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
- Trump is acquitted by the Senate on both articles of impeachment, with one GOP defector.
- Senate moves to impeachment trial endgame.
- Senators ask final questions before critical vote on witnesses.
- Senators probe prosecution, defense.
- The president's defense delivers closing arguments.
- Trump's legal team digs in.
- The president's defense begins.
- Democrats make case for obstruction.
- Trump impeached by the House on both articles of impeachment.
- Impeachment inquiry witnesses testify: Marie Yovanovitch, Alexander Vindman, Kurt Volker, Gordon Sondland, Fiona Hill and others.
Download the NBC News mobile app for the latest news on the impeachment inquiry
The diplomat who overheard Trump call once won award for dissenting
The U.S. diplomat who is said to have overheard a phone call between President Donald Trump and E.U. Ambassador Gordon Sondland in which Trump asked about "investigations" once won an award for voicing dissent within the government when he saw something amiss.
David Holmes, now the political counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine, is the latest character to be drawn into the impeachment saga when he was unexpectedly added to the hearing calendar for a closed-door deposition on Friday. He’s expected to be questioned by House investigators about events during and around Sondland’s visit to Kyiv in July, including what he overheard Sondland on his cellphone discussing with Trump. During public testimony Wednesday, Bill Taylor revealed that a staffer recently told him about the conversation. Two sources familiar with the matter told NBC News that Holmes is the staffer in question.
Holmes has a history of speaking up when he disagrees, according to an NBC News review of archived materials from the American Foreign Service Association, the union that represents U.S. diplomats. In 2014, he won AFSA’s William R. Rivkin Award for Constructive Dissent, which honors a midcareer foreign service officer for intellectual courage in speaking up.
At the time of the award, Holmes was senior energy officer as U.S. Embassy in Moscow. He was recognized for his work on Afghanistan and South Asia during which he filed a formal dissent channel message in February 2013. He argued that the division of authority for Afghanistan-Pakistan policy among different parts of the State Department “hindered our diplomatic effectiveness.”
“My efforts over this period, and then my formal dissent, were intended to give a voice to an important perspective that I felt lacked an advocate,” Holmes was quoted as saying in an article in the September 2014 edition of The Foreign Service Journal, the union’s monthly magazine.
A dissent cable is a unique State Department mechanism that lets diplomats voice disagreement about U.S. policies, with protections against retribution. They’ve been used previously during the Vietnam War and in 2017 when diplomats objected to Trump’s travel ban on people from several Muslim-majority nations. Read more about Holmes' background here.
Kent, Taylor say they aren’t 'Never Trumpers': 'No, sir'
Kent and Taylor, under questioning from Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., said they are not "Never Trumpers."
Trump has accused administration officials who have testified before the committee of being "Never Trumpers." On Wednesday morning, Trump tweeted, "NEVER TRUMPERS!"
When Swalwell asked Kent if he was a "Never Trumper," meaning a conservative who refuses to support the president, Kent said he was just a career foreign service official who has served for nearly three decades under Republican and Democratic presidents.
Taylor was more succinct in his answer.
"No, sir," he told Swalwell.
Kent says smear campaign against Yovanovitch was led by Giuliani, corrupt Ukrainians
Rep. Andre Carson, D-Ind., asked Kent about the smear campaign against former Ambassador the Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch. Kent said that the smears against her were led by corrupt people in Ukraine and also promoted by Giuliani. He stopped short of saying that the smear campaign was directly linked to Trump’s decision to remove her.
"You can't promote principled anti-corruption action without pissing off corrupt people,” Kent said. "Rudy Giuliani's smear campaign was ubiquitous in the spring of 2019 on Fox News and on the internet and Twittersphere."
George Kent: Smears against Yovanovitch promoted by GiulianiNov. 13, 201901:35
What to know about Rep. Ratcliffe
Several GOP lawmakers on the House Intelligence Committee yielded some of their allotted questioning time to Rep. John Ratcliffe, R-Texas, on Wednesday, who repeatedly asked the witnesses simple yes or no questions without letting them elaborate or fully answer.
During one round of questioning during the hearing, Ratcliffe asked Taylor a sequence of questions but didn’t give him the chance to respond.
Ratcliffe served as U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Texas at the end of the George W. Bush administration. Trump nominated Ratcliffe in July to serve as his next director of National Intelligence to replace Dan Coats, but Ratcliffe withdrew himself from consideration in early August after lawmakers questioned his lack of qualifications and reports that he may have overstated his accomplishments on his résumé.
Ratcliffe has served in Congress since 2015 and has been a staunch defender of Trump and his policies.
Jordan argues that because the investigations didn’t happen, Trump did nothing wrong
In another line of questioning, Jordan highlighted what is becoming a more prominent Republican defense of Trump’s conduct: Because Ukraine didn’t end up investigating the Bidens and Democrats and the roughly $400 million in military aid was released, Trump did nothing wrong.
“What you heard didn’t happen,” Jordan said to Taylor in trying to discredit his understanding of the administration’s efforts toward pressuring Ukraine to probe the Bidens and Democrats.
As The New York Times reported, Ukrainian President Zelenskiy was set to deliver a statement on CNN on Sept. 13 announcing the investigations in order to secure a White House meeting and the military aid. But earlier that week, Congress was alerted to the whistleblower complaint. Then, on Sept. 11, the Trump administration released the hold on aid.
As Schiff said earlier in the hearing, the Trump administration released the aid after facing significant pressure from lawmakers to do so, not to mention the effect of the timing of the whistleblower account being reported to Congress.
Texas GOP Rep. shouts at Taylor
Rep. John Ratcliffe, R-Texas, spent much of his five minutes of questioning yelling at Taylor.
During a particularly fraught exchange during his questioning, Ratcliffe repeatedly asked Taylor whether he had any evidence that Zelenskiy was "lying" when he told reporters that he was not aware of a military aid hold or of any conditions being placed on the military aid to his country when he had held the July 25 call with Trump.
"Yes or no," Ratcliffe demanded to know.
"If I can respond," Taylor said, before being interrupted by Ratcliffe, who yelled, "My time is short, yes or no?"
"I have no reason to doubt what the president said,” Taylor said.
Ratcliffe, with sweat on his brow, then replied, “where is the impeachable offense in that call?”
"Shout it out! Anyone?" he continued. Ratcliffe then attempted to withdraw his question and have the clock suspended for his five-minute allotment.
"I have one minute left," he said. "I withdraw the question," he said.
Kent knocks down the equivalence between Biden and Trump
Rep. Jim Himes, D-Conn., pressed Kent on the difference between Biden acting on Obama administration orders and getting rid of a corrupt prosecutor in Ukraine and Trump pressing the country to open an investigation into the Bidens.
Kent testified that the former Ukrainian prosecutor undermined a U.S.-backed assistance program and it was a part of American foreign policy to lobby for his removal. He also said that he did not see in the transcript of the July 25 call a genuine interest from Trump to end corruption in Ukraine.
"I don’t think he was trying to end corruption in Ukraine, I think he was trying to aim corruption in Ukraine — at Joe Biden," Himes said.
What was Joe Biden's role in Ukraine?
Moments ago, the Republican counsel questioned Kent and Taylor about former Vice President Joe Biden's role in Ukraine.
Here's a quick primer: Beginning in 2014, Biden led diplomatic efforts in Ukraine to bolster the country’s fledgling democracy and root out corruption after mass protests ousted a Russian-backed president. He specifically called for the removal of Viktor Shokin, the Ukraine prosecutor general who was widely believed to be corrupt.
“I said: ‘You’re not getting the billion. I’m going to be leaving here in’ — I think it was about six hours. I looked at them and said: ‘I’m leaving in six hours. If the prosecutor is not fired, you’re not getting the money,’ ” Biden said at a 2018 event, recounting his actions. “Well, son of a b---- , he got fired. And they put in place someone who was solid at the time.”
The removal of the prosecutor was U.S. government policy at the time, and widely agreed to among the international community as the right move. In his closed-door testimony, Kent testified last month that the International Monetary Fund, the European Union countries and the U.S. agreed that Shokin should be removed as prosecutor general.
Schiff tried to get at the heart of Trump’s demand
Schiff’s exchange with Kent and Taylor is important because he’s trying to pull out of them a confirmation that Trump’s interest in corruption was a cover to manufacture an investigation into the Bidens. Schiff noted that Trump didn't mention corruption during the July 25 call. He didn't mention corrupt oligarchs, but mentioned the Bidens and CrowdStrike.
“He was interested in the Bidens?” Schiff said.
“Yes, sir,” Kent replied.
Schiff argued that Trump wanted to put Zelenskiy in a box. Kent testified that Zelenskiy, however, expressed trepidation about getting involved in foreign elections.
Members begin questions
The staff questioning round has now ended.
The committee has moved to the five-minute member round for the 22 members alternating between Democrats and Republicans.
As a reminder, in this round members can give their five minutes time to another member.
The member questions should last roughly two hours barring any breaks or procedural delays. At this point, we don’t know if/when another break will occur.
Castor presses Taylor on 'irregular' Ukraine channel
Castor, after a series of confusing questions that even longtime Republicans took issue with, eventually arrived on a line of questioning that seemed to strike a chord.
Pointing out Taylor’s criticism in his opening statement and prior testimony of the "irregular" diplomatic channel between the U.S. and Ukraine, Castor asked Taylor "did you try to wrest control of the irregular channel?"
"I did not try to," Taylor replied.
Responding to questions about why, Taylor said it was because "both channels were interested in having a meeting between President Zelenskiy and President Trump."
"There’s no reason to kind of wrest control if we were going in the same direction," he added.
Castor then asked again, why, if Taylor held growing concerns about that channel, he didn’t make that attempt but later expressed his worries so sharply.
"I was concerned when the irregular channel was going against the overall direction and purpose of the regular channel," Taylor said.
GOP counsel asks if Hunter Biden speaks Ukrainian
GOP counsel Steve Castor, as part of an apparent attempt to cast Hunter Biden’s joining of the Burisma board as suspect, peppered Kent and Taylor with questions about the son of the former vice president.
Castor asked Kent whether he knew if Biden was an "expert" in "corporate governance."
"I have heard nothing about prior experience," Kent said.
"Do you know if he speaks Ukrainian?" Castor asked a moment later.
"I do not," Kent said.
"Do you know if he possesses any other elements other than that he is the son of a sitting vice president?" Castor asked.
"I do not," Kent replied.
Taylor and Kent are questioned on Hunter Biden's qualificationsNov. 13, 201901:48
Schiff, GOP argue over arguing
Schiff and Republican members of the Intelligence Committee argued at the onset of Republican questioning about, well, their ability to argue.
Schiff had interrupted a question from the Republican side pertaining to "facts not in evidence," telling Taylor he did not have to answer it, but that the chairman was not objecting to the question.
That led to an argument over whether rules of a courtroom are in play, and Republicans countered that they would have objected to many Democratic questions under the standard Schiff had expressed to Taylor.
Early reviews on GOP counsel are in
White House official responds to Taylor testimony on Trump-Sondland call
Taylor testified earlier Wednesday that one of his staffers had informed him about overhearing a July 26 call between Sondland and Trump in which Trump asked Sondland about “the investigations,”
A White House official responded to Taylor's testimony, saying, “This alleged new phone call makes no mention whatsoever of any alleged quid pro quo. Even if this hearsay account is accurate, no one was very concerned about it since they have just now reported it. Not only was Taylor not on the call with the alleged call between President and Sondland, but the person who relayed the account to Taylor wasn’t even on the call either. House Democrats are relying on a game of telephone.”
White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham told NBC News later Wednesday, “The latest 'evidence' is an anonymous staffer who told someone he overheard someone else talking to POTUS on the phone. All the 'evidence' in this case is second- and thirdhand hearsay.”
Two sources familiar with the matter told NBC News that the staffer who overheard the call is David Holmes, a State Department official just added to the calendar to testify in closed session Friday.
Trump allies on impeachment hearing: Boring!
Trump’s allies think Wednesday’s initial impeachment hearing is a snoozer.
"This is horribly boring... #Snoozefest," Trump’s son Eric tweeted, adding in another tweet, "For as much time as the Democrats have spent trying to orchestrate ‘political theater’ they have done a terrible job. This clown show is horribly boring."
White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham tweeted, “This sham hearing is not only boring, it is a colossal waste of taxpayer time & money.”
And Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., a close ally of the president, told reporters, “I don’t know about you but it’s hard for me to stay awake and listen to all of this.”
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."
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.
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.
State Dept. official testifying Friday is staffer who overheard Trump-Sondland call
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.
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."
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.
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."
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.
Drag queen sashays into Trump impeachment hearings
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.”
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
About that phone call...
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.
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.
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."
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.
"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.
Taylor reveals call between Sondland and Trump discussing Biden probe
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
Witnesses sworn in
‘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.
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.
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's opening remarks: 'If this is not impeachable conduct, what is?'Nov. 13, 201912:11
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.”
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.
What's going on inside the White House
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.
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.
Kent, Taylor arrive for hearing
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.
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
Trump campaign says Pelosi 'lost control'
The impeachment hearings could turn out to be more unpredictable than you think
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. ...
Republicans explain why they're not watching hearings
GOP senators explain why they aren't watching the hearingsNov. 13, 201907:54
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.”
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.
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.
Impeachment 101: Now that hearings are airing, what happens next?
Impeachment 101: Now that hearings are airing, what happens next?Nov. 13, 201900:50
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.
Trump kicks off impeachment hearing day by bashing Schiff
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.
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.
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.
"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."
Democrats announce second week of impeachment public hearings
Schiff announced on Tuesday the schedule for next week's open impeachment hearings, which will last three days and feature testimony from eight current and former administration officials.
Tuesday, Nov. 19:
9am - Jennifer Williams and Alexander Vindman
2:30pm - Kurt Volker and Tim Morrison
Wednesday, Nov. 20:
9am - Gordon Sondland
2:30pm - Laura Cooper and David Hale
Thursday, Nov. 21:
9am - Fiona Hill
Here's his full announcement:
Washington, DC — Today, Chairman Adam Schiff announced that on Tuesday, November 19, Wednesday, November 20, and Thursday, November 21, 2019 the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence will hold additional open hearings as part of the impeachment inquiry into President Donald J. Trump.
On the morning of Tuesday, November 19, 2019, the Committee will hear from Jennifer Williams, an aide to Vice President Mike Pence, and Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, who serves as the Director for European Affairs at the National Security Council.
On the afternoon of Tuesday, November 19, 2019, the Committee will hear from Ambassador Kurt Volker, the former U.S. special envoy to Ukraine, and Tim Morrison, a White House aide with the National Security Council focusing on Europe and Russia policy.
On the morning of Wednesday, November 20, 2019, the Committee will hear from Ambassador Gordon Sondland, U.S. Ambassador to the European Union.
On the afternoon of Wednesday, November 20, 2019, the Committee will hear from Laura Cooper, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Russian, Ukrainian, and Eurasian Affairs and David Hale, the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs.
On the morning of Thursday, November 21, 2019, the Committee will hear from Dr. Fiona Hill, former National Security Council senior director for Europe and Russia.
The Majority has accepted all of the Minority requests that are within the scope of the impeachment inquiry.
Additional details will be released in the coming days.
Graham says he won't 'bullshit' impeachment hearings
A handful of key Republican senators says they won’t be watching tomorrow’s first public impeachment hearing in the House, saying they either they have something else to do, or they have a problem with the process House Democrats have put together.
"This is bullshit, no, this is bullshit," said South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham. "They’re doing damage to the president right now. This is a political exercise that’s different than anything that’s ever happened when it comes trying to impeach a president."
He added, "This is a calculated effort to dirty up Trump, to do damage and then they’ll decide to impeach. This is dangerous to the presidency as an institution, I don’t like it. If you really want to impeach him do what we did with Clinton and what they did with Nixon.”
Graham: ‘I’m not legitimizing this process’Nov. 13, 201900:51
Democrats look to make the most of their strongest witnesses
Democrats are debating how to choreograph week two of the public hearings.
"There's talk of having him (Alexander Vindman) as a closer, closing with your best witness. They're talking about where best to position Vindman," who testified behind closed doors in uniform and is likely to show up once again in his dress blues for a public hearing, a visual the Democrats say will be powerful.
Bill Taylor, who is testifying Wednesday, and Vindman are the strongest witnesses and would be book ends.
"A good prosecutor leads with the strongest witness, and that's Taylor," one source said.
After establishing his long record of service and apolitical pedigree, Democrats will "get that hook in" within the first 30 minutes and "they think Taylor can do it."
- One of the big lessons of the former special counsel Robert Mueller testimony for Democrats was their failure "to get to the meat early" and let the witness tell the story.
- "This is a much better and easier story for us to tell than the Mueller report…This will be the opposite of that…This is going to be primetime TV,” said one aide involved in the process.
Adam Schiff on what Democrats are hoping for
Schiff released the following statement ahead of the hearings:
“We want the American people to hear the evidence for themselves in the witnesses’ own words, and our goal is to present the facts in a serious and sober manner. The three witnesses this week will begin to flesh out the details of the president’s effort to coerce a foreign nation to engage in political investigations designed to help his campaign, a corrupt undertaking that is evident from his own words on the July 25 call record.
“Bill Taylor is a decorated Vietnam war veteran who has served his country for decades in an array of diplomatic postings. George Kent and Marie Yovanovitch, also career Foreign Service Officers, have spent decades in service of our country, advancing our interests and security. They will describe their own experiences and how American policy towards Ukraine was subverted to serve the president’s personal, political interests, not the national interest.
“We want these hearings to be conducted in a fair and thorough manner, as should all Americans, given the gravity of the alleged misconduct.”
A combative Trump and his White House brace for first public impeachment hearings
Trump has long criticized Democrats for conducting the impeachment inquiry behind closed doors. This week, he and his advisers are bracing for impact as those doors are thrown open and the cameras roll on public impeachment hearings.
As the Wednesday launch of those hearings approaches, Trump’s mood has veered between relishing the fight and seething with anger over the impeachment effort as he focuses heavily on his television defenders, according to one person close to the White House.
How Democrats view this week's impeachment inquiry hearings
Below are some insights on the impeachment inquiry as the open hearings get underway, from a Democratic aide working on the inquiry:
"This week the American people will hear evidence for themselves. This is a sober and serious occasion for us and not something any member take pleasure in."
"The first witnesses will lay out for the American people the timeline of the President’s serious misconduct wherein he used his presidential powers to pressure a foreign government to improperly interfere in our elections by investigating his political rival. Later in the week, we will hear from the first victim of the President’s scheme – Ambassador Yovanovitch," the aide said.
The witnesses "have all committed their lives and their careers to defending this country and everything it represents so we respect and honor their courage to participate in this investigations and look forward to their testimony," the aide added. “Our goal is to lay out the facts in a fair and thorough manner. Ultimately this is a very simple story – again, the President abused his office and his presidential powers to force and pressure a foreign government to interfere with our election on his behalf."
"Even though we don’t anticipate additional information beyond that, what we have already made public, there is a real value in hearing directly from the witnesses so the American people can hear it from their mouths and firsthand.”
"Following the public hearings that the President demanded for weeks and now opposes, Republicans will need to answer one question – are they going to defend the president or are they going to defend democracy."
"From our perspective, the pressure and the onus is now on the Republicans – they have to do one of two things. They either have to provide some evidence to exonerate the president or they have to admit that what the President did was ok to pressure a foreign government to interfere and taint our election on his behalf using the office of the presidency and the power of the presidency to do so."
"The evidence and the facts all substantiate the President’s words ‘do us a favor.’ They depict a sinister picture and scheme on the part of the president to achieve his desired deliverables. The one thing we've not heard back from either the White House or the Republicans is anything, any piece of evidence, one shred of evidence that would exonerate the president."
"We think it’s going to be a phenomenal week where the public gets to again hear for themselves the evidence and the extent of the president’s abuse of power and abuse of his office. And we do believe after they hear all of it that they will agree that it’s wrong for the President of the United States to try to use his office to taint our elections."
Schiff tends to write his own opening statement.
“I think he hopes to lay out the scope of what we have been looking at for the last month and a half and I think he hopes to lay out the stakes for the American people and why this matters. I don’t want to preview anything beyond that," the aide said.
How to watch the Trump impeachment hearing: Schedule, witnesses and more
The first public presidential impeachment hearing in over 20 years is set to be held before the House Intelligence Committee on Wednesday, with witnesses Democrats believe will bring to life allegations that President Donald Trump has abused the power of the presidency.
The witnesses will emphasize the "simple abuse of power case" and illustrate the damage that abuse has caused, multiple sources have told NBC News. Republican lawmakers are expected to focus on the witnesses' lack of direct interaction with the president while giving credence to a debunked conspiracy theory that it was Ukraine and not Russia that meddled in the 2016 presidential election.
ANALYSIS: Trump public impeachment hearings: More like Watergate or Clinton?
Starting Wednesday, Americans will have the opportunity to see for themselves what's been happening behind closed doors on Capitol Hill. The question is whether the House Intelligence Committee's public hearings will change public opinion on impeachment — or lock it into place.
Support for impeaching and removing President Donald Trump now stands at about 49 percent in a running average of polls. Opposition is at 46 percent. Notably, these numbers are almost exactly in line with the 2016 election result, when Trump received 46 percent of the national popular vote to Hillary Clinton's 48 percent. In other words, public opinion on impeachment now resembles the basic political divide that has defined the Trump era.
This is why, as of now, it is likely that Trump will be impeached in the House and acquitted by the Senate. It would take significant defections from either party to produce any other outcome. The hope among Democrats is that the hearings will feature televised testimony so compelling that public opinion breaks decisively toward impeachment, thereby scrambling the politics on Capitol Hill. For encouragement, they often invoke a past impeachment inquiry in which public hearings did play a crucial role.
Read the full analysis here.
On eve of first impeachment hearing, Schiff releases memo outlining procedures
WASHINGTON — House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., on Tuesday released a six-page memorandum outlining the procedures for the public phase of the impeachment inquiry.
“The hearings will be conducted in a manner that ensures that all participants are treated fairly and with respect, mindful of the solemn and historic task before us,” Schiff said in the memo, released on the eve of the first House impeachment hearing.
“These procedures are consistent with those governing prior impeachment proceedings and mirror those used under Republican and Democratic House leadership for decades,” he added.
The release came with career diplomat William Taylor and State Department official George Kent scheduled to testify publicly Wednesday before the Intelligence Committee. On Friday, former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch is expected to testify.
Schiff said in the memo that he would not allow Republicans to use the hearings to further “sham investigations” into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden, or to promote “debunked conspiracies.”
“Nor will the Committee facilitate any efforts by President Trump or his allies to threaten, intimidate, or retaliate against the whistleblower who courageously and lawfully raised concerns about the President’s conduct,” he wrote.
During the impeachment hearings, only Schiff and the committee's ranking member, Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., are allowed to deliver opening statements, with each of them having equal time. Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, has been added to the committee to ask questions for the minority.
The memo also reiterated that the format will entail Democratic and Republican staff counsels questioning witnesses for periods of up to 45 minutes per side, a rule that was included in a House-passed resolution that outlined the rules for the impeachment inquiry.
It also said that only members of the Intelligence Committee may participate in the hearings — those not on the panel are not permitted to sit on the dais and question witnesses, but are allowed to sit in the audience. And it included a call for decorum: “The Code of Official Conduct for Members of Congress requires that every Member ‘shall behave at all times in a manner that shall reflect creditably on the House.’”
Nikki Haley: ‘Let the people decide’ if Trump should stay in officeNov. 12, 201909:47
Nikki Haley grilled over Trump's Ukraine conduct, truthfulness
Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley on Tuesday defended President Donald Trump’s July call with the leader of Ukraine, but said that “it’s never a good practice for us to ask a foreign country to investigate an American. It's just not a good practice."
“Having said that, there’s no insistence on that call, there are no demands on that call, it is a conversation between two presidents that’s casual in nature,” Haley said in an interview on "Today" with NBC News' Savannah Guthrie.
In the interview, Guthrie also pressed Haley on Trump's fitness for office and her claims that top officials sought to undermine the president.
The impeachment inquiry has been all about Ukraine, but what about Russia?
WASHINGTON — The central charge in the House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry is that President Trump used his office and powers to compel a foreign nation (Ukraine) to dig up dirt on Joe Biden.
But ahead of tomorrow’s public hearings, there are two additional questions worth exploring, especially after Monday’s release of three more transcripts of depositions.
One: Why was Trump and his administration pursuing a strategy on Ukraine that aligned with Russia’s interests — and against the United States’ expressed national interests?
And two: Why aren’t House Democrats trying to connect the Russian dots? (Is it a hangover after Mueller?)
GOP memo outlines 'key pieces of evidence' against impeachment case
A staff memo circulated Monday night among Republican members of the three House investigative committees conducting the Ukraine investigation outlines several points that the lawmakers claim will undermine Democrats' case for impeachment, a Republican source with direct knowledge confirmed to NBC News.
The memo, first published by Axios, lays out "four key pieces of evidence":
- The July 25 call summary — the best evidence of the conversation — shows no conditionality or evidence of pressure, the memo claims.
- Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and President Trump have both said there was no pressure on the call, it says.
- The Ukrainian government was not aware of a hold on U.S. security assistance at the time of the July 25 call.
- Trump met with Zelenskiy and U.S. security assistance flowed to Ukraine in September 2019 — both of which occurred without Ukraine investigating Trump's political rivals, the memo says.
Democrats, however, allege that the call in question did not exist in isolation and was part of a coordinated Ukrainian pressure campaign and bribery plot.
What Mick Mulvaney's latest legal woes mean for Trump's impeachmentNov. 12, 201905:43
Trump says he will release transcript of earlier Ukraine call
Trump on Monday said he is planning to release a transcript of an April phone call during which he congratulated Zelenskiy on his election victory. The phone call took place before Zelenskiy was in office.
The whistleblower’s complaint that triggered the impeachment inquiry centers around the July call, not the first congratulatory call in April. It's not the first time he has suggested that the call be released. In September, he told reporters that he thinks they "should ask for the first conversation also" since it was "beautiful."
Former Volker aide said there were worries Trump had 'Ukraine fatigue'
A former top aide to Ukraine special envoy Kurt Volker testified there were concerns President Trump had "Ukraine fatigue."
Christopher Anderson, who was Volker's aide until this past July, said those worries were stoked by two incidents. The first occurred in Nov. 2018, when Ukraine accused Russia of firing on three of its vessels in the Black Sea.
The attack was condemned in statements from the State Department and the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, "but there never was a statement from the White House that I'm aware of," Anderson said. Asked if that was unusual, he said, "We received questions from Ukrainian counterparts and journalists as to why there wasn't a stronger statement."
About a month later, the Navy planned to send a warship to the Black Sea in a show of support for Ukraine. Anderson described the plan as "routine," but "then there was a news report on CNN, and then the White House asked the Navy to cancel that" because the president was upset about the report.
Asked how he knew that Trump was upset, Anderson said that then-national security adviser John Bolton "relayed that he was called at home by the president, who complained about this news report."
Anderson was also asked about a statement he'd made that Bolton was concerned about Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani's influence on Ukraine policy.
"To the best of my recollection, he made a joke about every time Ukraine is mentioned, Giuliani pops up and that the President was listening to Giuliani about Ukraine," Anderson said.
House investigators release transcript of Catherine Croft's testimony
House impeachment investigators on Monday released the transcript of testimony from Catherine Croft, a special adviser for Ukraine at the State Department.
Croft had testified behind closed doors for more than five hours before the three House committees leading the inquiry, providing investigators with information that largely corroborated depositions given to them by other key figures in the inquiry, including Fiona Hill, then a top White House adviser for Europe and Russia, and George Kent, the deputy assistant secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs.
As NBC News reported after Croft's testimony on Oct. 30, she told investigators that she participated in a video conference where an official at the Office of Management and Budget 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,” Croft said.
Read the NBC News story here, and read the full transcript of her testimony here.
The Inquiry: What to expect from public hearings
Article II - Battle Lines - Monday, Nov. 11
On today's episode of the Article II podcast, Steve Kornacki is joined by MSNBC Washington Correspondent Garrett Haake to tell you what to expect from this week of televised public testimony.
The two discuss:
- The format of the public hearings
- What we know about the three witnesses scheduled to testify, plus why Democrats are asking them to testify first
- A look at the Republican counterstrategy, including the introduction of a list of requested witnesses and a new addition to the House Intelligence Committee
- Whether public hearings will change the trajectory of the impeachment inquiry
The episode answers listener questions about whether witness can refuse to answer a question and how public sentiment around impeachment shifted during public hearings for the Nixon and Clinton inquiries.
Click here for the full segment.
Former Trump official balks at Mulvaney's bid to join impeachment testimony lawsuit
WASHINGTON — A former Trump administration official and lawyers for the House Intelligence Committee urged a federal judge Monday to block Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, from joining an existing lawsuit over a subpoena to testify in the House impeachment inquiry.
Mulvaney sought to intervene in a suit filed late last month by Charles Kupperman, President Donald Trump's former deputy national security adviser, that named both the House and Trump as defendants. Faced with a subpoena to testify before the House and also a letter from the White House counsel instructing him not to do so, Kupperman asked a federal court to rule which command he should obey.
Pentagon official testifies Trump directed freeze on aid to Ukraine
Laura Cooper, the top Pentagon official overseeing U.S. policy regarding Ukraine, told House impeachment investigators last month that President Donald Trump, through the Office of Management and Budget, directed a mid-July freeze in military aid to Ukraine, according to a transcript of her testimony released Monday.
Officials offered no explanation for the hold, Cooper told Congress. Asked if the president was authorized to order that type of hold, Cooper said there were concerns that he wasn’t.
Read the transcript of Pentagon official Laura Cooper's impeachment testimony
House impeachment investigators on Monday released a transcript of testimony that Laura Cooper, the top Pentagon official overseeing U.S. policy regarding Ukraine, gave last month.
Cooper's closed-door testimony was delayed for over five hours after a group of House Republicans stormed the secure room where the deposition was taking place.
Trump appears to suggest he regrets signing whistleblower law
Protesters chant 'lock him up' outside Trump's Veteran's Day event
Protesters outside Trump's Veteran's Day event in New York City on Monday shouted "lock him up" during his speech. Watch footage from the crowd below:
What to expect when you're expecting an impeachment hearing
House Democrats are carefully choreographing this week’s public impeachment hearings to emphasize their “simple abuse of power case against President Trump,” multiple sources tell NBC News.
Their strategy is reliant on two key components: the witness list and the hearing format.
House Democrats characterize their first three witnesses – Amb. Bill Taylor, George Kent, and Amb. Marie Yovanovitch -- as respected, apolitical public servants with long, storied careers.
All three gave House investigators damning accounts of President Trump’s interactions with the new Ukrainian government. Democrats expect the American public will trust the testimonies, as the witnesses detail the alleged impeachable offenses underlying Trump’s Ukraine maneuvers.
Democratic Rep. Jim Himes of Connecticut told Chuck on "Meet the Press" that the public will “hear immensely patriotic, beautifully articulate people telling the story of a president who ... extorted a vulnerable country by holding up military aid.”
“They are all strong character witnesses. All three bring credibility to impeachment inquiry,” a Democratic aide tells NBC News, adding that Amb. Bill “Taylor is going to lay everything out” on Wednesday and Yovanovitch is going to “tug at America’s heartstrings” on Friday.
Taylor -- the current top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine -- told House investigators that Trump directed officials to tie foreign aid for Ukraine to demands that the country open an investigation into the Biden family and the 2016 election. A second Democratic aide says Taylor’s “exquisite note-taking” will lend credibility to his testimony, which “corroborates the whistleblower complaint.”
Republicans have the task of trying to separate President Trump from the string of damning testimonies.
The GOP witness list – which includes Hunter Biden, the anonymous whistleblower, and a former DNC consultant – highlights the degree to which Republicans want to change the subject away from Trump’s interaction with his Ukrainian counterpart.
House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff has already signalled that most of the names on the GOP request list are non-starters. Calling Hunter Biden, Democrats say, would have the effect of creating the political investigation into the Bidens that Trump wanted the Ukrainians to open.
Democrats could find some rhetorical value in allowing at least one of the GOP witnesses, as a means of pushing back against process arguments.
Don’t be surprised if Democrats allow Tim Morrison, the top Russia and Europe adviser on the National Security Council, to appear for public testimony.
Republicans will also attempt to undermine the witnesses by pointing out that their most damning information comes to them secondhand -- from EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland or from NSC officials -- not from firsthand conversations with key players such as President Trump, Rudy Giuliani or Mick Mulvaney.
The House voted to change the format for the impeachment hearings when it approved a resolution establishing the procedures for the inquiry. It allows House Democrats to keep control of the proceedings and explore lines of inquiry at greater length.
The hearings will kick off with opening statements from the House Intelligence Committee chairman and ranking member, plus the witnesses.
Following that, the committee will move to a questioning period of 90 minutes, split evenly between Democrats and Republicans.
Chairman Adam Schiff and the committee’s top Republican, Rep. Devin Nunes, can use the time to question the witnesses themselves or instruct a committee lawyer to do it instead.
Once the first 90 minutes is up, Schiff will decide if more time is needed for additional Q&A. That’s when the format reverts to a traditional congressional hearing, with lawmakers each getting five minutes to pose questions.
“If the American people only watch the first hour, they’ll hear plenty,” a third Democratic source familiar tells NBC. “The first hour of each hearing is designed to be a blockbuster.”
A message for Trump in NYC
Dem Rep. releases Veteran's Day impeachment ad
Virginia Rep. Elaine Luria, a Navy veteran, released a video on Monday explaining her support for impeachment.
"I didn't come to Washington to impeach the president, but I also didn't spend 20 years in the Navy to allow our Constitution to be trampled on," she says.
Trump claims, without evidence, that Schiff releasing doctored transcripts
After push from Rick Perry, his backers got huge gas deal in Ukraine
KYIV, Ukraine — Two political supporters of U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry secured a potentially lucrative oil and gas exploration deal from the Ukrainian government soon after Perry proposed one of the men as an adviser to the country's new president.
Perry's efforts to influence Ukraine's energy policy came earlier this year, just as President Volodymyr Zelenskiy's new government was seeking military aid from the United States to defend against Russian aggression and allies of President Donald Trump were ramping up efforts to get the Ukrainians to investigate his Democratic rival Joe Biden.
Ukraine awarded the contract to Perry's supporters little more than a month after the U.S. energy secretary attended Zelenskiy's May inauguration. In a meeting during that trip, Perry handed the new president a list of people he recommended as energy advisers. One of the four names was his longtime political backer Michael Bleyzer.
Trump's defender: How a little-known GOP lawmaker became a point man on impeachment
Rep. Lee Zeldin, R-N.Y., has called the impeachment probe into President Donald Trump a "charade," a "clown show," and a "cocktail that is" House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff's "favorite drink to get America drunk on."
Naturally, there's an occupant in the Oval Office who's taken notice of his strong words. And, in turn, a once little-known, 39-year-old lawmaker representing eastern Long Island has become one of the president's point men in battling impeachment, teaming up with fellow anti-impeachment crusaders such as House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows, R-N.C., and Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio.
Impeachment inquiry set to begin public hearings this weekNov. 11, 201903:43
Impeachment inquiry update for Monday, Nov. 11
House Democrats have not indicated which, if any, testimony transcripts will be released Monday. The investigative committees will continue to release transcripts ahead of Wednesday’s first public impeachment hearing, however.
There are no closed-door depositions scheduled for this week.
Marie Yovanovitch, the ousted U.S. ambassador to Ukraine who had been scheduled to appear before the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence on Monday, was rescheduled for Friday.
Graham ups attacks against whistleblower before public hearings
Graham ups attacks against whistleblower before public hearingsNov. 10, 201909:52
Only 3 Senate Republicans aren't defending Trump from the impeachment inquiry. Here's why.
For those Senate Republicans who are refusing to condemn the House-led impeachment inquiry, three may be the loneliest number.
While a resolution denouncing the House Democrats' fast-moving probe hasn't received a vote, GOP Sens. Mitt Romney of Utah, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska declined to sign on as co-sponsors — the only ones out of 53 Republicans — leaving the door ajar to the possibility that they could vote to convict President Donald Trump if impeachment moves to its trial phase in the Senate.
But unlike the blowback Romney and Collins have faced for breaking with the party's defense of the president, Murkowski could end up seeing her part in this micro-rebellion embraced by voters in her state. Experts on Alaska politics told NBC News that the state tends to reward an independent streak in its politicians.
In other words, Murkowski can fall out of line with Trump — but not fall out of favor with Republican voters in her state.
OPINION: From Nixon to Trump, the historical arc of presidential misconduct is deeply troubling
During the Watergate investigation, I contributed to an unprecedented history of presidential misconduct that the impeachment inquiry of the House Committee on the Judiciary requested in 1974.
Now, 45 years later, I’ve edited an expanded version, covering all U.S. presidencies through Barack Obama’s. Looking over that 230-year span, what I’m forced to conclude is deeply troubling: Since the early 1970s, the behavior of American presidents has worsened in alarming ways.
Hallie Jackson: Trump watching closely to see who defends him
President is 'closely watching' Republicans defending himNov. 10, 201907:00
Democrats push back on GOP efforts to have whistleblower, Hunter Biden testify
Democrats on Sunday pushed back on Republican requests for testimony from the whistleblower who helped launch the impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump, as well as former Vice President Joe Biden's son, Hunter Biden.
Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee, requested the whistleblower, the younger Biden and his business partner Devon Archer testify before House investigators in a letter Saturday to Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., the committee's chairman. Later Saturday, Schiff poured cold water on that request, saying the impeachment probe would not serve "to carry out the same sham investigations into the Bidens or debunked conspiracies about 2016 U.S. election interference" Trump asked Ukraine to conduct.
More on the partisan debate over whether the whistleblower should testify.
GOP senator: Trump advisers had to 'convince' Trump to release Ukraine aid
Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisc., said Sunday that "most" of President Donald Trump's advisers were trying to figure out "some way" to get him to release a hold on roughly $400 million in Ukrainian military aid, an effort at the center of Democrats' impeachment inquiry.
"I understand that most of President Trump's advisers wanted the military aid released," Johnson, who had personally pushed Trump to release the aid, told CNN's "State of the Union." "And they were trying to figure out some way, shape or form to convince President Trump to approve that release. It's certainly what I was trying to do in my phone call to him on Aug. 31. So I don't have a problem with advisers trying to figure out some way shape or form to convince the boss to do this."
Rand Paul downplays quid pro quo efforts
Paul: Every politician in Washington is 'trying to manipulate Ukraine'Nov. 10, 201901:31
John Bolton gets a book deal
John Bolton — the former Trump national security adviser who has emerged as a key figure in the impeachment inquiry — has inked a book deal with Simon & Schuster, a source with direct knowledge tells NBC News.
Bolton was represented by the Javelin literary agency, whose clients include former FBI director James Comey and the anonymous Trump administration official whose book, "A Warning,” comes out next week.
Trump trashes 'sinister' impeachment effort during Atlanta event
President Donald Trump on Friday called the impeachment inquiry a "deranged, hyper-partisan impeachment witch hunt, a sinister effort to nullify the ballots of 63 million patriotic Americans."
He made the remarks in Atlanta at an event to announce the African American outreach effort by his re-election campaign.
"Not happening, by the way," he said of the impeachment effort. "It's failing, it's failing fast, it's all a hoax."
On Wednesday, Democrats hold the first in a series of public hearings in their impeachment inquiry; several witnesses plan to testify next week.
'Absent yourself': What Schiff told Gaetz when he crashed a secure hearing
The House committees leading the impeachment inquiry released transcripts on Friday detailing the moment Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., was spotted in a secure room when a deposition was taking place.
Gaetz was in the room, called a SCIF, during testimony by Fiona Hill, a former top adviser to President Donald Trump on Russia and Europe. In the transcript, Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., is quoted as saying: "Mr. Gaetz, you're not permitted to be in the room. Please leave." At another point, Schiff tell Gaetz to "absent yourself" from the SCIF.
Former Trump adviser who testified to Ukraine pressure campaign said she was victim of harassment
Fiona Hill, President Donald Trump's former top adviser on Russia and Europe, told House investigators that her time in the Trump administration was marked by death threats, “hateful calls” and “conspiracy theories,” a harassment campaign she said was revived after it was learned she would cooperate with the impeachment inquiry, according to a transcript of her deposition released Friday.
"I received, I just have to tell you, death threats, calls at my home. My neighbors reported somebody coming and hammering on my door," she told investigators in closed-door testimony of her time in the White House. "Now, I'm not easily intimidated, but that made me mad."
The transcript confirmed NBC News’ reporting that Hill told Congress that Rudy Giuliani, Trump's personal attorney, and Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, sidestepped the National Security Council and typical White House process to advocate for a shadow policy on Ukraine. Hill also revealed new details about how Giuliani's work undercut and derailed the diplomats charged with overseeing Ukrainian-U.S. relations.
Read the full story.
Trump says of his EU ambassador, 'I hardly know the gentleman'
Gordon Sondland is President Trump's ambassador to the European Union and donated $1 million to his inaugural committee, but Trump told reporters at the White House on Friday that "I hardly know the gentleman."
Sondland has become a key witness in the House impeachment inquiry. He told investigators that Trump told him there was "no quid pro quo" calling for Ukraine to say it was investigating Joe and Hunter Biden in order to get military aid, and that he wasn't sure why the money was frozen. He updated his testimony this week to acknowledge that he'd told a top aide to Ukraine's president that the country wouldn't get the aid until it committed to investigating the 2016 elections and the Bidens.
Sondland and other witnesses have testified about conversations he'd had with Trump. One witness, former White House adviser Fiona Hill, told investigators that Trump had put Sondland "in charge of Ukraine" earlier this year.
Trump distanced himself from his diplomat on the White House lawn on Friday.
"Let me just tell you, I hardly know the gentleman, but this is the man who said there was no quid pro quo, and he still says that," Trump told reporters. "And he said that I said that, and he hasn't changed that testimony. So this is a man that said — as far as the president is concerned — there was no quid pro quo. Everybody that's testified — even the ones that are Trump-haters, they've all been fine. They don't have anything."
The president had warmer words for Sondland before he testified, however, tweeting that he's "a really good man and great American."
Whistleblower's lawyer sends cease-and-desist letter over Trump's 'reckless' attacks
A lawyer for the whistleblower whose complaint prompted the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump has sent a cease-and-desist letter to the White House urging the president to stop attacking his client.
“I am writing out of deep concern that your client, the president of the United States, is engaging in rhetoric and activity that places my client, the intelligence community whistleblower, and their family in physical danger,” the lawyer, Andrew Bakaj, wrote in a letter to White House counsel Pat Cipollone on Thursday.
“I am writing to respectfully request that you counsel your client on the legal and ethical peril in which he is placing himself should anyone be physically harmed as a result of his, or his surrogates’, behavior,” he wrote.
Bakaj alleged Trump's attacks constituted witness tampering and had succeeded in intimidating his client, saying "as a direct consequence of the President’s irresponsible rhetoric and behavior, my client’s physical safety became a significant concern," prompting them to opt out of giving lawmakers a closed-door deposition in favor of written answers to questions.
Trump says he has 'no problem' releasing earlier phone call with Ukraine
President Donald Trump said Friday that he is willing to provide a transcript of his first call with the president of Ukraine, which occurred in April.
“I have the second call, which nobody knew about," Trump said, speaking to reporters as he left the White House on Friday morning, referring to that spring conversation. "I guess they want that to be produced also. ... I had a call before this [July] one with the president of Ukraine. I understand they'd like it, and I have no problem giving it to them."
About two weeks after Trump made that earlier call, in which he offered congratulations on the night of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy's April 21 election, the Ukrainian leader and a small group of advisers discussed how to navigate the insistence from Trump and Rudy Giuliani for a probe of the Bidens and how to avoid becoming entangled in the American elections, The Associated Press reported.
Read the full story here.
Rep. Nadler on the possibility of Trump being removed from officeNov. 8, 201908:15
Hill's and Vindman's testimony expected to be released Friday
The House committees leading the impeachment probe are expected to release the transcript of former White House official Fiona Hill’s deposition Friday at about midday, sources with knowledge of the timing told NBC News.
The transcript of testimony from Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council, is also expected to be released Friday, one of the sources said.
Hill reportedly told Congress last month that then-national security adviser John Bolton wanted no part of the effort to get the Ukrainians to investigate President Donald Trump’s political opponents and told her to report the situation to the top lawyer at the National Security Council, NBC News previously reported. Hill told lawmakers she considered what was happening to be a clear counterintelligence risk to the United States.
Vindman, a firsthand witness to Trump’s July 25 call with Ukraine’s president, told House impeachment investigators last week that a White House meeting between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy — as well as the delivery of nearly $400 million in security and military aid — was "contingent" on Ukrainian officials carrying out investigations into the Bidens and the 2016 election, NBC News previously reported.
RPT: Ukraine's president was prepared to bow to Trump's demandsNov. 8, 201909:03
Ivanka Trump: Whistleblower's ID 'not particularly relevant' to impeachment
RABAT, Morocco — Ivanka Trump on Friday echoed her father's view that the House impeachment investigation is an attempt to overturn the 2016 election. But in an interview with The Associated Press, she parted ways with President Donald Trump by calling the identity of the impeachment whistleblower "not particularly relevant."
The Republican president and some of his allies have been pressing the news media to publicize the whistleblower's name, but Ivanka Trump said the person's motives were more important. And she declined to speculate on what they may have been.
"The whistleblower shouldn't be a substantive part of the conversation," she told the AP, saying the person "did not have firsthand information."
Read the full story here.
Key impeachment 'drug deal' witness willing to defy TrumpNov. 8, 201919:49
Mulvaney won't testify in impeachment probe, source tells NBC News
A senior administration source has told NBC News that White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney will not testify Friday as part of the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.
“He won’t be showing up,” the source told NBC News.
When asked if Mulvaney would comply with the subpoena by House Democrats, a second official pointed to an earlier statement from White House spokesman Hogan Gidley.
“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,” Gidley said.
Read the full story here.
'He's gonna sing': Giuliani hires 3 lawyers amid Ukraine scandalNov. 8, 201905:19
House investigators subpoena Mulvaney for Friday testimony
From an official working on the impeachment inquiry:
Late Thursday, the House Intelligence Committee subpoenaed Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney for a previously scheduled deposition on Friday morning.
“On Oct. 17, 2019, Mr. Mulvaney admitted from the White House briefing room that the President withheld vital military aid in order to pressure Ukraine to conduct investigations that would benefit the President’s personal and political interests, not the national interest. Other testimony during this inquiry also has indicated that Mr. Mulvaney could shed additional light on the President’s abuse of the power of his office for his personal gain.
Mr. Mulvaney has the opportunity to uphold his oath to the nation and constitution by testifying tomorrow under oath about matters of keen national importance. We hope Mr. Mulvaney does not hide behind the President’s ongoing efforts to conceal the truth and obstruct our investigation.”
The anatomy of a smear campaignNov. 7, 201907:11
Diplomat testified that Putin, Orban poisoned Trump's views on Ukraine
WASHINGTON — A senior U.S. diplomat told Congress that he was briefed on conversations President Donald Trump had with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban in which the two foreign leaders talked Trump into a negative view about Ukraine and its new leader.
George Kent, a senior State Department official responsible for Europe, told House investigators that Putin and Orban, along with Trump personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, had “shaped the president’s view of Ukraine and (President Volodymyr) Zelenskiy.” He said Trump’s conversations with the two leaders accounted for the change in Trump’s view of Zelenskiy from “very positive” after their first call on April 21 to “negative” just one month later when he met with advisers on Ukraine in the Oval Office.
NBC News' Garrett Haake reports on George Kent's testimony
Career diplomat took notes, believed Trump Ukraine conduct was ‘injurious to the rule of law,’ transcripts show
State Department official George Kent, a key witness in the impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump, told House investigators last month he'd created memos of specific conversations he'd witnessed related to White House’s attempted quid pro quo that he said were “injurious to the rule of law, both in Ukraine and the U.S,” according to a transcript of his testimony made public Thursday.
Lawmakers have focused on Kent and other witnesses to establish that the Trump administration froze aid money as part of an attempt to pressure Ukraine to open politically advantageous probes.
Chris Jansing breaks down the latest developments in the impeachment inquiry
Kennedy says he didn't mean to be disrespectful when he called Pelosi 'dumb'
Donald Trump Jr. defends tweeting name of person he said is the whistleblower
During a contentious exchange on ABC's "The View," Donald Trump Jr. defending tweeting the name of a person who some conservative outlets have alleged is the Ukraine whistleblower, saying that the name had been "out there."
"I think the reality of the answer is the whistleblower's name was on a little website called thedrudgereport a couple of days ago," he said. "I literally quote tweeted an article that had the guy's name in the title of the article."
"The name has been out there for five days," he later added.
Joe says Sen. Kennedy's Pelosi bash is degrading, hard to turn back from
John Bolton, Trump's former national security adviser, skips impeachment deposition
WASHINGTON — Former White House national security adviser John Bolton failed to appear Thursday for his closed-door deposition in the House impeachment inquiry, following the lead of other current and former Trump administration officials who have chosen not to show up.
Last week, Bolton — who was fired by Trump in September — was formally invited to testify before the three congressional committees in charge of questioning witnesses, but his lawyer, Charles Cooper, quickly made clear that his client was unwilling to appear voluntarily. Bolton has not been issued a subpoena, sources familiar with the inquiry said.
Bolton's no-show comes after his former top deputy, Charles Kupperman, skipped his own scheduled deposition amid efforts by the White House to block his appearance. Kupperman then filed a lawsuit asking a federal judge to rule on whether he must testify under a congressional subpoena.
Read the full story here.
Pence aide Jennifer Williams arrives to testify in impeachment probeNov. 7, 201902:21
ANALYSIS: As proceedings go public, Dems try to keep it simple
WASHINGTON — For the first time next Wednesday, with cameras rolling, House Democrats will begin broadcasting a dramatic story about the corruption of American democracy and governance that they contend not only reaches into the Oval Office, but bears the unmistakable fingerprints of President Donald Trump.
Their challenge in impeaching Trump is keeping the tale of his Ukraine scandal simple as they try to move forward through a thicket of Republican defenses; characters unfamiliar to the public; and constitutional, legal and political principles most Americans haven't considered since their last civics class.
"We have a tendency to get in the weeds on this," said Del. Stacey Plaskett, D-V.I., a former senior official in the Obama Justice Department who represents the Virgin Islands in Congress, and a member of the three-committee panel that has been conducting impeachment hearings behind closed doors. "I use the words extortion and bribery. I think those are words that Americans can understand."
Read the full analysis here.
Sen. Harris: If impeachment gets to Senate, I will be there
Sen. Harris: If impeachment gets to Senate, I will be thereNov. 7, 201914:31
Trump denies report that he wanted Barr to publicly clear him on Ukraine
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is denying he wanted Attorney General William Barr to hold a press conference to declare he broke no laws during a phone call in which he pressed Ukraine's president to investigate Democrats.
Trump tweeted early Thursday that the story, first reported by The Washington Post, "is totally untrue and just another FAKE NEWS story with anonymous sources that don't exist."
Trump reportedly wanted Barr to hold press conference clearing himNov. 7, 201902:06
The Post said Barr rebuffed the request, which came in September around the time the White House released a rough transcript of Trump's July 25 call at the center of the House impeachment probe. The paper cited unidentified people familiar with the effort.
House Democrats are investigating Trump's pressure on Ukraine to investigate political rivals as aid money was being withheld.
Trump insists he did nothing wrong.
Pence adviser set to give evidence in closed-door hearing
Jennifer Williams, a special adviser on Russian and European affairs and long-serving State Department staffer, is expected to give evidence on Thursday.
Williams is the first witness from Vice President Mike Pence's national security team to appear for closed-door testimony. House investigators expect to learn more about how much Pence knew about Trump's Ukraine maneuvers.
Article II - The Best Defense - Wednesday, November 6th
On today’s episode, Steve Kornacki talks to Jon Allen, politics reporter for NBC News, about the different arguments Republicans are taking against impeachment.
The two discuss:
- Why Republicans are unable to unify around a single defense of the President
- The three main arguments Republicans are using to protect the President from being removed from office
- The calculations made by Senate Major Leader Mitch McConnell and other Republicans in their defenses of the President up until this point
- How Republicans could change their strategy as impeachment moves towards the Senate
The episode also answers a listener question about whether the establishment of a quid pro quo is required for the House to move forward with impeachment.