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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

1121d ago / 5:50 PM UTC

Trump: I'm 'too busy' to watch impeachment hearings

President Donald Trump said Wednesday afternoon he hadn't had time to watch the first public impeachment hearings.

"I'm too busy to watch it," he told reporters in the Oval Office during a meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, less than three hours after the session began on Capitol Hill. "It's a witch hunt, it's a hoax. I'm too busy to watch it, so I'm sure I'll get a report."

Despite his claim that he hadn't been able to watch the proceedings, the president did take a jab at the Democratic staffer questioning witnesses.

"I see that they are using lawyers that are television lawyers ...they took some guys off television," said Trump. "You know, I'm not surprised to see it, because Schiff can't do his own questions."

1121d ago / 5:35 PM UTC
1121d ago / 5:35 PM UTC

Who is Steve Castor? GOP questioner in Trump impeachment inquiry

The man doing the questioning for the GOP minority is Steve Castor, the House Intelligence Committee counsel for Republicans.

He was reportedly brought over to the Intelligence Committee from the Oversight Committee by Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, a new addition to the panel himself.

Castor has served as counsel for Oversight for 14 years, and helped question witnesses during its probes of the attack on the U.S. embassy in Benghazi and into allegations the IRS was focusing on political targets during the Obama administration.

He earned his law degree from George Washington University, and previously worked doing commercial litigation in Philadelphia and Washington, according to a biography on the Federalist Society website. Castor is listed as a contributor to the conservative group.   

Image: Rep. Devin Nunes and Rep. Jim Jordan speak to Steve Castor, Republican staff attorney for the House Oversight Committee, on Nov. 13, 2019.
Steve Castor, center, Republican staff attorney for the House Oversight Committee, on Wednesday. Susan Walsh / AP

Transcripts from the closed-door depositions in the impeachment inquiry to date show Castor repeatedly trying to get witnesses to give identifying information about the whistleblower who raised a red flag about President Donald Trump’s July 25 phone call with his Ukrainian counterpart. That's led to some tense exchanges, including during the testimony from Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the top Ukraine expert on National Security Council.   

At one point, Castor asked Vindman to whom he had expressed his concerns about the July 25 call, a question Vindman’s lawyer objected to, believing it was an effort to get Vindman to name the whistleblower.

"If you want to keep going down this road, we're going to just keep objecting, OK?" Vindman's lawyer said.

"There's a little bit of a disconnect, because in your statement you say you don't know who the whistleblower is," Castor replied.

1121d ago / 5:34 PM UTC

State Dept. official testifying Friday is staffer who overheard Trump-Sondland call

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Two sources familiar with the matter tells NBC News that David Holmes, the State Department official just added to the calendar to testify in closed session next week, is the staffer for Bill Taylor who overheard E.U. Ambassador Gordon Sondland’s phone call in which President Trump asked about "the investigations."

Holmes is a new character in the Ukraine saga. He is the counselor for political affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine. As today’s hearing was getting underway, two officials working on the impeachment inquiry told NBC News that Holmes is expected to testify in closed session next Friday, Nov. 15.

At the same time, Taylor was revealing that one of his own staffers had informed him just last Friday about a phone call on July 26, in which the staffer was with Sondland and overheard a call between Sondland and Trump.

The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

 

1121d ago / 5:31 PM UTC

Kent: 'No factual basis' behind CrowdStrike conspiracy theory

Kent, responding to questions from Goldman, said he "had not heard of CrowdStrike until l read the transcript" of the July 25 phone call between Trump and Zelenskiy.

Goldman then asked if the theory behind CrowdStrike — the name of the cybersecurity company that’s been at the center of a far-right conspiracy theory that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election — had “any factual basis.”

“To my knowledge, there is no factual basis,” Kent said. Trump mentioned “CrowdStrike” in the July 25 call, according to the transcript of it.

Goldman then asked Kent who he did believe interfered in the 2016 election.

"It’s amply clear that Russian interference was at the heart of the interference in the 2016 election cycle," Kent said.

Asked in the same exchange by Goldman if there was any basis to the accusation that Joe Biden did anything wrong in Ukraine, Kent replied, "None whatsoever."

1121d ago / 5:19 PM UTC

Taylor says Trump felt 'wronged' by Ukraine

Taylor said Trump felt "wronged" by Ukraine over the 2016 election and "this was something he felt they owed him to fix," meaning opening the investigations.

However, when Fiona Hill, the deputy assistant to the president who served on the National Security Council, testified during her closed-door hearing last month, she said top advisers had briefed Trump that the evidence did not support the theory that Ukraine meddled in the election.

Hill said that Tom Bossert, then Homeland Security adviser, and others had briefed the president during his first year in office on the interference in the 2016 election and debunked the conspiracy theory that Ukraine had interfered in the election. 

1121d ago / 5:16 PM UTC

Hoyer: Trump has created 'a cesspool of corruption, chaos and crisis'

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer held his weekly off-camera briefing with reporters today and was asked about a variety of topics including impeachment hearings, timeline of the inquiry, government funding and the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement.

He said he has asked members not to schedule anything for the week of Dec. 16. He was asked several questions on the public perception of impeachment.

"This is not about polls," he said. "This is about each member deciding whether or not they believe the conduct clearly corroborated by many, many witnesses rises to high crimes and misdemeanors."

Hoyer also said: "The president said he was going to get rid of the swamp. What he has created is a cesspool of corruption, chaos and crisis."

1121d ago / 5:16 PM UTC

The point when Taylor says it was ‘clear' release of aid was conditioned on probes

While Taylor learned on July 18 from the Office of Management and Budget that security assistance was being held up for an unspecified reason, he said Wednesday that he didn’t understand until early September that the release of the money was conditioned on Ukraine investigating the Bidens and a 2016 election conspiracy theory. 

Goldman had asked Taylor about the moment in September after Vice President Mike Pence met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in Warsaw. 

Taylor replied that he learned that after that meeting, Sondland had meetings in Warsaw and described to Andriy Yermak, assistant to Zelenskiy, that the U.S. security assistance was also held up “pending announcement” by Zelenskiy in public of these investigations. 

Taylor said that before that point, he only understood that a possible Trump-Zelenskiy meeting at the White House was conditioned on pursuing those investigations. But it was after the Sept. 1 meeting between Pence and Zelenskiy that it became "clear" to him that both the military aid and the possible face-to-face meeting was dependent on the announcement of those probes. 

1121d ago / 5:11 PM UTC

Drag queen sashays into Trump impeachment hearings

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Spotted towering over the gray and blue suits packed into the first day of President Donald Trump’s impeachment hearing was an enormous blond wig — that of Pissi Myles, a drag performer from Asbury Park, New Jersey.

“It’s a crazy day in Washington! I’m flipping my wig over the high-energy proceedings today," Myles told NBC News. "Tensions are high, and the bar for who’s allowed in the Longworth House is very, very low.”

Image: Pissi Myles reports with her cell phone during the first public impeachment hearings on Capitol Hill on Nov. 13, 2019.
Pissi Myles reports with her cellphone during the first public impeachment hearings on Wednesday. Jacquelyn Martin / AP
1121d ago / 5:09 PM UTC
1121d ago / 5:06 PM UTC

Taylor explains what Sondland meant by "stalemate"

Goldman pressed Taylor by what he felt the word "stalemate" meant when Sondland used it during a Sept. 8 phone call with Taylor.

"Ambassador Sondland also said that he had talked to President Zelenskiy and Mr. Yermak and had told them that, although this was not a quid pro quo, if President Zelenskiy did not 'clear things up in public, we would be at a stalemate,'" Taylor had said in his opening statement. Andriy Yermak is a top adviser to the Ukrainian president. 

"What I understood, in that meeting, the meaning of stalemate is that the security assistance would not come," Taylor said in response to Goldman’s question.

1121d ago / 5:06 PM UTC

President Trump tweets out web video, Eric Trump weighs in on hearings

As the hearings move on, President Trump tweeted out a web video touching on the impeachment inquiry and attacking the Democratic presidential candidates before claiming to be the only man to "stop this chaos."

And Trump's son Eric weighed in with his take on the House proceedings:

1121d ago / 5:01 PM UTC

Taylor says he kept notes on 'all' of his conversations

In his questioning of Taylor, Goldman asked whether Taylor had kept notes about a Sept. 1 call he’d held with Sondland.

“I did,” Taylor replied.

Goldman then asked whether Taylor had kept notes “related to most of the conversations, if not all of them, that you recited in your opening statement?”

“All of them,” Taylor said.

1121d ago / 4:55 PM UTC

Who is Daniel Goldman?

The man questioning Taylor is Daniel Goldman, the Democrats’ lead impeachment hearing lawyer and the point man for grilling witnesses about Trump’s efforts to pressure Ukraine. Goldman will have up to 45 minutes to question the witnesses. He cut his teeth prosecuting mobsters and also was an assistant U.S. attorney in Manhattan. Goldman was previously an analyst for MSNBC. The GOP has tapped Stephen Castor, general counsel for the House Oversight Committee, to be its lead. 

Image: Daniel Goldman questions Bill Taylor during an impeachment hearing on Nov. 13, 2019.
Daniel Goldman (L) questions Bill Taylor during an impeachment hearing on Nov. 13, 2019.Jonathan Ernst / Reuters
1121d ago / 4:51 PM UTC

New impeachment depositions announced for this week

Midway through the hearing, Democrats added two more impeachment depositions to their docket.

Per two officials working on the impeachment inquiry:

David Holmes is expected to testify in closed session on Friday, Nov. 15. 

Mark Sandy is expected to testify in a closed session on Saturday, Nov. 16.

As the counselor for political affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine, Holmes works directly with Taylor. Taylor testified earlier in Wednesday's hearing that an unnamed staffer overheard Trump on a phone call asking Sondland about the "investigations."

Sandy is an OMB official.

1121d ago / 4:50 PM UTC

About that phone call...

1121d ago / 4:45 PM UTC

Did the whistleblower's attorney call for a 'coup' in 2017?

Earlier this morning, Trump retweeted a White House video condemning the impeachment hearings, claiming that an attorney for the still anonymous whistleblower had advocated for a "coup" to overthrow the president in 2017.

That lawyer, Mark S. Zaid, in 2017 tweeted that he believed a “coup” was beginning when Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates was fired for refusing to defend an executive order banning travel from seven Muslim-majority countries.

There’s no evidence Zaid called for, encouraged, or incited any kind of action against the president. In a statement to Fox News, Zaid said “the coup comment referred to those working inside the Administration who were already, just a week into office, standing up to him to enforce recognized rules of law.”

Read more about Zaid's background here

Trump’s video also included a call to action: read the transcript of the July 25 call with the president of Ukraine that in part inspired the whistleblower's complaint. There is no transcript — there is a White House memo detailing the contents of call. It is not a complete transcript, according to the White House's own description. 

1121d ago / 4:45 PM UTC

Schiff presses Taylor on overheard call between Trump and Sondland

Following Taylor’s opening statement, Schiff pressed him for details and clarity on his revelation that one of his staffers had overheard a July 26 conversation between Sondland and Trump in which the president asked about “the investigations.” 

Schiff asked Taylor if “the investigations” referred to desired probes into the Bidens and a conspiracy related to the 2016 election.

“That is correct,” Taylor said.

1121d ago / 4:34 PM UTC
1121d ago / 4:32 PM UTC

Taylor's opening statement details shadow Ukraine policy

Taylor shared several new pieces of information in his opening statement Wednesday, including his belief that White House acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney was an integral part of an “irregular” communication channel between Washington and Kyiv and that the Ukrainians were “ready to move forward” with the probes desired by the White House.

Taylor, however, also reiterated his belief that he felt it was “clear” that a proposed White House meeting between President Donald Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy was tied to launching investigations into the Bidens and a conspiracy theory about alleged Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election — information he shared in his closed-door testimony in October.

“By mid-July it was becoming clear to me that the meeting President Zelenskiy wanted was conditioned on the investigations of Burisma and alleged Ukrainian interference in the 2016 U.S. elections. It was also clear that this condition was driven by the irregular policy channel I had come to understand was guided by Mr. Giuliani,” Taylor testified Wednesday.

That “irregular” channel also included Kurt Volker, the former special envoy to Ukraine; Ambassador to the E.U. Gordon Sondland; Energy Secretary Rick Perry — and Mulvaney.

Revealing new information, Taylor also testified that one of his staffers heard Sondland on the phone on July 26 with Trump and could hear Trump ask about “the investigations.” Sondland told Trump in the overheard conversation that the Ukrainians were ready to move forward with the desired investigations.

The staffer then asked Sondland what Trump thought about Ukraine and Sondland said that “Trump cares more about the investigations of Biden.”

Earlier in his opening statement, Taylor reiterated that “withholding security assistance in exchange for help with a domestic political campaign in the U.S. would be crazy.”

"I believed that then, and I believe it now."

1121d ago / 4:30 PM UTC

Fighting Putin: Taylor explains why U.S. aide to Ukraine really matters

Bill Taylor provided something few others have for the American public: an easy-to-understand explanation of the importance of U.S. aid to Ukraine.

It wasn't quite as simple as "Vlad is bad," but it was close. "It is clearly in our national interest to deter further Russian aggression," Taylor said in his opening statement.

He explained how a corrupt pro-Russian Ukrainian president allowed the military to atrophy and then fled to Russia in 2014 just before Vladimir Putin annexed parts of Ukraine and pushed his forces into others. But the Ukrainian people, with the support of the West, have fought back.

"In response to the Russian invasion, the new Ukrainian authorities — with an amazing outpouring of support from regular Ukrainian people — rebuilt the army, nearly from scratch, spending more than 5 percent of Ukrainian GDP on defense since the war started," Taylor said.

Image: FINLAND-US-RUSSIA-POLITICS-DIPLOMACY-SUMMIT
Russia's President Vladimir Putin listens while U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a press conference at Finland's Presidential Palace on July 16, 2018 in Helsinki, Finland.Brendan Smialowski / AFP - Getty Images file

"The whole Ukrainian nation fiercely responded to the Russian attack. The nation united like never before. A rag-tag army developed into a strong fighting force. And the United States played a vital role."

Taylor testified that it would be "crazy" to withhold security assistance to Ukraine to serve a domestic political end.

The attacks are ongoing, he said, noting that he had been on the front line last week, and he pointed out that the aid is a signal that "we are Ukraine’s reliable strategic partner." By withholding aid, he said, the U.S. would undermine and humiliate the new Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, which would benefit and please Russia.

1121d ago / 4:23 PM UTC

Taylor reveals call between Sondland and Trump discussing Biden probe

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Taylor made new revelations about Trump’s Ukraine conduct in his opening statement Wednesday, detailing a phone call between the president and Sondland where they discussed the Biden "investigations."

Taylor said he only recently learned of these comments, which occurred on July 26. Taylor said a member of his staff who accompanied Sondland to a meeting with a top Ukrainian diplomat told him of the remarks last Friday.

“Following that meeting, in the presence of my staff at a restaurant, Ambassador Sondland called President Trump and told him of his meetings in Kyiv,” Taylor said. “The member of my staff could hear President Trump on the phone, asking Ambassador Sondland about ‘the investigations.’ Ambassador Sondland told President Trump that the Ukrainians were ready to move forward.”

“Following the call with President Trump, the member of my staff asked Ambassador Sondland what President Trump thought about Ukraine,” Taylor continued. “Ambassador Sondland responded that President Trump cares more about the investigations of Biden, which Giuliani was pressing for. At the time I gave my deposition on Oct. 22, I was not aware of this information. I am including it here for completeness.”

Trump had asked Zelenskiy in their July 25 call to investigate a debunked conspiracy theory about Democrats and the 2016 election as well as former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter, who sat on the board of a Ukrainian gas company.

Read the full story.

1121d ago / 4:02 PM UTC

Trump's not watching

Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said President Donald Trump is currently not watching the impeachment proceedings.

"He is in the Oval Office in meetings," she said. "He is working."

 

1121d ago / 3:59 PM UTC
1121d ago / 3:58 PM UTC

Fact checking Nunes' claim that Democrats 'made up' a version of Trump's Ukraine call

In his opening remarks, the ranking Republican on the panel brought up something that's been the subject of many presidential tweets: Chairman Schiff's parody of Trump's July 25 phone call with his Ukrainian counterpart.

"Democrats on this committee read out a purely fictitious rendition of the president’s phone call with President Zelenskiy," Nunes said. "They clearly found the real conversation to be insufficient for their impeachment narrative, so they just made up a new one."

This is misleading. During a hearing in September, Schiff parodied Trump’s rhetoric and exaggerated some of the president's language while making it clear at the time he was illustrating a point and not reading the White House's record of the July 25 conversation. Some of his phrasing matches the White House's own summary of what Trump said. Read more about the backstory behind Nunes' claim here

After Trump's attacks, Schiff acknowledged that the president was "right about one thing — your words needs no mockery."  Read the White House's record of the call here.

1122d ago / 3:56 PM UTC

George Kent opening statement: Trump actions 'undermine the rule of law'

George Kent, a deputy assistant Secretary of State who worked on Ukraine and five other countries, testified Wednesday that he found it "unexpected and most unfortunate to watch some Americans — including those who allied themselves with corrupt Ukrainians in pursuit of private agendas — launch attacks on dedicated public servants advancing U.S. interests in Ukraine."

Kent, in his opening statement Wednesday, named some of those individuals.

"Over the course of 2018-2019, I became increasingly aware of an effort by Rudy Giuliani and others, including his associates Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, to run a campaign to smear Ambassador Yovanovitch and other officials at the U.S. embassy in Kyiv," he said. "In mid-August, it became clear to me that Giuliani’s efforts to gin up politically motivated investigations were now infecting U.S. engagement with Ukraine, leveraging President Zelenskiy’s desire for a White House meeting."

Kent reiterated several other elements from what he’d said during his behind-closed-doors testimony last month, saying Wednesday that "as a general principle, I do not believe the United States should ask other countries to engage in selective, politically associated investigations or prosecutions against opponents of those in power."

"Such selective actions undermine the rule of law regardless of the country," he said.

Kent also said that he had raised concerns in a phone call in February 2015 with then-Vice President Joe Biden’s office that "Hunter Biden’s status as a board member could create the perception of a conflict of interest."

"Let me be clear, however. I did not witness any efforts by any U.S. official to shield Burisma from scrutiny. In fact, I and other U.S. officials consistently advocated reinstituting a scuttled investigation of Zlochevsky, Burisma’s founder, as well as holding the corrupt prosecutors who closed the case to account," he added.

1122d ago / 3:50 PM UTC

Schiff says he doesn’t know whistleblower amid Republican questioning

Republicans began Wednesday’s initial impeachment hearings by pressing House Intelligence Chairman Schiff about having the first whistleblower testify.

As Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, claimed Schiff was the only member of Congress who knew the whistleblower’s identity, Schiff said he actually was unaware of who the whistleblower is. Schiff claimed Jordan was making false statements. The whistleblower reportedly met with a member of Schiff’s staff before his official complaint — which multiple top Trump intelligence officials deemed credible and made in good faith — was released.

The exchange happened as Jordan and Reps. Mike Conaway, R-Texas, and Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., pressed Schiff about having the whistleblower testify before the committee.

The whistleblower is a CIA employee who, according to their complaint, was provided information on Trump’s conduct toward Ukraine, which the whistleblower said amounted to the president soliciting foreign interference in the 2020 election. Much of the whistleblower’s complaint has since been corroborated by Trump administration officials testimony before the impeachment committees, as well as the summary of Trump’s July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy that the White House released.

But that hasn’t stopped Trump and his allies from seeking to out the whistleblower. Some conservative media outlets have named an official purported to be the whistleblower.

The exchanges between Schiff and the Republicans came as GOP members slowed down the start of Wednesday’s hearing with parliamentary inquiries and points of order.

1122d ago / 3:48 PM UTC

Witnesses sworn in

Image: Bill Taylor and George Kent are sworn in before the House Intelligence Committee on Nov. 13, 2019.
Bill Taylor and George Kent are sworn in before the House Intelligence Committee on Nov. 13, 2019.Jim Lo Scalzo / Pool via Reuters
1122d ago / 3:44 PM UTC

‘Cult-like?’ Nunes uses odd description of hearings that may anger colleagues

Nunes described witnesses as having auditioned for their roles in the “cult-like atmosphere” of closed-door hearings in prior weeks in the Capitol.

That may not sit well with Intelligence Committee colleague Jackie Speier, D-Calif., who was nearly killed while investigating the cult of Jim Jones as a staffer to then-Rep. Leo Ryan, D-Calif., in 1978. Speier survived several gunshot wounds while Ryan was murdered along with four others.

Moreover, the initial set of hearings, held by the Intel panel in conjunction with two other committees, included members of both parties, making the room an ideologically diverse one for a cult.

1122d ago / 3:39 PM UTC

Nunes says this is a 'scorched earth war against President Trump'

Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., the ranking member of the Intelligence Committee, teed up the Republican case against the Democrats during this hearing. 

In his opening statement, he seemed to pivot away from the guilt or innocence of the president, but instead focusing on the impeachment process being a vendetta orchestrated by the Democratic Party for losing the 2016 presidential election. 

He called it a “scorched earth war against President Trump” and complained about the process of the  inquiry, saying the closed-door hearings were a "cult-like atmosphere in the basement of the Capitol.”

He referred to the depositions as "secret," despite the fact that more than 40 Republican members were permitted to ask questions during the depositions.

Nunes called the impeachment process the “low-rent sequel” to the Russian investigation, which he called a hoax and part of a Democratic ploy to go after Trump by any means, and “an impeachment process in search of a crime.”  

He also defended Trump’s actions, saying they were directed at rooting out corruption in Ukraine and inquiring about Hunter Biden’s work at Burisma, the Ukrainian energy company he was a board member of from 2014 until earlier this year. 

Nunes also began to directly go after the witnesses, calling their closed-door testimony auditions for the Democrats. 

“What we will witness today is a televised theatrical performance staged by the Democrats,” Nunes said.

1122d ago / 3:34 PM UTC

Schiff's opening statement: ‘If this is not impeachable conduct, what is?’

House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., delivered his opening statement in the first impeachment hearing Wednesday, describing what President Donald Trump and administration officials have said about the president's conduct toward Ukraine.

“The issue that we confront is the one posed by the president’s acting chief of staff when he challenged Americans to ‘get over it,’” Schiff said. “If we find that the president of the United States abused his power and invited foreign interference in our elections, or if he sought to condition, coerce, extort, or bribe an ally into conducting investigations to aid his reelection campaign and did so by withholding official acts — a White House meeting or hundreds of millions of dollars of needed military aid — must we simply ‘get over it?’” 

“Is that what Americans should now expect from their president?” he continued. “If this is not impeachable conduct, what is? Does the oath of office itself — requiring that our laws be faithfully executed, that our president defend a constitution that balances the powers of its branches, setting ambition against ambition so that we become no monarchy — still have meaning? These are the questions we must ask and answer.”

Schiff said the impeachment proceedings are about whether Trump sought to exploit a U.S. ally and have them assist his re-election, and whether “such an abuse of power is compatible with the office of the presidency.”

Of investigations Trump pushed Ukraine to announce into Democrats and the Bidens, Schiff said, “Neither of these investigations were in U.S. national security interest,” though both were in Trump’s political interest.

“Some have argued in the president’s defense that the aid was ultimately released,” Schiff said. “That is true. But only after Congress began an investigation; only after the president’s lawyers learned of a whistleblower complaint; and only after members of Congress began asking uncomfortable questions about quid pro quos. A scheme to condition official acts or taxpayer funding to obtain a personal political benefit does not become less odious because it is discovered before it is fully consummated. In fact, the security assistance had been delayed so long, it would take another act of Congress to ensure that it would still go out.”

“And that Oval Office meeting that Zelensky desperately sought — it still hasn’t happened. Although we have learned a great deal about these events in the last several weeks, there are still missing pieces,” Schiff continued. “The president has instructed the State Department and other agencies to ignore congressional subpoenas for documents. He has instructed witnesses to defy subpoenas and refuse to appear. And he has suggested that those who do expose wrongdoing should be treated like traitors and spies.”

1122d ago / 3:33 PM UTC

Members in the room react to opening statements

There are two full rows of seats reserved for members of Congress inside the hearing room, but most are empty. 

Trump allies Reps. Lee Zeldin and Mark Meadows are in attendance.

At the edge of the GOP section, Rep. Ted Yoho, a Florida Republican, sits next to Rep. Rashida Tlaib, a Michigan Democrat.

After Rep. Devin Nunes accused Democrats of hypocrisy in his opening statement, Yoho could be heard saying “Hear, hear.”

Tlaib appeared to roll her eyes and look at her other neighbor, Rep. Karen Bass, a California Democrat.

1122d ago / 3:16 PM UTC
1122d ago / 3:13 PM UTC

What's going on inside the White House

, , and

A senior White House official says the president is in the Oval Office holding a series of meetings this morning (unrelated to the impeachment inquiry) prior to Turkish President Erdogan’s arrival at noon.

This appears to be a clear counterprogramming effort on the part of the White House — because here’s the reality check: We know the president is certainly keyed in on the hearing (just check his Twitter feed), and his aides are deployed on that rapid response effort on messaging and strategy.

1122d ago / 3:08 PM UTC

And we're off...

At 10:06am, Schiff gaveled one for the first public impeachment inquiry hearing. 

Rep. Ratcliffe, R-Texas, immediately raised a point of inquiry. 

1122d ago / 2:47 PM UTC

Kent, Taylor arrive for hearing

Image: Bill Taylor, top U.S. diplomat to the Ukraine, arrives to testify before the House Intelligence Committee on the first day of impeachment hearings on Nov. 13, 2019.
Bill Taylor, top U.S. diplomat to the Ukraine, arrives to testify before the House Intelligence Committee on the first day of impeachment hearings on Nov. 13, 2019.Jacquelyn Martin / AP
Image: George Kent, deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, arrives to testify before the House Intelligence Committee on Nov. 13, 2019.
George Kent, deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, arrives to testify before the House Intelligence Committee on Nov. 13, 2019.Olivier Douliery / AFP - Getty Images
1122d ago / 2:42 PM UTC

Conway says he's 'horrified' and 'appalled' that Republicans are sticking by Trump

George Conway, outspoken Trump critic and husband of top White House official Kellyanne Conway, told MSNBC on Wednesday that he is “horrified” and “appalled” that Republicans are sticking by the president in the impeachment probe.

Conway, a conservative attorney,  said Trump’s conduct with regard to Ukraine is easy to explain.

“He is using the power of the presidency in its most unchecked area, foreign affairs, to advance his own interest, and not” the country’s, Conway said.

The attorney said impeachment was an “inevitability” of the Trump presidency, saying that Trump “always sees himself first.”

The impeachment proceedings are about “people doing the right thing by the country and not by their party,” Conway said. “This is about telling the truth about what really happened.”

But he said he is stunned that Republicans have stood by Trump through the episode. He said Trump’s allies are making “ridiculous arguments about process” and about Trump’s culpability.

“They couldn’t possibly believe this,” he said.

1122d ago / 2:39 PM UTC

What's going on in the hearing room?

Only press, members of Congress and their staff currently are allowed in the room.

Directly behind the witness table are press tables. Directly behind those are three rows of seats for Congress, totaling between 68 and 70 seats for members.

About half a dozen members are already in, including Democratic Reps. Karen Bass and Dean Phillips and GOP Rep. Mark Meadows.

On the Republican side of the Dias are signs reading:

  • “I’m concerned if we don’t Impeach this president, he will get re-elected,” Rep. Al Green
  • “93 days since Adam Schiff learned the identity of the whistleblower.”
  • A tweet from WB attorney Mark Zaid from Jan 30, 2017 that reads “#coup has started. First of many steps. #rebellion. #impeachment will follow ultimately. #lawyers

 

Image:  Signs placed by Republicans at the first public impeachment hearings on Capitol Hill on Nov. 13, 2019.
Signs placed by Republicans at the first public impeachment hearings on Capitol Hill on Nov. 13, 2019.Jonathan Ernst / Reuters
1122d ago / 2:15 PM UTC

Trump campaign says Pelosi 'lost control'

1122d ago / 2:12 PM UTC

The impeachment hearings could turn out to be more unpredictable than you think

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WASHINGTON — Most in Washington are already convinced how the public hearings in the impeachment inquiry, which begin this morning, will play out. House Republicans will sabotage the proceedings and muddy the waters. Democrats will struggle to win the message war, as they often do. And everything — as it almost always does — will break along partisan lines. 

Maybe they’re right; it’s probably the smart bet. But they also could be wrong, given how unpredictable President Trump can be; how unpredictable the witness answers could be; how these public hearings could play with the persuadable public; and how damning much of the available evidence already is.

Maybe the best news for Democrats entering today’s public hearing is how low the expectations are. There’s a good reason to have these low expectations. But it also creates a pretty low bar that becomes easier to clear.

While it’s obvious to focus on the politics and theatrics of the televised public hearings, don’t forget about the actual substance that’s on the line here. ...

Get the rest of First Read's take.

1122d ago / 2:07 PM UTC

Republicans explain why they're not watching hearings

1122d ago / 1:48 PM UTC

Dems release response to GOP strategy memo

Ahead of Wednesday's hearing, Democrats released several talking points in response to the Republican strategy memo on the impeachment proceedings. Here are some key excerpts:

GOP assertion: The July 25 call summary “shows no conditionality or evidence of pressure.”

Democratic response: President Trump’s own words in the July 25 call record are the best evidence of the president applying pressure on Ukraine to benefit his own personal political interests at the expense of the national interest. 

As one U.S. official made clear, the Ukrainian president — recently elected to lead a country that is heavily dependent on U.S. military, economic, and diplomatic support to fight of Russian aggression — could only view this as a “demand” by the American president. 

Multiple U.S. officials have testified that the call, as well as meetings and discussions before and after the call, established a clear campaign of extortion: Ukraine’s president would not receive a White House meeting or vital military assistance until and unless Ukraine opened sham investigations that President Trump wanted. 

GOP assertion: Ukrainian “President Zelensky and President Trump have both said there was no pressure on the call.”

Democratic response: Ahead of the July 25 call, Ambassador Bill Taylor warned: “President Zelensky is sensitive about Ukraine being taken seriously, not merely as an instrument in Washington domestic, re-election politics.”

Text messages and testimony by multiple witnesses show that both ahead of the July 25 call and for weeks after the July 25 call, U.S. officials pressured Ukraine to announce the investigations requested by Trump. Ukrainian advisors tried to push back, to no avail.

In early September 2019, Ukraine’s president was scheduled to appear on CNN and announce the investigations sought by Trump – yet more clear evidence of Trump’s pressure.

GOP assertion: “The Ukrainian government was not aware of the hold on U.S. assistance” during the July 25 call.

Democratic response: Two U.S. officials testified that Ukraine knew of the hold on security assistance weeks before it became public.

Defense Department official Laura Cooper: “I knew from my Kurt Volker conversations and also from sort of the alarm bells that were coming from Ambassador Taylor and his team that there were Ukrainians who knew about this.”

State Department official Katherine Croft: “I remember being very surprised at the effectiveness of my Ukrainian counterparts' diplomatic tradecraft, as in to say they found out very early on or much earlier than I expected them to.” Croft also emphasized that the Ukrainian officials “had no interest in this information getting out into the public.” 

1122d ago / 1:28 PM UTC

Who is George Kent? Diplomat is testifying at Trump impeachment hearing

Here's what you need to know about longtime diplomat George Kent:

  • His father was a Navy veteran who captained a nuclear submarine
  • "I have served proudly as a nonpartisan career foreign service officer for more than 27 years, under five presidents — three Republicans and two Democrats," Kent said of his career. That included a stint as the senior anti-corruption coordinator in the State Department's European Bureau.
  • He's fluent in Russian, Ukrainian and Thai.

Here's what to expect from Kent's testimony.

1122d ago / 1:28 PM UTC

Who is Bill Taylor? Witness testifying at Trump impeachment hearing

Here's what you need to know about Bill Taylor:

  • He's a West Point graduate who spent six years as an Army infantry officer, including in Vietnam.
  • Worked on Senate staff, NATO and the departments of Energy and State.
  • Served as U.S. ambassador to Ukraine in the George W. Bush administration from 2006-2009. He left the State Department in 2013.
  • Taylor and two other former ambassadors to Ukraine wrote an article in 2014 criticizing the Obama administration for not doing more to support the country after Russia annexed Crimea.
  • In text messages former U.S. special representative for Ukraine negotiations Kurt Volker provided to Congress, Taylor is the diplomat included in the exchanges who voiced concern that the Trump administration was conditioning a coveted White House visit and military aid to Ukraine announcing investigations. In a text to Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, Taylor wrote, "As I said on the phone, I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign.

More on what to expect from Taylor's testimony.

1122d ago / 1:22 PM UTC

Impeachment 101: Now that hearings are airing, what happens next?

1122d ago / 1:13 PM UTC

OPINION: Impeachment gives Trump staffers a choice: Loyalty and maybe prison, or betrayal and derision

The emerging strategy of House Republicans to argue that White House advisers went rogue — without the authorization of President Donald Trump — to press Ukraine to provide dirt on a political opponent puts Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney, National Security Council legal adviser John Eisenberg, the president’s personal attorney and former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani and others in a precarious and even life-changing dilemma.

This gives those men a stark choice: They can stand mute while Republican members of congress and television analysts accuse them of potential criminal conduct in withholding congressionally authorized military aid to Ukraine and concealing evidence of this plot; or they can defend themselves by testifying in the upcoming impeachment proceedings that they were acting at the direction of the president.

Read more here.

1122d ago / 1:11 PM UTC

Trump kicks off impeachment hearing day by bashing Schiff

1122d ago / 1:07 PM UTC

White House readies for rapid response

The White House has a rapid response team set up and ready to go for Wednesday's impeachment hearing. Think of it as a debate-style setup with tweets and more ready to be deployed, according to an official.

The strategy will target what the White House sees as an unfair process, and the idea that Democrats are focusing on impeachment at the expense of other legislative priorities.

The White House points to the outreach it's been doing for weeks to members of Congress (in conversations with roughly 120 House members, they say) to build out their strategy.

It's not clear where Trump will be watching the hearings from (the residence or Oval Office or elsewhere). Keep in mind that he'll be otherwise occupied starting at midday once Turkish President Erdogan arrives.

1122d ago / 1:47 AM UTC

Democrats bet impeachment hearings will mark beginning of the end of Trump's reality-TV presidency

Democrats are betting the reality-TV presidency of Donald Trump will begin to short-circuit Wednesday when they start putting names and faces to the bureaucrats who collectively contend he placed his own gain above American national security interests.

Democrats are confident enough that House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., upped the ante on the eve of his panel's first publicly televised hearings by teasing the possibility that Trump will face impeachment on charges of bribery as well as high crimes and misdemeanors in an interview with National Public Radio.

Read more here.

1122d ago / 12:52 AM UTC

Tillerson pushes back on Haley, says he never tried to undermine Trump

Former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is pushing back on former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley’s claim in her new book that he and John Kelly tried to enlist her to resist Trump’s agenda.

In a statement given to NBC News by a Tillerson aide, he takes a swipe at Haley by saying she wasn’t in many of his meetings and “isn’t in a position to know” about his conversations with Trump. The statement was earlier reported by The New York Times. 

His statement:

"During my service to our country as the Secretary of State, at no time did I, nor to my direct knowledge did anyone else serving along with me, take any actions to undermine the President.

My conversations with the President in the privacy of the Oval Office were always candid, frank, and my recommendations straightforward. Once the President made a decision, we at the State Department undertook our best efforts to implement that decision. Ambassador Haley was rarely a participant in my many meetings and is not in a position to know what I may or may not have said to the President. 

I continue to be proud of my service as our country's 69th Secretary of State."