The GOP Is an Unregistered Foreign Agent: Part I
Gaslit Nation is back with an exciting new addition! We are thrilled to announce that Andrea had a baby girl while you were all listening to our prerecorded Get Un-Gaslit Reading Series over the summer. We celebrate the new arrival in our podcast family the way only Gaslit Nation can, by noting that Andrea’s baby shares a birthday with Ukrainian dissident filmmaker Oleg Sentsov and discussing the power of resilience in the face of autocracy. Here’s to the future!
The GOP is an Unregistered Foreign Agent: Part I
Hillary Clinton: 00:00:00 Now, sadly we’ve known who Donald Trump is for some time now. We knew he was a corrupt businessman who cheated people. We knew that he and his campaign invited foreign adversaries to tamper with our elections. And now we know that in the course of his duties as President, he’s endangered us all by putting his personal and political interests ahead of the interests of the American people. But this is ultimately about much more than Donald Trump. It is about us. It is about who we are as a nation. History is being written and the world, and our children, are watching.
Sarah Kendzior: 00:00:50 I’m Sarah Kendzior, the author of the bestselling book The View from Flyover Country and the upcoming book, Hiding in Plain Sight.
Andrea Chalupa: 00:00:58 I’m Andrea Chalupa, a journalist and filmmaker and the writer and producer of the upcoming film Mr. Jones.
Sarah Kendzior: 00:01:04 And this is Gaslit Nation, a podcast covering corruption in the Trump Administration and rising autocracy around the world. And so today we are back after a summer break at long last to document a fresh new hellscape for you. Our summer break was not a break per se. If you go back you can listen to our summer reading series where we interviewed authors like Malcolm Nance and Craig Unger about all of the things that the government is apparently just uncovering about connections between Trump and a transnational crime syndicate. Today on the show we’re diving back in. We’re gonna talk about the whistleblower, Ukraine, impeachment, and the rest of the national shit show. But first, Andrea and I haven’t actually talked in a while, and so I just want to know, Andrea, did you do anything interesting this summer?
Andrea Chalupa: 00:01:55 I had a baby. I had a beautiful baby, yeah.
Sarah Kendzior: 00:02:00 That is one of the reasons we had a summer break. But go on and tell us about your baby. Congratulations.
Andrea Chalupa: 00:02:07 Well, this podcast is now dedicated to my baby. All baby, all the time. If you’re wondering why you did not know that I was pregnant, this entire past year or so, it felt like a year of being pregnant, on Gaslit Nation for obvious reasons we were not sharing that news. It was a decision by our family, because my sister—if you’ve been following the show you know that from the beginning my sister’s being targeted by the Kremlin and its extension, its American office, the White House. So, just out of an abundance of caution, we did not broadcast that. And it is pretty surreal, when my daughter was born I was breastfeeding her back in July and got the news that Oliver Stone did a documentary that featured me and my sister and trying to frame us for being some Ukrainian Illuminati. I wish. I wish I had all the resources of the Illuminati, the world would be a much better place. And so in Oliver Stone’s documentary he relies heavily on interviews with Medvedchuk who is Putin’s guy in Ukraine. I mean, he’s considered the dark prince. Putin is the godfather to his child. Medvedchuk is there in Stone’s documentary trying to frame the Ukraine crisis as Russia’s the victim and it’s all the West’s fault for standing up for human rights and so forth. So, it’s been a very surreal summer. And so Sarah and I have hardly spoken because I went underground to just really focus on learning how babies work, and all the ins and outs of that. And so you’re really in this monster episode you’re really hearing two friends catching up on hellscape.
Sarah Kendzior: 00:03:57 It was a terrible summer and I mean that in the most objective sense. I mean, you and I both did some cool things, like having a baby and I finished a book. The book is called Hiding in Plain Sight. It’s a history essentially of the last 40 years, of corruption, of the rise of Trump, the decline of America. And one of the things that’s frustrating me now—it comes out in Spring 2020—is it contains a lot of the “revelations” of the Whistleblower story, of other sudden “revelations” like the Kremlin’s link to the NRA and other topics that we’ve been discussing on our show.
Sarah Kendzior: 00:04:38 And so one of the really frustrating things about this past summer and about now is that so much of the crises that people are rightfully outraged about, rightfully calling for accountability about, we have known since 2016. We have known since before Trump got into office. And so all of these atrocities, all of is suffering was preventable. And it was always urgent. You know we’re going to talk a bit more about the attacks on Andrea and her sister, Alexandra Chalupa. We interviewed Alexandra back in May because she was the whistleblower on Paul Manafort. She’s an American researcher who was one of the first people to bring Manafort’s ties to the Kremlin to light and to discuss the implications of them for potential a Trump administration, for the Trump campaign. And just last week Devin Nunes dropped up her name because they’re trying, as we predicted, to flip the script. They’re investigating the investigators.
Audio Clip: 00:05:36 According to Ukrainian officials, the Democratic National Committee contractor Alexander— Alexandra Chalupa tried to get Ukrainian officials to provide dirt on Trump associates and tried to get the former Ukrainian president to comment publicly on alleged ties to Russia.
Sarah Kendzior: 00:05:54 That’s one of the reasons that throughout this show we’ve been calling for indictments, we’ve been calling for investigations. And we’ve been calling for impeachment because we don’t have time to waste. You know this is not an abstract problem, this is not like a little political science puzzle. This is a matter of human life and it’s a matter of our lives, it’s a matter of our safety. So if we sound, you know, “impatient” or “outraged”, I mean, yeah. When the government, when your own government that you have been loyal to, you know, you’ve been a good American for, targets you because you have exposed corruption, and we have the alleged president of the United States up there threatening to execute his political rivals, threatening to jail political opponents, jail whistleblowers who speak up, which is something that has already happened in some cases, you know, there’s not time to waste.
Andrea Chalupa: 00:06:52 It’s sort of surreal that I can sit here and share personal stories. And by doing so I’m updating everybody on what’s going on in the news, and also providing historical context to all these really stunning headlines of the past week alone. But just on a more hopeful note I want to share a story which will also remind us all how we got here. And that is the story of the Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov. You’ve heard us talk about Oleg Sentsov a lot on this show. We did an interview with his producer and I think it was our fourth episode when we broke the seal and I cried for the first time, beginning a long trend of crying on Gaslit Nation, telling a story of how this rising star Ukrainian filmmaker—kidnapped from Crimea during Russia’s stealth invasion, taken to Russia, and sentenced to 20 years in a Siberian prison where he was sent to die. This is a story that I’ve been following form the very beginning. I remember distinctly going on vacation to Florida, I was just going to just disappear and enjoy my vacation and then the news broke that Oleg Sentsov was sentenced to 20 years. And I got a message from an editor saying, you know, would you please write something about this. And so I stopped my vacation and just wrote a piece on it. And really closely tracked his story from there. And what really struck me when I began covering Oleg was how defiant he was. For instance, when he was in the Russian court, he would sing Ukraine’s national anthem, which was constantly being sung in Kyiv during the Revolution when hundreds of thousands of people filled the street during Arctic temperature, being attacked by Yanukovych’s riot police, Putin’s puppet in Ukraine. Russian trained snipers were firing on protesters. It was horrendous. So here was Oleg Sentsov in a Russian court singing Ukraine’s national anthem, being defiant. And also reminding Russians what they are made of. And one thing that really moved me was how he quoted in court the Russian writer Mikhail Bulgakov who, in the 1930s during Stalin’s great terror, dared to write a phenomenal book which exposed the absurdity and the cruelty of the Soviet system. And he did it in such an enchanting way and that is, of course, The Master and Margarita. And he wrote this in secret while his friends, other intellectuals, artists, poets, were disappearing. And, of course, being arrested and killed during the Great Terror. And Bulgakov stayed with his art. He had to write. He even at one point was so paranoid that Stalin was going to arrest him next, that he burned the book. And that gave birth to the famous line in the book, “Manuscripts don’t burn.” And I just love that so much. Because Bulgakov grew up in and was born and raised in Kyiv and he’s a writer that Ukranians also celebrate and feel very close to. And he’s, just his story of resistance against the cruelty coming out of the Kremlin is something that endures. And for Oleg Sentsov to quote Bulgakov in court is just such a beautiful moment. And so he really grabbed my heart early on, and so over the years I would join campaigns in drawing attention to his horrible, horrendous human rights crises. And Sentsov himself would use his celebrity, his growing celebrity for organizations like PEN International and Amnesty International to draw attention to hundreds of political prisoners being held unjustly in Russian jails because of the Russian invasion of Ukraine that’s killed over 13,000 people, displaced around 2 million.
Andrea Chalupa: 00:10:34 I participated and moderated a discussion with Pussy Riot and I asked Masha from Pussy Riot, who herself spent years in a Russian penal colony, and I asked her, Well, you know, Oleg Sentsov being an artist, isn’t he creating art in prison? Because it is very difficult to sort of hold down that spirit. And he seems very defiant. I remember Masha on stage looking at me as though I was this really crazy, optimistic American that can’t be cured. And lo and behold we find out that, yes Oleg Sentsov, indeed, was creating art from prison. He was writing several novels, he was even directing a film from prison. Because he has that defiant spirit. And then when my film, Mr. Jones, came out at the Berlin Film Festival, we joined with Amnesty International and did a big flash mob for Oleg Sentsov with our actors James Norton and Peter Sarsgaard, all of us holding up placards of Oleg Sentsov’s face and demanding that he be freed. And at the screening of Mr. Jones at the world premiere of the film, it was completely sold out. Every screening sold out on day one of the festival. And we found out that a crew member had to go home early so we had this lucky golden ticket, one seat open at the sold out world premiere and we decided to leave it open for Oleg Sentsov. And so, yeah, and so of course I’m going to cry because I’m very hormonal and I just had a baby and plus I cry anyway. But I remember when my daughter was going to be born I had a feeling that she was going to be born on a significant date. And I kept thinking you know Orwell’s birthday is coming up, wouldn’t that be funny if she was born on Orwell’s birthday because I wrote a book on Orwell and he’s featured in my film Mr. Jones. And Orwell’s birthday came and went and she wasn’t born then. And then I was like, Oh God she’s going to be born on the Brexit anniversary. No thank god she wasn’t born on Brexit. And then the Fourth of July came I thought that might be nice, born on the Fourth of July as a sign of hope. Lo and behold, my daughter was born on Oleg Sentsov’s birthday. And I was just, I don’t know, I was so...
Sarah Kendzior: 00:12:33 I was so glad for you. I mean, I was as you know I was waiting, waiting, waiting, to hear the baby news. But I’m glad you got your moment. I’m glad you got to share that day and I’m glad that you shared this story, because I think that for a lot of Americans who are unfamiliar with how autocracies work. I mean, it’s something we discuss on every episode of this show, the story of Oleg Sentsov a few years ago might have sounded remote, it might have sounded like that’s the kind of thing that can’t happen here. That’s the kind of thing that happens in other countries, in deeply corrupt countries, in countries where there’s no rule of law, in countries where people are persecuted and jailed for speaking their mind, for creating art, for telling the truth. That is happening here. And we are not yet at the level of you know Russia, certainly. We are not yet really at the level of Ukraine and kleptocracies that have faltered badly over the last few years. But we are in a very bad place. So I think Sentsov’s story is important, I mean, it’s obviously important because he shares a birthday with your daughter, but in addition to that, just for the resilience, the endurance, you know, the refusal to quit. The refusal to stop speaking out, you know, and the insistence upon bringing something into the world. You know, bringing something creative and valuable, it helps other people keep going. And I think we both try to do that in our own small ways. And, you know I hope others do as well like our show’s sometimes known as a depressing show, but that’s because the news is depressing. You know the world is depressing. We’re not going to lie about it to try to make you feel better. But what we don’t want you to do is give up. Or stop fighting, or forget what you value or bow down in some kind of submissive position where you’re grateful for the little crumbs that people in authority hand you. Or you make excuses for blatant crimes or atrocities, just because you want things to end. We want full accountability, you know, we don’t want to settle, we want to settle the score. At the same time, we want that appreciation for human life, you know, that so many authors that came out of dictatorships have expressed. People like Bulgakov or Sentsov. You know we want you to cherish that.
Sarah Kendzior: 00:14:54 I don’t want to sound bleak like we don’t know how long we’ll have it, you know I say live every day like it’s your last and people think I’m being very dark and pessimistic. But I mean, just treasure what we have before it’s gone. And this summer has been I think a big wake up call for people that both the lack of accountability in government but also the climate crisis, you know, which produced so many atrocities whether hurricanes or fires or I think just the general awareness of how dire that crisis is. And how it is, indeed, linked to authoritarianism, you know you saw this very clearly in Brazil with the Amazon burning and the president being like, “Yeah, let it burn.” You know you see it clearly in all of these leaders, these, as Andrea calls it these “Gas Station Dictatorships” like Saudi Arabia or members of our own government who seek to capitalize on climate change, who seek to capitalize on atrocity and embark on this disaster capitalism that you know Andrea and I are both mothers. We know we have a lot of other parents out there listening. We know we have some teenagers and younger people listening. The future for us is a frightening thing. You know the future is not anything we can take for granted. It’s something we have to actively fight for.
Andrea Chalupa: 00:16:06 Something happened for me over the summer where, it’s not just that I had a daughter, it’s not just the hormones, the surge of happy hormones from breastfeeding or whatever. I’ve been really thinking about the future, what kind of future have I condemned my daughter to. And after just really meditating on this and paying close attention to news especially coming out of Ukraine and Russia, I’ve actually never been more hopeful for the future. And it’s because of the countless defiant people out there. Like Oleg Sentsov. And I’m so thrilled, so thrilled to again report the news that two months after my daughter was born Oleg Sentsov was freed. He’s freed now. And there’s no doubt a long list of European producers who can’t wait to work with him. And he’s going to be giving back to Ukrainian society and helping build it up and build up their film talent because that’s what he was doing before and he’s just going to continue to do that because that’s the kind of person he is. And…and…and a lot of my optimism has really always come from watching Ukraine very closely. And I don’t, you know, I think all of us feel despair as the natural emotion at what’s been going on. But we refuse to stay in it. And be defiant, be defiant, be defiant. And we’ll get into Ukraine and everything and why it matters and why we’ve always covered it as a framework for understanding all of the challenges of the 21st Century and some of the greatest threats to the planet today and it’s always been the resiliency of the Ukrainian people. It’s a country that should not exist, I mean it should have been wiped out under Stalin’s genocide famine in 1933, which is the focus of my film Mr. Jones. Millions were killed, deliberately killed. It was a genocide. And if you’re wondering, you know, why Putin, under what banner he invaded eastern Ukraine in the first place, it was to protect the Russian speakers. Those Russian speakers got there because after Stalin murdered millions of Ukrainians there over time the area was repopulated with Russians. So those Russian speakers have really only been there just 80 or so years since the famine. And so Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, eastern Ukraine, is very much building on Stalin’s work. And so Ukraine has gone through so much. Chernobyl, the worst nuclear disaster in history, that was a reminder of the Kremlin’s painful colonization of the country. And yet it kept going and then the 2004 Orange Revolution against Putin’s puppet Yanukovych trying to steal an election. Paul Manafort was working for Yanukovych at the time. They overthrew that election and got a new guy in, and then again they did it with the Euromaidan.
Andrea Calupa: 00:18:35 So Ukraine keeps going, no matter how dire things are. Ukraine keeps marching on. And you’re seeing that now this summer with the Russian resistance. The Russian people themselves have …Putin has been just scorched earth, trying to destroy and demoralize them. The assassination of Boris Nemtsov who was the hope of Russia, this charismatic leader that stood up to Putin. And united Russia and Ukraine. You have opposition figured that are arrested, as soon as they leave the house. And constantly the elections are blatantly stolen, like viral videos of ballot boxes being comically filled up with votes. It’s like so clownish and over the top but they do it because what are you going to do? How are you going to stop them? And yet, despite all that, the Russian people keep fighting, keep fighting, keep fighting. And we saw this summer also the success story of Hong Kong. How those protestors, looking at Ukraine, having public screenings of that excellent documentary Winter on Fire on how the Ukrainians did it. A rare popular uprising that was successful.
Andrea Chalupa: So, I’ve actually never been more optimistic for the future. I feel like Donald Trump is a mirror that the whole world is forced to look into because so much has gone unchecked for so long, so many lives were destroyed for so long, so all these horrendous stories are forced to come to the surface and we’re forced to finally deal with them and decide what kind of country we want to be, what kind of world we want to live in, and we’re finally being forced to fight, we’re being forced to be defiant. And, you know, we’re can make all this intellectual progress, as we’re seeing with MIT with the media lab, but if you don’t have that moral progress then you’re self-destructive, you’re destroying yourself, as we saw again with the MIT media lab taking money from Jeffrey Epstein even though you know, he was a child rapist. And so I really think this is just really an important crossroads where we’re forced, forced to have the moral progress catch up to where we are with our intellectual progress. And then just keep going from there and just fight for the future.
Sarah Kendzior: 00:20:24 You know, I agree with that. I’m not sure I’d frame it as optimistic per se, but just, there’s a difference between awareness and accountability. And we keep slipping in and out of awareness. You know I keep talking about déjà news, this phenomenon of the same stories being reported over and over again as if they’re brand new. In part because people are bombarded with so many horrific actions of corruption from this administration and from others that they just simply can’t keep them straight. You know, even people like me and Andrea who follow the news for a living have trouble sometimes keeping up. But then we see, you know, a lack of willingness to confront how deep the problem goes. Because to do that you have to admit human error. You have to admit that our institutions were always fragile, that our institutions were flawed. That specific actors, often those who are held up as heroes like Mueller was, and we did warn you about that everyone, you know, they fail us. Not necessarily out of malice, but out of negligence. And the only way to move forward from something like that is to discuss those flaws head on. And that’s what I’m hoping will happen now, you know now that we finally are at the point where Pelosi has finally changed her mind on impeachment, after you know, nearly over half a year of activists bringing up all of his crimes, insisting on accountability. But to do that we need to be you know very honest, you know about where things are. Because none of this stuff happening is new. I don’t know if this is the spot, Andrea, where you want to play that Lisa Page episode clip where we discuss the Giuliani situation?
Andrea Chalupa: Yeah, let’s play it. 00:22:02 And so here we are back in early April. This is from our episode “Lisa Page”, telling you how all of this Giuliani shenanigans, extorting Ukraine was going to go down.
[CLIP, music] Andrea Chalupa: 00:22:24 And on a personal note, I want to share with people my extra added anxiety in watching the presidential election in Ukraine about a month ago. Ukraine’s prosecutor general went to New York City and guess who he met with? The president’s lawyer. He met with Rudy Giuliani. And after that meeting, he did an interview with The Hill, where he said that he was going to open an investigation into Ukraine’s meddling in the 2016 election. Well, the Far Right media picked up on this, and they started saying that Ukraine is going to investigate my sister. You may remember if you follow this show that, as part of Paul Manafort’s strategy to try to flip the script on the Russia investigation and detract from it, he had a whole media strategy where he was going to blame my sister for colluding with Ukraine in 2016 for Hillary Clinton. And even Russian state media, when the Steele Dossier came out on Buzzfeed, Putin’s Sean Hannity, at Russia-1, did an entire segment on how my sister was…created this whole Russiagate fantasy. And she created a scandal and it was all because of her. And I was her accomplice. And this entire Russian news segment that aired on one of the main channels…of Putin’s propaganda. It even included a photograph of my young nieces, my nieces, that they grabbed from my sister’s Facebook page. Okay, so, what’s now happening, what I’m waiting for, is to see who will be Ukraine’s next president. And will the next president, like the current president and his prosecutor general, will they be essentially bribed, because that’s how bad the corruption was allowed to go on there, even after the revolution, after all those people gave their lives for a better future, whoever is the president of Ukraine, will they take a bribe for support or whatever from Trump’s White House, from Giuliani, to invent evidence that my sister did in fact collude in the 2016 election? And that could open up a very expensive and big legal case against her. And she’d have to live under that threat of possibly being thrown into prison on some trumped up charges. So that’s what we’re dealing with here in the US. When you don’t have a country that stands for human rights, countries that are struggling, like Ukraine, can slip back into corruption where their leaders are easily bribed. So we have a Trump White House that amplifies and legitimizes autocrats and mass murdering dictators like Kim Jung Un, like Putin, like Netanyahu, like Erdogan, and so forth. And when you do that, what you’re doing is furthering corruption and making those who are fighting against it, investigative journalists and independent researchers like my sister, far more vulnerable. You make them and their families extremely vulnerable. And that is what we’re up against. [MUSIC FOR END OF CLIP]
Andrea Chalupa: 00:25:29 We saw all that coming. My sister, as Malcolm Nance refers to her in his book The Plot to Hack Democracy, was at Ground Zero for all of this. So the overall trend we’re seeing is that people are being punished by Trump and Putin for simply following the law. That’s it. It’s like a letter, for instance, by Democratic senators asking the Ukrainian government why they halted cooperating with Robert Mueller and what information they have on Paul Manafort in regards to Mueller’s investigation, that is suddenly framed, even though those Senators are acting according to the Constitutional duty and obligations they have to the American people, that letter is suddenly framed as, Oh, look at these Democrats trying to frame Trump and trying to undermine our President. They’re traitors. So what we’re seeing is a continued pattern, whether it’s in the United States or Russia, and in Russia’s case you have people being arrested and in many cases sadistically beaten by riot police, for just exercising their Constitutional right to protest, to assemble. And to run for office. And they’re being arrested for just trying to carry out the law. That’s at the heart of all of this, is those who are trying to carry out the law are being arrested. Those who are just following proper protocol are being targeted. The checks and balances have never been more strained but we just have to remind ourselves that we are on the right side of the law. We are following the law. This is a coup—the Far Right, Kremlin-backed coup in America continues. And that’s what this is, is they are trying to undermine the rule of law in our country. And so that brings us to what Giuliani has been doing and what Trump has been doing and why Ukraine matters and it’s such an important framework to understand how we got here.
Andrea Chalupa: 00:27:17 As you’ve seen at the start of the show, my sister’s story, she’s just a Ukrainian American, she’s as American as anybody else. And she knew who Paul Manafort was because of all the blood money that he took to corrupt Ukraine. This included building up a political party, the Party of Regions, and building up Yanukovych, that was a staunchly anti-NATO party, deliberately undermining US interests. Manafort was being paid by one of Putin’s closest Russian oligarchs, Oleg Deripaska. He was on a $10 million a year contract since 2006. He was Putin’s operative. If you look at the Mueller Report and what it actually is, the Mueller Report is a massive library exposing the plausible deniability that mob bosses use in order to commit crimes. So it’s not Putin and Trump that are making these phone calls directly. It is not Putin and Trump that are getting their hands dirty. They have all of their associates, whether it’s the head of a Kremlin-backed bank, or whether it’s the Trump children, or Trump campaign staffers, and so forth. They have all these little agents going around in the world. So for instance, one of Putin’s favorite caterers, this guy known as “Putin’s Chef”, he’s suddenly running a private army for Putin—in Africa, in Syria, in Ukraine. And so that’s how it works. It’s plausible deniability. And Manafort is one of these agents. He’s Putin’s political operative in the West. And he was deliberately hired in order to get Donald Trump installed as President of the United States. To undermine America’s interests, undermine America’s sovereignty and also divide the West. And everything you’re seeing playing out has been very much in Putin’s favor. And anybody who thinks that’s tinfoil hat or whatever simply does not know history or has some other agenda or is trying to get some niche media market cornered for themselves or whatever. It’s just a fact. This is how Putin operates. It’s how he operates in Ukraine, this is how he operates across Europe in propping up and funding Far Right parties. In operating these bot machines to try and attack his political opponents. Whether it’s boosting the Yellow Vest movement that became violent and was taken over by extremists in France, or having his little agents undermine the Brexit vote and push Brexit over the edge of getting passed. So there are so many examples of the Kremlin’s meddling in democracies around the world. And no democracy is immune to this at all. And what the Kremlin has basically been doing is succeeding at exploiting all of our weaknesses. Which is why we need to confront what those weaknesses are and fix them.
Sarah Kendzior: 00:30:02 To kind of bring it up to date as of course everyone is talking about Giuliani and Giuliani’s business in Ukraine, we’ve done several episodes about this. We literally had a Gaslit Nation episode called “Will Giuliani be the Manafort of 2020?”. You know, that was how confident we were that this was going to happen and the reason we were confident was not because we’re psychics. It was because Giuliani was carrying out acts of corruption in plain sight. You know, Giuliani was an object of a Senate investigation spearheaded by among others Elizabeth Warren to decide whether he’s a foreign agent. They officially declared that. They wrote letters about that. This has all been happening. It’s just that the media, generally speaking, has not been covering it and certainly not covering it with the urgency that it warranted. We did another episode called “Dirty, Dirty Giuliani”, where we went back, looked at Giuliani’s past. Giuliani has had this long relationship of covering up Trump’s crimes and covering up crimes for the Russian mafia going all the way back to his tenure in New York City, first as a prosecutor, then as Mayor. There are old articles by Wayne Barrett and other investigative reporters of the late 80s and early 90s that go into Giuliani’s history of corruption, his deals and cover ups for Trump. And then onward at that point, this is something I go into in my upcoming book as well, Giuliani served as somebody who prosecuted the Italian mafia, which was already dying out in New York City, and then basically sat back and kind of chilled while the Russian mafia made inroads. And the reason that they were able to do that was in part due to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, which opened the floodgates for, you know, legitimate emigration from the former Soviet Union. But it also allowed a lot of criminal actors to enter the United States and set up shop in places like New York City. And they did this by blurring the laws between illicit and legal activity. You know, using institutions like Wall Street that already had a long history of corruption to set up their ventures. You know it was a new level of white collar organized crime. And Giuliani enabled that crime to thrive as Mayor in New York. He was not targeting those individuals and the New York FBI was, you know, I guess by the late 90s they actually were beginning to clamp down a bit on the Russian mafia. There’s a book called Red Mafia by Robert I. Friedman that discusses this. That book was published I believe in 2000. It warns that this is the great national security crises facing the West. That we are all destined to have governments that are as corrupt and dependent on organized crime as the Kremlin if we do not look at the enemy in our midst. And I want to be very clear that the enemy here is organized crime. It is criminals. It does not have to do with the ethnicity of the criminal, it does not have to do with the fact that they come from the former Soviet Union or from Russia. I don’t want to hear any bullshit about that, because I sometimes see that on Twitter. This has to do with a specific group of transnational actors who are working to enhance their personal wealth and to subvert institutions and governments from the inside. And it was able to happen in part because of Giuliani. Giuliani became rebranded after 9/11 as America’s Mayor. You know, I lived in New York City at the time. You know that was…it was an unbelievably horrible time. It was a horrifying and tragic event, we were all looking for leadership. And I think a lot of people kind of forgave or overlooked Giuliani’s long history of both corruption and racism and other unsavory activities because we wanted someone to just be in charge. But one other consequence of 9/11 of course is that law enforcement resources that were previously looking at the Russian mafia, they were looking at people like Semion Mogilevich, at Felix Sater, who is both a mobster and an FBI operative and a Trump partner. They were looking at all this, they turned all their attention to Islamic terrorism. And basically dropped the ball for the next, I don’t know, two decades almost at this point. And that’s kinda you know that brings us to where we are now where Giuliani was then, just like Manafort, just like so many of these wealthy DC lobbyists and consultants who are basically just mobsters, you know, in nicer clothes, in a suit and tie. They are able to go into these countries which are kleptocracies, which are dominated by organized criminal elements in many ways, where you see the fight for freedom playing out all the time and then just milk it for all it’s worth. Just take the money and run. Build up corrupt networks. And a lot of times, as Craig Unger, the author, has pointed out, this is legal. You know, under our loose system of laws that enables white collar corruption, some of this activity is legal. Some of it is like extremely not legal and extremely not cool. You know which brings us to the Whistleblower case, an impeachable offense that was documented and an illegal offense that was documented.
Andrea Chalupa: 00:35:18 Yeah, so basically Ukraine, as we’re always saying on this show, it is very much in the US interest, in Europe’s interest, to be a strong, reliable, solid ally of Ukraine. Ukraine, ultimately, in defending itself from the Kremlin’s aggression, is defending Europe and the US from the Kremlin’s aggression. And what I mean by that is, I’ll give you an example, so one analyst in Berlin told me that Ukrainian soldiers, Ukrainian soldiers in a military that was depleted by many years of corruption, mainly under Yanukovych, Putin’s corrupt puppet in Ukraine, Ukraine’s soldiers in this depleted military were going up against heavy machinery from the Russian side, that no US soldier has had to fight against. OK? So, Ukraine is very much, as we’re always saying on this show, a laboratory for the Kremlin’s aggression. So they’re using all types of heavy weapons against Ukrainian soldiers right now. That includes cyber warfare attacking Ukraine’s grid. Trying to hack Ukraine’s elections. They succeeded in hacking Ukraine’s election results. But of course, Ukraine caught it and stopped it. And on and on this has been going for so long. Ukraine is so good, so good at resisting Putin’s aggression, the Kremlin’s aggression, because they have a history of doing this. And that’s why Western press and Western governments just look so sleepy by comparison, and have been successfully undermined as a result as we saw with even our own intelligence agencies, like Comey and so forth thinking Hillary was going to get elected. Obama’s White House thought Hillary was going to get elected. And so forth. No. It’s like… And so if Obama’s administration had what Ukrainian’s had in terms of understanding Kremlin aggression, Hillary would have gotten elected. Absolutely. Because they wouldn’t have left anything to chance and they would have known what to look out for. So it’s in our best interests, and the Western alliance has always been very strongly united around this, to support Ukraine in its two major wars. One is of course, Kremlin aggression and the other one is corruption. We’re talking about a part of the world that was stuck behind the Iron Curtain. And what the Soviet Union was, it was just, you know, a kleptocracy. It was just unimaginable corruption. This wasn’t Communism by any means. I mean you had people enriching themselves off the backs of others. It was Orwell’s Animal Farm, very much. And so you add to that a terror police that for decades destroyed trust in the society, destroyed people’s lives, even infiltrated, you know, the Orthodox Church, for instance, you had priests that were KGB agents and so forth. And when a society, when trust is killed, it adds to the deep trauma of these societies that take generations to heal. And don’t get me started on this whole area of scientific research that is just now developing to understand how trauma gets passed down generation by generation through the DNA.
Andrea Chalupa: 00:38:15 So Ukraine is a deeply, deeply traumatized state that survived so much and really shouldn’t even exist after everything it’s been through but it does. So anything that happens out of Ukraine is a huge success story. So, the country just had a fair election that overwhelmingly elected this raunchy, totally politically untested comedian by the name of Volodymyr Zelensky. Zelensky shot to fame through, as we’ve heard on the show, though his hilarious show Servant of the People where he plays a high school teacher who goes on a rant against corruption , this goes viral, and the next thing you know, he’s president. And Servant of the People is also the name of his political movement. And it was produced by this network owned by the oligarch Kolomoyskyi, who is quite complicated and colorful and we can get into that. And so the new president of Ukraine was elected on this anti-corruption ticket. Ukrainians were fed up with the guy before him, Poroshenko, and rightfully so. I was fed up with Poroshenko. Yes, he was an oligarch and he’s the Willy Wonka of Ukraine. He owns this really fun chocolate company. All his storefronts are very colorful, they’re like the FAO Schwarz of candy. I was really stunned that here you have Poroshenko, an oligarch, yes, but he was on the ground during Euromaidan. He saw, firsthand, pro-Democracy protestors brutalized by the riot police. You would just assume, Euromaidan being such a transformative event, a rare popular uprising, you would assume that Poroshenko would be touched by that. And hear, loud and clear, the mandate of Euromaidan. When those protestors took to the square in Kyiv and said, “We demand to have the E.U. Association agreement signed by Yanukovych, as promised.” Instead you know Yanukovych took a bailout from Russia instead to bring Ukraine closer to Russia. When those protestors were demanding to draw closer to Europe, what they meant was we want an end to corruption. We want to live in a stable democracy like Europe. And Poroshenko instead dragged his feet in fighting corruption. He went through around four prosecutor generals. And the guy Shokin that everyone’s talking about was one of the worst. You know how we know that William Barr is Trump’s own personal lawyer and practically acting like a Trump campaign staffer and going above and beyond in protecting the president and not prosecuting and wholeheartedly investigating corruption? That’s basically what Ukrainians were up against under Shokin, this really terrible, nothing, waste of space, corrupt himself prosecutor. He was protecting all the oligarchs. And when Biden along with the IMF, the EU, and all of the Ukraine’s top donors was demanding the firing of Shokin, it was because he wasn’t going after people. He simply wasn’t, including the people that Hunter Biden was involved with at that company Burisma. You have to understand that Hunter Biden going over there and taking a board membership of any company, I could see it being done as a good intention. A way of saying, Ukraine is trying. Ukraine is struggling. But look, here is Hunter Biden giving this company a chance. So please, prominent Westerners, please look at Ukraine, come over to Ukraine. They need our investment. And that will help the country eventually stabilize. That’s how I interpreted Hunter Biden coming over there. You can talk about conflict of interest all you want, but Ukraine really needed foreign investors to help come in and prop up the country financially. The economy was decimated with Putin’s invasion and years of corruption, and so Hunter Biden coming in was a stamp of sorta you can tip you toe into Ukraine. Come and give it a chance. And even the ambassador at the time, the US ambassador, called out the prosecutor general, and called out this company Burisma by name in saying “Please investigate them.” And the guy wouldn’t. So there was no active investigation into Burisma, Hunter Biden’s company that he’s on the board of at the time. And that was the problem. That was the problem. So here you had people following the laws, demanding that the law be followed and the Trump and Putin camp are now twisting this and try to attack people for wanting the law to be followed. This is what they’re constantly doing.
Sarah Kendzior: 00:42:29 To be clear, I mean, I think Hunter Biden strikes me a kind of a scumbag. but not somebody who committed necessarily an illegal action but just you know a kind of a player. And another things that’s striking of course is just how much nepotism is involved in this story where you see the Trump family in the administration, you see Barr who has his children in the administration and you see you know Biden whose kid is now his adult child is now wrapped up in this controversy. That said, though I am not personally a fan of Joe Biden, the claims that the Trump administration are making about him are ridiculous. They’re unfounded and they’re just part of this general trend of flipping the script, of trying to recreate the dynamic of 2016 in which they went after Hillary Clinton’s emails with an entire movement that they built up you know in partnership of people like Steve Bannon and his Clinton cache project which launched, notably, by The New York Times to say you known this woman is a national security threat. This woman is putting America at risk because of you know her personal ties to corruption and her carelessness with technology. Which is of course exactly what we’re looking at, and have been looking at, with the Trump administration for the entire time that it’s existed. And we’re now at this point because, you know, a whistleblower came forward and you know revealed in a secret version of what was already publicly known what had been in fact discussed on our show, revealed that the Trump administration of course was covering things up again. That Barr was covering up crime. That Pompeo is covering up crime. Because everyone in this administration’s job is to cover up crime. So now this is all kinda being forced out into the open and you’re seeing a heightened version of a tactic that the Trump administration first began really pushing I think in late 2017. Honestly right after Manafort’s arrest. You know he was the first person implicated in the Mueller probe and he was arrested or indicted in October 2017. You immediately saw this attempt to say the Democrats are the real criminals. And sometimes they kind of alternate. They’d be like, Oh they were really working for Russia and sometimes it’d be like Oh they were really working for Ukraine. And they were desperate to find of any kind of way of making this assertion. You know that’s why your sister, the whistleblower on Manafort, got dragged into this whole situation because they’re looking for scapegoats. But I have to say, the level that it’s at today, and we should say, we’re recording this Monday morning, Trump has just basically called for Civil War—that’s not necessarily new. Roger Stone famously called…said there would be a blood bath if Trump lost in 2016 and we’ve heard many kinds of insinuations toward domestic terrorism uttered by Trump, you know talking to quote Second Amendment voters. Basically encouraging violence in his name. But we’re seeing direct targeting of officials who’ve been digging into the treason investigations and the general corruption investigations. People like Adam Schiff. People like Andrew McCabe who was a Russian mafia expert at the FBI. It is ramped up. And this is exactly what we warned about on our show. You know, we said if you don’t have impeachment hearings you’re going to see show trials because they are going to want to put forward a narrative of events that does not reflect reality but that grasps the exact same components that we need to look at if we’ve investigating this corruption and twists them so that you see this kind of warped mirror image of what’s happening. And we’ve seen this tactic the whole time. This is the Roy Cohn tactic. This is a Roger Stone tactic. This is something that was used, I think very savvily, by whoever is behind QAnon where they brought in real things that people had doubts about, like the Jeffrey Epstein pedophilia trafficking and you know what I see as an espionage operation. You know they would drag that in, an actual crime that people were not covering or not prosecuting, and mix it up with all kinds of stuff to try to make it look like you know Trump is this secret hero. He is taking down the Deep State. He’s going to get rid of all these disgusting people. And you know on occasion I feel real sympathy toward the non-violent members of QAnon because like Yeah, everyone is lying to you. Like everyone is corrupt and all these disgusting people have been operating unencumbered for like decades. You know going back to before I was born. Like I haven’t lived in a world without these like frothing assholes and their disgusting actions. So you know I get it. But the fact that people have covered things up and lied for so long makes things more challenging. Every day that our government and our media does not just talk straight to the American people and confess the sins that have been occurring, it makes it more difficult to have us inhabit a shared reality that’s based on accountability and justice and an empowered populace. You know an informed population is a powerful population. I think a lot of people really don’t want that, which is why they’re withholding information. And now I’m all like pissed off so you should probably take the lead and…
Andrea Chalupa: 00:47:49 Well, it’s political warfare what we’re watching. I mean, the Republican Party is an unregistered foreign agent. Everything they’re saying from Chuck Grassley demanding that William Barr investigate the DNC for exposing Trump’s Kremlin ties, people are being harassed and targeted with all the power of the United States government simply for following the law. For standing up for their country. And it’s all Putin’s bidding. This is exactly what Putin wants. And, for instance, you know Paul Manafort being Putin’s operative, being Putin’s little pollinator, again, his oligarch Deripaska was the guy that had to get his hands dirty paying Manafort all these years. $10 million a year, working for over a decade for the Kremlin and furthering the Kremlin’s interests in the West, through media and businesses. This whole effort with Giuliani and Ukraine and trying to flip the script as was just exposed in a great piece by Murray Waas in The New York Review of Books, this was invented by Paul Manafort. This was him from the beginning. This whole strategy was in place in 2016. The two people that were most instrumental in telling you who Paul Manafort was, and warning you about Paul Manafort—that he is the Kremlin, he is the Kremlin— the Kremlin is managing Donald Trump’s campaign for president. Those two people: my sister, a DNC consultant who first blew the whistle on this, and also Serhiy Leshenko, one of Ukraine’s leading, leading investigative journalists. They have been relentlessly attacked and put through so much hell because of the Kremlin’s strategy to attack them, to try to flip the script. And all of this was put in place in 2016.
Andrea Chalupa: 00:49:36 My sister heard that the transition team was asking about her. Next thing you know, here comes Ken Vogel calling her up. And she never in a million years would have associated an American reporter with the Trump transition team–
Sarah Kendzior: 00:49:48 –The New York Times’s Ken Vogel, I just want to emphasize that point because there’s this pattern of them–
Andrea Chalupa: 00:49:54 –The New York Times rewarded Ken Vogel for his smear campaign against not only my sister but also Serhiy Leshenko. So the two big hit pieces that came out against the two top people that exposed Manafort and the Kremlin’s involvement in the 2016 elections, those two individuals had hit pieces done against them by the same reporter. And that reporter is Ken Vogel, and he did it through Politico. And for whatever reason this was not a red flag to the New York Times. And the New York Times ended up hiring him, and then Ken Vogel did this again, this time against Biden... Okay? So we told you about this, back in late December 2018. We can play that clip now.
[CLIP MUSIC] Andrea Chalupa: 00:50:37 So, back during the period of the Trump transition team, my sister got word through a friend that the transition team was asking about her. They were trying to dig up dirt on her. And around this time, Politico came calling and there was two reporters there at the time, Ken Vogel and David Stern, and they wanted to interview her. I think that my sister was hoping that at this point the American media was finally catching up to Trump and Russia, and she was desperate for anybody to take her information and put it out there. So I don’t think she’d ever in a million years suspect that an American outlet like Politico, or reporters like Ken Vogel and David Stern, would…would want anything else other than the truth. And what ends up happening is they publish a story framing my sister as colluding with Ukraine in the 2016 election. And Ken Vogel even tweaks it by saying, you know, there is no evidence, there is no proof of Trump-Russia collusion, but there is proof of Ukraine-DNC collusion or however the hell he said. He was really pushing this story as something there there. And she was shocked. She felt completely...she was...she was just shocked. She just never expected that. She thought that there was finally a turning point and the American media was going to take Trump and Russia seriously. And she did not expect to be thrown under the bus like this, by an American news outlet that was very much furthering Kremlin propaganda. [MUSIC OUT]
Andrea Chalupa: 00:52:14 What you see happening here, it’s just mindblowing. As I said at the start of the show the election of Donald Trump was the bigger, badder sequel to Ukraine’s revolution, Euromaidan, Putin’s revenge. That’s exactly what this is. So Serhiy Leshenko, his dearest friend, one of his close friends, Mustafa Nayyem, another investigative journalist that also became a member of Parliament, he launched the revolution in Ukraine with a Facebook post. And one of the most trusted agencies in Ukraine’s government following the revolution, this anti-corruption agency, which the West considers to be one of the very few effective, trusted agencies in Ukraine’s government, they are now under attack by the Giuliani – Manafort playbook, Kremlin playbook. This is the Kremlin’s greatest outcome, that the heroes, the heroes that have been risking their lives, to try to clean up Ukraine, and confronting Putin’s puppets in Ukraine, those heroes are now being attacked by the Republican Party and the Donald Trump White House. Putin couldn’t have asked for a better outcome than this. You have a divided Western alliance. This is so surreal to watch this play out. Like, Putin is absolutely thrilled by this outcome.
Andrea Chalupa: 00:53:35 Our discussion continues and you can get access to that by signing up on our Patreon at the Truthteller level or higher.
Sarah Kendzior: 00:53:40 We want to encourage our listeners to join us in donating to help climate refugees in the Bahamas impacted by the hurricane. One way you can help is by donating to the Grand Bahama Disaster Relief Foundation, a local organization coordinating relief efforts on the ground.
Andrea Chalupa: 00:53:54 We also encourage you to donate to help critically endangered orangutans already under pressure from the palm oil industry and now horrendous fires in Indonesia. Donate to the Orangutan Project at the OrangutanProject.org. GaslitNation is produced by Sarah Kendzior and Andrea Chalupa. If you like what we do, leave us a review on iTunes. It helps us reach more listeners. And check out our Patreon. It keeps us going.