Tuesday, December 3, 2019

The Crime That Disappeared: Postscript

Volodymyr Zelenskyy, 20 May, not literally in the act of dissolving Parliament, as the headline suggested (that would have been done in an office), but after taking his inaugural oath. Photo by Valentyn Ogirenko/Reuters via The New York Times.

Volodymyr Zelenskyy, in a Time interview with Simon Shuster, was a lot more honest than I would have imagined he would risk being, in advance of talks between his Ukrainian delegation and a Russian delegation led by Vladimir Putin in Paris, under French and German auspices (the US is of course AWOL), next Monday. No tongue bath for Donald Trump, but an all-siderism I can get behind:
I don’t trust anyone at all. I’ll tell you honestly. Politics is not an exact science. That’s why in school I loved mathematics. Everything in mathematics was clear to me. You can solve an equation with a variable, with one variable. But here it’s only variables, including the politicians in our country. I don’t know these people. I can’t understand what dough they’re made of. That’s why I think nobody can have any trust. Everybody just has their interests.
That line about mathematics is the inversion of a shtik in episode one of the Ukrainian TV series "Servant of the People", in which the history teacher played by Zelenskyy rants about how the unimaginative people of today's corrupt society value the crass profitability of mathematics more than his ambiguous and unremunerative discipline.

His position on the "quid pro quo" is subtle, relying on the fact that nobody did in fact confront him with the deal in those schematic terms (as we understand from Sondland's testimony, even US officials had trouble figuring it out, though they all clearly did eventually), merely wearing him down by talking about the different issues, and Trump himself didn't directly mention the military aid, but he doesn't let Trump off the hook at all:

Look, I never talked to the President from the position of a quid pro quo. That’s not my thing. … I don’t want us to look like beggars. But you have to understand. We’re at war. If you’re our strategic partner, then you can’t go blocking anything for us. I think that’s just about fairness. It’s not about a quid pro quo. It just goes without saying.
Trump, of course, responds by lying about it:

The other relevant news is that the promised reforms in Ukraine's justice system are turning out not exactly as Trump might have expected it, according to reporting by Michael Birnbaum and David Stern in the Washington Post. Of some 570 prosecutors who have been fired by the new prosecutor general Ruslan Ryaboshapka ("100 percent my person," Zelenskyy told Trump in the call), one is Kosatiatyn H. Kulyk,
a key player in the effort to provide Giuliani with political ammunition of dubious accuracy. Kulyk denies meeting Giuliani, but former associates say he prepared a seven-page dossier that his boss later passed along to the former New York mayor. Kulyk did not respond to a request for comment.
Kulyk was fired after failing to turn up for an examination that was part of a review process that will assess prosecutors across Ukraine.
More important from the point of quid pro quo watchers, there will be an "audit" of previous investigations of the Burisma company, which could well wind up in charges against Mykola Zlochevsky, Hunter Biden's former employer, but
for alleged self-dealing that predated Hunter Biden’s association with the company [beginning 2014], including how Burisma was awarded several extraction licenses while its owner was Ukraine’s natural resources minister from 2010 until 2012.... But anti-corruption activists say the audit is unlikely to produce any information that would lead to evidence of wrongdoing on the part of Biden, since no evidence has emerged.
The anti-corruption reforms will, instead, be anti-corruption reforms; members of parliament have already voted to take away their own immunity from prosecution along with most of the package, and prosecutions have begun:
Activists point to a criminal case against the former head of Ukraine’s tax agency, Roman Nasirov, who is accused of defrauding the state of $70 million.
Under the previous system, it took 1½ years just to read out the charges against him in court — a necessary first step in any courtroom proceeding — because of repeated bureaucratic delays. Activists said the slow pace was a deliberate ploy to delay justice. In a new courtroom, under new jurisdiction, the charges took 10 minutes to be read on Nov. 19.
We could use some of that as Trump continues to block and delay his own production of witnesses and documents.

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