- The Washington Times - Friday, November 22, 2019

Former Robert Mueller Russia probe prosecutor turned MSNBC analyst Andrew Weissmann says President Trump thinks that he and Vladimir Putin are “on the same team” for the 2020 election.

He made this new collusion theory based on the fact Mr. Trump conducted an open-line phone call with European Union Ambassador Gordon Sondland in Ukraine, where Russian intelligence is known to tap communications.

“If you’re sitting there thinking ‘I don’t really care because the Russians are going to be siding with me in the 2020 election’ then you’re all on the same team,” Mr. Weissmann said on the network on Thursday.

House testimony shows Mr. Sondland told the president that the Ukraine government had agreed to investigate its role in the 2016 election and Burisma Holdings, a natural gas firm. “Burisma” came to mean former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, who won a lucrative spot on the board.

Conservatives single out Mr. Weissmann for criticism during the 22-month Robert Mueller probe into any collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Mr. Weissmann was one of a number of Democratic Party donors hired by Mr. Mueller. He attended what was supposed to be Hillary Clinton’s victory celebration in New York in 2016. An internal email showed he rooted on Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates when she refused to enforce Mr. Trump’s partial travel ban on certain Muslim-dominate countries.

Mr. Mueller said in March he did not find an election conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin in its Democratic Party computer hacking and social media warfare. The intelligence community concluded Russian President Putin was trying to help candidate Trump.

Trump associates complained that Mr. Mueller’s 448-page report was filled with innuendos about innocent conduct and insignificant Russian contacts.

Here is Mr. Weissmann’s phone call theory:

“There’s an interesting aspect to that call,” he said on-air on Thursday. “Here you have a call on a cell phone ….. This is one where you’ve heard from every one who is in Ukraine knows, you worry about everything being tapped. So one of the interesting things that’s going through my mind is, why isn’t the president and ambassador Sondland worried about the fact that you know that call is going to be monitored by the Russians?

“You’re sitting there asking for an investigations into the Bidens. Do you care about the Russians having it? Normally what you would worry about, as Sally Yates said when she was dealing with the [retired Gen. Lt. Gen.] Flynn situation you worry about ‘compromat’, which is that the Russians now have leverage over you because they know something that’s not true.

“Here the question is why wasn’t the president and ambassador Sondland worried about the fact that the Russians would undoubtedly in Ukraine be able to hear this conversation. The issue would be because …. if your sitting there thinking I don’t really care because the Russians are going be siding with me in the 2020 election then you’re all on the same team.”

Mr. Sondland testified on Wednesday before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, which is leading the impeachment inquiry.

He said the July 26 call was unclassified and that diplomats often conduct such calls and text messages.

A Kyiv embassy aide testified that he overheard parts of the call in a Kyiv restaurant. Mr. Trump asked about an investigation and Mr. Sondland answered, “He’s going to do it.”

This was a reference to Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky, who had conducted a phone call with Mr. Trump the previous day. That call became the basis to start impeachment proceedings.

Mr. Sondland testified that the push for a quid pro quo came from Rudy Giuliani, Mr. Trump’s personal attorney who was investigating the Bidens’ role in Ukraine and the 2016 election at the president’s request. He said Mr. Giuliani wanted Mr. Zelensky to agree to an investigation before the July 25 call and before any White House meeting.

“Actually, I would have been more surprised if President Trump had not mentioned investigations, particularly given what we were hearing from Mr. Giuliani about the president’s concerns,” Mr. Sondland testified. “However, I have no recollection of discussing Vice President Biden or his son on that call or after the call ended.”

Mr. Sondland testified that weeks later in another phone call he asked the president point blank what he wanted. “He said, ‘I want nothing. I want no quid pro quo. I just want Zelensky to do the right thing.’”

Democrats charge that Mr. Trump committed an impeachable offense by withholding military aid for two months until Mr. Zelenksy committed to an investigation. The assistance package was released in early September. Republicans say there never was an investigation.

A clip of Mr. Weissmann’s remarks was posted to mediaite.com. 

• Rowan Scarborough can be reached at rscarborough@washingtontimes.com.

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