As the Trumpworld turns, the plot thickens in Washington, D.C. — these days known as Impeachment Place.
On Thursday, even as Jennifer Williams, a special adviser to Vice President Mike Pence on Europe and Russia, was testifying thanks to a subpoena behind the closed doors of a House investigatory committee, Trump was lashing out at an attorney for the whistleblower in the Ukraine affair. That would be the whistleblower who first alerted our government that the president of the United States was pressuring the new president of Ukraine to find and give him some political dirt on his opponents in exchange for Trump lifting his hold on the congressionally allocated U.S. taxpayer money intended to aid Ukraine in its struggle against Russian aggression.
Meanwhile, Americans all over the country were reading or hearing versions of a Washington Post report that Trump in late September had tried to get Attorney General William Bar to hold a news conference declaring Trump broke no laws during the July phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy — the same call the whistleblower reported. And the same call that Pence's aide, Ms. Williams, had listened in on.
In that call, after Zelenskyy said Ukraine hoped to buy military equipment from the U.S. with that aid, Trump said he needed "a favor, though." And he asked repeatedly for Ukraine to investigate the Bidens, and find evidence to exonerate Russia in American 2016 election interference.
Barr declined. This was the same Barr who, heretofore, has prostrated himself to defend Trump, even to the point to misleading America for weeks about the actual and full findings of the Mueller Report.
All the while, outside the Capitol, former national security adviser John Bolton is said to be waiting for a federal court ruling that would allow him and his former deputy, Charles Kupperman, to defy the Trump administration's order to blow off congressional requests for their testimony. (The Trump administration claims presidential advisers are "absolutely immune" from congressional subpoena. A similar legal argument is under way in another federal courtroom in Washington to determine whether former White House counsel Don McGahn can be forced to testify.)
The Washington Post reported Thursday afternoon that Bolton is willing to defy the White House and testify in the House impeachment inquiry "about his alarm at the Ukraine pressure campaign" if the federal court clears the way, "according to people familiar with his [Bolton's] views."
House Democrats had requested Bolton's appearance at a closed-door deposition Thursday, but he did not appear. As of Thursday afternoon, he had not been issued a subpoena. If and when Bolton does testify, his story is expected to align with that of former Russian affairs director Fiona Hill and Ukraine expert Alexander Vindman.
If you're sensing a pattern of closing walls, you'd not be off base.
Fiona Hill already has told lawmakers in closed-door hearings that Bolton exploded after a key White House meeting on July 10 in which Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, pressured Ukrainian officials to open investigations into former vice president Joe Biden and the 2016 campaign. Hill related that Bolton said, "I am not part of whatever drug deal Sondland and Mulvaney are cooking up."
Sondland, who first told lawmakers he didn't recall any quid pro quo, recently amended his testimony. After learning of others' statements, his memory was refreshed, he said. The second time around, he acknowledged that he had told a top Ukrainian official the country would most likely have to give President Trump want he wanted — a public pledge for investigations into Biden and his son Hunter — in order to unlock the military aid.
That was further bolstered Wednesday by the released testimony transcript of William Taylor, the acting ambassador to Ukraine, who said it was his "clear understanding" that U.S. military aid would not be sent until the country pursued investigations that could politically benefit President Trump.
Taylor described a "Washington snake pit" of bad actors who were willing to cut off the aid to Ukraine even as it battled Russian-backed separatists. Taylor called it a "nightmare" scenario. That scene would include Trump lawyer and shadow foreign policy puppet Rudy Giuliani and his "business associates" Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, both now charged federally with a scheme to route foreign money into U.S. elections. Parnas and Fruman also helped Giuliani "investigate" Biden. Parnas, who has been pictured several times with President Trump, agreed to cooperate with the impeachment inquiry when Trump said he didn't know him or Fruman.
From here on out, things promise to get much more dramatic — perhaps soap opera or reality TV-like.
Acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney has been asked to testify today. The White House says there will be no cooperation.
Next week, open impeachment hearings are set to begin and continue into the following week.
Just imagine all the shiny objects Trump will be pulling from his pockets to distract us — not the least of which could be a federal government shutdown unless Congress approves a dozen spending bills by Nov. 21.
Get some popcorn. And buckle up.