Follow the fiscal year: Diplomat’s testimony reveals why Trump is so mad at the whistleblower

If you do not currently live under a rock - or if PG&E did not turn off your power yesterday in order to prevent lawsuits wildfires - you know by now that State Department’s Mission Chief in Ukraine, former Ambassador Bill Taylor, gave damning testimony to the House committees running the Trump impeachment inquiry. Read Ambassador Taylor’s publicly-released opening statement.

You know that Bill Taylor testified that he had grave concerns about what he called the “irregular” channel of running American policy in Ukraine, run predominantly through the president’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani. You know that Taylor testified that the directive to hold back Congressionally approved funding for Ukraine’s fight against Russia came “directly from the president”, and that EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland conveyed to Ambassador Taylor that for Trump, “everything” - including the release of the money - depended on newly elected Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy publicly announcing a phony investigation into Joe Biden and into a right-wing, debunked conspiracy theory that Ukraine, not Russia, had sought to intervene into the US elections so that Trump can feel like he’s a legitimate president.

Members of Congress who attended Taylor’s testimony appeared unusually alarmed, even for these times. 

Those things are all true, and important.

One thing I have not seen covered, however, is an aspect of the damning evidence which demonstrates that Trump wasn’t bluffing. He wasn’t just using the alure of the aid and a White House meeting to coax or persuade - or even coerce - Zelenskyy into committing to launch phony investigations into conspiracy theories and political opponents. Donald Trump was serious about getting his “favor” and was fully planned to zero out Ukraine’s aid if he did not. Trump, Giuliani, Pompeo and cult would have pulled it off, too, had the whistleblower not rudely interrupted.

Doing damage control after his open bragging about the Ukrainian quid pro quo, Donald Trump’s Budget Director (the person who actually held up the money at Trump’s behest) and Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney said this weekend on Fox News Sunday that the fact that the aid was eventually released by the White House should serve as evidence that Trump did not condition the aid on phony Ukrainian dirt on Biden. That was kind of a “well our blackmail didn’t work, so we’re good, right?” argument to begin with, but now we have proof that it was also a lie.

To explain, let’s back up a little bit and consider the timeline of the whistleblower complaint, the subsequent public reveal of the plot, and the ensuing impeachment inquiry.

The original whistleblower complaint was filed with the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community on August 12, who deemed the complaint serious and credible and forwarded it to the Acting Director of National Intelligence (DNI), Joseph Maguire, on August 26. Maguire would subsequently testify that he, instead of forwarding the complaint to Congress as required by law, took it first to the White House Counsel to determine whether there were matters of “executive privilege” at play. Members of the Intelligence committee noted then the oddity of taking the whistleblower complaint - for clearance - the subject of the complaint, but now we know the importance of this heads-up.

September 1 was the deadline prescribed in law for the DNI to send the whistleblower complaint to Congress. He did not. The IG then took matters into his own hands and notified House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff of the complaint and of the DNI’s refusal to turn it over on September 9.

According to Ambassador Taylor’s opening statement, the aid to Ukraine was finally released on September 11.

So to recap the relevant timeline:

  • Early 2019: development of irregular, divergent channel on US policy on Ukraine, run by Rudy Giuliani.

  • Summer 2019: People from official and unofficial channels drop hints that the new Ukrainian president needs to open “investigations,” clarifying soon that the investigation must focus on Biden.

  • July 25: Trump openly brings up investigating Biden and a discredited conspiracy theory about hidden DNC servers in Ukraine in a call with the Ukrainian president.

  • July 26 (on or about): White House is informed there’s an internal whistleblower complaint about Trump’s call but instructs the DNI not to transmit the complaint to Congress.

  • September 9: Congress finds out about the call and the whistleblower complaint.

  • September 11 (suddenly): Aid is released.

Okay, that looks bad that aid was released right after Congress found out about the whistleblower complaint that the White House had previously been informed of, but how do we know that the money wouldn’t have eventually been released anyway and this didn’t just speed up the inevitable?

Let me introduce you to our new friend, the fiscal year.

Ambassador Taylor dropped this passage in his opening statement.

On September 1, just three days after my cable to Secretary Pompeo, President Zelenskyy met Vice President Pence at a bilateral meeting in Warsaw. President Trump had planned to travel to Warsaw but at the last minute had cancelled because of Hurricane Dorian. Just hours before the Pence-Zelenskyy meeting, I contacted Mr. Danyliuk to let him know the delay of U.S. security assistance was an "all or nothing" proposition, in the sense that if the White House did not lift the hold prior to the end of the fiscal year (September 30), the funds will expire and Ukraine would receive nothing.

In another part of the opening statement, Taylor says that Trump did not want to give Ukraine “anything”, despite the fact that the decision was not technically his, it was Congress’s.

All this has only one reasonable conclusion.

Trump eats his own dog food, and he probably subscribes to the conspiracy theories he peddles, including the one about Ukraine. Because you know, he believes Putin. Trump is desperate to find any scintilla of legitimacy he himself does not believe he has, he is desperate to find political dirt on a domestic rival he is terrified of, and he was prepared to force Ukraine to manufacture that legitimacy and dirt and completely deny US aid if he didn’t get it. He would have gotten his wish, too, if the pesky whistleblower didn’t get in his way.

And that, my friends, is why Trump is so irate about the whistleblower.

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