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Whistleblower exposed much more than Trump's self-dealing

A perfect storm of bad news is crushing President Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpPennsylvania Supreme Court strikes down GOP bid to stop election certification Biden looks to career officials to restore trust, morale in government agencies Sunday shows preview: US health officials brace for post-holiday COVID-19 surge MORE and his defenders. Whistleblower#1’s complaint to Congress has exposed Trump’s self-dealing with the Ukrainian president. But that’s not all. It has also exposed a network of shady, sneaky agents advancing Trump’s schemes, against the national interest. And it has blown up their cover story, putting Trump clearly on the defensive.

That one complaint has led to the motherload of all meltdowns by Team Trump. They’re scattering like roaches in the light of day. Events are occurring so fast that Trump’s defenders can’t keep up and are flummoxed. It’ll only get worse.

In fact, it already has.

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William Taylor’s testimony Tuesday confirmed and documented Trump as chief provocateur of the quid pro quo. Case closed.

What Trump is up against is something he never had a clue existed and could therefore never be prepared for: the structured phalanx of professional, disciplined, honest civil servants in the intelligence and diplomatic communities who will never let him get away with self-dealing if it subverts global democracy.

Trump knew there would be some in government wise to his antics and who would speak out. That’s why he adopted the bogeyman “Deep State” to dismiss them as “angry Democrats” who disagree with his politics, so they launched a “witch hunt.”    

Trump comes from a world in which self-dealing was in the DNA, literally from when he was a zygote. Having learned at the feet of first his father and then his mentor and lawyer Roy Cohn, he had the tools to thrive in the shadows. 

In his business and then his campaign for president, Trump was always surrounded by yes men. If you didn’t facilitate his dealings, you were gone. He’d find someone else who would.

He’s using that approach in the White House. The tsunami of staff turnover in his administration, White House included, is ample evidence. Who would have thought that when Trump asked former national security advisor John BoltonJohn BoltonPressure grows from GOP for Trump to recognize Biden election win Sunday shows - Virus surge dominates ahead of fraught Thanksgiving holiday Bolton calls on GOP leadership to label Trump's behavior 'inexcusable' MORE to resign because he couldn’t get along with people, that those people were the network of shady, sneaky agents of Trump’s self-dealing, headed by Trump’s personal attorney Rudy GiulianiRudy GiulianiKrebs says allegations of foreign interference in 2020 election 'farcical'  Trump campaign loses appeal over Pennsylvania race Krebs: I'm 'most upset' I didn't get to say goodbye to my team MORE?

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During and after two years of Special Counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerCNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump CNN anchor rips Trump over Stone while evoking Clinton-Lynch tarmac meeting The Hill's 12:30 Report: New Hampshire fallout MORE’s Russia investigation, Trump and his defenders bullied, denied, obfuscated, and hoodwinked Congress and the public into a stalemate. The scheme has worked so far, thanks to some deceit by Attorney General William Barr in misinterpreting Mueller’s findings, and the profound incompetence of the House Democrats as a worthy opponent.

Now, it’s a different story.

The whistleblower complaint has turned the tables, giving the House the upper hand. That’s because Trump, Barr, et al, neither control the information nor who comes through the revolving door of witnesses. As each witness comes forward, we’re learning who the shady characters are and what their schemes were. Team Trump has ordered witnesses not to cooperate. He’s already lost that battle. The dam has broken.

If there were ever a doubt, the testimony from Taylor — a professional diplomat, decorated veteran of the 101st Airborne Division in Vietnam, and appointee of both George W. Bush and Donald Trump — erased it. Trump and his defenders cannot cope with a credible response. Their choice to defend was either a scholarly dialectic approach or schoolyard mud wrestling. Based on Wednesday’s disruption tactics of yet further testimony, they’ve chosen the latter.

My mentor, legendary fighter pilot Col. John Boyd, developed a concept called the OODA Loop. It’s applied in combat, business, sports, litigation, etc. The acronym stands for observation, orientation, decision, action. Anyone who goes through that cycle quicker than their opponent takes the advantage.

Right now, the House and the IC are in, as we call it, Trump’s OODA Loop. They have the advantage. And all of Team Trump know it. That’s why they are flailing. White House acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney’s admission of holding up aid to Ukraine for a political favor — and then insisting he didn’t describe a quid pro quo because he didn’t actually say the Latin term — is the latest clue.

The press will learn and fill in more of the mosaic of shady operators, what they’re doing, and who they’re colluding with. No doubt, each tile of that mosaic will beget another, supplied by members of the phalanx and by Hill staff. It’s happening right now. Administration officials will bail. Fingers will point.

So far, we have the president caught red-handed. He has no plausible deniability. 

Also caught red-handed are the shady operators conspiring with equally shady pro-Russian Ukrainians. Many of them, like Giuliani, have neither security clearances nor any recently sworn oaths to the Constitution. Their agendas have been uncovered, and their cover story has been blown a full year before the election.

News reports and the recent indictment of Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman suggest the Trump agenda is fabricated dirt on Joe Biden, and a bogus Crowdstrike server in Ukraine; the Russian agenda is the usual — political influence for corrupt purposes, just like in Ukraine. A little cash can maybe buy them a politician to help get rid of an honest ambassador who’s in their way. Each side would scratch the other’s back. The cost would be minimal — undermining the national security of the U.S. and Ukraine.

Without these on-going exposures, we’d be staring at an October surprise next year. I can see it now: Giuliani and his shady operators crawling all over Fox News and the entire right-wing echo chamber, waiving fabricated evidence and affidavits against Joe and Hunter Biden, with reports of a “newly discovered” Crowdstrike server in Ukraine. It would be the 2.0 version of the tabloid trash Giuliani sent to Congress Oct. 2 via the White House, Secretary of State Pompeo and the State IG.

The narrative would be: See, just like we said — the Russians didn’t hack the DNC and interfere in the 2016 elections. It was Ukraine! The Russians are absolved, and so is Trump. It’s not Trump doing a quid pro quo, it’s Joe BidenJoe BidenPennsylvania Supreme Court strikes down GOP bid to stop election certification Biden looks to career officials to restore trust, morale in government agencies Biden transition adds new members to coronavirus task force MORE! The Deep State was wrong!

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Ukraine would be thrown under the tractor and would continue to be fertile ground for future furtive deals. Trump would be re-elected, the Russians toasting with champagne. Again.

All of this would be laugh-out-loud slap stick were it not for how it undermines the national security of both the U.S. and Ukraine, and our shared desire for the rule of law and democracy. This is exactly what the IC and diplomatic communities are fighting to preserve. That’s why they defy Trump’s order against cooperation with Congress.

If Trump’s self-dealing continues, we’re headed toward exactly the kind of corruption culture Ukraine struggles with now. And Ukraine’s efforts to reverse their course will be stymied. That’s what’s at stake. Trump wanted to play ball this way. Now, he’s exposed himself to a perfect storm of backlash.

He’s met his match.

Kris Kolesnik is a 34-year veteran of federal government oversight. He spent 19 years as senior counselor and director of investigations for Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa). Kolesnik then became executive director of the National Whistleblower Center. Finally, he spent 10 years working with the Department of the Interior’s Office of Inspector General as the associate inspector general for external affairs.