Tuesday, January 14, 2020

What did Donald Trump do today?

He announced his lawyers for the impeachment trial, one of whom was (at least) a witness to what he's being impeached for.

Today, Trump announced through staff that he would be represented by several lawyers at his forthcoming impeachment trial in the Senate. They are White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, his deputies Michael Purpura and Patrick Philbin, and Trump's personal lawyer Jay Sekulow. 

Nothing about these choices was particularly surprising when they were reported this morning. And then this evening, the House Intelligence Committee released documents (available here and here) provided by Lev Parnas, the Trump associate and client/employee of Trump's "fixer" Rudy Giuliani who is under indictment for his role in the Ukraine scandal.

The documents, which news organizations are still working through, contain several bombshells. The most alarming of them deal with the efforts that the Trump/Giuliani/Parnas team took to have the then-Ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, physically stalked and possibly put in physical danger. (Yovanovitch, a non-political appointee, was fired from that position by Trump after Giuliani became concerned that she would oppose his backchannel attempts to pressure the Ukrainian president to interfere in the 2020 election.)

But the documents released tonight also implicate Jay Sekulow, or at least make him a witness to Giuliani's adventures in Ukraine. Giuliani wanted to obtain a U.S. visa for Viktor Shokin, a former Ukrainian prosecutor widely regarded as corrupt and forced out by pressure from the Obama administration. When he couldn't get one through normal channels, he directed Shokin to contact Sekulow. Presumably Giuliani thought Sekulow might be able to convince Trump to bend the rules for someone who might be willing to take part in the plot to pressure the Ukrainian government.

In short, Trump intends to be represented in his impeachment trial by a lawyer who is at the very least a fact witness to the behavior he's being impeached for.

Why should I care about this?

  • Innocent people can generally manage to find a lawyer to defend them who isn't implicated in their alleged crimes.
  • Stalking witnesses is what mob bosses do.