The second is that two of the scheme’s goals — getting Ukraine to validate a conspiracy theory absolving Russia of 2016 sabotage, and to manufacture smears of one of Trump’s leading 2020 rivals — are really part of the same story. At the core of this narrative is Trump’s continuing reliance on foreign help in corrupting our democracy to his advantage, through two presidential elections, and the covering up of all of it.
New developments provide an opening to pull together these bigger pieces.
The New York Times has a remarkable piece detailing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s role in this whole scheme. As the Times reports, when Pompeo was CIA director, he accepted the conclusion — reached by U.S. intelligence services and established in deeply granular detail by the special counsel — that Russia carried out sweeping electoral sabotage on Trump’s behalf.
Now Pompeo has changed his mind. He played a key role in ousting Marie Yovanovitch, the former ambassador to the Ukraine, to clear the way for Trump and lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani to create a shadow foreign policy to pressure Ukraine to carry out Trump’s corrupt political bidding, including making Russia’s 2016 interference disappear.
As the Times points out, newly released transcripts of witness testimony in the impeachment inquiry fill in that part of the story. It involves a disinformation campaign directed at Yovanovitch, which Pompeo didn’t defend her from, despite her being a senior diplomat:
Both Michael McKinley, a senior adviser to Mr. Pompeo and a four-time ambassador, and Philip T. Reeker, the acting assistant secretary for Europe, testified that they asked State Department leadership to defend Ms. Yovanovitch from false accusations, only to be rejected. Mr. McKinley said he personally urged Mr. Pompeo three times to issue a defense; the revelation of that detail in a transcript released on Monday undercut a declaration Mr. Pompeo made in an interview last month that he “never heard” Mr. McKinley “say a single thing” about Ms. Yovanovitch’s ouster.
The Times piece portrays a secretary of state who is essentially perverting the State Department and subverting the national interest to carry out Trump’s sordid political project. As the Times concludes, Pompeo “had direct knowledge of Mr. Trump’s shadow policy, and seems to have enabled it.”
Crucially, Pompeo’s State Department has also sought to cover that project up. The department has tried to block the testimony of multiple officials, including Ambassador William B. Taylor Jr., who testified damningly to the corrupt quid pro quo involving military aid.
Barr’s role needs more scrutiny
Then there’s Attorney General William P. Barr. In an overlooked interview, the national spokesperson for the Republican National Committee claimed that when Trump pressed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to carry out the “investigations” Trump wanted, he wasn’t trying to help himself.
Instead, Trump was merely trying to get Zelensky to cooperate with the ongoing Justice Department review of the origins of the FBI investigation into Russian interference, the RNC spokesperson, Liz Harrington, said.
“He asked for help looking into the Justice Department’s legitimate investigation into the election meddling in 2016," Harrington told MSNBC’s Ari Melber. "That’s what the favor was.”
This is a reference to the fact that as part of his review into the Russia probe’s origins, Barr may be working to validate the conspiracy theory holding that Ukraine hacked Democrats’ emails and set up Russia to get blamed for sabotaging the election.
In other words, Trump and top officials at the GOP’s main national political committee are using Barr’s review to confer legitimacy on Trump’s extortion of Zelensky for his own corrupt purposes.
Trump himself instructed Zelensky on the July 25 call to enlist Barr to help carry out the scheme. Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney subsequently suggested it was legitimate for Trump to ask Ukraine to help with an “ongoing investigation” by the Justice Department.
Barr appears to be playing coy games around all of this. Yes, the Justice Department denied that Trump had discussed with Barr any direct assistance to Zelensky, and distanced itself from any suggestion that military aid was withheld to pressure Ukraine into cooperating with Barr’s review.
But Barr keeps popping up in the middle of the plot. The Justice Department has announced that Barr’s review is vaguely examining Ukraine’s role in 2016. Barr is enlisting other foreign governments in this effort.
At the end of all this, Barr actually might end up both helping to validate the conspiracy theory falsifying Russia’s 2016 crimes and lending legitimacy to Trump’s corrupt pressure on Ukraine to do the same.
And Barr’s Justice Department, like Pompeo’s State Department, has worked to keep the truth about all of this buried. It advised against transmitting the whistleblower complaint sounding the alarm about it to Congress and declined to criminally investigate the whistleblower’s charges.
All this comes at a time when new documents from the special counsel are underscoring just how eager Trumpworld was to profit from the Russian interference effort.
We still haven’t gotten our arms around the mind-boggling scale of corruption on display here. Multiple government agencies are actively helping Trump absolve Russia of sabotaging the last presidential election on his behalf — thus burying his own campaign’s eagerness to benefit from it — and helping him cover up his effort to solicit more foreign help in cheating his way to victory in the next one.