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Trump impeachment: Analysis and news on the House charges and Senate acquittal of the president

The Senate trial on the two articles of impeachment against Trump, abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, ended with acquittal on both charges.
Image: Impeachment live blog
Chelsea Stahl / NBC News

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's impeachment followed weeks of testimony related to his efforts to press Ukraine for investigations into Democratic rivals and hours of fiery debate over the process.

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

Download the NBC News mobile app for the latest news on the impeachment inquiry

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House Democrats have withdrawn their subpoena of former deputy national security adviser Charles Kupperman, according to a letter from the chairs of the committees leading the impeachment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 Kupperman’s flawed lawsuit would only result in delay, so we have withdrawn his subpoena."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.

Hoyer condemns GOP efforts to out whistleblower

House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) released a statement on Republican efforts to out the whistleblower: 

"Efforts by some Republican Members of Congress to 'out' the whistleblower who revealed President Trump’s abuse of power are a blatant attempt at witness intimidation.  Not only does this shamefully put the whistleblower and his or her family at physical risk, it is also a clear attempt to deter other courageous patriots from revealing abuses and unlawful behavior in this Administration.

It is becoming increasingly difficult for Republicans in Congress to defend President Trump’s attempt to coerce Ukraine into assisting his re-election campaign. That fact does not justify this dangerous effort to distract the American people from the evidence at hand.  Our laws do not permit retaliation against witnesses and anonymous tipsters in criminal cases, and we should not tolerate it in this case either. I call on federal law enforcement to look closely at the concerning statements made recently by some Republican Members of Congress and for our intelligence agencies to take all necessary steps to protect the whistleblower’s anonymity."

Rand Paul defends calling for whistleblower's unmasking

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., defended his comments about the whistleblower when speaking to reporters on Wednesday, saying he believes the whistleblower needs to answer questions about whether he or she knows if there was any conflict of interest with Hunter Biden.

NBC News pressed Paul about a tweet from whistleblower attorney Andrew Bakaj that said, "Let me be absolutely clear: @RandPaul will be personally responsible for anything harmful that happens."

Paul said, "I think attorneys are always advocates for their clients and you can’t really trust what they say. But they’re advocates for their clients. Look, I’ve been a victim of political violence twice, once at the shooting at the ballfield, and once was six of my ribs broken, so I don’t wish any harm to anyone."

Durbin asks if Ukraine call was so routine, 'why do they hide it?'

Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., told reporters Wednesday that he can’t follow the logic of the Republican response to the release of the most recent deposition transcripts, asking if the Trump-Ukraine call was so routine, “why do they hide it? Why do they have to put it in a secret server after it was disclosed?” 

"They obviously knew that something happened in that conversation that was not normal, was not acceptable, and they were doing everything they could to conceal it," he continued. "If you conceal the evidence, you obviously have guilt in mind."

Asked about Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham's remarks that he sees no evidence of a quid pro quo in the witnesses' testimony, Durbin responded, "He doesn’t want to see it. He ought to take a closer look. It’s pretty obvious. Lin’s a good lawyer and he should know better. If you don’t wanna see something, you’re not going to see it."

Meadows: Defending Trump is 'getting easier' as more officials testify

Fiona Hill's lawyer disputes Sondland's testimony

The lawyer for former top White House Russia adviser Fiona Hill is accusing Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland of making up testimony about purported conversations he and Hill had over coffee.

"Sondland has fabricated communications with Dr. Hill, none of which were over coffee," her lawyer, Lee Wolosky, wrote on Twitter. "Dr. Hill told Sondland what she told lawmakers — the lack of coordination on Ukraine was distastorous, and the circumstances of the dismissal of Amb Yovanovitch shameful.”

Wolosky confirmed to NBC News that he sent the tweet but did not provide additional information about his accusation. Sondland’s lawyer, Robert Luskin, declined to comment.

In his deposition, Sondland referred at least four times to having coffee with Hill when they overlapped in the Trump administration, including once in the White House and another time in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Sondland, in the transcript of his deposition, described Hill as being visibly emotional during a coffee he said they had at the White House when Hill was leaving the administration. He said she was “sort of shaking, she was pretty mad,” describing her as unloading her pent-up frustrations with Trump, then-national security adviser John Bolton and the administration on her way out.

Hill’s lawyer noted in his tweet that she was critical in her testimony about the way Ukraine policy was handled and the ouster of former Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, among other things. Hill’s main point of contention with Sondland appears to be not whether she criticized the administration, but whether she did so in a private coffee meeting with him.

Graham says he's 'not going to read the transcripts'

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., told reporters Wednesday that he is "not going to read these transcripts" of testimony in the impeachment inquiry, saying, "the whole process is a joke."

Kurt "Volker, the special envoy, said there was no quid pro quo," Graham said. "Sonderland has changed his testimony to say he presumes there was. What I can tell you about the Trump policy toward the Ukraine, it was incoherent, it depends on who you talk to. They seem to be incapable of forming a quid pro quo. So, no, I find the whole process to be a sham and I'm not going to legitimize it." 

In his testimony, special envoy to Ukraine Volker told House investigators that no quid pro quo was communicated to him and that he did not believe the timeline of events bore out that kind of leverage based on his understanding of when the Ukrainians became aware of the hold on military aid.

Graham, who chairs the Judiciary Committee, also said Rudy Giuliani should stop his Ukraine efforts, adding that he lent no credence to a 2016 conspiracy theory that Trump and his personal lawyer have been chasing about Ukrainian involvement in hacking Democrats' emails.

"I think we should not do this in the future," Graham said. "You know, who was the guy, Sidney Blumenthal, did this whole crap in Libya, you know, running around representing Clinton in Libya. I think that’s bad public policy. 

"I don’t know what Rudy was trying to do, if he was trying to defend Trump against allegations of, you know, working with Russia," Graham added. "There’s a theory out there that the Ukrainians hacked into the emails, not the Russians. I don’t buy that for one minute. I find no credibility to the idea it was the Ukraine who hacked into the DNC. It was the Russians, I’m convinced it was the Russians."

FLASHBACK: Bill Taylor's opening statement

Ahead of Bill Taylor's public hearing next week and the transcript of his impeachment testimony, which we're expecting later Wednesday, here's a reminder of what he said during his opening statement last month:

President Donald Trump has insisted there was no "quid pro quo" in his dealings with the Ukrainian government, and "no pressure" on Ukraine's president to open an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son.

But in his remarkable 15-page statement delivered to Congress on Tuesday, Trump's top diplomat to Ukraine painted a picture of both.

Read the six most astonishing revelations here.

Bill Taylor transcript coming today, Schiff says

Schiff announced on Wednesday that impeachment investigators would be releasing the transcript of Bill Taylor's deposition later in the day. He said what we will see from the transcript is that the GOP had equal time to ask questions. 

Donald Trump Jr. tweets name of person he says is the whistleblower

Donald Trump Jr., the president's eldest son, tweeted on Wednesday the name of a person who some conservative media outlets have alleged is the intelligence community whistleblower whose complaint triggered the House impeachment inquiry.

President Donald Trump has repeatedly attacked the unnamed whistleblower, whose right to anonymity is protected by federal law. On Oct. 14, he tweeted that the whistleblower "must testify" before Congress and that "we must determine the Whistleblower's identity to determine WHY this was done to the USA." 

In recent days, some of Trump's staunchest Republican allies have called on the media to reveal a name, and on Sunday, Trump intensified his own calls for the person to be exposed. "The whistleblower should be revealed," Trump told reporters outside the White House.  

Trump Jr. said in follow up tweets that he did not coordinate with the White House. 

NBC News is not reporting the name of the whistleblower as long as that person wishes to remain anonymous, due to security and safety concerns, and will not publish the names of anyone purportedly identified by outside parties as the whistleblower. NBC News has confirmed, however, that the person is a CIA employee who was detailed to the White House.

Mark Zaid and Andrew Bakaj, lawyers for the whistleblower, have been publicly opposing GOP pressure to reveal the identity of the whistleblower, not only because of his or her personal safety but because they insist that the person's identity is now irrelevant since the claims contained in the complaint have been corroborated by the testimony of other named witnesses in the impeachment probe. 

"Identifying any suspected name for the whistleblower will place that individual and their family at risk of serious harm. We will not confirm or deny any name that is published or promoted by supporters of the president," the attorneys said in a statement Wednesday

"We will note, however, that the publication of a name shows the desperation to deflect from the substance of the whistleblower complaint. It will not relieve the president of the need to address the substantive allegations, all of which have been substantially proven to be true," Zaid and Bakaj added.  

First public hearings in Trump impeachment inquiry to begin next week, Schiff says

Public hearings in Congress will begin next week in the impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said Wednesday.

"Next week, the House Intelligence Committee will hold its first open hearings as part of the impeachment inquiry," said Schiff, the committee's chairman. "On Wednesday, November 13, 2019, we will hear from William Taylor and George Kent. On Friday, November 15, 2019, we will hear from Marie Yovanovitch. More to come."

Read more on the open hearings here.

Mulvaney won't testify, Conway says

Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney will not give closed-door testimony Friday to House investigators, senior White House aide Kellyanne Conway told reporters Wednesday.

"I’m told no," Conway said when asked whether Mulvaney would appear. 

When asked if she is worried she will be called to testify, Conway said, “I’m not worried about that,” adding that she is unsure if she would be called.

Asked why the White House won't let officials testify, Conway said, “Why would we try to be complicit in an impeachment inquiry that we're not even sure what it’s about. What is it about? If I gave you a blank piece of paper, literally what would you write on it? What are we telling the American people right here and right now as to why we're impeaching the president?"

"Frankly, we don’t do that against anyone who’s being accused of anything," Conway added. "We don’t say, 'Come, let's book you, let’s put you on trial, and we'll figure it out as we go along if anything kind of pops. I mean this is just — that is just not the way our rule of law works."

In their request for Mulvaney's testimony, the chairmen of the committees leading the impeachment inquiry wrote that their probe has revealed he might have been "directly involved" in alleged efforts by Trump and others "to withhold a coveted White House meeting and nearly $400 million in security assistance" to pressure Ukraine to investigate the president's political rivals.

White House principal deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley said Tuesday that the administration wouldn't be inclined to allow senior advisers to participate in the inquiry.

Trump impeachment witness breaks week's no-show pattern

WASHINGTON — One witness was expected to appear Wednesday for a scheduled deposition before three House committees stemming from the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.

David Hale, the undersecretary of state for political affairs, arrived on Capitol Hill Wednesday morning to give his scheduled deposition before the House Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight committees in closed session.

Hale, a career diplomat, is likely to face questions regarding the removal of Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, who said that she was fired at the direction of President Donald Trump. Philip Reeker, another career diplomat, told investigators at a previous hearing that Hale had stopped the publication of a statement in support of Yovanovitch.

Read the full story here.

Democrats zero in on three witnesses for public hearings

In preparing the next phase in their impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump, Democrats have identified three witnesses as the strongest candidates for public hearings, NBC News has learned.

In the next few weeks, Democrats hope to feature the testimonies of former Ukraine Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, the nation's current senior diplomat in Ukraine Bill Taylor and Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, according to three sources with knowledge of the deliberations.

The sources stressed the ability of Taylor and Vindman give a firsthand accounts of their understanding that aid to Ukraine was tied to the country's revival of investigations that would serve the president's personal political interests. 

Trump official set for questions on Ukraine ambassador removal

David Hale, under secretary of state for political affairs, is due to appear at a closed door hearing Wednesday and is likely to face questions on the removal of Amb. Marie “Masha” Yovanovich, who has said she was fired by the direction of President Donald Trump

Career diplomat Phillip Reeker told investigators at a previous hearing that Hale had stopped the publication of a statement in support of Yovanovich.

Vindman will testify, if asked

A source familiar with the matter tells NBC News that Vindman will testify publicly in the impeachment inquiry, if asked. This source says he has not yet been asked.

Vindman will return to Capitol Hill on Thursday to review the transcript of his testimony, according to the source familiar.

Updated Friday impeachment inquiry deposition schedule

From an official working on the impeachment inquiry:

The following witnesses are expected to testify in closed session on Friday, Nov. 8:

— Acting White House Chief of Staff John Michael “Mick” Mulvaney

— OMB Associate Director for National Security Programs Mark Sandy

The Committees are in ongoing discussions with other witnesses and we look forward to their testimony.

Two Trump officials expected to show up for impeachment interviews

There is a good chance that David Hale, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, shows up tomorrow for his closed-door deposition with House impeachment investigators, according to two sources familiar.

Jennifer Williams, a foreign policy aide to Mike Pence, is also expected to show up for her scheduled deposition on Thursday, according to two sources familiar. 

'Talk to Rudy': Impeachment transcripts detail Giuliani's outsized influence in Ukraine policy

Rudy Giuliani was mentioned more than 430 times during House impeachment investigators' interviews with two key U.S. diplomats, transcripts released on Tuesday show, underscoring the former New York mayor's outsized role in U.S.-Ukraine policy.

More than anyone else, Giuliani shaped Trump's view of Ukraine and caused headaches for top State Department officials, as Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union and Kurt Volker, then the U.S. special representative for Ukraine, detailed in their testimonies last month.

Here are some of the most noteworthy references to Giuliani in those documents.

Impeachment faces first big test in Kentucky governor's election

Graham unconcerned about new transcripts: 'We got some guy presuming something'

Judiciary Chairman Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) spoke to NBC and CNN following the Sondland and Volker transcripts being released. On the transcripts, Graham said he hasn’t read the deposition but “bottom line, Mueller meant something to me, I'm not impressed with this whole line of impeachment,” adding “I'm not going to entertain impeaching the President over this matter, period. Done.” Graham also referred to Sondland as “some guy presuming something.” When asked if he will call Hunter Biden to testify, Graham says it doesn’t fall under his jurisdiction but he hopes Senator Risch (R-ID), Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, will look at it.

Separately, NBC asked Graham if Giuliani will come in and testify before his committee, to which Graham said “I don’t think he’s coming,” adding that he spoke to him again and Giuliani “never got back” to him on that.

White House signals it won't comply with House request for Mulvaney deposition

When asked if Mulvaney would comply with the request by House Democrats to testify, Hogan Gidley released the following statement to NBC News:

"Past Democrat and Republican Administrations would not be inclined to permit Senior Advisers to the President to participate in such a ridiculous, partisan, illegitimate proceeding – and  neither is this one."

McConnell says Trump impeachment trial 'would not lead to a removal' if held today

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell threw cold water on the impeachment process Tuesday, telling reporters that if a hypothetical Senate trial were held today, the upper chamber would not vote to convict President Donald Trump.

"I will say, I'm pretty sure how it's likely to end: If it were today I don't think there's any question it would not lead to a removal," the Kentucky Republican said. "So the question is how long does the Senate want to take? How long do the presidential candidates want to be here on the floor of the Senate instead of in Iowa and New Hampshire?" (Six senators, who would serve as jurors, are running in the Democratic presidential primary.)

"And all of these other related issues that may be going on at the same time, it's very difficult to ascertain how long this takes," McConnell added. "I'd be surprised if it didn't end the way the two previous ones did with the president not being removed from office."

The Inquiry: Sondland confirms quid pro quo in testimony

White House reaction to Sondland, Volker transcripts

From White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham:

"Both transcripts released today show there is even less evidence for this illegitimate impeachment sham than previously thought.  Ambassador Sondland squarely states that he 'did not know, (and still does not know) when, why or by whom the aid was suspended.' He also said he 'presumed' there was a link to the aid—but cannot identify any solid source for that assumption. By contrast, Volker’s testimony confirms there could not have been a quid pro quo because the Ukrainians did not know about the military aid hold at the time. No amount of salacious media-biased headlines, which are clearly designed to influence the narrative, change the fact that the President has done nothing wrong."

Meadows brushes off Sondland testimony

North Carolina Rep. Mark Meadows, one of Trump's most vocal Republican supporters in the House, brushed off concerns about Sondland's testimony.

"It’s interesting that from your vantage point you’re wanting to focus on Ambassador Sondland instead of on Volker, who was the Ukrainian envoy who actually talked to the Ukrainians who actually had the responsibility when you talk to him," he said.

Sondland changes testimony, acknowledges delivering quid pro quo message to Ukraine

U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland told House impeachment investigators this week that he now remembers telling a top aide to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy that Ukraine would not receive U.S. military assistance until it committed to investigating the 2016 election and former Vice President Joe Biden, according to a person with knowledge of Sondland's testimony.

Sondland's latest testimony represents an update to depositions he gave in October to the three House committees leading the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump. Sondland said that by the beginning of September, he “presumed that the aid suspension had become linked to the proposed anti-corruption statement.”

Sondland also said he now remembered a Sept. 1 conversation with Andriy Yermak, a top Zelenskiy adviser, in Warsaw in which he told Yermak that “the resumption of U.S. aid would likely not occur until Ukraine provided the public anti-corruption statement that we had been discussing for many weeks.”

Read the full story here.

Impeachment investigators seek testimony from Mulvaney

House impeachment investigators want to depose acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney on Friday, Nov. 8.

In a letter sent to Mulvaney Tuesday requesting his testimony, the three committee chairmen wrote that they believe he has "substantial first-hand knowledge and information relevant to the House’s impeachment inquiry."

"Specifically, the investigation has revealed that you may have been directly involved in an effort orchestrated by President Trump, his personal agent, Rudolph Giuliani, and others to withhold a coveted White House meeting and nearly $400 million in security assistance in order to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to pursue investigations that would benefit President Trump’s personal political interests, and jeopardized our national security in attempting to do so," the chairmen continued. 

The White House previously made it clear it does not intend to comply with the inquiry.

 

GOP senators disagree with Rand Paul's call for outing whistleblower

Some of Sen. Rand Paul's Republican colleagues say they disagree with his call for the media to reveal the identity of the whistleblower whose complaint sparked the House impeachment inquiry.

“I believe in personal privacy, particularly as it relates to a whistleblower, and think that would be most unfortunate,” Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, told reporters Tuesday when asked about the Kentucky Republican's remarks.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, also said she disagreed with Paul's comments.

“Whistleblowers are entitled to protection under the law," Collins said. "The intelligence community whistleblowers play a very important role, and to try to reveal the name of this individual to me is contrary to the intent of the whistleblower law.

“Now, I do think the whistleblowers should be answering questions, and it’s my understanding that he has agreed to do so if they’re submitted to him even by Republican members, and I would say especially by Republican members," Collins continued, adding, "If there’s information about him that casts doubt over the veracity of what he’s saying, that’s fair game, but I do not support revealing his identity.”

Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., said that while he understands why his Republican colleagues are suspicious of the secrecy surrounding the House Democrats' handling of the inquiry, "I think the whistleblower statute is there for a reason, and I think we need to respect the law where whistleblowers are concerned."

"But I just think part of it is the atmosphere around this that the Democrats in the House have created just makes all of this very suspect because of the secrecy of it, and I think the more transparent the process is the better off everyone is," Thune added. "And that’s why ... some of our colleagues are saying the whistleblower, we need to be more transparent, need more information, and a person ought to be able to face his accusers."

Paul called for the media to out the whistleblower in an appearance at President Donald Trump's campaign rally in Lexington, Kentucky, on Monday night, saying, "I say tonight to the media, do your job and print his name."

Whistleblower Protections Caucus co-chairs denounce effort to unmask whistleblower

After Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) called on the media and fellow members of Congress to reveal the whistleblower’s name at Monday night's Trump rally, NBC News reached out to the co-chairs of the Senate Whistleblower Protection Caucus for their reaction.

Sen. Wyden (D-Ore.) told NBC News on Tuesday, "I’m co-chair of the Whistleblower Caucus and I believe publicly outing a whistleblower will forever keep others from speaking truth to power. If you are serious about protecting whistleblowers you must do it regardless of who is president."

A spokesman for Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) says the senator "didn’t watch the rally," adding that Grassley’s comments yesterday before the rally "pretty much covered it."

Grassley had told reporters earlier on Monday that it’s "strictly up to the whistleblower" to decide whether or not to come forward. 

Raskin: Yovanovitch was 'set up for a comprehensive smear campaign'

Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., a member of the Judiciary and Oversight committees, alleged in a CNN interview Tuesday that former Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch "was basically set up for a comprehensive smear campaign by Rudy Giuliani and his henchmen" and "she was told by lots of people this was happening to her."

Discussing his takeaways from the depositions of Yovanovitch and former Pompeo aide Michael McKinley, Raskin added that McKinley "tried to get Secretary of State Pompeo to speak out on behalf of Ambassador Yovanovitch, and he refused to do it." McKinley "testified that he could not believe that there was this, you know, campaign of smears and lies against her, and the State Department would not stand up for her. And he said basically he ended up resigning in protest, saying that he had never seen anything like this in 37 years in his service in the State Department."

Yovanovitch's ouster "sets the stage for is all of the financial and political  schemes that the president was executing along with Giuliani and his henchmen," Raskin alleged.

"So the president has tried to say, 'Well, this is just about one phone call, and it was a perfect phone call,' Raskin said. 'It was a perfectly unlawful phone call, but it's not just about a phone call. It's about a whole campaign to run a — not a parallel shadow foreign policy, but a perpendicular foreign policy, was working across purposes with Ambassador Yovanovitch, who was leading a campaign against corruption in Ukraine. And in fact, it was the president's deputies who were reviving corruption and trying to exploit the traditional corruption that took place in that country."

Asked about Sen. Rand Paul's demand that the identity of the whistleblower be revealed, Raskin said attempts "to demonize and vilify the whistleblower is a scapegoating tactic that, again, is a distraction from the merits of the case."

"And you'll notice the president's defenders are doing everything they can to distract people from what actually happened there because there's almost complete agreement on it," he said. "Nobody is telling any story other than the president organized this shakedown against the Ukrainian government and then tried to cover it up afterwards."

OPINION: Trump and Giuliani's impeachment defense pushes America closer to a 'mafia state'

Neither President Donald Trump nor his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani deny the underlying facts of the allegations at the heart of the impeachment inquiry. This seems like a relatively crazy thing to do, given that Democrats are out for blood — but they really have no choice given how much is already public. So instead of denying the facts, Trump’s defense appears to be: Yes, we did it, but there was nothing wrong with it.

The “there was nothing wrong with it” defense does triple duty: It gives Trump’s surrogates something to argue, it muddies the water and confuses people with its sheer audacity, and — most important — it pushes the United States one step closer to becoming what the Hungarian scholar Bálint Magyar calls a “mafia state” to describe the kind of autocracies we see springing up in the former Soviet Union.

We’ve been talking about Trump and Giuliani running a “shadow” foreign policy alongside (and often in conflict with) the official State Department foreign policy. But Masha Gessen, relying on Magyar's work, explains that we are “using the wrong language” to describe what Giuliani was doing in Ukraine. A president, who is the chief foreign policy official in the nation, cannot, by definition, run a shadow foreign policy. What the president can do, however, is destroy the institutions that traditionally conduct foreign policy, in this case, the State Department, staffed by career diplomats.

Read the full opinion piece here.

OPINION: Why White House lawyers might not be covering for Trump after all

Four witnesses who were scheduled to testify Monday in closed-door depositions before the House Intelligence Committee didn't show up, a move which has intensified claims from Democrats that the White House is trying to cover up the truth relating to President Donald Trump’s now-infamous phone call with the Ukrainian president.

One of those four is a deputy White House counsel named John Eisenberg who currently serves as the legal adviser to the National Security Council. John and I overlapped briefly at the Justice Department and I know him slightly — enough to have a favorable opinion of him, for what it is worth.

When Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman — a member of the National Security Council staff who overheard a troubling phone call between Trump and the president of Ukraine — properly reported his concerns to Eisenberg, Eisenberg reportedly told Vindman not to discuss that phone call with anyone else. 

Now, I think there are at least two plausible explanations for Eisenberg’s advice to Vindman to remain silent. One plausible explanation — and it seems to be where some of the commentary has drifted — is nefarious. By telling Vindman not to speak further about a troubling conversation that he overheard, Eisenberg could be attempting to cover up the president’s misconduct.

But there is a second explanation for Eisenberg’s advice to Vindman that is also plausible, and that also makes sense to me — and that is not nefarious. When a good lawyer learns of potential misconduct (and Eisenberg is, by all accounts, a good lawyer), that lawyer has an obligation to gather the facts and recommend a course of action to his boss (here, the White House counsel) and to his client (here, the Office of the President). Eisenberg, unlike Rudy Giuliani, does not serve Trump personally in his capacity as counsel — an important distinction.

Read the full opinion piece here.

How worried should a Trump-district Democrat be about impeachment?

MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. — All politics is local. It’s a maxim that first-term Rep. Joe Cunningham, D-S.C., is betting on as he simultaneously gears up for one of the most competitive congressional races in the country — and braces for the House impeachment inquiry to take center stage in Washington.

Cunningham, 37, a former ocean engineer and Charleston-based lawyer who won his seat in 2018 by emphasizing local issues, is one of the dwindling number of House Democrats who have remained openly skeptical about impeaching President Donald Trump.

Although he voted in favor of a House resolution last week that laid out the ground rules for proceeding with the impeachment inquiry, Cunningham cautioned that no one should conflate his vote with support for removing Trump from office. But national Republicans are wagering that the House inquiry, which is likely to force Cunningham to cast a public “yes” or “no” vote on whether to impeach Trump, could cost him his re-election.

Read the full story here.

Volker and Sondland deposition transcripts to be released

The investigative committees are expected to release the deposition transcripts of former special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker and Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland on Tuesday, House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said.

The move comes a day after House Democrats released the testimony of ousted Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch and Michael McKinley, a former aid to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, as the probe moves to a more public phase.

Also on Tuesday, two more officials — National Security Council adviser Wells Griffith and Office of Management and Budget official Michael Duffey — are scheduled to give depositions, although at least one of them — Duffey — is not expected to appear.

Read the full story here.

Article II - The First Transcripts

Today, the House released transcripts from two witness depositions, officially moving the impeachment inquiry into a public phase. Steve Kornacki caught up with Geoff Bennett, White House Correspondent for NBC News, to talk about the full testimony of Marie Yovanovitch, former Ambassador to Ukraine, and Senior Adviser to the Secretary of State, Michael McKinley. 

The two discuss:

  • What the full testimony reveals, including Yovanovitch’s accounting of how she learned of the campaign to oust her and details around McKinley’s decision to resign from the State Department
  • Why House Democrats chose to release the transcripts now
  • How the release of the transcripts affects the timeline of the impeachment inquiry – and what to expect later this week

Listen to the full episode here.

Indicted Giuliani pal willing to comply with impeachment inquiry, his lawyer says

Rudy Giuliani associate who was indicted last month for making illegal campaign contributions is willing to provide documents and testimony to House impeachment investigators, his lawyer confirmed to NBC News.

Lev Parnas' lawyer Joseph A. Bondy said, "We will honor and not avoid the committee’s requests to the extent they are legally proper, while scrupulously protecting Mr. Parnas' privileges including that of the Fifth Amendment."

Parnas was originally asked to testify before Congress last month, a request he ignored. He was arrested at the airport on the day he was supposed to be deposed with a one-way ticket to Vienna.

Read more here.

Will John Bolton testify?

Former Trump national security adviser John Bolton is willing to cooperate with the impeachment inquiry, a source familiar tells NBC News, but only under certain conditions. This source tells NBC News that Bolton would be willing to testify publicly under subpoena if the courts direct his longtime associate Charles Kupperman to cooperate with the probe.

Kupperman, who served as Bolton’s deputy, filed a lawsuit asking a federal judge to resolve conflicting orders from Congress and the White House, which had ordered him not to appear. Bolton and Kupperman share an attorney.

Oral arguments in the Kupperman case are slated to begin on Dec. 10, a date that would delay the House inquiry.  Schiff today told reporters he’s prepared to move forward without Bolton’s testimony.

"We are not going to delay our work,” Schiff said. "That would merely allow these witnesses and the White House to succeed with their goal, which is to delay, deny, obstruct."

 

More impeachment no-shows expected this week

As Democrats wrap up the private fact-finding portion of their impeachment inquiry, NBC News has learned that most of the witnesses scheduled for closed-door testimony the remainder of this week are not expected to appear as requested.

The following is according to sources familiar and subject to change:

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

  • NOT CONFIRMED: Wells Griffith, NSC Senior Director for International Energy and Environment
  • NOT EXPECTED TO APPEAR: Michael Duffey, OMB Associate Director for National Security Programs | 9:30AM

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

  • NOT EXPECTED TO APPEAR: T. Ulrich Brechbuhl, Department of State Counselor | 9:30AM
  • NOT EXPECTED TO APPEAR: Russell Vought, OMB Acting Director | 9:30AM
  • NOT EXPECTED TO APPEAR: Rick Perry, Energy Secretary
  • NOT CONFIRMED: David Hale, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs

Thursday, November 7, 2019

  • NOT EXPECTED TO APPEAR: John Bolton, Former National Security Adviser | 9:30AM

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff told reporters today that rather than seeking recourse in the courts, further defiance of congressional subpoenas by administration officials "will only add to the body of evidence on a potential obstruction of Congress charge against the president."

Ousted Ukraine ambassador Yovanovitch says she was told to tweet praise of Trump to save her job

Marie Yovanovitch, the ousted U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, told House impeachment investigators last month that U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland told her she should tweet out support or praise for President Donald Trump if she wanted to save her job, according to a transcript of her testimony made public Monday.

The three House committees leading the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump released two transcripts of the behind-closed-doors interviews they have so far conducted as part of their investigation, as the probe moves to a more public phase.

Read more of Yovanovitch's interview here.

Impeachment haunts the campaign trail as candidates compete against the bigger story

DECORAH, Iowa — Impeachment is rolling into the 2020 presidential primary like a winter storm, threatening to blot out the sun for candidates desperate for attention and sweep several leading candidates off the trail entirely just before the Iowa caucuses early next year.

And there's not a thing the Democratic contenders can do about it.

"You know, a lot of politics is about the illusion of control, when really we're all subject to the winds of history that are blowing around," Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, said in response to questions from NBC News aboard his campaign bus.

While the timing of the Democrats' impeachment effort in Washington remains unclear, the House hopes to finish its investigation into President Donald Trump by the end of the year, which could mean that a Senate trial would likely begin in early January — just weeks before Iowa's critical first-in-the-nation caucuses on Feb. 3. A potential trial of Trump is an enormous election wild card that everyone agrees will disrupt the race, even if they don't know exactly how.

Read the full story here.

Amid impeachment drive, the pro-Trump search for dirt on Ukraine and the Bidens goes on

KYIV, Ukraine — While Congress heard closed-door testimony last week about President Donald Trump pushing Ukraine to investigate his opponents, Rudy Giuliani was holding his own private Ukraine meeting in his Manhattan office.

Giuliani, the Trump personal lawyer at the center of the firestorm as Trump faces likely impeachment, met with former Ukrainian diplomat Andriy Telizhenko, who alleges that Ukraine's government conspired with the Democratic National Committee to hurt Trump in 2016.

Far from keeping their heads down, those working in common cause with the president's and Giuliani's campaign to get Ukraine to investigate Trump's political opponents are moving ahead unabated, interviews in Kyiv and Washington with several of those involved reveal.

Read more about the search for Ukraine dirt.

Trump wants whistleblower to do what he wouldn't: Answer questions in person

President Donald Trump said Monday that written answers from the whistleblower to Congress would be unacceptable — although such answers were fine for the president when dealing with former special counsel Robert Mueller.

"The Whistleblower gave false information & dealt with corrupt politician Schiff," Trump tweeted. "He must be brought forward to testify. Written answers not acceptable! Where is the 2nd Whistleblower? He disappeared after I released the transcript. Does he even exist? Where is the informant? Con!"

Trump was responding to news that Mark Zaid, the attorney for both known whistleblowers who came forward with concerns about Trump's conduct toward Ukraine, said the first whistleblower offered to provide written answers to House investigators to protect his or her identity. Zaid told NBC News on Sunday that he had not yet received a substantive response from House Intelligence Committee Republicans about his offer.

Read more here.

Monday's witnesses not expected to show up for testimony

None of the four witnesses scheduled for closed-door testimony Monday in the impeachment inquiry are expected to appear, sources familiar with the matter told NBC News.

The include senior National Security Counsel legal adviser John Eisenberg  and his deputy, Michael Ellis, top White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney aide Robert Blair, and Energy Secretary Rick Perry's former chief of staff Brian McCormack, who is now an Office of Management and Budget official.

On Sunday night, the House Intelligence Committee issued subpoenas for testimony from Blair and Ellis, according to an official working on the impeachment inquiry. House Democrats have previously said they will forgo court battles with defiant witnesses and instead consider the stonewalling as grounds for a separate article of impeachment on obstruction of Congress.

Read the full story here.

Rep. Cole defends Trump: 'If there was a quid pro quo, it certainly wasn't a very effective one'

Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., defended Trump's conduct towards Ukraine by saying that "if there was a quid pro quo, it certainly wasn't a very effective one."

"Concern is different than rising to the level of impeachment," Cole told NBC's "Meet the Press" when host Chuck Todd asked about allegations Trump tied Ukraine aid to an investigation of the Biden family. "I look at it this way: The aid is there and the investigations didn't happen. So, if there was a quid pro quo, it certainly wasn't a very effective one."

Read the rest here.

NBC/WSJ poll: 49 percent now back Trump's impeachment and removal

Exactly one year out from the 2020 general election, a majority of all Americans — or close to it — support impeaching President Donald Trump and removing him from office, disapprove of his job performance and back his top Democratic rivals in head-to-head matchups.

Those are the findings from the latest national NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, which was conducted amid the House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry against the president, after Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria, and after the military raid that killed the leader of ISIS.

In the poll, 53 percent of Americans say they approve of the impeachment inquiry regarding Trump’s actions with Ukraine’s president, while 44 percent disapprove.

The results largely break along partisan lines, with 89 percent of Democrats and 58 percent of independents supporting the inquiry — versus just 9 percent of Republicans who agree.

Then asked if Trump should be impeached and removed from office, 49 percent answer yes, while 46 percent say no.

Read more poll results here.

Trump threatens to expose information about Vindman

Kellyanne Conway says she doesn't know if Ukraine aid was held up over Biden probe

White House counselor Kellyanne Conway said Sunday that she doesn't know whether President Donald Trump held up aid to Ukraine in order to pressure the country's new leadership to probe former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, though she said all that matters is "they've got their aid."

"It's not impeachable," Conway told CNN's "State of the Union" of Trump's conduct toward Ukraine. "And that's where we are now."

"And Dana, let's be fair, Ukraine got the aid," she told CNN's Dana Bash. "As you and I sit here, one presumes they're using that aid. The Ukrainian president said he felt no pressure. He never knew aid was being held up."

Read more here.

Dem Rep. says impeachment transcripts likely coming 'within the next five days'

Leading Democrats said Sunday that the public can soon expect the release of full transcripts of witness testimony in the House impeachment probe, as well as the launch of open, televised hearings.

"I think you're going to see all of the transcripts that are going to be released probably within the next five days," Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., told CBS's "Face the Nation." "I don't know if they're all going to be released on the same day, but they're going to be very telling to the American people."

Read more here.

Friday's impeachment news roundup

In case you're just catching up on Friday's impeachment news, here's some of what you missed:

  • A day after the House adopted procedures for the impeachment inquiry, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said President Donald is prepared to be impeached. Grisham also said Trump might hold a "fireside chat" in which he would read a transcript of the July 25 Trump-Ukraine call, and suggested the White House could cooperate with the inquiry "if things are actually open and transparent."
  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she expects the House to begin public hearings this month — the most specific she has been about when lawmakers would have the chance to question witnesses in open session. Pelosi also made clear that Democrats have not yet decided whether they will actually impeach the president.
  • Meanwhile, Trump is road-testing a new message on impeachment while the House lines up more witness depositions for next week.

Witness testimony and public hearings: What comes next?

Grisham: 'We are prepared for impeachment to happen'

White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham told Fox News on Friday that President Donald Trump is prepared to be impeached by the House.

"I mean, we are still obviously hopeful that everybody will come to their senses and realize that the president did nothing wrong," Grisham said. "But we are prepared for an impeachment to happen, yes."

Grisham said when asked about Trump's feelings about the prospect that the president has expressed his thoughts on Twitter, adding that the impeachment inquiry "has been unjust and unfair."

"We released that transcript weeks ago for everybody to see," Grisham said, referring to the White House's detailed notes of the July 25 phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, a central focus of the whistleblower complaint that gave rise to the inquiry. "There was no quid pro quo. The Ukrainian government themselves has said they felt absolutely no pressure. Aid was eventually released to the Ukraine. This all stemmed from the president being responsible and not wanting to release money to a country that was known for corruption."

Asked if Trump would hold a televised "fireside chat" and read a transcript of the phone call, as he told the Washington Examiner, Grisham said, "I don't know what the logistics of it would look like just yet," adding when pressed, "I don't have any timing there."

Grisham also suggested the White House might cooperate with the inquiry, but only if the process is transparent.

"If things are actually open and transparent, as purported, I would imagine that we would participate," Grisham said. "But again, if they're going to have different rules and move the goalposts all the time, then that's just not a  fair process. In the United States, you are innocent until proven guilty. Right now, the president is being told he that he's guilty by the Democrats and we're having to prove innocence without knowing any information. That's not okay."

President Trump is out on the road testing a new message

Pelosi sheds a little more light on timeline for public hearings

WASHINGTON — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Friday that she expects the House to begin public hearings in the impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump this month. 

“I would assume there would be public hearings in November,” she told reporters and editors during a roundtable held at Bloomberg News in New York. 

This was the most specific Pelosi has been in terms of when lawmakers would have the chance to question witnesses in open session. Speaking in a separate interview Thursday on "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert," Pelosi was vague and said that the public hearings would take place "soon."

In the interview with Bloomberg, Pelosi made clear that Democrats have not yet decided whether they will actually impeach the president. According to Bloomberg, she also didn't rule out the possibility that the inquiry would spill into 2020, a presidential election year.

“I don't know what the timetable will be — the truth will set us free,” she said. “We have not made any decisions on if the president will be impeached.”

Pelosi's remarks come a day after the House took an historic vote to reaffirm the ongoing inquiry and set guidelines and rules for the next steps in the investigation. 

The House will be on recess next week but closed-door depositions are expected to continue with a number of additional witnesses scheduled to come in. Some witnesses, however, may not show up because of White House efforts to block their testimony. 

What's next in the Trump impeachment inquiry, Friday edition

There are no depositions scheduled today.

Looking ahead to next week, Monday could be busy. Four administration officials are scheduled for depositions, though it's not clear that they will all appear as requested. Those officials are:

  • John Eisenberg, National Security Council legal adviser
  • Michael Ellis, deputy National Security Council legal adviser
  • Robert Blair, senior adviser to acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney
  • Brian McCormack, associate director for natural resources, energy and science in the Office of Management and Budget

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Former White House aide testifies of Ukraine call concerns, possible quid pro quo

WASHINGTON — Former Trump administration official Tim Morrison told congressional investigators Thursday that he had been concerned the July 25 phone conversation between President Donald Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy would have a negative impact on both politics and policy if it were to become public, according to two sources familiar with his testimony.

The former top National Security Council adviser on Russia and Europe — who was on that call, and told investigators Thursday he thought there was "nothing illegal" about the conversation, including the president’s request that Ukraine open an investigation into former vice president and 2020 rival Joe Biden — said that he was aware that the discussion, if it were ever widely known, could spark political controversy in Washington and have an adverse effect on U.S.-Ukrainian relations, according to a review of his opening statement.

And he said his own conversation several weeks after the president's July 25 call with Sondland, a Trump backer, had given him reason to believe that the release of security assistance to Ukraine might be conditioned on a public statement from Ukraine that it was reopening the Burisma probe.

Read more on Morrison's testimony here.

Rep. who missed vote voices his support

Rep. Donald McEachin, D-Va., who missed Thursday's vote on the impeachment procedures resolution while recuperating from surgery, said in a statement Thursday that he "strongly supports" the measure as a "necessary step" that will ensure transparency and due process.

"Our constituents deserve to hear the many ways the president has betrayed our country and put our national security at risk for his own gain," McEachin said in the statement. "With this vote, we are ensuring transparency, effective public hearings, and due process protections for the president or his counsel.

"While I deeply regret we have come to this, I stand with my colleagues in support of today’s resolution," he continued. "We must hold the president accountable for his misconduct — it is our Constitutional obligation. No one is above the law.”

Analysis: Nasty House floor fight sets baseline for Trump impeachment

WASHINGTON — For only the fourth time in its history, the House voted Thursday to initiate impeachment against a president of the United States.

As a technical matter, the resolution was a dry set of rules for the public phase of the investigation. But on a political level, the floor fight over it was nasty, brutish and relatively short — just over an hour — ending in a nearly perfectly party-line vote. 

The contours of Thursday's debate, and the vote totals on each side, set a baseline from which the two parties will battle over the coming weeks. Democrats now know they still have work to do to force Republicans to cross the aisle by applying public pressure. Republicans, meanwhile, know that most politically vulnerable Democrats are unafraid of the consequences of pursuing impeachment.

Read the full story here.

2 Democratic defectors join GOP in voting against Trump impeachment resolution

Two Democratic congressmen on Thursday broke with their party to vote against the House resolution formalizing the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, a move that ushers in a new and public phase of the investigation.

Here are the two Democrats who defected:

Rep. Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey

Van Drew, a freshman member who is up for reelection next year, has consistently opposed impeachment. "Let the people choose," he told NBC News Thursday ahead of his "no" vote. Afterward, he released a statement detailing why.

"Without bipartisan support I believe this inquiry will further divide the country tearing it apart at the seams and will ultimately fail in the Senate. However, now that the vote has taken place and we are moving forward I will be making a judgment call based on all the evidence presented by these investigations," he said. "My hope is that we are still able to get some work done to help the American people like infrastructure, veteran’s benefits, environmental protections, immigration reform, reducing prescription drug cost, and strengthening Social Security."

Rep. Collin Peterson of Minnesota

Peterson, described as a centrist, represents a rural district that Trump won in 2016 by 30 points — the most Trump-friendly district in the country that also elected a Democratic congressman.

After his "no" vote, Peterson said in a statement that the process "continues to be hopelessly partisan."

"I have some serious concerns with the way the closed-door depositions were run, and am skeptical that we will have a process that is open, transparent and fair. Without support from Senate Republicans, going down this path is a mistake," Peterson said. "Today's vote is both unnecessary, and widely misrepresented in the media and by Republicans as a vote on impeachment. I will not make a decision on impeachment until all the facts have been presented."

Read more about the lone Democratic impeachment defectors here.

House Republicans make it clear they feel Trump has done nothing wrong

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., talking to reporters at the GOP House leadership press conference, was asked by a reporter if he would say Trump has done nothing wrong.

“A very clear yes,” he responded. The cadre of House GOP leaders standing behind him yelled in affirmation as McCarthy responded.

Responding to a subsequent question, McCarthy claimed Republicans in Congress will vote on impeachment — if and when articles are formally introduced — "based on the facts."

"Show us the truth. We always vote based on the facts," he said.

Schiff: 'The Founders provided the remedy' for when a president abuses power

Speaking at a House Democrats press conference Thursday, House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said the founding fathers "provided the remedy" for a president who "refuses to defend the Constitution" and pursues his or her own personal or political agenda.

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., said Democrats are going to zero in on the substance of the allegations facing Trump regarding his conduct toward Ukraine.

Rep. Jim Jordan: Americans 'will not tolerate this'

Republican House leaders, speaking at their post-vote press conference, continued their criticism of House Democrats, accusing their rival party’s leaders of going against the wishes of the American people

“The American people see this for what it is,” Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, the ranking Republican on the House Oversight and Reform Committee, said. “They will not tolerate this.”

Rep. Michael McCaul, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, claimed the Democrats’ procedural approach to the impeachment inquiry “defies historic precedent.”

GOP House leaders rip Pelosi, Democrats over vote

House GOP leaders lambasted House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., in their post-vote press conference.

Minority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., ripped Pelosi for being “infatuated with impeachment,” while Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., the chair of the House Republican Conference, accused her of prioritizing the impeachment inquiry over working on other items.

There is a “long list” of “things not getting done here” because of the “Democrats obsessions with impeachment,” she said.

Republicans might say she opted for 'trick'

Grassley says House resolution is 'a day late and a dollar short'

Iowa GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley said the House's impeachment resolution is "a day late and a dollar short."

"This entire process has been contaminated from the beginning and the Senate may have a difficult time taking seriously an impeachment founded on these bases," he said in a statement.

Here's his full statement:

"House Democrats announced the opening of impeachment proceedings more than a month ago. So far, this process has been defined by its secrecy, lack of due process and fundamental unfairness. This vote is an implicit admission by House Democrats of exactly that. It’s a day late and a dollar short.

"Democrats’ impeachment proceedings are rooted in animus, a lack of rights for the accused, no transparency and anger at the 2016 election results. Even with this long-overdue resolution, House Democrats are still denying House Republicans the unrestricted right to call their own witnesses, to rebut Democratic witnesses and to have the same right to subpoena witnesses that the Democrats have granted themselves. And the president’s counsel still doesn’t have the right to be present and ask questions of witnesses before the Intelligence Committee, which has been given the role the Judiciary Committee has played in the past. This all stands in stark contrast to previous impeachment proceedings.

"As a result, this will continue to be a purely partisan and political process – a continuation of Democrats’ impeachment obsession that began before President Trump was even inaugurated. This entire process has been contaminated from the beginning and the Senate may have a difficult time taking seriously an impeachment founded on these bases."

Chaos erupts after vote

Appearing to object to the vote on the resolution that had just concluded, Republicans began yelling “point of order," shouting over the Democrat who was presiding in protest of the resolution, whose rules they have strongly rejected. It was a brief chaotic scene on the House floor following a historic vote.

'Unfair, unconstitutional, and fundamentally un-American': White House blasts House resolution

The White House, in a scathing statement, called the House vote Thursday "unfair, unconstitutional and fundamentally un-American."

"The President has done nothing wrong, and the Democrats know it," White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said. "Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats’ unhinged obsession with this illegitimate impeachment proceeding does not hurt President Trump; it hurts the American people. The Democrats are choosing every day to waste time on a sham impeachment — a blatantly partisan attempt to destroy the President."

The statement added that Democrats have "done nothing more than enshrine unacceptable violations of due process into House rules" and accused them of wanting "to render a verdict without giving the Administration a chance to mount a defense."

Trump put it more succinctly: "The Greatest Witch Hunt in American history!" he tweeted moments after the vote concluded.

House approves Trump impeachment procedures over GOP objections

The House passed a resolution on Thursday approving procedures for its impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump, opening a new and public phase of the investigation.

The vote, 232 to 196, was largely along party lines and Republicans objected, alleging that the Democratic inquiry is a farce that has been improperly conducted behind closed doors. House Democrats are now expected to begin holding public hearings in the next few weeks to present testimony against Trump.

Image: U.S. House of Representatives votes on resolution in impeachment inquiry of U.S. President Trump on Capitol Hill in Washington
The U.S. House of Representatives cast their votes on a resolution that sets up the next steps in the impeachment inquiry of U.S. President Donald Trump on Capitol Hill on Oct. 31, 2019.Tom Brenner / Reuters

Nancy Pelosi presided over the vote — a rare move for a speaker of the House.

Image: U.S. House of Representatives votes on resolution in impeachment inquiry of U.S. President Trump on Capitol Hill in Washington
Nancy Pelosi wields the gavel as she presides over the U.S. House of Representatives vote on a resolution that sets up the next steps in the impeachment inquiry of U.S. President Donald Trump on Capitol Hill on Oct. 31, 2019.Tom Brenner / Reuters

Amash calls on GOP not to excuse Trump's 'misbehavior'

Details from the floor

Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib, an early supporter of impeachment, gave a side-hug to Pelosi as the House prepared to vote on the impeachment resolution. Pelosi had been mingling with other Democrats on the floor, including House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler.

Also present in the gallery was a crowd of tourists watching the vote.

House conducting procedural vote. The vote on the resolution is next.

The House is currently conducting a procedural vote. It will last about 20 minutes and is not the vote on whether to adopt the impeachment resolution that sets up the public phase of the inquiry.

That vote will occur after this vote has concluded and will last about five minutes.

Trump lashes out as House inches toward impeachment resolution vote

McCarthy: Democrats using impeachment to 'undo last election' and 'influence the next one'

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., in fiery remarks slammed his Democratic colleagues for using the impeachment inquiry to "attempt to undo the last election" and “influence the next one."

He said Congress was "abusing its power to discredit democracy" and was portraying "the president’s legitimate actions as an impeachable offense."

"Elections have consequences," McCarthy said. "Our fellow Americans used their vote to choose who will work for them."

"We’re one year away from an election," he said moments later. "Why do you not trust the people? Why do you not allow the people to have a voice?"

He ended by saying, "I guess it’s only fitting you take this vote on Halloween" — a line that prompted resounding applause from his Republican colleagues.

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.

Image: Rep. Norma Torres, D-CA, speaks during a House resolution vote on Oct. 31, 2019.
Rep. Norma Torres, D-CA, speaks during a House resolution vote on Oct. 31, 2019.

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

Image: Nancy Pelosi
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi talks to reporters just before the House vote on a resolution to formalize the impeachment investigation of President Donald Trump, in Washington, on Oct. 31, 2019.J. Scott Applewhite / AP

Pelosi speaks during impeachment resolution debate

Image: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaks during a House resolution vote on Oct. 31, 2019.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaks during a House resolution vote on Oct. 31, 2019.

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.

Image: Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-NY, speaks during a House resolution vote on Oct. 31, 2019.
Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-NY, speaks during a House resolution vote on Oct. 31, 2019.

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.

Image: Donald Trump
President Donald Trump departs O'Hare International Airport after speaking at the International Association of Chiefs of Police Annual Conference and Exposition, on Oct. 28, 2019, in Chicago.Evan Vucci / AP

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.

Listen to the episode here.

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.

Read more here.

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.

Read more about Pelosi's impeachment strategy here.

Image: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in her office at the Capitol on Sept. 27, 2019.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in her office at the Capitol on Sept. 27, 2019.Damon Winter / NYT via Redux file

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.