It’s the Bribery on an Unsecured Phone Line, Stupid.

It’s the bribery, stupid.

On Wednesday, I described the process by which Democrats methodically moved the framing of the impeachment inquiry from “quid pro quo” to bribery, an offense explicitly named in the Constitution as impeachable. With Speaker Pelosi directly using the word in a press conference on Thursday, the media seems to be catching up.

Consciousness of guilt: Trump followed up on bribery and extortion scheme after Zelensky Call.

Donald Trump’s handpicked Ambassador to the European Union and a key executor of Trump’s extortion and bribery scheme against Ukraine, Gordon Sondland has a really bad memory. Not only has he had to “correct” his testimony about whether Trump was attempting to extort Ukraine into publicly announcing a fake investigation into Joe Biden, he apparently also forgot that he sat at a public restaurant speaking to Trump on an unsecured phone line the day after the call between Trump and Ukrainian president president Volodymyr Zelensky.

US Chief of Mission to Ukraine, Ambassador Bill Taylor testified Wednesday that a member of his staff heard the conversation between Sondland and Trump on July 26, and not just Sondland’s side. Trump asked about the “investigations” he pressed Zelensky on the previous day, and Sondland informed Trump that Ukrainians were prepared to cave because of the much needed assistance Trump was illegally holding up.

It turns out now that there is a second witness to the aforementioned call, another staffer from the US Embassy in Kiev, in addition to the staff member mentioned by Ambassador Taylor.

The Trump White House found the subject matter of the call with Zelensky so sensitive that the White House Counsel ordered it moved to a highly secure server reserved for sensitive intelligence matters. Yet, Trump saw no problem discussing that exact call with Sondland on an unsecured phone line in the middle of a restaurant where both Trump Sondland could be - and were - overheard.

Something - just something - tells me the transcript of the Trump-Zelensky call wasn’t moved to the secure server for its national security value.

Follow the money: Career employee at OMB will testify.

The House Democrats have gained a low-key but critical witness in the impeachment hearings. Mark Sandy, the deputy associate director for national security programs at the Office of Management and Budget, will testify about exactly how the money Congress appropriated for Ukrainian defense against Russia was held up by the White House.

We have learned from previous depositions and testimony so far that Taylor and others were notified that the funds were being withheld by order of Mick Mulvaney, the Director of OMB, who was acting at Trump’s behest. Sandy signed a “apportionment letter” blocking the release of the aid - and one who raised concerns about holding it up - before the process was taken over by a political appointee under Mulvaney.

Former Trump National Security Advisor John Bolton referred to Trump’s Ukrainian bribery racket as a drug deal. It’ll sure be interesting to find out how the cash part of the deal was planned.

Sandy will testify on Saturday, most likely, in a closed door deposition. 

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