The fast-moving impeachment of President Donald Trump, stemming from his dealings with Ukraine, moved to the Senate for trial in January after the House voted a month earlier to adopt two articles of impeachment: abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
The Senate voted in early February to acquit the president on both charges.
Trump is only the third president in U.S. history to be impeached. Read all of the breaking news and analysis on impeachment from NBC News' political reporters, as well as our teams on Capitol Hill and at the White House.
Trump impeachment highlights
- Trump is acquitted by the Senate on both articles of impeachment, with one GOP defector.
- Senate moves to impeachment trial endgame.
- Senators ask final questions before critical vote on witnesses.
- Senators probe prosecution, defense.
- The president's defense delivers closing arguments.
- Trump's legal team digs in.
- The president's defense begins.
- Democrats make case for obstruction.
- Trump impeached by the House on both articles of impeachment.
- Impeachment inquiry witnesses testify: Marie Yovanovitch, Alexander Vindman, Kurt Volker, Gordon Sondland, Fiona Hill and others.
Download the NBC News mobile app for the latest news on the impeachment inquiry
More Democrats than Republicans in the chamber
There are way more Democrats than Republicans in the chamber watching the debate ahead of the vote. Several Republicans are laughing, some in a mocking way.
White House working 'nonstop' to shore up GOP support in face of vote
The White House this morning is keyed in on the significant vote happening on the House floor — and aides believe four or five Democrats could cross party lines to vote with Republicans, according to an administration source.
Another White House aide says the administration has been working “nonstop” to shore up Republican support since House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced the vote: President Trump has met with more than 60 House Republicans face to face over the last two weeks and made numerous phone calls to Republicans, we’re told.
It was also the president who directed acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney to meet with 30 Republican members at Camp David almost two weeks ago.
Read the full story here.
Pelosi defends resolution's rules, responding to GOP complaints they're not fair to Trump
Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., defended the rules in the impeachment resolution Thursday ahead of the floor vote on the measure, responding to GOP complaints that they're not fair to President Donald Trump and Republicans.
“These rules are fairer than anything that has gone before in terms of an impeachment proceeding,” Pelosi told reporters at her weekly press conference.
Pelosi spoke to reporters before the floor vote, which she is expected to preside over — a rare move for the House speaker.
Pelosi declined to answer any additional questions “about what the Republicans say” regarding the resolution. She began her comments by stating that "no one" comes to Congress planning to impeach a president.
But she blasted Trump for acting as if he can do whatever he wants, ignoring the Constitution.
“We will proceed with the facts, the truth,” she said about the impeachment inquiry. “This is a sad day.”
Rep. Norma Torres brings her own graphic
Rep. Norma Torres, D-Calif., appeared next to a graphic of Trump that refers to his July call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in which he asked Volodymyr for a "favor." That call is at the center of Democrats' impeachment efforts.
Nadler slams Trump, saying his actions 'represent a profound offense against the Constitution'
House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., whose committee would oversee the creation of articles of impeachment, used his time to condemn the president and lay out the allegations being made against him.
It is “indefensible for any official to demand that an ally investigate his or her political adversaries,” Nadler said — a reference to the July 25 phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
If the allegations against Trump are found to be true, he said, it “would represent a profound offense against the Constitution and the people of this country.”
Steve Scalise criticizes inquiry as 'Soviet-Style impeachment'
Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., delivered a fierce criticism of the impeachment proceeding as he stood next to a graphic featuring an image of Moscow's Red Square and a hammer and sickle in an attempt to demonize Democrats' efforts as "Soviet-style."
The Squad claps back at Trump tweet
Pelosi to preside over vote
Speaker Pelosi is planning to preside over the House during the vote on the impeachment resolution, a senior Democratic leadership source tells NBC News. This is unusual for the speaker and shows the gravity of today’s vote. It will be worth watching if Pelosi votes today; typically, the speaker does not.
New York Rep. Joseph Morelle: 'Our only goal is uncovering the truth'
Rep. Joseph Morelle, D-N.Y., a member of the House Rules Committee, defended the inquiry in plain language.
"Our only goal is uncovering the truth," he said.
Rebutting Pelosi, McCaul says Constitution doesn't say 'you can do whatever you want to do'
Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, offered the first Republican rebuttal to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., arguing that “Article One” of the Constitution does not say “you can do whatever you want to do.”
He said that the process of the impeachment inquiry “denies basic fairness” to Republicans and to the American people and slammed House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., for having conducted a “secret probe outside his committee’s jurisdiction.”
Pelosi holds press conference before impeachment resolution vote
Pelosi speaks during impeachment resolution debate
Standing next to an image of the American flag, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the impeachment inquiry was "no cause for glee or comfort" and was instead occasion to be "solemn and prayerful."
She said the House had to "gather so much information to take us to this next step," a vote on a resolution setting rules for the impeachment inquiry. She then quoted Benjamin Franklin in saying it is Congress' responsibility to uphold the Constitution.
The U.S. is "a Republic, if we can keep it," Pelosi quoted Franklin as having said.
Rep. Adam Schiff: 'I did not take any pleasure' in leading impeachment inquiry
Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee who has been leading the investigation of the impeachment inquiry into Trump, said somberly that he “did not take any pleasure” in leading the process.
He defended his decisions to hold interviews in a private setting, saying that the “work has necessarily occurred behind closed doors because we have the task of finding the facts” despite efforts by several lawmakers and agencies, including the Justice Department “to obstruct.” He added that the resolution will lead the process into a more open chapter.
“This resolution sets the stage for the next phase of our investigation. One in which the American people will have the opportunity to hear from the witnesses first hand,” he said.
Republicans pivot to national security argument
Two top Republicans pivoted to a national security argument — that Democrats are leaving the nation vulnerable to attack — by allowing the Intelligence Committee to investigate the president.
“[T]hey will be held accountable by history for what they are doing,” House Republican Conference Chair Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., said. “They have absolutely no right to talk about threats to this nation if they are diverting the full attention, resources and focus of the House Intelligence Committee onto a sham political process.”
Rep. Devin Nunes, the top Republican on that panel, made a similar case. So, as Democrats argue that Trump is threatening the Constitution, expect to hear more about how Republicans believe investigating him imperils national security.
Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, speaking with flag behind him, prompts loud applause
Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., with an imprint of the American flag sitting on an easel behind him, delivered an impassioned speech about the intent of the Founding Fathers and how the Constitution was designed to empower Congress in a situation like this one.
"They didn’t want a dictator, they didn’t want a monarch," he said.
Jeffries, the chair of the House Democratic Caucus, ended his remarks by bellowing, "No one is above the law," prompting a round of applause from his colleagues in the chamber.
One Democratic congressman has personal experience with impeachment
Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla., who spoke as fellow members of the House Rules Committee discussed Thursday's resolution, has personal experience with impeachment.
Hastings, who served as a federal judge decades ago, was actually impeached himself over a bribery and perjury scandal. In 1988, a Democratic-controlled House voted overwhelmingly to impeach Hastings, and the Senate moved to remove him the following year. Hastings became the sixth judge in U.S. history to be impeached and removed. He was then elected to Congress in 1992 and, six years later voted on President Bill Clinton's impeachment.
Hastings said Thursday that he was supporting the resolution because he "took an oath to defend the Constitution."
Angry Rep. Doug Collins: Judiciary Committee 'has been neutered'
In a fiery speech, Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., a member of the House Rules, Judiciary and Oversight committees, yelling from his seat, said “the curtain is coming down on this House” and lamented today as a “dark day.”
He said the House Judiciary Committee, on which he is the ranking Republican, “has been neutered” and accused Democrats of “shredding procedures every day.”
“The resolution before us today is not about fairness, it’s about control,” he said.
Raskin, Jordan offer opposite views on how Democrats have conducted hearings
Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., a member of the Judiciary and Oversight committees, says during his remarks that Democrats have conducted their hearings in a "scrupulously bipartisan way" and says Trump will be afforded "all the due process" that his predecessors received.
Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, the ranking Republican on the House Oversight Committee and a fierce Trump ally, was up next, excoriating his Democratic colleagues for the way in which they have held hearings.
"Trying to put a ribbon on a sham process doesn’t make it any less of a sham," he said.
Three more Democratic holdouts say they'll support rules resolution
Three more Democrats who have not backed the impeachment inquiry have said they will support Thursday's procedural resolution: Reps. Jared Golden, Kendra Horn and Anthony Brindisi.
That means there are only three Democrats who are not expected to vote in support of the resolution: Reps. Jeff Van Drew, Ron Kind and Collin Peterson.
Nunes calls Democrats a 'cult' that is following Schiff 'from one outlandish conspiracy theory to another'
Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., said Thursday that impeaching Trump was the Democrats' plan "from day one" and that adoption of the rules resolution governing the impeachment inquiry simply "gives House approval" to Democrats' "bizarre obsession with overturning the results of the last presidential election."
On Trump's conduct toward Ukraine, Nunes, the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, said Democrats simply "don't like the way" Trump "talks to foreign leaders," adding there was "no evidence to support impeachment."
Nunes then called House Democrats a "cult" that was "loyally following" House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., "as he bounces from one outlandish conspiracy theory to another."
Top Republican on Rules Committee wants resolution withdrawn
Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., the ranking Republican on the House Rules Committee, has asked for the resolution to be withdrawn.
The request was denied, prompting Cole to then request that the House debate the resolution for four hours — not the one hour that has been scheduled.
Doing so, Cole said, “would provide us an opportunity for all members to participate in the process.”
He then criticized the process by House Democrats that has led to today’s vote.
“It's not a fair process, not a transparent process,” he said.
McGovern speaks after introducing resolution
Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., opened up floor debate on the resolution to solidify the procedures for the impeachment inquiry.
McGovern, the House Rules Committee chairman, introduced the resolution Thursday morning. Stressing "no one is above the law," McGovern said there is "serious evidence Trump might have violated the Constitution" with regard to his conduct toward Ukraine.
The resolution, he said, was about "transparency" and outlining "due process for the president."
He added that "some on the other side" would never be satisfied with the process, no matter what evidence was outlined.
Trump tweets: 'READ THE TRANSCRIPT'
As the House impeachment vote begins, Trump weighs in, urging followers to read the White House summary of his call with the Ukrainian president that is at the center of the impeachment inquiry.
House begins debate on impeachment resolution
The House began debating at approximately 9:25 a.m. on the impeachment resolution with Speaker Nancy Pelosi presiding in the chair. Debate is expected to last approximately an hour with the time being equally divided back and forth between Republicans and Democrats
Timing on the House impeachment vote today
The House is set to vote Thursday morning on how to proceed with its impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump — a move that will put lawmakers on record about where they stand and that Republicans are decrying as a sham.
Debate on the procedures — which include beginning public hearings and the release of some of the information gathered in the ongoing inquiry over the last few weeks — is expected to begin around 9 a.m. ET.
All House Republicans are expected to oppose the resolution, as may a handful of Democrats who are not on board with the impeachment inquiry.
Democrats have set aside one hour for debate on the resolution — 30 minutes for Democrats, 30 minutes for Republicans. The vote on the resolution is slated to begin between 10:30 a.m. and 11 a.m. ET., after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi delivers her weekly on-camera press conference around 10:15 a.m. ET. If it goes according to schedule, the vote could be completed before noon, but if the GOP minority makes use of parliamentary delaying tactics, the process could take a lot longer.
A few things to watch for tomorrow that could delay the vote timing slightly:
- During the debate time, if Speaker Pelosi, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer or House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy speak, they are allowed "magic minutes" which basically means their speeches don’t take away time from the hour debate. In that case, the hour-long debate could be extended slightly.
- Republicans, unhappy about taking this vote, could try to ask for some procedural votes during the debate period. If, for example, Republicans ask to adjourn, the House will have to stop debate, have all members come to the chamber and vote. After that call to adjourn fails (because Democrats are in control), the debate will pick back up again with whatever time was left.
Everything you need to know about impeachment
What is impeachment and how does it work? 10 facts to know.
Must the Senate hold a trial? How does Trump differ from Clinton? Can the president pardon himself? And much more.
Read the story from NBC's Pete Williams, Frank Thorp V and Alex Moe here.
Poll: Battleground voters oppose removing Trump but support impeachment inquiry
A majority of voters across six battleground states oppose removing President Donald Trump from office, though a majority said they support the House impeachment inquiry, a New York Times/Siena poll on Thursday showed.
By 52 to 44 percent, voters in Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin opposed impeaching and removing Trump. By that same 52 to 44 percent, voters in those states supported the inquiry.
The battleground poll was conducted from Oct. 13 to Oct. 26 and surveyed 3,766 registered voters across the six states. The margin of error was plus-or-minus 1.7 percentage points.
Trump impeachment inquiry update for Thursday
The House was also set to vote Thursday morning on how to proceed with its impeachment inquiry, putting lawmakers on record about where they stand and that Republicans are decrying as a sham.
Also, Timothy Morrison, the National Security Council's senior director for Europe and Russia, is due to be deposed in closed session. There are no plans for an opening statement. Morrison replaced Fiona Hill, who has testified that Donald Trump's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, oversaw a "shadow foreign policy" on Ukraine for the president's personal political gain while shutting out NSC staff and career diplomats.
At 4 p.m., Judge Richard Leon, a senior judge at the U.S. District court for the District of Columbia, hears a case filed on behalf of former deputy national security adviser Charles Kupperman, who asked a federal court to decide whether he would need to testify. The White House has tried to block his appearance, and Kupperman, who worked under national security adviser John Bolton, filed a lawsuit Friday asking a federal judge to rule on whether he must testify under a congressional subpoena.
Article II - With the Gavel Comes the Power - Wednesday, October 30th
Today on Article II, Steve Kornacki talks to Kelly O’Donnell, White House correspondent for NBC News, about the political calculations being made around the House resolution on impeachment.
The two discuss:
- Key takeaways from the resolution
- Why House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is choosing to hold a vote on the process now
- Whether the vote will test Democratic unity on impeachment
- Republican criticism of the resolution
- What tomorrow’s vote means for next steps in the impeachment process
The episode also acknowledges testimony underway on Capitol Hill today and looks ahead to the rest of the week.
White House says it is 'false' that Vindman suggested filling in omissions
White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham disputed claims that Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman tried to edit a White House log of a July call between President Donald Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to include details that were omitted.
"President Trump released a full and accurate transcript of his call with President Zelenskiy so the American people could see he acted completely appropriately and did nothing wrong.
The media is reporting that Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman claims he proposed filling in words that were missing in areas where ellipses were shown in the transcript — this is false.
Because Chairman Schiff has kept his sham hearings secret and has excluded the President’s counsel from the room, we cannot confirm whether or not Lt. Col. Vindman himself made any such false claim. What we can confirm is that he never suggested filling in any words at any points where ellipses appear in the transcript."
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.
Meadows blasts impeachment resolution, talks questioning of key witness Vindman
Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., blasted the House Democrats' impeachment resolution in remarks to reporters Wednesday.
“[I]t’s so late in the game... , credible witnesses have been poisoned by what has been reported and leaked out," Meadows said. "What Democrats have done is leaked out a narrative that has tainted some of the witnesses that have come.” He added that the resolution “affords us the same opportunities we have now, which is to beg [Intelligence] Chairman [Adam] Schiff for due process, and last time I checked, that doesn’t qualify as due process."
Meadows, a member of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, also discussed GOP lawmakers' line of questioning during the testimony of White House Ukraine expert Alexander Vindman on Tuesday, denying accusations that Republicans tried to draw out the whistleblower's identity.
“The majority jumped in to ask the witness not to answer the questions that would potentially be a great benefit to the president of the United States, and it has nothing to do with outing the whistleblower. That’s their narrative,” he said.
“In general terms, I can say we were asking the witness who else did the witness talk to in terms of specific items that are important to the investigation, and the witness indicated that there were more than one, and Chairman Schiff refused to allow those witnesses to be identified,” he said.
Asked if the whistleblower’s anonymity should be protected, Meadows said, “Well, not according to statue, he doesn’t. The reason you have a whistleblower statue is so that they can come forward and not be retaliated against. It’s the reason we have the law.”
State Dept.'s No. 2 pinpoints White House for blocking witness testimony
President Donald Trump's nominee for ambassador to Russia told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday that the State Department's efforts to prevent witnesses from testifying in the House inquiry have been directed by the White House.
Asked by Senate Foreign Relations ranking member Bob Menendez, D-N.J., about the administration's efforts to block witness testimony, Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan replied, "I would say that the actions that the department has undertaken, led by the secretary, has been on the advice of counsel — not only State Department counsel, but White House counsel as well, and direction from the White House."
"Why is the department working to prevent employees from testifying before Congress?" Menendez asked.
"Well, we are, as has been laid out in an extensive letter from the counsel to the President," Sullivan replied. "The rationale is laid out there."
When Menendez asked if Sullivan was aware people outside the State Department had sought to undermine then-Amb. Marie Yovanovitch, who was removed from her post in the spring, Sullivan replied, "I was."
"And did you know Mr. Giuliani was one of those people?" Menendez asked, referring to Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani.
"I believed he was, yes," Sullivan said.
Giuliani has been a central player in Trump's efforts regarding Ukraine. Yovanovitch told House impeachment investigators earlier this month that Trump had personally pressured the State Department to remove her, even though Sullivan assured her that she had "done nothing wrong."
Vindman testimony draws direct line on quid pro quo
Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman told House impeachment investigators on Tuesday that a White House meeting between President Donald Trump and Ukrainian President Zelenskiy — as well as the delivery of nearly $400 million in security and military aid — was "contingent" on Ukrainian officials carrying out investigations into Burisma, the Bidens, the 2016 election and CrowdStrike, NBC News has learned.
Vindman, the top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council, said in his opening statement at Tuesday's closed door testimony, "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."
Two sources familiar with the testimony say that Vindman later went further than his opening statement by drawing a direct line between the deliverables for Ukraine and the multiple investigations.
McConnell: Impeachment measure denies Trump 'basic rights'
WASHINGTON — The House Democrats' impeachment resolution would deny President Donald Trump the "most basic rights of due process," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Wednesday in a floor speech sharply criticizing the leaders behind the measure.
McConnell went after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., saying that "instead of setting a high bar, House Democrats seem determined to set a new low." The resolution, he said, would deny the "most basic rights of due process" to Trump, such as having his lawyer participate in closed-door depositions by the committee.
The House is expected to vote on the measure Thursday as Democrats look to counter protests from Trump and his Republicans allies that the impeachment process is illegitimate and unfair. The resolution calls for open hearings and requires the House Intelligence Committee to submit a report outlining its findings and recommendations.
Democrats compare the committee's role in the impeachment inquiry to a fact-finding grand jury proceeding in which the accused does not have rights to counsel. They say the resolution establishes rights comparable to episodes such the 1998-1999 impeachment and trial of President Bill Clinton. In Clinton's case, independent counsel Ken Starr conducted an extensive investigation and delivered boxes of sworn testimony that he said likely constituted grounds for impeachment.
Read State Dept. official Christopher Anderson's opening remarks
Christopher Anderson, who was a special adviser to former special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker, is scheduled to testify Wednesday afternoon before the House committees leading the impeachment inquiry.
Anderson is expected to say in his opening statement that former national security adviser John Bolton had cautioned him that Trump personal attorney Rudy “Giuliani was a key voice with the President on Ukraine which could be an obstacle to increased White House engagement.”
Anderson was also expected to testify that Giuliani’s attempt to urge the Ukrainian government to open investigations was discussed at a Ukraine strategy meeting at the Department of Energy in June. It was a June 18 meeting this year in which Energy “Secretary [Rick] Perry hosted a follow-up meeting at the Department of Energy to discuss how to move forward” with engaging Ukraine.
Trump campaign launches $1 million anti-impeachment television campaign
WASHINGTON — President Trump's re-election campaign is out with a new television spot blasting impeachment as a "scam" and a "bunch of bull," as the president looks to sway public opinion in key Democratic primary states as well as some swing states pivotal to his own 2020 bid.
The campaign started airing the ad Wednesday morning, shortly after the campaign booked $1.15 million in time across Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Washington D.C. from Oct. 30 through Nov. 5, according to spending data from Advertising Analytics.
The breakdown: $400,000 of that total is booked for Nevada, $387,000 is booked for Pennsylvania, $257,000 is booked for Iowa, $64,000 is booked in Boston (which covers most of New Hampshire) and $42,600 is booked in Washington D.C.
In the spot, a smattering of speakers take turns lambasting impeachment in a variety of settings—at home, in offices, and on factory floors.
"Impeachment is a scam."
Impeachment is a bunch of bull."
"Impeachment is a joke."
"It’s a partisan witch hunt."
"They can’t get over the fact that Donald Trump won. The Democrats are trying to overturn the election. Ignore how we voted. Donald Trump is an excellent president. Over 6 million new jobs. My job is here, not China. My paycheck is bigger. Black and Hispanic women are finally gaining. Donald Trump is my president."
Public sentiment appears to be creeping toward supporting impeachment, but strong majorities voters are still not sold on removing Trump from office.
ANALYSIS: Pelosi wants Americans to see the trial of Donald Trump
WASHINGTON — Speaker Nancy Pelosi's patience was rewarded.
With the impeachment script fully flipping this week, it's Pelosi who wants Americans to watch every turn of the trial of President Donald Trump, and Republicans who have abruptly stopped calling for more transparency.
"They want transparency like a hole in the head, for crying out loud," said Rep. Bill Pascrell, D-N.J. "Transparency is not going to help them."
The reason for the change: the facts in evidence.
Jordan not concerned about changes to White House notes, claims whistleblower 'bias'
Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, the ranking member of the House Oversight Committee, told reporters Wednesday that he wasn’t concerned about Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman’s testimony about changes in the notes released by the White House about President Donald Trump’s Ukraine call.
"No, I mean, there's a process," Jordan said. "The changes I think that were outlined in the press were not a big deal, if in fact that was the case."
Jordan also said he and other House Republicans would like to speak to the U.S. officials whose information formed the basis of the whistleblower’s complaint to determine if any of them had a bias, which he suggested was the case for the whistleblower.
"What we're focused on is determining people's credibility and what their bias and motive is," Jordan said. "We know one thing — well, there are a couple of things about this whistleblower. The Oversight Committee probably deals with more whistleblowers than any committee in Congress. You always look for two things when a whistleblower comes forward. Did they have firsthand knowledge, and what is their bias and/or motive? This individual, whomever he may be, has problems in both areas."
The inspector general of the intelligence community, Michael Atkinson, wrote to acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire on Aug. 26 and mentioned an "indicia of an arguable political bias on the part of the Complainant in favor of a rival political candidate" in considering the credibility of the whistleblower's complaint. But Atkinson, a Trump appointee, determined this did not change the facts surrounding the issue, “particularly given the other information the ICIG obtained during its preliminary review” of the complaint, and concluded the complaint was "credible" and of "urgent concern."
In Ukraine, leaders struggle to keep their heads down amid U.S. impeachment circus
KYIV, Ukraine — With Washington consumed by a frenzied political circus fueled by impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump, the Ukrainian government thrust into the middle of the scandal has a single, plaintive request: Please leave us out of it.
In the Ukrainian capital, the impeachment saga has emerged as a sword of Damocles for new President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, with each new wrinkle and disclosure before Congress threatening to pull his government further into the morass. For Ukrainian leaders, there is no upside but plenty of downside to becoming the latest cudgel in Washington’s deeply polarized political battleground.
Read the full story here.
Read Ukraine special adviser Catherine Croft's opening statement
Catherine Croft, a State Department special adviser for Ukraine, began her closed-door deposition on Wednesday morning before the three House committees leading the inquiry.
Croft is expected to say she participated in a July video conference where an Office of Management and Budget official 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," her opening statement says.
Croft, who joined the National Security Council in July 2017 and stayed there through the first half of 2018, is expected to tell lawmakers that she received multiple calls from Robert Livingston — a lobbyist and former GOP member of Congress who resigned in 1998 for an affair — who told her that Marie Yovanovitch, then the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, should be fired.
Rep. Jamie Raskin on the resolution outlining the path forward
Ukraine military aid held up at Trump's direction, State Dept. witness expected to say
Catherine Croft, a Ukraine specialist who was an aide to former special envoy Kurt Volker, is expected to testify Wednesday that she was part of a July meeting with the White House Office of Management and Budget in which an official said the hold on military aid to Ukraine came “at the direction of the president,” according to her opening statement.
The top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, Bill Taylor, also has testified that the hold came at Trump's direction.
Croft is also expected to say that while working in a prior role at the at National Security Council, she would get calls from lobbyist Robert Livingston, a former congressman, saying now-former Ambassador to Ukraine Maria Yovanovitch should be fired because she was an “Obama holdover."
Meanwhile, former Volker aide Christopher Anderson is expected to testify Wednesday that Trump personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani’s attempt to urge the Ukrainian government to open investigations into Trump's political rivals, including the Bidens, was discussed at a Ukraine strategy meeting at the Department of Energy in June.
Read the full story here.
State Department special adviser for Ukraine expected to appear in closed session
Catherine Croft, State Department special adviser for Ukraine, is expected to testify that closed session on Wednesday starting at 9 a.m., followed by former special adviser to Ambassador Kurt Volker, Christopher Anderson.
Anderson will testify that Rudy Giuliani’s attempt to urge the Ukrainian government to open investigations was discussed at a Ukraine strategy meeting at the Department of Energy in June.
Croft is expected to say that she was part of the July 18 meeting with the Office of Management and Budget and heard an official say that the hold on military aid came “at the direction of the president,” according to her opening statement obtained by NBC News.
The House Rules Committee is also meeting at to debate and amend the resolution to formalize the next steps of the impeachment inquiry.
Vindman testifies White House record left out details of Trump-Ukraine call
Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council, told members of Congress Tuesday 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.
Read the full story here.
Tuesday's impeachment news roundup
In case you're just catching up on Tuesday's impeachment news, here's some of what you missed:
- Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council, testified in front of House impeachment investigators about what he heard during Trump's call with the Ukrainian president and other matters related to the inquiry. (His appearance also sparked a bonus episode of NBC News' "Article II: Inside Impeachment" podcast, featuring congressional reporter Rebecca Shabad. Listen here.)
- Democrats said Vindman's testimony was "extremely disturbing" and praised him for appearing despite attacks from the White House. He also received praise from Republicans.
- House Democrats released text of the resolution that will detail their procedures as they move forward with the impeachment inquiry. They are expected to vote on the resolution on Thursday.
- South Carolina Democratic Rep. Joe Cunningham, one of the last few House Democrats not to back impeachment, will be voting in support of the resolution setting procedures going forward in the impeachment inquiry, his spokesperson told NBC News.
Updated impeachment inquiry deposition schedule
Officials working on the impeachment inquiry tell NBC News:
Catherine Croft is expected to appear in closed session on Wednesday. Christopher Anderson is expected to appear in closed session on Wednesday.
Timothy Morrison, Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Europe and Russia, National Security Council, is expected to appear in closed session on Thursday.
Robert Blair, Assistant to the President and Senior Adviser to the Acting Chief of Staff, is expected to appear in closed session on Friday.
The Committees will re-notice a future date for Kathryn Wheelbarger. The Committees are in ongoing discussions with other witnesses and we look forward to their testimony.
Dem holdout Rep. Cunningham will support the impeachment process resolution Thursday
South Carolina Democratic Rep. Joe Cunningham, one of the last few House Democrats not to back impeachment, will be voting in support of the resolution setting procedures going forward in the impeachment inquiry, his spokesperson told NBC News.
Cunningham told the Post and Courier that he is still undecided on whether or not Trump should be impeached.
His support for the resolution is "something that my colleagues from across the aisle have been requesting for weeks now, so I hope this affords them some satisfaction, and overall it’s a good measure to shine some light on these hearings and make sure that we respect due process," he told the paper.
House Democrats release impeachment resolution
House Democrats released on Tuesday text of the resolution that will detail their procedures as they move forward with the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.
More broadly, the resolution appears to put in writing what several House committees handling investigations into Trump are already doing.
The resolution directs "certain committees to continue their ongoing investigations as part of the existing House of Representatives inquiry into whether sufficient grounds exist for the House of Representatives to exercise its Constitutional power to impeach Donald John Trump, President of the United States of America, and for other purposes."
Diplomat Bill Taylor receives rock star reception in Ukraine after House testimony
MARIUPOL, Ukraine — More than 5,000 miles from the congressional room where he testified that President Donald Trump tried to get a foreign government to investigate his political opponents, acting Ambassador Bill Taylor took to a stage here Tuesday and was greeted like a rock star.
Taylor was applauded by hundreds of attendees and swarmed by well-wishers at an economic conference days after his stunning testimony connected the president, his lawyer and other political appointees to an effort to dig up dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden and his family.
Read the full story.
Lawmakers on both sides decry attacks on Lt. Col. Vindman as 'shameful,' 'despicable'
Prominent Republicans joined Democrats on Tuesday in defending Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman against attacks from right-wing pundits who questioned his loyalty to the country ahead of his testimony in the House’s impeachment inquiry.
The reaction came after Fox News host Laura Ingraham and others suggested Vindman, a Ukraine expert on the National Security Council who fled the Soviet Union as child, could be demonstrating disloyalty — and even potentially traitorous behavior — to the United States because, according to a report in The New York Times, Ukrainian officials asked him for advice in dealing with Trump personal attorney Rudy Giuliani's efforts regarding their country.
“I think that we need to show that we are better than that as a nation," Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., the third-ranking House Republican, said at a GOP leadership news conference Tuesday. "Their patriotism, their love of country — we’re talking about decorated veterans who have served their country, who have put their lives on the line. And it is shameful to question their patriotism and their love of this nation.”
Read the full story here.
Dem Rep. Van Drew, an impeachment holdout, says he won't vote for Thursday resolution
Democratic Rep. Jeff Van Drew told NBC News he does not plan to vote for the impeachment process resolution that is slated to be on the House floor on Thursday. Van Drew is one of the few Democrats in the House not to support impeachment.
"I would imagine that I'm not voting for," Rep Jeff Van Drew told NBC News heading to votes on Tuesday night when asked about the upcoming vote.
"I just feel that at the end of the day, certainly it is not going to get through the Senate in my opinion so you are going to have the same president, with, you know, the same candidate, same president, and he's going to feel he's exonerated and he is, he is exonerated from this,” Van Drew went on to say noting that Congress would “spend a lot of time, a lot of money, a lot of energy” and would be unable to get a lot of other things done.
He made similar comments in an interview with NBC News earlier this month.
"Where are we going to be when it's all done?" he asked. "Further divided, more hateful, more distrustful, with the same president and the same presidential candidate. What have we accomplished?"
'Extremely disturbing:' Top Dems alarmed over Vindman's testimony on Trump Ukraine call
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 prepared remarks “extremely, extremely, extremely disturbing,” as she left the deposition Tuesday morning. 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.
Rep. Cicilline says public hearings could start 'in the next few weeks'
Rep. David Cicilline, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told reporters Tuesday that public hearings in the impeachment inquiry could start "soon, hopefully in the next few weeks."
Asked if the House could hold a vote in impeachment by Christmas, the Rhode Island Democrat said, “That's up to the speaker. You know, if there are articles of impeachment, it'll be up to the speaker when they're brought to the floor, and we haven't made that determination.”
'This is not normal': Sen. Manchin reacts to Vindman attacks
Why the Trump campaign’s viral merchandise is actually priceless
When President Donald Trump debuted a new catchphrase at a Minneapolis rally this month, the crowd went predictably wild.
“By the way, what ever happened to Hunter? Where the hell is he?!” Trump asked the arena, referring to former Vice President Joe Biden’s eldest son, amid the controversy that launched an impeachment inquiry into the president and his dealings with Ukraine. “Hey fellas, I have an idea for a new T-shirt.”
Minutes later, the suggestion became a $25 reality. Before the event was over, the campaign website had a “LIMITED edition” piece of merchandise “while supplies last!” featuring the presidential query: “WHERE’S HUNTER?” But the goal wasn’t just to sell thousands of inflammatory t-shirts. More valuable than any dollars brought in, according to aides, is the voter data associated with each item the campaign sells.
Read the full story here.
Internal White House debate stifles release of Pence-Zelenskiy call
WASHINGTON — It’s been almost three weeks since Vice President Mike Pence said he had “no objection” to releasing a reconstructed transcript of his phone call with the leader of Ukraine. But as House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry continues moving swiftly into its second month, the White House still has not made a decision on whether to make those details of Pence’s call public.
The internal debate has divided White House officials over whether releasing the call would help or hurt their flailing efforts to counter accusations that President Donald Trump held up military aid to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate his political rivals, according to two people familiar with the discussions.
One concern raised by some of Trump’s allies is that releasing his call with Zelenskiy was a mistake because it fueled the impeachment inquiry rather than tamp it down, these people said. Another is that a comparison of Pence and Trump’s calls with Zelenskiy could potentially make the president’s self-described “perfect” conversation appear significantly less so.
Read the full story here.
Trump calls NSC expert and witness to phone call, Army Lt. Col. Vindman, a 'Never Trumper'
Whistleblowers welcome: Mark Zaid represents Trump accuser and others with secrets to share
WASHINGTON — Mark Zaid is used to being attacked by those on the other side of whatever case he's on and the intense media attention that comes with handling clients involved in some of the biggest matters facing the country.
But now the Washington attorney is representing the whistleblower who has sparked an impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump, and things have never been quite like this.
"This case, from the moment I've been in it, has been nonstop every single day," Zaid said in an interview with NBC News at his home in the Washington, D.C., suburbs, adding, "We've been warned, 'They're coming after you.'"
Read the full story here.
White House NSC's top Ukraine expert expected to give evidence in closed-door testimony
Lt. Col. Alexander S. Vindman, a U.S. Army official and White House national security official, plans to tell members of Congress conducting an impeachment inquiry that he was on the phone call between President Donald Trump and Ukraine’s leader in which Trump asked for an investigation into the Bidens.
Vindman’s opening statement reads in part: "I was concerned by the call. 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.”
Read the full story here.
Monday's impeachment news (so far)
Just catching up on impeachment news? Here's what you missed on Monday:
- The House is expected to vote Thursday on a Democratic resolution that will lay out the next steps in the impeachment inquiry, according to a senior congressional source.
- The White House was alerted as early as mid-May — earlier than previously known — that a budding pressure campaign by Rudy Giuliani and one of President Donald Trump's ambassadors was rattling the new Ukrainian president, two people with knowledge of the matter tell NBC News.
- The Justice Department said Monday that it will appeal a federal judge's order requiring the government to give the House of Representatives grand jury material gathered during former special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation of Russian election meddling and possible obstruction by President Donald Trump.
Article II: Inside Impeachment — No Show
Charles Kupperman, President Trump’s former deputy national security adviser, failed to appear for his deposition before the House Committees today. On today’s episode of Article II, host Steve Kornacki talks to MSNBC Washington Correspondent Garrett Haake about the significance of Kupperman being a no-show and what it means for the future of the inquiry.
The two discuss:
- What options Congress has now that Kupperman has defied the congressional subpoena
- The White House is invoking "constitutional immunity," but what does that mean and how does it work?
- What to expect from the lawsuit Kupperman filed in the U.S. District Court in Washington, DC
- Why Kupperman’s lawsuit asking the courts to intercede could be a test case for whether or not John Bolton testifies
Throughout the episode, we answer listener questions about how these subpoenas work and look ahead to the week to come in the impeachment inquiry.
House to vote on resolution laying out next steps in impeachment inquiry
WASHINGTON — The House is expected to vote Thursday on a Democratic resolution that will lay out the next steps in the impeachment inquiry, according to a senior congressional source.
The language of the resolution has not been released, but it is expected to detail procedures going forward in the investigation, not formalize it.
“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,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said in a letter to her caucus Monday.
“We are taking this step 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.”
Read the full story here.
White House told in May of Ukraine President Zelenskiy's concerns about Giuliani, Sondland
KYIV, Ukraine — The White House was alerted as early as mid-May — earlier than previously known — that a budding pressure campaign by Rudy Giuliani and one of President Donald Trump's ambassadors was rattling the new Ukrainian president, two people with knowledge of the matter tell NBC News.
Alarm bells went off at the National Security Council when the White House's top Europe official was told that Giuliani was pushing the incoming Ukrainian administration to shake up the leadership of state-owned energy giant Naftogaz, the sources said. The official, Fiona Hill, learned then about the involvement of Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, two Giuliani associates who were helping with the Naftogaz pressure and also with trying to find dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden’s son Hunter.
Hill quickly briefed then-national security adviser John Bolton about what she'd been told, the individuals with knowledge of the meeting said.
The revelation significantly moves up the timeline of when the White House learned that Trump's allies had engaged with the incoming Ukrainian administration and were acting in ways that unnerved the Ukrainians — even before President Volodymyr Zelenskiy had been sworn in. Biden had entered the presidential race barely three weeks earlier.
Read the full story.
Here's the price Mitt Romney is paying for standing against Trump
SALT LAKE CITY — One man is an island: Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah. The 72-year-old former Republican presidential nominee has isolated himself from Republicans in the Senate, in his home state and across the country by occasionally — but strongly — criticizing President Donald Trump, including the president's efforts to enlist the aid of foreign governments to probe a leading political opponent.
In recent weeks, the senator's acts of rebellion against the commander in chief have been flagrant: from publicly confirming "Pierre Delecto" as the secret identity he used to counter Trump on Twitter to bashing Trump's Syria policy on the Senate floor to positioning himself on the front edge of any move by GOP lawmakers to break away and either censure the president or vote to remove him from office if the House follows through with impeachment.
While that House-side inquiry has put a heat lamp on Republican senators from states where voters aren't thrilled with the president's actions — particularly swing-state lawmakers who are up for re-election in 2020 — Romney's criticism of Trump hasn't prompted those colleagues to follow him into the political no-man's land of finding fault with both the president's conduct and the divisiveness of impeachment. Rather, it has renewed speculation among GOP critics in Washington and in Utah that Romney has ulterior motives — jealousy, retribution, Oval Office ambition or some potent mix of all three.
Read the full story here.
More witnesses on deck for Wednesday
Two more witnesses have been scheduled to testify Wednesday before the House committees leading the impeachment inquiry: Catherine Croft, a special adviser for Ukraine at the State Department, and Christopher Anderson, a former aide to former special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker.
Kathryn Wheelbarger, acting assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, is already scheduled to give a deposition Wednesday.
Justice Dept. appeals ruling it must turn over Mueller grand jury materials
WASHINGTON — The Justice Department said Monday that it will appeal a federal judge's order requiring the government to give the House of Representatives grand jury material gathered during former special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation of Russian election meddling and possible obstruction by President Donald Trump.
Federal District Court Judge Beryl Howell ruled Friday that a completely unredacted version of Mueller's final report, as well as underlying evidence backing up its conclusions, must be turned over to the House by Wednesday. House Democrats sued to get the material, saying they need it for their impeachment inquiry.
The Justice Department also asked Howell to put a hold on his own ruling.
Once the grand jury material is turned over, DOJ said, "it cannot be recalled, and the confidentiality of the grand jury information will be lost for all time." That's especially so, the government said, if the House decides to make any of the material public, which House leaders have said they have the power to do by majority vote.
Read the full story here.
Ex-Trump deputy national security adviser Kupperman a no-show for testimony
WASHINGTON — Former deputy national security adviser Charles Kupperman will not appear for a scheduled deposition Monday before three House congressional committees involved in leading the impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump, House Oversight Committee ranking member Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, said Monday.
The White House is trying to block Kupperman's appearance, and the ex-deputy national security adviser filed a lawsuit Friday asking a federal judge to rule on whether he must testify under a congressional subpoena.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., told reporters it was "deeply regrettable" that Kupperman, a longtime associated of former national security adviser John Bolton, was a "no-show," adding, "He was compelled to appear with a lawful congressional subpoena. Witnesses like Dr. Kupperman need to do their duty and show up."
Kupperman's refusal to appear "may warrant a contempt proceeding against him," Schiff said.
Read the full story.
Biden talks Trump allegations, calls president 'an idiot' for Russia comments
Joe Biden said President Donald Trump has "no integrity" when he targets the former vice president's family on the campaign trail.
"I've never discussed my business or their business, my son's or daughter's. And I've never discussed them because they know where I have to do my job and that's it, and they have to make their own judgments," the 2020 candidate said in an interview with CBS's "60 Minutes" that aired Sunday. "He's a grown man. And it turns out he did not do a single thing wrong, as everybody's investigated."
Biden also called Trump is “an idiot” for calling Russia’s election interference a “hoax,” and says it’s clear the president and the Russians are aligned in wanting to keep the former vice president from winning in 2020.
Read the full story here.
A Kupperman cliffhanger
It’s a congressional cliffhanger: Will former deputy national security adviser Charles Kupperman appear for his scheduled deposition today?
Kupperman, a longtime associate of former national security adviser John Bolton, has emerged as a key witness in the impeachment inquiry. House investigators believe he has firsthand knowledge of President Donald Trump's decisions regarding Ukraine. The White House is trying to block his appearance, and Kupperman filed a lawsuit Friday asking a federal judge to rule on whether he must testify.
The Democratic chairs of the committees leading the impeachment inquiry said in a letter to Kupperman’s attorney that the lawsuit was "lacking in legal merit" and warned that Kupperman’s “absence will constitute evidence that may be used against him in a contempt proceeding.”
Kupperman’s attorney responded late Saturday in a letter obtained by NBC News. It reads in part, “As stated in the complaint, it would not be appropriate for a private citizen like Dr. Kupperman to unilaterally resolve this momentous Constitutional dispute between the two political branches of our government. … The proper course for Dr. Kupperman, we respectfully submit, is to lay the conflicting positions before the court and abide by the court’s judgment as to which is correct.”
Kupperman’s attorney did not respond to our inquiries about whether his client will appear today.
John Kelly says he told Trump a 'yes man' would get him impeached
President Donald Trump is denying that his former chief of staff, John Kelly, ever warned him that he would be impeached if he hired a lackey to replace the former four-star general.
"John Kelly never said that, he never said anything like that," Trump said in a statement after Kelly discussed his warning. "If he would have said that I would have thrown him out of the office. He just wants to come back into the action like everybody else does."
Kelly said Saturday that before departing the White House he privately told Trump not to hire a "yes man." "I said, whatever you do, don't hire a 'yes man,' someone who won’t tell you the truth. Don’t do that. Because if you do, I believe you will be impeached," Kelly said at the conservative Washington Examiner Political Summit.
Kelly resigned in January and was replaced by Mick Mulvaney, an acting chief of staff whose tenure is clouded by news conference earlier this month in which his main talking points — that next year's Group of Seven summit would be hosted at Trump's Miami resort and that the president held up aid to Ukraine to pressure the country to investigate a political rival — were essentially walked back.
Read the full story here.
Diplomat Phillip Reeker offers details on ouster of Amb. Yovanovitch
WASHINGTON — Career diplomat Phillip Reeker told congressional investigators behind closed doors what he knew about the ouster of Amb. Marie Yovanovitch, according to a source with direct knowledge of his testimony in the impeachment inquiry.
Yovanovitch, a well-respected expert on Ukraine, has said that she was fired by the direction of President Donald Trump at the recommendation of Rudy Giuliani.
Reeker told Congressional investigators that he and his colleagues in the European Bureau at the State Department attempted to put out a proactive statement in support of Amb. Marie “Masha” Yovanovich but they were told by Undersecretary David Hale to not issue it, according to a person familiar with his testimony.
Read the full story here.
Giuliani butt dial story inspires ridicule, envy on social media
Rudy Giuliani's role in Trump's effort to get Ukraine to investigate political rival Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden is serious business and could play a big role in the congressional impeachment inquiry against the president.
But that hasn't stopped journalists, pundits and observers from having a little fun — through a limerick and other jesting tweets — with Giuliani's latest predicament: his inadvertent voicemail messages left on an NBC News reporter's phone by what is colloquially known as a butt dial.
Others expressed jealousy over the call: "Butt dial me," one journalist wrote.
Read the full story here.
Impeachment hearings depict a quid pro quo that evolved over time
WASHINGTON — Grilled under oath for dozens of hours on Capitol Hill, at least three current and former U.S. officials have all made the same startling admission: A coveted White House visit for the new Ukrainian leader had been explicitly conditioned on his agreeing to investigations that could have helped President Donald Trump’s re-election.
And when Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, was asked point blank, under oath, whether that constituted a "quid pro quo," he did not dispute it, people with knowledge of his testimony said.
As impeachment proceedings march forward, a string of conflicting narratives from Trump, U.S. officials and the Ukrainians has centered on a different question: whether Trump ever overtly linked a freeze in military aid with his demand that President Volodymyr Zelenskiy investigate his political opponents — and when the Ukrainians learned of it. Trump and many Republicans argue that if the Ukrainians were in the dark, any allegation of wrongdoing by Trump falls apart.
Read the full story.
Article II: Inside Impeachment — 'The Master Strategist'
On Friday's episode, Article II looks at Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's strategy on impeachment. Host Steve Kornacki talks to Frank Thorpe V, producer and off-air congressional reporter for NBC News, about the Senate resolution condemning the impeachment inquiry.
Download the episode here.
Friday's biggest impeachment-related news, so far ...
Friday has seen some major impeachment-related news. Here are some of the biggest stories so far:
- A federal court judge said a formal impeachment inquiry is underway and ordered the Justice Department to turn Mueller grand jury materials over to the House Judiciary Committee.
- The fact that Giuliani was reaching out to the NBC News reporter wasn’t remarkable, but the manner — a butt dial — was. In this faux pas and another, the president's lawyer was heard discussing the need for cash and trashing the Bidens.
- Lawyers for ex-national security adviser John Bolton — who is said to have wanted no part of the Ukraine affair — have been in contact with the House committees leading impeachment inquiry.
Judge says an impeachment inquiry is underway, orders Mueller grand jury docs released
A federal court judge on Friday ordered the Department of Justice to turn over grand jury material referenced in redacted portions of special counsel Robert Mueller's report to the House Judiciary Committee by Wednesday, Oct. 30.
"The Department of Justice claims that existing law bars disclosure to the Congress of grand jury information. DOJ is wrong," wrote Beryl Howell, the chief judge for the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.
Howell also found that despite public protestations from the Trump administration that House Democrats have not actually launched a formal impeachment inquiry, one is underway.
Read the story here.
Rudy Giuliani butt-dials NBC reporter, heard discussing need for cash and trashing Bidens
Late in the evening on Oct. 16, Rudy Giuliani made a phone call to this reporter.
The fact that Giuliani was reaching out wasn’t remarkable. He and the reporter had spoken earlier that night for a story about his ties to a fringe Iranian opposition group. But this call, it would soon become clear, wasn’t a typical case of a source following up with a reporter.
The call came in at 11:07 p.m. and went to voicemail; the reporter was asleep. The next morning, a message exactly three minutes long was sitting in his voicemail. In the recording, the words tumbling out of Giuliani’s mouth were not directed at the reporter. He was speaking to someone else, someone in the same room.
The call appeared to be one of the most unfortunate of faux pas: what is known, in casual parlance, as a butt dial. And it wasn’t the first time it had happened. ...
Read the full story.
Watchdogs at gov't agencies blast DOJ for not referring Ukraine whistleblower to Congress
WASHINGTON — Dozens of inspectors general across the federal government have signed a letter repudiating the Justice Department's legal opinion that the original complaint by a CIA whistleblower about President Donald Trump's conversation with Ukraine's president did not have to be turned over to Congress.
In a strongly worded statement written by the inspector general of the Justice Department, the inspectors general portrayed the opinion by the DOJ's Office of Legal Counsel as dangerously wrong and severely damaging to whistleblower protections.
"The OLC opinion, if not withdrawn or modified, could seriously undermine the critical role whistleblowers play in coming forward to report waste, fraud, abuse, and misconduct across the federal government," the independent watchdogs said.
Read the full story.
Trump dismisses need for impeachment advisers: 'I'm the team'
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Friday dismissed the need for additional help in countering Democrats' impeachment efforts despite pleas from outside advisers for a more coordinated response coming from the White House.
In a comments reminiscent of his "I alone can fix it" declaration during his Inauguration, Trump told reporters gathered on the White House South Law that he will be the one leading the fight when it comes to responding to impeachment.
"Here's the thing. I don't have teams, everyone's talking about teams," Trump said. "I'm the team. I did nothing wrong."
Read the full story.
Analysis: Republicans' absurd complaints about impeachment inquiry access are historically ignorant
Republican criticism of the ongoing impeachment inquiry process for deposing witnesses in closed-door sessions is absurd — and that was before they held a news conference Wednesday and stormed a secure hearing room, interrupting the testimony of a Pentagon official.
The GOP has cited two alleged shortcomings in the inquiry procedure: Members of Congress who do not serve on the three committees hearing testimony are barred from attending; and the depositions are not being held in a public session.
Both criticisms are baseless, because members of Congress today have a much greater role in obtaining evidence than the Judiciary Committee members had in the Nixon impeachment inquiry in 1974, and the chairman has said that the testimony will, indeed, be heard in public during the investigatory process.
Read former House Judiciary Committee counsel Michael Conway's full analysis here.
Warner calls for Barr to come before Congress over DOJ's probe into Russia investigation
Deputy national security adviser's testimony to bring inquiry within Bolton's orbit
As NBC News has reported, House investigators would like to interview former national security adviser John Bolton as part of their impeachment inquiry. Next week’s scheduled interview with former deputy national security adviser Charles Kupperman, brings the inquiry closer into Bolton’s orbit.
Scheduled testimony from Tim Morrison, senior director for Europe and Russia at the National Security Council, provides House investigators with direct insight from someone who typically would have listened in on the July 25 call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy — a central focus of the whistleblower complaint that led to the inquiry.
Multiple lawmakers tell NBC News that House investigators thought it necessary to interview Morrison after top diplomat to Ukraine Bill Taylor referenced him multiple times during his closed-door session last week.
Here's the updated depositions schedule:
- Due to services honoring the late Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., no depositions will be held Friday.
- Philip Reeker, acting assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian Affairs, is expected to give a private deposition on Saturday.
- Kupperman is expected to appear in closed session Monday.
- Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, director for European affairs at the National Security Council, is expected to appear Tuesday.
- Kathryn Wheelbarger, acting assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, is expected to appear Wednesday.
- Morrison is expected to appear Thursday.
New poll: Americans split down party lines on impeachment
Americans are evenly divided on whether President Donald Trump should be impeached. Forty-nine percent think he should be impeached and removed from office and 49 percent are against it, according to results from a new NBC News|SurveyMonkey poll.
Voters are sharply divided along party lines. Nine in 10 Republicans and Republican-leaning independents are against impeachment and 89 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaners are in favor of impeachment. Independents who don’t lean toward either party are more split with a 53 percent majority saying Trump should be impeached and 44 percent saying he should not.
Read the full story here.
John Bolton's lawyers have been in contact with House committees leading inquiry
Former national security adviser John Bolton's lawyers have been in contact with officials on the committees leading the impeachment inquiry, a person close to Bolton has confirmed to NBC News.
Investigators in the inquiry have negotiated with a Bolton lawyer about a date for a closed-door deposition, The New York Times reported Thursday, citing two people briefed on the matter.
Bolton wanted no part of the President Donald Trump's alleged attempts to pressure the president of Ukraine to investigate what has been described as a conspiracy theory about interference in the 2016 election, as well as into former vice president Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, NBC News has reported.
Bolton told top White House official Fiona Hill to report the situation to the top lawyer at the National Security Council, John Eisenberg, according to the person in the room for Hill’s closed-door testimony last week.
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.
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.
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.
Swalwell discusses why Dems are keeping testimony closed to the public
Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., a member of the House Judiciary and Intelligence committees, told CNN on Thursday that Democrats aren't interviewing witnesses publicly at this point as a precaution against witnesses tailoring their testimony.
"What we're doing right now is a first pass," Swalwell said. "We are interviewing the witnesses that we know may have been involved and actually paring down that information so that you can pull out what's relevant for the public.
"But also, I want to say this, because it's a fair question that you and others have asked, which is, why we are not doing it publicly right now?" Swalwell continued. "There was no preliminary investigation done by a special prosecutor or special counsel like Watergate or in the Clinton impeachment trial. We know, however, we have evidence, very recently, that there are witnesses in our case who are talking to each other. That's exactly what we don't want to happen until we have that preliminary investigation. We don't want them to tailor the testimony to each other, we don’t want them to manufacture alibis. So we're trying to protect the information as much as we can before we bring it forward to the public."
"[T]hat's why we're doing this in a closed fashion," he added. "Closed to the public, not to the 120 members of Congress — Republicans and Democrats — who have access to the room.”
Speier: Democrats are close to having enough info to make their case
Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., a member of the House Oversight Committee, said Thursday on MSNBC’s "Morning Joe" that she thinks Democrats are close to having enough information to present their case for impeachment to the public, despite stonewalling from the Trump administration and opposition from Republicans in Congress.
"I think we’re close to having enough," Speier said, referring to text messages provided by former special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker and testimony from the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, Bill Taylor.
Speier also said lawmakers haven't made a decision to subpoena former national security adviser John Bolton, who wanted no part of the administration's Ukraine efforts, according to the testimony of the White House's former top Russia adviser, Fiona Hill. "But I think his testimony could be very compelling," Speier said.
Updated depositions schedule
Due to services honoring the late Rep. Elijah Cummings, no depositions will be held today or Friday. Here's the updated impeachment inquiry schedule, according an official working on the inquiry.
- Philip Reeker, the acting assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, is expected to appear in closed session on Saturday.
- Former deputy national security adviser Charles Kupperman is expected to appear in closed session on Monday.
- Timothy Morrison, senior director for Europe and Russia at the National Security Council, is expected to appear in closed session on Thursday, Oct. 31.
The committees are in discussions with other witnesses.
The biggest impeachment news of the day you may have missed
Just catching up on Wednesday's impeachment news? Here's what you may have missed:
- Pentagon official Laura Cooper began her testimony in front of House impeachment investigators five hours late after Republicans stormed the hearing.
- The House Parliamentarian ruled that the GOP members were in violation of House deposition rules, according to an Intelligence Committee official.
- In trying to keep Trump's tax returns secret, Trump's lawyers argued he can't be charged with a crime while in office — even if he shoots someone.
- A Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday showed that American voters' support for the House impeachment inquiry has reached its highest level, at 55 percent in the survey.
The latest episode of Article II: Inside Impeachment
On today’s episode, Article II does a deep dive into top diplomat Bill Taylor’s opening statement in the House impeachment inquiry. Host Steve Kornacki talks to Dan De Luce, national security and global affairs reporter for the investigative unit at NBC News, about the most important moments from Taylor’s opening statement on Tuesday.
The two discuss:
- Key moments from Taylor’s opening statement
- Whether what we learned from Taylor’s opening statement supports a theory of "quid pro quo"
- White House and Republican response to Taylor’s testimony
Plus, an update on the Republican effort to interrupt Pentagon official Laura Cooper’s Wednesday deposition and NBC News justice correspondent Pete Williams answers a listener question about what happens if a witness lies under oath during a deposition.
What Graham says is missing from Trump's impeachment messaging ...
Here's what Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., says the White House should do to improve its impeachment messaging:
“I think Clinton had a pretty good model," Graham told NBC News on Wednesday. "He let people answer questions about impeachment that were trained in the law. He had a spokesperson that was on message every day, that actually talked about what to say every day. He spent most of his time trying to govern the country. I would recommend that model. I saw it in action, I was on the receiving end of it. It worked.
“What’s missing here, I think, is that coordinated effort to put somebody in charge of developing a message and delivering it. I believe that’s about to be corrected, I hope. I like Mulvaney, but the news conference was not exactly what you want. So, you want people who understand the legal implications of what you say as well as the political implications.
“I think the area most right for the president right now is, 'I’m being treated unfairly, they’re selectively leaking things against me, I can’t challenge the witnesses against me, and this is fundamentally an un-American process; I did nothing wrong,' and just sort of point to the abuses in the House and have a discipline about that.
“At the same time, I think he needs to reach out to Democrats and Republicans and say, 'In the middle of all this mess, let’s see if we can do something on the USMCA and prescription drugs.'”
Schiff accuses Trump's allies of trying to stop witnesses from testifying
House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., told NBC News that he hopes Laura Cooper, the deputy assistant secretary defense for Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia, will testify Wednesday as planned. He also confirmed that Cooper had been subpoenaed to testify.
Schiff accused the Republicans disrupting Cooper's deposition of trying to stop her and other witnesses from testifying.
Q: Will Laura Cooper testify today?
A: I certainly hope so. The witness has been waiting a long time.
Q: Are Republicans still in the room?
A: You’ll have to ask them. ... Clearly the White House was devastated by yesterday’s testimony, and these witnesses have been willing to defy the administration and follow the law and come testify, so the president’s allies are trying to stop them through other means, but they won’t be successful.
Q: She was issued a subpoena to appear today?
"The House parliamentarian has ruled that these members are in violation of House deposition rules."
A House Intelligence Committee official said the "stunt" was "in service of the president’s demand that they 'fight harder' to obstruct a legitimate impeachment inquiry," adding, "The House parliamentarian has ruled that these members are in violation of House deposition rules."
The official also said Republican members had brought their electronics into the secure facility where the testimony was to take place, "a major security breach." Several lawmakers refused to remove their devices even after the sergeant- at-arms and security personnel raised the issue, the official said.
The official also pointed out that former GOP Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., who chaired the House Select Committee on Benghazi, emphasized at the time that non-committee members were not allowed in the deposition room.
In battleground Wisconsin, support for impeachment lags behind national polls
WASHINGTON — A new Marquette Law School poll of Wisconsin, arguably the most important state for the 2020 presidential race, is a reminder that the national poll results we’re seeing are a bit different than in the attitudes in top battleground states for 2020.
In the poll, 46 percent of registered voters in Wisconsin say there is enough cause for Congress to hold impeachment hearings on Trump, versus 49 percent who disagree. That 46 percent is lower than the majorities we’ve seen in most national polls supporting the impeachment inquiry.
The poll also finds 44 percent of Wisconsin supporting Trump’s impeachment/removal from office, versus 51 percent who oppose it.
Trump’s job rating in Wisconsin is 46 percent in the poll — slightly higher than his national average in the low 40s.
In hypothetical general-election matchups, Biden leads Trump by 6 points in the state, 50 percent to 44 percent. That’s compared with Bernie Sanders’ 2-point lead (48 percent to 46 percent), Elizabeth Warren’s 1-point lead (47 percent to 46 percent), and Pete Buttigieg’s 2-point deficit (43 percent-45 percent).
Most national polling shows all of these Democrats ahead of Trump by double digits or high-single digits.
The poll was conducted Oct. 13-17 of 799 registered voters, with a margin of error of +/- 4.2 percentage points.
Trump's lawyers argue he can't be charged while in office — even if he shoots someone
WASHINGTON — A panel of three federal appeals court judges appeared to be unreceptive on Wednesday to President Donald Trump's claim that local prosecutors cannot get his financial records as long as he's in office — and heard an extreme hypothetical from the president's lawyers making the case.
The long-standing view of the Justice Department is that a president cannot be indicted while in office. William Consovoy, President Trump's lawyer, told the Second Circuit Court of Appeals that the immunity extends to the entire criminal justice process, including grand jury subpoenas for documents.
Carey Dunne, New York District Attorney Cy Vance Jr.'s general counsel, said the president's position is too absolute.
There could be examples where a state should be able to conduct a criminal investigation of a sitting president, "if, for example, he did pull out a handgun and shoot someone on Fifth Avenue."
Asked about that, Consovoy said a president could be charged with such a crime once he was out of office or if he was impeached and removed from office. "This is not a permanent immunity," he said.
"I'm talking about while in office. Nothing could be done? That's your position?" asked Judge Denny Chin.
"That is correct," Consovoy said.
Trump's former acting attorney general says 'abuse of power' isn't a crime
Former acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker on Tuesday defended President Donald Trump hours after Bill Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat to the Ukraine, on Tuesday testified that Trump tried to pressure Ukraine to investigate his political rivals by withholding crucial military aid.
In a segment on the House impeachment inquiry, Whitaker told Fox News host Laura Ingraham that "abuse of power is not a crime."
"I’m a former prosecutor and what I know is this is a perfect time for preliminary hearings where you would say show us your evidence," Whitaker said. "What evidence of a crime do you have? So the Constitution— abuse of power is not a crime."
"Let’s fundamentally boil it down," he added. "The Constitution is very clear that there has to be some pretty egregious behavior and they cannot tell the American people what this case is even about."
NBC News has reported that House Democrats are zeroing in on abuse of power in the inquiry. Impeachment battles involving former Presidents Bill Clinton and Richard Nixon both involved abuse of power charges, though Nixon resigned before he was impeached.
Republicans delay start of Pentagon official's closed-door testimony in impeachment inquiry
WASHINGTON — A group of House Republicans on Wednesday delayed the start of closed-door testimony by Laura Cooper, the top Pentagon official overseeing U.S. policy regarding Ukraine, after they stormed the secure room where the deposition was being held.
Led by Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., the GOP members — who don’t sit on the committees who are questioning witnesses in the impeachment inquiry — entered the secure room, known as a SCIF, in the basement of the Capitol Visitor’s Center. Before entering, they protested Democrats’ handling of the probe, arguing that the process was not fair to Republicans or the president.
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., told reporters that there were approximately 20 GOP members in the room who refused to leave, and said that they came into the secure room yelling that they be allowed inside. Some of these members brought their cell phones, which is not permitted.
"This is being held behind closed doors for a reason because they don’t want you to see what the witnesses are like," Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., told reporters Wednesday morning before they entered the room. “This is a Soviet style impeachment process. This is closed doors, it is unfair in every way and I don’t care whether you are the president of the United States or any other citizens of this country, you should be allowed to confront your witnesses."
Rep. Adam Schiff, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee leading the impeachment investigation, explained last week that there is precedent stemming from the Watergate era, as well as President Bill Clinton’s impeachment proceedings, for holding the initial investigation behind closed doors. He also said that he anticipated a time when impeachment investigators will release the transcripts of the depositions, and that the House may call back some of those witnesses to testify in public.
On Wednesday, Biggs and other members appeared to post tweets from inside the room.
Republican Sen. Thune: 'Picture...is not a good one'
Sen. John Thune, R-South Dakota, reacted on Wednesday to the closed-door testimony of top diplomat Bill Taylor, who said Ukraine aid from the U.S. was linked Trump demands for probes of the Bidens:
"The picture coming out of it based on the reporting we'e seen is, yeah, I would say is not a good one, but I would say also that, again, until we have a process that allows for everybody to see this in full transparency it's pretty hard to draw any hard fast conclusions."
Thune added, "I think that whatever (Taylor) said in private it ought to be done in public. And I think the Republicans are right to point out that this has been very a sort of rigged process relative to previous impeachment exercises that have been undertaken in the past."
More than 200 former USAID officers blast Trump administration's treatment of diplomats
WASHINGTON — More than 260 former foreign service officers, political appointees at the U.S. Agency for International Development as well as civil servants, are blasting the Trump administration for its treatment of current diplomats at the State Department and for the White House decision to freeze U.S. assistance to Ukraine.
In a statement of support obtained by NBC News from one of its signatories, Desaix “Terry” Myers, the former officials wrote that they were writing in support of their colleagues “now under siege for their work as diplomats.”
“Together, we spent our careers working to represent the policies and values of the United States. We are angered at the treatment of dedicated, experienced, and wise public servants like Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch; and we are distraught at the dangers inherent in the President’s cavalier (and quite possibly corrupt) approach to making foreign policy on impulse and personal interest rather than in response to national security concerns,” the statement says.
The statement was signed by a variety of former USAID officers, including some former ambassadors. Myers served as USAID’s mission director for Russia and Indonesia and previously taught at the National War College.
The former officials said that they are “appalled” that taxpayer dollars set aside by Congress for military assistance to Ukraine “may have been used to leverage foreign support for partisan political objectives.”
“The way the President is conducting foreign policy raises questions about the reliability of the U.S. as a partner, its commitment to diplomatic norms, and its capacity for leadership,” they wrote.
In addition to praising former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, they commended the other officials who have also testified so far in the House impeachment inquiry including Bill Taylor, charge d’affaires in Ukraine, Michael McKinley, who recently resigned as one of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s top advisers, and George Kent, a senior official in charge of Ukraine policy at the State Department.
Laura Cooper, the top Pentagon official overseeing U.S. policy regarding Ukraine, is testifying behind closed doors Wednesday and is expected to face questions about the White House’s decision over the summer to withhold military assistance to Ukraine.
Rick Perry 'happy to' talk to lawmakers once they abide by 'precedent'
Outgoing Energy Secretary Rick Perry told reporters outside the White House on Wednesday that he would “be happy to come forward” to talk to House Democrats leading the impeachment inquiry if “they follow the precedent, when they follow what has been referred to me as the precedent of an inquiry.”
“But the fact is, I’m not going to participate, the White House has advised us not to participate, my general counsel has told me not to participate in what they consider to be an unprecedented effort to try to use an inquiry in an unlawful way,” Perry said.
Perry, whom Democrats have subpoenaed for documents related to Trump and Ukraine, suggested in a Fox Business interview Wednesday that abiding by precedent included holding a vote on the impeachment inquiry — something House Republicans have demanded but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has said is not required.
Perry, who announced last week that he will step down, has emerged as a central figure in Trump’s efforts to get Ukraine to open an investigation into the Biden family and the 2016 election. The energy secretary was one of a cadre of officials — including now-former special envoy for Ukraine Kurt Volker, Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, and Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani — who ran an “irregular” channel of U.S. policymaking on the country, according to acting U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Bill Taylor’s testimony Tuesdaybefore the House committees leading the impeachment inquiry.
Poll shows growing support for impeachment
A Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday showed that American voters' support for the House impeachment inquiry has reached its highest level, at 55 percent in the survey.
On the flip side, 43 percent of voters disapprove of the inquiry. Last week, the poll showed 51 percent approved of the inquiry, while 45 percent disapproved.
Among Democrats, 93 percent approve of the inquiry, as well as 58 percent of independents and 10 percent of Republicans. Among those who disapprove were 88 percent of Republicans, 37 percent of independents and 7 percent of Democrats.
Nearly half of the respondents, 48 percent said Trump should be impeached and removed from office while 46 percent say he should not. Last week, that total was flipped.
Quinnipiac University surveyed 1,587 self-identified registered voters between Oct. 17 and Oct. 21. The survey had a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points.
Pentagon official to give evidence on Ukraine military aid at closed hearing
House investigators expect Laura Cooper, deputy assistant secretary of defense, to on Wednesday offer insight about the White House decision to withhold military aid to Ukraine, despite the Pentagon's recommendation that it proceed.
Cooper, a top Pentagon career official overseeing Ukraine policy, will appear at a closed-door hearing even though the Defense Department told Congress that it would not comply with House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry.
Michael Duffey, a politically appointed official in the White House budget office, who oversees the process for approving and releasing foreign aid, is not expected to appear as scheduled today after the Office of Management and Budget acting director Russ Vought said the office would not cooperate with the impeachment probe.
Six highlights from Ukraine envoy Bill Taylor's 'explosive' testimony
President Donald Trump’s top diplomat to Ukraine testified Tuesday in a closed-door deposition to members of Congress in the House's impeachment inquiry, and his remarkable 15-page statement raised serious concerns about Trump's denials of a quid pro quo.
Bill Taylor wrote in the statement delivered to Congress that "there appeared to be two channels of U.S. policy-making and implementation, one regular and one highly irregular," and that it became clear to him that a freeze in U.S. aid to Ukraine was tied to a probe into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter.
Sen. Lindsey Graham plans Senate resolution to condemn House impeachment inquiry
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham says that he will introduce a resolution in the Senate to condemn the Democrat-led impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump in the House of Representatives.
"This resolution puts the Senate on record condemning the House. ... We cannot allow future presidents, and this president, to be impeached based on an inquiry in the House that's never been voted upon," Graham, R-S.C. told Fox News' Sean Hannity on Tuesday night's show.
House Democrats have launched an impeachment inquiry into Trump centered on an alleged attempt to pressure the Ukrainian government to announce investigations into a conspiracy theory about the 2016 presidential election and into a gas company which had hired former Vice President Joe Biden's son, Hunter.
Critics say that amounted to an abuse of power by Trump for his own political gain in the 2020 election. Some Republicans have complained the House effort is unfair.
There is no requirement that the House conduct a vote before launching an impeachment inquiry. Graham objected to the closed-door depositions that have been held, and he said "any impeachment vote based on this process, to me is illegitimate, is unconstitutional, and should be dismissed in the Senate without a trial."
Read Bill Taylor's full opening statement
Top diplomat Bill Taylor says Ukraine aid was linked to Trump demands of Biden, 2016 probes
WASHINGTON — The top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, Bill Taylor, told members of Congress Tuesday that President Donald Trump directed officials to tie foreign aid to Ukraine to demands that the country open an investigation into the Biden family as well as the 2016 election.
According to a copy of his opening statement provided to NBC News, Taylor said that E.U. Ambassador Gordon Sondland told him that while Trump was not requesting a "quid pro quo," he insisted Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy publicly announce investigations into the Bidens and matters relating to the 2016 presidential election.
Taylor said that Sondland told him, "President Trump was adamant that President Zelenskiy, himself, had to "clear things up and do it in public." President Trump said it was not a "quid pro quo." Ambassador Sondland said that he had talked to President Zelenskiy and [Zelenskiy adviser Andriy] Yermak and told them that, although this was not a quid pro quo, if President Zelenskiy did not clear things up public, we would be at a stalemate."
"I understood a stalemate mean that Ukraine would not receive the much-needed military assistance," Taylor added.
Sondland willing to testify again if asked
As of Tuesday afternoon, E.U. Ambassador Gordon Sondland has not been asked to come and testify again before the House, according to a person with knowledge of Sondland’s plans. But if they do ask, he is willing to do so, that person said.
Ukraine envoy Bill Taylor's testimony on Tuesday raised questions about Sondland's past statements.
McConnell weighs in on Trump's 'lynching' tweet, Ukraine call claim
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., weighed in on the backlash over the president's Tuesday morning tweet comparing the impeachment inquiry to a "lynching."
"Given the history in our country, I would not compare this to a lynching." McConnell said when asked about the president's remark. "That was an unfortunate choice of words." He added, "It is an unfair process, and a better way to characterize it would to be to call it an unfair process, and inconsistent with the kinds of procedural safeguards that are routinely provided for people in this kind of situation, either in court or in an impeachment process in our country."
McConnell also denied Trump's claim that the majority leader had said his July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy was "innocent."
"I haven't — we've not had any conversations on that subject," McConnell said when asked about Trump's claim. Pressed on whether the president had been untruthful, the senator responded, "You'll have to ask him. I don't recall any conversations with the president about that phone call."
When asked earlier this month about what McConnell was telling him about the GOP's take on impeachment, Trump claimed that the senator had said, "That was the most innocent phone call that I've read."
Top diplomat Bill Taylor gave 'disturbing,' 'explosive' testimony on Trump's Ukraine dealings, Democrats say
WASHINGTON — The top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, Bill Taylor, offered a "disturbing" portrayal of President Donald Trump's Ukraine dealings during his closed door testimony to impeachment investigators on Tuesday, according to House Democrats.
Democrats described Taylor’s testimony as crucial, saying that he not only filled in many of the holes created by previous testimonies and depositions but is also drawing a "direct line" between the president's demand for an investigation by the Ukrainians into his political rivals and U.S. military aid.
"Without question the most powerful testimony," Rep. Steven Lynch, D-Mass., said, because Taylor has "first-hand knowledge” of all the conversations that were had.
Taylor’s opening statement is described by members as long, as many as 15 pages, according to Rep. Harley Rouda, D-Calif. Two Democrats also said that Taylor took "meticulous" personal notes but those have not yet been handed over to the committee.
Senate Democrats seek details on Trump's business in Turkey
Senate Democrats are asking the Trump Organization for details on how much it collects in business dealings from Turkey.
In a letter sent to President Donald Trump's company on Tuesday, four senators — Tom Udall of New Mexico, Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts — said they need information regarding the company's licensing agreement for Trump Towers-Istanbul to understand whether the president's foreign policy decisions "are being influenced by potential conflicts of interest."
Trump's moves to withdraw U.S. troops out of northern Syria at Turkey's request and to delay action in a money laundering case involving a Turkish bank are among the decisions the four Democratic lawmakers cite.
The letter notes that Trump himself acknowledged he could have "a little conflict of interest" when it comes to Turkey in a 2015 interview, and that the Trump Organization has pulled in between $1.2 million in royalties from the Trump Towers project since Trump took office.
The letter seeks answers about how much the company has made from its licensing agreement for Trump Towers Istanbul-Sisli, whether the Turkish government has the power to revoke the license, and whether there have been any communications between the Trump Organization and the Turkish government about U.S.-Turkey government relations.
The letter asks for a response by Nov. 12. It comes one day after NBC News reported that House Democrats are zeroing in on the framework of an "abuse of power" narrative for their impeachment case against the president.
A representative for the Trump Organization did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Wasserman Schultz: Taylor drew 'very direct line' between Ukraine funds and Trump favors
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fl., shared her impressions so far from the ongoing deposition with Bill Taylor. She said she "has not seen a more credible witness." Schultz directly added, "I do not know how you would listen to today's testimony by the ambassador, Ambassador Taylor, and draw any other conclusion, except that the President abused his power and withheld foreign aid and, a meeting with a vital diplomatic partner, that is directly related to keeping Russia's incursion at bay in exchange an in an attempt to exchange and extract political assistance for his reelection campaign. It's a direct line."
The congresswoman said, "He drew a very direct line in a series of events he described as being President Trump's decision to withhold funds, and refuse a meeting with Zelenskiy unless there was a unless there was a public pronouncement by him of investigations of Burisma and the so-called 2016 election."
In terms of how this fits with the inquiry and what else they have heard she said, "it's like if you had 1000 piece puzzle, on a table. And these, you know subsequent depositions have really started to fill in pieces where at the beginning you know it’s not clear how everything is connected and this this filled in a lot of pieces of the puzzle and added others who I think would be worthy of questioning, some of them we were already probably planning to question and bring in for questioning anyway."
The congresswoman added, "This drew a straight line. I mean, it was straight line with documented timelines, individuals conversations."
She also said she has had several disturbing days in congress but this was "one of the most" disturbing days she’s had in Congress.
Democratic Rep. departs Taylor deposition saying it is his most disturbing day in Congress
Freshman Democratic Rep. Andy Levin told reporters as he was departing the closed door deposition with Ambassador Bill Taylor that today is his "most disturbing day in Congress" but wouldn’t elaborate further as to why he felt that way.
He said, "All I have to say is that in my 10 short months in Congress — it’s not even noon, right? — and this is the, my most disturbing day in the Congress so far. Very troubling."
Michael Steele, first black RNC chair, responds to Trump's 'lynching' remark
Lawmakers outraged over Trump's 'lynching' remark
Lawmakers reacted with outrage Tuesday after Trump compared the impeachment inquiry to "a lynching," calling the remark offensive and saying the president should retract it.
"You think this impeachment is a LYNCHING?" Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Ill., tweeted. "What the hell is wrong with you? Do you know how many people who look like me have been lynched, since the inception of this country, by people who look like you. Delete this tweet."
"Using this term draws up some of America’s darkest history — Trump is yet again a disgrace and massively offensive," Rep. Yvette Clarke, D-N.Y., tweeted. "Nobody is above the law, including him. He has abused his power — and he’s been caught. Do not get caught up in his latest distraction tactic."
Asked about the president's tweet, Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., told reporters, "I resent it tremendously. I think that what we see here, once again, is this president attempting to change the narrative using what I consider to be real, caustic terms, in order to change the conversation. To compare the constitutional process to something like lynching is far beneath the office of the president of the United States."
Read the full story here.
Trump compares impeachment inquiry to 'a lynching' in morning tweet
President Donald Trump has called the House impeachment inquiry a "coup," a "witch hunt" and a "fraud," but he introduced a new phrase Tuesday to describe the process: "a lynching."
The president's use of "lynching," which elicits a time when black Americans were routinely murdered by extrajudicial white mobs, was the subject of immediate blowback.
"You think this impeachment is a LYNCHING?" Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Ill., tweeted. "What the hell is wrong with you? Do you know how many people who look like me have been lynched, since the inception of this country, by people who look like you. Delete this tweet."
Read the full story here.
The Inquiry: House Democrats look to key testimony this week
This week House Democrats will hear testimony from key witnesses, including acting Ambassador to Ukraine Bill Taylor. How much more pressure can the administration's dam take?
Ukraine ambassador set to give evidence in closed hearing
Amb. Bill Taylor — the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine — is set to be deposed in a closed session Tuesday. As NBC previously reported,Taylor has emerged as a key witness based on released text messages between him and the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, and the former U.S. special envoy to Ukraine, Kurt Volker.
Taylor expressed his concern about where the administration was headed in its approach to Ukraine's newly elected President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, warning against tying a White House meeting or U.S. military assistance to investigations meant to benefit Trump's re-election effort.
Updated: Depositions schedule for this week
The impeachment inquiry depositions scheduled for this Thursday and Friday have been postponed because of the memorials for the late Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., who was chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, three Democratic sources told NBC News.
Here's the updated schedule, according to a committee official:
- Acting Ambassador to Ukraine Bill Taylor is expected to appear in closed session Tuesday.
- Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Laura Cooper is expected to appear in closed session Wednesday.
The committees are in discussions with additional witnesses about testifying.
House Democrats zero in on 'abuse of power' narrative
WASHINGTON — House Democrats are zeroing in on a framework for their impeachment case against President Donald Trump that will center on a simple “abuse of power” narrative involving the president's actions regarding Ukraine, according to multiple people familiar with the deliberations.
As Democrats continue closed-door depositions with critical witnesses and prepare to move to the next phase of public hearings, they are wrestling over which elements and evidence to bring in, which to leave out. The goal is to explain to the public the reasoning and relevance of any eventual impeachment charges...
Trump offers evidence-free suggestion that Schiff is whistleblower's 'informant'
President Donald Trump on Monday repeatedly attacked the original whistleblower at the heart of the ongoing House impeachment inquiry, going as far as offer the baseless suggestion that House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., was actually an informant behind the account of the president's dealings with Ukraine.
"Maybe the informant was Schiff," Trump said. "In my opinion, it’s possibly Schiff."
The first whistleblower, whose identity is not yet known, wrote in his or her complaint lodged through the intelligence community that they believed Trump had sought a foreign government to interfere in the 2020 election and that the White House was trying to cover up his conduct. That included a July 25 phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelesnkiy. Trump asked his counterpart to investigate a debunked conspiracy theory about the 2016 election as well as probe the Biden family, particularly former Vice President Joe Biden's son Hunter who had business dealings in Ukraine, according to a White House summary of the call.
The whistleblower relied on second-hand information for his or her account, which the whistleblower said was based off of information provided by administration officials with first-hand knowledge. There is no evidence that a source of the whistleblower's information was Schiff. The whistleblower did meet with a House Intelligence Committee aide before his or her complaint was made public. (Read the full complaint here.)
Trump then complained about the intelligence community inspector general, saying the official could have read the transcript "and then see the whistleblower’s account was totally different than" it.
"Then he would have said, 'Oh, there is no problem here,'" Trump said. "The whistleblower gave a false account."
Trump has repeatedly claimed the whistleblower gave a false account, though the complaint lined up with the call record released by the White House, was deemed credible by the Trump-appointed intelligence community inspector general and was authored by a whistleblower who the Trump-appointed acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire told Congress had acted in "good faith."
Trump on Monday again defended his call as "perfect," asking if "we have to protect a whistleblower who gives a false account?"
"I don’t know," Trump said. "You tell me."
Acting budget chief tweets intent not to comply with House requests
Republicans to hold vote over Adam Schiff's role in impeachment investigation
House Republicans are expected to push a vote on Monday on a resolution to censure House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff. Republicans are taking issue with how Schiff is conducting the impeachment investigation. The House votes at 6:30PM ET.
Amb. Bill Taylor — the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, who in a text message called a quid pro quo over military assistance "crazy" — is set to be deposed Tuesday. NBC News reports that Taylor left Ukraine last week for Washington, D.C., after House Democrats requested he appear.
Among others invited for closed-door testimony this week are Trump administration officials in the State Department, White House budget office, National Security Council (NSC) and Defense Department. It’s not clear if all will appear as scheduled.
Mulvaney insists he didn't say Trump held up Ukraine aid for political reasons. But he did.
Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney insisted Sunday that he did not say that President Donald Trump held up military aid for Ukraine for political purposes — despite acknowledging the issue at the heart of House Democrats' impeachment inquiry during a televised press conference.
"I'm flinching because that's what people are saying that I said, but I didn't say that," Mulvaney told "Fox News Sunday" host Chris Wallace of the comments he made — and then walked back in a contradictory statement — Thursday.
Read more about Mulvaney's defense of his remarks here.
Introducing Article II: Inside Impeachment, a new politics podcast
The first episode is out now. Each week, host Steve Kornacki, national political correspondent for NBC News and MSNBC, talks with his colleagues about what's happening in Washington and why it matters for the nation.
Today, his guest is Julia Ainsley, who covers the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security. The pair discuss the closed-door nature of the House's inquiry into President Donald Trump.
New episodes of Article II: Inside Impeachment will drop every Monday, Wednesday and Friday with bonus episodes for breaking news. Listen for free wherever you get your podcasts, and learn more about the show here.
Today in The Inquiry: Impeachment defenses crumble
This week has shown the dismantling of President Trump's impeachment defense by his own people. What case have Democrat's built so far, and can the White House keep whatever is left of their defense standing?