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Unredacted Pentagon emails show the Ukraine mess was solely on Trump’s urging

Attorney Scott Pilutik wrestles with the news of the day, from a lawyerly perspective…

[Regarding this story: Exclusive: Unredacted Ukraine Documents Reveal Extent of Pentagon’s Legal Concerns]

A FOIA request had already uncovered many of these emails between the Pentagon and White House but they were heavily redacted. It’s not entirely clear how or why got the unredacted versions (surely the White House will be conducting a purge to discover that person’s identity as if it were the gravest imaginable security breach).

The emails are exactly what you’d expect if you’ve been paying close attention, like a missing jigsaw puzzle piece that you already know is the blue sky because of the surrounding pieces but nevertheless didn’t have. Maybe there’s a tiny seagull on that missing piece but it’s definitely mostly blue sky.


If there’s one takeaway sentence from the article it’s that “What is clear is that it all came down to the president and what he wanted; no one else appears to have supported his position.” Which we mostly knew but is now better supported.

But I don’t want to underplay the importance of this, because (1) had these documents been made available to Congress prior to hearings those hearings would have played out differently; (2) the emergence of documents like this strongly argue for a Senate trial with witnesses, given how these documents speak directly to existing House testimony in ways that either corroborates, bolsters, or refutes said testimony); and (3) their meta-significance — it appears that someone either in the White House or in the State Department has leaked these unredacted documents and so legal consequences may attach to that action.

The original redactions were done by Bill Barr’s Department of Justice and so we also get a rare glimpse by way of inference into what the DOJ’s thinking may have been when choosing to redact certain passages prior to their publication via FOIA (usually only judges get to second-guess redactions). While a small handful of redactions might legitimately implicate privilege, the vast majority of the redactions appear to be indefensible attempts to cover up incompetence and illegality.

Embarrassment isn’t a viable basis to exert privilege and yet that seems to have been the guiding principle for the redactions. And of course that shouldn’t surprise, because the July 25 call between Trump and Zelensky was placed on a secret server for precisely the same reasons. This whole sordid affair is a series of Russian nesting dolls, each one covering up a separate cover-up.

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