Thursday's biggest impeachment-related news
If you're just catching up on the news, here are some of the biggest impeachment-related stories on Thursday you may have missed:
- Sen. Lindsey Graham introduced a resolution backed by more than 40 GOP senators excoriating House Democrats' impeachment inquiry, accusing Democrats of violating due process for interviewing key witnesses behind closed doors.
- A probe by Attorney General William Barr into the origins of the Russia investigation has changed from an administrative review into a criminal investigation, a person familiar with the review confirmed to NBC News.
- One stunning moment during a top diplomat's testimony this week may prove pivotal to the congressional impeachment inquiry and even led to gasps in the room, according to one source who was present.
Justice Department review of Russia probe turns into criminal investigation
A probe by Attorney General William Barr into the origins of the Russia investigation has changed from an administrative review into a criminal investigation, a person familiar with the review confirmed to NBC News.
The review is being conducted by Connecticut U.S. Attorney John Durham. The New York Times first reported Thursday that the administrative review has turned into a criminal investigation. It’s not clear when the change occurred, but the probe began in May as an administrative review.
The Times reported that the change in status gives Durham the power to subpoena witness testimony and documents, to impanel a grand jury and to file criminal charges.
Read the full story here.
The moment that shocked the room during Taylor's Ukraine testimony
WASHINGTON — One stunning moment during a top diplomat's testimony this week may prove pivotal to the congressional impeachment inquiry and even led to gasps in the room, according to one source who was present.
It occurred when William Taylor, the lead U.S. envoy to Ukraine, described a video conference call in July with officials from the White House Office of Management and Budget. Even Republicans who were present expressed concern, the source said, because the call made a direct link between President Donald Trump and the withholding of military aid to Ukraine for political purposes.
To find out what happened inside the deposition room, click here.
Hirono talks time frame for making proceedings public
Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, a member of the Senate Armed Services and Judiciary committees, told MSNBC on Thursday that Democrats could be looking at a November time frame for making the impeachment proceedings public.
Hirono added that it's "appropriate" that the inquiry should continue in the manner that it has, after criticizing GOP efforts to disrupt the deposition of a top Pentagon official overseeing Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia policy.
Graham unveils measure slamming impeachment inquiry as Trump praises GOP efforts to fight back
WASHINGTON — Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., on Thursday introduced a resolution backed by more than 40 GOP senators excoriating House Democrats' impeachment inquiry, accusing Democrats of violating due process for interviewing key witnesses behind closed doors.
Graham, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, introduced the five-page resolution that includes Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., as a co-sponsor on Thursday afternoon.
"What you're doing today, in my view, is unfair to the president is dangerous to the presidency," Graham said at a press conference detailing the resolution to reporters, adding "there's a way to do it — a right way and a wrong way — and you've chosen the wrong way."
The measure calls on the House to hold a floor vote that would formally initiate the impeachment inquiry, provide Trump with "with due process, to include the ability to confront his accusers, call witnesses on his behalf, and have a basic understanding of the accusations against him that would form any basis for impeachment," according to a summary released by his office.
Read more on the resolution here.
What House rules say about Republicans' complaints about access
Several Republicans who Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., said planned to storm a secure deposition room Wednesday to complain about access were already able to attend the witness' testimony, according to House rules.
Those rules say members may participate in the depositions if they serve on the committees involved, stating, “Only members, committee staff designated by the chair or ranking minority member, an official reporter, the witness, and the witness's counsel are permitted to attend.”
That means Democrats and Republicans on the House Intelligence, Oversight and Foreign Affairs committees have been allowed to take part in the impeachment inquiry depositions, which on Wednesday involved testimony from a top Pentagon official overseeing Ukraine policy.
At least nine Republicans that already have access to the depositions were on Gaetz's list of those planning to attend his protest at the Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility, or SCIF — a sit-in that delayed the testimony of Laura Cooper, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia, for several hours. They include Reps. Jim Jordan of Ohio, the ranking member of the House Oversight Committee, Lee Zeldin of New York, Paul Gosar of Arizona, Steve Watkins of Kansas, Ralph Norman of South Carolina, Mark Green of Tennessee, Jody Hice of Georgia, Ron Wright of Texas and Scott Perry of Pennsylvania.
Several of those members — Jordan, Zeldin, Gosar, Watkins, Norman, Hice and Perry — have been spotted by NBC News going in and out of the depositions. In total, 47 Republicans, or about a quarter of the conference in the House, are already able to attend the closed-door tesimony.
Analysis: Why Trump's impeachment defense sounds a lot like his Mueller defense
On Tuesday, Bill Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, gave what House Democrats described as "disturbing" testimony about President Donald Trump's Ukraine dealings. The testimony was not open to the public, but news outlets obtained and subsequently published Taylor’s 15-page opening statement.
Taylor’s statement makes clear that Trump did indeed pressure Ukraine to launch an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden. It’s an abuse of power and a flagrant attempt to use the office of the presidency for personal gain. But as both Taylor’s statement and Ambassador Gordon Sondland’s statements to Congress also make clear, Trump wants the issue framed in terms of bribery (a crime) instead of abuse of power. Why? Because bribery — like all crimes — is hard to prove.
Read attorney and author Teri Kanefield's full analysis here.