House Democrats pull Kupperman subpoena
House Democrats have withdrawn their subpoena of former deputy national security adviser Charles Kupperman, according to a letter from the chairs of the committees leading the impeachment inquiry to Kupperman's lawyers.
"Dr. Kupperman still has an opportunity to fulfill his solemn constitutional duty," the chairs wrote. "Like the many dedicated public servants who have appeared before the Committees despite White House efforts to prevent or limit their testimony — including current and former White House officials who worked alongside your client — Dr. Kupperman can still add his testimony to the inquiry's record."
Kupperman filed a lawsuit days before he was scheduled to give closed-door testimony last month asking a federal judge to determine whether he is required to testify in the House impeachment inquiry. The lawsuit said Kupperman was told by White House lawyers not to appear.
A House Intelligence Committee official said Wednesday there was "no proper basis for a witness to sue the Congress in court to oppose a duly authorized congressional subpoena. Nevertheless, given the schedule of our impeachment hearings, a court process that leads to the dismissal of Dr. Kupperman’s flawed lawsuit would only result in delay, so we have withdrawn his subpoena."
Any testimony from Kupperman would bring the inquiry closer into the orbit of John Bolton, Trump’s former national security adviser, who was said not to want to get involved with the president's efforts in Ukraine. Bolton, who has been scheduled to testify before the committees on Thursday, will not appear voluntarily his lawyer, who also represents Kupperman, has said.
The lawyer, Charles Cooper, said last week that Bolton could be added to Kupperman's lawsuit.
Intel officials want CIA Director Gina Haspel to protect Ukraine whistleblower from Trump
WASHINGTON — As President Donald Trump and his allies continue to denounce the CIA whistleblower whose complaint led to an impeachment investigation, pressure is building on the spy agency's director, Gina Haspel, to take a stand on the matter, current and former intelligence officials tell NBC News.
"It will be incumbent on her to protect the whistleblower — and by extension, the organization — moving forward," Marc Polymeropoulos, a recently retired CIA officer who oversaw operations in Europe and Russia, said in an interview. "This is a seminal moment for her leadership, and I'm confident she will do the right thing."
So far, Haspel has been publicly silent as Trump has railed about the whistleblower, a CIA analyst, on Twitter. So has the director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire.
Read the full story here.
Bondi to wind down Qatar lobbying job to join White House as 'special government employee'
Pam Bondi, the former Florida attorney general joining the White House communications team to work on impeachment, is currently lobbying for Qatar and will be winding down that role to join the White House team.
Bondi was added in July to lobbying firm Ballard Partners’ $115,000-a-month contract with the Embassy of Qatar in Washington, according to a document filed in July with the Justice Department’s Foreign Agents Registration Act unit and reviewed by NBC News. Bondi was named “key personnel” for the contract and would be “personally and substantially engaged” in delivering services to the country, according to a consulting agreement filed with the DOJ.
Ballard Partners extended its ongoing contract with the Qatari embassy in July to provide advocacy on US-Qatari relations and guidance on combatting human trafficking. A spokesman for the Embassy of Qatar had no immediate comment.
Bondi will be leaving Ballard Partners and will stop working on all her client accounts early next week, a person familiar with her lobbying arrangement said. But she will remain with the firm until she goes to the White House, which this person estimated will not happen for a couple more weeks, adding that her background check isn’t yet complete. This person said Bondi is currently expected to only be at the White House for four months, but presumes that ultimately she might stay through the reelection campaign.
Bondi’s status at the White House will be as a “special government employee,” a senior administration official told NBC News’ Kristen Welker. That status that allows people in the private sector with particular expertise to be brought into the government part time under less-stringent ethics rules than would apply to normal federal employees, including allowing them to continue their outside work. Those rules will limit Bondi to working on government issues no more than 130 days out the year.
Former Ukraine envoy Kurt Volker was serving under this same status while continuing his outside work at a lobbying firm, NBC News reported in September.
Giuliani defends Ukraine work amid Taylor testimony
White House to add staff for impeachment response
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is bringing former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi and ex-Treasury spokesman Tony Sayegh on board to help bring structure to the White House's often chaotic response to the House impeachment inquiry.
Trump has downplayed the need for additional help on impeachment, calling any such effort necessary. “I don’t have teams, everyone is talking about teams," he said late last month. "I am the team. I did nothing wrong.”
But the White House has struggled to find a coordinated messaging response on impeachment as polls have shown a growing number of Americans supporting Trump’s impeachment. Democrats are planning the first public hearings starting next week.
Read the full story here.
FULL TRANSCRIPT: Top diplomat in Ukraine directly ties Trump to quid pro quo
President Donald Trump was adamant that his Ukrainian counterpart publicly announce investigations into a conspiracy related to the 2016 election and the family of former Vice President Joe Biden, Bill Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, told House impeachment investigators last month.
According to a transcript of Taylor’s testimony released Wednesday, it became clear that “everything” — from the release of military aid to a White House visit — was tied to the public announcement of the probes, despite Trump’s repeated insistence that there was no quid pro quo.
"That was my clear understanding, that security assistance money would not come until the president [of Ukraine] committed to pursue the investigation," Taylor told Congress.
Read more about his testimony here or check out the full transcript.
Risch: Senate Foreign Relations won't call witnesses until House finishes inquiry
Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Jim Risch, R-Idaho, responded Wednesday to questions about whether he would call former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, before his committee by referring to a letter he sent the panel's Democrats last week saying he won't hear witnesses on the Trump administration's actions related to Ukraine until the House completes its impeachment inquiry.
“Due to the ongoing House impeachment inquiry, I believe it would be more appropriate for our committee to wait on examining these matters until after the House completes its process (one way or another),” Risch’s letter said.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., told reporters Tuesday when asked about having Hunter Biden testify that Risch would have jurisdiction to do so. Graham, who chairs the Judiciary Committee, added that he hoped the Foreign Relations chairman would look into questions about Joe Biden's calls for the removal of Ukraine's prosecutor general in 2016 and his son Hunter's work for a Ukrainian gas company.
Ranking member Bob Menendez, D-N.J., and other committee Democrats sent Risch a letter earlier last month calling for hearings with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and other State Department officials about the administration's actions on Ukraine, including the circumstances of the hold on military aid and the ouster of then-Amb. Marie Yovanovitch. Pompeo was on the July 25 phone call between Trump and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy that was the focus of the whistleblower complaint at the center of the impeachment inquiry, NBC News previously reported.
ANALYSIS: The Trump chaos theory for how to beat impeachment
WASHINGTON — The Republican defense of President Donald Trump is all over the place — a situation that is both less than ideal, but perhaps good enough for the White House.
The only two points GOP lawmakers agree on right now are that they aren't ready to remove Trump from office and they think Democrats don't play fair. Otherwise, they've been unable to formulate a clear, cohesive message in support of a commander in chief facing serious consequences over the wide-ranging campaign he ran to pressure Ukraine into investigating 2020 rival Joe Biden.
Instead, and often in lieu of delving into the facts of the case, they've lined up behind one of a series of arguments for Trump staying in place. Read those arguments and the rest of the analysis here.