More Trump admin officials to be deposed next week
Several Trump administration officials are scheduled to appear for depositions next week as part of the impeachment inquiry, according to two Hill staffers. They include:
- Kathryn Wheelbarger, acting assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs.
- Philip Reeker, acting assistant secretary of European and Eurasian affairs, on Oct. 23.
- Alexander Vindman, director of European affairs at the National Security Council, on Oct. 24.
- Timothy Morrison, top Russia adviser at the National Security Council; and Suriya Jayanti, a foreign service officer in Kiev, on Oct. 25.
Acting U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Bill Taylor is already scheduled to testify before House investigators on Oct. 22.
E.U. Ambassador Gordon Sondland to appear at closed-door hearing Thursday
Lawmakers will on Thursday morning at 9.30AM ET have the chance to ask Gordon Sondland about his involvement in Ukraine policy, at a highly anticipated closed-door hearing. Given Ukraine is not an E.U. member, members are likely to ask why the E.U. ambassador should be involved there at all.
Sondland, a wealthy Oregon hotelier and GOP mega-donor, contributed $1 million through four LLCs to Trump's inaugural fund and was appointed as the U.S. ambassador to the EU in June 2018. He had no formal diplomatic experience before Trump picked him for one of the country’s top ambassadorships.
Sondland asked Ukrainian officials during private White House talk about gas firm linked to Hunter Biden
WASHINGTON — Lawmakers plan to grill Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland on Thursday about a private discussion he had with top Ukrainian officials in the White House in which he explicitly mentioned the Ukrainian gas company linked to Hunter Biden, amid negotiations over granting Ukraine’s new president an audience with President Donald Trump, NBC News has learned.
Sondland’s meeting with the Ukrainians just steps away from the White House Situation Room came minutes after a larger West Wing meeting that included then-National Security Adviser John Bolton, who had been noncommittal about scheduling a meeting between Trump and new Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy. Sondland directly contradicted Bolton by telling the Ukrainians that in fact, Trump was committed to meeting with Zelenskiy on the condition he open a corruption investigation, two people told about the matter tell NBC News.
Bolton abruptly ended the meeting.
Read more about the private discussion and Sondland's role here.
Excerpts from McKinley's opening statement
Below are excerpts from the opening statement made to Congress today by former Ambassador Michael McKinley, who recently resigned as Pompeo’s senior adviser, according to a former colleague familiar with the testimony:
"The timing of my resignation was the result of two overriding concerns: the failure, in my view, of the State Department to offer support to Foreign Service employees caught up in the Impeachment Inquiry on Ukraine; and, second, by what appears to be the utilization of our ambassadors overseas to advance domestic political objectives.
I was disturbed by the implication that foreign governments were being approached to procure negative information on political opponents. I was convinced that this would also have a serious impact on foreign service morale and the integrity of our work overseas.
Since I began my career in 1982, I have served my country and every President loyally. Under current circumstances, however, I could no longer look the other way as colleagues are denied the professional support and respect they deserve from us all."
Top State Department aide resigned because of Pompeo's silence on Marie Yovanovitch
Michael McKinley, the former top adviser to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, told Congressional impeachment investigators that his sudden resignation was, in part, due to Pompeo’s silence about the recall of Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, according to two people in the room for McKinley’s testimony.
After a phone call between President Donald Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in which the president disparaged Yovanovitch, McKinley asked Pompeo to write a "statement of support" for the former ambassador, but Pompeo remained silent, McKinley told Congressional investigators, according to a person in the room.
Trump called her "bad news" and sad that her "attitude towards me was far from the best” in a July 25 phone call with Zelenskiy, according to an abridged transcript released by the White House.
According to the person in the room, McKinley painted a picture of a State Department that was rebuilding after the tenure of the previous secretary of state, Rex Tillerson. But McKinley said that it disturbed him that officials working on Ukraine were being sidelined because of political pressures, according to a source in the room and a person familiar with his testimony.
He also cited a State Department inspector general report in August that found political appointees mistreated and intimidated civil servants in the Bureau of International Organization Affairs, according to a person familiar with his testimony.
Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., said that McKinley in his testimony expressed strong support of his colleague Yovanovitch. "And that’s understandable," Meadows said.
At the time of his resignation, McKinley was a veteran State Department official, whose 37-year career included posts in Brazil, Afghanistan, Colombia and Peru.
Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., said that McKinley is one of several witnesses who is "helping to fill in the portrait of an official State Department process that was under attack basically by Trump and Giuliani."
McConnell talks impeachment trial
WASHINGTON — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., went into detail Wednesday on how a Senate trial would go if the House impeaches President Donald Trump.
“Under the impeachment rules of the Senate, we will take the matter up,” McConnell said at a weekly leadership news conference following a closed-door luncheon with Senate Republicans. “The chief justice will be in the chair. We will have to convene every day, six days out of seven at 12:30 or one o'clock in the afternoon. Senators will not be allowed to speak, which should be good therapy for a number of them. And we intend to do our constitutional responsibility.”
The Constitution provides the Senate with the power to try impeachments, acting as a court to consider evidence, hear witnesses and determine whether the impeached person should be convicted. A two-thirds vote of the Senate — 67 members — is required for conviction. Democrats, who have 47 members, would have a lot of convincing to do among Republicans, most of whom are defending the president, to reach that threshold.
McConnell claimed earlier in the news conference that House Democrats are “denying due process to the president,” which he said could be fixed if the House voted on the opening of the impeachment inquiry. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., however, made clear Tuesday night that she doesn’t plan to hold a vote given that the investigation is already underway.
Today in The Inquiry: McKinley testifies
Michael McKinley, who recently resigned as senior adviser to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, testified to Congress on Wednesday as part of the House impeachment inquiry. Republicans have roundly criticized House Democrats for what they say is a secret process being carried out behind closed doors. What's happening behind the scenes? NBC News correspondent Geoff Bennett, NBC News national political reporter Josh Lederman and Washington Post White House reporter Ashley Parker join Katy Tur to discuss.
House Democrats ask U.S. ambassador to Ukraine to appear for questioning
Acting U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Bill Taylor left Kyiv, Ukraine on Wednesday for Washington D.C. after House Democrats requested he appear for a Tuesday deposition in the investigation into President Trump’s alleged misconduct involving Ukraine, NBC News has confirmed.
In a packet of text messages released by House Democrats last week, Taylor on Sept. 9 remarked that it would be “crazy” to link Ukraine military assistance to help with Trump’s political campaign, something that was hinted at in the messages. "I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign," Taylor said in a text.
Nearly five hours later, Sondland — a Republican donor who has no experience in diplomacy or foreign policy, responded after speaking with the president, writing, "Bill, I believe you are incorrect about President Trump’s intentions. The President has been crystal clear no quid pro quo's of any kind.”
Read more on what Democrats are hoping to learn from Taylor here.
Romney says Trump administration should respond to congressional subpoenas
WASHINGTON — Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, told NBC News Wednesday that the Trump administration "needs to respond appropriately to subpoenas."
"I’m not going to get between the White House and the House as to that process, but it is essential that people respond to subpoenas that come from Congress," Romney said, responding to a question about the issue on Capitol Hill.
This comes as Rudy Giuliani, President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, defied demands from Congress yesterday to turn over documents relating to Ukraine. In a Tuesday letter to the chairmen of the House Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight committees, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said that he will not comply with a subpoena related to House Democrats' impeachment inquiry.
Vice President Mike Pence, while not subpoenaed, also rejected congressional requests for documents.
Romney, who most recently condemned the president on Twitter for his “brazen and unprecedented appeal to China and to Ukraine," was one of the first Republican senators to denounce Trump's call on foreign governments to investigate his political opponents.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper will no longer comply with impeachment inquiry
Defense Secretary Mark Esper will not comply with a subpoena from House Democrats related to their impeachment inquiry, according to a letter sent Tuesday to Democratic leadership from the Department of Defense.
In the letter to the chairmen of the House Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight committees, the Pentagon cites a “number of legal and practical concerns” as their reason for not complying. They include the House not officially voting to authorize an impeachment inquiry and that some of the information the House is requesting “appears to consist of confidential Executive Branch communications that are potentially protected by executive privilege.”
Read more here.
White House conducting review of Trump Ukraine call
A senior administration official confirms that the White House is conducting an internal review of the process surrounding that July 25th phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
The New York Times first reported the review and adds that it’s centering in on why a deputy White House counsel, John Eisenberg, "placed a rough transcript of the call in a computer system typically reserved for the country’s most closely guarded secrets."