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Listen to this audio, exclusively obtained by CNN, of Rudy Giuliani in July 2019 – when he was still President Donald Trump’s lawyer and henchman – cajoling an aide to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to announce an investigation into Joe Biden.
Giuliani’s call was a precursor to the infamous call where Trump pressured Zelensky, a move that led to Trump’s first impeachment trial. The fact of Giuliani’s call was previously known, but the audio makes the pressure clear.
“All we need from the President [Zelensky] is to say, I’m gonna put an honest prosecutor in charge, he’s gonna investigate and dig up the evidence, that presently exists and is there any other evidence about involvement of the 2016 election, and then the Biden thing has to be run out,” Giuliani said, according to the audio. “… Somebody in Ukraine’s gotta take that seriously.”
CNN’s Marshall Cohen and Matthew Chance write:
The new audio demonstrates how Giuliani aggressively cajoled the Ukrainians to do Trump’s bidding. And it undermines Trump’s oft-repeated assertion that “there was no quid pro quo” where Zelensky could secure US government support if he did political favors for Trump.
The call was one of the opening salvos in the years-long quest by Trump and his allies to damage Biden and subvert the 2020 election process – by soliciting foreign meddling, lying about voter fraud, attempting to overturn the results, and inciting the deadly January 6 assault on the Capitol.
A catalog of anti-democratic activity. That last clause, in which they line up examples of Trump’s pre- and post-election attempts against Biden, represents a chronicle of anti-democratic subversion.
Giuliani dangled an in-person meeting between Trump and Zelensky, essentially in exchange for Zelensky investigating Biden. Listening to it now – with the knowledge that Trump would ultimately be impeached, twice, and that Giuliani would find himself under criminal investigation for his international efforts on Trump’s behalf – does not make Giuliani brazenly trading on American world power for Trump’s political gain less jarring.
Biden invites Zelensky to White House… later. The Ukrainian President was denied a White House meeting with Trump, perhaps because he refused to investigate Biden. Now, Biden will give Zelensky that courtesy, national security adviser Jake Sullivan announced Monday, after the leaders talked on the phone. But the meeting won’t happen until after Biden meets Russian President Vladimir Putin in a planned summit in Geneva next week.
Zelensky is far from happy with Biden. He told Axios he had wanted desperately to meet before Biden’s Putin meeting. Russia has been the aggressor against Ukraine by seizing control of Crimea in 2014 and raised serious recent concerns when it conducted military exercises just across its border with Ukraine.
Sullivan said Biden promised Zelensky on Monday that he would “stand up firmly for Ukraine sovereignty, territorial integrity and its aspirations as we go forward.”
At immediate issue is the Nord-2 pipeline, which Russia will use to bypass Ukraine as it sends gas to the European Union. Biden decided to not forcefully oppose the pipeline as Zelensky had hoped, by sanctioning European companies involved. Ukrainians fear they will become more isolated if Russia has easier access around them to Europe. Read more here.
Zelensky told Axios last week Biden’s decision to let Russia proceed with the pipeline would be a victory for Putin and Moscow.
In a Washington Post Op-Ed, Biden promised to make Ukraine and European security a main topic of his meeting with Putin.
Biden sees his presidency as a key moment in world history as democracies square off against autocracies, like China and Russia, where a small group of leaders have consolidated power and crush opposition.
Biden’s list of gripes with Russia is very long and includes:
- its interference in presidential elections,
- the disinformation spread online from there that’s meant to create chaos in the US,
- the cyber criminals operating from there and threatening US fuel and food supply lines with ransomware demands,
- human rights abuses against opposition leaders,
- US citizens detained in Russia.
In March, Biden told Good Morning America that Putin would pay a price for his election interference and told George Stephanopoulos he thinks Putin is a killer.
Biden said he once told Putin to his face: “I don’t think you have a soul.”
Putin’s response, according to Biden, was, “I think we understand each other.”
“Strategic stability.” Now they’ll be squaring off as opposing leaders, but Biden is, first and foremost, seeking stability, Sullivan told reporters.
“At the end of the day what we are looking to do is for the two Presidents to be able to send a clear signal… to their teams on questions of strategic stability so we can make progress on arms control and other nuclear areas to reduce tension and instability in that aspect of their relationship,” Sullivan said.
Also, what America stands for. Here’s more Sullivan: “And second, being able to look President Putin in the eye and say, ‘This is what America’s expectations are. This is what America stands for. This is what America’s all about.’ This we believe is an essential aspect of US- Russian diplomacy because President Putin is a singular kind of personalized leader and having the opportunity to come together at a summit will allow us to manage this relationship and stand up and defend American values most effectively.”
Trump’s subversion continues. Rep. Liz Cheney, the Wyoming congresswoman stripped of her leadership role by House Republicans, made a provocative point on CNN’s Axe Files podcast.
Trump, she told CNN’s David Axelrod, increasingly sounds like the Chinese Communist Party when he questions the US election system.
“When he says that our system doesn’t work … when he suggests that it’s, you know, incapable of conveying the will of the people, you know, that somehow it’s failed – those are the same things that the Chinese government says about us,” Cheney continued. “And and it’s very dangerous and damaging … and it’s not true.”
Ransom recovery. From CNN’s report: US investigators have recovered millions of dollars in cryptocurrency paid in ransom to hackers whose attack prompted the shutdown of the key East Coast pipeline last month, according to people briefed on the matter. … The ransom recovery is a rare outcome for a company that has fallen victim to a debilitating cyberattack in the booming criminal business of ransomware.
New security rules for US pipelines after attack. From CNN’s report: The Department of Homeland Security on Thursday will mandate that critical pipeline operators comply with several cybersecurity measures, including reporting cybersecurity incidents to the department within 12 hours, according to DHS officials.
Death knell for voting bill. West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin doesn’t necessarily oppose the voting rights bill Democrats want to push through Congress. He just wants bipartisanship. It’s a prerequisite for his vote, much less his support for circumventing the filibuster. Which basically means the voting bill is dead. And it may mean the same for Biden’s wish for a massive infrastructure bill.
Actually, Manchin opposes the restrictive state laws Democrats want to supercede with a federal voting law, he writes in The West Virginia Gazette. But he won’t support any remedy that’s not bipartisan.
“The truth, I would argue, is that voting and election reform that is done in a partisan manner will all but ensure partisan divisions continue to deepen,” he writes.
His faith that Republicans will be willing to work with Democrats is, I think, contra the recent history of Republicans in the minority, but we shall see.
Manchin: Yes, this process can be frustrating and slow. It will force compromises that are not always ideal. But consider the alternative. Do we really want to live in an America where one party can dictate and demand everything and anything it wants, whenever it wants? I have always said, “If I can’t go home and explain it, I can’t vote for it.” And I cannot explain strictly partisan election reform or blowing up the Senate rules to expedite one party’s agenda.
Chris Cillizza’s succinct analysis: Joe Manchin just totally screwed Democrats.
Supreme Court won’t hear challenge to male-only draft. From CNN’s report: The court’s order means that for now even though the draft is not implemented, only men will still be required to register for the selective service. Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Stephen Breyer and Brett Kavanaugh wrote to explain their vote noting that Congress may take up the issue in the short term. “At least for now,” Sotomayor wrote, “the court’s longstanding deference to Congress on matters of national defense and military affairs cautions against granting review while Congress actively weighs the issue.”