aware that aid was being suspended. 

In any case, according to pro-Trump Fox News, the Ukrainians were already investigating the company where Hunter Biden had 'worked'. 

White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham told Fox News on November 1, 
“The president did absolutely nothing wrong. We released the transcript weeks ago for everybody to see. There was no quid pro quo. The Ukrainian government said they felt absolutely no pressure. Aid was eventually released to the Ukraine.
Many others have made the same point, but it is a rather weak one. 

Most of the roughly $400 million aid was indeed released ($35 million was withheld), but this does not prove that the President did not want a quid pro quo. The money was paid after the so-called whistleblower blew his whistle on the conversation the American President had had with his Ukrainian counterpart, in which he asked for two investigations, one into Hunter Biden. 

The other investigation the President wanted from the Ukrainians was into whether the Ukrainians were responsible for trying to influence the 2016 election in Hillary Clinton's favour. 

This theory looks highly unlikely to me, but it is what lots of Trump supporters believe. 

Does he believe it? 

Or does he see it as a way (like questioning Obama's birthplace) of injuring and triggering Democrats? 

If the latter, that is clever of him. 

If the former, he takes seriously what Fiona Hill, testifying to the House of Representatives’ intelligence committee on Thursday, called
"A fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves.”
In so doing she made very clear her view of the Trumpian world view, which holds that a great danger to the USA is posed by Russia, unlike by illegal immigrants.

She made her distaste for Donald Trump's political philosophy even more clear when she told the committee that the word 'globalism' was 'an anti-semitic trope'.

People like Fiona Hill are described as 'policy wonks', but policy is always underpinned by a political philosophy, and the wonks' philosophy is very far from Donald Trump's. In fact, immediately after his election she described his victory on the Brookings Institute website as the “contemporary American version of a Bolshevik revolution.”

The analogy is an interesting one but it comes, remember, from a Russian expert who knows exactly how evil the Bolshevik revolution was.

I am, on balance, pleased that the President does not rely for information only on the official narrative of events but follows the right-wing media. They share his outlook. The CIA and State Department do not. 

He obviously also follows the writings of John Solomon.

In any case, there would have been absolutely nothing wrong in the US President asking Ukraine to investigate putative Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election intended to harm him.

The whistle blower is apparently a young, left-wing Democrat who joined the CIA because he liked Obama's policy in the Middle East and took an optimistic view of the Muslim Brotherhood. 

He presumably wants to damage Donald Trump for partisan reasons. One easily imagines his cold fury when he thinks about the President.

He is a protege of John Brennan, the former CIA Director, who is Donald Trump's overt enemy and was convinced that the Russian allegations against Donald Trump had substance.

Fiona Hill is a decent and ferociously intelligent Anglo-American, who worked in the Administration to do the best she could for one of her two countries, though presumably (and understandably) utterly out of sympathy with the President.

You could say that this was dutiful and honourable of her and you could say that this makes her a deep state mole. That is, someone labouring to prevent Mr. Trump implementing the policy proposals on which he was elected.

Both are probably true. 

Both are probably ways of saying the same thing. 

Both are probably true of the great majority of people in positions of responsibility in the US Administration.

She left before the telephone call so it is not entirely clear why she is testifying. 
She rightly sees Vladimir Putin as a bad guy and is wrong if she thinks that Russia should matter a lot to the U.S. 

My conclusion is that the President behaved very badly in a way I'd expect, overstepped an important mark in his telephone call, but committed no crime 'or high misdemeanour',  the grounds provided by the Constitution for impeachment.

Is his behaviour bad enough to deserve impeachment? 

That is a meaningless question. There are no real legal reasons for impeachment, only political ones. 

Mr. Obama ordered the killing of an American citizen abroad without being impeached.

Impeachment became politically unavoidable, because of the attitudes of the Democrat grassroots. Mrs Pelosi was forced to accept this, though she knows the dangers it poses for her party.

In any case, Donald Trump will not be removed from office.

The impeachment will fail in the Senate and the Democrats know that. 

It will make the Democrats look like establishment politicians trying to remove an elected President. 

It will look like that because that is what it is.

It will force Republican Senators to defend a president they privately loathe, but are saddled with. 

It will probably help Donald Trump get re-elected.

I don't think there is any reason for people outside the USA to follow the story closely, except for the light it will shed on has been happening in Ukraine, which should be very interesting.

There is a good film in it but, if made by Hollywood, it will take a strongly pro-Democrat line. Joe Biden will be an aged hero, grown old in the service of the Republic, and his son perhaps a comic figure, an innocent at large.


  1. A brilliant article about the impeachment.

  2. This is a brilliant article about US involvement in the Ukraine.

  3. John Solomon Reports:

    The Ukraine scandal timeline Democrats and their media allies don’t want America to see
    NOVEMBER 20, 2019

    1. Toma, thank you very much - it is very interesting - exhaustive and exhausting. You are a very good researcher. We should collaborate on a book.

    2. Yes, I see that, as others have told me, there is much that needs to be investigated about the Bidens and Burisma.

    3. Maybe I have been too kind to the Fiona Hills and the Democrats.

      A friend said Putin is the best leader Russia could have now - I am not sure about that, but Trump is the best leader USA could have now.

    4. 'Leshchenko — a foreign politician — made clear that his objective at the time was to kill off Trump’s candidacy. That’s a direct admission of meddling. As Oleksiy Kuzmenko has documented so well, Leshchenko repeated this statement in various ways in both English and Ukrainian over and over again.

      'Lev Golinkin explained in the Nation a few months ago that the release of that ledger by Leshchenko and NABU was an important event — and a direct intervention in the election. “The story rocked the 2016 election, given Manafort’s position as head of Trump’s campaign. The Hillary Clinton campaign immediately seized on it as proof that Manafort—and therefore Trump—was tied to Yanukovych and the Kremlin,” he wrote. “Manafort was ousted based on handwritten pieces of paper—the story would’ve never gone anywhere without NABU and Leshchenko’s vouching for the ledger’s authenticity. That’s as direct as it gets.”

      'But three years later, this episode has been wiped from the collective memory of our media and political establishment. What used to be fact is now smeared as either a pro-Trump rightwing conspiracy theory or Russian propaganda — and probably both. But saying that it didn’t happen doesn’t change the historical record.'

  4. You laughable and contemptible euro trash. The one supreme benefit of your blog is the confirmation it provides to the often unwitting mirror of your souls.

    Trump quid pro quo? As if ANY state foreign policy IN HISTORY was contingent upon altruism.

    hahaah and you a former member of the British Empire, too!

    Thanks for laugh. You made my Saturday... again!

  5. Please take The Hill as you would Breitbart. John Solomon was fired from The Hill for demonstrably making things up. The paper has been forced to review all the reporting he produced. It's ongoing.

    President Pigeyes was just ruled against by a judge for stealing from a charity. It doesn't seem to matter. He flouts the rules in ways big and small all the time -- this episode is routine for him. Of course he will not be removed from office. On the plus side, impeachment seems to be driving him to new heights of insane rage. Nice to see in someone who has always derived such pleasure from mocking and demeaning others.

    1. I must find out more about this subject. I have considered the whole thing boring but it is not. I have a friend who is convinced the Democrats are the wrongdoers in Ukraine and I have dismissed this idea as a silly conspiracy theory, but now I wonder. Perhaps the Bidens are the wrongdoers. I wonder what secrets Rudy Giuliani knows and why he does not tell us.

      'After reiterating his claim that he has an “insurance policy” in case President Trump throws him under the bus amid the ongoing impeachment inquiry, Rudy Giuliani took to Twitter on Saturday to warn that he has “files” on Joe Biden that will be released in case he “disappears.” The former New York mayor has repeatedly referenced a mysterious “insurance policy” when asked if he's worried about Trump potentially turning on him for his dealings in Ukraine. After repeating that claim in an interview with Fox News on Saturday while also defending his relationship with Trump, Giuliani wrote on Twitter that his comment was “sarcastic” but also made in reference to compromising information he has on Biden. “The statement I’ve made several times of having an insurance policy, if thrown under bus, is sarcastic & relates to the files in my safe about the Biden Family’s 4 decade monetizing of his office,” he wrote. “If I disappear, it will appear immediately along with my RICO chart.”'

    2. I very rarely look at Breitbart but it is where I go to look at issues like terrorist attacks and Islamist crimes, which the BBC etc do not report reliably. The Hill, I thought, was completely respectable and I still do think so after reading this. says:

      "Overall, we rate The Hill Right-Center Biased based on editorial positions that moderately favor the right, however basic news reporting is generally balanced in story selection and reported in a straightforward manner. We also rate them Mostly Factual in reporting, rather than High, due to previous opinion columns promoting unproven claims."

    3. What a fascinating detective story this is had I but time. John Solomon is perhaps the most interesting figure in it all.

  6. Oh, and a key witness against the Trump administration was Trump appointee and million-dollar Trump donor Gordon Sondland. Hardly a representative of the deep state, and a jolly guy who ratted out Trump's gangster moves seemingly without a care in the world. It won't matter. With Trump it never does.

  7. In the meantime, it is worth keeping an observation from the political philosopher John Marini in mind. Michael Anton quotes from a recent speech of Marini’s in his own superlative essay on impeachment for the Claremont Review of Books:

    Many great scandals arise not as a means of exposing corruption, but as a means of attacking political foes while obscuring the political differences that are at issue. This is especially likely to occur in the aftermath of elections that threaten the authority of an established order. In such circumstances, scandal provides a way for defenders of the status quo to undermine the legitimacy of those who have been elected on a platform of challenging the status quo—diluting, as a consequence, the authority of the electorate.

    It would be hard to find a better description of the Trump-Russian scandal or the Ukrainian “scandal” now playing at the Adam Schiff Theater.

    Will it work? It has, pretty much, until now. I have to admit that. But in this as in so much else, Donald Trump has insinuated a new and disruptive energy into the narrative. With just about any other president, I would have said that the deep state’s victory was all-but-assured. With Trump, I am hedging my bets.

    Trump’s Disruptive Energy vs. the Deep State
    by Roger Kimball

  8. "What have you got if you've got Jeremy Corbyn and Boris Johnson in a lift and Dolly Parton got in?

    "You've got two massive tits and a country and western singer."

    Roy 'Chubby' Brown and Rod Liddle video:

  9. Now Giuliani's cartoonishly sleazy associate Lev Parnas is reportedly submitting audio, video and picture of Trump and Giuliani to the impeachment committee.

    Yes, this is getting wilder and wilder.

    1. Fascinating indeed.

      But, trying to be objective, this story is about much more than Mr. Trump trying to get dirt on his opponent. I have discovered that there are on the net all sorts of wild allegations about the Bidens and about John Kerry. I presume they are fabrications but this means that Donald Trump who reads the right wing 'alternative media' is justified in wanting the Ukrainian government to investigate. I no longer see withholding aid as an unspoken threat - and an investigation was necessary.

      On the other hand Peggy Noonan thinks the case against Mr Trump is open and shut and Republicans should admit it. They won't of course but nor should they.

      An example of a wild story - and one that to me sounds a very unlikely story indeed - is this. These stories may very well originate with the Russian secret service for aught I know.

    2. John Solomon
      Nov 22
      Fiona Hill suggested my Ukraine stories were Russian propaganda. If she’s such an expert she would know my main character Yuriy Lutsenko was a political prisoner of the Russian backed Yanukovych regime and the US pleaded for his release and applauded his appointment as prosecutor

    3. Peggy Noonan...

      'The grande dame of the disgruntled NeverTrump Republicans... whose columns on Trump usually sound like a mash-up of the prescriptions of Emily Post and a snobbery redolent of Lady Violet Crawley from Downton Abbey.'

      Bruce Thornton
      Peggy Noonan Reminds Us Why Trump Won
      NOVEMBER 22, 2019

  10. The impeachment will fail in the Senate and the Democrats know that.

    It will make the Democrats look like establishment politicians trying to remove an elected President.

    Yeah, and if the Senate exonerates Trump they will look like partisan hacks protecting one of their own. So the potential is there for both sides to look bad, which means that whichever side controls the media narrative is likely to be the side that gains the bigger advantage.

    1. The mainstream media are strongly opposed to the President obviously.

  11. It will probably help Donald Trump get re-elected.

    That's the really interesting question. Right-wingers seem convinced that this will help Trump, but that's because all the other right-wingers they know think the same thing. Everyone these days spends too much time in partisan political echo chambers.

    The Democrats' objective is not to remove Trump but to cause him to look like he's surrounded by an atmosphere of scandal and corruption. I suspect that this is not going to change most people's vote but it doesn't need to. If it can chip away at some of Trump's support among squishy moderates and Establishment Republican types, and maybe among conservative Christians, then it will have been a success from the Democrats' point of view.

    I can't see Trump gaining anything from any of this, except maybe it might energise how base a little.

    Whether Trump is re-elected depends on whether Rust Belt voters believe he has done enough to deliver what they wanted - the restoration of American manufacturing industry. Most people vote on bread-and-butter issues.

  12. Nancy Pelosi understands these things better than any other politician. I think it could easily make Biden look very bad in the eyes of many. It will be seem as a second CIA attempted coup.

  13. Razvan Stoica left this comment on the post on LinkedIn.

    Fast forward 400 years...

    Washington is six fortified hamlets on Capitol hill, each centered on the ruin of a once-grand building or monument. The enclave stretches a precarious protuberance south-east to the Yacht Club, so the Empire can still claim to have access to the high seas, of sorts, although there are rumours of Chinese infiltrators with AShMs stalking near the Harry Nice Memorial bridge, so the Navy Secretary flat out refuses to order his ship to set sail. Arlington Cemetery (breadbasket of the nation) has been recently lost, the Old Guard having withdrawn to the Hill in a glorious running battle. The base at Andrews still holds, but the terrain between Marlow and Walker Mill is infested with sicarios in Tesla trucks and the airmen must trade with locals for bullets and food.

    The Senate is debating articles of impeachment.

  14. I recall reading - on Twitter, where else, that a relatively grand majority (60% or whereabouts) of voters trust that the impeachment is something for the press. I cannot find the poll again to cite here, it might have been by a minor house. AP has picked up the theme today:

    Overall, polls on impeachment do not make sense - the idea is accepted, but not awarded consequences [Yes to impeachment, no change in popularity & the like].

    If political gestures cannot be 'for the press', can they be public.

    Local politics is not as fun as the remote.

    1. I always find your comments gnomic, Ana.
      I think the Democrats are going to lose if they continue with this. There are so many wild conspiracies about Democrat corruption in the Ukraine that much of the mud will stick and injure the party in the election which is in less than a year. How time flies.

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  15. Lots more comments, some unflattering, on this piece are to be found here:

  16. It’s a good comparison with “Billy Carter, Sir Mark Thatcher, Tony Blair's father-in-law, etc”.

    “High misdemeanor” is a remarkable phrase. A misdemeanor is not a crime. Most the world’s heads of state and government in the 18th and 19th centuries were committing actual crimes most weeks. “High misdemeanor” is a hangover from the weird starry-eyed Utopianism of many of the founding fathers. In effect, it says “we want our Presidents chucked out if they do nothing criminal but something really quite naughty”.

    I like “One easily imagines his cold fury when he thinks about the President” and it’s a good comparison with Obama ordering the murder of Aulaqi, although I also think a better case can be made for that killing than for most of the others that US presidents (and indeed English kings) have ordered over the centuries.

    You are right that there’s a good film in it, no doubt with Biden as the upright hero, Hunter Biden as a comic turn and a millstone around his neck, and Trump as a Mafia-type gangster. But I would advise the producers to write in Hunter as a basically decent fellow who has himself admitted to a sanatorium for kleptomaniacs and gamblers. Trump could perhaps have him kidnapped from there and offered a new directorship by a drug baron in Columbia.

  17. I don't think a discussion can be had in good faith without knowing how often these aid payments are held up in general, to all other countries, and understanding the process of releasing such payments. Right now we are assuming the payments to Ukraine were held up in unusual circumstances, but we have no other scenario to which we can compare this.

  18. This is Fiona Hill's testimony if anyone has time to read it.


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