Impeachment watch: Trump released Ukraine aid after being told about whistleblower

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The timing suggests the whistleblower complaint helped push Trump to release the military aid to Ukraine.

A bombshell report from the New York Times Tuesday night revealed that Donald Trump had been briefed by his lawyers on the whistleblower complaint about his dealings with Ukraine before Trump finally released the hold on military aid to the country.

That means Trump knew the details of the allegations against him before he told Ambassador Gordon Sondland that he wanted "no quid pro quo" — a term Trump first used to deny he was trying to bribe or extort Ukraine into investigating his political rivals by withholding the military aid to the country.

Trump ultimately released the aid to Ukraine two days after Congress opened an inquiry into his dealings with the country.

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Mimi Rocah, a former federal prosecutor with the Southern District of New York — a top district court well versed in prosecuting corruption cases — said that Trump knowing about the whistleblower complaint before he released the aid is damning evidence.

"This is what prosecutors call consciousness of guilt," Rocah tweeted. "It's very strong evidence that when he froze the money it was for an illicit purpose. Otherwise, why not keep it frozen and explain it was all on the up and up to fight 'corruption?'"

Here's what else is happening in impeachment news:

  • The House Judiciary Committee announced that the next phase of impeachment hearings begin on Dec. 4. The Judiciary Committee will be responsible for drafting articles of impeachment against Trump. Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY), chair of the committee, informed Trump he and his legal team are invited to participate in the hearings. However, despite complaining about how the earlier hearings were "unfair" because his legal team couldn't participate, it appears his legal team doesn't plan on asking questions during the Judiciary Committee hearings, Politico reported.
  • Trump sat down for an interview with disgraced former Fox News host Bill O'Reilly — who was forced out of the network after multiple allegations of sexual harassment that cost the company a total of $32 million in settlements. In the interview, Trump claims he did not send his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, to Ukraine to demand an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden. The claim strains credulity, as Trump told the Ukrainian president in the now infamous July 25 phone call to speak to Giuliani about the Biden investigations. "Mr. Giuliani is a highly respected man. He was the mayor of New York City, a great mayor, and I would like him to call you. I will ask him to call you along with the attorney general," Trump told Zelenskiy on the call, according to a rough transcript Trump released. "Rudy very much knows what’s happening and he is a very capable guy. If you could speak to him that would be great." Trump is distancing himself from Giuliani, as Giuliani faces serious legal jeopardy over his dealings with Ukraine.
  • Two officials with the Office of Management and Budget resigned from their jobs over Trump's decision to freeze military aid to Ukraine, according to a closed-door deposition transcript from Mark Sandy, the deputy associate director for national security programs at the OMB.

Come back after the Thanksgiving holiday for more impeachment news.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.