Preet Bharara: From CAFE, welcome to CAFE Insider. I’m Preet Bharara.
Anne Milgram: And I’m Anne Milgram.
Preet Bharara: Hi, Anne.
Anne Milgram: Hey, Preet. Happy birthday.
Preet Bharara: Thank you. I turned 31.
Anne Milgram: Yeah. I’m still 29, although our five year old said last year, “Does this mean you have to be 30 now?” Math is a bad thing.
Preet Bharara: Perpetual 29. I noted that you went to another aquarium.
Anne Milgram: We did.
Preet Bharara: Where’d you go?
Anne Milgram: We went to the Georgia Aquarium, the largest aquarium in the western hemisphere, I think, and definitely the biggest aquarium in the United States. And it’s an amazing aquarium with four whale sharks and four manta rays, among other things.
Preet Bharara: Okay. I was not so interested in those things, but I was interested based on the conversation we had I think last week, your analogy about penguins and stealing penguins. Did you steal a penguin? You tweeted, I think, about stealing a penguin.
Anne Milgram: I did tweet about a penguin, but I did not tweet about stealing a penguin. We met this penguin named Charlie who just turned 33 this past summer, which is kind of an extraordinary thing for a penguin, an African penguin. They usually live to about 18 or 20. Charlie’s also had the same mate for more than 20 years, and he is awesome. I tweeted out a picture. But let me just say, he’s still in the Georgia Aquarium where he belongs, safe and sound.
Preet Bharara: Was there any quid pro quo with the penguin?
Anne Milgram: For in exchange for taking his photograph?
Preet Bharara: Well, I don’t know. Military assistance [inaudible 00:01:24], Rudy Giuliani have anything to do-
Anne Milgram: He did not. There was no money that was exchanged, there were no military assistance, and no criminal investigations.
Preet Bharara: Do you think the penguin would be a good personal lawyer to the president?
Anne Milgram: Better than Rudy, you mean?
Preet Bharara: Okay. That’s my segue, that’s my segue into this week’s program. And by the way, we laugh, and I think most people appreciate it. There’s no way you and I can get through life and the news unless we can laugh a little bit, even though, obviously, so much of this is deadly serious, and painful, and terrible, especially something that we probably will not get into much here, the situation with Turkey and Syria.
Anne Milgram: Yes, that’s right.
Preet Bharara: So we have two broad things to talk about this week. We have all the developments with respect to impeachment. Then we have the developments with respect to Rudy, and some of his associates who were charged by the SDNY. Those two things are actually not totally separate, they’re connected to each other. First on impeachment, there was this letter from the White House counsel’s office to the congressional committees signed by the White House counsel, Pat Cipollone that has been roundly trashed in which they basically said the White House said they were not going to cooperate with impeachment in any way, shape, or form because there hasn’t been a full vote in the house.
Preet Bharara: So three people, two of whom I believe are still with the government, all have defied the party line from the White House. Fiona Hill, White House advisor on Russia, Gordon Sondland, the ambassador to the EU, and Marie Masha Yovanovitch who was the ambassador to Ukraine, all decided they want to come forward and talk to Congress. What do you make of all of that? What do you make of the defiance?
Anne Milgram: So I think that’s a great question and think if I could just go high level for a second as we get into what’s happening and as we see people from government testifying, you tweeted out, I think it was last week or maybe the week before that you sort of thought all of this was unraveling for the president and that the dam was essentially about to break. And I think I would just sort of say high level. I think that’s right. And I think that every day we’re seeing more information that both corroborates the whistleblower that there was an effort by president Trump and the administration to essentially exert political influence to get Ukraine to do an investigation into Biden and into the 2016 election. And now we’re seeing all these sort of threads of it both come together and get exposed. And so just to put that really high level, I think you sort of called that, “We were going to see just a torrent of information and news.” And we’re seeing it.
Anne Milgram: So about these people coming forward, and one of the things that’s really interesting to note is you have this White House counsel letter and I agree with you. The whole argument is it’s not fair to the president and this is a due process violation. The president should get to call witnesses. It’s sort of all these things that are actually not true, but sort of arguably on its face something that a lot of people might say, “Oh yeah, that makes sense.” But it’s really just an effort for the administration to try to say like, “Wait, you’re not being fair to the president.” There’s no basis in law for that. The United States Constitution gives the House of Representatives complete authority to conduct impeachment proceedings as they see fit. And so that’s what’s happening.
Anne Milgram: So enter into this, you’ve got this letter saying, “No one’s going to cooperate.” And then you’ve got members of government and you’re right two have already testified under subpoena and a lot more scheduled to testify this week. These people are coming forward and there are a couple of points worth making. One is that at the end of the day, these folks in my mind are being very courageous because the White House is saying, “We don’t want you to testify.” And the president is the head of the executive branch. At the same time, another branch of government, Congress is issuing lawful subpoenas, basically compelling people to show up and these individual employees are putting a really tough situation. They’re either going to say no to the president or they’re going to say no to Congress and here what we see are people are, they’re showing up for Congress and they’re honoring lawful subpoenas, which compel them to appear and to testify.
Preet Bharara: I have no doubt that there’s this conflict going on in these people’s minds. It is true that with respect to Gordon Sondland for example, who’s one of the people who was engaged in that texting back and forth and we’ll get to that in more detail in a second. He was asked to testify, flew all the way in from Belgium, I believe, and at the last minute the White House said no issued this letter. Then the Congress issued him a subpoena after which he said he’s going to testify and he’s testifying on Thursday. So it took a subpoena and I guess the other thing that I wonder is what if anything can the White House do to somebody who decides that when in receipt of a subpoena they’re going to come testify, I guess they could be dismissed.
Anne Milgram: Yeah. I mean I think the consequences that you could be fired, obviously not directly by the president, but secretary Pompeo could basically say, “I’m firing you. I’m reassigning you. I’m giving you, I’m suspending you.” Any of the sort of negative performance actions. Now here, I think these folks have really good arguments that they are akin to whistleblowers, right? They’re coming forward to provide information, they’ve been asked, they’re compelled now. And that’s the importance of the subpoena. And we should talk about this for a second because what Congress has done throughout this investigation at the beginning was to basically put in requests for testimony and documents. Basically going to members of the State Department and former government officials and saying, “Please show up.” And giving everyone a chance to voluntarily come in.
Anne Milgram: Now that’s a polite way to do it, it’s a very respectful way to do it, but it actually there are a number of problems with it, including the fact that you end up in this situation where if it’s just a voluntary request, and you balance that against the president of the United States and the White House counsel saying, “We’re not cooperating, no one should go.” The voluntary request kind of has to be declined. Right? Your boss is saying, “Don’t do it.” Whereas a subpoena is a lawful compulsion to appear and to cooperate, which feels to me really different. So I think the question predis-
Preet Bharara: All those subpoenas had been defied also.
Anne Milgram: Yes. And they could be defied and then Congress would have to go to court. But if you were sitting in the committee, I mean, wouldn’t you just put everyone under subpoena?
Preet Bharara: Yeah, I mean I think sometimes for optics purposes you want to not look like you’re being heavy handed. And as an initial matter, I mean we would do this often. You ask for voluntary testimony and you see where they’re going to play ball or not and if not, you’re perfectly willing to issue a subpoena. Sometimes witnesses when I was in the Congress too would say, “Look, I don’t want to look too eager to come in.” The lawyer would say, “But I’m not going to defy a subpoena.” So as an initial instance, why don’t we get rid of the middleman and jump straight to the subpoena and that’s all fine too. There’s this concern that lots and lots of people wouldn’t come forward. And for a while I think they have been held at bay, but there is something about this, whatever metaphor you want to choose straw breaking the camel’s back or the dam breaking or the camel breaking the dam or the dam breaking the Camel, I don’t know what you want to call it, but things do have a certain kind of momentum.
Preet Bharara: You heard the one whistleblower, we haven’t heard a lot about the second whistleblower. Maybe there’ll be more of them, but I think people will sense not to happen upon yet another metaphor. They sense a ship sinking and they want to be on the right side of this. So maybe we should get to the most dramatic testimony that’s most recent. Yesterday, October 14th this woman that probably most people have never heard of who didn’t work in the State Department, worked in the White House as a Russian advisor, Fiona Hill said a lot of stuff and bear in mind we only have some selective statements from these bits of testimony that people have given. And maybe if you have the full transcript of everyone’s testimony from the last few days, maybe a slightly different picture will emerge. But it’s hard to understand how differently the picture will look when you hear her reporting. That Someone like John Bolton, who was briefly the national security advisor, I think he was the 17th or 18th right? National Security Advisor to the president following in the immortal footsteps of Michael Flynn.
Anne Milgram: Right. So Fiona Hill is quoted in the New York times as having said that Bolton told her, “I am not part of whatever drug deal Sondland and Mulvaney are cooking up.” Referring to Sondland, the ambassador to the EU and Mulvaney who’s both the acting chief of staff and head of OMB.
Preet Bharara: And didn’t she also say that Bolton referred to Rudy Giuliani by a particular kind of munition?
Anne Milgram: Yes. She said that Bolton said to her, “Giuliani’s a hand grenade who’s going to blow everybody up.” And she quoted Bolton, as saying that during an earlier conversation.
Preet Bharara: Do you agree with that metaphor?
Anne Milgram: Do you know what’s so interesting? I know there are a lot of metaphors today. I was thinking about this last night and it sort of goes to this conversation about people coming forward and the momentum, but I do think it’s a little bit like you can read about Watergate and you can think about what Archibald Cox did, what John did like you can think about how would you have fallen in those circumstances? What would you have done? And what’s amazing is that these people who work in the White House and the State Department, and obviously probably also the Office of Management and Budget and the Pentagon, they’re literally they’re living this and they’re making these decisions as these events happen. And what is extraordinary about this is that … And Fiona Hill left before she left the White House. She was there since 2017 she left before the July 25th call between Trump and Zelensky, the Ukrainian president.
Anne Milgram: What’s amazing though is that if what’s reported is accurate, and we have no reason at this moment not to believe it is, Bolton literally stopped a meeting and stood up and said no more because he was so troubled by this quid pro quo deal that was going down between the White House asking for Ukraine to be involved in the political election. And so what’s really important about that is it’s not an outsider, it’s not a whistleblower from another government agency. It’s literally the president’s handpicked head of intelligence for the United States of America. Right? The John Bolton has an incredibly high level position picked by the president, conservative longterm Republican who basically says, “I can’t be involved in this. This is essentially a crime”. And he calls the flag and he cares so much about it that he has Hill go to the White House counsel, the deputy White House counsel in charge of national security. A guy named John Eisenberg and report it to him and then do a follow-up meeting with him. And so-
Preet Bharara: It’s a constant trend here that you have people who I don’t think are generally heroic people and who have a lot of problems, whether you’re talking about Don McGahn, the former White House counsel, where he had lines that he would not cross. And I think in many ways he was a disastrous White House counsel and did not do well by the country in some ways. And here the idea that you and I are sitting here applauding John Bolton because he had a particular line that he would not go past given the rest of some of his bellicose language and attitudes and a little bit of craziness in some of his views. That even he who thought that presidential power should be very, very broad, interpreted very, very broadly. Even a guy like him thought this is a bridge too far and as you say, “Not a whistleblower, not someone from the outside, someone from the inside.”
Preet Bharara: And also begs the question that we should think about it in a larger context. Why do people like John Bolton come into the administration knowing what the president is like, knowing how the president conducts himself and then why on the other hand is the president hiring people like this, knowing that they may clash because these people don’t last very long. I mean it’s not sort of central to impeachment, it’s not central to the scandals that are unfolding, but it is I think central to how this White House is run and what further defections you’re going to see going forward. And if John Bolton’s planning to himself come in, I think the logical next step is to have John Bolton come and testify and confirm and corroborate what Fiona Hill says he said, which I expect he will do. At which point-
Anne Milgram: What about the White House counsel lawyer? Do you think there’s any chance he’ll come in?
Preet Bharara: I don’t think so. I mean not so long as he is the White House counsel but you are seeing lots of folks that I never expected would come forward coming forward.
Anne Milgram: How important do you think this is? I mean I think there’s two sort of ways to see the Fiona Hill testimony. One is legal, how important it is for the impeachment investigation, and the other is political. How important it is to the sort of national conversation and public sentiment about it.
Preet Bharara: I think public sentiment is critical. Look my position in looking at the Ukraine scandal is on its face based on what you have so far, based on the admissions of the president, based on the limited readout of the call between president Trump and president Zelensky of Ukraine. Now withstanding all these other figures coming into play and other plot developments and arguments being made, it is very, very simple and doesn’t need to be complicated. The president of United States asked a foreign leader to investigate a political rival. That’s it. So when folks are having their dinner party discussions or a water cooler conversations or debates among friends and neighbors, don’t get distracted from this main point that on its face alone, fully corroborated conceited, admitted by the president on national television is an impeachable offense. Then you have all these other layers, which helped to sway public sentiment even further because the quid pro quo to the extent it can be proven, makes the first offense that I’m talking about much, much, much worse.
Preet Bharara: I think it’s bad just to do it on its own, but if it was in connection with withholding aid or withholding a White House meeting, then that’s deadly. I think to the president’s case, and so Fiona Hill, who’s somebody who’s worked in public service for a very, very long time has no reason to have her credibility doubted, although I’m sure she’ll be the subject of character assassination also. Each additional person who talks about this shadow foreign policy and talks about this clear concern and danger of the quid pro quo and we’ll get into Gordon Sondland in a moment. It makes it just harder to say, “Oh, well the whistleblower made something up.” When you have person after person after person saying these things about whom other public servants and journalists can report that they have reasons to be found credible. I think public sentiment shifts and the only way impeachment is going to have an impact and the only way there’s going to be a change in the minds of some Republicans with respect to almost certain trial in the Senate is public sentiment.
Anne Milgram: Yeah, I mean, I feel like Fiona Hill’s testimony is devastating period. If you put John Bolton on top of it and if he does come in and testify, you’re talking about the president’s handpicked National Security Advisor who the president trusted to do that job saying this, and I think that ultimately has to carry weight. At least it carries a lot of weight in my mind that it’s not just now that we’re looking at this from the outside saying, “There’s a problem.” It’s someone in real time trying to stop this from happening and essentially saying, “I can’t be a part of this. I’m not in this. This is wrong.” And that’s really, really important longterm that. It’s not a political act by the Democratic party now to try to tarnish the president and undo the election. It was always wrong, and the president had people around him who he’d hand-selected, who knew it was wrong, and tried to report this at the time. And that to me is really, really important.
Preet Bharara: Yeah. The other thing that harms the president’s arguments and his credibility is a little bit of evidence comes forward. And they look at that and you’ve seen defense lawyers do this right? And they defend against it and say, “Well look at all these other things that are missing from this. Or look at all these reasons why this is not nefarious.” And so one argument they’ve made all along is, “Well you see this texting back and forth between Bill Taylor and Gordon Sondland.” And Gordon Sondland wrote this text, which maybe you should remind people of in a moment where he basically said, “The president’s been very clear he doesn’t want to quit pro quo.” And the president himself tweeted about it as if that’s his defense. Well now it appears we don’t know yet for certain because he hasn’t testified yet. But based on reporting and people who are familiar with his testimony are saying that Gordon Sondland will say something in particular that I think is harmful to the president about that texting. So remind folks what the exchange was.
Anne Milgram: Yeah. So going back, we have what’s been made public is the text message that William Taylor, who is the acting master to Ukraine, had sent to Sondland saying, “I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign.” And then that’s when Sondland according to public reporting, called the president, called president Trump, and talked it through with him. And then Sondland hours later responds to Taylor’s text and says that, “The president doesn’t want a quid pro quo, didn’t want anything from Ukraine.” And then basically says, “Let’s do the rest of this offline. Let’s not talk about this anymore. Let’s do it by phone.” And so there’s a couple layers of this and I think becomes so important. It’s what was pushed out yesterday by an affiliate or a colleague of Sondland. And so they put out some public information over the weekend, which was that Sondland would say that he’d been working at the direction of Rudy Giuliani to secure what Trump wanted, which was a public statement from Ukraine to investigate corruption.
Anne Milgram: And this argument was going to be that it wasn’t corrupt, that they basically just wanted Ukraine to agreed to investigate corruption in exchange for a meeting I think at the White House and these conversations. So on its face, I would’ve said to you that what Sondland was going to testify to on Thursday and I think keep in mind the question I’m going to ask you at the end is, is Sondland still going to testify Thursday? Because I’m wondering whether he will. So Sondland was going to basically come in and say, “I didn’t know there was anything going on that was wrong. I didn’t know about the investigation of the Bidens and bellissima all that. I just knew that we were trying to sort of get Ukraine to do more on corruption.” On its face, it is not credible to me Sondland’s argument because he stops, he has been working on Ukraine with Volker and Taylor. Taylor makes an explicit reference to this quid pro quo.
Anne Milgram: It’s very clear from the conversations and the texts from Volker that Sondland is a part of these ongoing conversations and aware of it. And he calls the president. So something makes him say, “Oh, oh I got to figure out what to do. And then to call the president to figure out how to respond.” So I wrote these notes last night saying, “There’s no way this is right.” Right? Basically saying, “There’s no way that Sondland’s telling the truth.” And by the way, on its face it’s already corrupt because you have Giuliani who’s involved in administering the foreign policy of the US you’ve got [inaudible 00:19:03] who there’s some indication Sondland knew about [inaudible 00:19:06]. There was no argument that they should be investigated again. And you’ve got the president of Ukraine refusing to sign that statement that the White House wanted basically about corruption because he didn’t think it was right.
Anne Milgram: He thought he was getting involved in an election, so Sondland had to have known. Now what happens yesterday with Fiona Hill’s testimony is that she put Sondland in the room during a lot of these conversations. And so I think the problem now for Sondland is that Sondland’s in the same room that Bolton’s in and Bolton puts a flag on the play and says, “No, this is wrong.” To the extent that he has her reported to a White House lawyer. So how does Sondland now come in and say, “Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil. I was involved in this, but I had no idea what was happening.”
Preet Bharara: Yeah. So here’s the problem for Gordon Sondland, right? At a minimum, he is no longer a wonderful character in fact, witness for the president’s side. If you credit what people say he’s going to testify about. And that is very simply the text exchange that we spent a lot of time on and other people spent a lot of time on where Bill Taylor, the former ambassador to Ukraine, and then acting ambassador to Ukraine says, “I can’t believe we’re going to condition this on that.” And then Gordon Sondland waits on number of hours and then has a very sort of rehearsed and legally written text in response. And as you point out, we now know that in the intervening hours he talked to the president and basically the president, according to Sondland dictated that. That means that Gordon Sondland no longer seems to be adopting as his own understanding of affairs, that there was no quid pro quo. He’s like the president said it. I can only say that it’s true. He said it, not that it’s true itself, which if he says that as kind of an astonishing thing distancing himself from the president.
Preet Bharara: As you also point out, as often happens with witnesses who are a little bit in the soup, he at the same time wants to minimize his own activities and minimize his own involvement in all of this. And as you pointed out, it’s not that believable. I mean he’s the one person in this group who really has no diplomatic experience. He’s a hotelier, rich guy gave $1 million to the inauguration committee for Donald Trump and gets an ambassadorship to the EU. Unclear why he’s even involved in any of this. So are his hands dirty? Yes. Is he trying to clean his hands now? Yes. And I think sophisticated people, reasonable and thoughtful folks who are trying to sift the evidence and look at the different pieces of testimony in the facts can come to their own conclusions about what you can credit with respect to Gordon Sondland and what you can’t, I don’t think you need to throw out everything, I don’t think you need to accept everything.
Preet Bharara: But it seems I think significant that the fact that he wants to distance himself from this idea that there was absolutely clearly no quid pro quo and rather he wants to say, “I didn’t know that there was this stuff going on.” Signals the significance of his concern about the quid pro quo. Right? So like the one guy you thought that was going to come to the aid of the president is distancing himself where everyone else is burying the president on this point.
Anne Milgram: Yeah, he was distancing himself before, but now I think he has a problem, which is that he has going to have to defend himself and his conduct because it’s clear that he’s not being truthful. And the way I think about this a little bit is he’s … We see this a lot when you do criminal investigations, it’s a little of the admit what you can’t deny and deny what you can’t admit. And so he wants to basically carve out his culpability according to the facts that were known, particularly this text message. But even on its face, it strains credibility because if someone sent you a text message like that and you really didn’t know what was going on, you would say, “What are you talking about? You would immediately have this very human reaction to say, “Wait, what?”
Preet Bharara: Right. No, but his antenna went up.
Anne Milgram: Yeah, and so he called the president because he knows what’s going on and he knows that they have a problem, which is that they were just papered on the conditioning of military aid. With this investigation.
Preet Bharara: We should pause for a moment to give this public service announcement about investigations that occurs to me. This is a reason why generally in criminal investigations, prosecutors and law enforcement agents are so careful and rigorous about having people come and testify and give information in private, in secret without letting the public know what it is that people said. You know why? So that you don’t get a Sondland situation where he can piece together from other people’s testimony and reporting and leaks pieced together tailored testimony that does exactly that. Where he can walk a fine line between admitting what he has to because he knows other people have said it and those other people are credible and denying what he can yet deny.
Preet Bharara: In the absence of this public reporting, it would be really interesting to see what Gordon Sondland says from beginning to end not knowing, and that’s the prisoner’s dilemma that law enforcement relies on all the time. You don’t know what the other guys are going to say. You know what the truth is? You know the other people know what the truth is. You don’t know if they’re lying or telling the truth, how much they revealed. And so you can get yourself in deeper and deeper soup if you lie then, but now, because a lot of this is public, it’s a congressional type of hearing as opposed to a private closed door typical criminal proceeding, he’s walking the line, and I agree with you it’s a dangerous one.
Anne Milgram: And what do you think, I agree with you he’s in a soup. Does he still testify pursuant to the subpoena on Thursday? Because I think he potentially-
Preet Bharara: I think so.
Anne Milgram: Has liability-
Preet Bharara: So why do you thinking though?
Anne Milgram: I think the question is, if you think about this ultimately, and again, when it comes to the president and impeachment, we’re not talking about criminal charges, but at the end of the day I think there would be potential criminal charges if it’s proven that there was a conspiracy to essentially influence a foreign government in this way. And so I don’t know whether he’s thinking that, but I think if you were his lawyer-
Preet Bharara: He [inaudible 00:24:36] take five.
Anne Milgram: I don’t know. I wonder if he would take five and, which is the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which says, “You can’t be compelled to provide testimony against yourself.” Because it could be used against him in a subsequent criminal prosecution. Now, there’s no indication there’s a current grand jury, there’s no indication that there is any type of criminal prosecution. But if you or I represented him as a lawyer, which we obviously don’t, but if someone represented him as a lawyer, you have to be thinking about that given where that stand’s now.
Preet Bharara: well, you know what? You just raised a very interesting question that we should pause to talk about. So if there’s an important witness in connection with all this Ukraine business who decides in consultation with a lawyer to plead the Fifth Amendment and refuse to come testify because such testimony might incriminate that person, that’s a big deal. And although in our criminal legal system, the fact of the invocation of the Fifth Amendment, as everyone knows, if you’ve practiced law or if you’ve been in, if you watched TV can’t be used against the person. You can’t draw any inference from the fact that someone invokes their Fifth Amendment right, but two things are also true. One that doesn’t stop the public from making a determination about why someone is pleading the Fifth Amendment, which is further buttressed by the fact that I remember seeing footage of Donald Trump himself at rallies contrary to sort of the basic principles of criminal jurisprudence in this country said multiple times, “When someone takes the fifth, that means they’re a criminal.” So he has said that himself about other people in other contexts.
Donald Trump: Fifth Amendment, Fifth Amendment, Fifth Amendment horrible. If you’re innocent, why you’re taking the first amendment? When you have yourself taking the Fifth Amendment, taking the fifth so they’re not prosecuted. I think it’s disgraceful.
Preet Bharara: So it will be an earthquake if Gordon Sondland or someone else who otherwise is a close advisor to the president and involved in the Ukraine mess pleads the Fifth Amendment. And then the second thing I think is true, and people will write in if I’m wrong, although in a criminal case, someone’s decision to plead the Fifth Amendment can’t be used against that person. I don’t know whether that’s true in impeachment, that is not governed by the normal laws of evidence. And whether or not members of the house can draw an adverse inference from not just someone’s refusal to come and speak or obstruction with respect to giving documents, but even a direct invocation of the Fifth Amendment. Can members of the house draw an adverse inference that you’re not permitted to do in a criminal trial, but can they do it in an impeachment proceeding in a way that supports their vote in favor of impeachment?
Anne Milgram: That’s a great question and I think we’re going to have to see what happens on Thursday. But the minute I read this, I thought, “Oh, he’s about to walk in.” And if the house panels do a good job Sondland will not be able to maintain this argument he was making yesterday. I believe that he didn’t know anything, that he trusted Trump’s response to him, that there was nothing wrong and that there was no quid pro quo. And so I think this raises a really interesting question for what happens this week in Congress. So we have a question from a listener @PreetBharara @AnneMilgram, in this episode, meaning the episode from last week of the #CAFEInsider, “You both used the term quote papering. What does it mean? The interwebs aren’t being helpful because I don’t think you’re talking about wallpaper or theater tickets. #askpreetaskanne.”
Anne Milgram: And so we do use this, it’s a common sort of way people think as prosecutors and government lawyers even, but the idea of papering is that someone put something in writing so that there’s a written record of something that took place and so later it can’t be denied or alleged that something else happened. It’s meant to … Here, when you think about Bill Taylor’s text message, he’s basically really uncomfortable with something happening. And so he decides I’m going to explicitly say what I think is happening so that it’s clear that I’m not part of this quid pro quo, this conditioning assistance to Ukraine on help with the political election.
Anne Milgram: And so we talk about he and others papering things, creating a record that is independent of just a conversation so that there’s some version of events that’s written down and it becomes much harder for the other side of a conversation to deny. We also saw it frankly, with Jim Conley after his repeated meetings with president Trump, he went back and wrote almost contemporaneous memos of what had happened. He’s making a written record of what he thought had happened. And so it’s something that people in government do, not frequently, but it is something that people do when they’re concerned about whether or not they may be getting involved in something they shouldn’t or if someone else is doing something that they think is inappropriate.
Preet Bharara: So the removed ambassador to Ukraine, Masha Yovanovitch testified just a few days ago, but it seems like 100 years ago, and we should talk about that for a minute. I think she set forth how much she cares about her responsibility, how much she cares about American National Security. What’d you make of her testimony? And by the way, we don’t have all of it. We have the opening statement, I believe.
Anne Milgram: Yeah, I think we probably only have like the tip of the iceberg on it. But she made a concerted point of saying that she was removed because of pressure that president Trump had placed on the State Department, that she had been told by the deputy secretary of state that she had done nothing wrong, but that had been a coordinated campaign to get her out. And she makes this direct connection. And I thought, well this was one of the most important parts and the reporting didn’t focus that much on it, but she led efforts to bolster Ukraine’s National Anti-Corruption Bureau. So that was an institution launched in 2014 aimed at fighting the corruption that is very prevalent in Ukraine. And so she made a lot of enemies. It’s very clear. And she really went out of her way to basically say that she believes that she made enemies because of her work with this anti-corruption endeavor.
Anne Milgram: And she basically says, “This is a problem for the United States.” Because if people who have interests that are contrary … People who have private financial interests for example, that go contrary to the work of what US ambassadors are doing. If they can lobby the White House and the State Department to have the ambassadors removed, it sends a terrible message worldwide that the United States essentially is open for corruption and open for business. And so she didn’t use those words, I’m paraphrasing, but it was a pretty chilling warning for a member, a longtime member of the diplomatic to basically say, “I was removed on a political basis. And essentially because I was doing anti-corruption work in Ukraine.”
Preet Bharara: And there’s been a reporting that one of the people who complained and was on a campaign to oust her is the ubiquitous Rudy Giuliani. And I think as we’ll get to him in a moment more directly, I think Rudy is going to be a gigantic problem for the president. And this whole idea of shadow diplomacy where you have a private citizen who is not really working in a legal capacity, although he claims that he was from time to time and other times claims that he wasn’t, doing things at the State Department, sometimes knew about, sometimes didn’t know about and to further the private personal or political interests of the president. And you have person after person saying they were alarmed by this conduct and behavior. And now you have the Southern District and I don’t want to jump ahead, but just to foreshadow you have his former office and my former office looking at his financial dealings and everything else-
Anne Milgram: And looking at his involvement in having the Ukraine ambassador removed as well.
Preet Bharara: Yes, 100% so it seems that the running thread through a lot of this is the rogue behavior, although maybe it was not so rogue as far as the president was concerned, but the rest of the administration is concerned the rogue behavior of Rudy Giuliani. I want to come back to the White House counsel’s letter, the Cipollone letter, I said when interviewed about this, when it first came out that, “I was frankly shocked by it because there had been other White House counsel letters that I’ve seen from this administration and certainly from other administrations with whose logic I disagreed and whose ultimate conclusion I thought was not right. But I’ve actually never seen such a non-legal, poorly written rhetorically ridiculous letter.”
Anne Milgram: Yes.
Preet Bharara: George Conway was on the podcast last week because people know, refer to it as garbage I think and trash. And it’s really stunning because you can make legal arguments and I’ve never seen one as bad as this before. Even when they were disagreeing with all sorts of things that the special counsel Robert Mueller was trying to do from time to time. I would read those letters and say, “Well I disagree.” But they’re putting the best face they can on their legal argument, which is what good lawyers do with good brief writers do. And then came the news, which explained a bit of it, and I think you have a dispute about this, that Donald Trump had a big role in this letter. Now you think because you’re quite smart enough.
Anne Milgram: Here’s what I think-
Preet Bharara: Is that quite smart. So I can state your position and then you can defend or abandon it that Donald Trump was not quite smart enough to have written a crappy letter like this.
Anne Milgram: I definitely don’t think he wrote it. Have you seen his text messages? First of all, if he wrote this memo it would be in all caps with many spelling mistakes and grammatical errors and so that’s number one-
Preet Bharara: So they ran it through the spell check?
Anne Milgram: Number two is that it’s legal- ish, right? And so-
Preet Bharara: Legal-ish you heard it here, ladies and gentlemen.
Anne Milgram: The title of our memoirs.
Preet Bharara: Can you get sealy can get continuing education credit for legal issues.
Anne Milgram: So here’s what I think he did. I think he was deeply involved and I think what he did, and it’s been reported that he brought the White House counsel into his office many times have conversations about this letter. I think that’s exactly what happened, which is Trump said, “Look, this is a due process violation.” And remember that the president is watching Fox News, hearing these Fox legal commentators say things like, “Why doesn’t the president get to call witnesses?” And so Trump is taking some of that, that legal-ish argument, which again is completely failing and non meritorious argument, but he’s taking some of that and he thinks, “Oh that makes sense to me.”
Anne Milgram: And he’s saying to the White House counsel, “I want you to argue it’s unfair. They’re violating my due process.” And then he leaves it to the White House counsel to try to craft a legal argument around this. And also the other piece of the letter, which is very much a part of Fox News and sort of the conservative media right now is this, the house has to vote in order for there to be an impeachment proceeding, which again is not legally true-
Preet Bharara: Right. But that’s at least an argument that has some foundation because there’s some precedent. But my favorite part of the letter, if one can have one is where, and I wrote about this in the insider note and the newsletter last week, but to state it against, I think it’s worth restating, they have this whole section where they’re attacking basically the bone a few days of the investigation and the people who are doing the investigation, one of whom is Adam Schiff. And they talk about this thing that Adam Schiff did, which was not good. Where he made some statement about whether or not there had been direct contact between the committee and the whistleblower before the whistleblower complaint was filed.
Preet Bharara: And it turns out that was not right and he’s apologized for it. And the Washington Post Fact Checker I think gave Adam Schiff four Pinocchios for that statement. And the letter goes on and on. Basically saying, “Well, this is a great source. The Washington Post Fact Checker.” Because Adam Schiff on this point gets four Pinocchios. I believe it was the first time Adam Schiff has ever gotten such a thing. I believe. So if that’s so, and this is such a great fact checker and it’s such a great source for determining the credibility of the speaker, one might wonder, well, did they ever make a finding about president Trump? Oh yes. President Trump, I think over 1,000 times has gotten four Pinocchios. In fact, they invented a term for him called the bottomless Pinocchio for four Pinocchio claims that he has made so many times they have to have their own category.
Preet Bharara: (singing)
Preet Bharara: So that’s the kind of nonsense garbage trash thing that these guys do. They take a statement made by someone else that they have apologized for and forget that their own guy has done it 1,000 times and never apologized for it and continues to lie. Now on the point about the house yeah good-
Anne Milgram: Here’s what’s stunning about that is even in the context of you and I are having a conversation about a White House counsel letter about an investigation and you and I would expect it to be filled with illegal arguments. And the conversation we just had that you were just talking about is a completely political argument when they’re attacking Schiff. And so it really does to me just sort of drive home the point of what it poorly written and reasoned letter that was, and by the way, the fact that it’s being disregarded by people in the executive branch, like the State Department is not surprising.
Preet Bharara: But at the end of look at the end of the day, it is correct that the constitution says “Sole exclusive authority for impeachment vests in the house.” They can do it basically how they want. I’m kind of, of the view that maybe Nancy Pelosi should think about having a full house vote. I know that she wants to protect some members from having to take such a vote who are in some more moderate or purple districts. But part of me wonders if you can call the president’s bluff and say, “Okay fine, we’ll take that vote.” They have enough votes to proceed and then takes away the principal argument. And I think these folks are making.
Anne Milgram: But yeah, so I’m going to contra that a little bit. This isn’t a deeply held view in my mind, but I would sort of suggest two things. The first is that this is just the argument of the day by the president of why this impeachment inquiry shouldn’t continue. And so I think he puts up a lot of smokescreens and you can’t respond to all of them. And so I understand the point that this is a significant one and you want-
Preet Bharara: But there’s some precedent, right? You have to agree-
Anne Milgram: There’s definitely precedence.
Preet Bharara: Taking such a vote-
Anne Milgram: There is.
Preet Bharara: I have a view about how valuable those precedents are because when you only have-
Anne Milgram: Two.
Preet Bharara: Three, precedents or two or three presidents in entire history and you have facts here that are different from those facts I don’t know how compelling that is. And also at a time when they’re arguing and bemoaning and whining about norms, which is what this is in a sea of norm breaking in every imaginable way by this president and how he conducts policy and how we interact with the house. It’s a little bit rich.
Anne Milgram: Yeah. You don’t get to pick the norms that you comply with and those you don’t. Here’s where I could see a vote being incredibly powerful and this is a more political argument than I think illegal one. Again, legally I don’t think it’s required. So there is a way in which there are shoes that continue to drop and there is a way in which every day there’s something new that at some point something comes out that is worth forcing the Republican members of the house to go on record against, for them to basically put them in a bind where Pelosi says, “You know what, there’s so much evidence at this moment in time, let’s call the vote.” Because for Republicans to vote against the inquiry would be deeply problematic for them with the public. As a matter and it’s hard to imagine what that would be, but there are potential other shoes that could drop in this type of an investigation and more that could come out for example, another transcript of a call. It could be a powerful tool that she has in her back pocket.
Anne Milgram: But that being said, as a purely legal matter, I very strongly support the way that they’re doing this investigation. And remember that in those depositions, it’s Republican and Democratic members of those three house committees. Yes, the Democrats are in charge of those. They have the leadership in those committees, but the behind the scenes depositions and hearings are being done in a bipartisan basis. And so there’s no argument in my mind that there’s no participation from both sides. This is really done to sort of preserve the integrity of an investigation.
Preet Bharara: Yeah. And also, this is in the way of impeachment, not conviction. So it’s akin to a grand jury proceeding, which in the federal system, people know the defendant doesn’t have a right to participate. And so these folks are being able to participate more than you would have in an ordinary grand jury proceeding. Are you ready to get to more Rudy Giuliani?
Anne Milgram: I’m ready.
Preet Bharara: So before we get to the fact that his associates had been charged by the SDNY and whether he’s being investigated and for what my basic question is, is he still the president’s lawyer? The president was asked, “Is he your lawyer?” And he’s like, “I haven’t really talked to him.” And I said, “Well, I did talk to him.” And then here’s an interesting tense when he responded. He said, “He has been my attorney.” Like, was your attorney, is your attorney will have been your attorney?
Anne Milgram: Yes.
Preet Bharara: He has been my attorney. And I don’t know that people fully appreciate this. The decision about whether or not Rudy is the president attorney is solely in the discretion of the-
Anne Milgram: The president.
Preet Bharara: The president.
Donald Trump: I don’t know them. I don’t know about them. I don’t know what they do. But, I don’t know. Maybe they were clients of Rudy, you’d have to ask Rudy. I just don’t know.
Preet Bharara: So what the hell is going on? Is he, is he about to be pushed under the bus?
Anne Milgram: I think so. I think so. I mean, the president’s answer, it was very similar to some of the answers he gave with regard to Michael Cohen when the sort of heat was on. And so, “I don’t know. I haven’t spoken to Rudy. He has been my attorney.” I agree with you. The past tense nature of, he has been my attorney. I would expect the president to turn very quickly on Giuliani.
Preet Bharara: But he really likes the guy. So you would have thought that after a lot of grumbling he would have taken him off television and he remains, except for the last few days, the president’s favored pit bull on television.
Anne Milgram: Yeah. But now he is the story. And so the problem for the president, and I agree with you, the president likes Rudy going on TV and spouting off, but Rudy can’t go on TV right now. I mean, he’s the subject, it’s been reported he’s the subject of this investigation in the Southern District. And anyone who is Rudy’s lawyer has to basically say to him, “You cannot go on TV.” Because he will be asked questions that frankly could implicate him if he answered them, depending on how he answered them, could implicate him in having committed crimes.
Anne Milgram: And so he’s now in my view, he’s not going to provide that benefit to the president. And he’s a huge liability because, and the president has to be careful on this because obviously he had Rudy do his bidding and now Rudy is going to say, “I did the president’s bidding.” And has sort of gone back and forth on that. But been pretty clear that he was working for the president in the capacity of this Ukrainian, the things that he was doing largely in Ukraine. And so I really feel like for the president to keep him on, he will not be able to satisfy what the president wants, which is the late night ranting on cable news.
Preet Bharara: Which is so enjoyable. But let’s try about that for a second before we get to the actual indictment. One of the things that it looks like he’s being investigated for is a violation of a statute that’s not often charged. And for many years, almost no prosecutions were brought under the statute. It’s called FARA, the Foreign Agents Registration Act, which basically says, “You have to register with the Department of Justice if you’re going to do any lobbying on behalf of a foreign government.” And so it looks like with respect to Ukraine and the removal of the Ukrainian ambassador Yovanovitch and all sorts of other things, maybe he was engaged in that kind of activity. But one of the defenses he has put forward is, which is bizarre and I can’t fully unpack it with my meager aging brain is, “Well, it can’t be improper and certainly can’t be a crime because I was acting at the direction of the president. So how can you simultaneously be lobbying the US government and also acting at the behest of the head of the US government?” I don’t follow that.
Anne Milgram: Yeah, I mean I think that is the best defense though in some ways, which is to say, “Okay, I didn’t have to register as a foreign lobbyist because I wasn’t engaged in foreign lobbying. I was working for the government and the government has these types of negotiations all the time.” Now the problem for Rudy is that he will know where be registered as an agent, as an official agent of the United States government. And so being the president’s personal lawyer, and this is Rudy’s biggest problem I think on all of this, is that private citizens can’t go out and essentially run shadow foreign policy for the president of the United States-
Preet Bharara: Maybe they can, if the president says, “Look. There’s this other thing that we talked about in a prior life relating to Michael Flynn.” The Logan Act, which does criminalize, although I don’t think anyone has ever successfully been charged under it-
Anne Milgram: Or not in years.
Preet Bharara: Not in years. Essentially says that, “You or I, can’t go gallivanting around the world and conduct foreign policy on behalf of the United States because we don’t have any authority to do so.” But I think that that’s such a violation presumes that we’re doing it on our own. Not that we’ve been told to go do it by the president of United States. And even in the absence of that, I think it’s a difficult statute to find a violation of. And so Rudy’s basically like maybe this is bad for the president also because separate from his legal jeopardy, his criminal legal jeopardy. Maybe this is less important for his own personal freedom, but it’s important.
Preet Bharara: Otherwise, the entire foreign policy establishment, including members of Congress, are thinking, how do you have this one guy who maybe doesn’t have everything straight in his head anymore conducting serious foreign policy? When you have a State Department and you have an Intelligence Community and you have a vice president and you have ambassadors and you have of all these other people? Now this is an answer that Steven and Miller couldn’t give when asked repeatedly on one of the Sunday talk shows, “Why use this guy Rudy Giuliani?” Who by the way is doubling as your private personal lawyer to prevent you from being impeached and or getting indicted when you leave office or having Bob Miller, say, “That you committed a crime while in office.” How is that guy also conducting foreign policy in the part of United States? He’s become a pariah, I think in all the circles where he previously may not have been.
Anne Milgram: And just to the point about, and I do think that this is a really interesting conversation about his defense, but what’s also important to remember is that the investigation is also into his financial dealings. And so where this becomes really interesting to your point of it’s not just an outside citizen who’s involved in this diplomacy, it’s an outside citizen who has a large number of financial ties that right now are not transparent, with people in Ukraine, with the president of the United States. He probably has other clients as well that we do not know who those clients are.
Anne Milgram: And so there’s this intermingling of the public good and private financial gain aspect to the Giuliani conversation that I think is going to be really, really important because it’s not just a private citizen, it’s a private citizen who in some instances it appears, may have a personal financial interest in what’s happening. And so that’s different. And I think that’s where this distinction may ultimately lie. And frankly, I think the investigation into Giuliani is going to involve not just his actions on behalf of the US government, but also his financial ties, his participation with these two individuals, Parnas & Fruman who’ve been charged in the Southern District. And we’ll talk about them in a minute, but it’s going to be really complicated, I think for Giuliani to just make this one argument, which is, “I did this at the president’s bidding.”
Preet Bharara: So let’s talk about that indictment, which made a lot of news and was sort of unexpected Lev Parnas & Igor Fruman and two others were charged with campaign finance violations. Also, interestingly, I believe they, Mr. Parnas runs an organization called Fraud Guarantee.
Anne Milgram: By the way, there is a lot of humor-
Preet Bharara: You can make it up in the novel.
Anne Milgram: No, there is a lot of humor in these guys. And I always think about John Oliver called the Mueller investigation, like stupid Watergate, this is like stupid mafia gate. I mean it’s almost too much.
Preet Bharara: So they engaged in activity that some people think is not the most serious thing in the world. I happen to think it is. They used straw donors in connection with A scheme to get money to a campaign committee and also to a member of Congress who is not identified in the indictment. But people have identified as Congressman Sessions from Texas, and they funneled money from basically a Russian individual without making it clear that it came from that individual. And these kinds of violations I think undermine a fair voting and fair democracy when they happen internally so that limits are being invaded and more money is being given than the law allows for. But it’s far worse I think because you have outside influence and that’s something that people should be worried about and you care about. Especially after the couple of years we’ve been through and it’s not clear to me fully the relationship that Rudy Giuliani has with Mr. Parnas and Mr. Fruman, I think he’s called them business associates. He’s also said on other occasions that he represented them, I think on that he represented them in criminal cases, illegal yeah, please.
Anne Milgram: Yeah, so can we just stop on that? Can we stop on that for a second? Because in a million years, I was trying to think of examples where people have been both clients and employers, right? Are they people who work with Rudy? Do they work for Rudy? Does he represent them?
Preet Bharara: Well, it’s a general counsel to a company I guess. They’re your client and your employer.
Anne Milgram: I guess that’s true. Yeah, I guess that’s true, but this, it’s just such a weird thing. At times, he represents them. At other times he hires them to do this work with him. It feels very, very strange for an outside lawyer, a non general counsel to be in this position. Also, back to your point on how serious this is I think sometimes you watch sort of the media around this. It felt complicated a little bit last week and I actually don’t think that this is very complicated. So I think you just did a good job of simplifying, it matters who contributes to elections. We keep track of it because there are limits to how much money can be placed in it.
Anne Milgram: And basically we don’t allow foreign governments to influence our elections. We wouldn’t allow one of the key parts of the Parnas and Truman charges is that they were involved in lobbying to remove the US ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch who we’ve been talking about Parnas we also know sort of separately, not charged, but Parnas was part of the meeting with Kurt Volker and Giuliani about Ukraine. And so there’s this influence of foreign governments and some of the money that they’re pushing into elections is coming from a Russian national. And so there really is a good reason to be concerned about this and for criminal prosecutions in my view to be brought based on this.
Preet Bharara: And of course what looms as we’ve been talking about in other contexts for the last couple of years is there a possibility that these guys flip and unclear what information they have on Giuliani or anyone else? But people don’t like to go to prison and people have information possibly. And so you never know, which way this is going to lead. Will, they keep their mouth shut, will they not? If they don’t keep their mouth shut do they have substantial assistance they can give to federal prosecutors? What it also assures is unless there’s some odd, super quick resolution of the criminal case that’s separate from impeachment, all this stuff is going to be swirling around in the news and publicly and puts the stink on all this conduct of Rudy Giuliani and others. So public sentiment may be swayed even further because these things are going to continue to come up.
Anne Milgram: And just let’s talk about the flipping for a second because there’s a couple of things that I’d love to get your thoughts on. I mean the first is it looks like the Southern District was not going to bring this case as soon as it did, but that these two guys were hightailing it out of town on a one way ticket, they were flying out of Dallas at night, one of them was supposed to be testifying before the committee, one of the house committees and basically the night before they go to Dallas airport, the government finds out that these guys are leaving and they arrest them. And so it wasn’t clear to me that they wanted this investigation, the Southern District wanted this investigation to be over or public as quickly as it became.
Preet Bharara: Yes, I totally agree with that. And one thing I think is important to cite, I saw on social media folks, lots of people in the immediate aftermath of the arrest speculating that this was some ploy on the part of Bill Barr or others to prevent these guys from testifying before Congress. And it was actually orchestrated in a way to benefit the president. And sometimes conspiracy theories turn out to be true. I think that was really not what was going on here. The Southern District is as far as I can tell, acting appropriately, aggressively and independently.
Preet Bharara: And you had two guys at Dallas airport on a plane on a one way ticket as you point out, I tell multiple stories like this in the book where you have to take people off, arrest them, or approach them before you’ve completed your investigation because you’re balancing the need for more proof against the concern that they’re going to flee and get hint up and never come back again. So these theories, this was some kind of strategy to prevent them from testifying in front of the house, I think holds no water. The other interesting fact that people are banding about, I don’t know what the significance is, I don’t know what the inappropriateness of it is, but people have suggested that Rudy has been paid to half a million dollars by these folks for some services, unclear what.
Anne Milgram: Yeah, I think that it’s been reported that the Southern District is investigating Giuliani’s financial dealings, his efforts to oust the former US ambassador to Ukraine. And it feels to me like there’s going to be a number of sort of avenues of inquiry for the Southern District to look at, but particularly who’s paying Giuliani and what work he’s doing. And remember also that Giuliani and these two guys, Parnas and Truman are also reported by the Associated Press, they were involved in this natural, the sort of state gas company, Naftogaz and his effort to oust the current CEO of that in order to export US natural gas to Ukraine. And so it’s not clear how much that will play a role in this, but again, it’s just another subplot where there’s a strong avenue of personal financial gain that’s involved in the actions that people were taking at the same time as they purport to be working for the president.
Preet Bharara: Do you think at some point there’ll be so many threads and so many subplots that one will actually be the theft of a penguin?
Anne Milgram: Well, if they steal a penguin, then there’s definitely going to be more investigations opened into that.
Preet Bharara: I think so. That’s an impeachable offense speaking of Giuliani and we’ve gone a long time already and every day is like an eternity in America these days with respect to this kind of news, I don’t want to lose track of one thing that happened last week that in a different universe, in a different presidency would be a 10 or 20 day story and more. And how does the revelation, if you believe the reporting, that once upon a time Rex Tillerson was pressed, the former secretary of state was pressed by president Trump to get the Justice Department to drop the case that the United States brought against a Turkish gold trader of Iranian descent named Reza Zarrab. The case that I oversaw, and I’ve talked about a bunch here and I talked about a bunch in my book, and Tillerson was so shocked at the request. He basically said it would be illegal to do, and he told John Kelly, the chief of staff to the president the time that he was not going to do it.
Preet Bharara: And John Kelly, the chief of staff said, “Ignore the request.” That by itself-
Anne Milgram: It’s an impeachable offense.
Preet Bharara: It’s an impeachable offense. That’s another example. On top of all of the other examples of the president deciding to interfere with a due and proper Department of Justice investigation. For what reason? We don’t really know. Was it for a geopolitical reason or was it because he has Trump Towers in Istanbul? These things come at us so fast and furious, all these violations of what a president is supposed to do that we focus on sensational testimony from yesterday and forget some of the sensational reporting from four days ago. But people should keep that in mind because that scenario and those facts are going to come back now. And the connection, by the way to Rudy Giuliani, who’s a constant threat is Reza Zarrab whose case was being pressed by the president himself was represented by among other people, Rudy Giuliani.
Anne Milgram: Yes. Yeah. It’s an important point. And I think to your point on this, there’s a lot more we need to know about this, but on its face, it’s yet another effort by the president to basically alter and sway a criminal prosecution. And it really is so significant and it is a little bit lost in this conversation right now because it’s almost like a sea of misconduct and corruption that it’s hard for things to sort of bubble up. But no question that this potentially could come back. And it’s a really interesting question also of whether Tillerson will provide … This has not been reported by Bloomberg, but it’d be really interesting to see if Tillerson comes forward.
Preet Bharara: Yeah. And with the sea of … What’d you call it sea of corruption?
Anne Milgram: Yes.
Preet Bharara: That’s a good movie title I think. But it becomes harder and harder, I think for them, the president supporters to say with a straight face, “This is all BS.” Because the whistleblower from a long time ago may have some political bias that also remains unproven by this idea. After you have this avalanche of corroborating information, including basically a confession out of the mouth of the president himself, he still continues to tweet that we must know the identity of the whistleblower. Rudy Giuliani at one point, the 1,000th time he’s made me shake my head in recent days and weeks says, “What kind of crazy system can we have if the whistleblower is allowed to testify in Congress anonymously? Or with the voice altered to protect his person? To protect his safety?
Preet Bharara: And I tweeted out at the time, someone should ask Rudy if when he was mayor and also he was attorney if undercover cops at the NYPD testified exactly in that way in fashion with his full support on a regular basis? You know what? They did. So that’s the system that we have in place. Courts have endorsed it, Rudy Giuliani has allowed it to happen and wanted it to happen when he was mayor. So in addition to getting a lot of facts wrong, his memory needs some checking too.
Anne Milgram: Yeah. And I don’t want to suggest that the whistle blower is irrelevant because the whistleblower came forward, obviously provided hugely important information to start the investigation. But at this point, virtually everything that the whistleblower has put into the complaint has either been corroborated, or it’s being investigated. And so at some point, the president wants to make this about the whistleblower because it makes it a lot easier to sort of focus complaints and allegations of unfairness. But the truth is it’s the president’s, it’s people from the president’s own State Department, people from the president’s own White House. It’s the president himself. I mean there’s so much evidence that is piling up around the allegations that the whistleblower first levied, that again, the whistleblower is still important, but the idea that this is about the whistleblower is completely absurd.
Preet Bharara: Do you think all of this is a wide ranging distraction so that we have arise from what is really going on here and that is that the president still wants to buy Greenland?
Anne Milgram: Well, this is a very interesting question for you. Yeah, it’s a very interesting question.
Preet Bharara: All right. There’s like 20 more things we could talk about, but I think, I think we should end there and there’s a lot more testimony coming this week. We’ll see if Sondland testifies or not, whether he invokes the Fifth Amendment or not, and there will be, I predict 10 other crazy things that are at this moment, things that we would not be able to predict.
Anne Milgram: I think it’s worth noting that the president has been focused on many, many things, including tweeting out frequently about the impeachment inquiry and all the others that are involved, but he has not been too busy to tweet out a vote of confidence for Sean Spicer. On Monday, October 14th, Trump tweeted, “Vote for good guy @seanspicer tonight on Dancing With The Stars. He has always been there for us.” Now it’s an important vote and it’s important that the president in the midst of everything is taking time to support Sean Spicer in his bid to be the next winner of Dancing With the Stars.
Preet Bharara: Do you know why he’s focusing on it? He believes like most Americans do, that elections have consequences.
Anne Milgram: And he hopes that someday he too can be a candidate on Dancing With the Stars. Troubling?
Preet Bharara: Live quite [inaudible 00:59:38] in my 31 year old youth. Thanks for a great conversation once again.
Anne Milgram: Great to chat with you. Please send us your questions.
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 Pirani, Julia Doyle, Calvin Lord, David Kurlander, and Geoff Isenman. Our music is by Andrew Dost. Thank you for being a part of the CAFE Insider Community.
Preet Bharara: Hey, stay tuned listeners, as many of you know Stay Tuned is going on tour. You can find all the details about our stops at cafe.com/tour but I’m excited to announce that we’ve added two new guests who will join me in Denver and Detroit. We’ll be in Denver on Thursday, October 24th where former Colorado governor recent presidential candidate and now candidate for senate, John Hickenlooper will speak with me about the current political moment. Then our previously announced guests, Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action, will impart her wisdom on gun control, fighting the NRA and what it takes to inspire a grassroots movement.
Preet Bharara: Then on Tuesday, November 12th we’ll be headed to Detroit. There I’ll be joined by my one-time colleague, former Detroit US attorney, Barbara McQuade. She’ll join me on stage to talk about strains on the rule of law under Trump, congressional efforts to hold the president accountable, and the outlook for impeachment. Michigan’s attorney general, Dana Nessel will speak with me about the most pressing local issues in our efforts to challenge the Trump administration’s policies on climate, immigration, and healthcare. That’s in Detroit on November 12th. Get tickets to these shows at cafe.com/tour and don’t forget to check out our stops in Minneapolis, November 5th with mayor Jacob Frey, and in Atlanta December 4th where I’ll be speaking with former acting attorney general, Sally Yates, cafe.com/tour that’s cafe.com/tour. I hope to see you all there.