"Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive." — Sir Walter Scott
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Attorney General William Barr have suddenly found themselves sharing center stage in Donald Trump’s impeachment inquiry. Thanks in no small part to Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani throwing administration officials under the buson every available TV network over the last several days, the world now knows that Pompeo and Barr are in this thing up to their beady little eyeballs.
What began with a whistleblower report regarding a phone call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky, in which Trump angled for dirt on Joe Biden’s son to use in the 2020 campaign, has swelled into a scandal that is dragging the State and Justice Departments deeper and deeper into the mud pit.
The whistleblower report, which Trump voluntarily released, confirmed the contents of a summary transcript of the Ukraine phone call, which Trump also voluntarily released. On that call, Trump pushed Zelensky to work with Barr and Giuliani on the dirt-digging expedition. As damaging as the call transcript already is, new reports suggest the document may have been altered to obscure even more damning revelations.
The rockslide has begun, and the boulders are flying. Back on September 22, when this scandal was first beginning to ramp up, Pompeo appeared on the ABC News program “This Week,” and was questioned repeatedly by host Martha Raddatz about the contents of the Ukraine call. Pompeo, after getting verbally walked into a corner, feigned ignorance of the whole thing while tsk-tsking Raddatz for even asking the question.
“I will have — the White House will have to explain,” said Pompeo. “They — they — you know, Martha, they — we don’t release transcripts very often. It’s the — it’s the rare case. Those are private conversations between world leaders. And it wouldn’t be appropriate to do so, except in — in the most extreme circumstances. There’s — there’s — there’s no — there’s no evidence that that would be appropriate here at this point.”
On Wednesday, Pompeo confirmed reports that he was directly included in the Ukraine conversation he’d pretended to know nothing about a week ago. “I was on the phone call,” he told reporters in Rome. This revelation came amid a flurry of reports that Trump has been cajoling the leaders of Australia and Great Britain to assist Barr in a scheme to undermine the U.S. intelligence community’s assertion that Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential election.
“Though he was mentioned on the Ukraine call, Barr declined to recuse himself from the discussions that led to the swift conclusion by other Trump appointees that the criminal referral from the intelligence community’s inspector general did not merit an FBI investigation,” reported The Washington Post. “Speaker Nancy Pelosi has accused Barr of ‘going rogue’ and being involved with the ‘coverup of the coverup.’”
William Barr has devoted his entire adult life to the premise that presidents are entirely above the law. Affecting the demeanor of a downbeat New England college professor, he breezed his way to confirmation by a hard-right Republican Senate, and has spent every waking moment since laboring to protect Donald Trump from the consequences of his illegal behavior.
The most notorious example of Barr’s activities in this regard, before the whistleblower scandal exploded, was the “summary” of the Mueller Report he coughed up on the eve of the report’s public release. That “summary” was a lie of commission and omission simultaneously, and served to muddy the waters enough to allow Trump to walk away unscathed from repeated acts of obstruction of justice. Barr’s efforts to hamstring U.S. intelligence services in service to a rogue president are precisely in line with the power-grabbing ethos that has defined his career.
Mike Pompeo, for his part, is a perfect example of a person who has failed upward by dint of sheer luck and being an unrepentant ass-kisser. His political career in the House resounds with climate denialism, abject racism, anti-choice extremism, NRA triumphalism and Tea Party doublespeak. He supported every single bad idea coughed up by the right wing since landing in his seat in 2011.
Pompeo’s obsequious talents landed him the top chair at CIA, but he wasn’t there long enough to learn how the phones work; after Trump jettisoned Rex Tillerson, Pompeo was elevated to the position of secretary of state, where he has dutifully carried out every wild-eyed order from this president without question or restraint.
Now that the game of impeachment musical chairs has begun, however, Pompeo, Barr, Giuliani and Trump find themselves standing in a cold, dark room wondering who turned off the music. Pompeo is doing his best to growl at House Democrats, pushing back on the notion that State Department officials are obligated to testify in the investigation, but things have changed.
“House Democrats are set to launch a new phase of their impeachment inquiry on Thursday when former [Ukraine] Ambassador Kurt Volker, until recently a top State Department representative to Ukraine, is scheduled to meet with investigators,” reports NPR. “Then, on Friday, the intelligence community’s inspector general, Michael Atkinson, is due on the Hill. More witnesses are expected next week, all for depositions behind closed doors with members of Congress and their staff.”
Volker’s testimony should prove exceedingly interesting, as he was sacrificed on the altar of Rudy Giuliani’s big mouth when he was pushed out last week. By all reports, Volker is deeply pissed about what was done to him. “I think Kurt definitely felt like he was being pushed out,” a senior U.S. official told The Daily Beast. “He really believed in the job and was committed to helping Ukraine work toward a better future.
Mike Pompeo and William Barr are what you get when you maul the bottom of the barrel with the back end of a claw hammer. Neither man has any moral or professional business holding their respective positions, yet there they are, shining and stinking like the proverbialmackerel by moonlight. The question now is how much longer they will last, and what else are we about to find out.
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