Donald J. Trump Impeachment Inquiry Page 4
Testimony: White House lawyer told Vindman not to discuss Ukraine call
By NATASHA BERTRANDThe senior White House lawyer who placed a record of President Donald Trump’s July 25 call with Ukraine’s president in a top-secret system also instructed at least one official who heard the call not to tell anyone about it, according to testimony heard by House impeachment investigators this week. Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a decorated Army officer who served as the National Security Council’s director for Ukraine, told lawmakers that he went to the lawyer, John Eisenberg, to register his concerns about the call, in which Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate the Bidens, according to a person in the room for Vindman’s deposition on Tuesday.Eisenberg recorded Vindman’s complaints in notes on a yellow legal pad, then conferred with his deputy Michael Ellis about how to handle the conversation because it was clearly “sensitive,” Vindman testified. The lawyers then decided to move the record of the call into the NSC’s top-secret codeword system—a server normally used to store highly classified material that only a small group of officials can access. Vindman did not consider the move itself as evidence of a cover-up, according to a person familiar with his testimony. But he said he became disturbed when, a few days later, Eisenberg instructed him not to tell anyone about the call—especially because it was Vindman’s job to coordinate the interagency process with regard to Ukraine policy.Eisenberg’s decision to move the call record to the codeword system following his conversation with Vindman was first reported by The Washington Post. But Eisenberg’s subsequent request that Vindman not disclose the content of the call to anyone has not been previously reported. An NSC spokesperson and Eisenberg did not return requests for comment. Tim Morrison, the NSC’s top Russia and Europe adviser, reportedly told lawmakers in his opening statement during a deposition on Thursday that he was worried the July 25 call, which he listened in on along with Vindman, would leak. According to CNN, Morrison “was involved with discussions after the call about how to handle the transcript.” Full Story
Cillizza: 4 GOP impeachment arguments just blew upNewsroomCNN's Chris Cillizza outlines four arguments Republicans make against impeachment that no longer hold water as new facts come to light. Video
GOP embraces impeachment fight in 2020 ads, betting Trump inquiry will backfire on DemocratsBy John Fritze, Michael Collins, Courtney Subramanian - USA TODAYWASHINGTON – President Donald Trump delivered a warning to Democrats during a raucous Minnesota rally last month: The impeachment inquiry, he predicted, would backfire in next year's election. "The Democrats' brazen attempt to overthrow our government will produce a backlash at the ballot box," Trump said at the time. "We will defeat them." Nearly a month later, as the White House prepares for the next phase of the investigation, the president's combative remarks in Minneapolis have emerged as a central theme in Republican advertising as groups loyal to Trump gamble that his woes will be an asset rather than a hindrance next November.Far from avoiding the impeachment inquiry, or the president’s now infamous call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Republican groups are hammering vulnerable Democrats in digital and television ads for abandoning pocketbook issues in favor of what they describe as a relentless drive to remove Trump from office. Republican political strategist Ron Bonjean said GOP groups are moving away from attacking the impeachment process to accusing Democrats of playing politics. “You’re either defining this environment right now or you’re going to get defined by it politically,” Bonjean said.Trump camp spends heavilyTrump’s campaign spent more than $1 million on Facebook ads in October that mentioned “impeachment,” according to an analysis by Bully Pulpit Interactive, a Democratic group. But while the Trump campaign was the largest player, it was far from alone. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and the campaign arm of Senate Republicans spent nearly $200,000 on Facebook ads referring to impeachment during that same time. The Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC with ties to House GOP leaders, launched a new digital ad campaign soon after the House voted Thursday to formalize the impeachment investigation. The ads, aimed at Democratic-held districts Trump carried in 2016, tell voters that “your member of Congress just voted for impeachment!"With a sepia-toned photo of an angry-looking House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the ads slam Democrats for focusing on impeachment at the expense of health care, the economy and infrastructure. The ad fails to mention the Trump administration made little progress on health or infrastructure during its first two years, when Republicans controlled both chambers of Congress. Full Story
Former GOP Rep. Justin Amash Slams Republicans: 'History Will Not Look Kindly' on 'False Defenses' of TrumpBy Jason LemonIndependent Representative Justin Amash called out his Republican colleagues ahead of Thursday's House vote on a resolution laying out the rules for the Democratic-led impeachment inquiry, warning them that "history will not look kindly" on their defenses of President Donald Trump. Amash, who has been described as one of the most conservative members of the House, was elected as a Republican but formally declared himself an independent on July 4. The Michigan congressman parted ways with the vast majority of GOP lawmakers following the release of special counsel Robert Mueller's report regarding Trump's 2016 campaign and Russian election interference. Like many Democrats, he believed the report showed that the president had engaged in impeachable conduct.With the House Democrats' launch of a formal impeachment inquiry last month, Amash has been a lonely conservative voice in Congress supporting the investigation. "This president will be in power for only a short time, but excusing his misbehavior will forever tarnish your name," he tweeted on Thursday. "To my Republican colleagues: Step outside your media and social bubble. History will not look kindly on disingenuous, frivolous, and false defenses of this man."This president will be in power for only a short time, but excusing his misbehavior will forever tarnish your name. To my Republican colleagues: Step outside your media and social bubble. History will not look kindly on disingenuous, frivolous, and false defenses of this man. — Justin Amash (@justinamash) October 31, 2019Despite the urging by Amash and Democrats, the impeachment rules vote in the House passed along partisan lines, with 232 in favor and 196 opposed. All GOP representatives voted against the resolution, except for three who abstained. Almost all Democrats voted in favor, except for two congressmen who chose not to vote on the resolution. Amash, the chamber's lone independent, voted "yes" along with Democrats.We swear an oath to support and defend the Constitution, not an oath to support and defend Donald Trumpâ€™s abuse of the office of the presidency. — Justin Amash (@justinamash) October 30, 2019. Full Story
As Trump moves to bully witnesses and derail impeachment, Democrats see obstructionBy Philip Rucker, Rachael Bade and Rosalind S. HeldermanPresident Trump has sought to intimidate witnesses in the impeachment inquiry, attacking them as “Never Trumpers” and badgering an anonymous whistleblower. He has directed the White House to withhold documents and block testimony requested by Congress. And he has labored to publicly discredit the investigation as a “scam” overseen by “a totally compromised kangaroo court.” To the Democratic leaders directing the impeachment proceedings, Trump’s actions to stymie their investigation into his conduct with Ukraine add up to another likely article of impeachment: obstruction.The centerpiece of House Democrats’ eventual impeachment charges is widely expected to be Trump’s alleged abuse of power over Ukraine. But obstruction of Congress is now all but certain to be introduced as well, according to multiple Democratic lawmakers and aides, just as it was five decades ago when the House Judiciary Committee voted for articles of impeachment against then-president Richard Nixon. But Nixon resigned before the full House vote. “It’s important to vindicate the role of Congress as an independent branch of government with substantial oversight responsibility, that if the executive branch just simply obstructs and prevents witnesses from coming forward, or prevents others from producing documents, they could effectively eviscerate congressional oversight,” said Rep. David N. Cicilline (D-R.I.). “That would be very dangerous for the country.”Democrats argue that the Trump administration’s stonewalling — including trying to stop subpoenaed witnesses from testifying and blocking the executive branch from turning over documents — creates a strong case that the president has infringed on the separation of powers and undercut lawmakers’ oversight duties as laid out in the Constitution. Laurence H. Tribe, a constitutional law scholar at Harvard Law School who has informally advised some Democratic House leaders, said Trump’s actions are unprecedented.“I know of no instance when a president subject to a serious impeachment effort, whether Andrew Johnson or Richard Nixon or Bill Clinton, has essentially tried to lower the curtain entirely — treating the whole impeachment process as illegitimate, deriding it as a ‘lynching’ and calling it a ‘kangaroo court,’ ” Tribe said. “It’s not simply getting in the way of an inquiry,” he added. “It’s basically saying one process that the Constitution put in place, thanks to people like James Madison and Alexander Hamilton, for dealing with an out-of-control president is a process he is trying to subvert, undermine and delegitimate. That, to me, is clearly a high crime and misdemeanor.” Full Story
Judge Pushes Back On Trump Lawyers Trying To Block Possible Impeachment WitnessesBy Bobby AllynA federal judge on Thursday fired skeptical questions at lawyers for the Trump administration who argued that current and former senior White House aides have "absolute immunity" from being questioned by House impeachment investigators. The hearing, before U.S. District Judge Ketanji Jackson in Washington, was the first time Trump lawyers tested in open court their attempt to block White House aides from cooperating with the impeachment inquiry into the president. Jackson at times struggled with the Trump administration's argument that former White House counsel Don McGahn does not have to comply with a subpoena filed by House Democrats for him to sit for testimony related to conversations he was party to that could implicate Trump in possible articles of impeachment for obstruction of justice."So what does the separation of powers mean to you then?" Jackson asked Trump administration lawyers. "How can the legislature actively exert its oversight power unless it has the ability to exercise its investigative powers?" James Burnham, a lawyer with the Justice Department, responded that applying "absolute immunity" to current and former aides close to the Oval Office is "not an exotic thing that we just cooked up." Burnham said it has been the legal position of the White House for decades so that information covered by executive privilege will not be exposed.Jackson sounded incredulous at this line of argument, noting the difficulty in enforcing it given the number of White House aides who have cycled through the Trump administration. The judge said Trump does not invoke that concern when former White House staff appear on cable news. "For some reason, the president doesn't own it when former officials appear on MSNBC," Jackson said. House attorney Doug Letter, who previously spent decades working in the Department of Justice, said the Trump administration "made up" the concept that all senior Trump aides have an absolute shield from any kind of testimony."This is what they wish the law were. It is not what the law is," Letter said. He said it may be the current position of the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, but those opinions change with administrations and sometimes conflicting opinions exist at once. More importantly, Letter said, a Justice Department legal opinion should not persuade a federal court. Full Story
The most important number from today's House impeachment voteAnalysis by Chris Cillizza, CNN Editor-at-large(CNN) - The most important number coming out of the House vote Thursday to formalize the rules of the impeachment investigation is this one: 0. (Get it? One? Zero? Right? Right!) Zero is the number of House Republicans who voted for the formal rules. Not a single one. Which is, plainly put, a win for President Donald Trump, who lobbied hard to keep his party in line on a much-watched vote, where even a a half-dozen GOP rebels could have fundamentally altered the storyline of the day on impeachment.Remember this: Republicans control 53 seats in the Senate. Even if the Democratic-led House impeaches Trump, he will not be removed until 67 senators vote to convict him. Which, by a bit of back-of-the-envelope math, means that 20 GOP senators would have to side with all 47 Democrats (and independents who caucus with Democrats) in the Senate for Trump to actually be removed. Full Story
Impeachment deposition: NSC official corroborates testimony linking Ukraine aid to investigationsBy Manu Raju and Jeremy Herb, CNN(CNN) - A top National Security Council official testified Thursday that he was told President Donald Trump wanted a top Ukrainian official to announce an investigation that would help the President politically before US security aid to Ukraine would be released, corroborating a key part of US diplomat Bill Taylor's testimony that's central to the Democrats' impeachment inquiry, according to sources familiar with the testimony. Tim Morrison, the top Russia and Europe adviser on the National Security Council, also told House impeachment investigators that he was advised by then-White House official Fiona Hill to stay away from the parallel Ukraine policy being pursued by Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, according to one of the sources.Morrison said in his closed-door testimony that he was concerned the July 25 call transcript between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky would leak and could have negative ramifications, according to multiple sources. But he made clear he saw nothing wrong with the July call, saying he was "not concerned" that "anything illegal" was discussed, according to one source.Morrison, who will soon be departing the White House, was involved with discussions after the call about how to handle the transcript, the sources said. Ultimately, the call transcript was filed in a highly classified system, a decision that's among the issues Democrats are seeking answers about in their impeachment investigation into Trump and Ukraine.Morrison, whose appearance on Capitol Hill lasted for more than eight hours, backed up last week's testimony from Taylor, currently the top US diplomat in Ukraine, about interactions the two had regarding the President's efforts to press for investigations while US aid to Ukraine was held up. While he did deviate from Taylor on some details, Morrison testified that Sondland told him the President would release the aid if the Ukrainian prosecutor general announced an investigation, according to sources. Still, Morrison's view that there was nothing wrong with the July call differs from the testimony offered by Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, another National Security Council staffer who, like Morrison, listened into the call between Trump and Zelensky. Full Story...
Who Is John Eisenberg? Trump Lawyer Moved Ukraine Transcript to Classified Server After Vindman ComplainedBy David BrennanThe impeachment investigation into President Donald Trump is gathering steam, with closed-door hearings and subsequent leaks thrusting previously obscure White House officials into the spotlight. House investigators are uncovering the circumstances surrounding the president's July phone call with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy, in which Trump is accused of pressuring his counterpart to open a corruption investigation into 2020 rival Joe Biden in exchange for military aid.This week, Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman testified to investigators. Vindman is the top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council, and was one of those who sat in on Trump's call with Zelenskiy. Soon after, he raised concerns to NSC lawyers about the president's conduct during the conversation. Vindman's testimony has dragged White House lawyer John Eisenberg—the administration's legal adviser on national security issues—deeper into the mire.Eisenberg, 52, has served as deputy White House counsel for national security issues since Trump came into office. Before this, he worked in President George W. Bush's Justice Department and in the Washington, D.C. office of the Kirkland & Ellis law firm. The firm's alumni include prominent conservative legal minds including Attorney General Bill Barr, Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh and White House Counsel Pat Cipollone. Politico described Eisenberg as a quiet and deeply private man. He kept such a low profile in the White House that the president reportedly did not know his name for some time, instead calling him "Mike."Politico also cited friends and former colleagues who depict Eisenberg as a "brilliant" lawyer who is extremely cautious, perhaps even paranoid. The president reportedly did not like Eisenberg's rigorous note-taking during meetings, fearing he could use the records against him in the future. The Washington Post explained that Eisenberg seems to have made the decision to move the transcript of the Trump-Zelenskiy call onto a highly restrictive server, prompting concerns that the White House tried to hide incriminating evidence of Trump's abuse of power. Soon after listening to the Trump-Zelenskiy call, Vindman—accompanied by twin brother and NSC ethics attorney Yevgeny—went to see Eisenberg to detail his concerns about the conversation. Mike Ellis, another White House lawyer, was also part of the subsequent conversation, the Post said.Vindman reportedly read aloud the notes he took during the call, after which Eisenberg proposed moving records of the call to the highly classified computer system known as NICE—the NSC Intelligence Collaboration Environment—thus tightly restricting access to it. The NICE system is usually used to store the most top secret information, and experts have said it would be highly unusual to transfer records of presidential phone calls with other leaders there. Citing former administration national security officials, the Post reported that Eisenberg did the same with at least the records of at least one other Trump phone call. Full Story...
Graham: Impeachment efforts will get 'not one vote' from Senate GOPby Ellie BufkinSouth Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham slammed congressional Democrats as "sore losers" for proceeding with the impeachment of President Trump, claiming their efforts would get "not one vote" from Republicans in the Senate. "You have to accept that President Trump is president,” Graham said in reference to House Democrats' plan to move forward with impeachment. “That’s the problem. They don’t accept that President Trump won the election, and America hates a sore loser as much as any country on the planet. This is an unfair process being driven by sore losers, and there is not one vote [from Republicans] in the United States Senate to impeach President Trump based on this phone call because he did nothing wrong." Graham's defense of Trump comes just two days after Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi announced that there would be a resolution in the House to begin impeachment proceedings against the president. "This week, we will bring a resolution to the Floor that affirms the ongoing, existing investigation that is currently being conducted by our committees as part of this impeachment inquiry, including all requests for documents, subpoenas for records, and testimony, and any other investigative steps previously taken or to be taken as part of this investigation," her Monday statement said. On Tuesday, Pelosi and other House Democrats clarified that the resolution being introduced on Thursday was not an "impeachment resolution." "This is not an impeachment resolution,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said Tuesday morning. “I don’t know what an impeachment resolution is." Congressional Republicans in both the House and Senate have been critical of Democrats and their choice to hold early impeachment-related hearings in secret. Last week, dozens of House GOP members stormed the Capitol basement and barged into the secret room where former Department of Defense official Laura Cooper was being questioned by the House Intelligence Committee. more... - Graham and Republicans are willing to ignore facts to protect Trump over America and the constitution is a violation of their oath of office.
Threats against Ukraine whistleblower's legal team lead to law enforcement probeBy Zachary Cohen and Paul LeBlanc, CNNWashington (CNN) - The legal team representing the whistleblower who ignited the impeachment investigation has received death threats that have led to at least one law enforcement investigation, according to a source familiar with the situation. The FBI deemed the threat not to be credible after meeting with the individual who sent it, the source said. "There have been a myriad of disturbing emails and voicemails sent to the legal team, with a few select messages crossing the line enough into direct threats of harm that have resulted in follow up from relevant law enforcement entities," according to the source. The Wall Street Journal first reported that the threats had led to at least one law enforcement probe. Trump has repeatedly derided the anonymous whistleblower whose complaint alleges the President abused his official powers in a July phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky "to solicit interference" in the 2020 election. Trump, who has denied any wrongdoing, said last month that whoever had provided the whistleblower with information about his call with Zelensky is "close to a spy," adding that in the old days spies were dealt with differently. The comments prompted lawyers for the whistleblower to send a letter to acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire outlining "serious" safety concerns for their client as Trump continues to take aim at the whistleblower. "The purpose of this letter is to formally notify you of serious concerns we have regarding our client's personal safety," the letter says, adding that recent comments by Trump are reason for "heightened" concern. "The events of the past week have heightened our concerns that our client's identity will be disclosed publicly and that, as a result, our client will be put in harm's way." more...
Trump impeachment inquiry: Read the opening statements from diplomats Catherine Croft and Christopher AndersonBy Nicholas Wu, USA TODAYWASHINGTON – Two State Department officials with expertise on Ukraine are scheduled to appear Wednesday before lawmakers leading the impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump. Catherine Croft and Christopher Anderson, who both worked under previous key witness Kurt Volker, the former U.S. special envoy to Ukraine, are scheduled to appear Wednesday before the House Oversight, Intelligence and Foreign Affairs committees. Croft's background includes work on Ukraine for both the State Department and the National Security Council. Similarly, Anderson's resume includes working at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv, Ukraine's capital. The opening statements of both Croft and Anderson were obtained by USA TODAY. Here are some of the key points from the prepared remarks" Croft says a lobbyist told her Ukraine Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch should be fired, according to Croft's opening statement. Croft was unaware of a hold on aid to Ukraine until a July 18 video conference with the Office of Management and Budget, where she was informed a hold was placed on security assistance to Ukraine, stemming from an order "at the direction of the President." Anderson will say that former National Security Adviser John Bolton said Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, who took part in a pressure campaign in Ukraine, "could be an obstacle to increased White House engagement." more...
What Vindman's testimony shows us about Trump's idea of loyaltyAnalysis by Zachary B. Wolf, CNNWashington (CNN) - President Donald Trump wants a Lt. Col. Oliver North. What he's got is Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman. North was a Marine officer detailed to the National Security Council under President Ronald Reagan who was convicted of obstructing a congressional inquiry into the Iran-Contra scandal. Vindman is an Army officer detailed to the National Security Council who just testified about his efforts to document Trump's pressure on Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Joe Biden. Trump's the kind of man who sees nothing wrong with holding up US aid to corner a foreign government to help him against his political rival. Facing the testimony of an immigrant in uniform who isn't waiting until he leaves the White House to tell his fact-based, nonpartisan truth, it's entirely predictable that the first thing Trump did was attack him. Trump cast Vindman as a "never Trumper," despite also claiming that he never met the man. It's directly in line with the idea he's repeatedly pushed that a "deep state" of entrenched bureaucrats is out to get him. On cue, pundits who defend Trump's responsiveness to the whims of Vladimir Putin immediately questioned Vindman, who sought refuge in the US as a very young child, along with many other Jews fleeing the Soviet Union. Where do his loyalties lie, they openly asked. Vindman made that clear on Tuesday. While the whistleblower and the anonymous New York Times op-ed writer are keeping their identities hidden, Vindman -- still a White House employee -- showed up to testify in person. He arrived on Capitol Hill in a dress uniform displaying a Purple Heart and declared himself an American patriot in his opening statement. Vindman making the choice to testify about his concerns that Trump was inappropriately pressuring Ukraine and his efforts to fix omissions in the July 25 call transcript that proves the point. The vile attacks on his patriotism were dismissed even by Trump's Republican allies on Capitol Hill. But Trump has a well documented history of either lashing out at or rejecting military men who tried to stand up to him. The main foil of Trump's time in office has been Sen. John McCain, the POW turned US senator, who often criticized Trump's foreign policy and who wasn't afraid to crush Republican hopes of repealing Obamacare with a dramatic thumbs down in the Senate chamber. Those policy differences drove them apart, but Trump is unique among American politicians for being unafraid to mock another man's war service, particularly McCain's. Apparently unashamed of his own Vietnam record, Trump made fun of McCain for being captured and tortured. Trump did it when McCain was vibrant and his opponent, when he was sick, and after he died. But all of that is ancient history at this point. But there is something underneath the attack dog mentality Trump turned on Vindman. As with his prior attacks on the "deep state," he demonstrated his complete disregard for the idea of public service and misunderstanding of the concept of loyalty. In Trump's worldview, where he has saved the country from his predecessors and where all victories are his and there are no defeats, there's no room for loyalty to anyone or anything else. But in the military, where soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines pledge allegiance to the flag and show up for work regardless of who is President, it's meant to be the opposite. more...
How can GOP senators serve as impeachment jurors when they're implicated in Trump's misdeeds?Ron Johnson and Marsha Blackburn are tied to Russian money and Trump's conspiracy theories. They're not aloneby Sophia TesfayeNancy Pelosi has announced that the House will finally hold a formal vote dictating the rules for the impeachment inquiry, six weeks after it was launched by a whistleblower’s complaint mysteriously withheld from Congress. And on Tuesday, Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman backed up both the initial whistleblower and U.S. diplomat Bill Taylor by testifying that he too was concerned about the Trump administration’s push to use congressionally-allocated military aid to Ukraine to coerce an investigation into Joe Biden. Congressional Republicans have long since stopped defending Trump on the merits since shortly after the White House released a transcript of a July call between President Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Instead, they’ve sought refuge in increasingly meaningless process arguments. So of course Pelosi agreeing to a formal vote on the rules of impeachment hasn’t stopped Republican complaints about the process. The goalposts will shift once again. No matter what the Democrats agree to, Republicans will complain about procedural unfairness and also refuse to concede the inquiry is legitimate. But how much of Republicans’ unwillingness to hold Trump accountable for his self-dealing is because they're in on it? On Monday the Washington Post published an interview with a Ukrainian diplomat who claimed to have met with Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., this summer to discuss the baseless conspiracy theory promoted by President Trump that Ukrainian officials had interfered in the 2016 election on behalf of Hillary Clinton. Johnson reportedly met with Ukrainian diplomat Andrii Telizhenko for at least 30 minutes on Capitol Hill in July, and Telizhenko then met with Johnson’s Senate staff for five additional hours. According to the report, “the discussions focused in part on ‘the DNC issue’ — a reference to his unsubstantiated claim that the Democratic National Committee worked with the Ukrainian government in 2016 to gather incriminating information about then-Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. Telizhenko said he could not recall the date of the meeting, but a review of his Facebook page revealed a photo of him and Johnson posted on July 11.” more...
Vindman says White House omitted Trump's reference to Biden tapes in transcript of Zelensky callBy Paul LeBlanc, CNN(CNN) - The National Security Council's top Ukraine expert told House impeachment investigators on Tuesday that he tried to make changes to the White House's rough transcript of the July phone call between President Donald Trump and Ukraine's President, including that Trump mentioned tapes of former Vice President Joe Biden, according to a source familiar with the matter. Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman testified that one example of his attempts to change the transcript was to include Trump telling Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky there were tapes of Biden, which The New York Times reported occurred where there's an ellipsis in the transcript that was released. The change was not made. The assertion that some portion of the conversation was replaced by an ellipsis contradicts the White House's statement in September that the ellipses in the transcript did not represent missing words or phrases. It also contradicts the President who has insisted the transcript the White House released was an exact depiction of the call, even though the memo itself describes it as rough. Vindman also said that he would have edited the transcript to specifically show that Zelensky mentioned Burisma -- the company that hired Hunter Biden -- rather than just "the company," according to sources. "He or she will look into the situation, specifically to the company that you mentioned in this issue," the rough transcript cites Zelensky as saying. Vindman's testimony that some specific details were left out of the rough transcript adds further insight about how the White House handled the call and Democrats' concerns that the Trump administration engaged in a coverup. more...
National security official tells Congress he tried to add edits to White House memo about Trump Ukraine callThe proposed edits of the call were to include Trump mentioning possible recordings of Joe Biden discussing corruption in Ukraine and Ukraine’s president mentioning the Burisma gas company specifically. By Jonathan Allen and Phil Helsel Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council, told members of Congress that he tried to edit a White House log of a July call between President Donald Trump and Ukraine's president to include details that were omitted, one lawmaker present at the testimony and another source familiar with it confirmed to NBC News. Vindman testified in a closed-door deposition before House impeachment investigators that the attempted edits were to reflect Trump mentioning possible recordings of former vice president Joe Biden discussing corruption in Ukraine and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy mentioning Bursima, the company who had hired Biden’s son, Hunter, the sources said. The July 25 phone call between Trump and Zelenskiy is at the center of an impeachment inquiry being conducted in the House of Representatives. Critics say the alleged pressure on the Ukrainians amounted to Trump abusing his power for political gain in the 2020 presidential election. The White House in September released a reconstructed transcription of the July phone conversation and noted it was not a verbatim transcript and that it represented a record of "the notes and recollections of Situation Room Duty officers and National Security Council policy staff" who listen to official conversations. Several points in the document contain ellipses, including one that involves Trump saying to Zelenskiy: "Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it... It sounds horrible to me." Biden has taken credit for getting Ukrainian prosecutor Viktor Shokin removed and has described it as a win for anticorruption in the country. Shokin was widely believed to be soft on corruption, and the United States and other Western countries had called for his removal. The country's Parliament ultimately voted to remove Shokin. more...
Intelligence panel Democrat: It appears Sondland committed perjuryBy Jessica CampisiRep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas), a member of the House Intelligence Committee, said late Monday that he believes U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland committed perjury in his congressional testimony to investigators in their impeachment inquiry. “Based on all the testimony so far, I believe that Ambassador Gordon Sondland committed perjury,” Castro tweeted. Based on all the testimony so far, I believe that Ambassador Gordon Sondland committed perjury. https://t.co/lOGRj8s1yP — Joaquin Castro (@JoaquinCastrotx) October 29, 2019. The tweet came hours before Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the highest-ranking Ukraine expert on the National Security Council, is expected to tell lawmakers on Tuesday that he twice reported concerns about President Trump's tactics in dealing with Ukraine. Vindman also wrote in his opening statement that during a meeting between U.S. and Ukraine officials, Sondland — who was present at the meeting — started to talk to Ukraine about “delivering specific investigations” into former Vice President Joe Biden, a leading Democratic presidential candidate, and Biden's son in order to secure a meeting with Trump, adding that he told Sondland the statements were “inappropriate.” more...
State Department official to testify that John Bolton warned about influence of Rudy Giuliani on UkraineBy Kylie Atwood and Jennifer Hansler, CNN(CNN) - Former national security adviser John Bolton cautioned about the influence Rudy Giuliani had on US-Ukraine policymaking during a meeting in mid-June with top US officials, a career foreign service officer plans to tell Congress on Wednesday, according to a copy of his opening statement obtained by CNN. Christopher Anderson, who was former special envoy for Ukraine Kurt Volker's assistant from 2017-2019, is one of two State Department officials set to testify behind closed doors as part of the House Ukraine impeachment inquiry on Wednesday. Catherine Croft, who took over that role in the summer of 2019, is also scheduled to testify. Volker, as well as a number of other State Department officials, have already testified as part of the probe. Neither witness is expected to unearth a treasure trove of details that will change the trajectory of the investigation, but their testimonies are expected give context for how the Trump administration's US-Ukraine policy developed and confirm details that have already been presented. According to Anderson's prepared statements, he helped in May to develop "key deliverables" to show newly-elected Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky's "commitment to reform. 1) demonstrating Zelenskyy's independence from powerful vested interests and pursuing anticorruption reform as well as antitrust reform; 2) strengthening U.S.-Ukrainian energy cooperation; and 3) improving our bilateral security relationship which included Ukraine increasing its purchases of key U.S. military equipment." In the mid-June meeting, "Bolton stated that he agreed with our three lines of effort and that he also supported increased senior White House engagement," according to the prepared statement. "However, he cautioned that Mr. Giuliani was a key voice with the President on Ukraine which could be an obstacle to increased White House engagement," Anderson is expected to tell the House Intelligence, Oversight and Foreign Affairs Committees. Bolton, viewed as one of the key witnesses, has been contacted by the committees about a deposition. It is unclear if or when he will appear before the committees. more...
Pelosi, Schiff Prep for GOP Impeachment ‘Stunts’ and Attempts to Out the WhistleblowerSchiff moved to block questions that might reveal the whistleblower’s identity. Republicans, meanwhile, said that they can’t reveal the name of someone they don’t know.By Betsy Swan, Erin Banco, Sam Brodey, Sam SteinCongressional Democrats are struggling to protect the identity of the U.S. government official who filed a whistleblower complaint about President Donald Trump’s Ukraine policy. And those efforts have fueled friction behind closed doors. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) ruled in a closed-door deposition Tuesday morning that any questions that might lead to the revelation of the whistleblower’s identity were out of order, according to two sources familiar with the meeting. His move frustrated Republicans. One source relayed that Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) and Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) ended up “yelling at each other” during a closed door deposition of Alexander Vindman, the National Security Council Director for European Affairs who testified that he raised internal concerns about Trump’s call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that is now at the center of the impeachment inquiry. Meadows declined to discuss the deposition, but acknowledged the tension. more...
MSNBC host Nicole Wallace calls Trump loyalists on Fox News 'chicken s**t' live on air after they suggest Purple Heart veteran who testified at impeachment inquiry is guilty of espionageBy Leah Mcdonald For Dailymail.comMSNBC host Nicolle Wallace blasted President Donald Trump's supporters for criticizing National Security Council official Alexander Vindman and called them 'chicken s**t.' Vindman, a 20-year Army officer and Purple Heart Veteran, testified that he twice raised concerns that Trump and his European Union ambassador, Gordon Sondland, inappropriately pushed Ukrainian leaders to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and son Hunter Biden. The Army officer was a specialist in the White House on Ukraine and Russia. He was only 3 years old in 1979, when he and his two brothers, father and grandmother fled the Ukraine, then a Soviet republic, for the U.S. On Fox News on Tuesday night, Laura Ingraham was discussing Vindman's background and claimed his background was 'interesting'. Fox News host Laura Ingraham, ex-Bush Administration official John Yoo, alluded to the fact that Vindman could be a double agent. New York attorney Alan Dershowitz was also on the discussion panel. Ingraham had claimed: 'Here we have a U.S. National Security official who is advising Ukraine while working inside the White House apparently against the President's interests, and usually they spoke in English. 'Isn't that kind of an interesting angle on this story?' she asked. John Yoo then claimed that 'some people might call that espionage'. He later clarified his comments to say he wasn't accusing Vindman of espionage. MSNBC host Wallace then played that clip and stated: 'Except those people aren't chicken s**t like the three of you and they know he passed a background check that the president's daughter and son-in-law didn't.' more...
'He's a patriot': Republicans defend key impeachment witness from attacksSenior GOP lawmakers rejected the assault from conservative pundits on Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman.By BURGESS EVERETT and MELANIE ZANONARepublican leaders are stepping up to defend Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman against vicious attacks from President Donald Trump's allies. Republicans may quibble with the substance of Vindman’s testimony as they try to protect Trump from the fast-moving impeachment inquiry. But congressional GOP leaders say it’s out of bounds to question Vindman’s patriotism and allegiance to the United States, as some conservative pundits did on Monday night. Several top Republicans on Tuesday made emphatic statements in support of Vindman, a National Security Council official who heard Trump’s phone call with the Ukrainian president and testified that it was improper for Trump to demand an investigation into Joe Biden and represented a threat to U.S. national security. “That guy’s a Purple Heart. I think it would be a mistake to attack his credibility,” said South Dakota Sen. John Thune, the No. 2 Senate Republican, in an interview. “You can obviously take issue with the substance and there are different interpretations about all that stuff. But I wouldn’t go after him personally. He’s a patriot.” “I’m not going to question the patriotism of any of the people who come forward," said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), though he declined to comment "on the merit of what’s going forward" or Vindman's suggestion that he was concerned Trump's actions had undermined national security. more...
House committee unveils impeachment resolution textBy Jeremy Herb, CNN(CNN) - A key House committee on Tuesday set the stage for the next phase of impeachment by releasing the rules that will guide Democrats through impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump. The House Rules Committee released the text of the resolution Tuesday that the House will vote on later this week to formalize the impeachment proceedings. The full House is expected to vote on the resolution on Thursday. The resolution provides the procedural details for how the House will move its impeachment inquiry into its next phase, and it also represents the first time that the full chamber will take a vote related to impeaching the President. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has argued that the vote is not being taken to formally authorize the impeachment inquiry, as Republicans have demanded, but will help "to eliminate any doubt as to whether the Trump administration may withhold documents, prevent witness testimony, disregard duly authorized subpoenas, or continue obstructing the House of Representatives." Republicans and the White House have criticized the resolution as a measure that's coming too late following weeks of closed-door depositions. But it's also a sign that public hearings are on the way, where Republicans will have to debate Democrats more on the substance of Trump's actions on Ukraine rather than the process of the impeachment inquiry. The text of the resolution lays out how the House Intelligence Committee will conduct public hearings and how the House Judiciary Committee "shall report to the House of Representatives such resolutions, articles of impeachment, or other recommendations as it deems proper." more...
'Extremely disturbing': Top Democrats alarmed over Vindman's testimony on Trump-Ukraine callLt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council, was set to testify he was on the July phone call between Trump and Ukraine’s leader.By Adam EdelmanWASHINGTON — Top Democrats at the deposition of Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council, said his testimony Tuesday was “extremely disturbing” and praised him for appearing despite attacks from the White House. Acting House Oversight Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y, told NBC News she found Vindman’s remarks “extremely, extremely, extremely disturbing” as she left the deposition. Maloney refused to answer any other questions about Vindman’s testimony. Vindman, appearing voluntarily under congressional subpoena, was set to tell members of Congress conducting an impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump that he was on the phone call between Trump and Ukraine’s leader in which Trump asked for an investigation into the Bidens — and that he raised concerns about it. Vindman considered Trump’s request that Ukraine investigate his political rivals so damaging to American national security that he reported it to a superior, according to his opening statement obtained by NBC News. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., a member of the House Oversight Committee who was present for the deposition, told NBC News that Vindman was a “very credible” witness and said his testimony "corroborated the testimony of other witnesses" that "really drew a direct line to the President, and those around him and their interest in withholding foreign aid through Ukraine that was vital, as well as insisting on investigations into Biden." Vindman’s testimony, she said, has "actually filled in more of the puzzle pieces." Wasserman Schutlz said the Republicans present for the deposition were trying to get Vindman to reveal the identity of the whistleblower. "What the Republicans are trying to do very clearly in their questioning is try to front door or back door Lt. Col. Vindman into revealing who the whistleblower is, even though in his testimony he says he doesn't he didn't know," she said. "They've been unsuccessful," she added. more...
You don't have to break a law to be impeached. Trump's defenders need a better argument.By Elizabeth Drew, Opinion contributorThe Founders made clear that an impeachable or convictable offense need not be a crime. Hamilton said it applied to 'the misconduct of public men.' The tactics some Republicans are using to defend President Donald Trump against being impeached (or indicted) by the House and convicted (or removed from office) by the Senate include confusing the public about what these terms mean. One thrust is to suggest that for a president to be impeached, he must have committed a crime. For example, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., perhaps Trump’s most vocal defender on Capitol Hill, indicated his supposed openness to impeachment with this statement: “Sure. I mean, show me something that is a crime.” Graham, a former Air Force lawyer who is now chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, surely knows better. His disingenuous statement was drastically misleading about the meaning of impeachment. Reining in a president: Graham’s definition of impeachment as necessarily involving a crime goes against the history of the Constitution's impeachment clause and undermines the very point of the exercise, which is to hold a president accountable for abuses of power between elections. A crime might be involved, but the critical point is that an abuse of power need not be a crime. Not all crimes are impeachable offenses, and not all impeachable offenses are crimes. An abuse of power occurs when a president reaches beyond the understood limits on his governing, or violates the constitutional requirement that the president “take care that the laws be faithfully executed." For example, when President Richard Nixon used the Internal Revenue Service to harass his perceived enemies, he was abusing his power, and this became part of one of the charges against him (Article II) in the articles of impeachment drawn up against him by the House Judiciary Committee in 1974. Significantly, Article II also held a president accountable for the acts of his aides. more...
READ: White House Ukraine expert's opening statement says he reported concerns about Trump-Zelensky callBy CNN(CNN) - Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the National Security Council's top Ukraine expert, plans to tell House impeachment investigators on Tuesday that he was so troubled by President Donald Trump's July phone call with Ukraine's President that he reported his concerns to a superior, according to a copy of his opening statement obtained by CNN. Vindman will also tell lawmakers that he felt Trump's efforts to press Ukraine for investigations into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son undermined American national security.Read the statement below: Opening Statement of Lieutenant Colonel Alexander S. Vindman: Before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, and the House Committee on Oversight and Reform. October 29, 2019 Mr. Chairman and Ranking Member, thank you for the opportunity to address the Committees concerning the activities relating to Ukraine and my role in the events under investigation. Background: I have dedicated my entire professional life to the United States of America. For more than two decades, it has been my honor to serve as an officer in the United States Army. As an infantry officer, I served multiple overseas tours, including South Korea and Germany, and a deployment to Iraq for combat operations.In Iraq, I was wounded in an IED attack and awarded a Purple Heart. Since 2008, I have been a Foreign Area Officer specializing in Eurasia. In this role, I have served in the United States' embassies in Kiev, Ukraine and Moscow, Russia. In Washington, D.C., I was a politico-military affairs officer for Russia for the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs where I authored the principle strategy for managing competition with Russia. In July 2018, I was asked to serve at the National Security Council. The privilege of serving my country is not only rooted in my military service, but also in my personal history. I sit here, as a Lieutenant Colonel in the United States Army, an immigrant. My family fled the Soviet Union when I was three and a half years old.Upon arriving in New York City in 1979, my father worked multiple jobs to support us, all the while learning English at night. He stressed to us the importance of fully integrating into our adopted country. For many years, life was quite difficult. In spite of our challenging beginnings, my family worked to build its own American dream. I have a deep appreciation for American values and ideals and the power of freedom. I am a patriot, and it is my sacred duty and honor to advance and defend OUR country, irrespective of party or politics. For over twenty years as an active duty United States military officer and diplomat, I have served this country in a nonpartisan manner, and have done so with the utmost respect and professionalism for both Republican and Democratic administrations. Introduction: Before recounting my recollection of various events under investigation, I want to clarify a few issues.I am appearing today voluntarily pursuant to a subpoena and will answer all questions to the best of my recollection. I want the Committees to know I am not the whistleblower who brought this issue to the CIA and the Committees' attention. I do not know who the whistleblower is and I would not feel comfortable to speculate as to the identity of the whistleblower. Also, as I will detail herein, I did convey certain concerns internally to National Security officials in accordance with my decades of experience and training, sense of duty, and obligation to operate within the chain of command. As an active duty military officer, the command structure is extremely important to me. On many occasions I have been told I should express my views and share my concerns with my chain of command and proper authorities. I believe that any good military officer should and would do the same, thus providing his or her best advice to leadership.Furthermore, in performing my coordination role as a Director on the National Security Council, I provided readouts of relevant meetings and communications to a very small group of properly cleared national security counterparts with a relevant need-to-know. My Service on the National Security Council: When I joined the White House's National Security Council ("NSC"), I reported to Dr. Fiona Hill, who in turn reported to John Bolton, the National Security Advisor. My role at the NSC includes developing, coordinating, and executing plans and policies to manage the full range of diplomatic, informational, military, and economic national security issues for the countries in my portfolio, which includes Ukraine. In my position, I coordinate with a superb cohort of inter-agency partners.I regularly prepare internal memoranda, talking points, and other materials for the National Security Advisor and senior staff. Most of my interactions relate to national security issues and are therefore especially sensitive. I would urge the Committees to carefully balance the need for information against the impact that disclosure would have on our foreign policy and national security. I have never had direct contact or communications with the President. The Geopolitical Importance of Ukraine: Since 2008, Russia has manifested an overtly aggressive foreign policy, leveraging military power and employing hybrid warfare to achieve its objectives of regional hegemony and global influence. Absent a deterrent to dissuade Russia from such aggression, there is an increased risk of further confrontations with the West. In this situation, a strong and independent Ukraine is critical to U.S. national security interests because Ukraine is a frontline state and a bulwark against Russian aggression. Full Story
Judge kicks newest impeachment lawsuit into high gear
By Katelyn Polantz and Paul LeBlanc, CNN(CNN) - Judge Richard Leon wants to hear from lawyers for the Trump White House, the House of Representatives and from impeachment witness Charles Kupperman on Thursday after Kupperman filed a lawsuit asking the federal court to decide whether he would need to testify. Kupperman's House testimony had been set for Monday, but Kupperman didn't show up, citing White House and Justice Department reasoning that he was immune from testifying because of his previous work on the National Security Council. Leon will meet the parties in court at 3 p.m. on Thursday, "due to the time-sensitive nature of the issues raised in this case," the DC District judge wrote Monday night. Kupperman, who served until last month as deputy national security adviser at the White House, was listening in on the July 25 phone call when, according to a White House transcript, Trump pressed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden. Kupperman's lawsuit raises additional questions about possible testimony from former national security adviser John Bolton, as Kupperman's lawyer Charles Cooper also represents Bolton. Full Story
NYT: White House Ukraine expert to testify on Trump call concerns
By Rebecca Falconer
Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the National Security Council's top Ukraine expert, is set to testify that he conveyed concerns internally to officials after listening to President Trump's phone call with his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky, the New York Times reported Monday. Why it matters: Vindman, a decorated Iraq War veteran, would be the first official from the White House who listened to the July 25 call between Trump and Zelensky discussing former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden, which resulted in a formal impeachment inquiry being launched against the U.S. commander in chief.
What he's saying: The NYT reports he said in his statement that he plans to give to House investigators Tuesday that he realized that if Ukraine "pursued an investigation" into Biden, his son and Burisma, the natural gas firm where Hunter Biden served on the board, "it would likely be interpreted as a partisan play which would undoubtedly result in Ukraine losing the bipartisan support it has thus far maintained." "I did not think it was proper to demand that a foreign government investigate a U.S. citizen, and I was worried about the implications for the U.S. government’s support of Ukraine," he says in the statement, per the Times. The NYT also reports he plans to tell House investigators: "This would all undermine U.S. national security. "I am a patriot and it is my sacred duty and honor to advance and defend our country irrespective of party or politics. Full Story
After a Week Off the Grid, Sondland Surfaces on Capitol Hill To Review TestimonySince his deposition on the Hill, U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland has kept a very low profile. So low, some colleagues had no idea where he was for a week.By Erin Banco, Sam BrodeyU.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland returned to Capitol Hill Monday to review the transcript of his testimony to the House impeachment investigators earlier this month, according to two sources familiar with his schedule. Sondland told lawmakers that President Donald Trump assigned his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani to carry out Ukraine policy for the U.S. Sondland reportedly said he was not aware that Ukraine policy was in part focused on working with Kyiv officials to investigate 2020 presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter. The ambassador’s presence on the Hill Monday came as a surprise to individuals who work alongside the ambassador overseas. Sondland’s whereabouts have been a bit of a mystery, according to three individuals familiar with his work throughout the European Union. Last week he skipped a teleconference with other European ambassadors. Two sources said he missed the call because he was traveling. One other person familiar with Sondland’s schedule told The Daily Beast he was still on the job but would not elaborate about the ambassador’s travel. Three sources said he has been out of the Brussels office for more than a week. The State Department did not respond to repeated requests for comment. Full Story
House impeachment vote scrambles Senate Republicans' Trump defenseGOP senators were divided after Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the House would vote to formalize the impeachment inquiry.By MARIANNE LEVINE and BURGESS EVERETTSenate Republicans quickly coalesced behind an effort to condemn the House’s impeachment inquiry late last week. Now their plans are up in the air. After House Democrats announced they’d vote to establish the next steps for their probe, Republicans were divided over whether to continue their push for a resolution intended to stick up for President Donald Trump. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) said the House Democrats’ move “looks like kind of a fig leaf” after sustained criticisms of their process and said the GOP resolution is still needed. “I would think it’s still important,” Hawley said. “It’s not just the lack of initial authorization... the closed-door sessions, the denial of subpoena rights to the minority, the denial of access to the president’s counsel. All of that stuff is historically atypical.” Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) disagreed, arguing that Republicans got what they wanted and should declare victory. “I’m glad the House has responded, and they're going to have transparent proceedings,” Fischer said. “We’ve seen what we’ve wanted to see.” The conflict underscores how Senate Republicans have struggled to unite on a response to the House’s fast-moving impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, which centers on his alleged efforts to withhold military aide to Ukraine without securing an investigation into his political rivals like Joe Biden. In fact, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell never committed to a floor vote on the measure in the first place. The resolution, introduced last week by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and McConnell, came after Trump complained that Republicans were not doing enough to defend him on impeachment. Full Story
Read: Pelosi sends 'Dear Colleague' letter about voting on impeachment resolution(CNN) - House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Monday sent a letter to Democratic members of Congress announcing a vote this week on a resolution affirming the impeachment investigation, establishing rules for public hearings, providing due process rights for the White House and other procedures. The decision to hold a vote comes after pressure from Republicans and the White House that the chamber should do so, and it undercuts the key Trump administration talking point that the inquiry was illegitimate because it did not receive a full House vote. Read the letter below:October 28, 2019Dear Democratic Colleague,For weeks, the President, his Counsel in the White House, and his allies in Congress have made the baseless claim that the House of Representatives' impeachment inquiry "lacks the necessary authorization for a valid impeachment proceeding." They argue that, because the House has not taken a vote, they may simply pretend the impeachment inquiry does not exist. Of course, this argument has no merit. The Constitution provides that the House of Representatives "shall have the sole Power of Impeachment." Multiple past impeachments have gone forward without any authorizing resolutions. Just last week, a federal court confirmed that the House is not required to hold a vote and that imposing such a requirement would be "an impermissible intrusion on the House's constitutional authority." More than 300 legal scholars have also refuted this argument, concluding that "the Constitution does not mandate the process for impeachment and there is no constitutional requirement that the House of Representatives authorize an impeachment inquiry before one begins." The Trump Administration has made up this argument -- apparently out of whole cloth -- in order to justify its unprecedented cover-up, withhold key documents from multiple federal agencies, prevent critical witnesses from cooperating, and defy duly authorized subpoenas. Full Story
Democrats moving toward next phase of impeachment inquiry with key voteBy Jeremy Herb, Lauren Fox, Manu Raju, Kaitlan Collins and Pamela Brown, CNN(CNN) - The House is moving toward the next phase of its impeachment inquiry, setting up a vote later this week on procedures that could quickly lead to President Donald Trump becoming the third president in US history to be impeached. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced Monday the House would vote on Thursday to formalize the procedures of the impeachment inquiry into Trump and Ukraine, in what will be the first time the House will go on the record on the proceedings. The vote signals a move into the next stage of the investigation following several weeks of closed-door depositions, as Democrats said the resolution would establish rules for public hearings, provide due process rights for the White House and allow information to be transferred to the committee that would ultimately consider the articles of impeachment. Democrats say the vote is not a formal authorization of the impeachment inquiry, but it nevertheless signals they are pushing forward with the investigation despite resistance from several witnesses inside the administration to appearing for testimony. The decision to hold a vote comes after pressure from Republicans and the White House that the chamber should do so, and it undercuts the key Trump administration talking point that the inquiry was illegitimate because it did not receive a full House vote. Still, Thursday's vote could put Democrats from Republican-leaning districts in a difficult position politically: Pelosi and Democratic leaders had considered and decided against holding a formal vote to authorize the inquiry earlier this month, in part due to concerns expressed by moderates in their caucus. Pelosi said in a letter to lawmakers Monday that the House would move forward with the vote on procedures "to eliminate any doubt as to whether the Trump administration may withhold documents, prevent witness testimony, disregard duly authorized subpoenas, or continue obstructing the House of Representatives." "This resolution establishes the procedure for hearings that are open to the American people, authorizes the disclosure of deposition transcripts, outlines procedures to transfer evidence to the Judiciary Committee as it considers potential articles of impeachment, and sets forth due process rights for the President and his Counsel," Pelosi wrote. Democratic sources say the resolution was necessary to set forth the exact procedures to transfer evidence from House Intelligence Committee over to the House Judiciary Committee — and to detail the procedures for holding public hearings in the impeachment inquiry. It is not officially a vote to authorize the inquiry, the Democratic sources say, although they will argue that the White House will have no grounds to resist their subpoenas after this vote establishes the procedures as they head into the next steps. Full Story
Justice Department appeals order to turn over Mueller grand jury materialsBy Katelyn Polantz, CNNWashington (CNN) - The Justice Department on Monday asked a federal judge to put on hold an order requiring the disclosure of grand jury information redacted from special counsel Robert Mueller's report to the House Judiciary Committee while it files an appeal. Last week, DC District Court Chief Judge Beryl Howell ruled that the documents must be turned over by Wednesday, and in her opinion legally endorse the House impeachment inquiry. "Once the information is disclosed, it cannot be recalled, and the confidentiality of the grand jury information will be lost for all time," Justice Department lawyers wrote, especially if the Judiciary Committee decides to make the materials public. The Justice department says it is filing an appeal with the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The Justice Department added that it believes, based on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's remarks, that what Mueller investigated "is not the current focus of impeachment activity." "The speaker has announced that the House impeachment inquiry will focus narrowly on the whistleblower complaint and issues surrounding Ukraine," the filing states. Full Story
Gowdy: I '100 percent' still believe public congressional hearings are 'a circus'By Zack BudrykFormer Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), the one-time chair of the House Oversight Committee, defended the use of private congressional hearings and said his issue with the House’s impeachment inquiry was instead leaks from the proceedings. CBS’ Margaret Brennan played a clip of Gowdy in 2018 describing public House hearings as a “circus” and a “freakshow” and asked Gowdy Sunday whether he still believed that amid House Republicans’ insistence that depositions in the House’s impeachment inquiry should be public, with a group of them, including several who were authorized to be present already, storming a deposition in a secure room last week. “One hundred percent,” Gowdy said on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” adding “I’m a rule-follower, I threw a Republican out of a hearing because he was not a member of a committee. If you’re going to have private investigations with unlimited time for question and cross-examining witnesses that’s a good thing.” .@TGowdySC says he still believes in the role of private testimony "100%" amid GOP outrage over Democrats' closed-door hearings as part of the impeachment inquiry pic.twitter.com/BMfWZb3MEM — Face The Nation (@FaceTheNation) October 27, 2019. Full Story
Donald Trump says impeachment is a coup. That's Pants on FireBy Louis JacobsonAmid the pressure of a House impeachment inquiry, President Donald Trump has continued to stoke the idea that he’s the victim of a coup — shorthand for "coup d’etat," a French term that means the overthrow of the government. "As I learn more and more each day, I am coming to the conclusion that what is taking place is not an impeachment, it is a COUP, intended to take away the Power of the........People, their VOTE, their Freedoms, their Second Amendment, Religion, Military, Border Wall, and their God-given rights as a Citizen of The United States of America!", Trump tweeted on Oct. 1. The following day, Trump’s campaign unveiled a new ad that said, "It’s nothing short of a coup, and it must be stopped." On several subsequent occasions he’s shared his allies’ uses of the word on Twitter. He retweeted "coup" comments by Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, on Oct. 3; former House speaker Newt Gingrich on Oct. 10; conservative broadcaster Mark Levin on Oct. 14; Tom Fitton of Judicial Watch on Oct. 19; and Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., on Oct. 24. Earlier in the year, Trump referred to the special counsel report headed by Robert Mueller as a coup. However, his use of the word "coup" to describe impeachment, a constitutionally defined process, is not accurate, even as a figure of speech. What is a coup?Let’s start with a more literal definition. The key element of a coup is that it is carried out beyond the bounds of legality. "We define a coup d'état as the sudden and irregular (i.e., illegal or extra-legal) removal, or displacement, of the executive authority of an independent government," wrote the Coup D’etat Project at the University of Illinois’ Cline Center for Democracy in 2013. Violence is part of many coups, but being violent is not a necessary condition. Of the 12 types of coups recognized by the Cline Center, nine do not seem to have anything to do with what Trump is talking about, including military coups, rebel coups, popular revolts, dissident actions, palace coups, foreign coups, internationally mediated transitions, forced resignations, and self-coups, in which the leader strong-arms other branches of government to entrench power. Full Story
State Dept. official broached Pompeo's role in Ukraine in new testimonyBy Mike LillisA leading State Department official testified before Congress on Saturday and touched upon Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's role in the administration's dealings with Ukraine — the issue at the center of the Democrats' fast-evolving impeachment investigation into President Trump. Philip Reeker, acting assistant secretary of European and Eurasian Affairs, broached the topic of Pompeo while being deposed in the Capitol by the three House committees — Intelligence, Oversight and Reform, and Foreign Affairs — leading the impeachment investigation, according to Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.), a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee. "I can't get into the details," Perry said, "but certainly there are questions." Perry, who has been a vocal defender of Trump throughout the impeachment process, emphasized that he felt there was nothing in Reeker's testimony to indicate that the president or anyone is his orbit had acted inappropriately in their dealings with Ukrainian officials."The accusations that are being leveled against the president aren't being corroborated in any of this witness testimony," Perry said. "And today, in my opinion, is no different." Democrats, though, emerged from the closed-door testimony with a different view; Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.), a member of the Oversight and Reform Committee, suggested Reeker was providing more evidence of presidential misconduct in Ukraine. "He is corroborating previous witnesses and their testimony. So it's helpful in that respect," Lynch said. "I think it's fair to say it's a much richer reservoir of information than we originally expected." Pompeo has emerged as a central figure in the Democrats' impeachment inquiry, particularly after revelations that the secretary of State was on the July 25 phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in which Trump asked Zelensky to launch a corruption investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden, a leading 2020 Democratic presidential contender. That request was confirmed in a transcript of the call released by the White House earlier this month. A government whistleblower has taken the episode a step further, alleging that Trump had threatened to withhold almost $400 million in U.S. aid to Ukraine if Zelensky failed to comply. Full Story
Lawyers for former Trump advisor John Bolton reportedly in contact with impeachment probe panelsBy Dan ManganLawyers for former national security advisor John Bolton have been in touch with officials working on House committees about possibly testifying in the impeachment probe of President Donald Trump, a person close to Bolton told NBC News on Friday. The news comes more than a week after the White House’s former top Europe expert, Fiona Hill, reportedly testified to Congress that Bolton was so disturbed by efforts to get Ukraine to investigate Trump’s political opponents that he called it a “drug deal.” Hill said that Bolton told her he did not want to be part of that push, which involved White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, according to reports of her testimony. Hill also reportedly testified that Bolton had called Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani a “hand grenade.” Giuliani has been at the head of a charge to have Ukraine launch investigations that could benefit Trump politically ahead of his 2020 reelection effort. The Washington Post reported Thursday that White House trade representative Robert Lighthizer in August withdrew a recommendation to restore some of Ukraine’s trade privileges after Bolton “warned him that President Trump probably would oppose any action that benefited the government in Kyiv.” Bolton left the Trump administration on Sept. 10. Trump said he fired Bolton, while Bolton said he had resigned. Full Story
Impeachment Inquiry Is Legal, Judge Rules, Giving Democrats a VictoryThe finding came in an order directing the Justice Department to hand over secret grand jury evidence from the Mueller investigation to House impeachment investigators.By Charlie Savage and Emily CochraneBreaking News Update: The House is legally engaged in an impeachment inquiry, a federal judge ruled on Friday, delivering a major victory to House Democrats and undercutting arguments by President Trump and Republicans that the investigation is a sham. The House Judiciary Committee is entitled to view secret grand jury evidence gathered by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, Judge Beryl A. Howell of the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia ruled in a 75-page opinion. Attorney General William P. Barr had withheld the material from lawmakers. Typically, Congress has no right to view secret evidence gathered by a grand jury. But in 1974, the courts permitted the committee weighing whether to impeach President Richard M. Nixon to see such materials — and, Judge Howell ruled, the House is now engaged in the same process focused on Mr. Trump. Judge Howell, an appointee of former President Barack Obama, wrote that law enforcement officials’ need to keep the information secret from Congress was “minimal” and easily outweighed by lawmakers’ need for it.“Tipping the scale even further toward disclosure is the public’s interest in a diligent and thorough investigation into, and in a final determination about, potentially impeachable conduct by the president described in the Mueller report,” she wrote. In reaching her decision, Judge Howell rejected the contention by Mr. Trump and his allies that the investigation Democrats are pursuing, which has since expanded to encompass the Ukraine scandal, is not a legitimate impeachment inquiry. The Justice Department is reviewing the decision, a spokeswoman said. Judge Howell, an appointee of former President Barack Obama, wrote that law enforcement officials’ need to keep the information secret from Congress was “minimal” and easily outweighed by lawmakers’ need for it. “Tipping the scale even further toward disclosure is the public’s interest in a diligent and thorough investigation into, and in a final determination about, potentially impeachable conduct by the president described in the Mueller report,” she wrote. In reaching her decision, Judge Howell rejected the contention by Mr. Trump and his allies that the investigation Democrats are pursuing, which has since expanded to encompass the Ukraine scandal, is not a legitimate impeachment inquiry. The Justice Department is reviewing the decision, a spokeswoman said. Full Story
Judge rules DOJ must turn over Mueller grand jury material to House DemocratsThe ruling is a victory for Democrats in their effort to investigate whether Trump obstructed the long-running Russia probe.By KYLE CHENEYA federal judge has ruled that the Justice Department must turn over former special counsel Robert Mueller's grand jury evidence to the House Judiciary Committee, a victory for Democrats in their effort to investigate whether President Donald Trump obstructed the long-running Russia probe. Beryl Howell, the chief federal judge in Washington ordered the DOJ to provide by Oct. 30 "[a]ll portions of Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s Report on the Investigation Into Russian Interference In The 2016 Presidential Election that were redacted pursuant to" grand jury restrictions. Full Story
As Trump impeachment probe heats up, some say Congress is doing inquiry the Justice Department should've doneBy Kevin Johnson, USA TODAYWASHINGTON – At the time, the disclosure was offered almost as a footnote to the explosive contents of a phone call in which President Donald Trump pressed his Ukrainian counterpart to investigate political rival Joe Biden. As a summary of the call was released by the White House last month, senior Justice Department officials, who spoke on the condition that they not be identified, said prosecutors had reviewed whether the president’s solicitation of Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky was a potential crime. The review, done at the request of the inspector general of the intelligence community, was narrow.It was based entirely on the written summary of the call, which even the White House indicated was imperfect. Authorities conducted no interviews to learn why a whistleblower took the extraordinary step of taking his concern to the inspector general for the nation's intelligence agencies. And it took only a few weeks for prosecutors to conclude there was no violation of campaign finance law. Yet in the month since that decision was made public, a fast-moving House impeachment inquiry and a separate criminal investigation raise serious questions about the Justice Department’s assessment of the president’s conduct. "In hindsight, the decision by prosecutors was premature and ill-advised," Richard Ben-Veniste, one of the Watergate prosecutors, said."The information provided by the whistleblower cried out for further inquiry." Justice Department officials say Attorney General William Barr, whose assistance Trump offered to Zelensky, was not the one who decided to decline an investigation. But lawmakers and former prosecutorssay his close relationship with Trump threatens the department'sindependence as the president faces his greatest threat yet. Those suspicions are likely to deepen after news broke Thursday night that the Justice Department has shifted an internal examination into the origins of the Russia investigation – which Trump often disparages as a "witch hunt" – to a criminal matter. Read the summary: President Trump's call with Ukraine president about Biden. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., who is leading the impeachment inquiry, said the Justice Department’s decision not to launch an investigation based on the whistleblower’s complaint effectively forced Congress to look into the matter itself. In just four weeks, House Democrats have elicited damning testimony from current and former administration officials that bolsters their central argument for removing Trump: that the White House dangled military aid and a meeting with the president in an effort to get Ukraine to investigate Biden and his son Hunter Biden. Full Story
Pompeo downplays and dodges impeachment inquiry questionsBy Jennifer Hansler and Nicole Gaouette, CNNWashington (CNN) - Secretary of State Mike Pompeo remained dismissive and evasive of questions surrounding the House Democratic impeachment probe, despite his department's increasing entrenchment in that inquiry. Pompeo sought to downplay the inquiry as Beltway "noise" in a series of interviews in Wichita, Kansas, on Thursday -- just days after the top US diplomat in Ukraine presented damning testimony related to quid pro quo related to presidential lawyer Rudy Giuliani's efforts in Ukraine. In his closed-door deposition Tuesday, Taylor said he had been told that "everything" Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky wanted, including a White House meeting and military aid to the country, would be held up until he publicly announced the launch of investigations sought by President Donald Trump.Those probes have targeted former Vice President Joe Biden, the President's chief political rival, and sought to establish that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election and undermine the US intelligence community's assessment that Russia is to blame. Taylor's appearance cut the legs out from under the White House defense that there had been no quid pro quo and has been "reverberating" among congressional Republicans who see it as game changer in the impeachment inquiry. In interview with KMUW Radio and The Wichita Eagle, Pompeo repeatedly insisted he would not talk about the inquiry, dodging questions about the concerns Taylor expressed in a diplomatic cable to the secretary of state, whether Giuliani's efforts aligned with the State Department's mission in Ukraine and the department's compliance in the congressional inquiry.In both interviews, Pompeo accused the reporters of being "fixated" on the probe. "Look, I came here today to talk about workforce development. I came here today to talk about the great things that are going on here in Kansas," Pompeo, who went to Kansan city for workforce development events with presidential adviser and first daughter Ivanka Trump, told The Wichita Eagle. "This inquiry will proceed. Congress will perform its oversight function, the State Department will continue to do all of the things that were required to do under the law and the Constitution," he said. The State Department has repeatedly attempted to block its diplomats from testifying -- all have had to be subpoenaed. The department has also failed to turn over documents related to the Ukraine to the three House committees, despite a subpoena. Later in the interview, Pompeo suggested that the impeachment inquiry proceedings were unfair. Full Story
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