Trump, Guiliani And Ukraine: Words Matter

Talking Points Memo has the best explanation of the unprecedented treachery that I’ve encountered.

Josh Marshall begins his analysis by emphasizing the importance of the words we use to describe the situation.

Over the last two days, I’ve been trying to take stock of the quick rush of new details about this emerging Trump/Ukraine scandal. It is clear purely on the basis of what is now undisputed in the record that the President and Rudy Giuliani are guilty of a criminal abuse of power and that most or all of the President’s top national security advisors have been complicit in and quite likely participated in that criminal activity.

But before we can really understand this story in any coherent way we need to realize that many of the words and concepts are simply wrong. Indeed they pack the criminal conduct and deception into the very vocabulary we use. That makes it next to impossible to make sense of what’s actually going on.

Josh points first to the standard description of this scandal: Rudy Giuliani pressing the government of Ukraine to launch an investigation of Joe Biden and his son Hunter. That, as Josh writes, is inaccurate. There has already been a thorough investigation of these allegations, and absolutely no wrongdoing was uncovered. So what’s being demanded isn’t an investigation. Trump and Giuliani are demanding that Ukraine manufacture damaging and false information.

The U.S. government has ample resources to conduct its own investigations and little compunction about investigating bad acts that Americans commit abroad. Indeed, there’s a whole set of laws to cover corrupt acts by Americans abroad. To the extent the FBI needs assistance of local law enforcement, treaties or geo-strategic clout will make that happen. The central claim – that Biden got a Ukrainian prosecutor fired to protect his son – is preposterous on its face to anyone who followed what was happening at the time…When you demand an “investigation” when investigations have already happened and there’s demonstrably nothing to investigate, this is a mislabeling of what is happening. You’re pressuring someone to manufacture damaging information – in this case, using the existential threat of withholding great power military support.

Also misused is the frequent identification of Giuliani as “the President’s private lawyer.” Marshall explains why crazy Rudy is not acting as a lawyer– and why the appropriate designation is the President’s ambassador, and that is incredibly dangerous. It allows Giuliani to speak with the authority of and issue threats on behalf of the President of the United States, “and conduct what amounts to personal diplomacy in the President’s interest” unrestricted by the rules governing public officials.

Giuliani is President Trump’s personal ambassador and Ukraine isn’t his only stomping ground. He has continued to work for the MEK, the Iranian dissident group until recently classified as a terrorist organization by the U.S. government, while President Trump tries to topple the government of Iran. Josh Kovensky assembled this list of nine other countrieswhere Giuliani has traveled, since becoming Trump’s “personal lawyer” for either private consulting or speaking engagements: Armenia, Ukraine, Turkey, Bahrain, Qatar, Israel, Albania, France and Poland. Giuliani has been doing foreign consulting work with regimes around the world since 2002, leveraging his reputation as Mr. 9/11. So foreign consulting isn’t new for Giuliani. But it’s impossible to imagine that his juice hasn’t been turbocharged to an infinite degree by the fact that he is now the personal emissary of the President of the United States. It also seems quite unlikely he isn’t doing business for the President too, either for the President’s businesses or for his political protection.

 The U.S. Constitution gives the American President great power to conduct foreign policy and enforce the laws on behalf of the Republic. They are delegated specifically for that purpose, much as a private individual might delegate to an investment advisor or attorney the power to act on the individual’s behalf or in their interest. The President also has great latitude to decide what is in the national interest. But when he or she clearly uses those powers – which are massively inflated by the power of the American state – to profit personally or defend his personal interests they immediately become an abuse of power. When they are used to interfere with conducting a free and fair election in the U.S. they clearly constitute criminal abuse of power.

The words here matter. Giuliani is the President’s private diplomat, private ambassador. If those words are too rich for your blood call him the President’s personal representative. Whatever it is, the President has given him the power to threaten and negotiate with the full weight of presidential power for Donald Trump’s private gain. That’s not lawyering. He’s not a “personal lawyer.” And he’s asking a foreign power to manufacture evidence to tamper with a U.S. presidential election.

If this isn’t a constitutional crisis, nothing is.


  1. If you think this is bad now, wait until Trump refuses to abide by any election results in 2020. Someone else is pulling his strings, and my bet would be Vladimir Putin. After the drone and missile strike on Saudi Arabian oil facilities, Trump was rattling the sabres. Vladimir Putin then made a statement saying that Russia would not tolerate an attack on Iran. Trump then changed his entire demeanor and said he was in no hurry to exact his pound of flesh from Iran. Now, Trump talks about forming some sort of the religious liberty panel, this is supposed to work to protect religious freedom with the help of the private sector. This not only blurs the line between church and state, it effectively rips down the wall. And on top of all that, Donald Trump’s buddy Vladimir Putin is engaged in persecution of Christians including imprisonment and torture, without a peep from the Trump administration.

    Trump has effectively created a bulwark against intrusions into his goals. With the attorney general now acting as a personal lawyer, neutering America’s intelligence leadership, stacking the supreme Court, stacking federal court judge ships, with full support of the republican-controlled Senate, I don’t think we have to worry about the 20/20 elections, I don’t think he will abide by the results with the support of his bulwark, both foreign and domestic.

  2. “If this isn’t a constitutional crisis, nothing is.”

    The fault lies with the silent, inert Republican majority in the Senate, the Republican minority in the House and the ill-chosen, ever changing Republican administration supporting Trump with their silence and inaction regarding their required Constitutional protection on behalf of America and Americans.

    They have moved away from democracy, Rule of Law and keeping their oath to uphold the Constitution by standing still. Words only matter when they are followed by action; Trump and Giuliani’s semantics are meant to obfuscate, confuse and maintain imbalance within the government and throughout this country. Their words seem to become public after the fact of whatever questionable or illegal actions they have already taken. Giuliani has taken no oath as he holds no official position in government, he serves as Trump’s court jester. Trump and Giuliani along with McConnell have opened this government to hacking from any and all who choose to do so. These Three Stooges are the most violent and dangerous threat to our survival because they are all but begging for reason to declare a war.

    What damage will Trump do at the UN meeting today? Will the Ukraine issue be the core for the eruption of this boil on the ass of humanity as he “…struts and frets his hour upon the stage…” “…a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” …or signifying everything? Can he arbitrarily remove us from the UN? WILL he arbitrarily remove us from the UN?

    “If this isn’t a constitutional crisis, nothing is.”

  3. JoAnn,
    Constitution? Trump don’t need no stinking Constitution!

    If you want to see what’s being put in Trump’s, if you want to call it that, the Russians have armed the state-sponsored Russian Orthodox Church. They are eliminating every other religious group in Russia. Is it by coincidence that Donald Trump is pulling these shenanigans with religion in the United States? Why he wants to spread this through our own government?

    His scattergun approach to everything makes it difficult to see the forest because the trees are always in the way. You can bet the Trump will be pulling some Blockbusters out of his hat, and it’s going to change not just the United States, but the rest of the world.

    Donald Trump’s first wife told the divorce courts that he was a big fan of Adolf Hitler, well, now you can see the fruits of his labors.

  4. im looking at the recent report on a site called,i love America. seems the fan base alone is in the millions,its all manufactured by a ukraine,IRA propaganda site… the American base alone is startling,, from what ive read in its take down,,all aimed at the demos. ive run across a stanford univ,site.,Freeman Spogli inst,for intntl studies. who bought this story., about I love America.,, how far do we go now? if pelosi isnt into a impeachment,she may be waiting to bring this on the mid year 2020 to have it in the sites of november..or, shes playing someother game. her recent pharma dealing bill, looks,like something joe would want..wheres the rule of law,when barr and mcevil isnt acting? the title and opening statement to todays issue here, should be the impeachment header,to trumps demise,and his henchmens treason to this nation..

  5. To one and all, if you have Netflix you would do well to watch the documentary titled The Great Hack.
    Meanwhile, my knee jerk reaction is “Somebody get the rope!”

  6. I keep hearing from Democrats that their Republican colleagues are privately appalled by 45 and his assaults on the Constitution. What I wonder is: What will it take to make them publicly appalled? The Dems fell on their swords to pass the Civil Rights Act, they did it again to raise taxes under Clinton, and they did it yet again to pass the Affordable Care Act. The only conclusion I can draw from this is that only the Dems care about their oaths of office and the Constitution they have sworn to uphold. This makes me wonder why we call the Dems feckless and weak, when we should be labeling Congressional Republicans that way.

  7. Borowitz says, “Richard Nixon held a press conference in Hell and wants to know why Trump hasn’t been impeached.”

    There is always plenty of truth in satire.

    While a few posters point to the Republican Senate, the initiates of impeachment proceedings lie with Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic House Speaker. Remember, she had to make deals with Republicans to maintain the Speaker seat because there were progressives wanting her ousted.

    Trump abuses his power almost daily. His entire presidency has been an abuse of power and Nancy Pelosi seems completely powerless to act. This is a corrupt corporate democrat.

    I also believe that John Sorg is correct in believing Putin has been instrumental in influencing Trump/Pence. Although, the wave of Fascist leaders around the globe installed by the USA seems to play into Oligarchic Rule — stripping resources from the countries and limiting freedoms to their citizens.

    The first round of Globalism is failing because the Oligarchy insisted on global capitalism. As Einstein warned until we abandon predatory capitalism, the outcome is always predictable which is why the Oligarchy wants it in the first place — profits and power remains in their greedy little hands. Thus, we have rebellions all across the globe which are escalating against Fascism.

    It’s unsustainable and the people will reject it. Our U.S. citizens are lazy and uninformed and would rather watch Dancing with the Stars than listen to a podcast or read a book. It allows for easy manipulation because it’s like talking with a 5th grader and Trump knows it. Hitler manipulated the people as well and then wrote a book about it for all to read. His analysis wasn’t wrong but his tactics were oppressive.

  8. Sadly, the last couple of decades, and in particular, the last 3+ years have demonstrated to me that the so-called Republicans no longer believe in the practice of democracy. Apparently, their Oaths of Office are meaningless as well – they are just words.

  9. I have been wondering if some of the republicans in Congress might come out from their hiding places and vote to Impeach 45 if Pelosi and the Dems would get the ball rolling. If all of 45’s treasonous and illegal acts/dealings were exposed to the public maybe it would back them into a corner that they could not get out of without voting for impeachment. If they still chose not to vote him out, they would be exposing their devious hypocrisy to the entire republican voter base and also to the entire world.

    After reading Peggy’s comment maybe there is a chance to get this done. Recently, I have also been wondering what is keeping Pelosi from moving forward with impeachment proceedings. What is she keeping secret?

    However, I still cannot stand the thought of mike pence as our President. That thought actually makes me ill. It would give him the chance to finally turn this country into his own personal theocracy.

  10. Great post today! Thanks.

    Wouldn’t it be something if Boris Johnson and IQ45 are both impeached?

    Did you know that Karen Pence (Mother) started a twitter account? She’s showing photos of her pets. Does she think she’s going to be First Lady?

  11. IMO it is long past due for the leadership of the Democrat Party to put principle ahead of political expedience.

  12. Let me ask this question, if they start and impeachment inquery, and they find enough to start the ball rolling, what then? The Senate won’t do anything, the justice department isn’t going to do anything, Trump will not abide by any findings, the Senate won’t take it up, if they do he will not be impeached and removed from office.

    And, let’s just say for giggles and grins, the Senate somehow did impeach Trump. Who would make him leave office? If he doesn’t want to go, he will not leave. if you look at his secret service detail, they are all dressed exactly like Trump himself.

    Trump already has shown that he believes he’s above the law, especially that he’s president of the United States. Constitution be damned, he feels like a ruler rather than a president. He’s become may I add with what he feels is the ultimate authority and power. Even in questions that don’t concern the military, he always brings up the military. He always decries how powerful they are, that he’s built it from basically nothing to this tremendous world-beating power in 2 years. He probably believes this in his own mind, because he creates his own reality. But, aren’t all dictators crazy? Don’t they all become drunk with power? Trump was already drunk with power but he created in his own businesses, but this is way beyond that, way beyond The pale of his 7 bankruptcies and floundering businesses. Barack Obama warned everyone before the last election, that elections have consequences. Now, you can see what Barack Obama, a constitutional professor, saw before many others had.

    If Trump doesn’t want to go, come hell or high water, he’s not going!

  13. Everyone’s fears on this blog are being expressed quite correctly. Each of you have a scenario. The probable out come will be that ALL of the scenarios will come to pass. Trump’s criminality spreads like spilled paint throughout his administration and the swine that work for him are all-in.

    The voters will turn out and defeat Trump and the Republicans next year. BUT that will merely make Bill Barr declare the election invalid due to……..any number of bullshit reasons. Trump will simply not vacate the office on 20 January 2021. Then what? Will Congress be able to muster a coup by using real patriots to arrest and jail these bastards? Is that what it’s going to come to? Will we look like any other third-world government who has a military coup every other day?

    That’s what it looks like is forming. Trump will never leave office on his own. He will literally have to be pert-walked out of there by armed police/marshalls, or whoever decides to fulfill their oaths of office.

  14. One of the things that I have trouble understanding are the questions about Nancy Pelosi. She’s been well known for years for her political prowess and her ability to herd the cats on Congress. There can’t be any question about her commitment to the complete sweep by Democrats in 2020 for both the Presidency and Congress. What is the source of this questioning?

    Revenge against Agent Orange? That would be completely understandable.

    Personally I agree with her that job number one has to be to insure that Trump is no more than a one term President. There is little indication that the country could withstand two terms. That has to be the focus now of the party. If after that has been achieved there are opportunities to hold him accountable so be it (although in my opinion Democrats will be so busy fixing things that he has broken, after he’s out there won’t be time either).

    We the people, like the political amateurs we are, probably discount the amount of time and energy the impeachment process would take that would come at the expense of resources vital to Democrat campaigning and saving the country from Republicans.

    I think that Pelosi is prioritizing wisely.

  15. Two heartening things today – first, the UK Supreme Court. As the BBC’s legal affairs reporter, Clive Coleman wrote: “Be you ever so mighty, the law is above you – even if you are the prime minister.” Hear that DC Supremes???

    Also, OpEd from seven freshman congress members who are US service vets:

    “As members of Congress, we have prioritized delivering for our constituents — remaining steadfast in our focus on health care, infrastructure, economic policy and our communities’ priorities. Yet everything we do harks back to our oaths to defend the country. These new allegations are a threat to all we have sworn to protect. We must preserve the checks and balances envisioned by the Founders and restore the trust of the American people in our government. And that is what we intend to do.”

  16. Yeah Vernon, I agree 100%. I really don’t believe this is going to turn out well. And Lester, remember, the British system has many more safeguards than we do.

  17. Lord have mercy, the zombie Trump is speaking at the UN, LOL! He claims socialism and communism killed 1 million people in the past century. I guess arithmetic is not Trump’s long suit! The nationalistic socialist Nazis killed quite a few more than 1 million citizens. It’s like listening to a speech from the bizarro world. His speech is one long long long long lie. Yesterday Trump said that every country in the world should do something to protect the environment, the air quality and drinking water, LOL I thought that was called the Paris Accord. The sad thing, I had cousins holding a trump watch party yesterday. I think it was sponsored by the Epoch Times? Anyway, the comments on the watch party were mind-boggling to say the least. There are a lot of lambs out there looking to be slaughtered SMH.

  18. John Sorg, Sure glad you were not advising the Continental Congress in 1776 or FDR on December 7th. Things only turn out well when Americans stand up to tyranny despite what appears to be insurmountable obstacles.

  19. I do not agree with John Sorg that Trump will not leave office. He will leave with the assistance of federal marshals if necessary. Other observations on, finally, the tipping point > Mick had better lawyer up for his role in delaying appropriated funds to Ukraine as bargaining chips for Trump’s insistence that the Ukrainian president manufacture evidence against the Bidens. Another observation, and one I have noted before > Trump may well not be the Republican candidate for president come the fall of 2020. Yet another > Impeachment proceedings will begin shortly, and finally > the Republican Party is set to go the way of its predecessor Whigs, having weakened itself with its surrender to Wall Street and finally having self-destructed with its failure to corral its mad and dictatorial executive.

    It may surprise my fellow contributors to hear that I will lament the effective destruction of the two-party system. History has shown that both parties have all too often gone to excess when in supermajority status, and that is inimical to living out our democratic values. Prediction > Remnants of the already dwindling Republican Party and Koch libertarians will come up with either a new Republican or renamed party and be in minority status for twenty years or more. Our task will to be to live out our democratic values while in supermajority status.

  20. As I recall my earlier life the desire for the freedoms under the Constitution always had “supermajority” status after the Democrats in the 1960s ended the Civil War once and for all. Both political parties agreed on that but disagreed on the details of the most successful path from there.

    Republicans thought that the solution was unbridled capitalism providing everyone with comfort that would satisfy our pursuit of happiness. Democrats thought that would have to be balanced with regulation of capitalism and social safety net programs for individual instances when capitalism failed to deliver on comfort.

    The competition is over now and the evidence has shown that:

    1) unbridled capitalism bred a wealth based power structure that changed the GOP and the people loyal to the party.

    2) the Democrat view of regulated capitalism balanced with social safety nets was more sustainable and better suited to the world of 10-11B people and the technology that has emerged from the scientific as well as industrial revolution.

    Game over. A winner has emerged and will have supermajority status until the next fundamental shift becomes required.

  21. Some random thoughts on today’s blog and other media:
    According to so many economists and market watchers, the markets and the businesses they supposedly represent do not like uncertainty. Yet, on the very day that the global community is just barely beginning to react to climate change and the human causes of same, we see the markets continue to rise. Chaos is apparently just fine with the markets now.

    Pelosi may understand the big picture better than most. She is more concerned about a President Pence who can so easily be manipulated by the oligarchs and religious authoritarians than she is about an unstable and unmanageable egomaniac. Impeachment is a logical and likely necessary step to insure the security of the country. If impeachment puts someone even more dangerous in power, how does that play out?

    All of our concerns about the country may be moot if we don’t take action to slow climate change. The crisis is past imminent. To quote Greta, “how dare” we ignore the future to satisfy the greed of the present and rob our country, the world and its citizens of their future.

  22. Well, I guess you can see some truth and what I say, or not. But the fact remains, there have been many cases over the millennia where an individual has taken control of a government. It’s best to be prepared and look at all avenues of possibility rather than dismissing it as an impossibility.

    Adolf Hitler eliminated his opposition once he gained enough power and had the support of different factions of his government. Don’t think it can’t happen here, the Germans looked to the United States as an example.

  23. The abuses of Power by President Agent Orange and Pastor Pence are the logical out growth of the Imperial Presidency. Congress has handed off Great Power off to the Presidents since 1945, with that hand off Congress has avoided almost any responsibility as a Check and Balance.

    Our Presidents since 1945 have engaged in one Undeclared War after another. Add to that the number of Coups the USA has had a dirty hand in, including Ukraine a few years ago. Oh, yeah numerous assassination attempts on Castro.

    Now, President Agent Orange through sanctions can single handily impose sanctions on what ever country he wants, no matter how much damage it does.

    A complete investigation is needed here, let’s find out the Facts before Impeachment is started in the House. The GOP has already closed ranks around President Agent Orange and Pastor Pence. Let the GOP wear the albatross of President Agent Orange and Pastor Pence around their collective necks in 2020.

  24. To John Sorg and others who opine that Trump will never leave – How is he going to stay – without office he has no power and without power nobody is going to be loyal to him – If he is impeached, do you doubt that Pence would send in the Secret Service, FBI, Capital Police, or whoever to remove him. Trump’s arrogance wins him no friends. The same could be said after the election. No “white militia/brownshirts” is by his side. The way he treats people, his lack of loyalty — nobody is going to stick their neck out to keep him in power. Mind you, his crazy supporters, like losing Confederates, will not accept defeat, but they won’t have control of the government to do anything.

    Mind you, I agree, John. It could happen here, especially if Trump is re-elected, but I don’t think that either will happen.

    Pete – I like your analysis.

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