How will the Senate respond?

WASHINGTON — The Senate is back in session Tuesday after a two-week break, and a lot has happened in that time, including President Trump asking China to investigate the Bidens. We’re watching whether enough Republicans support a trial to stop articles of impeachment from being quickly dismissed.

The 53 members of the party would need only three of their number to vote against a dismissal motion to keep a trial going (Vice President Mike Pence would not preside over an impeachment trial to break a tie), and with senators speaking out about Trump’s requests of Ukraine and China, that's a realistic possibility.

Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., who is retiring and has at times been critical of the President, gave a bit of a preview of how centrist Republicans could land on the question of impeachment. He released a statement last week saying, “It’s inappropriate for the president to be talking with foreign governments about investigating his political opponents, but impeachment would be a mistake. An election, which  is just around the corner, is the right way to decide who should be president."

It will be interesting to see if this becomes the way Senate Republicans who are critical of the president’s actions navigate these waters. With statements like that, it’s hard to see how Democrats would ever get 20 Republicans to join them to convict. 

Schumer calls on DoD to protect whistleblowers, hand over Ukraine documents

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., on Monday requested that the Department of Defense notify its personnel of their rights to make protected disclosures to Congress and halt any efforts to prevent officials from cooperating with impeachment investigators.

The request, in a letter to Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, comes ahead of public testimony Tuesday from Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a top White House expert on Ukraine, and Laura Cooper, a deputy assistant secretary of defense.

Vindman and Cooper "have been vilified and attacked by individuals in the media and elsewhere," Schumer wrote. "Some have even gone so far as to call LTC Vindman, a recipient of the Purple Heart after being wounded while serving in Iraq, a spy and question his loyalty to the United States."

Schumer added that he feared "these attacks will only increase after their participation in these public hearings."

Schumer asked Esper to brief him the actions being taken to ensure that Vindman, Cooper and others are protected from workplace reprisals and for their personal safety. The minority leader also asked the department to "immediately cease any efforts to prevent officials from cooperating with Congress" and to hand over documents related to U.S. military aid to Ukraine.

Read the letter.

House staffers on a summer trip to Ukraine learned U.S. aid was frozen. Stunned, here's what they did next.

Two days after a whistleblower secretly filed a complaint about President Donald Trump's dealings with Ukraine in August, two top congressional staffers arrived in Kyiv on a routine business trip that ended up setting off alarm bells on Capitol Hill.

The aides work for the Democratic leadership of the House Appropriations Committee, which is responsible for federal spending. They had been dispatched to make an on-the-ground assessment of the cash Congress has been pumping into former Soviet states — including Moldova, Georgia and Ukraine — to aid their defenses against Russian aggression.

But after traveling from Chisinau, Moldova, for two days of meetings and Ukrainian special-forces training observation in Kyiv and Berdychiv starting on Aug. 14, the staffers were shocked to learn from U.S. embassy officials that there was no new money coming into Ukraine, a congressional aide familiar with their trip told NBC News.

Read the full story here.

Secretary of state takes heat from Trump

Catch up on Article II: Tom Brokaw remembers Watergate

In a bonus Saturday episode of "Article II: Inside Impeachment," NBC News special correspondent Tom Brokaw discusses his time covering the fall of President Richard Nixon and the parallels he sees to today. 

Listen to that episode here.

And, in case you missed Friday's podcast, we heard from national political reporter Josh Lederman, who discussed a long day of public testimony from ousted Ukraine Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch and the case each party is making to voters at this stage in the inquiry.

Listen to that episode here.

Trump says he will 'strongly consider' testifying in House impeachment probe

President Donald Trump said Monday that he is "strongly" considering testifying before the impeachment probe in light of recent comments from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who said he is more than welcome to present his case personally before the House Intelligence Committee.

"Our Crazy, Do Nothing (where’s USMCA, infrastructure, lower drug pricing & much more?) Speaker of the House, Nervous Nancy Pelosi, who is petrified by her Radical Left knowing she will soon be gone (they & Fake News Media are her BOSS), suggested on Sunday’s DEFACE THE NATION that I testify about the phony Impeachment Witch Hunt," Trump tweeted. "She also said I could do it in writing. Even though I did nothing wrong, and don’t like giving credibility to this No Due Process Hoax, I like the idea & will, in order to get Congress focused again, strongly consider it!"

Speaking with CBS's "Face the Nation" in an interview that aired Sunday, Pelosi said Trump can "come right before the committee and talk, speak all the truth that he wants, if he wants to take the oath of office, or he could do it in writing."

Read the story.

Impeachment hearings round up: What have we learned so far?

Trump's impeachment ire turns on Pompeo amid diplomats' starring roles

The impeachment inquiry has created the first rift between President Donald Trump and the Cabinet member who has been his closest ally, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, according to four current and former senior administration officials.

Trump has fumed for weeks that Pompeo is responsible for hiring State Department officials whose congressional testimony threatens to bring down his presidency, the officials said. The president confronted Pompeo about the officials — and what he believed was a lackluster effort by the secretary of state to block their testimony — during lunch at the White House on Oct. 29, those familiar with the matter said.

Inside the White House, the view was that Trump “just felt like, ‘rein your people in,’” a senior administration official said. Trump particularly blames Pompeo for tapping Bill Taylor in June to be the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, the current and former senior administration officials said.

Taylor has provided the House Intelligence Committee with some of the most damaging details on the White House’s effort to pressure Ukraine into investigating one of the president’s potential rivals in the 2020 election, former Vice President Joe Biden, and his son, Hunter Biden.

Read the full story here.

This week in the impeachment inquiry

The House Intelligence Committee has scheduled eight more witnesses over three days for public testimony this week. In addition to the hearings, lawmakers could release additional testimony transcripts and provide more clarity this week about the impeachment timeline.

House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., told reporters on Friday that he was “not prepared to say” whether ex-White House Russia adviser Fiona Hill’s public hearing, scheduled for Thursday, would be the last such session in the impeachment inquiry.

After Hill’s hearing, members are scheduled to leave for Thanksgiving recess. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told CBS in an interview that aired Sunday that being in recess "doesn't mean depositions couldn't be taken during that time. And then, when we come back [the week of Dec. 2], by then maybe a decision or maybe they have more hearings. And then I have six committees who have been working on all of this, and those six chairmen have been very involved in ... how we will proceed.”

Here's the schedule of public hearings this week:

Tuesday, Nov. 19

9 a.m.: Jennifer Williams, Russia and Europe adviser to Vice President Mike Pence, and Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council.

2:30 p.m.: Former special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker and ex-White House Russia and Europe adviser Tim Morrison

Wednesday, Nov. 20

9 a.m.: Amb. to the European Union Gordon Sondland

2:30 p.m.: Laura Cooper, a deputy assistant secretary at the Defense Department, and David Hale, undersecretary for policy at the State Department.

Thursday, Nov. 21

9 a.m.: Fiona Hill, former top National Security Council adviser on Russia.

This weekend's impeachment developments

In case you missed it, here's a recap of the impeachment developments from the weekend:

Trump on Sunday blasted an adviser to Vice President Mike Pence who told House impeachment investigators earlier this month that Trump's asking Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to probe the Bidens and Democrats in a July 25 call was "unusual and inappropriate." "Tell Jennifer Williams, whoever that is, to read BOTH transcripts of the presidential calls, & see the just released ststement [sic] from Ukraine," Trump tweeted. "Then she should meet with the other Never Trumpers, who I don’t know & mostly never even heard of, & work out a better presidential attack!"

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Sunday that Trump's conduct is "so much worse" than that of former President Richard Nixon, adding that Trump is insecure about being an "imposter." "I will make sure he does not intimidate the whistleblower," Pelosi said of the CIA employee whose complaint about Trump's conduct toward Ukraine led to the impeachment inquiry. "The president can come before the committee and speak all the truth that he wants. ... He has every opportunity to make his case."

Rep. Mike Turner, R-Ohio, told CNN's "State of the Union" on Sunday that "of course" trading foreign aid for politics favors is "alarming." "As I've said from the beginning, I think this is not okay," Turner, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, said. 

Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisc., told NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday that the administration officials who provided the whistleblower with information on Trump's conduct toward Ukraine "exposed things that didn't need to be exposed." 

House impeachment investigators on Saturday released the transcripts from joint depositions of former NSC official Timothy Morrison and Williams, Pence’s special adviser on Europe and Russia, both of whom are expected to testify publicly this week.