John Bolton invited to testify in House impeachment inquiry

Former national security adviser John Bolton has been invited to be interviewed next Thursday by House Democrats leading the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, according to three sources familiar with the matter.

Bolton, whose name has emerged repeatedly during the testimony of other key figures being interviewed by the impeachment investigators, has been invited to testify behind closed doors Nov. 7, the sources said.

Bolton has not been issued a subpoena. It wasn’t immediately clear whether he would actually attend his scheduled deposition. If he does, however, he would be the most prominent figure yet to give testimony in the impeachment inquiry.

Read more here.

Trump says he will release transcript of earlier Ukraine call

Trump on Monday said he is planning to release a transcript of an April phone call during which he congratulated Zelenskiy on his election victory. The phone call took place before Zelenskiy was in office.

The whistleblower’s complaint that triggered the impeachment inquiry centers around the July call, not the first congratulatory call in April. It's not the first time he has suggested that the call be released. In September, he told reporters that he thinks they "should ask for the first conversation also" since it was "beautiful."

Former Volker aide said there were worries Trump had 'Ukraine fatigue'

A former top aide to Ukraine special envoy Kurt Volker testified there were concerns President Trump had "Ukraine fatigue."

Christopher Anderson, who was Volker's aide until this past July, said those worries were stoked by two incidents. The first occurred in Nov. 2018, when Ukraine accused Russia of firing on three of its vessels in the Black Sea. 

The attack was condemned in statements from the State Department and the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, "but there never was a statement from the White House that I'm aware of," Anderson said. Asked if that was unusual, he said, "We received questions from Ukrainian counterparts and journalists as to why there wasn't a stronger statement."

About a month later, the Navy planned to send a warship to the Black Sea in a show of support for Ukraine. Anderson described the plan as "routine," but "then there was a news report on CNN, and then the White House asked the Navy to cancel that" because the president was upset about the report.

Asked how he knew that Trump was upset, Anderson said that then-national security adviser John Bolton "relayed that he was called at home by the president, who complained about this news report."

Anderson was also asked about a statement he'd made that Bolton was concerned about Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani's influence on Ukraine policy. 

"To the best of my recollection, he made a joke about every time Ukraine is mentioned, Giuliani pops up and that the President was listening to Giuliani about Ukraine," Anderson said.

 

House investigators release transcript of Catherine Croft's testimony

House impeachment investigators on Monday released the transcript of testimony from Catherine Croft, a special adviser for Ukraine at the State Department.

Croft had testified behind closed doors for more than five hours before the three House committees leading the inquiry, providing investigators with information that largely corroborated depositions given to them by other key figures in the inquiry, including Fiona Hill, then a top White House adviser for Europe and Russia, and George Kent, the deputy assistant secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs.

As NBC News reported after Croft's testimony on Oct. 30, she told investigators that she participated in a video conference where an official at the Office of Management and Budget reported that acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney had placed a hold on U.S. security assistance to Ukraine. The only reason given was that the order came "at the direction of the president,” Croft said.

Read the NBC News story here, and read the full transcript of her testimony here.

The Inquiry: What to expect from public hearings

Article II - Battle Lines - Monday, Nov. 11

On today's episode of the Article II podcast, Steve Kornacki is joined by MSNBC Washington Correspondent Garrett Haake to tell you what to expect from this week of televised public testimony.

The two discuss:

  • The format of the  public hearings
  • What we know about the three witnesses scheduled to testify, plus why Democrats are asking them to testify first
  • A look at the Republican counterstrategy, including the introduction of a list of requested witnesses and a new addition to the House Intelligence Committee
  • Whether public hearings will change the trajectory of the impeachment inquiry

The episode answers listener questions about whether witness can refuse to answer a question and how public sentiment around impeachment shifted during public hearings for the Nixon and Clinton inquiries.

Click here for the full segment.

Former Trump official balks at Mulvaney's bid to join impeachment testimony lawsuit

WASHINGTON — A former Trump administration official and lawyers for the House Intelligence Committee urged a federal judge Monday to block Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, from joining an existing lawsuit over a subpoena to testify in the House impeachment inquiry.

Mulvaney sought to intervene in a suit filed late last month by Charles Kupperman, President Donald Trump's former deputy national security adviser, that named both the House and Trump as defendants. Faced with a subpoena to testify before the House and also a letter from the White House counsel instructing him not to do so, Kupperman asked a federal court to rule which command he should obey.

Read the full story here.

Pentagon official testifies Trump directed freeze on aid to Ukraine

Laura Cooper, the top Pentagon official overseeing U.S. policy regarding Ukraine, told House impeachment investigators last month that President Donald Trump, through the Office of Management and Budget, directed a mid-July freeze in military aid to Ukraine, according to a transcript of her testimony released Monday.

Officials offered no explanation for the hold, Cooper told Congress. Asked if the president was authorized to order that type of hold, Cooper said there were concerns that he wasn’t.

Read the transcript of Pentagon official Laura Cooper's impeachment testimony

House impeachment investigators on Monday released a transcript of testimony that Laura Cooper, the top Pentagon official overseeing U.S. policy regarding Ukraine, gave last month.

Cooper's closed-door testimony was delayed for over five hours after a group of House Republicans stormed the secure room where the deposition was taking place.

Read her testimony below:

Trump appears to suggest he regrets signing whistleblower law

Protesters chant 'lock him up' outside Trump's Veteran's Day event

Protesters outside Trump's Veteran's Day event in New York City on Monday shouted "lock him up" during his speech. Watch footage from the crowd below:

What to expect when you're expecting an impeachment hearing

House Democrats are carefully choreographing this week’s public impeachment hearings to emphasize their “simple abuse of power case against President Trump,” multiple sources tell NBC News.

Their strategy is reliant on two key components: the witness list and the hearing format.

IMPEACHMENT WITNESSES

House Democrats characterize their first three witnesses – Amb. Bill Taylor, George Kent, and Amb. Marie Yovanovitch -- as respected, apolitical public servants with long, storied careers.

All three gave House investigators damning accounts of President Trump’s interactions with the new Ukrainian government. Democrats expect the American public will trust the testimonies, as the witnesses detail the alleged impeachable offenses underlying Trump’s Ukraine maneuvers. 

Democratic Rep. Jim Himes of Connecticut told Chuck on "Meet the Press" that the public will “hear immensely patriotic, beautifully articulate people telling the story of a president who ... extorted a vulnerable country by holding up military aid.”

“They are all strong character witnesses. All three bring credibility to impeachment inquiry,” a Democratic aide tells NBC News, adding that Amb. Bill “Taylor is going to lay everything out” on Wednesday and Yovanovitch is going to “tug at America’s heartstrings” on Friday.

Taylor -- the current top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine -- told House investigators that Trump directed officials to tie foreign aid for Ukraine to demands that the country open an investigation into the Biden family and the 2016 election. A second Democratic aide says Taylor’s “exquisite note-taking” will lend credibility to his testimony, which “corroborates the whistleblower complaint.”

REPUBLICAN DEFENSE

Republicans have the task of trying to separate President Trump from the string of damning testimonies. 

The GOP witness list – which includes Hunter Biden, the anonymous whistleblower, and a former DNC consultant – highlights the degree to which Republicans want to change the subject away from Trump’s interaction with his Ukrainian counterpart.

House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff has already signalled that most of the names on the GOP request list are non-starters. Calling Hunter Biden, Democrats say, would have the effect of creating the political investigation into the Bidens that Trump wanted the Ukrainians to open.

Democrats could find some rhetorical value in allowing at least one of the GOP witnesses, as a means of pushing back against process arguments.

Don’t be surprised if Democrats allow Tim Morrison, the top Russia and Europe adviser on the National Security Council, to appear for public testimony.

Republicans will also attempt to undermine the witnesses by pointing out that their most damning information comes to them secondhand -- from EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland or from NSC officials -- not from firsthand conversations with key players such as President Trump, Rudy Giuliani or Mick Mulvaney.

HEARING FORMAT

The House voted to change the format for the impeachment hearings when it approved a resolution establishing the procedures for the inquiry. It allows House Democrats to keep control of the proceedings and explore lines of inquiry at greater length.

The hearings will kick off with opening statements from the House Intelligence Committee chairman and ranking member, plus the witnesses.

Following that, the committee will move to a questioning period of 90 minutes, split evenly between Democrats and Republicans.

Chairman Adam Schiff and the committee’s top Republican, Rep. Devin Nunes, can use the time to question the witnesses themselves or instruct a committee lawyer to do it instead.  

Once the first 90 minutes is up, Schiff will decide if more time is needed for additional Q&A. That’s when the format reverts to a traditional congressional hearing, with lawmakers each getting five minutes to pose questions.

“If the American people only watch the first hour, they’ll hear plenty,” a third Democratic source familiar tells NBC. “The first hour of each hearing is designed to be a blockbuster.”