CAFE Insider Transcript 10/7: Crooked Diplomacy

CAFE Insider Transcript 10/7: Crooked Diplomacy

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Preet Bharara:              From CAFE, welcome to CAFE Insider. I’m Preet Bharara.

Anne Milgram:             And I’m Anne Milgram.

Preet Bharara:              How are you, Anne?

Anne Milgram:             I’m good. How you doing?

Preet Bharara:              How was your weekend?

Anne Milgram:             It was great. Too short.

Preet Bharara:              This is the usual length. It’s the … I think it’s the-

Anne Milgram:             I know.

Preet Bharara:              We’re laughing because, I don’t know. We’re late taping because we were giggling a bunch.

Anne Milgram:             Goofing around.

Preet Bharara:              I don’t know why. There’s not a lot to laugh … Although I will say that we had a special weekend, my family. My dad turned 80.

Anne Milgram:             I saw that. You went to the Yankees game.

Preet Bharara:              We went to game two of the playoffs.

Anne Milgram:             That’s amazing.

Preet Bharara:              The Yankees won.

Anne Milgram:             That’s awesome.

Preet Bharara:              It was very happy.

Anne Milgram:             So is your dad a lifelong Yankees fan?

Preet Bharara:              Yeah. When we were kids, so the ’70s, we were growing up in Jersey, and the Yankees were very hot back then.

Anne Milgram:             Yeah, yeah. You got to be Yankees, Mets or some people are Phillies.

Preet Bharara:              Yeah, I don’t know about those people.

Anne Milgram:             Yeah.

Preet Bharara:              Certain part of Jersey would be Phillies.

Anne Milgram:             Yeah.

Preet Bharara:              So a great time was had by all, and-

Anne Milgram:             Happy birthday to your dad.

Preet Bharara:              Thank you. He will appreciate that. You’ve met my dad.

Anne Milgram:             I love your dad.

Preet Bharara:              So a lot of stuff, again, as impeachment heats up. We have been talking about the first whistleblower.

Anne Milgram:             Yes.

Preet Bharara:              Whose identity is not yet known.

Anne Milgram:             Yes.

Preet Bharara:              And who, I think the President wants to execute. Right?

Anne Milgram:             Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Preet Bharara:              Does he still feel that way? I think he does.

Anne Milgram:             It’s so hard to square that with, this is how we used to treat people. He’s basically a spy, and this is how we used to treat people guilty of treason, which is execution. With the, of course it’s legitimate to do this, and China please help and everybody should be investigating Biden.

Preet Bharara:              Yeah.

Anne Milgram:             And there’s nothing wrong with … My call was perfect.

Preet Bharara:              So we appear to have more whistleblowers.

Anne Milgram:             Right.

Preet Bharara:              How many do we have?

Anne Milgram:             So I was going to ask you that. So-

Preet Bharara:              I asked you that.

Anne Milgram:             Yeah, you asked me first.

Preet Bharara:              You can’t ask me.

Anne Milgram:             Okay. So the lawyer comes out this weekend, and the lawyer who represents whistleblower number one tweets out, “I’m going to confirm that we represent another whistleblower,” and it looks like that whistleblower … And just to be clear, the definition at this point is someone who … The second whistleblower is someone who was interviewed by the intelligence community Inspector General, Michael Atkinson, as part of the investigation into the first whistleblower’s complaint. So the first whistleblower files this complaint. Atkinson, in his role to figure out whether or not it’s credible, conducts an investigation. And as you or I would do, he interviews witnesses. He probably also gathers documents. This individual, who’s reported to have first hand information about some of the materials contained in whistleblower one’s compliant, which is important, because some of it is firsthand.

Preet Bharara:              Right.

Anne Milgram:             But the call, for example, was secondhand. I’ve been informed that the President had a call with Zelensky, the President of Ukraine. And so this individual, the whistleblower two, the second one has been interviewed by the Inspector General, should be entitled to protections under the law, as a whistleblower, has not yet made a formal complaint to Congress. And so-

Preet Bharara:              Not necessary.

Anne Milgram:             Exactly.

Preet Bharara:              Right? My understanding is one does not have to file a formal complaint. You can give testimony, you give information, corroborate the allegations made by the first whistleblower-

Anne Milgram:             And it’s worth noting, just here, that Atkinson was before Congress behind closed doors last week. The Inspector General of the Intelligence Community, and it’s very clear that they went through a detailed conversation about what he did. And so it’s very likely that all the information that was provided to Atkinson has already been provided to the Congressional Committees. But not in the form of a formal whistleblower complaint.

Preet Bharara:              Yeah so one question is, how many whistleblowers are there? Because I think one of the lawyers for the main whistleblower that we’ve all been talking about said that they now represent multiple-

Anne Milgram:             A multiple, right. So then I had to go to the dictionary.

Preet Bharara:              So is it like 80?

Anne Milgram:             Yeah. So basically, I went to the dictionary. Because my assumption … I don’t know what you think when you hear multiple. I think-

Preet Bharara:              More than two.

Anne Milgram:             I think more than two. I think three or four. Sort of at least three, was my take. I then read the dictionary definition, which makes it clear that more than one is multiple. So two-

Preet Bharara:              This is how careful Anne Milgram is.

Anne Milgram:             I just wanted to know.

Preet Bharara:              She’d take a common sense term like multiple and-

Anne Milgram:             And make it complicated.

Preet Bharara:              And you’re rigorous, even about the definition of multiple.

Anne Milgram:             Well, it-

Preet Bharara:              Have you ever used couple to mean more than two?

Anne Milgram:             Oh.

Preet Bharara:              Hey, it’s been a couple weeks. Do you sometimes do-

Anne Milgram:             Yeah. Yeah, I do do that sometimes. I do. I do. It’s a good point. So my assumption … and Mark Zaid, he’s the attorney who actually represents whistleblower one, confirmed that there is one other whistleblower, at least. So I don’t know if multiple means more than two. I’m sure there are … If we go back to the initial conversation from the whistleblower, the first whistleblower writes down that he’s informed by a number of people in the Intelligence Community.

Preet Bharara:              Yeah.

Anne Milgram:             So the likelihood of there being more than one other person is high.

Preet Bharara:              Right. Well, the universe of people from which there could be a whistleblower is large.

Anne Milgram:             Yes.

Preet Bharara:              Because it’s not just the people who were on the call. It’s other people who might’ve heard about the call or got a readout of the call between Trump and Zelensky. It’s also people, maybe, who segregated the call and put it in the special, super secret server.

Anne Milgram:             That’s right. So it’s not clear, but what is clear and is really important, when you do an investigation, it’s always very helpful to have multiple people who corroborate the initial allegations. And here, you’ve got the whistleblower coming in, President Trump saying, “Yes, I did it,” a memorandum of the call from July 25th, which also corroborates it. And now you have other people. And what’s really important about at least one or more other people coming forward to corroborate and provide information is that there’s likely conduct we haven’t even heard about yet, or that’s happened that we don’t know of.

Preet Bharara:              Yeah.

Anne Milgram:             And so it’s sort of … In my mind, it’s both potentially corroboration for whistleblower number one, and potentially additional information.

Preet Bharara:              But none of it sways Trump, ever. So for example, even though virtually everything that the whistleblower said in the complaint has been borne out by both the readout of the phone call, and by other reports-

Anne Milgram:             And the President himself.

Preet Bharara:              And President’s own … I mean, he basically confessed. He said, “Yeah, I said these things. I have a right to care about corruption.” We’ll get to that statement in a moment. “People should look at the Biden situation. Ukraine should look at it, China should look at it,” and we’ll talk about that, also. And yet, the President keeps saying that everything the whistleblower said turned out to be false. I don’t know how he gets away with saying that.

Anne Milgram:             Well, also, so you and I have done a lot of investigations. And I personally think it’s never a great sign for a criminal defendant, and Trump is not a criminal defendant yet, but this is the context through which I see it; it’s never a great sign for a criminal defendant when they keep changing their defense. And my head was spinning last week, that every day there was another defense. And so first it was the whistleblower’s a liar, it’s not true. Then it was a … You know, sort of the whistleblower credibility, the whistleblower’s political; that kind of stuff. Then it was, “Okay, yes. I had a perfect call.” Then it was the sort of, “It’s all heresy.” It was toggling back and forth.

Anne Milgram:             And then-

Preet Bharara:              My favorite. Are you going to get to my favorite?

Anne Milgram:             Yes. At the 11th hour, whose fault is it?

Preet Bharara:              Rick Perry.

Anne Milgram:             That, to me, was just an incredible moment of … It’s like someone … I don’t know, let’s take a hypothetical; a penguin is stolen out of the Central Park Zoo, to use something-

Preet Bharara:              That’s your hypothetical?

Anne Milgram:             To use something …

Preet Bharara:              Did that happen?

Anne Milgram:             People are commuting home from … No. The Central Park Zoo’s going to be mad at me. I use it all the time in my class.

Preet Bharara:              Did you prosecute a penguin theft?

Anne Milgram:             No, I use it all the time in my class. Because sometimes it’s hard to deal with rape, murder and mayhem, and the students get to be a little overloaded by that. But okay. So stay with me on … Maybe the penguin hypothetical isn’t the right one.

Preet Bharara:              No, fine. No, let’s go with it.

Anne Milgram:             But, so something is stolen. And the person who you think is the prime suspect, the first thing they say is, “I wasn’t there.” And then they say … There’s evidence that controverts that. And the they say, “Okay, I was there. But I was nowhere near the penguin tank.” There’s evidence that controverts that. “All right, I was there. I saw somebody else do it. Wasn’t me, it was somebody else.” Then it … You know, it’s this sort of evolution.

Preet Bharara:              Yeah. “It was my penguin.”

Anne Milgram:             Yeah, exactly.

Preet Bharara:              “It was my penguin. Rick Perry told me to go get the penguin.” Did you see there’s a report over the weekend where an anchor on one of the cable news networks wanted to make the point that the President was now blaming Rick Perry, and they had tape … They show tape from Dancing With The Stars, and the accidentally showed Sean Spicer doing his dance, and they were like, “No, no, no. I’m sorry. That’s the wrong Dancing With The Stars former administration official tape. Can we run the right one?” And-

Anne Milgram:             Man, that yellow outfit was too much.

Preet Bharara:              But the fact that there are now so many folks in the Trump administration-

Anne Milgram:             Who have been Dancing-

Preet Bharara:              Dancing With The Stars with big, ruffly shirts; that they played the wrong one! They had to switch out the tape. And a part of me kind of hopes that the sound engineer did that on purpose, just to make me happy.

Anne Milgram:             I mean, don’t you think? When you go to TV shows and they’re so careful about it. It feels like a big mistake. They don’t even look alike.

Preet Bharara:              They don’t.

Anne Milgram:             Other than the ruffly shirts.

Preet Bharara:              They look equally preposterous.

Anne Milgram:             So the other thing about Rick Perry is that-

Preet Bharara:              Can you get serious, please?

Anne Milgram:             Yes, I’ll get serious and say, is anyone ever been afraid or listened to Rick Perry in their lives? I mean, it-

Preet Bharara:              Well, they know about the oops.

Anne Milgram:             Maybe.

Preet Bharara:              Right? Remember when he had to name three cabinet agencies that he would eliminate?

Anne Milgram:             Yes.

Preet Bharara:              And he remembered one and two, and then … Oops.

Anne Milgram:             That’s right.

Preet Bharara:              I think energy was one of the ones he remembered.

Anne Milgram:             It was. It was. That he now runs.

Anne Milgram:             So here’s my read. So Trump comes out and says, “Rick Perry made me do it. He made me have this call,” which is, if I were prosecuting this case, I would be very happy to hear that defense. Because as they get more and more absurd, they get easier and easier to knock down. And again-

Preet Bharara:              Especially when he’s spent all this time, that you say, with the penguin kidnapping hypothetical; there are some defenses that are so at odds with each other that they’re laughable, and we’ve done some laughing already. But to say it was a perfect call, it was a beautiful call, which Rick Perry made me do.

Anne Milgram:             Right. It makes no sense.

Preet Bharara:              [crosstalk 00:09:50] less sense.

Anne Milgram:             It makes no sense. And juries tend to, actually, be very unsympathetic when they think people are changing their story. And again, I should say this. Having done a lot of cases with victims who don’t initially come in truthful or as forthright because they’re afraid of a number of things; what usually happens is there’s one change, where someone says, “Okay, look. I haven’t been telling you the truth. Here’s the truth,” and then all the truth comes out. This is not an analogous situation. It’s not the same thing.

Anne Milgram:             But going back to Rick Perry for a second, what also becomes pretty interesting about this, and we shouldn’t spend too much time on it, but let’s just note that Rick Perry, as a Secretary of Energy is working on removing the broad members from the state-run gas company in Ukraine. And why that’s important is that there’s allegations, and two of the people who have already been called by the House Committee were involved in this activity; there’s allegations that they were trying to take out the board member and put in a board member, and then get contracts to President Trump and Rick Perry’s allies and friends for gas. And so there’s an underlying allegation of corruption, here. I don’t know if it’s accurate or not, but at least on its face, it appears to be that Perry’s motives and his work in Ukraine may have had something to do with getting money and potentially corrupt. Right? It’s at least worth having an inquiry about.

Anne Milgram:             So what’s a little funny is that Perry’s defense now; his spokesperson is saying, “Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. He wanted the President to call about his staff,” which I read as, his corruption, not about the President’s investigations, which I read as, the potential corruption of the President of the United States. So it’s a little bit of a funny defense to be like, “Oh, no. This is just about getting natural gas contracts and getting a change in natural gas. It’s not really about the investigation into 2016 and Biden.”

Preet Bharara:              The interesting thing about all this is that on the key issue of the appropriateness of asking Ukraine, and then later, China, to investigate the Bidens, Trump has basically taken the position that that’s appropriate. Right? That’s the latest iteration, because you can’t get around the fact that he asked them to do this. And Trump says … And this really has eaten at me, even though I should be not surprised at crazy assertions he makes. He said on the White House lawn this weekend, “I am only interested in corruption. I don’t care about politics.” Right? As if … This man, for the first time, even though there’s corruption all around him; there’s corruption in all sorts of countries. The one time that he calls for there to be a corruption investigation, in his words, “Happens when it’s the guy who is leading in the polls to oppose him, as President in 2020.” He was asked on the White House lawn by a good reporter, “Have you ever called for the investigation of somebody who was not your political opponent?” And he couldn’t-

Anne Milgram:             It’s a great question.

Preet Bharara:              He couldn’t answer the question. The example I brought up over the weekend, because it’s close to my heart, is … There was an occasion when Chris Collins, the former Republican Representative … Former now, because he plead guilty to corruption and insider trading charges last week.

Anne Milgram:             He just stepped down, right?

Preet Bharara:              When that case was made, when the arrest was made in that case before the 2018 midterms, President Trump basically said … Here’s what he said, “Two long running Obama-era investigations of two very popular Republican Congressmen were brought to a well-publicized charge.” Did he care about corruption then? No. He cared about politics. He says … They’re brought, just ahead of the midterms by the Jeff Sessions Justice Department. “Two easy wins, now in doubt, because there is not enough time. Good job, Jeff.” You can come up with hundreds of examples-

Anne Milgram:             Yes.

Preet Bharara:              … of where Trump cared about politics, doesn’t care about corruption. The thought that he cares about corruption-

Anne Milgram:             Including Paul Manafort. I mean, they are easy-

Preet Bharara:              Including Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen.

Anne Milgram:             Yes.

Preet Bharara:              It’s case after case after case, so it really … It kind of gets to me. And you see on the shows this past weekend that most people do not want to defend the idea that it’s appropriate for the President to call upon either Ukraine or China to investigate a political river. You see the Marco Rubio defense?

Anne Milgram:             Yes. The very silly defense of, “It was a joke. The President didn’t really mean it,” which is … It is-

Preet Bharara:              Well, he’s trying to bait the press. No. This is what the … That could be a Sunday morning show, Bait The Press. He meant what he said. He didn’t just say it on the White House lawn, he said it on other occasions. He had put it in a tweet. There’s no laugh track, here.

Anne Milgram:             Also, the thing about the Rubio and others who have basically said, “He didn’t really mean it … ” Right? That he has some motivation, whether it’s to bait the press, or he’s being flippant, joking around. It’s completely impossible, for a variety of reasons, including the fact that he had a call with the President of Ukraine that was completely serious and was related to the same issue. But also, the President is under intense pressure and intense scrutiny. And the idea that he would now be joking around in a way, with foreign adversaries in countries that we’re in the middle of a very complex tariff negotiation, trade negotiation with China … China is an authoritarian regime with which we have a complex relationship, and is frankly, a world power and a growing world power. So the idea that there’s anything that the President would do that wasn’t serious on this, is completely fake.

Anne Milgram:             And it’s a little bit insulting because I think the Republican team members, they’re deciding right now, do they stay silent? And in some ways, at this point, in my view, silence is complicity, because there are very, very important and critical national security and foreign affairs issues. Do they criticize the President? Which only a handful of Republicans have done. Or, do they do the sort of Marco Rubio, which is try to have it both ways? Which is to basically say, “Oh, it would be terrible. I would never support that, but that’s not what’s happening here.” And it’s like, actually the American public is watching what’s happening here, so stop telling us what we’re seeing, and just … Let me say this, and I’d be interested to know what you think, but I think one of the mistakes people have made with Donald Trump is not taking him at his word; particularly before the election when there allegations of sexism and racism, and things he’d said.

Preet Bharara:              Yeah.

Anne Milgram:             And people said, “Oh, it’s hyperbolic. He’s joking, he doesn’t mean it.”

Preet Bharara:              Well, when he crosses a line, the best people can say is, “Well, he didn’t really mean it. He’s trying to bait the press.” But it’s interesting to me that there are very, very few people, if any, who will say, “Is it appropriate for the President to call on a foreign power to investigate a political rival?” I saw one exchange with Jim Jordan, and I think another one with Senator Ron Johnson. And they can’t say it.

Anne Milgram:             They can’t say it.

Preet Bharara:              So they have no way around it. Let’s go back to-

Anne Milgram:             Can we just stay on that point for one second? Do you remember when the President was asked by Stephanopoulos, what would happen if a foreign company got dirt on your political rival, would you accept it?

Preet Bharara:              Oh, yeah.

Anne Milgram:             Now, that is a better situation.

Preet Bharara:              Yeah.

Anne Milgram:             “Better,” because they’ve just gone out and gotten dirt on your political rival without you asking them.

Preet Bharara:              Right.

Anne Milgram:             So there’s no sort of sense there that the President has abused his or her power. That scenario was just … The other country’s dirt, would you take it? And the President said, “Yeah, I would look at it,” and he was criticized by a large number of Republicans who came forward in that hypothetical and said, “No, he shouldn’t do it,” which is amazing that they’re now quiet, because that is a less terrible scenario than what we have here.

Preet Bharara:              Clearly what the President thinks is it’s okay, and politics is politics and there are no lines, and there are no limits, and you can do what you want. You can call people up, you can ask them to change data. You can call people up, you can ask them to investigate your opponents. You know, why not? Someone offers you dirt, you take the meeting. It’s called politics. He says it all the time. And every once in a while, when he gets chastised by a number of folks, and it looks like it’s bad for him in the public realm, he’ll pull back a little bit. But you know in his heart of hearts, he thinks these are all appropriate things to do. And who knows on how many other occasions he’s done this.

Preet Bharara:              So going back to the whistleblowers for a second, are you surprised that more whistleblowers are coming forward? Or at least one other whistleblower is coming forward, given the grief and the invective that’s been launched against the first whistleblower?

Anne Milgram:             So I think that something feels like it’s changed to me, and I don’t know where this ends. It feels to me like there’s accountability and questioning of the President’s actions in a way that we haven’t seen in the past couple of years. And so in some ways, I’m surprised; but truthfully I’m not. I mean, I think, in my experience, government employees, they take a lot of criticism for different things, and particularly at the hands of President Trump. But government employees are generally phenomenal people who take those jobs because they want to serve their country and do the right thing. And I think there has been more fear. The fact that the first whistleblower came forward, in some ways, I think has galvanized people to step forward. And he’s the technical whistleblower, but I want to talk about Bill Taylor at the State Department in a minute, because what he’s also done; he’s a career foreign service State Department employee. What he’s done is nothing short of extraordinary, to push back on what he thought what he was seeing was corruption.

Anne Milgram:             And so in some ways, I feel like once one person steps out, it’s easier for the second and third people. And there’s this great TED video where … how movements are formed. Have you ever seen it? The guy dancing like crazy? He’s at a concert. We should post it on Café Insider. He’s dancing like crazy.

Preet Bharara:              Post the right video.

Anne Milgram:             Post the right-

Preet Bharara:              Don’t post Sean Spicer.

Anne Milgram:             Actually-

Preet Bharara:              From Dancing With The Stars.

Anne Milgram:             Please post both. So he’s dancing, and he’s dancing like this … It’s hilarious. And-

Preet Bharara:              May the record reflect that in the studio, Anne Milgram began to dance.

Anne Milgram:             In an absurd way. So this guy is doing it-

Preet Bharara:              That’s good arm movement. Wow.

Anne Milgram:             And it’s really … It’s even more than that.

Preet Bharara:              Sometimes I do wish this was video.

Anne Milgram:             And so there’s a guy who studies movements at a university, and he’s narrating and saying, “It’s not the first person that creates the movement; it’s the second person.” Right? Because it’s one person; you need a follower, and then you need more followers. And that creates momentum. And I think there’s one thing that’s really different, here, than we’ve seen with the Mueller investigation, which was largely Trump’s inner circle and his campaign and a lot of people who’d signed on as Trump loyalists.

Anne Milgram:             This is different because you have people in the State Department, you have people in the Office of Management and Budget, you’ll have people in the Energy Department. So it’s a lot harder for the President to control, and the National Security Council, in the Intelligence Agencies. It’s vastly more reliant upon career government servants who have taken an oath for the country to keep quiet about wrongdoing. And so that’s why I think we might see more.

Preet Bharara:              So separate from the whistleblowing situation with the Ukraine call, and request to Ukraine, there has been known, for some months, based on court documents, there’s a whistleblower within the IRS. Apparently related to the audit of either the President’s tax returns or the Vice President’s tax returns. That’s unfolding. Unclear what’s going to happen there, but you might start to see whistleblowing situations in contexts apart from what we already know about.

Anne Milgram:             And what’s important is that for the President to control the apparatus of the Executive Branch, he does go through the different Cabinet departments, like the Department of the Treasury, and they oversee taxation. And so there are employees who are touching these highly politicized issues and questions, and coming forward. And so I agree with you.

Preet Bharara:              So let’s talk about Ukraine some more. Why don’t we talk about who the players are? Because sometimes, you read these articles and they throw out a name, and it’s hard to sort of keep track. First name I’ll mention is Maria Yovanovitch. Did I get that right?

Anne Milgram:             Yes. Well done.

Preet Bharara:              Do you know how to pronounce that name?

Anne Milgram:             I’ve now seen that she is … Well, this is like a trick question. I’ve now seen that she’s often referred to as Masha. That’s her nickname. And it’s-

Preet Bharara:              Let’s call her Masha.

Anne Milgram:             Let’s call her Masha.

Preet Bharara:              [crosstalk 00:21:08]

Anne Milgram:             Yovanovitch.

Preet Bharara:              So Masha Yovanovitch was the longterm diplomat, career diplomat. I don’t know her personally. Gets good reviews as being someone who cared about the interests of the United States. Was the Ambassador to Ukraine, and was removed as Ambassador from Ukraine in the spring; I think in May. Which, I think raised some eyebrows at the time, and one of the reasons it’s now raising eyebrows further is all the things that ensued after her removal. But also, there are reports in the paper, over the past couple of days that one of the reasons she was removed is … It’s all coming together. Rudy Giuliani was really upset, because she was standing in the way of, what?

Anne Milgram:             His investigation and his work pushing the Ukrainians to investigate the 2016 election and whether the Ukrainians were helping Hilary Clinton, and also the Biden investigation.

Preet Bharara:              So that’s just another bit of data in the storyline.

Anne Milgram:             It’s an important piece of data.

Preet Bharara:              Yeah.

Anne Milgram:             Because if it’s true that … There are a couple pieces that I thought were really interesting. One is that Trump was personally interested in having her removed, which seems, for people who understand the way that the federal government works; for the President of the United States to be worried about a specific Ambassador from one country is pretty unusual. I mean, the President usually would sort of defer … Or, for the President even to know about a specific Ambassador seems unusual to me. There are more than 200 countries in the world; the Secretary of State generally deals with it. So that’s one piece.

Anne Milgram:             The second piece is that the idea that the President’s personal lawyer could impact who serves as a government official. And again, all accounts are that she was a very strong Ambassador, and we haven’t seen allegations that she was removed for wrongdoing. The reporting right now is that she was removed because she wouldn’t help the President’s personal lawyer do the President’s personally bidding.

Anne Milgram:             And so it’s a really important tie to the use of the State Department and the federal government resources for the President’s personal political gain.

Preet Bharara:              And it also raises questions, once again, about Rudy Giuliani. By the way, I’m starting to tire of people, no offense, calling him the President’s personal lawyer, because … And I do it all the time.

Anne Milgram:             Yeah, he’s really not. I agree.

Preet Bharara:              I think I’m going to stop you. He’s the President’s agent, in some way. But in all of this business with complaining about this Ambassador, I don’t understand the legal issue on which he was providing representation or advice or guidance to the President. It’s not legal work just because you, once upon a time, had a law degree and honored the precepts of being a lawyer in New York.

Anne Milgram:             You’re right. Let’s say it differently. Rudy Giuliani is a lawyer, and he does work for the President. Right?

Preet Bharara:              Right.

Anne Milgram:             It’s like we’re connecting the two.

Preet Bharara:              But it’s also significant, not just rhetorically, but it will be significant with respect to what he will have to answer about.

Anne Milgram:             Correct.

Preet Bharara:              And what privileges he will be able to maintain. So Yovanovitch is out of there. Then you have a guy, who we’ve already mentioned: Bill Taylor, who was, once upon a time, in the second Bush administration, Ambassador to Ukraine, so he knows it well. Another career diplomat, military veteran, who some people have described as the hero in all of this, because he clearly seems to have been making a record with respect to the President’s requests on these things.

Anne Milgram:             I was wondering if we should have a heroes and villains section of each podcast. I mean, and the President can’t win the villain every time.

Preet Bharara:              I’d be lopsided towards villains. I think it’s lopsided at the moment.

Anne Milgram:             There’s a … The only other thing to say about Taylor is that he was brought back after Yovanovitch was fired. He was brought back this past summer as the Chargé d’Affaires, the person-

Preet Bharara:              He’s the interim.

Anne Milgram:             Yes. He’s the interim acting Ambassador.

Preet Bharara:              Then you got a guy, Kurt Volker, who testified before the House last week.

Anne Milgram:             He recently resigned. Until then, he was the US Special Representative to Ukraine, and he resigned as the scandal unfolded and testified before Congress last week. And it looks like he’s sort of one of the senior people, specifically on Ukraine.

Preet Bharara:              And then you have Gordon Sondland.

Anne Milgram:             Yes.

Preet Bharara:              Who I don’t know, and never heard of before.

Anne Milgram:             And by the way, can I just say about Volker, he was a career diplomat.

Preet Bharara:              Yeah.

Anne Milgram:             He left, and was heading, I think, the McCain Institute, and then came back in sort of a hybrid-

Preet Bharara:              Resigned from that, too.

Anne Milgram:             Resigned from that, as well. But he his a career State Department official.

Preet Bharara:              So then you have Gordon Sondland, who I did not know and had not heard of before, who is the Ambassador to the European Union. Not a career diplomat, never been in the State Department before, runs hotel businesses. Sounds familiar? At one point, didn’t like Donald Trump.

Anne Milgram:             Right.

Preet Bharara:              And said he couldn’t support Donald Trump. Changed his mind after the election, apparently. Gave $1 million to the inaugural committee.

Anne Milgram:             Yes.

Preet Bharara:              And on the strength of being a donor, presumably, all of a sudden was launched into this brief diplomatic career as the Ambassador to the European Union. By the way, important fact. Ukraine is not in the European Union.

Anne Milgram:             Right. That’s right.

Preet Bharara:              So they’re all having lots of conversations and meetings, along with Rudy Giuliani, in connection with what the President wants from Ukraine.

Anne Milgram:             Right. And with what Ukraine wants from the United States, as well. And it’s worth talking a little bit about how important it was, and I think this is missing from some of the reporting, now; how important it was for Ukraine. President Zelensky is elected, I think last April; April 2019. And comes into office and basically wants the US support. And he wants US support because Russia has annexed Crimea, a portion of Ukraine; and Russia still controls a portion of Crimea. Russia has an interest, clearly, in potentially annexing more of Ukraine, and also minimizing the ability of Ukraine to be part of the European Union, to work with NATO, to basically have this sort of independent power base.

Anne Milgram:             And so there is a lot of continued conflict between Russian and Ukraine. And so what Ukraine wants is the support of the President of the United States. And US policy has been very supportive of Ukraine for almost 30 years. The annexation took place under Obama, and was very angry about it.

Preet Bharara:              Right.

Anne Milgram:             And so what is important to understand, in the behind the scenes of these text messages that went back and forth is that all of the US government officials wanted the US government both to provide … I don’t know about Sondland, but I can say from having read the Volker and Taylor texts that they definitely wanted the President to provide the military, the almost $400 million in support; and they want a sit-down meeting at the White House, because that is what the Ukrainians want to basically say to Russia, “The US has our back. Don’t interfere with us. Don’t invade us.” And so there’s a lot of sort of the State Department symbolism of how important it is to have the US and Ukraine connecting on this.

Preet Bharara:              So I want to repeat again that whether or not there’s a quid pro quo, in my mind and I think the minds of a lot of people, yourself included, the mere fact that the President of the United States makes a request of a foreign power, directly in a phone call, to investigate, by name, a political rival, is an abuse of power; potentially an impeachable offense, period.

Anne Milgram:             Agreed.

Preet Bharara:              And I also said, and I think maybe you agreed with me, that you never see written evidence of a quid pro quo.

Anne Milgram:             Yeah, never.

Preet Bharara:              And then I had to write this weekend, I stand corrected.

Anne Milgram:             Yes.

Preet Bharara:              Because here, you sort of have that. You don’t need it, it’s enough without it. And you remember some Democrats were talking about quid pro quo, and you can expect to see it. Then Republicans began to say, “Well, we have the complaint.” And one version of a defense was, “See, there’s no explicit quid pro quo-”

Anne Milgram:             In the complaint.

Preet Bharara:              It’s fallen flat. And now, they can’t say that anymore. And you have a back and forth about the things that Ukraine wanted, as you mentioned; as simple as a White House meeting, which is very important to them, and obviously something that’s a little bit more substantial like this hundreds of millions of dollars in aid. And so all these conversations are going on.

Anne Milgram:             And this is important, also, because you and I have talked about this before. But it was made clear, both in the whistleblower complaint, and in some other things that have been reported, that the Ukrainians knew that the aid, were upset that the aid hadn’t been given over. It was months that they were waiting. And that they had been told that the condition for a call between the President and Zelensky, just the call, was that they were going to talk about the Biden investigations. And so it’s been this really interesting question of what was happening behind the scenes. Now, we have a number of text messages which still don’t tell us the full picture, but do provide a lot of information. And as you said, a quid pro quo.

Preet Bharara:              And further, to what you were saying a second ago, we have, in the correspondence and text message from Ukrainian official, who shared a report back in the end of August; August 28th. Saying, “Trump holds up Ukraine military aid meant to confront Russia.” And he sends that to Ambassador Volker, Kurt Volker, who we’ve been talking about. And clearly, there have been other conversations that are not recorded, and that we haven’t gotten to the bottom of. And we should also note that this is a subset of the texts that are in the possession of the intelligence committee, and there are many, many other texts. And some people have accused Adam Schiff of cherry picking. We’ll have to see what the rest of the texts show. But as far as we know now, Bill Taylor on September 1st sends a text to the European Union Ambassador, Gordon Sondland, the hotelier, “Are we now saying that security assistance and White House meeting are conditioned on investigations?”

Preet Bharara:              That, by the way, if that’s true, and it looks like he thinks that that is true; that sentence contains every element of a quid pro quo.

Anne Milgram:             Yes.

Preet Bharara:              Clearly the pro, which we seldom see, which is represented by the word “conditioned on.”

Anne Milgram:             Yes.

Preet Bharara:              Right?

Anne Milgram:             Yes.

Preet Bharara:              And then what does Gordon Sondland reply?

Anne Milgram:             “Call me.”

Preet Bharara:              Call me.

Anne Milgram:             Because he doesn’t want it on the record.

Preet Bharara:              He doesn’t want it … You know what that reminds me of?

Anne Milgram:             What?

Preet Bharara:              I think you and I have talked about this on occasion. Sometimes somebody will come across your desk, and you’re trying to hire someone. And maybe this is somebody who used to work with me, or that you think I might know or I think you might know, and it happens often. Right? Because over the course of your life, you hire lots of folks. And I will send a text message to you, for example, and say like, “Hey, do you know so and so?” And if they’re wonderful, you immediately text back, “They’re the greatest.”

Anne Milgram:             “They’re wonderful,” yes.

Preet Bharara:              “They’re great. They’re smart. They’re hardworking. If you want to know more, happy to talk.”

Anne Milgram:             Yes.

Preet Bharara:              On every occasion where I’ve written a text message or an email to someone and said, “Hey, do you know so and so,” thinking about hiring that person, and the person responds with, “Call me-”

Anne Milgram:             Yes.

Preet Bharara:              It’s never positive.

Anne Milgram:             It never ends well. It never ends well, exactly.

Preet Bharara:              Right. They don’t want to put the negative impression about that person. And that’s exactly what’s going on here, isn’t it?

Anne Milgram:             Yes. And it’s also very clear that, I think Sondland realizes, at some point, “I’m being papered,” which people do all the time in government. And frankly, outside of government, too. But what it is, is Taylor is going on the records saying, “Is this what you’re telling me? This is what we’re doing, that we are conditioning this meeting on helping an investigation.” And Taylor, there’s another one, too, that I think is really incredibly powerful, that Taylor writes. And this is September 9th.

Preet Bharara:              Let’s go to September 8th, first.

Anne Milgram:             September 8th.

Preet Bharara:              Yeah, look. These conversations clearly are going on for some days. The aid is held in abeyance. The meeting is held in abeyance. And Bill Taylor writes a text, which I think is Kurt Volker. “The nightmare is they give the interview and don’t get the security assistance. The Russians love it,” and then he writes in parens, “I quit.”

Anne Milgram:             Yes.

Preet Bharara:              So it again looks like there’s a something for something, and the security assistance is being held in abeyance. And then ultimately, he’s suggesting that maybe the Trump administration looks like it’s bluffing and doesn’t want to give the security assistance because of this other dimension of appeasing the Russians.

Anne Milgram:             Right. And that is the subtext of all this. And one of the interesting questions, I think, before these messages was, is Trump just trying to help the Russians, or is this actually about the quid pro quo for the investigations into 2016 and the Biden family?

Anne Milgram:             One thing I also think that is important to note is that Sondland and Volker, they’re trying to get the Ukrainians to issue this generic statement saying that they’re committed to fighting corruption and they’re going to do investigations into corruption. They’re trying to smooth it over so-

Preet Bharara:              So it doesn’t look so obvious.

Anne Milgram:             Exactly. And they’re also trying to get to a point where the Ukrainians get the money. They’re worried about they’re not getting the money, so they’re actually trying to help Ukraine, but they’re doing it in a way to say, “Well, we’re not going to commit the Ukrainians to doing specific investigations, but what if we just say they’re open to doing political corruption investigations?”

Anne Milgram:             The President of Ukraine won’t sign it. And he won’t sign it because he doesn’t want to be involved in the US political election, or be committed in any way to doing these investigations of Biden and this 2016 thing. And so that is a huge red flag for anyone who works in government, that the President of the foreign is like, “No. This is a corrupt deal. I’m not taking it.” And Ukraine needs us so much, that for him to do that is really important.

Preet Bharara:              We should just make clear to everyone, there’s all the stuff that gets confusing, right? Because the President does have certain powers and authorities. And just because he asserts an authority doesn’t meant that it’s a proper usage. And it doesn’t mean it’s not an abuse of power in the same way that other kinds of bargains happen all the time in all of politics. And much of diplomacy is about, in the informal sense, quid pro quo. We say to a country … There’s nothing wrong with saying to a country, “We’re not going to give you your aid. We’re going to hold up your aid until you deal with the humanitarian crisis in your country.” Or, “Unless you come to the table on trade,” or some other thing that’s in the national interest of America.

Anne Milgram:             Including, by the way, political corruption.

Preet Bharara:              Absolutely! We do it all the time. You should do it. That’s what the-

Anne Milgram:             But not specific. Right.

Preet Bharara:              But if it turns out that the thing that you were saying, America will or will not do for you, tax payer money in exchange for something that is of personal benefit to me; like for example, I’m not saying this happened here. I want to make sure that all of your delegations, when they come to the United States, stay at a Trump property. Or, I want you to investigate my political rival. If the exchange is in connection with something for the benefit of the President of the United States, that’s an abuse of power.

Preet Bharara:              So when people throw out these quid pro quo, it’s fine, there’s nothing wrong with caring about corruption, there’s nothing wrong with asking a country to do X, Y, or Z; the nub of it is, was part of it or much of it about a personal gain to the President of the United States? That’s an abuse of … That’s not how we want our President to be engaging in foreign policy. And I think it’s eminently impeachable, if it’s true.

Anne Milgram:             That’s a great point. It also explains why the President’s … one of his defenses, one of his many defenses has been, “Look, I just want to stop corruption.” Because it-

Preet Bharara:              Nobody believes that.

Anne Milgram:             Nobody.

Preet Bharara:              But he still says it.

Anne Milgram:             Yes.

Preet Bharara:              And then we get to this, I think the most incriminating text. And again, look. There are people … I’ve seen this in life, too. They try to paper something, and they exaggerate. And maybe they wrongly think something is inappropriate. Doesn’t look like that’s the case with Bill Taylor, but that does sometimes happen in the world. You have an employee at an organization, thinks bad things are going on, and they write texts to CYA.

Anne Milgram:             Yeah. I don’t think this is just CYA. I think-

Preet Bharara:              I don’t think so, either, but-

Anne Milgram:             I think he’s also trying to say to Sondland … and Bill Taylor has been a well-respected foreign service officer for many years. He’s trying to say to Sondland, he’s like screaming, “This isn’t right.” You know? He’s sort of saying like, “This is a problem. We got to fix it.”

Preet Bharara:              And he’s letting him know on paper [crosstalk 00:35:21].

Anne Milgram:             Yes.

Preet Bharara:              So you know … And I’m excited to have you read Sondland’s response. Because the back and forth that we’ve seen so far is pretty casual. It’s pretty short, quick texts back and forth. Bill Taylor writes, once again, basically setting up the existence of the quid pro quo. And he says to Sondland, “As I said on the phone,” meaning there’s a whole conversation that he’s trying to memorialize now, in a way. “As I said on the phone, I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance.” Right? That’s one thing. “For help with a political campaign.” So he viewed the thing as help with a political campaign. And he also viewed the things as being conditioned on the other. By the way, we don’t know if Bill Taylor has contemporaneous notes of the phone call. There might be a lot more evidence of all this stuff.

Anne Milgram:             I agree completely.

Preet Bharara:              In fact, I would’ve.

Anne Milgram:             And I suspect there is.

Preet Bharara:              I would’ve.

Anne Milgram:             Because he’s a career foreign service officer. He’s probably jotting notes down, and then hangs up and immediately sends a text message.

Preet Bharara:              And then Sondland, many hours go by. And I don’t know if this was because he was sleeping, and who was in what country at the time these texts were sent. But Sondland takes some time, and in the interim, I think had a conversation with people around-

Anne Milgram:             Someone. Agreed.

Preet Bharara:              And Gordon Sondland replies …

Anne Milgram:             “Bill, I believe you are incorrect about President Trump’s intentions. The President has been crystal clear: no quid pro quos of any kind. The President is trying to evaluate whether Ukraine is truly going to adopt the transparency and reforms that President Zelensky promised during his campaign. I suggest we stop the back and forth by text. If you still have concerns, I recommend you give Lisa Kenna or [S 00:36:53] a call to discuss them directly. Thanks.”

Preet Bharara:              That’s very carefully worded.

Anne Milgram:             Very. And it’s interesting he says quid pro quo, because it’s very clear that he knows exactly what Taylor has done, which is to connect the two things that the President wants them to connect; but Sondland and everyone else want to pretend is not connected.

Preet Bharara:              So here’s my question to Sondland. You write, Mr. Sondland, “The President has been crystal clear: no quid pro quos of any kind.” What is the basis and the evidence to support that the President has been crystal clear on no quid pro quo? You can have an argument, and we’re going to have that argument; maybe during impeachment proceedings or otherwise, that what the President said doesn’t quite amount to a quid pro quo. And as I said, I don’t think it matters, but it’s extra evidence and makes it extra bad. But there is nothing to suggest he ever said, ever, “I want to make sure that you separate these things. They’re not connected to each other. It’s not appropriate, no quid pro quo. Nothing, nothing … ” I mean, I’d be shocked if there’s any support of that. Which then allows you to view this entire response from Sondland to Taylor as his own CYA.

Anne Milgram:             Yes, as papering that, “Oh, I’m going to tell you now. And also, I want you to get in line,” a little bit, to Taylor of the … You know, “You can talk to somebody else if you have concerns, but I’m shutting this down now. I’m telling you that there’s nothing wrong with what we’re doing.” And Sondland is clearly … He does take time to respond. We need to know who he talked to in between. And we also need to see all his notes and all the conversations he’s had about those investigations.

Anne Milgram:             So appeared to me it’s not going to end well for Sondland, as part of this Congressional investigation, because you have a career foreign service officer telling a political appointee, “We’re doing something wrong,” and the political appointee saying, “Oh, no. It’s not wrong because there’s no direct leverage of one for the other.”

Preet Bharara:              Further to what you were saying before, and again, I don’t know Bill Taylor. And his credibility will be tested in proceedings that are coming up. But it is notable that there is a former US official; anonymous, but still significant quoted in Politico as saying, about Bill Taylor, “He’s the only honorable man in this disgusting drama.” So he was trying to do something. I think it makes it … The release of these texts makes it really, really hard for this to go away, number one. And then number two, it will lead to further testimony, perhaps further corroboration, because there may be further emails and texts and contemporaneous notes, as we’ve said. And you have a compelling figure who, based on their history and their resumes, Bill Taylor seems to be more credible in connection with these kinds of issues, than Mr. Sondland.

Anne Milgram:             Yes. And so Taylor’s also the former US Ambassador to Ukraine. And so one other thing that I suspect, and I would like to know, is Masha Yovanovitch is pushed out in May of 2019 as the Ambassador to Ukraine. Taylor is brought in as the sort of interim person. He knows the country, it’s meant to stabilize, probably, what’s happening. It would surprise me if he and she have not had a number of conversations about what was happening and what Giuliani was doing. And so Taylor is going to be interesting for a lot of reasons; but he’s going to probably also corroborate, I suspect, a lot that Masha Yovanovitch has to say.

Preet Bharara:              So Mike Pompeo has finally admitted that he listened in on the call. And what’s interesting about that, further to what we were saying before; it’s not so much that he was on the call, although maybe it’s interesting. I don’t know enough about diplomacy to understand how significant it is for him to be on that kind of call. But he didn’t come out in say it. If it was such a perfect and beautiful call, why not right away say, “Yeah, the President’s totally right. I was on that call, and it was beautiful and perfect, even though Rick Perry made him do it.”

Anne Milgram:             It feels like he was playing … Doesn’t it feel a little like they were all playing this game that the call might not come out up until the point that the President put it out? And then even after that, I think-

Preet Bharara:              Well, I think he advocated against it. Right?

Anne Milgram:             Yes, that’s right.

Preet Bharara:              That’s one reason Pompeo would’ve advocated against it; because he sees what Taylor saw and what normal people see.

Anne Milgram:             Yes. And so he, then … And he gave these answers that I think were misleading, at best, about, “I haven’t read the complaint, yet. You just handed me the complaint,” to one other reporter; the whistleblower complaint. “I haven’t had a chance to review it.” When in fact, he didn’t need to really review it to talk about the call, because he was on it. The other thing to think about with Pompeo is, he subscribes to the President’s school of thought, which is a good offense is the best defense. And so he immediately comes out swinging when State Department employees get calls and request for information, because the House committees … There are three committees, now connecting this impeachment inquiry, and they want information from all these State Department officials, as you would. And so they’re asking for information. They’re contacting witnesses, potential witnesses.

Anne Milgram:             And so Pompeo fires back and says, “You’re harassing my employees.” None of which is true. But again, it’s sort of playing offense to say, “What’s happening isn’t fair. I’m the victim, and this needs to end;” when it feels to me, the exact opposite is the case. Which, if I were doing the investigation, the first people I would look to talk to would be all the men and women in the State Department who had been involved with Ukraine in any way connected to this incident.

Preet Bharara:              So then we have Mike Pence.

Anne Milgram:             Yes.

Preet Bharara:              Who is an interesting figure in all of this. And over the course of the Trump presidency, I have gotten the distinct impression that he is never to be seen when bad stuff is happening.

Anne Milgram:             Yeah.

Preet Bharara:              He kind of loses-

Anne Milgram:             Until now.

Preet Bharara:              Until now. And he’s thrown in his … What’s the word? Not the towel. What do you throw in? He’s thrown in with-

Anne Milgram:             Yes.

Preet Bharara:              He’s casted a lot.

Anne Milgram:             He’s all-in.

Preet Bharara:              He’s all-in. The towel is a different thing.

Anne Milgram:             Against the do nothing Democrats, as he and the President call them.

Preet Bharara:              Yeah. And you know, there’s now … I think people need to remain focused. I’ve seen some people talk about beginning an impeachment proceeding against Mike Pence. Look, one thing at a time, ladies and gentlemen. Somebody I saw even suggested impeach Mike Pence first, and then … I don’t know what people are talking about. Focus on the President. Focus on the involvement of the President.

Anne Milgram:             Yeah. It’s worth nothing, Pence is a witness. And he’s being called as a witness to what the President was doing, and what the administration was doing. He had a meeting with Ukrainian President Zelensky, and he got a readout of the call the following day. And so the inquiry from Congress is, “What did you know? Did you ever talk to Zelensky about these investigations? What did you know … What was the 2016 and the Biden family, what do you know about this?” And so at this point, he’s not accused of wrongdoing, so much as he didn’t stop wrongdoing, potentially from happening, and he’s a witness to it.

Anne Milgram:             And so again, I agree with you. I think he has stayed away from, by and large, the controversies and the things that the President has done. He is squarely in the middle of this one.

Preet Bharara:              And the President threw him into the mix, I think at one point, in front of cameras, talking about his own beautiful and perfect phone call with Zelensky. Said, “The Vice President, Pence, had a call, too. You should look at his call,” which I’m sure the Vice President didn’t love very much.

Anne Milgram:             Let’s just talk for a second, since we’re here, about the White House subpoenas and the Pence request for documents. So Preet, while we’re talking about this, let’s just talk for a couple minutes about the fact that the White House has now gotten a subpoena that’s due back October 19th. And it’s basically asking for all of the information and materials related to this call and to the withholding of funds from Ukraine, everything to do with Ukraine.

Preet Bharara:              Right. That’s on top of the subpoenas we talked about last week, to Rudy Giuliani and others.

Anne Milgram:             And Mike Pompeo.

Preet Bharara:              And Mike Pompeo. So there’s a lot of information being sought.

Anne Milgram:             And there’s a request for information of Vice President Pence. It’s not a subpoena, yet. And the reason that Pence has gotten a request for information and not a subpoena is that the White House had previously received a request for information. They refused to provide it. They’ve indicated that they’re not going to be cooperative with Congress. And so Congress has basically said, “You’ve given us no choice but to paper you,” and now the White House has to decide, do they respond to the subpoena, do they go to court to quash the subpoena, what comes next?

Preet Bharara:              So some of the people from whom information has been requested and testimony has been sought, are the names we’ve been talking about. Kurt Volker has already come in. We’ve seen his opening statement. We haven’t seen the testimony, yet. Masha, Maria Yovanovitch?

Anne Milgram:             She’s scheduled to come in on the 11th.

Preet Bharara:              She’s going to come in?

Anne Milgram:             Yes.

Preet Bharara:              Ambassador Gordon Sondland?

Anne Milgram:             Sondland has been requested to come in. He’s been requested to be deposed by Congress. He has not confirmed or scheduled that, yet.

Preet Bharara:              And then a whole other bunch of folks. Now, what’s going on with Bill-

Anne Milgram:             And I suspect, by the way-

Preet Bharara:              What’s going on with Bill Taylor?

Anne Milgram:             So it’s just worth noting that there are a lot of other people that the committees have requested documents from and depositions from. They’ve asked to depose Deputy Assistance Secretary George Kent, one of the counselors, Ulrich Brechbuhl also not scheduled. Then a couple of Giuliani associates, the folks that I was mentioning were also related to this natural gas issue. They’ve been requested to be deposed. Lev Parnas, Igor Fruman. And then there are other Giuli associates, including someone named Semyon Kislin, who has been requested.

Anne Milgram:             And so there’s a lot, I think, that’s going to come. And one question for you, Preet is, how do you feel about the way the you and I are often critics of Congressional investigations and questioning? How do you feel like it’s being conducted, so far?

Preet Bharara:              So I think pretty thoroughly. And I think they have a good beat on what’s going on, and they have certain momentum, which I think is required for these kinds of investigations.

Preet Bharara:              The problem and the criticism that we sometimes cite is the inefficiency, inefficacy of having, for the first time, a witness come before a Congressional committee, and everyone gets five minutes. And we’ve often talked about how it might be better if you get a professional lawyer to ask those questions. Well, what’s even better than that is what they’re doing in this case. And that is, in the first instance, you have professional staff behind closed doors take lengthy depositions. The US Attorney firing investigation, that I helped to lead back in 2007 was exactly that. No one ever saw me ask a question at at hearing. But I took hours and hours of depositions, along with some of my colleagues, on both the Democratic and Republican side. I mean, once we did a deposition for 10 hours, of the then-Attorney General’s Chief of Staff. And then that information, because you get to explore everything the person can’t filibuster, you can go and ask the same question 20 times, and you don’t have to worry that the clock is ticking. We went all day.

Preet Bharara:              And then you take that information, you give it to the members who were actually elected by the public, and then when they have their public hearing following the behind closed doors depositions, they can be more focused. They can impeach the witness, to use that term, based on things that they said in the deposition; if they’re changing their mind publicly. And it’s just a much more efficient, much more thorough way of doing it.

Anne Milgram:             Yeah, it seems to be excellent. And I would say the behind closed doors piece also takes a lot of the political grandstanding out of it, at this point. And so there’s a huge amount of momentum, and I think effectiveness that they’ll get for this investigation, by doing it the way they’re doing it.

Preet Bharara:              Now, do you think this is all going to be wrapped up by Thanksgiving or the end of the year? Because that seems to be some people’s speculation. Now, you and I, as litigators know when you throw out this many requests for information and think about how many fights there will be about subsets of this and whether or not they can proceed without getting some of this, because some of the court battles might be lengthy. What are the odds this is going to wrap up soon? Doesn’t look like it.

Anne Milgram:             That’s a great question. I think they should keep the end of the year as their deadline. I don’t think Thanksgiving is remotely possible, for the reasons you just said; which is that there are individuals who they will want to hear from, who … or at least depose; whether or not they call them before the committee. But they will want people on record. It’s critical, when you do these investigations, not to have folks out there that you believe have important information, who have not provided that information to you. And so I think that litigation could take a period of time. Also, here’s the other thing, I think. We’re just talking about State Department employees right now. We haven’t gotten to the OMB people who didn’t realize the money that Congress had appropriated.

Preet Bharara:              Office of Management and Budget. Right.

Anne Milgram:             Yes. And so there are a lot … We haven’t gotten to the other Intelligence employees, potentially.

Preet Bharara:              And the White House people, who were putting the phone calls, specific phone calls, in the special server.

Anne Milgram:             So there are a lot of people. And I agree with you, I would do depositions of everyone at this moment in time. And that is going to require a huge amount of time and effort. And then you’ve got to think about committee hearings and process. So I think they should push to get it done by the end of the year. I think it’s really important for the American public, but I think it’s hard.

Preet Bharara:              But it’s hard. One thing they have laid the groundwork for, even if they don’t get all the information, is the assertion that they will draw adverse inferences if there is no information handed over.

Anne Milgram:             Yes.

Preet Bharara:              And also, they might also view that as obstruction, itself. And it might be standalone articles of impeachment, based on that refusal to give information over.

Anne Milgram:             I think that’s right. And I think there are individuals for whom they will make a decision that they’re not going to litigate for six months or a year, to get the information. But I also do think that there may be individuals that they’re going to push to get in. In part because if they vote articles of impeachment and it goes to trial, you and I both know you want to know what all the witnesses are going to say before the matter goes to trial.

Preet Bharara:              Yes.

Anne Milgram:             And to the extent that they have the ability and courts will enforce the Congress’s ability to have witnesses speak to them, which I believe they have; you want those people to have to go on record in some form, before they stand up at a trial in the United States Senate and start saying, “Oh, here’s what I think.”

Preet Bharara:              Yeah.

Anne Milgram:             Or, “Here’s what I did.”

Preet Bharara:              It’ll be interesting. When we get further along, we can talk about what the procedures in the Senate would be for a trial. And as far as I know right now, that’s kind of up to Mitch McConnell. And it could be a quick cursory affair, or it could be long and detailed, with process for both sides. But you’re exactly right. It should not be the case, if you want to have a fair outcome, that the President withholds witnesses from coming forward and then at a trial in the Senate

Anne Milgram:             Gets to bring them out.

Preet Bharara:              Gets to bring them out.

Anne Milgram:             Yes.

Preet Bharara:              Because that doesn’t seem to be fair.

Preet Bharara:              So by the way, the other thing is that we mostly talked just about Ukraine.

Anne Milgram:             There’s a lot happening.

Preet Bharara:              There’s also China.

Anne Milgram:             Right.

Preet Bharara:              And the President stands on the front lawn and says, “I think that the Bidens should be investigated for China.” We’re running a little short on time, so we can’t go through all the details, but that’s another country where just because you’re making the request publicly, doesn’t mean it’s not inappropriate. And I’ve seen very few people, as we discussed already, defending it; other than to say, “Well, the President really didn’t mean it.”

Anne Milgram:             Right. And the allegation I think the President is making there is that Hunter Biden was part of a fund that was raising money, and there’s reporting that Hunter Biden and some others talked with Chinese private equity investors about joining together to create a fund that would invest Chinese capital, and potentially other capital from other countries outside of China.

Anne Milgram:             And so I think that Biden was eventually an investor in the fund; he wasn’t initially. And then he later had some investment in the fund. There’s no allegation of wrongdoing. I think the allegation, potentially would be that Biden was profiting because he worked with the Chinese individuals and that, in some way, being related to the former Vice President was meaningful. He didn’t actually invest until after Biden was no longer Vice President. It was 2017. Again, it feels just like smoke and mirrors.

Preet Bharara:              And the amount of money, the $1.5 billion, is a big number. It gets thrown around.

Anne Milgram:             It looks like-

Preet Bharara:              Didn’t it come from one source?

Anne Milgram:             Yeah, it looks like $420,000.

Preet Bharara:              Yeah. By the way, the President also-

Anne Milgram:             But again, I don’t want to say in any way … By giving that information, I just want people who listen to us to know what’s happening and why the President is standing there saying that China needs to investigate. There’s zero allegations that have been supported of wrongdoing. And so it’s just important to know that right at this point, it’s just … It’s like the President is just basically throwing out things, hoping that they’ll stick. And this is an example.

Preet Bharara:              And he’s got one critic who he’s gone after, who, I welcome him to the fold of folks who are calling out the President; former Presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who tweeted, “When the only American citizen President Trump singles out for China’s investigation is his political opponent, in the midst of the Democratic nomination process, it strains credulity to suggest that it is anything other than politically motivated.” And then he says, “What the President has done here, his appeal to China and to Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden is wrong and appalling.”

Preet Bharara:              How’d the President take that?

Anne Milgram:             Not well. It’s funny. The President actually lashed out more against Romney than most other folks.

Preet Bharara:              Than against Putin?

Anne Milgram:             Yeah. MbS, Mohammad Bin Salman. Yes, it’s really interesting. So Trump writes back, “Mitt, get off the stage. You’ve had your turn (twice).” And he then, in response to a tweet that says, “Question of the afternoon: Has #MittRomney become the new #JeffFlake, or is the latest back and forth,” meaning the back and forth with the President, “much ado about nothing?” To which the President responds, “No, Kevin. Jeff Flake is better.”

Preet Bharara:              And then my favorite is where Trump says, “I’m hearing that the Great People of Utah are considering their vote for their pompous Senator, Mitt Romney, to be a big mistake. I agree. He is a fool who is playing right into the hands of the do-nothing Democrats.” And then he writes, “#impeachMittRomney.”

Anne Milgram:             Yes, exactly.

Preet Bharara:              So first of all, you can’t-

Anne Milgram:             I shouldn’t be impeached, but Mitt Romney should be impeached for criticizing me.

Preet Bharara:              It’s not a thing.

Anne Milgram:             Yes.

Preet Bharara:              You can’t impeach a Senator.

Anne Milgram:             Yes.

Preet Bharara:              That’s been understood for a very long time.

Anne Milgram:             That’s right.

Preet Bharara:              And I mentioned over the weekend, if we hold the President to the standard that he holds other people to, either for treason or for criminal responsibility or for conspiracy or for impeachment; just hold everyone to the standard he holds … Just hold him to the standard that he holds for everybody else. He would’ve been impeached and tried for crimes long ago.

Anne Milgram:             Yeah. A long time ago. Yes. It’s like one of the things your grandmom would say, “He can dish it out, but he can’t take it.”

Preet Bharara:              My grandmother never would’ve said that.

Anne Milgram:             She wouldn’t have?

Preet Bharara:              Yeah.

Anne Milgram:             Yeah.

Preet Bharara:              That’s not really-

Anne Milgram:             You have any good proverbs?

Preet Bharara:              I don’t.

Anne Milgram:             Anything?

Preet Bharara:              I don’t today.

Anne Milgram:             Speaking about China, we should talk about a couple of other things that came out about the President during the past week. And again, there’s so much. There’s reporting from the President; in an interview with Fox Business in April of 2017, saying he informed the Chinese President, Xi Jinping, about airstrikes that he had authorized in Syria, while they were dining together at his ocean side club. This is the President of the Untied States, “I was sitting at the table. We had finished dinner. We’re now having dessert, and we had the most beautiful piece of chocolate cake that you’ve ever seen. And President Xi was enjoying it.” Trump said before he the interviewer, the Fox News interviewer that he was told that the airstrikes on Syria were ready to go. Trump then adds that he told Xi that the United States had, “Just fired 59 missiles heading to Iraq,” which is not the country they were actually heading to. They were heading to Syria. But-

Preet Bharara:              But he was confused by the cake.

Anne Milgram:             He was confused by the cake. And then President Trump comes back on Xi and says, “And he was eating his cake, and he was silent. We were almost finished. It was a full day in Palm Beach. We’re almost finished, and what does he do? Finishes his dessert and goes home.” The chocolate cake-

Preet Bharara:              I kind of want some chocolate cake, now.

Anne Milgram:             How did that even come back, this past week, that the chocolate cake … I guess because we’ve been talking so much about China.

Preet Bharara:              I guess.

Anne Milgram:             Do you think that the President of China could be bribed with a piece of chocolate cake?

Preet Bharara:              I don’t think so.

Anne Milgram:             Was it a quid pro quo, or something?

Preet Bharara:              I don’t think so.

Anne Milgram:             So here’s the other revelation that come out during the past week, again, after the President was going around calling on all world leaders to investigate his political opponents. It came out that the President … And this doesn’t relate to that, but it’s still a moment worth pausing on; that he was pestering the Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzō Abe, for help in recommending Trump for a Nobel Prize.

Preet Bharara:              Right.

Anne Milgram:             … during a call. Now, Preet, why would you ask the Japanese Prime Minister for a Nobel Prize recommendation? I don’t know.

Preet Bharara:              He should’ve given him some cake.

Anne Milgram:             He should’ve given him …

Preet Bharara:              Should’ve said, “If I give you this piece of chocolate cake-”

Anne Milgram:             “From Mar-a-Lago, will you-”

Preet Bharara:              I can’t believe that the Nobel Prize is being conditioned on chocolate cake. Maybe there’s some texts about this. All right so look-

Anne Milgram:             Heroes and villains, Preet?

Preet Bharara:              I imagine that there will be more revelations in the coming week. And some of these folks may testify, and maybe we’ll hear about other countries that are swept into all of this. But until next week, Anne?

Anne Milgram:             Please send us your questions, and we’ll try our best to answer them.

Preet Bharara:              Thanks again.

Anne Milgram:             Take care.

Preet Bharara:              This is the CAFE Insider podcast. Your hosts are Preet Bharara and Anne Milgram. The executive producer is Tamara Sepper. The Senior Producer is Aaron Dalton, and the CAFE team is Carla Pierini, Julie Doyle, Calvin Lord, David Kerlander, and Geoff Isenman. Our music is by Andrew Dost. Thank you for being a part of the CAFE Insider community.

 

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