Timing is everything

What did the Trump know and when did he know it? The Times says before he unfroze the aid to Ukraine. Oops.

President Trump had already been briefed on a whistle-blower’s complaint about his dealings with Ukraine when he unfroze military aid for the country in September, according to two people familiar with the matter.

Lawyers from the White House counsel’s office told Mr. Trump in late August about the complaint, explaining that they were trying to determine whether they were legally required to give it to Congress, the people said.

Here’s a detail I didn’t know:

The whistle-blower complaint, which would typically be submitted to lawmakers who have oversight of the intelligence agencies, first came to light as the subject of an administration tug of war. In late August, the inspector general for the intelligence community, Michael Atkinson, concluded that the administration needed to send it to Congress.

But the White House counsel, Pat A. Cipollone, and his deputy John A. Eisenberg disagreed. They decided that the administration could withhold from Congress the whistle-blower’s accusations because they were protected by executive privilege. The lawyers told Mr. Trump they planned to ask the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel to determine whether they had to disclose the complaint to lawmakers.

If the executive branch doesn’t have to turn whistleblower complaints over to Congress then what does the term even mean?  What’s the point of making a complaint that will just be thrown in the garbage?

A week later, the Office of Legal Counsel concluded that the administration did not have to hand over the complaint.

No problem; just do whatever you want; there are no rules, no laws, no limits.

There’s a little vignette of life under Trump:

Only days after the president learned of the whistle-blower complaint, he spoke with Senator Ron Johnson, Republican of Wisconsin, about the aid holdup. Mr. Johnson sought permission to tell Mr. Zelensky at an upcoming meeting in Ukraine that Mr. Trump had decided to release the security assistance, according to Mr. Johnson.

Mr. Trump replied that he was not ready, Mr. Johnson said. He said he asked later on the call whether the aid was linked to some action that the president wanted the Ukrainians to take.

“Without hesitation, President Trump immediately denied such an arrangement existed,” Mr. Johnson wrote in a letter this month to House Republicans.

Mr. Trump erupted in anger and began cursing, he wrote.

“‘No way,’” Mr. Trump said, according to Mr. Johnson. “‘I would never do that. Who told you that?’”

Touchy, are we?

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