"Bolton, Vindman twins & NYT conspire to damage Trump during Senate trial (Video)"
The Duran Quick Take: Episode 447 (January December 28, 2020)
The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss the latest “bombshell” leak (and soon to be latest bombshell dud) via John Bolton’s tell-all book, where the neocon warmonger claims that Trump withheld military aid to Ukraine until Zelensky agreed to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden.
The newest bombshell dud was leaked by the New York Times, as Army Lt. Col. Yevgeny Vindman (twin brother of the ‘almost three time Ukraine Defense Minister’, Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman) was in charge of reviewing Bolton’s book at the NSC.
Alex Christoforou: "Let's talk about the impeachment trial in the United States and start from the Bolton side. [shows screen shot]
The New York Times reported Sunday evening that Bolton's draft book manuscript, which had been submitted to the NSC for pre-publication review on December 30, alleged that President Trump told Bolton in August 2019 that he wanted to withhold security assistance to Ukraine until it agreed to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, among others.
"So that's what's prompting all this news about Bolton and Trump and Ukraine. This new leak via the New York Times which said that Bolton was told he [Trump] wants all this aid withheld till Joe Biden is investigated. That came out of the New York Times. The title of this Breitbart article, Alexander, is what's really interesting. The title reads:
Source: Alexander Vindman's Brother, Yevgeny, Clears Publications by NSC Officials
"And so the person in charge of looking at all publications, books, manuscripts, whatever is written at the NSC to clear them is Vidman's twin brother. People, I'm sure will remember Vindman as he was the person who most likely leaked the telephone call to the whistle [i.e., gossip] blower whose name we're not allowed to say, which then started this whole charade, this whole hoax. [2:05]And, Alexander, I'll read you three tweets now, because this leak via the New York Times prompted Susan Collins and Mitt Romney, whom we have always been suspicious of in the sense that they would be the Republican Senators who might cause some troubles for the Republicans and Trump's impeachment hearings. It has prompted them to examine the possibility of having Bolton testify. So this is from Susan Collins via ABC News:
Just in: GOP Sen. Susan Collins: "The reports about John Bolton's book strengthen the case for witnesses and have prompted a number of conversations among my colleagues."
Via Meet The Press, a tweet:
Watch: GOP Senator Mitt Romney says "it is increasingly apparent that it would be important to hear from John Bolton," adding it is "increasingly likely" other GOP senators would join in, too.
"And, of course, closing it out and getting to your comments and and analysis, Alexander, are two tweets, back to back from President Trump
I never told John Bolton that the aid to Ukraine was tied to investigations into Democrats, includint the Bidens. In fact, he never complained about this at the time of his very public termination. If John Bolton said this, it was only to sell a book. With that being said, the transcripts of my calls with President Zelenski & the Foreign Minister of Ukraine said there was no pressure and no problems. Additionally, I met with President Zenelensky at the United Nations...
[3:56] Alex Christoforou: "All right, Alexander. I won't get into the follow-up tweets on Trump. I think that's all the context we need in order for you to get into your analysis."
[4:05] Alexander Mercouris: "Yes. I mean, there's a few things to say. first of all, I don't think anybody is surprised that the inverted commas, 'bombshell,' has appeared just now at the start of the Senate trial. Clearly, this has been cooking for awhile. I mean that Bolton has been on a mission to cause as much trouble as possible -- we've all known it -- and that he's writing a book, we didn't know. I mean, he's pinged his book to his friends, the Vindman brothers in the National Security Council. And, of course, unsurprisingly perhaps, a book which is being reviewed by Yevgeny Vindman, brother of Alexander Vindman, who is of course the person who was, in my opinion, almost certainly the originator of this whole saga. You have Yevgeny Vindman, a book being reviewed by him and suddenly we're learning all these things about that book appearing in the New York Times, which is most unsurprising to me."
[5:09] "Now, I would point out a couple of things about hat New York Times articlet. Firstly, it doesn't actually quote the book. So this is all about what someone, possibly Yevgeny Vindman, SAYS they've read in the book. It's not actually a direct quote from the book. And I think that might be important, because if you drill down into that article, it's actually not very coherent. What it suggests is, that Donald Trump and Bolton had a sort of discussion back in August. trump was in an angry mood. He talked about the need for the Ukrainians to sort out corruption in their country. He talked about the need for the Ukrainians to help with the Russia-gate investigation -- the Barr-Durham counter-Russia-gate investigation which is, as we know, a true and correct investigation, and at some point in this discussion the Biden's came up. But it's not clear that he did actually talk about a quid pro quo necessarily. He was talking about holding up [military] aid until the Ukrainians made some commitments on cleaning up corruption. That's never been disputed. But exactly what Trump is alleged to have said is not clear from this."
[6:41] "But, taking it a big step further, other people who, according to this book, are supposed to have been witnesses of these discussions, namely Barr and Mulvaney, are contradicting the account that this leaker from the National Security Council, who may be Yevgeny Vindman, is saying in the book. And Mulvaney says he never heard Donald Trump at any point in time say that he was linking a stop of aid to Ukraine to investigations of Democrats. He has actually issued a statement today saying exactly that. And, of course, Barr is saying that he doesn't know what Bolton, if it is Bolton, is talking about."
[7:31] "Now, we've talked about John Bolton many times. John Bolton is a rattlesnake. He is not somebody that you rely upon in a he/I-said-he-said type of situation. He is also a man with a massive grudge because Trump sacked him from the National Security Council. He is no longer Trump's National Security Adviser. He is also writing a book, which shows that he is intending to make money. And importantly, and interestingly, he didn't come forward with any of this before. He has now apparently held it all back for his book. So I don't really see, either that this takes us very far forward, because even what the New York Times is telling us at second or third hand is in this book, doesn't seem to be that damning or that far in conflict, actually, with he transcript, or report of the conversation between Trump and Zelensky in which Trump, again, talked about corruption in Ukraine, talked about, you know, the role Ukraine played in Russia-gate, and mentions the Bidens but doesn't actually talk about investigating the Bidens. [This article] doesn't actually seem to be directly in conflict with that, but to the extent that it is, the other key witnesses are disputing it. So I don't see where this takes us forward, actually."
[9:01]It seems to me that this is really yet another one of these endless attempts that we have seen throughout the Donald Trump presidency, to make out that some great bombshell has exploded. And then you go and you look through the pieces, you pick your way through the rubble, and you find not a bomb shell but an empty dud. It doesn't actually advance things any way at all. I'm saying all of that to analyze what we've been told about the evidence. Now, you know there are massive issues about calling John Bolton as a witness, which I've touched on in previous programs, about the fact that if that happens, if he's called as a witness, without the question of Executive Privilege, the President's Executive Privilege, to keep his discussions with his chief adviser on foreign policy confidential, that could have been tested in the court. It wasn't tested in the court. Donald Trump has said: You know, if my National Security Adviser comes along and gives evidence in Congress about the things I said to him in private, how can any world leader assume that I'm able to keep my secrets on foreign policy?"
[10:36] And that is a serious issue. It's a serious concern. American courts, U.S. courts have taken it extremely seriously. Given that this is so, this is, of course, an attempt by the Democrats to bring it to the Senate to try and circumvent the question of Executive Privilege. But putting all that to one side, even if you disregard that, even if you say, 'Well, the Vindmans -- and we know how reliable and impartial they are -- are saying it's fine for John Bolton to say these things,' even if that is true, on the strength of what I'm hearing, I can't see that this is really very interesting evidence, actually."
[11:18] Alex Christoforou: "Yeah. Alexander, they've already destroyed the President's ability to speak with world leaders by having Trump submit this phone convesation, essentially this transcript between him and Zelensky, and we've commented on this many times. What world leaders now trust that their focal phone conversations with the U.S. president won't go down the same path that this Zelensky phone call went down. And it was highly embarrassing for Zelensky, to be honest, to have all of this stuff leaked."
Alexander Mercouris: "It's a disaster for him. And he's paying a heavy price in Ukraine. There is a major -- we haven't talked about this -- but there has been a governmental crisis in Ukraine. The Prime Minister has been caught on tape criticizing Zelensky's ability to conduct economic policy. And so the very last thing Zelensky needs is having his ability to conduct foreign policy called into question also. So it has been a disaster for him."
[12:24] Alex Christoforou: "So why would any world leader want to get on a phone call with the U.S. President? You start from there. If they call Bolton to testify, why even have the NSC? Why even have that department? They need to do away with it then. Because, once again, what world leader would want to engage in any type of foreign policy with the U.S. President knowing that he's going to consult his advisers and those advisers, two , three, four yeears down the line are going to write a tell-all book ahd they're just, you know, going to spill the beans, gossip, say whatever they want about what went on in the White House with regard to world leaders, whether it's the world leader of China, Russia, Ukraine, Canada, Australia, it doesn't matter. Why have all these people around you when you're going to run the risk of having all this stuff leaked out. Once again, you're completely demolishing and weakening and destroying the office of the President, the Executive Branch."
[13:18] Alexander Mercouris: "Can I just talk about this book. Obviously, there's what the lawyers, in other words, Yevgeny Vindman on the National Security Council, decided about the book. But, over and above and beyond that, If a President feels before a book is published that it breaches his privileges, he's in a positoin to apply, as President of the United States, to the court for an injunction to prevent it from being published, even if it's been cleared by the National Security Council. If White House Council advises him that it has broke a proper and appropriate -- he is not bound by the decisions of a lawyer working in the National Security Council. He has a right to privilege, to confidentiality, of his private discussions on policy with his senior advisers."
[14:22] I am very skeptical about the extent to which this book even exists, but I suspect if if does, and presumably there's a manuscript of some kind floating around somewhere. I mean, there seem to be various agendas at play. Once again, one has to think of the financial agenda. It does look as if one of the reasons why Bolton wants to come forward and testify in the Senate is because, if he's able to do that, then he can publish his book without interference by the President, because, effectively, the Senate has overridden the President's entitlement to confidentiality. So, you know, he's got a financial interest, in other words, in coming to the Senate and giving evidence ["evidence"?] in this way. So, .lots of problems here and the legal issues are very complicated and very serious They do go to the root of the President's ability to conduct the government of the United States. A fact, of course, which the Democrats aren't interested in or concerned about in the slightest."
[15:38] "But as I said going back to the impeachment itself, firstly, I don't know whether he will be called to testify. I mean it's only Romney and Collins who are the two people we've always been skeptical about up to now. But even if he does, I'm not convinced, based on that article which I read in the New York Times, that it amounts to as much as people say. It reminds me very much of what people are saying about Sondland. You remember Sondland. That was the 'bombshell' except it wasn't a bomb shell because it was a guess. And in Bolton's case, he's giving, it seems, a rather incoherent account of this discussion. And one which Mulvaney and Barr, two arguably more trustworthy sources, are contradicting."
[16:32] Alex Christoforou: "Well, I mean, that's the whole point of this. The whole point of this leak is to get people like Romney and Collins. And like we've said in many, many videos, and where once again it goes to show that our analysis is a hundred percent right. The whole point of this is not to win, for the Democrats, this impeachment trial in the Senate, but to get two, three, four, maybe five Republican Senators to vote with the Democrats. They're working on Romney. They're working on Collins. They're hoping maybe they can get another two or three more. Even one. So that they can go on the campaign and say, you know what, these Republicans also don't trust president Trump or also think he should have been impeached. That's the whole purpose of this. Not to get sixteen that they need. 15, 16. It's to get 3 or 4. And they always knew they had Romney and Collins. They always knew they had Mitt. That's for damn sure."
[17:29] "And a couple of more points, Alexander. We've seen this before, the most recent case that we've seen, was not the Sondland case, but remember Holmes? With the superhuman hearing? That heard the phone conversation. And he came in at the last minute and said, You know what? I heard it with my superhuman hearing when someone Sondland was speaking to on the phone, I actually heard it in a busy restaurant. That was the most recent case of the most ridiculous bombshellthat the Democrats rolled out. And my final question to you is, Why the hell do you have National Security Advisers and these intelligence chiefs that the United States President, the most powerful country in the world, the President is discussing very sensitive foreign policy issues. Why do you even give them the opportunity or the leeway to write books. Is it so much to ask to tell these guys who have the privilege -- the privilege -- to work in the White House and to advise the President, a dream job, an important job, that you know what, guys, if you take this job, there's no tell-all books. There's no, you know, making money off of these publications on the back end. That's your duty. You're serving the American people. You're serving the President. So does this go on in any other country? ... in any other country where people serve a one, two, three-year tenure with the President or Prime Minister, and then sit there later and write a tell-all book. It's beyond stupid, this thing."
[19:18] Alexander Mercouris: "In Bolton's case, it's not a year later. It's a few months. He was sacked just a few months ago, let's not forget that, but the answer is that it doesn't happen in business and commerce, as we very well know."
Alex Christophorou: "Let's just bar this practice. You want the job? There are no books. 20 years. No books. No movies. No songs. Nothing."
Alexander Mercouris: "You have privacy laws in employment contracts. They're extremly common. There's nothing unusual in that. And perhaps that should be enforced and imposed. I am not in any way disputing this. In Britain, we have very strong rules about this. There are all kinds of secrecy laws that also exist. And in fact, it's very difficult for ex-officials to simply come along and write memoirs in this way. Prime Ministers tend to, but they're about the only people who do. And there are very very strong rules about classification, and it's certainly true in other countries also. But in this particular case, we must remember that this book, Trump would probably be in a position, legally, to prevent it being published anyway. What is presently preventing him doing this, is the impeachment. If the Senate calls Bolton as a witness, then Bolton when he publishes his book has a very strong defense against any injunction that Donald Trump applies for to prevent him publishing it, by saying that, well, this is already public record. Because it has already been published in the Senate during the impeachment trial. That is what would give Bolton the option, the opportunity, to get his book published, irrespective of whether there are privacy clauses or confidentiality clauses or what the law says. And that gives him, given that he has written this book, a massively strong motive to get the Senate to call him as a witness. Because it enables him to publish a book which arguably he should not be able to."
[24:13] "The same Bolton who lied the United States into a war with Iraq over fake WMDs. And we're sitting here taking this guy's word?
"Well, we shouldn't. I mean that's exaclty the point. We shouldn't be taking his word. He is an individual with a very very bad record of twisting [arms] and bureaucratic infighting and deception and of putting pressure on people, strong-arming foreign governments, strong-arming foreign international entities like the OPCW and the International Atomic Energy Authority. I've been told quite straightforwardly, for example, that he came along to the head of the OCPW in the run-up to the Iraq war, a Brazilian diplomat, and told him, unless you leave this building, we in Washington will arrange for you to be sacked and we're going to make it absolutely possible, we are going to make sure afterwards that you are going to suffer. You are going to suffer personally. He was absolutely that direct and that obvious. Now do you really trust the account of a person like that. He is a thoroughly dangerous man. It was a huge mistake for Donald Trump to bring him onto the National Security Council. It was like, you know, taking a viper to your bosom. It was inevitable that something like this would happen given John Bolton's record. So, an extaordinarily dangerous man who, of course, is going to breach your confidences if he can, and who is undoubtedly going to find all kins of devices, like an impeachment. He's going to use an impeachment to get his own book published. And for all I know, I don't know this, but this is Bolton's record, he has played a big role behind the scenes in getting the impeachment going in the first place. I mean, he's presumably had access to people like the Vindman brothers, for example. It's not surely a coincidence that his book has gone to them. Who knows what other people he's been speaking to. He presumably knows the "whistle" [i.e, gossip] blower, for example. So he was a very dangerous man to bring in and a very foolish of Donald Trump to make him National Security Adviser. But putting all that aside, he's not a credible witness and he shouldn't be treated as one. "
[24:33] "If we can come back to Romney and Collins for a moment. Romney and Collins may vote to call Bolton as a witness. I'm not sure whether they will. They're sort of talking as if they might. It's not clear that any other Republican Senators will. Collins and Romney are not enough, by themselves, to do that. The line may still hold. But even if Bolton is called, given what a very unreliable witness he is, given how very shaky his evidence is, given that that evidence has already been contradicted by Mulvaney and Barr who are far more reliable people than Bolton is, given Bolton's financial interest in getting the Senate to call him as a witness and to get him to testify so that he can get his book published, I'm not convinced that even then, Romney and Collins are going to risk the wrath of the Republican base by necessarily voting for impeachment on such flimsy grounds. Even if that is what they want to do. I mean, bear in mind that with the Cabinet case, they ultimately voted with the Republican majority. So we mustn't assume anything at the moment."
[26:06] So you're absolutely right that that is what the Democrats are trying to do, to discover divisions and weaknesses within the Republican majority, but it's not clear that Romney and Collins have enough Republicans to support them. And I'm going to say something. If it's only those two, if it's only Romney and it's only Collins, if there aren't three or four others to join them, then, even if they vote to call Bolton, I think, personally, they're unlikely to vote for an impeachment. Because that would still leave a majority in the Senate voting against the impeachment, and it would leave them very exposed politically. That is my analysis."
[26:51] Alex Christoforou: "I wouldn't be surprised to see Bolton lie under oath. The same way the Clapper and Brennan lied under oath. That wouldn't shock me, whatsoever."
Alexander Mercouris: "Well, of course not. John Bolton is John Bolton. We're not talking about some Abraham Lincoln coming to the Senate and giving evidence there. We're talking about someone who is as far from a reliable witness as it's possible to get. As I said, he's got a financial interest in this. He's got a massive grudge against the man who sacked him. And, of course, he's got his own intrigues. I mean, he's burning his bridges with the Republicans, so he wants to please the Democrats. Because, to be straighforward about this, Bolton remains an insanely ambitious and extremely dangerous man. So he's got all those things in play. So, of course, already, let's remember: Mulvaney and Barr are saying that they just don't recognize the account that appears to be in Bolton's book as in any way true. You bring along to the Senate a person who is a completely unreliable witness. I don't see how that assists you. I'd have thought it weakens your case rather than strengthens it."
[28:22] Alex Christoforou: "Yes. The whole thing stinks. The Vindman brothers. Bolton. Last minute leak by the New York Times. Over and over. Same story. Over and over and over again."
[28:34] Alexander Mercouris: "If I may say, actually, Bolton is Bolton. I find this completely understandable. I mean, the Vindman brothers have an obsession with Ukraine which I understand."
Alex Christoforou: "But they're still working at the White House. There you go."
Alexander Mercouris: "And in fact, I think it was Tucker Carlson who did a whole program about this: all these people who are still there. And they haven't been sacked. This is quite amazing and extraordinary. You say these appaling things about your own boss and you keep your job. And again, what is O'Brien, who is supposed to be the new National Security Adviser, the new one, what is he doing? How is he allowing all these people ..."
Alex Christoforou: "He's a Bolton protégé. So, once again, Trump has a massive, massive HR hiring problem. He does. Perhaps Trump's greatest weakness are the people he places around him.
Alexander Mercouris: "I entirely agree. But as I said, the entity which for me always plays the most malignant role in these matters, is not Bolton. And it's not the Vindman brothers. It's not O'Brien. Because they're a known quantity. It's the New York Times. Which continuously lends itself to these intrigues against the President of the United States. Let's be absolutely clear about this. It's not reporting news, and it's not providing opinion pieces. It is assisting various entities, various people, to pursue their campaign to unseat the President of the United States. Is that something a national newspaper ought to be doing?"
[30:29] Alex Christoforou: "Well, they've been doing it from before Trump even became President. They were after him."
Alexander Mercouris: "Well, I agree, but if you want me to tell you where the root of the cancer is, it's there. Because if we had a functioning media in the united states, none of this would be possible. None of this would be happening. They would be saying to people like the Vindman brothers, if it was them who were leaking the story, and they would be saying to people like Bolton: 'Very sorry. We are not touching this story. This goes to the issue of impeachment which is now before the Senate and it's not our business. We are a newspaper. We are not a News Maker.'"
[31:08] Alex Christoforou: "We have a functioning media, Alexander. WE are a functioning media. But we're constantly demonetized. We're constantly suppressed on youtube. We have Julian Assange and Wikileaks and he's rotting in prison. So, I mean, the functioning parts of the media are being shut out while the New York Times, MSNBC, CNN -- and mark my words, Bolton will be a contributor for MSNBC soon. You'll be seeing him there as a contributor, as well -- they're the ones .... We could go on forever. The whole thing stinks."
[31:44] Alexander Mercouris: "I entirely agree with that, but precisely because we are in the media, and we are under these sorts of pressures, when I see a newspaper, a national newspaper with the kind of reputation and history that the New York Times has, behave in this fashion, it does upset me. It makes me cross, angry. very angry. ... the point I'm trying to make is that bureaucratic intrigues go on all the time in Washington. In any organization, big organization, particularly public organizations, you will find people like Vindman. You will find people like Bolton. There are always people like that around. If you have a healthy media, that keeps them under control. If you don't, then these people acquire a dangerous degree of power. And that is what we see as a result of this New York Times story."
Alex Christoforou: "My final statement on all this, listening to your last comment, Alexander: the root of this whole problem, in my opinion, is that Trump never got a proper Chief of Staff in place.""
[33:01] Alexander Mercouris: "Oh. Absolutely..."
Alex Christoforou: "The Chief of Staff would have dealt with the Vindmans, would have advised him on the Boltons, a good person as Chief of Staff. One that he can trust. Someone that knows Trump and that knows Washington. He never, ever, ever could find that person. And that has been the root of all his problems. He has a tremendous, a terrible HR problem."
[33:29] Alexander Mercouris:"I entirely agree with that. In fact, dare I say, I wrote about this way back in 2017. That he needed a James Baker type figure. Somebody who had that sort of skill, and understanding, and knowledge of the Washington system and who was there at the same time to protect him and to cover his back and whom he knew could be trusted. He's never found a person like that and he's paying a terrible price for it."
[33:59] Alex Christoforou: "Exactly. That's exaclty right. You hit it right there perfectly. A James Baker type that wants to protect the office of the president but understands Washington.
Alexander Mercouris: "Yes. Because Trump himself doesn't. He's a lot better, understands it a lot better, than he did when he first became President. But he still doesn't understand it fully. And he doesn't understand his own government. He doesn't understand how the White House and the National Security Council works. And he doesn't understand the people who serve on these bodies. I mean, this has been the tragedy of this presidency if you wish. He has never, really, run his own ship. He's got a crew that is constantly in mutiny against him."
[34:48] Alex Christoforou: "The chief of staff should run the ship. At least the operations side. The Chief of Staff is like an excellent Chief of Operations. An excellent COO. Or else the CEO is sunk." Alexander Mercouris: "Absolutely. Completely true. But then, we've both worked in organizations. We understand this. It's strange that Trump has never understood. ... why are all these extraordinary people, who have acted agaisnt the President, who have betrayed the President and been so incredibly disloyal to him, why are they still working for him? When they're trying to engineer his removal? It's quite remarkable, actually. It is extremely bizarre.[35:45] ...