ChiMerica 4 18 May 2020.

For decades, both foreign policy experts and business leaders saw China in a favorable light.  They expounded their views to American voters.  Opening China to capitalism and world markets would integrate the Asian giant into the global economy to the benefit of all.  At the same time, capitalism would raise billions out of poverty while spawning a middle-class, the historical driver of democratization.

“Outsiders” long dissented from this “elite” view of China.  They claimed that China rigged its domestic market to exclude foreign products, subsidized Chinese companies competing on international markets, and ruthlessly stole intellectual property.  One effect came in the massive out-sourcing of American industrial jobs and manufacturing in the wake of China’s accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO).  They claimed that China remained a one-party state governed by and for the benefit of the Communist Party.  They pointed out that economic power converts readily to military power, while China advanced supposed “historical” claims to territory beyond its current borders.

Now the “elite” view has lost traction.  American public opinion has taken an increasingly critical view of the Peoples’ Republic of China.[1]  Already in 2019, under the shadow of the tariff war with the United States, the brutal repression of the Uighur minority, and the crack-down on pro-democracy forces in Hong Kong, 57 percent of Americans took an unfavorable view of China.  In February 2020, the unfavorable view had risen to 67 percent.  There is little difference between the political parties in their perception of China as a threat to American interests: 62 percent of Democrats see it that way, leaving little daylight between them and the 68 percent of Republicans who feel the same way.

As a candidate, Donald Trump loudly expounded the anti-China “outsider” view.  As President, he followed his campaign words with presidential action by slamming severe tariffs on China and harshly criticizing it behavior.  Now the United States is in the midst of a coronavirus-induced economic collapse that has undone all the progress that took place during the first Trump administration.  Now the country is desperately short of the personal protective equipment that American companies produced at home in days of yore.  Now many countries, and not merely the United States, are criticizing China for a lack of transparency in the early days of the coronavirus outbreak.

 

How vulnerable is China to external pressure?  China faces grave economic problems.   Its drive for industrialization overshot even the huge demands of domestic and export markets, leaving it saddled with excess productive capacity.  Its long construction boom has achieved the same thing in terms of office space and housing, leaving a property bubble.  Both were financed by excessive government credit channeled through banks that are now on the verge of insolvency.

As the early response to the coronavirus in Wuhan showed, the Chinese central government is hard-put to respond to a crisis because of the autonomy actually exercised by—often corrupt–local authorities.  Moreover, the claim of the Communist Party to sole authority requires that its failures be covered up.  Finally, China’s flawed economic progress has enriched the Party elite and their cronies.  Fixing problems would require painful sacrifice.[2]  For all these reasons, China is vulnerable to external pressure.

 

How wise or idiotic would it be to exert such pressure?  Anything that triggered a severe economic crisis in China would send shock waves around the globe.  Slumping Chinese production would lead to falling demand for raw materials from many countries.  For example, in 2018, China imported more than $60 billion worth of iron ore, gas, coal, agricultural, forestry and fisheries products.[3]  China is deeply entangled in global supply chains for many goods, so the markets for many Chinese products would also start to strangle.  Finally, the global financial system would suffer from the resulting global slowdown.  Thus, in the interlocked global economy, trouble in China will mean trouble everywhere else.  Furthermore, as history has shown time and again, severe economic problems have comparable political effects.  Sometimes the effects create important reforms.  Sometimes they create turmoil and crisis.  All in all, it seems better to seek a co-operative solution that addresses both the immediate crisis and the underlying problems.  That might appeal to the risk-averse, but they aren’t the only ones making decisions.

[1] Walter Russell Mead, “Trump’s Best Re-election Bet: Run Against Beijing,” WSJ, 23 April 2020.

[2] Walter Russell Mead, “China Is the Sick Man of Asia,” WSJ, 4 February 2020.

[3] See: https://asialinkbusiness.com.au/china/getting-started-in-china/chinas-imports-and-exports?doNothing=1

The Logan Act.

Early modern European politics focused on the competition of “factions” organized around powerful individuals, rather than on “parties” organized around competing ideologies.  Hence, the Founding Fathers did not expect political parties to occupy the political system created by the Constitution.  Things didn’t work out as expected.[1]

Early National American politics quickly polarized into Federalists and Democratic-Republicans.  The two parties reflected different strands of the American Revolution in terms of attitudes to the power of the central government and of social groups.  However, the party competition also incited a degree of personal animus that challenged the generally desired rationality of the time.

In a further surprise, although the Patriots had sought to separate themselves from Europe, foreign affairs repeatedly intruded into the political life of the Early Republic.  An anti-monarchical revolution in France initially won broad support in America, then took a radical turn that divided Americans.  Opinion quickly swung from “Oh, they’re like us” to “What if that could happen here?”  Then war broke out between the new French Republic and, well, almost everyone.  Most important to the United States of all the combatants was Britain because of the Royal Navy’s control of the seas and of the trade that used those seas.  Federalists came to loathe the French Revolution and see a natural alignment with Britain, while the Democratic-Republicans sympathized with the aspirations of the sister-republic and put down its excesses to a temporary war expedient.

The debates on these matters between the two parties quickly soured.  Since the Federalists held the White House from 1789 to 1801, they had charge of American foreign policy.  Three things then happened: the Americans and the French fell into a naval Quasi-War (1798-1800)[2]; the Democratic-Republican press made the Federalists the butt of withering attacks[3]; and the Federalists rammed through a battery of “Alien and Sedition Acts” intended to stifle opposition voices.[4]  The Alien and Sedition Acts contributed to a revulsion against the Federalists that brought the Democratic-Republicans into power in 1801.

Although not normally lumped with the Alien and Sedition Acts, the Logan Act (1799) fits well with the general Federalist effort to squash political opposition.  George Logan,[5] a Democratic-Republican with a lifetime of poor judgement behind him, had made a purely personal visit to France during the Quasi-War in hopes of patching things up.   The Logan Act criminalized private individuals interfering in relations between the United States and other countries.  Unlike the Alien and Sedition Acts, the Logan Act neither sunsetted nor was repealed.

 

How has the Logan Act been applied?  Citing the Logan Act is wrapping oneself in the flag to harass political opponents.

In 1803, France controlled the mouth of the Mississippi river and obstructed American trade through the port of New Orleans.  Western farmers became exasperated with the barrier to getting their crops to market.  A farmer gave public voice to what must have been common tavern conversation after the second mug of rye.  He wrote a letter to a newspaper arguing that Kentucky should secede from the Union and form an alliance with France.  The newspaper published it.  The outraged United States Attorney in Kentucky—a Federalist hold-over from the Adams administration–got a grand jury to indict the farmer.  It never went any further than that.  Would have had to put him in front of a jury of locals.[6]

After service with the U.S. Navy in the Mexican-American War (1846-1848), the Philadelphia-born Jewish-American merchant and sea captain Jonas Levy (1807-1883) stayed on in Mexico.  He came from a family of enterprising people and the apple didn’t fall far from the tree.  Looking for business opportunities, he proposed to the Mexican government to build a railroad from the Gulf of Mexico to the Pacific across the Isthmus of Tehuantepec.  The isthmus is the narrowest point of Mexico and the Pacific end passes through a gap in the Sierra Madre.  Lots of people wanted to build a railroad there, but one group was in Washington and had the ear of Secretary of State Daniel Webster.  But Levy was on the ground, spoke Spanish, and was very go-ahead.  In 1852, Levy pitched it to the Mexican government.  The Mexicans seemed inclined to go with Levy’s plan, so Webster exerted pressure on behalf of the “American” plan.  Levy wrote to the president of Mexico arguing for his own proposal.  When American diplomats reported this to Washington, Webster got Levy indicted.  The trouble was he didn’t have any evidence, just hearsay.  The indictment went nowhere.

Herbert Hoover (1874-1964) made a fortune as a mining engineer, did a fantastic job organizing American civilian relief aid for Europe in the First World War, served as Secretary of Commerce, and won election as President in 1928.  Then the Depression hit and he got creamed in the 1932 election.  Hoover stomped off into retirement to sulk and fulminate against Franklin D. Roosevelt and all his works.  When the Second World War first broke out, Roosevelt offered Hoover an olive branch in the form of co-ordinating American relief for European civilians.  Hoover turned down the offer, but only because he hated Roosevelt.  He got busy organizing his own program of relief for Poland and then for Belgium.  By mid-1940, the situation had changed.  Poland and France had been defeated, Britain stood alone, and Britain’s naval blockade of Continental Europe offered an important source of pressure on Germany.  Nevertheless, Hoover pressed ahead.  In February 1941, Under-Secretary of State Sumner Welles publically warned that Hoover might be in violation of the Logan Act.

More recently, a chain of people have been described as violating the Logan Act.  Some were Democrats: George McGovern, Jesse Jackson, Nancy Pelosi, and John Kerry.  Some were Republicans: 47 Senators, candidate Donald Trump, and Rudi Giuliani.  None have been prosecuted.

In December 2017, as they prepared to interview National Security Advisor-designate Michael Flynn, FBI agents discussed trying to get Flynn to admit he had violated the Logan Act.

[1] Richard Hofstadter, The Idea of a Party System: The Rise of Legitimate Opposition in the United States, 1780–1840 (1969).

[2] See: Alexander De Conde, The Quasi-War: The Politics and Diplomacy of the Undeclared War with France, 1797-1801 (1966).  An oldie, but a goody.

[3] See, for example James Callender.  Michael Durey, With the Hammer of Truth, James Thomson Callender (1990). 

[4] John Miller, Crisis in Freedom: The Alien and Sedition Acts (1951).  Same as De Conde.  The point here is that if the necessary documents are available and a good historian gives them a careful analysis, then most of the subsequent scholarly literature is just an elaboration.

[5] Frederick B. Tolles, George Logan of Philadelphia (1953).

[6] In much political theory, Senators serving six-year terms and appointed officials are supposed to have a braking effect on “populist” impulsiveness and passion.  However, the opposite may also be true.

Chronology of a Tragedy.

By 20 April 2020, 773,000 people in the United States had tested positive for the coronavirus.  Of these, 247,543 were in New York, mostly in New York City and its suburbs.  New Jersey had 88,806 confirmed cases.  That works out to about 32 percent of the cases being located in New York City and its immediate area.  If you include New Jersey’s 88,000, then New York is the center of about 43 percent of the cases.[1]

How did New York City come to be the present American epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic?[2]

“From the earliest days of the crisis, state and city officials were also hampered by a chaotic and often dysfunctional federal response, including significant problems with the expansion of testing, which made it far harder to gauge the scope of the crisis.”  The same was true of every part of the country, so that doesn’t explain why New York got hit hardest by far.

“Epidemiologists have pointed to New York City’s [population] density and its role as an international hub of commerce and tourism to explain why the coronavirus has spread so rapidly.  And it seems highly unlikely that any response by the state or city could have fully stopped it.”  The same seem likely to be true of the national government.  The question is how much government action could have limited the damage.

Nevertheless, in the view of Dr. Thomas Frieden, former head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, closing the schools, stores, restaurants, and other public venues one to two weeks earlier could have reduced the death toll in New York by 50 to 80 percent.

 

January-February 2020: coronavirus “devastates” China and Europe.

 

21 January 2020: first confirmed case in the United States, in Seattle, Washington.

 

23 January 2020: Chinese government seals off Wuhan.

 

30 January 2020: WHO declares a global health emergency.

 

31 January 2020: US bars entry for any foreign national who had traveled to China in the previous 14 days.

 

It now appears that coronavirus was present in New York City before the first person tested positive for it.  Infectious disease specialists had known for weeks that the federal tests were defective and that infected people were almost certainly present and circulating.  One specialist in infectious diseases for a New York hospital group said later than it was apparent by late January 2020 that cases would soon appear in the United States.

 

2 February 2020: first coronavirus death outside China—in the Philippines.

 

5 February 2020: Japanese government quarantines a cruise ship which carried passengers infected during the trip.

 

7 February 2020: Infectious disease specialists and other doctors confer on federal criteria from the CDC for testing.  The guidelines were too strict and limiting on who could be tested.  According to one of those present, “It was at that moment that I think everybody in the room realized, we’re dead.”

 

Early February 2020: Dr. Oxiris Barbot, NYC Health Commissioner states that “this is not something you’re going to contract in the subway or the bus.”

 

14 February 2020: France announces first coronavirus death.

 

19 February 2020: first two cases in Iran announced.

 

23 February 2020: Italy sees surge in cases in Lombardy.

 

24 February 2020: passenger already infected by coronavirus arrives at JFK on a flight that originated in Iran.

 

24 February 2020: Trump administration asks Congress for $1.25 billion for coronavirus response.  US has 35 cases and no deaths.

 

28 February 2020: number of cases in Europe rises sharply.

 

Late February 2020: Mayor Bill de Blasio tells a news conference that “We can really keep this thing [coronavirus] contained.”

 

29 February 2020: first US death, in Seattle.

 

1 March 2020: the passenger from Iran tests positive for the coronavirus, making her the first identified case in New York City.

 

2 March 2020: Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio address a news conference.  Cuomo says “Everybody is doing exactly what we need to do.  We have been ahead of this from Day 1.”  Cuomo told the conference that “Out of an abundance of caution we will be contacting the people who were on the flight with her from Iran to New York.”  Then everyone would be traced and isolated.  According to the NYT, this didn’t happen because the CDC would not authorize an investigation.

 

3 March 2020: lawyer in New Rochelle tests positive.  He had not travelled to any affected country, so there was reason to suspect he had contracted the virus in New York.  City health investigators traced his travels and contact to Manhattan, but the state of New York put a “porous” containment line around New Rochelle.

 

3 March 2020: US government approves widespread testing.

 

5 March 2020: New York City mayor Bill de Blasio said that “You have to assume that it could be anywhere in the city.”  However, he also said that “We’ll tell you the second we think you should change your behavior.”

 

If Dr. Frieden is correct that the city should have shut down one to two weeks before it did, then that date would have been sometime between 8 and 15 March 2020.

 

About 7 March 2020: city hospitals start reporting a sharp increase in influenza-like cases and the NYPD reported increased numbers of officers calling in sick and of 911 calls for coughs and fevers.

 

Second week in March 2020: De Blasio wanted widespread testing, but the city’s Health Department urged a public information campaign to tell those with mild symptoms to self-isolate at home, rather than infect others at testing centers.  De Blasio blocked the public information campaign for about a week.

 

At some point not stated by the NYT, de Blasio did urge New Yorkers to practice social distancing and working from home where possible; and de Blasio and Cuomo had both ordered occupancy limits on bars and restaurants.  These limits were broadly ignored.

 

Moreover, de Blasio resisted closing the schools.  The schools provide nutritious meals and a safe space, and not in some touchy-liberal sort of way either, for their students.[3]

 

11 March 2020: US bars most travelers from Europe.

 

12 March 2020: San Francisco closed the schools when 18 cases had been confirmed; Ohio closes the schools when 5 cases had been confirmed.

 

12 March 2020: At a meeting chaired by de Blasio, City Health Commissioner Barbot told a meeting of business executives that 70 percent of the city’s population could become infected.  De Blasio “stared daggers at her.”

According to one person present at the meeting, de Blasio rejected closing restaurants.  “I’m really concerned about restaurants; I’m really concerned about jobs.”  It was a legitimate concern from one perspective.  According to one estimate, tourism accounts for 300,000 jobs in New York City.  This is twice as many as does the tech jobs and vastly more than the jobs linked to the financial services industry.[4]  Closing down restaurants, bars, tourist activities, hotels, and sporting events would hammer the incomes pf poor people much than the incomes of rich people.  He appears to have thought that New York City would never have to close.  In reality, it was a choice between closing the city earlier or later.  However, in the event, the virus spread rapidly.  The health burden has not been shared equally between different social groups.[5]

 

13 March 2020: Trump declares national emergency.

 

13 March 2020: Los Angeles closes its schools after 40 cases had been confirmed.  New York City had almost 160 confirmed cases.

 

15 March 2020: City health officials give de Blasio a grim warning about the number of infections and deaths if the schools—and most businesses—weren’t closed immediately.

 

15 March 2020: De Blasio closes the schools when 329 cases had been confirmed.

 

15 March 2020: CDC recommends no gatherings of more than 50 people.

 

17 March 2020: seven California counties around San Francisco issued stay at home orders.

 

17 March 2020: France orders national lock-down.

 

19 March 2020: California issues state-wide stay at home order with 675 confirmed cases.  New York then had 4,152 cases.

 

20 March 2020: New York State issues state-wide stay at home order, effective 22 March 2020.  On 20 March, the state had more than 7,000 confirmed cases.

 

Recently, the New York Times ran a piece considering the long-term consequences of the pandemic’s impact on New York.[6]  Much of the economic basis of the city may be hollowed out.  This is particularly true if a vaccine is not developed and mass-produced very soon.  Tourists may shrink from visiting a densely-crowded city.  Tourist amenities from theaters to museums to restaurants to public transportation systems may impose social-distancing regimes that capsize the business model of the industry.  Both the financial services and technology sectors may extend their work-from-home adaptations, while many workers may decide that the home from which they are working might as well be somewhere other than high-price New York.  Demand for office and residential space could fall, clobbering the construction industry.  The city’s budget would have to deal with a huge fall in revenue.  Services to the poor would fall.

Sometimes Tragedy is born of the collision of two Goods.

 

[1] “Tracking an Outbreak,” NYT, 21 April 2020, p. A4.

[2] J. David Goodman, “How Outbreak Kept New York A Step Behind,” NYT, 8 April 2020.

[3] See: Andrea Elliott, “Invisible Child.  Girl in the Shadows: Dasani’s Homeless Life,” NYT, 9 December 2013.  http://www.nytimes.com/projects/2013/invisible-child/index.html#/?chapt=1

[4] J. David Goodman, “It Could Be Years Before New York Regains Its Glory,” NYT, 21 April 2020.

[5] For one example, see: John Eligon et al, “Black Americans Bear The Brunt As Virus Spreads,” NYT, 8 April 2020.

[6] J. David Goodman, “It Could Be Years Before New York Regains Its Glory,” NYT, 21 April 2020.

Sturmvogel 2 9 March 2020.

In 2004, Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych lost his position as the result of street demonstrations known as the “Orange Revolution.”  Yanukovych wanted to get back in the saddle at some point, so he looked for help.  The oligarch Rinat Akhmetov suggested his friend Paul Manafort.[1]  From December 2004 to February 2010, Manafort reshaped Yanukovych’s image and that of his opponents.  In February 2010, Yanukovych regained the presidency.

In February 2014 Yanukovych lost the presidency to a new round of street demonstrations called “Euromaidan.”   The Russians soon expressed their dissatisfaction with the “Euromaidan” revolution by seizing Crimea and by fomenting pro-Russian uprisings in two eastern “oblasts.”  The Americans and Europeans responded by wall-papering Russian leaders with sanctions and by providing economic aid to Ukraine.  However, the Westerners recognized that Ukraine was a deeply corrupt country.[2]  They insisted upon the creation of a robust National Anticorruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU).

Ukraine hopped to it: the legislature passed basic legislation in October 2014, then launched a search for a bureau leader in January 2015; and President Petro Poroshenko signed decrees creating the new bureau in April 2015.  Funding for NABU is mandated under American and European Union aid programs and it has an evidence-sharing agreement with the Effa-Bee-Eye.  However, while NABU could investigate corruption cases, the actual prosecution of those cases fell to the Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office (SAPO).  It looks like the idea was to build a fire wall between eager-beaver investigators and actual prosecutors, who could always find fault with the investigations in order to protect the corrupt.

In August 2016, NABU announced that it had discovered a previously secret document that recorded $12.7 million in payments from Yanukovych’s “Party of Regions” to Paul Manafort.[3]

In August 2016, Serhiy Leshchenko,[4] a Ukrainian investigative journalist who had won election to the parliament as a supporter of Petro Poroshenko, held a news conference.[5]  In it, he emphasized the importance of NABU’s so-called “black ledger,” which recorded $12.7 million in cash payments from Yanukovych to Manafort.  Leschenko called for Ukrainian and American authorities to investigate Manafort.  In support of his charges, Leschenko provided a sample of ledger items for six months of payments in 2012.

According to the Steele Dossier, on the day after the New York Times published its story on the “black ledger,” Yanukovych met with Russian President-for-Life Vladimir Putin.  Yanukovych admitted that he had authorized “substantial kickback payments to Manafort,” but “that there was no documentary trail left behind which could provide clear evidence of this.”

A week after the Times story landed on door-steps, Manafort resigned from the Trump campaign.

Two weeks after the press conference, Leshchenko told the Financial Times that “For me, it was important to show not only the corruption aspect, but that he [Trump] is [a] pro-Russian candidate who can break the geopolitical balance in the world.”  The FT reported that Trump’s candidacy had alarmed Ukraine’s political leaders.  It led them to “do something they would never have attempted before: intervene, however indirectly, in a U.S. election.”  The FT reported that Leshchenko claimed that most Ukrainian politicians “on Hillary Clinton’s side.”[6]

What to make of this information?

First, these allegations and reports have nothing to do with CrowdStrike or missing servers or any other fantasy developed by Rudy Giuliani or Donald Trump.  Nor does it bear on the activities of Hunter Biden, let alone any insinuated intervention by his father, then-Vice President Joe Biden.  All those things are mixed together in one of the most squalid scandals of American political history.

Second, it seems perfectly reasonable to believe that in 2016 the prospect of a Trump presidency would scare the bejeezus out of Ukrainians.  President Obama had expressed his withering disapproval of Russian actions in Ukraine after the eviction of Viktor Yanukovych, but American aid came in the form of money, economic sanctions on Russia, and non-lethal military aid.  Trump had expressed sympathy for the return of Crimea to Russia and had hoped for improved relations between the US and Russia.  Ukraine’s leaders had every right to expect that their country—and all their chances for stealing stuff–would suffer under a Trump administration.

Third, it’s difficult to argue that individual politicians and government officials in Ukraine didn’t try to meddle in the 2016 presidential election when they insist that they did.  Obviously, those interventions didn’t work and the same people later mostly tried to deny what they did.[7]

Fourth, a lot of this stuff makes sense if we go with the original intelligence community assessment of the Russian meddling.  First, they said that the Russkies wanted to sow seeds of division in America so as to discredit democracy among its participants.  Later on, they amended this to say that the Russkies wanted Donald Trump elected president.

But what if the Russkies didn’t care who was elected?  What if they just wanted us to fight among ourselves?  As we have done.  (I no longer communicate with one of my oldest friends.)  “Twas a famous victory.”[8]

[1] See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rinat_Akhmetov#Connected_to_2016_Donald_Trump_United_States_Presidential_Campaign_and_the_Robert_Mueller_Special_Counsel_investigation

[2] See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corruption_in_Ukraine  Probably helps if you have read Eric Ambler novels from the 1930s.

[3] Andrew E. Kramer, Mike McIntire, Barry Meier, “Secret Ledger in Ukraine Lists Cash for Donald Trump’s Campaign Chief,” New York Times, August 14, 2016https://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/15/us/politics/what-is-the-black-ledger.html  For NABU’s published statement, see: https://nabu.gov.ua/en/novyny/statement-regarding-pmanaforts-appearance-party-regions-black-ledger

[4] See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serhiy_Leshchenko

[5] Kenneth P. Vogel and David Stern, “Ukrainian efforts to sabotage Trump backfire,” Politico, 11 January 2017.  https://www.politico.com/story/2017/01/ukraine-sabotage-trump-backfire-233446

[6] See: Roman Olearchyk, “Ukraine’s leaders campaign against “pro-Putin’ Trump, Financial Times, 28 August 2016.  : https://www.ft.com/content/c98078d0-6ae7-11e6-a0b1-d87a9fea034f  On the FT, see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Financial_Times

[7] Leschenko is an exception, but then he gets into brawls in airport lounges and on the floor of parliament.  Not a lot of back-down in that guy.

[8] Robert Southey, “The Battle of Blenheim,” https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/45178/the-battle-of-blenheim

Sturmvogel 1 22 February 2020.

In late 2013, Ukraine’s president, Viktor Yanukovych, was being advised by Paul Manafort.[1]  The country was headed toward a widely popular trade deal with the European Union (EU).  That deal, in turn, required Ukraine to make serious efforts against the public and private corruption that had characterized the country since it escaped from the Soviet Union.  Suddenly, Yanukovych announced that the deal with the EU had been abandoned in favor of an alternative deal with Russia.  Crowds, as they say, took to the streets with pitch-forks and fiery brands.  Yanukovych left in his socks.  Manafort lost his client and slunk off into far-from-poverty.  Then Ukraine lost the Crimea and a couple of eastern “oblasts” (administrative districts) to Russian intervention.

Post-Yanukovych Ukraine hoped for help from the West, although it still had the same problem with corruption that the previous agreement had sought to address.  The United States and other Western countries slammed economic sanctions on Russia.  They also agree to provide some “non-lethal” aid to Ukraine’s military.[2]

After the fall of Yanukovych, Alexandra Chalupa reportedly agreed to do some pro-bono work for a Ukrainian client.  In the course of this work and for reasons that have not been explained, she started researching Paul Manafort.  This included digging into the Ukrainian “oligarchs” who had sponsored Yanukovych.  Those oligarchs had been pro-Russian.

Donald Trump sounded very pro-Russian on the campaign trail.  So, in late 2015, when his campaign started to look like it might have legs, Chalupa reportedly doubled-down on investigating Trump’s alleged ties to Russia.

In January 2016, long before Manafort had any role in the Trump campaign, Chalupa told an unidentified  contact at the Democratic National Committee (DNC) that, “I felt there was a Russia connection” to the Trump campaign.  “And that, if there was, that we can expect Paul Manafort to be involved in this election.”  By early 2016, she was telling the pro-Democrat Ukrainian-Americans with whom she was in contact that Manafort was “Putin’s political brain for manipulating U.S. foreign policy and elections.”

During a March 2016 meeting at the Ukrainian Embassy on an unrelated matter, Chalupa told Ukraine’s ambassador, Valeriy Chaly,[3] of her concerns.  The ambassador wasn’t much worried about any links between Manafort and Trump because he didn’t think Trump could win the nomination, let alone the election.[4]

Four days later, Trump hired Manafort as his campaign manager.  Alarms bells started ringing.  The next day, Chalupa made a presentation to the communications staff of the DNC[5] on Trump, Manafort, and possible links between Russia and the campaign.

A week later, Chalupa talked over the possibility of a congressional investigation into the allegations with a legislative assistant to Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio).  This talk produced no results.

Later, the DNC encouraged Chalupa to contact the embassy of Ukraine.  Her reported goal was an interview with Ukraine’s president Petro Poroshenko.  It was hoped that Poroshenko would talk about Manafort and his connection to Yanukovych.  She didn’t get the meeting, but embassy officials did provide her with information and further leads.[6]  Thereafter, “If I asked a question, they would provide guidance, or if there was someone I needed to follow up with.” [But] “There were no documents given, nothing like that.”  In addition, “Chalupa said the embassy also worked directly with reporters researching Trump, Manafort and Russia to point them in the right directions.”

Accounts by Ukrainian diplomats in the embassy at that time differ from one another.  Either the embassy wasn’t doing anything to help the Democrats investigate Trump and Russia, or they were neck-deep in it.[7]  Andrii Telizhenko,[8] who worked as a political officer in the Ukrainian Embassy, has claimed that he “recalled that Chalupa told him and [Deputy Chief of Mission Oksana] Shulyar[9] that, ‘If we can get enough information on Paul [Manafort] or Trump’s involvement with Russia, she can get a hearing in Congress by September [2016]’.”

“In March 2016, [according to an attorney for Perkins Coie] Fusion GPS approached Perkins Coie (a law firm representing both the Clinton campaign and the DNC).  Did Perkins Coie want Fusion GPS to continue the opposition research previously done for a Republican opponent of Donald Trump?  Fusion had, thanks to its earlier work for a contract with a “Never Trump” Republican, a bunch of leads.  These included, according to Jane Mayer, “Trump’s … tax and bankruptcy problems, potential ties to organized crime, and numerous legal entanglements. They also revealed that Trump had an unusually high number of connections to Russians with questionable backgrounds.”[10]  Initially, Fusion GPS focused on Trump’s “business and entertainment activities,” rather than the Russian aspect.[11]

In April 2016, Marc Elias of Perlins Coie agreed to the deal with Fusion GPS.

In late April 2016, Chalupa made a presentation to a group of visiting Ukrainian journalists at an event held at the Library of Congress.[12]  She had invited Michael Isikoff to attend and introduced him to some of the Ukrainians.  Isikoff already was working on Manafort and Ukraine.

In early May 2016, Chalupa e-mailed DNC communications director Luis Miranda about “a big Trump component you and [DNC research director] Lauren [Dillon][13] need to be aware of that will hit in next few weeks and something I’m working on you should be aware of.”  However, her e-mail account had been under sustained attack by a “state-sponsored entity,” so she wanted to present the information in person.

In June 2016, Fusion GPS hired Christopher Steel to investigate Trump’s Russia connections, rather than any of the other potential scandals investigated earlier by Fusion GPS.  .

 

Did Ukrainians alarmed by Donald Trump’s pro-Russian stance on issues feed Alexandra Chalupa information about Trump’s supposed contacts with the Russians?

Did Alexandra Chalupa repeatedly apprise the Democratic National Committee of what she had learned?

Did people at the DNC take these warnings seriously?

Did they hire Fusion GPS to investigate these specific ties, rather than the other ones raised by the earlier Fusion GPS research on behalf of a Republican “Never Trump” sponsor?

Did any of the information provided to Chalupa end up as leads for, or even in, the “Steele Dossier”?

[1] Kenneth P. Vogel and David Stern, “Ukrainian efforts to sabotage Trump backfire,” Politico, 11 January 2017.  https://www.politico.com/story/2017/01/ukraine-sabotage-trump-backfire-233446  This article inspired push-back.  See: the article in the  conservative Washington Examiner for some mockery: https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/politico-denies-politicos-reporting-on-ukraines-2016-pro-hillary-efforts   On Vogel, see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kenneth_P._Vogel

[2] A useful starting point on these matters is: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foreign_policy_of_the_Barack_Obama_administration#East_Europe

[3] See the—if you’re a follower of Monty Python–comical description in https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Valeriy_Chaly_(diplomat)

[4] Nor did I.

[5] On Luis Miranda, then communications director, see: https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/09/dnc-names-luis-miranda-as-comms-director/432855/

[6] Hard to understand that unless the ambassador or the foreign minister or the president, Poroshenko, ordered it.

[7] If you spend much time reading about the contemporary Ukraine, you could get the idea that there are a lot of self-interested and devious people in public life.  Makes it difficult to sort out the exact facts.

[8] For a hostile view, see: https://www.thedailybeast.com/andrii-telizhenko-source-for-ukraine-collusion-allegations-met-rep-devin-nunes

[9] See: http://hcdc.clubs.harvard.edu/article.html?aid=1698

[10] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steele_dossier#Research_funded_by_Democrats_produces_dossier

[11] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steele_dossier#Research_funded_by_Democrats_produces_dossier

[12] On the “Open World Program,” see:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_World_Program

[13] See: https://ballotpedia.org/Lauren_Dillon

American Public Opinion on the Impeachment 3 February 2020.

A nation-wide poll taken between 26 and 29 January 2020, sought to establish attitudes toward President Trump during the impeachment hearings.[1]

First, what did a majority of Americans believe?

A large majority (c. 59 percent) of respondents believed that the Democrats in the House and the Senate were inspired to impeach Trump by political motivations.

A majority (53 percent) of respondents believed that President Trump obstructed Congress in his resistance to the House impeachment inquiry.

Over half (52 percent) of respondents believed that Trump had asked the President of Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden in order to influence the November 2020 election.

Republicans overwhelmingly (91 percent) opposed Trump’s removal from office.

Democratic voters overwhelmingly (84 percent) support Trump’s removal from office.

Among Independents, 50 percent opposed removing Trump from office.

A plurality just short of a majority (49 percent) of respondents believed that Trump should not be removed from office by the Senate.

Did the partisanship ascribed to the House inquiry and by its managers in the Senate delegitimized the whole process in the eyes of many Americans?

Does President Trump’s resistance to the partisan House inquiry fall within the category of legitimate “punching back” in the eyes of many Americans?

Does President Trump’s suborning of an investigation into Joe Biden fall into the category of a scandal, but not a removable offense?  Or, in essence, does he get a pass on this one because of the sustained bad behavior of the Democrats in the three years since his election?

 

Second, what do minorities believe?

Almost half (46 percent) of respondents believed that Trump should be removed from office by the Senate.

Among Independents 45 percent supported removing Trump from office.

In spite of all the testimony produced by the House inquiry, 41 percent of respondents did not believe that Trump had asked the President of Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden in order to influence the November 2020 election.

About a third (37 percent) of respondents believed that the Democrats were inspired by the defense of the Constitution.

A little more than a third (37 percent) of respondents did not believe that Trump obstructed Congress.

There is a big chunk of people—Democrats, Independents, and Republicans—who want Trump removed from office.  They don’t add up to a majority.

There are two separate one-thirds or more of the country who believe absurd things: that Democrats are defending the Constitution and that Trump didn’t invite an investigation.

 

[1] Aaron Zitner, “Americans’ Opinion of President Barely Budge After Impeachment,” WSJ, 3 February 2020; https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/meet-the-press/nbc-wsj-poll-country-remains-divided-over-trump-s-impeachment-n1128326

Listening to the Impeachment Hearings.

First, there is no doubt that President Trump extorted the President of Ukraine to announce an investigation of Joe Biden.  He did so, apparently, to besmirch a leading candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Second, there is no doubt that the Republican majority in the Senate is going to acquit Trump of both counts.  There seems to be a shrinking likelihood that enough Republican “moderates” will join the Democrats to even call witnesses.

Third, the obstruction of Congress charge seems ridiculous because the Democrats on the Intelligence and Judiciary committees never made any serious appeal to the courts.   The Trump administration has been sued many times.  They have fought it out in the courts.  Whenever they have lost, they have complied.

Fourth, once Trump has been acquitted, do the Republicans have any plan to keep him from doing some other outrageous thing?  Throw Mike Pence overboard at the convention and impose some really serious person as Trump’s second vice president?  Grit their teeth until Ruth Bader Ginsburg has been replaced with a conservative.  Behind these actions would be the implicit threat that “Next time, you dumb son-of-a-bitch, we will impeach you.”

Fifth, Trump’s defense has argued that many, perhaps most, political acts combine a legitimate policy interest with a politician’s selfish or self-absorbed personal interest.  Hence, these decisions can not be described as “corrupt.”  Democrats have countered that, under the law, any “corrupt” purpose overwhelms any legitimate purpose.  It renders the whole action “corrupt.”  Well, the Democrats have been bug-eyed with fear and rage since November 2016.  They talked a lot about “collusion” (their term, not Trump’s before they started using it on talk shows).  They raised high expectations that the Mueller investigation would prove that Trump had committed crimes that merited impeachment.  They tried to make a case for obstruction of justice after the Mueller investigation “failed to establish” (i.e. couldn’t find any proof of) such “collusion.”  They wanted Trump removed for political reasons that would advantage the Democrats and disgrace the Republicans.  By their own standards, that would seem to meet the definition of “corruption.”