Reporterii nostri au investigat intrebari ale cititorilor cu privire la ancheta privind acuzarea de catre Parlament a presedintelui Donald Trump, precum si a lui Joe si Hunter Biden, precum si a avertizorului care a pus ancheta in miscare.
In aceasta editie, vom raspunde la intrebari despre momentul in care Ucraina stia ca dolarii sai sunt ajutati, daca regulile de denuntare au fost schimbate pentru a include informatii la mana a doua si a treia, ceea ce stim despre o transcriere completa a apelului telefonic al lui Trump din iulie cu liderul ucrainean. si cum s-a incheiat, in primul rand, cel mai tanar Biden cu un loc pe consiliul ucrainean al companiei de energie.
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PROCESUL DE APLICARE
Cum sunt limitate puterile presedintelui in timpul unei anchete de conducere?
Presedintele isi pastreaza puterile normale – de a semna facturi, de a administra agentii, de a emite ordine executive si asa mai departe – in timp ce o actiune continua.
Exista insa unele subtilitati. Unii experti legali considera ca o ancheta privind actiunile judiciare reduce contractul de retinere a puterii presedintelui.
Kel McClanahan, avocat de securitate nationala, a declarat ca instantele ar fi mai susceptibile de a se asocia cu Congresul, daca un presedinte aflat intr-o ancheta in justitie a incercarii de a folosi privilegiul executiv pentru a proteja informatiile de la parlamentari.
„Testul de echilibrare intre nevoia sa de a-l retine si nevoia lor de a-l obtine se schimba in favoarea Congresului”, a spus McClanahan.
Insa majoritatea expertilor legali cu care am vorbit s-au aratat sceptici ca o sonda de actiune confera Congresului o noua putere de a eluda privilegiul executiv.
In mod informal, puterea politica a presedintelui ar putea fi constransa de o ancheta de demisie daca ingreuneaza negocierile cu Congresul sau cu liderii straini sau daca isi diminueaza pozitia cu publicul.
„Ancheta poate sa distraga presedintele sau sa-i limiteze capacitatea de a-i convinge pe parlamentari sa mearga impreuna cu propunerile sale”, a spus Andrew D. Leipold, profesor de drept la Universitatea din Illinois College of Law. „Dar nu cred ca puterile presedintelui sunt afectate legal”.
Cat poate dura o ancheta de retinere? Teoretic acest lucru ar putea dura dupa ce voturile au fost exprimate in 2020?
Procesul constitutional de actiune nu stabileste un termen. Cu toate acestea, expertii cu care am vorbit spun ca procesul actual ar trebui sa se incheie inainte de Ziua alegerilor 2020.
Iata o actualizare a mecanicii: In primul rand, articolele de conducere trebuie sa treaca Camera Reprezentantilor din SUA cu majoritate simpla. Aceste articole sunt apoi trimise la Senat pentru un proces. Un vot de doua treimi din Senat este necesar pentru condamnarea – adica eliminarea – presedintelui.
„Toate semnele indica o ancheta relativ rapida in materie de reclamatie, desi torentul de noi informatii ar putea sa o elimine”, a spus Burdett A. Loomis, politolog la Universitatea din Kansas.
James D. Robenalt, avocat si creator al unei clase de educatie juridica continua pe Watergate, a elaborat o cronologie estimativa care va vedea finalizarea procesului de rejudecare in primavara anului 2020 – cu mult inainte de alegeri.
„Daca este adevarat sa se formeze, procesul Senatului ar avea loc in termen de trei luni, poate mai repede”, a spus el, citand procesele de condamnare ale presedintilor Andrew Johnson si Bill Clinton.
Niciunul dintre expertii cu care am vorbit sa creada ca Senatul detinut de republica nu ar aduna cele doua treimi voturi necesare pentru inlaturarea lui Trump, ceea ce ar putea accelera faza de judecata.
„Este foarte putin probabil ca acest proces sa se intinda in urma alegerilor din noiembrie 2020”, a spus Robenalt. „In schimb, este mai probabil sa fie o problema de campanie care va fi folosita de ambele parti.”
Mai exact ce legi au fost incalcate?
Un presedinte poate fi pus sub acuzare daca faptele sale sunt incompatibile cu functiile sale prezidentiale, indiferent daca incalca sau nu legea penala.
Acestea fiind spuse, articolele de actiune au tendinta de a urmari in mod vag un model de drept penal, chiar daca nu il acuza direct pe presedinte ca a incalcat o lege specifica, a spus Stephen M. Griffin, profesor de drept al Universitatii Tulane.
„Sunt scrise ca si cum ar acuza presedintele de infractiuni”, a spus el.
Cu toate acestea, este posibil ca Trump sa fi incalcat statutele federale, au declarat expertii PolitiFact
Legile federale privind luarea de mita s-ar putea aplica pentru retinerea ajutorului extern in schimbul favorurilor politice, a declarat Louis Seidman, profesor de drept al Universitatii din Georgetown.
„Este o infractiune sa primesti ceva de valoare in schimbul unui act guvernamental”, a spus Seidman.
Additionally, Trump may have run afoul of laws prohibiting foreign officials to provide campaign contributions, Seidman added. Federal election law says a campaign contribution can include anything of value, which may include supplying political opposition research.
THE WHISTLEBLOWER/UKRAINE PHONE CALL
Is there any actual recording of the call?
We can’t confirm or debunk this. The White House did not respond to our inquiry on whether there was a recording of the call, an extended memorandum or a complete verbatim transcript.
According to the whistleblower complaint, White House officials intervened to restrict access to an official word-for-word transcript. This might be a more detailed account of the conversation than was released by the White House. The complaint does not mention a recording.
RELATED STORY: Here’s the readout of Trump’s call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky
The complaint says that White House officials told the whistleblower that they were „directed” by White House lawyers „to remove the electronic transcript” from a computer system where such transcripts are typically stored.
The transcript of Trump’s July call with Zelensky was loaded into a separate electronic system used for classified information „of an especially sensitive nature,” the whistleblower wrote. One White House official described the action as an abuse of the electronic system because the call did not include „anything remotely sensitive from a national security perspective,” the whistleblower complaint said.
The whistleblower did not know if similar measures were taken to restrict access to other records of the call, such as contemporaneous handwritten notes taken by people who listened in on the call.
Is it true that rules were changed to protect „whistleblowers” with second- and third-hand information, having not witnessed an event first-hand?
No, the rules for whistleblowers have not changed since the law protecting intelligence staffers was passed in 2014. We got our hands on one of the earliest templates for filing a whistleblower complaint. Dating from 2014, a whistleblower could come forward with „direct and indirect evidence.”
The Intelligence Community Inspector General issued a statement Sept. 30 that specifically noted that whistleblowers „need not possess first-hand information in order to file a complaint.”
The 2014 guiding rule set down in Intelligence Community Directive 120 defines a protected disclosure as one that the employee „reasonably believes” is evidence of a violation of a law, a rule or a regulation.
The form filled out by the whistleblower in the Ukraine affair had checkboxes for first-hand and second-hand information. The whistleblower checked both.
There was a superficial change to the whistleblower forms in 2019, but there was no change in the rules.
RELATED STORY: Donald Trump’s false claim about a change in whistleblower rules
HUNTER BIDEN AND UKRAINE
Why was Hunter Biden working for a Ukrainian oil company?
The position with Burisma came at a time when the younger Biden had joined with Christopher Heinz (the stepson of then-Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass.) and Devon Archer (a Kerry family friend) in a string of investment and consulting firms. Firms run by Biden and Archer „pursued business with international entities that had a stake in American foreign policy decisions, sometimes in countries where connections implied political influence and protection,” the New York Times reported.
Biden joined Burisima as its owner Mykola Zlochevsky, a minister under Ukraine’s former president Viktor Yanukovych, faced accusations of money laundering, fraud and tax evasion. (Zlochevsky and the company have denied the allegations.) Burisma Holdings said it appointed Hunter Biden to its board of directors to help the energy company improve its corporate governance and adopt Western-style transparency.
As a director, Biden made up to $50,000 per month some months, according to the New York Times. He left Burisma in spring 2019, around the time that the elder Biden announced his 2020 presidential run. Biden’s campaign, Hunter Biden’s attorney, Burisma Holdings and a lawyer for the company did not respond to multiple requests from PolitiFact for the date of Hunter Biden’s departure.
At the time of Hunter Biden’s hiring, Reuters reported that a statement on the company’s website said he „would help the company with „transparency, corporate governance and responsibility, international expansion,” and other issues. The company also retained the law firm where Biden had been working, Boies Schiller Flexner.
Hunter Biden faced criticism for his decision to join the Ukrainian company at the same time his father, then-Vice President Joe Biden, had assumed a lead role in U.S. diplomacy there on the heels of a popular revolution that saw Yanukovych flee to Russia. There is no evidence Joe Biden took positions that would have helped his son; the vice president’s actions were consistent with both U.S. and European policy positions at the time to encourage anti-corruption efforts.
Was Hunter Biden investigated or under scrutiny for his dealings in Ukraine?
We found no evidence that Hunter Biden was personally investigated by Ukrainian or American authorities for his role as a board member of Burisma. Ukraine’s top prosecutor recently said he has no evidence of wrongdoing by the younger Biden.
However, we did find wide agreement among Ukraine policy experts that Hunter Biden’s decision to become a director during his father’s vice presidency presented a serious conflict of interest.
„It’s not a crime, but it is a lapse,” said Lincoln A. Mitchell, a research scholar at Columbia University who has written about governance in the former Soviet Union. „It’s troubling.
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Burisma’s owner Zlochevsky has been accused of using his role as a minister under Yanukovych to grant licenses to energy companies that Burisma later acquired. It’s unclear whether this alleged self-dealing is among the issues that Ukrainian authorities are reviewing. Either way, the conduct in question predated Hunter Biden’s role on Burisma’s board.
Ukraine’s top prosecutor, whom the new president Zelensky appointed in late August, announced on Oct. 4 that his office would review 15 cases involving Zlochevsky. According to NPR, when Prosecutor General Ruslan Ryaboshapka was asked whether he’s uncovered wrongdoing by Hunter Biden, he responded, „I have no such information.”
Was Ukraine aware of the fact that the military aid funds were frozen?
Media reports say the Ukrainian government did not learn that nearly $400 million in U.S. aid had been frozen until weeks after Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukraine President Zelensky.
Two Ukrainian officials, speaking on the record to BuzzFeed News, said that at the time of his call with Trump, Zelensky believed the funds were already en route to Kiev. One of the officials quoted in the story, Olena Zerkal, the deputy foreign minister who was acting minister at the time of the call, said Ukraine’s government learned about the freeze in late August, nearly a month after the leaders’ phone call. Their timeline was confirmed by an unnamed U.S. official.
Zerkal couldn’t recall the exact date they learned of the holdup. But she said word came via a „letter sent to us from our Washington Embassy” that contained no explanation. She said the letter arrived at some point prior to an Aug. 28 Politico report that broke the news of the delay.
Zelensky told reporters Oct. 1 that the reason for the delay „wasn’t explained to me.”
The New York Times cited an unidentified Ukrainian official who said Zelensky’s government did not learn of the delay until about one month after the call.
While U.S. aid to Ukraine that Trump froze has since been released, the nearly $400 million package is likely to remain central to House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry into Trump’s possible abuse of power for political gain.