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Donald J. Trump Impeachment Inquiry Page 2
A President is impeachable if he attempts to subvert the constitution. This is the speech given by Representative Barbara Jordan (Democrat-Texas) reminding her colleagues on the House Judiciary Committee of the Constitutional basis for impeachment. The Committee met in Washington, D.C. Video

CNN's Becky Anderson asks Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) about his views on the articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump.

"Rudy, if you want to come and tell us what you found, I'll be glad to talk to you,” Lindsey Graham says.

Sen. Lindsey Graham is inviting Rudy Giuliani to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee about his recent trip to Ukraine.

In an interview airing on “Face the Nation“ Sunday, the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman said that Giuliani, who is serving as the president’s personal attorney, could appear before his committee separately from the impending Senate impeachment trial.

By Hannah Knowles

The headline the New York Times editorial board settled on was simple: “Impeach.” The same could be said of the “damning” case laid out against President Trump, the Times said Saturday, as it joined a growing roster of more than a dozen national and regional newspapers that argue that the Senate should take up convincing accusations of “high crimes and misdemeanors.”

The opinions of major publications are divided as the House prepares for a historic vote Wednesday, and a host of traditionally more-conservative editorial boards have yet to weigh in — including several that snubbed Trump in 2016 by conspicuously breaking from long histories of Republican endorsements.

Many papers backing impeachment have described a slow-building choice amid hearings into whether Trump abused his position to pressure a foreign power for personal political gain.

By David Smith

As the GOP counter-offensive runs on fake news and conspiracy theories, critics say truth itself is under attack “Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four,” George Orwell wrote in the novel Nineteen Eighty-Four. “If that is granted, all else follows.” The pro-Donald Trump industrial complex has not yet denied basic arithmetic. But as impeachment looms, his allies appear to be waging an increasingly frantic political and media counter-offensive that puts truth itself in the dock.

A bewildering array of fake news, warped facts and conspiracy theories have been propagated in the past week by conservative media, Republican politicians, White House officials and the president in his own defence. It is, commentators say, a concerted disinformation war, intended to crowd out damaging revelations as the House of Representatives prepares its ultimate sanction.

“The more facts come out, the more desperate they get,” said Kurt Bardella, a former spokesman and senior adviser on the House oversight committee. “They know in a debate centred on facts, truth and reality, they lose. Their only mechanism to survive is to muddy the waters, distort, distract and hope if they repeat lies often enough, they become real.”

But Rick Wilson, a Republican strategist and author of Everything Trump Touches Dies, said: “I’m not surprised at Ted Cruz being sycophantic to Trump. Trump broke Ted Cruz a long time ago. The Republicans have the worst political Stockholm syndrome we’ve ever seen. “These guys are all in an abusive relationship with Trump. I don’t mean that in a flippant way. They behave the way you see victims of domestic violence behave. But they’ve got culpability in this thing: they’re not just victims, they’re enablers.”

By Courtney Subramanian USA TODAY

WASHINGTON  – Former White House Russia adviser Fiona Hill warned House  lawmakers last month not to buy into the "fictional narrative" that it was Ukraine, not Russia, that interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

This week, FBI Director Christopher Wray sought to debunk the theory of election meddling by Ukraine. "We have no information that indicates that Ukraine interfered with the 2016 presidential election," Wray told ABC in an interview that aired on Monday.

Yet several Republican senators, who will serve as jurors in a likely impeachment trial of President Donald Trump, have pushed the notion of Ukrainian meddling. The strategy, experts said, was to sow enough doubts about Ukraine's actions to build a case that Trump's pressure on the country stemmed from legitimate policy concerns, and was not part of a politically motivated shakedown, as Democrats contend.

Several Republican senators have echoed Trump in saying someone should look into claims that Kyiv interfered in the 2016 election, but most have not gone as far as the president and Giuliani in alleging a widespread effort to intervene. Instead, many GOP senators have couched their comments by saying they have "questions" about Ukraine's actions.

Analysis by Zachary B. Wolf, CNN

(CNN) President Donald Trump's senior aides have further restricted the number of administration officials allowed to listen to the President's phone calls with foreign leaders since his July 25 call with Ukraine's President was revealed and became the centerpiece of the impeachment inquiry, according to multiple White House sources in a new CNN report.

The latest

On to the House -- The House Judiciary Committee voted on party lines Friday morning to refer two articles of impeachment to the full House of Representatives, which is expected to vote to impeach Trump next week. The House Rules Committee will consider them Tuesday and Trump could be impeached Wednesday. Read Maeve Reston's analysis.

Long time coming -- Trump said, during an appearance next to the President of Paraguay in the Oval Office, impeachment will give him a political boost. He said the impeachment effort might have been underway even before he announced his presidential campaign in 2015. "Impeachment is a hoax. It's a sham," he said.

By Clare Foran and Ali Zaslav, CNN

Washington (CNN) Some Democrats are raising concerns about Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's statement that he will coordinate closely with the White House on the looming Senate impeachment trial, with one House Democrat saying the Kentucky Republican should recuse himself entirely. "He's working hand in hand with the White House, with the President's attorney, and yet we're supposed to expect him to manage a fair and impartial trial?" said Florida Democratic Rep. Val Demings when asked about McConnell's remarks. "I think he should recuse himself."

Democratic Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington called the coordination "ridiculous." "I think it is outrageous for the chief juror who is organizing the trial to be coordinating with the defendant," Jayapal told reporters. Under the Constitution, it's up to the House to charge the President with impeachment, and the Senate to convict or acquit -- making senators, including McConnell, the de facto jury.

The House Judiciary Committee on Friday approved articles of impeachment against the President, paving the way for the final floor vote expected next week. That will set up the Senate trial, for which senators are now gearing up. Democrats wield majority control in the House, but Republicans hold a majority in the Senate. Some Senate Republicans have been careful not to tip their hands ahead of the expected trial, but many have been vocal in saying that they do not believe the Ukraine scandal rises to the level of impeachment. McConnell himself said on Fox News on Thursday, "We all know how it's going to end. There is no chance the President is going to be removed from office."

Giuliani actually admitted it on a phone call.
By Alex Ward

President Donald Trump’s entire impeachment mess began over his efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden’s family and Democrats with the help of his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani. But even as an impeachment vote in the House Judiciary Committee loomed, both men continued to coordinate on Giuliani’s Ukraine efforts on behalf of his powerful client.

Giuliani recently returned from a trip to Kyiv this month in which he interviewed local officials to learn more about Hunter Biden — Joe’s son — and his time on the board of the Ukrainian gas company Burisma. He also wanted to prove the conspiracy theory both he and Trump believe — that Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in the 2016 presidential election.

After landing in New York last Saturday, according to the Wall Street Journal, the president called his attorney while the plane was still taxiing. “What did you get?” Trump asked, according to the Journal’s Friday interview with Giuliani. “More than you can imagine,” the former New York City mayor replied, noting he would be putting his findings in a 20-page report.

One almost has to respect (while remaining appalled at) how brazen Giuliani’s admission is here. He’s openly telling the Wall Street Journal that his anti-Biden investigation in Ukraine continues, and that Trump is still interested in knowing about it.

The House Judiciary Committee voted over Republican objections to advance two articles of impeachment accusing President Trump of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
By Nicholas Fandos

WASHINGTON — A fiercely divided House Judiciary Committee pushed President Trump to the brink of impeachment on Friday, voting along party lines to approve charges that he abused the power of his office and obstructed Congress.

After a fractious two-day debate steeped in the Constitution and shaped by the realities of a hyperpartisan era in American politics, the Democratic-controlled committee recommended that the House ratify two articles of impeachment against the 45th president. In back-to-back morning votes, they adopted each charge against Mr. Trump by a margin of 23 to 17 over howls of Republican protest.

The partisan result and the contentious debate that preceded it were harbingers of a historic proceeding and vote on the House floor, expected next week, to impeach Mr. Trump, whose nearly three-year tenure has exacerbated the nation’s political divisions. Mr. Trump, who insists he did nothing wrong, is now only the fourth American president in history to face impeachment by the House of Representatives for “high crimes and misdemeanors” and possible conviction and removal from office by the Senate.

The charges ratified on Friday arise from a House Intelligence Committee investigation that concluded this fall that the president has manipulated his administration to pressure Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., his political rival, and a theory that Democrats conspired with Ukraine to interfere in the 2016 election. He did so, Democrats allege, using as leverage nearly $400 million in security assistance for Ukraine’s fight against Russia and a coveted White House meeting for its president.

By Savannah Behrmann USA TODAY

WASHINGTON- Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Thursday that he will be in "total coordination with the White House counsel" as the impeachment into President Donald Trump presses forward.

During an interview with Sean Hannity on Fox News, the Majority Leader said that "everything" he does "during this, I'm coordinating with the White House counsel. There will be no difference between the president's position and our position as to how to handle this, to the extent that we can."

"We don't have the kind of ball control on this that a typical issue, for example, comes over from the House, if I don't like it, we don't take it up," McConnell stated about an impeachment trial. "We have no choice but to take it up, but we'll be working through this process, hopefully in a fairly short period of time, in total coordination with White House counsel's office and the people who are representing the President in the well of the Senate." - Mitch McConnell and Republican do not give a shit about our laws or the constitution only power. Americans need to vote out the corrupt republicans before they do any more damage to our country.

In an interview on Fox News, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said there was "no chance" President Trump would be removed from office after an impeachment trial in the Senate. - Mitch McConnell and Republican do not give a shit about our laws or the constitution only power. Americans need to vote out the corrupt republicans before they do any more damage to our country.

“My hope is there won’t be a single Republican who votes for either of these articles of impeachment,” the Senate majority leader said.
By Nick Visser

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Thursday that he didn’t believe any Republicans in the Senate planned to vote to remove President Donald Trump from office should the House impeach him next week, saying he even expected some Democrats to side with GOP lawmakers.

“There is no chance the president is going to be removed from office,” McConnell told Fox News’ Sean Hannity on Thursday evening. “My hope is there won’t be a single Republican who votes for either of these articles of impeachment. And Sean, it wouldn’t surprise me if we got one or two Democrats.” - Mitch McConnell and Republican do not give a shit about our laws or the constitution only power. Americans need to vote out the corrupt republicans before they do any more damage to our country.

By Greg Sargent

If Mitch McConnell goes through with his reported plan to hold a sham impeachment trial that acquits President Trump without calling witnesses, it will provide the perfect coda for the corrupt and farcical way Trump’s defenders have handled this saga all throughout.

In so doing, the Senate majority leader and other assorted Trump propagandists will be unabashedly enshrining their position as follows: We’ve already decided in advance that the full facts will not persuade us to turn on Trump, no matter how damning they are, so why should we listen to them at all?

This is how Trump’s defenders actually view the situation — and the awful implications of this should not be sugar-coated.

Yet the scheme may not prove as easy to get away with as they think. Handled properly, Democrats can use it to demonstrate that Republicans themselves know Trump’s substantive defenses are weak and his corruption is indefensible — and vividly show how Republicans are functioning as Trump’s full-blown accomplices.

GOP lawmakers have treated the hearings like Fox New segments, delivering loud, rambling monologues in a deliberate attempt to wear down participants and viewers.
By Kurt Bardella, NBC News THINK contributor

If there’s one thing we’ve seen consistently from Republicans during the past few weeks of congressional impeachment hearings, it’s yelling.

The articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump have been drafted and the process is now moving steadily towards a vote in the House. But GOP lawmakers, especially GOP men, aren't going down quietly. Perhaps Democratic Coalition’s Jon Cooper put it best when he tweeted Monday, “Why is Doug Collins always yelling?” CNBC’s Christina Wilkie pointed out a similar phenomenon, noting that Florida Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz was "yelling about whether the rules of the hearing are, in fact, the rules of the hearing.”

   Why is Doug Collins ALWAYS yelling? 😫pic.twitter.com/p8s0Ti5Kix
   — Jon Cooper 🇺🇸 (@joncoopertweets) December 9, 2019

Indeed, in observing my former House GOP comrades over the many days of contentious House hearings, I am reminded of a scene from the classic Will Ferrell comedy “Anchorman,” where the famed (and fictional) Channel 4 News team angrily confronts its news director over the hiring of a female reporter. In the scene, several of the male journalists take turns yelling their opposition to the addition. Steve Carell’s character, Brick Tamland, isn’t really smart enough to have a critique but wishing to be included, he screams, “I don’t know what we’re yelling about!”

Mitch McConnell plans to rush through a fake trial to a quick acquittal. So why did Democrats rush impeachment?
By Amanda Marcotte

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell knows Donald Trump is guilty. He just doesn't care — McConnell plans to cover it up and doesn't even really care how obvious that is All that was made clear from an article published late Wednesday in the Washington Post, in which Senate Republicans admitted that the plan is to rubber-stamp their acquittal  of Trump, and their lack of desire to even try to dignify this travesty of justice by pretending to hold a real impeachment trial, as the Constitution demands. Senate Republicans want to hold "a short impeachment trial early next year that would include no witnesses," the article explains, because they believe "it would be better to limit the trial and quickly vote to acquit Trump."

The reason they believe this is no mystery, of course. As the impeachment hearings in front of the House have showed, Trump looks guiltier with every minute of discussion on his scheme to blackmail Ukrainian leadership into falsely branding his presumed 2020 opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden, as a crook. Even when Republicans called witnesses during the impeachment hearings, those witnesses ended up giving testimony that made Trump look worse. When the GOP called a legal "expert" to critique the impeachment process his testimony was a confusing mishmash that only made the pro-impeachment witnesses look stronger.

Trump radiates guilt at every moment and with every public statement. So the only way for McConnell to conceal his guilt is to throw a blanket over the whole thing. Continuing to argue about it, even through the Republican methods of throwing tantrums and creating distractions, isn't really working — Trump's behavior pierces through all the noise like a laser stream of pure, red hot guilt. Looking away and refusing to discuss it as much as humanly possible is the best available option for Republicans. Trump was reportedly interested in staging a big spectacle in the Senate trial, and calling Hunter Biden, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, the original Ukraine whistleblower and who knows who else. For once, Republicans may defy him, but only to safeguard his presidency.

"This is unacceptable and there should be consequences," one Democratic lawmaker said.

Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) on Wednesday night publicly named a person that some Republicans and allies of President Donald Trump claim is the alleged whistleblower who first brought the Trump-Ukraine scandal to light.

Gohmert identified the person, who POLITICO is not naming, during remarks at a Judiciary Committee meeting on articles of impeachment against Trump. Gohmert named the person as he ticked through a list of witnesses he said the committee should hear from before voting on impeachment.

Gohmert did not identify the person as the potential whistleblower, but Republicans have demanded that the whistleblower be subpoenaed to testify, a call that Democrats have swatted away as irresponsible and even dangerous.

Democrats say any effort to identify the whistleblower could endanger the person's life and chill future whistleblowers from revealing alleged wrongdoing in government.

By Jeremy Herb and Manu Raju, CNN

(CNN) The House Judiciary Committee on Thursday is taking a major step forward to impeaching President Donald Trump as it works to approve the articles of impeachment and send them to the House floor for a full chamber vote expected next week. The messy legislative sausage-making prompted a debate over the President's conduct and the impeachment proceedings themselves, as Republicans sought to poke holes and do away altogether with the impeachment articles against the President.

Lawmakers sparred at length over an amendment to remove the entire first article, charging Trump with abuse of power, from the impeachment resolution, and scores more amendments from Republicans were expected Thursday in a debate that could last late into the day. The committee process for debating and approving the articles is used for hundreds of pieces of legislation on Capitol Hill each year, but Thursday's debate is as contentious as ever with a vote by the full House to remove the President from office potentially less than a week away.

The committee debate follows the Democratic introduction of two articles of impeachment against the President, charging him with abuse of power for pressuring Ukraine to investigate his political rivals while withholding US security aid and a White House meeting, and obstruction of Congress for refusing to cooperate in any manner with the impeachment inquiry into his conduct.

By Zachary B. Wolf, CNN

(CNN) The process for dealing with a President or other federal elected official who abuses their office is spelled out broadly in the Constitution. In Article I of the Constitution, it says the House shall have the sole power of impeachment and the Senate shall have the sole power to try impeachments. But the process has evolved over the years. The Constitution does not include the term "articles of impeachment," but a November 2019 Congressional Research Service analysis of the impeachment process explains what they are.

"The House impeaches an individual when a majority agrees to a House resolution containing explanations of the charges," according to the report. "The explanations in the resolution are referred to as 'articles of impeachment.'" Once articles of impeachment are approved in the House, the Senate takes those allegations and conducts a trial considering whether to remove a President from office. The Constitution mandates that the chief justice of the Supreme Court presides.

A President may be impeached and removed for "Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors," according to Article II of the Constitution. There's no hard and fast definition of those, so Congress has the ultimate say. Democrats initially prepared two articles of impeachment against Trump, for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. They will debate those and then proceed to a vote before their holiday recess.

By Leslie Marshall

President Trump and his defenders claim the decision by House Democratic leaders Tuesday to propose two articles of impeachment against him is all about politics. They say the misconduct he is accused of is a hoax and that he is the victim of a witch hunt. Don’t believe them. Democrats are acting in spite of politics. They know impeachment could hurt them politically and perhaps even give Republicans a House majority in elections next year.

And Democrats are acting even though they know the Republican-controlled Senate will acquit Trump in a trial and not throw him out of office. That’s because removing the president in a Senate trial takes 67 votes, and there are only 47 Democrats and allied independents in the Senate.

Sadly, Republicans are putting party loyalty over patriotism and circling the wagons around Trump to support him no matter what, closing their eyes to the overwhelming evidence of his impeachable conduct. There is no way 20 Republican senators will vote to remove Trump from office.

So what’s the point of holding a House vote before Christmas to impeach Trump, since the Senate will let him stay in office? Wouldn’t it be smart politics for Democrats to say impeachment would be a futile exercise and not engage in a losing battle? Maybe.

Analysis by Stephen Collinson, CNN

Washington (CNN)Donald Trump is looking to survive impeachment the same way he built his powerful presidency -- by assaulting facts and seeking to expand the limitations of the office he is accused of abusing. On the day that Democrats proposed two articles of impeachment against him, the President and his courtiers laid down a fresh fog to obscure the evidence that incriminates him. The President also issued a mocking defense of his conduct at a rally Hershey, Pennsylvania, Tuesday night -- arguing that the charges that he abused power and obstructed Congress are "not even a crime."

"Everyone said this is impeachment-lite. This is the lightest impeachment in the history of our country, by far. It's not even like an impeachment," Trump said. Attorney General William Barr, meanwhile, reprised his role spinning his boss out of trouble, dismissing his own department's watchdog report that debunked Trump's repeated claim that a "Deep State" coup tried to bring him down. Barr also breathed fresh life into another of Trump's conspiracy theories -- that the FBI's Russia investigation was unjustified and rooted in political bias by Obama administration officials.

"I think our nation was turned on its head for three years, I think, based on a completely bogus narrative that was largely fanned and hyped by an irresponsible press," Barr said Tuesday in an interview with NBC News. The comments reflected the tendency of the Trump administration to deflect damning facts and to create new narratives that the President and his fans find more appealing. Trump's never-ending stream of misinformation, half-truths and conspiracy theories seems designed to confuse voters and to create ambiguity and uncertainty about the outcome of investigations in a way that leaves even the closest observer unsure about the facts.

One expert in the work of such propagandists is former World Chess Champion and Russian political dissident Garry Kasparov. "They know that, you know, they can get people exhausted, they exhaust critical thinking," Kasparov told CNN's Anderson Cooper last week. "I always call Putin (a) merchant of doubt. But now seeing what's happening in America, it's when just Republicans managed to turn the whole political process in this alternative reality. It's like a post-truth world."

The big difference between this impeachment inquiry and Watergate isn’t the president—it’s Congress.
By Fred Kaplan

“Where is Howard Baker?” Rep. Adam Schiff asked during his stirring statement at the end of Thursday’s impeachment hearing, and it stands as the key question of our time.

Baker, the ranking Republican on the Senate Watergate Committee in 1973, gained fame by asking one witness after the other, “What did the president know, and when did he know it?” We later learned that, when Baker asked the question, he was assuming that Richard Nixon didn’t know much—that, contrary to charges, he hadn’t directed or covered up the Watergate break-in and related crimes.

The thing is, when Baker realized that Nixon did know everything, that he was guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors, he—like many other Republicans—changed his views and urged the president to resign rather than put the country through an impeachment trial that would inevitably oust him from office.

"Lev remembers what you spoke about,” attorney Joseph Bondy wrote as he urged Congress to interview Parnas
By Igor Derysh

An attorney for indicted Rudy Giuliani associate Lev Parnas warned Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., that “Lev remembers” their phone calls — even if the Intelligence Committee’s top Republican does not.

Phone records obtained from AT&T and released in the Intelligence Committee’s impeachment report revealed four phone calls between Nunes and Parnas on April 12, amid the smear campaign that ousted then-Ukraine Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, including one which lasted longer than eight minutes. Parnas, who played a key role in Giuliani’s hunt for damaging information on former Vice President Joe Biden, was later indicted on campaign finance charges. Prosecutors have said he is still under investigation for more crimes.

However, Nunes now claims that he cannot not recall speaking with Parnas. "You know, it's possible, but I haven't gone through all my phone records,” Nunes told Fox News host Sean Hannity on Tuesday. “I don't really recall that name, but it seems very unlikely that I would be taking calls from random people." Nunes was pressed about those comments by Fox News host Martha MacCallum on Thursday. “Just to clear the air, because I want to hear, what did you discuss with Lev Parnas?” MacCallum asked the congressman.

“I don’t even know, because I’ve never met Parnas. And like I filed in federal court — so it’s a great question because many people want to know, including myself,” Nunes said, referring to a $435 million lawsuit he filed against CNN for reporting Parnas’ claim that Nunes met with disgraced former top Ukrainian Prosecutor Viktor Shokin, who is at the heart of Giuliani’s and President Donald Trump’s baseless allegations against Biden. “You never had any phone conversation with him?” MacCallum pressed. “We have not been able to confirm that yet,” Nunes responded.

Posting from somewhere in Ukraine, Trump’s lawyer tweets the quid pro quo.
By Aaron Rupar

President Donald Trump and his Republican defenders in the House continue to argue there was no “quid pro quo” with Ukraine (despite a White House call summary and testimony from numerous Trump officials indicating otherwise).

It took Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, all of two tweets to blast that talking point to smithereens.

On Thursday, Giuliani — apparently posting from somewhere in Kiev, where he’s currently traveling as part of his ongoing international effort to dig up dirt on the Bidens — posted tweets explicitly acknowledging a link between ongoing US assistance to Ukraine and investigations into the Biden family.

“The conversation about corruption in Ukraine was based on compelling evidence of criminal conduct by then VP Biden, in 2016, that has not been resolved and until it is will be a major obstacle ... to the US assisting Ukraine with its anti-corruption reforms,” Giuliani claimed, despite the fact that no such evidence has emerged.

In short, Giuliani tweeted the quid pro quo.

By Bill McCarthy, Amy Sherman, Miriam Valverde

Congressional Republicans argue that President Donald Trump did nothing wrong related to Ukraine and his July call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. They released a 123-page report on the impeachment inquiry to counter the majority report by the Democratic-led House Intelligence Committee, which the Judiciary Committee will likely use to craft articles of impeachment. The Republican report argues that the impeachment inquiry led by Democrats is merely "their obsession with re-litigating the results of the 2016 presidential election."

We found that the GOP report omits key facts and relevant testimony related to the inquiry. Here’s a look at six points in the report that needed a fact-check or additional context.

Claim: There’s no evidence that Trump directed anyone to pressure Ukraine

"The impeachment inquiry has uncovered no clear evidence that President Trump directed Ambassador Volker, Ambassador Sondland, and Secretary Perry to work with Mayor Giuliani for the purpose of pressuring Ukraine to investigate his political rival." This claim is directly contradicted by testimony from Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union. Sondland testified that he, along with Energy Secretary Rick Perry and former special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker, worked with Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani "on Ukraine matters at the express direction of the president."

Claim: The whistleblower report was misleading

The whistleblower complaint contained "inaccurate and misleading information."

This ignores that the whistleblower complaint has been backed up by the released summary of the phone call between Trump and Zelensky as well as the public testimony during the impeachment hearings. The complaint said that when Trump spoke with Zelensky on July 25, he pressured Zelensky to initiate or continue an investigation into the activities of Biden and his son, Hunter. The readout of the call released by the White House shows Trump stating, "Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it." Trump and his allies have spread the falsehood that Biden pressured Ukraine to fire the prosecutor for investigating Hunter Biden’s company, but that is not supported by evidence.

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) discusses call records between Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) and indicted Giuliani associate Lev Parnas. A Nunes spokesman did not respond to CNN's request for comment.

CBS News - Constitutional law expert Noah Feldman of Harvard Law School testified in front of the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday that President Trump committed "impeachable high crimes and misdemeanors." During his opening statement, Feldman said that high crimes and misdemeanors are defined as "abuses of power and of public trust connected to the office of the presidency." Feldman then said Mr. Trump is guilty of these offenses because he solicited Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky "to announce investigations of his political rivals in order to gain personal advantage, including in the 2020 presidential election."

The ranking minority member of the House Judiciary Committee, Doug Collins (R-GA), implied the witnesses called for Wednesday's hearing did not have enough time to accurately prepare their testimony. Professor Pamela Karlan had a strong response.

Republicans tried to turn House Judiciary’s first impeachment hearing into a sideshow, but Karlan wasn’t having it.
By Aaron Rupar

During the first House Judiciary Committee impeachment hearing on Wednesday, Republicans led by ranking member Doug Collins made it clear almost immediately that their strategy would be to interrupt the proceedings at every available opportunity and dismiss testimony from a panel of law professors as meaningless.

But during her opening statement, one of those law professors — Pamela Karlan, a Stanford law professor and appellate attorney — made clear that she had little patience for Collins’s tactics in particular.

“Here Mr. Collins I would like to say to you, sir, that I read transcripts of every one of the witnesses who appeared in the live hearing because I would not speak about these things without reviewing the facts,” she said. “So I’m insulted by the suggestion that as a law professor I don’t care about those facts.”

By Jeremy Herb and Manu Raju, CNN

(CNN) A trio of legal scholars argued at the first House Judiciary Committee impeachment hearing Wednesday that President Donald Trump's unprecedented conduct was evidence of impeachable offenses, amid vocal protests and repeated procedural roadblocks thrown up by Republicans protesting impeachment proceedings. The opening impeachment hearing held by the panel expected to draft articles of impeachment against the President was contentious from the moment Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler gaveled the hearing into session. Republicans repeatedly forced procedural votes and quizzed Nadler on committee rules as they dismissed the impeachment proceeding as a sham.

The hearing marked an important step forward for Democrats in the impeachment proceedings, which have shifted from the House Intelligence Committee-led investigation to the Judiciary panel. Democrats are on track for an impeachment vote on the House floor by the end of the year, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi held a closed-door, members-only meeting Wednesday morning where Democrats agreed to continue moving forward with the inquiry.
LIVE UPDATES: Next phase in Trump impeachment inquiry begins

At the hearing, Democrats pushed past the Republican objections to elicit testimony from the three of the four legal experts they invited to explain why Trump's actions constituted impeachment offenses. Those three professors, Harvard University's Noah Feldman, Stanford University's Pamela Karlan and North Carolina's Michael Gerhardt, were all asked, based on the House Intelligence Committee evidence, "Did President Trump commit the impeachable high crime and misdemeanor of abuse of power?" All said that he did.

"If what we're talking about is not impeachable, then nothing is impeachable," Gerhardt said. "This is precisely the misconduct that the framers created a Constitution, including impeachment, to protect against." While the three Democratic-invited law professors backed impeachment, the law professor called by Republicans to testify, George Washington's Jonathan Turley, argued that Democrats were making a mistake that would have long-lasting consequences.

Analysis by Stephen Collinson, CNN

(CNN) The stunningly consequential accusation spelled out in the Democrats' impeachment report represents the most sweeping effort yet to capture the span of President Donald Trump's alleged offense and to boil it into a crisp indictment. In effect, the 300-page House Intelligence Committee summary of witness testimony, timelines and phone records accused Trump of perpetrating one of the most serious political crimes in the history of the United States.

The report is a roadmap toward formal articles of impeachment -- an argument to a nation split in two on Trump's political fate that there is no alternative but to remove him from office 11 months before the next general election over his pressure on Ukraine for political favors. The stark charge that the House Judiciary Committee will take up in its first impeachment hearing Wednesday fits the gravity of Congress' most somber duty -- deciding whether to end a presidency.

It is that the 45th President presents an immediate, clear and future threat to American national security, the Constitution and the resilience of the republic's democratic self-governance itself.

By Marshall Cohen, CNN

(CNN) Armed with never-before-seen phone records, Democrats on Tuesday accused President Donald Trump's allies of coordinating with a conservative journalist to peddle "false narratives" about Trump's opponents as part of his multi-pronged pressure campaign on Ukraine. The House Intelligence Committee's impeachment report -- which was made public Tuesday -- says the committee's top Repubican, Rep. Devin Nunes of California, was linked to that effort. The records, according to Intelligence Committee member Rep. Eric Swalwell, were subpoenaed from third-parties.

"Mr. Solomon was not working alone," the report said of conservative journalist John Solomon's articles throughout 2019 that spread Trump-backed conspiracies about Ukraine. "As further described below, there was a coordinated effort by associates of President Trump to push these false narratives publicly, as evidenced by public statements, phone records, and contractual agreements." The phone records, which are labeled in the report's endnotes as coming from AT&T, show a web of communications between Solomon, Trump personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, Ukrainian American businessman Lev Parnas, Nunes and the White House's budget office. CNN is owned by AT&T.

By Elena Moore

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., has released a report that outlines the findings from public hearings and closed-door interviews conducted by impeachment investigators since late September.

"The impeachment inquiry has found that President Trump, personally and acting through agents within and outside of the U.S. government, solicited the interference of a foreign government, Ukraine, to benefit his reelection," Schiff wrote in the 300-page report.

The inquiry, formally launched in September after a whistleblower complaint, has centered on an effort to get Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter.

"[T]he President placed his own personal and political interests above the national interests of the United States, sought to undermine the integrity of the U.S. presidential election process, and endangered U.S. national security," Schiff wrote.


(CNN) The top State Department official overseeing US policy in Europe and Eurasia, Philip Reeker, testified last month before House Democrats' impeachment inquiry in a closed-door deposition.

By Paul LeBlanc, CNN

Washington (CNN) President Donald Trump had been briefed on the whistleblower complaint that's now at the heart of the House impeachment inquiry when he released military aid to Ukraine in September, The New York Times reported Monday, citing two people familiar with the matter.

The people told the Times that lawyers from the White House counsel's office briefed Trump on the complaint and explained that they were attempting to ascertain whether they were legally obligated to give it to Congress.

News of Trump's knowledge of the complaint before his decision to release the security assistance underscores a key question at the heart of the impeachment inquiry about whether the aid was tied to Trump's wish for Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter.

CNN reported earlier Monday that the White House budget office's first official action to withhold $250 million in Pentagon aid to Ukraine came on the evening of July 25, the same day Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky spoke on the phone, according to a House Budget Committee summary of the office's documents.

Over the course of seven opening statements—totaling some 6,300 words—Nunes crafted a narrative that was often at odds with the facts.
By Sam Brodey

House Democrats’ public impeachment hearings were designed to each day tell a new chapter in the same story. Over the course of a week, a dozen witnesses paraded through the grand room on Capitol Hill where the inquiry unfolded, each one testifying to different aspects of President Trump’s apparent campaign to pressure the Ukrainian government to investigate his political rivals.

Charged with weaving the Republicans’ counter-narrative—and crafting a case for the exoneration of Trump—has been Rep. Devin Nunes. The California Republican, as stalwart an ally of the president’s as there is, not only got more airtime than any other Republican lawmaker in the room, but had the first word and the last word for his side across seven hearings.

Slotted in between Chairman Adam Schiff’s daily paeans to conscience and Constitution and the witness’ earnest introductions—Nunes fundamentally sought to change the channel on impeachment. The millions of viewers getting a steady drip of Trump’s questionable activities on Ukraine were abruptly brought in, for five to 10 minutes each day, into an entirely different political universe.

In that universe, Trump is totally innocent of all of the Ukraine allegations, and what’s more, those allegations are just one more step in a coordinated and years-long conspiracy by an evil coterie of actors—Democratic Party operatives, the “fake news” media, faceless and nefarious “deep state” bureaucrats, and even Ukrainians themselves—who will stop at nothing to destroy the president.

It was the same story, and the same handful of chapters, that Nunes told across every day of the public impeachment inquiry. Ultimately, they blended together, becoming something like a prolonged shout into the void.

Indeed, Nunes’ remarks hardly ever left a lasting impact on the hearings themselves or the coverage of them. The viral moments went to the Republicans who focused laser-like on the Democrats’ case. Nunes himself left the room each day with little beyond some atta-boys from Trumpworld, a healthy dose of Fox News coverage, and plenty of snarky tweets from his dedicated online detractors. (Disclosure: Nunes has threatened to sue The Daily Beast over earlier reporting.)

Josh Dawsey, Carol Leonnig, Tom Hamburger

A confidential White House review of President Trump’s decision to place a hold on military aid to Ukraine has turned up hundreds of documents that reveal extensive efforts to generate an after-the-fact justification for the decision and a debate over whether the delay was legal, according to three people familiar with the records.

The research by the White House Counsel’s Office, which was triggered by a congressional impeachment inquiry announced in September, includes early August email exchanges between acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and White House budget officials seeking to provide an explanation for withholding the funds after President Trump had already ordered a hold in mid-July on the nearly $400 million in security assistance, according to the three people familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal White House deliberations.

One person briefed on the records examination said White House lawyers are expressing concern that the review has turned up some unflattering exchanges and facts that could at a minimum embarrass the president. It’s unclear if the Mulvaney discussions or other records pose any legal problems for Trump in the impeachment inquiry, but some fear they could pose political problems if revealed publicly.

People familiar with the Office of Budget and Management’s handling of the holdup in aid acknowledged the internal discussions going on during August, but characterized the conversations as calm, routine and focused on the legal question of how to comply with the congressional Budget and Impoundment Act, which requires the executive branch to spend congressionally appropriated funds unless Congress agrees they can be rescinded.

Moscow has run a yearslong operation to blame Ukraine for its own 2016 election interference. Republicans have used similar talking points to defend President Trump in impeachment proceedings.
By Julian E. Barnes and Matthew Rosenberg

WASHINGTON — Republicans have sought for weeks amid the impeachment inquiry to shift attention to President Trump’s demands that Ukraine investigate any 2016 election meddling, defending it as a legitimate concern while Democrats accuse Mr. Trump of pursuing fringe theories for his benefit.

The Republican defense of Mr. Trump became central to the impeachment proceedings when Fiona Hill, a respected Russia scholar and former senior White House official, added a harsh critique during testimony on Thursday. She told some of Mr. Trump’s fiercest defenders in Congress that they were repeating “a fictional narrative” — and that it likely came from a disinformation campaign by Russian security services, which themselves propagated it.

In a briefing that closely aligned with Dr. Hill’s testimony, American intelligence officials informed senators and their aides in recent weeks that Russia had engaged in a yearslong campaign to essentially frame Ukraine as responsible for Moscow’s own hacking of the 2016 election, according to three American officials. The briefing came as Republicans stepped up their defenses of Mr. Trump in the Ukraine affair.

The revelations demonstrate Russia’s persistence in trying to sow discord among its adversaries — and show that the Kremlin apparently succeeded, as unfounded claims about Ukrainian interference seeped into Republican talking points. American intelligence agencies believe Moscow is likely to redouble its efforts as the 2020 presidential campaign intensifies. The classified briefing for senators also focused on Russia’s evolving influence tactics, including its growing ability to better disguise operations.

Russia has engaged in a “long pattern of deflection” to pin blame for its malevolent acts on other countries, Dr. Hill said, not least Ukraine, a former Soviet republic. Since Ukraine won independence in 1991, Russia has tried to reassert influence there, meddling in its politics, maligning pro-Western leaders and accusing Ukrainian critics of Moscow of fascist leanings.

“The Russians have a particular vested interest in putting Ukraine, Ukrainian leaders in a very bad light,” she told lawmakers. But the campaign by Russian intelligence in recent years has been even more complex as Moscow tries not only to undermine the government in Kyiv but also to use a disinformation campaign there to influence the American political debate.

The accusations of a Ukrainian influence campaign center on actions by a handful of Ukrainians who openly criticized or sought to damage Mr. Trump’s candidacy in 2016. They were scattershot efforts that were far from a replica of Moscow’s interference, when President Vladimir V. Putin ordered military and intelligence operatives to mount a broad campaign to sabotage the American election. The Russians in 2016 conducted covert operations to hack Democratic computers and to use social media to exploit divisions among Americans.

This time, Russian intelligence operatives deployed a network of agents to blame Ukraine for its 2016 interference. Starting at least in 2017, the operatives peddled a mixture of now-debunked conspiracy theories along with established facts to leave an impression that the government in Kyiv, not Moscow, was responsible for the hackings of Democrats and its other interference efforts in 2016, senior intelligence officials said. Full Story

President Trump's fortunes finally turned south with the bombshell testimony of the US ambassador to the EU.
By Larry Beinhart

The pundits and talking heads keep looking at the polls and noting that the dial on Donald Trump and the impeachment has barely moved. With the implication that it is stuck unto eternity. It takes time for the change to percolate and become our morning coffee. Gordon Sondland, the US ambassador to the European Union, has changed things on multiple levels. First, his statement of fact. It included: "Was there quid pro quo? ... the answer is yes." Republicans on the committee make much of the claim that Democrats have moved from charging quid pro quo to extortion to bribery. Just to clarify, quid pro quo simply means "this for that". It encompasses both bribery and extortion.

It is bribery if the main aspect of the transaction is a payoff to a person in authority. It is extortion if a threat or actual force is used to coerce the payment (whether that is money, goods or services). All three apply in this case. Trump attempted to get something of personal value (quid) in exchange for (pro) releasing money to Ukraine that they should have received anyway (quo). That is demanding a bribe. The fact that Ukraine needed these funds desperately for arms to defend itself against Russia and Russian proxies is the equivalent of "do me a favour or I'll let the gangsters shoot you," and that makes it extortion.

The reason "quid pro quo" became the term of choice is because the US Supreme Court in its efforts to decriminalise - indeed to normalise classy corruption - said that to prove corruption there had to be an explicit "quid pro quo". It is not corruption if Tony Soprano gives the money to the City Councilman's campaign fund, hosts his daughter's graduation party, and gets the Councilman's wife diamonds at wholesale and Tony happens to get the garbage contract. Tony has to say, "give me the garbage contract and I'll give you a kickback," to meet the Court's "quid pro quo" criteria. Full Story

By Randall D. Eliason

A common Republican criticism in the ongoing impeachment proceedings is that Democrats have repeatedly changed their position concerning what offense President Trump may have committed in his dealings with Ukraine. In his opening statement on Thursday, Rep. Devin Nunes (Calif.), the House Intelligence Committee’s ranking Republican, said: “The offense itself changes depending on the day, ranging from quid pro quo, to extortion, to bribery, to obstruction of justice, then back to quid pro quo.” He accused Democrats of riding on a “carousel of allegations.”

But there is no carousel. As a legal description of the president’s conduct, all of these charges are accurate, and all at the same time. In federal law, the crimes of bribery and extortion by a public official are very closely related. A public official commits bribery when he seeks or demands anything of value in exchange for being influenced in the performance of some official act. In this case, the bribery charge would be that Trump, a public official, demanded a thing of value from Ukraine in the form of a public announcement of investigations that would benefit him politically. In exchange, the president would agree to be influenced in the official acts of releasing aid to Ukraine and holding a White House meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Extortion is generally defined as forcing another person to surrender property under some kind of threat or duress. Extortion by a public official is most often charged under a statute called the Hobbs Act, which prohibits extortion by force, violence, fear or “under color of official right.” This could apply to Trump’s conduct in two ways. One would be the charge that Trump pressured Ukrainian officials to announce the investigations by putting them in fear of what would happen to their country if they did not receive the hundreds of millions of dollars in congressionally approved aid.

An alternative theory would be that Trump’s conduct constituted extortion “under color of official right.” The Supreme Court has held that this is basically equivalent to taking a bribe. As a result, often conduct that looks a lot like traditional bribery is prosecuted as extortion under color of official right, and that theory could apply here as well.

Quid pro quo, another item in Nunes’s litany, is not a separate crime. Allegations of a wrongful quid pro quo are really just another way of saying that there was a bribe. The term, usually translated as “this for that,” refers to the exchange that is at the heart of a bribery offense. Of course, quid pro quos in and of themselves are not illegal; bargaining takes place in diplomacy and elsewhere, and the United States is free to attach conditions to its foreign aid. But it’s bribery if a quid pro quo is sought with corrupt intent, if the president is not pursuing legitimate U.S. policy but instead is wrongfully demanding actions by Ukraine that would benefit him personally.

As for obstruction of justice, that’s in a separate category. The White House has been refusing to honor congressional subpoenas and ordering key witnesses not to testify. It’s been ironic to watch Republicans complain about supposed hearsay and witnesses who do not have direct knowledge of key events when it is the administration itself that is withholding much of that key information. Democrats will have to consider whether this stonewalling of their investigation justifies a separate article of impeachment for obstruction, as it did for President Richard M. Nixon. Full Story

By Paul LeBlanc, CNN

Washington (CNN) President Donald Trump's former top Russia adviser offered a broad defense of the witnesses who have testified in the House impeachment inquiry while making a call for unity in a powerful moment during Thursday's impeachment inquiry testimony. Fiona Hill's comments came after Rep. Brad Wenstrup called the impeachment inquiry a "coup" and contrasted the current political division with unity he felt in the military serving alongside "soldiers from many backgrounds" before yielding back his time without asking Hill any questions. "Could I actually say something?" she asked. While Wenstrup protested her ability to respond, Hill praised Wenstrup's comments as "very powerful about the importance of overcoming hatred and certainly partisan division." "I think all of us who came here under legal obligation, also felt we had a moral obligation to do so. We came as fact witnesses," she said.

Hill defended the witnesses who have appeared for testimony as only there to "provide what we know and what we've heard." "I understand that for many members, this is maybe hearsay. I've talked about things I've heard with my own ears. I understand that Ambassador Sondland has said a lot of things. I have told you what he told me and what others told me," she said. "A lot of other people have said things to me again as well and also to Mr. Holmes, and we're here to relate to you what we heard, what we saw and what we did, and to be of some help to all of you in really making a very momentous decision here," she said.." We are not the people who make that decision." Hill told lawmakers earlier in her testimony that US Ambassador Gordon Sondland was correct to exclude her from his effort for Ukraine to announce investigations -- because Sondland's effort had separated from foreign policy into politics. Full Story

Gordon Sondland and Kurt Volker were not telling the whole truth.
By Alex Ward

Two witnesses in Thursday’s impeachment hearing said President Donald Trump’s allies clearly saw investigating Ukrainian gas company Burisma as a way to investigate Joe Biden’s family — providing more evidence the administration’s Ukraine policy was built around harming a potential 2020 political opponent.

Fiona Hill, formerly the senior director on the National Security Council responsible for coordinating US policy on Europe, and David Holmes, a counselor for political affairs at the US embassy in Kyiv, both told lawmakers the administration’s pressure campaign to get Ukraine to probe Burisma was really all about Joe and Hunter Biden.

Toward the end of the Democrats’ questioning of the witnesses, the Democrats’ counsel Daniel Goldman asked, “Was it apparent to you that when President Trump, Rudy Giuliani, or anyone else was pushing for an investigation into Burisma, that the reason why they wanted that investigation” was to look into the Bidens?

“It was very apparent to me that that was what Rudy Giuliani wanted, yes,” Hill responded. Holmes agreed. And then when counsel asked, “Do you think that anyone involved in Ukraine matters in the spring and summer would understand that as well?” Holmes also said “yes.”

   Fiona Hill and David Holmes testify that they understood that Trump pushing for an investigation of Burisma was code for the Bidens.

   Kurt Volker and Gordon Sondland testified that they did not realize that Trump pushing for an investigation of Burisma was code for the Bidens. pic.twitter.com/A4Hqvv2snM
   — JM Rieger (@RiegerReport) November 21, 2019

This is damaging for two previous witnesses in the impeachment hearings: former special envoy for Ukraine Kurt Volker, and US Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland. Both those officials were central to the scheme to pressure Ukraine into opening investigations in the Bidens and Democrats in exchange for nearly $400 million in military support and a White House meeting. If anyone would know the true meaning behind “Burisma,” it would be them.

But both testified this week — under oath — that they didn’t make the Burisma-Biden connection. “I was not made aware of any reference to Vice President Biden or his son by President Trump” until the summary of a July 25 call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was released on September 25, Volker said on Tuesday. “Apparently, a lot of people did not make the connection,” Sondland told Congress the next day. “I didn’t.” Full Story

David Holmes, the counselor for political affairs at the US Embassy in Ukraine, explains how Ambassador Gordon Sondland expressed concern over President Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani taking a direct role in Ukrainian diplomacy. Source: CNN - Video

ABC News - Hill delivered her opening statement at the House impeachment hearings Thursday. Historic public impeachment hearing underway: Live updates and analysis. Video

It’s already been publicly embraced by Vladimir Putin.
By Philip Bump

One reason that Russia’s interference effort in 2016 was successful was that it leveraged a powerful source of energy: partisanship. The information released by WikiLeaks, which even at the time was linked to Russian hacking, provided fodder for endless conservative-media coverage and conspiracy theories targeting Democrats generally and Hillary Clinton specifically. Russia’s social media content, like the TEN_GOP Twitter account, threw out meme-ish content that occasionally struck enough of the right political note to go viral. Americans, particularly Americans who supported Donald Trump or disliked Clinton in 2016, were less concerned with where the river originated than what happened on the flood plains.

This worked both ways. Russia injected content into a partisan space, where it gained energy. It also plucked partisan ideas out of the conversation which then helped its efforts be more effective. There was something of a symbiosis, however witting, that served both Russia and President Trump’s campaign. Trump’s late-election declaration that he loved WikiLeaks wasn’t disconnected from the information that WikiLeaks was dumping into the political conversation.

In the opening statement she will offer at her public testimony on Thursday, Fiona Hill, a former member of Trump’s National Security Council, will draw attention to Russia’s efforts three years ago — and now. “The impact of the successful 2016 Russian campaign remains evident today,” Hill’s statement reads. “Our nation is being torn apart. Truth is questioned. Our highly professional and expert career Foreign Service is being undermined.” But Hill's statement goes further than that. “I refuse to be part of an effort to legitimize an alternate narrative that the Ukrainian government is a U.S. adversary, and that Ukraine — not Russia — attacked us in 2016,” the statement says. “These fictions are harmful even if they are deployed for purely domestic political purposes.” Full Story

Analysis by Chris Cillizza, CNN Editor-at-large

(CNN) Gordon Sondland made a LOT of news in his opening statement to the House Intelligence Committee on Wednesday. There was a quid pro quo between the Americans and the Ukrainains. Everybody in the White House knew about it. And the Ukrainians knew too. But there was one piece of Sondland's testimony that didn't get as much attention as it should have. Under questioning from Intelligence Committee chair Adam Schiff (D-California) about the specific nature of the quid pro quo between President Donald Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Sondland said this: "He had to announce the investigations. He didn't actually have to do them, as I understood it."

Which, to be clear, means that in order for Zelensky to get the White House meeting he so coveted, he needed to simply announce that Ukraine was looking into Joe and Hunter Biden -- despite there being no evidence of wrongdoing by either of them -- as well as the whereabouts of the hacked Democratic National Committee server. Not conduct the investigation. Not prosecute anyone. Just announce it. Sondland expanded on that idea when asked to elaborate by Democratic counsel Dan Goldman. Here's that exchange: GOLDMAN: Giuliani and President Trump didn't actually care if they did them, right?

SONDLAND: I never heard, Mr. Goldman, anyone say that the investigations had to start or be completed. The only thing I heard from Mr. Giuliani or otherwise was that they had to be announced. ... President Trump presumably, communicated through Mr. Giuliani, wanted the Ukrainians on-record publicly that they were going to do those investigations. Now ask yourself this. If Trump's true interest in raising the Democratic National Committee server conspiracy theory and the Bidens on the July 25 call with Zelensky was to root out corruption in Ukraine, wouldn't you think it would be more important to press the Ukrainians on ensuring a free, fair and thorough investigation into any alleged wrongdoing? Full Story

The United States ambassador to the European Union told the impeachment inquiry his efforts to press Ukraine to announce investigations were ordered by President Trump, and top officials knew.
By Nicholas Fandos and Michael S. Schmidt

WASHINGTON — An ambassador at the center of the House impeachment inquiry testified on Wednesday that he was following President Trump’s orders with the full knowledge of several other top administration officials when he pressured the Ukrainians to conduct investigations into Mr. Trump’s political rivals, detailing what he called a clear quid pro quo directed by the president.

Gordon D. Sondland, a wealthy Republican megadonor appointed by Mr. Trump as the ambassador to the European Union, told the House Intelligence Committee that he reluctantly followed Mr. Trump’s directive to work with Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, as he pressured Ukraine to publicly commit to investigating former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and an unsubstantiated theory that Democrats conspired with Kyiv to interfere in the 2016 election.

“We followed the president’s orders,” Mr. Sondland said. In testimony that amounted to an act of defiance by an official who has been described by other witnesses as a point man in the push to extract the investigations, Mr. Sondland tied the most senior members of the administration to the effort — including the vice president, the secretary of state, the acting chief of staff and others. He said they were informed of it at key moments.

As striking as his account was, Mr. Sondland appeared on Wednesday as a highly problematic witness. He has had to revise his account several times based on testimony from others, repeatedly claimed not to have recalled key episodes and conceded before the committee that he did not take notes that could give him certainty about precisely what happened. Still, the revelations he offered, along with emails corroborating them, were stunning.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo signed off on parts of the pressure campaign, Mr. Sondland testified, and Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, was deeply involved. They understood, as he did, that there was a quid pro quo linking a White House meeting for President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine to a promise by him to announce investigations into Mr. Trump’s political rivals, he said.

“I know that members of this committee have frequently framed these complicated issues in the form of a simple question: Was there a quid pro quo?” Mr. Sondland said. “As I testified previously, with regard to the requested White House call and White House meeting, the answer is yes.” “Everyone was in the loop,” he said. “It was no secret.”

And Mr. Sondland testified that he came to believe that there was another linkage being made by Mr. Trump, between vital military assistance approved by Congress for Ukraine and a public commitment by its president to investigate Mr. Trump’s political adversaries. Mr. Sondland said he informed Vice President Mike Pence of his concern about that connection during a Sept. 1 meeting in Warsaw.

His appearance raised questions about whether the other top administration figures will come forward to testify in the inquiry and push back on Mr. Sondland’s version of events. Almost two months after House Democrats began their impeachment inquiry, Mr. Sondland’s account came as close as investigators have gotten to an admission from an official who dealt directly with Mr. Trump. But it came with the blemishes of Mr. Sondland’s shifting accounts, which have evolved since the committee first deposed him in October, opening him up to criticism from Republicans who claimed he was unreliable and not credible.

The State Department sought to block Mr. Sondland from testifying, and refused to allow him access to certain documents, which it also withheld from the committee despite a subpoena. Without access to them, Mr. Sondland said, he simply could not fully reconstruct the particulars of the conversations and meetings lawmakers pressed him on. Democrats pointed to the administration’s stonewalling as yet another piece of evidence for an impeachment article against Mr. Trump for obstruction of Congress. And they quickly seized on what Mr. Sondland did say as bombshells. Full Story

The whistleblower's complaint touched off the impeachment inquiry against Trump.
By Ken Dilanian and Julia Ainsley

The FBI has asked to interview the CIA whistleblower whose complaint touched off the Ukraine impeachment investigation, a source directly familiar with the matter told NBC News. The whistleblower has not yet agreed to an interview, the source said.

The FBI request was first reported by Yahoo News, which said that some FBI officials were disturbed that the Justice Department declined to investigate the whistleblower's complaint after a criminal referral was sent over from the inspector general of the Intelligence Community. Spokespeople for the FBI and the Justice Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Justice Department officials said they examined the criminal referral based on the whistleblower's complaint, and decided that there should be no investigation. They said they only examine the question of whether a campaign finance crime occurred, and they have never explained why they did not consider questions of bribery, extortion or other possible crimes. Full Story

By Kevin Liptak, CNN

Washington (CNN)A key witness testified in public on Wednesday that he expressed concerns to Vice President Mike Pence in September that US aid to Ukraine was being tied to investigations into President Donald Trump's political rivals. Pence has spent weeks actively working to avoid becoming ensnared in the impeachment morass, but the revelation from US Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland placed the vice president ever closer to the alleged "quid pro quo" that is at the heart of the impeachment inquiry. And it expands the network of possible officials implicated in the scheme. The vice president's office quickly denied the two men ever discussed the topic at hand.

But in dragging Pence to the center of the inquiry, Sondland's testimony creates more questions for a vice president whose chief personality trait is loyalty to Trump. Pence's role had already been under scrutiny after his planned attendance at Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky's inauguration in May was canceled by Trump. Later, he met with Zelensky in Warsaw after Trump canceled his planned visit to monitor a hurricane in the United States. Sondland said in his testimony he offered Pence his view ahead of the September 1 Warsaw talks. "I mentioned to Vice President Pence before the meetings with the Ukrainians that I had concerns that the delay in aid had become tied to the issue of investigations. I recall mentioning that before the Zelensky meeting," he said.

Sondland does not describe Pence's reaction when he raised his concerns in his opening statement. But later he said Pence nodded in response. "The vice president nodded like you know he heard what I said and that was pretty much it as I recall," he said. A few hours later, Pence's chief of staff Marc Short said the vice president "never had a conversation with Gordon Sondland about investigating the Bidens, Burisma, or the conditional release of financial aid to Ukraine based upon potential investigations." "This alleged discussion recalled by Ambassador Sondland never happened," Short said. Full Story

“Nunes' opening statement suggests GOP didn't know Sondland was flipping until the last minute," one reporter notes
By Igor Derysh

Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., appeared unprepared for President Donald Trump’s handpicked European Union Ambassador Gordon Sondland to throw the president under the bus and admit a quid pro quo on Ukraine in his opening statement.

Sondland, who already revised his closed-door testimony to the House Intelligence Committee to acknowledge a quid pro quo, reiterated that there was one at Wednesday’s public hearing in the impeachment inquiry. Sondland claimed in his opening statement that he directly communicated the quid pro quo to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and kept acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Energy Secretary Rick Perry in the loop on his efforts to get Zelensky to commit to an “investigation” into the Bidens. Sondland also acknowledged that military aid was withheld at Trump’s direction to pressure Ukraine into launching the probe.

“We all understood that these pre-requisites for the White House call and White House meeting reflected President Trump’s desires and requirements,” he said. “Mr. Giuliani’s requests were a quid pro quo for arranging a White House visit for President Zelensky. Mr. Giuliani demanded that Ukraine make a public statement announcing investigations of the 2016 election/DNC server and Burisma.” Nunes’ opening statement, delivered just moments earlier, appeared unprepared for Sondland’s revelations.

Nunes began by comparing the Democrats’ impeachment push to former special counsel Bob Mueller’s probe, listing off numerous charges that although he dismissed at false were actually proven true. “Trump had a diabolical plan to build a Trump Tower in Moscow,” he said. (True.) “Trump changed the Republican National Committee platform to hurt Ukraine and benefit Russia,” he added. (True.) “Trump's son-in-law lied about his Russian contacts while obtaining his security clearance,” he continued. (True.)

“It's a long list of false charges, and that's merely a partial list,” Nunes declared after reading the largely corroborated list. Nunes then went on to claim that Democrats were again pushing false charges in the Ukraine case. “When the Democrats can't get any traction for their allegations of a quid pro quo, they move the goalposts and accuse the president of extortion, then bribery, and as a last resort, obstructing justice,” Nunes said, moments before Sondland explicitly described a “quid pro quo.” Full Story

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