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

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

The fast-moving impeachment of President Donald Trump, stemming from his dealings with Ukraine, moved to the Senate for trial in January after the House voted a month earlier to adopt two articles of impeachment: abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

The Senate voted in early February to acquit the president on both charges.

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

Trump is only the third president in U.S. history to be impeached. Read all of the breaking news and analysis on impeachment from NBC News' political reporters, as well as our teams on Capitol Hill and at the White House.

Trump impeachment highlights

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

1034d ago / 2:54 PM UTC

Schiff: 'Overwhelming' evidence of Trump obstruction

1034d ago / 2:32 PM UTC

George Conway takes swipe at wife Kellyanne Conway on Twitter

It's no secret that top presidential adviser Kellyanne Conway and her husband, a frequent Trump critic, don't see eye to eye on the president. On Monday, they duked it out on Twitter after conservative lawyer George Conway needled his wife about a Joe Biden tweet.

Kellyanne Conway had retweeted a brief video clip of the former vice president speaking to a crowd, along with a comment: “Sleepy Joe is Creepy Joe,” she wrote. “We need Ukraine’s help to defeat THIS guy?”

To which George Conway responded: “Your boss apparently thought so.”

Read the story.

1034d ago / 2:23 PM UTC

First Read: Democrats sing different tunes on impeachment as GOP closes ranks

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If the Democrats have the substance on their side in the impeachment fight — in terms of the public testimony, the released documents and all of the text messages — Republicans are now the ones with the more unified message.

Case in point is what’s playing out on the 2020 presidential campaign trail, with the Democratic candidates talking about health care, tax policy and racial equity — but barely mentioning the biggest political story in Washington.

Bottom line: Republicans are messaging the existential threat that impeachment brings, arguing that the entire process subverts the will of voters. But Democrats aren’t messaging that same existential threat. In fact, they’re also arguing that the best way to defeat Trump is at the ballot box in 2020.

At some point, that messaging disparity is going to be unsustainable for Democrats. How do you make the case that the sitting president of the United States can’t run for re-election when your party’s presidential candidates aren’t making that same case?

Get First Read's take.

1034d ago / 2:08 PM UTC
1034d ago / 2:05 PM UTC

Trump said he'd be disappointed if DOJ watchdog concludes FBI had enough info to probe campaign

President Donald Trump said Tuesday that he would be a bit disappointed if the Justice Department inspector general's upcoming report on the origins of the Russia investigation says the FBI had enough information to launch an investigation in 2016 into members of his campaign.

The president made the remarks to reporters in London in response to a Washington Post story from Monday that said Attorney General William Barr disagrees that the FBI had enough information in July 2016 to justify beginning an investigation into Trump campaign members, a key takeaway of the soon-to-be-released review. Barr told associates about his disagreement with that assessment, the Post reported, citing people familiar with the matter.

"Perhaps he’s read the report," Trump said when asked about the Post article. "I think he’s quoted incorrectly. I do believe that because I’m hearing the report is very powerful, but I’m hearing that by reading lots of different things, not from inside information. It’s really from outside information."

"I think we have to read it, we have to see it, but I hear there’s a lot of devastating things in that report, but we’ll see what happens," Trump continued, adding, "If what I read is correct — I read it in your newspaper — if what I read is correct, that will be a little disappointing, but it was just one aspect of the report. We’ll see what happens. It’s coming out in a few days. I hear it’s devastating."

Read the full report.

1034d ago / 1:58 PM UTC

Trump labels Democrats 'unpatriotic' as he arrives in London for NATO gathering

President Donald Trump accused the Democrats of being unpatriotic and said they were hurting the country with their impeachment inquiry as he prepares to meet with world leaders here on Tuesday.

“I think it's very unpatriotic of the Democrats to put on a performance where they do that,” Trump said in his first public comments since arriving in London. “I do. I think it's a bad thing for our country. Impeachment wasn't supposed to be used that way.”

The president also came out swinging at one of the U.S.'s closest allies, slamming comments by French President Emmanuel Macron and suggesting trade deal negotiations with China might not end until after the election next year.

Read the full story.

1035d ago / 12:37 AM UTC
1035d ago / 12:36 AM UTC

Newly released documents shed light on Mueller-Trump meeting

Former special counsel Robert Mueller had taken himself out of the running to be FBI director by the time he met with President Donald Trump about the job, former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein told federal investigators.

Notes from Rosenstein's May 23, 2017 interview were made public on Monday as the result of a court ruling in BuzzFeed News' Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the Justice Department.

The document sheds new light on the circumstances of Trump's May 16, 2017 meeting with Mueller in the Oval Office. Trump has claimed that Mueller applied for the suddenly vacant job of FBI director in that meeting and turned him down. The next day, Mueller was named special counsel investigating links between the Trump campaign and Russian interference in the 2016 election.

In the interview, according to the notes published by BuzzFeed News, Rosenstein described feeling "angry, ashamed, horrified and embarrassed" at how the abrupt firing of then-FBI director James Comey on May 9, 2017 was handled. "It was also humiliating for Comey," his interviewers quoted Rosenstein as saying.

Rosenstein said he spoke to Mueller, a former FBI director, about becoming special counsel the next day.

Read the full story.

1035d ago / 12:32 AM UTC

ANALYSIS: Trump steps onto world stage in the shadow of impeachment

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This is the contrast President Donald Trump wanted — at least, in theory.

On this side of the Atlantic, he'll be representing the United States in high-level talks with Western leaders about the rising threats of Russia, China and perpetual turmoil in the Middle East. On the other, in his telling, his domestic political rivals in the House Democratic majority will be busy indicting him in absentia in an impeachment investigation he calls a "hoax" designed to undermine his presidency.

For Trump, it's an opportunity to distill for voters the argument that he's doing his job while Democrats are ignoring the needs of the American public so they can hurt him politically.

Read the full analysis.

1035d ago / 12:29 AM UTC
1035d ago / 12:28 AM UTC

'Obsession,' 'dangerous,' 'basement bunker': GOP impeachment report rips Democrats' inquiry

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House Republicans have written a 123-page minority report arguing that Democrats have failed to establish any impeachable offenses by President Donald Trump, according to a copy of the report reviewed by NBC News.

The GOP lawmakers did not find any wrongdoing by the president and concluded that there was no quid pro quo for Ukraine aid.

"The Democrats' impeachment inquiry, led by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, is merely the outgrowth of their obsession with re-litigating the results of the 2016 presidential election," the Republican staff on the House Intelligence, Oversight and Foreign Affairs committees wrote.

"Despite their best efforts, the evidence gathered during the Democrats' partisan and one-sided impeachment inquiry does not support that President Trump pressured Ukraine to investigate his political rival to benefit the President in the 2020 presidential election.

"The evidence does not establish any impeachable offense," the report concludes.

Read the full story.

1035d ago / 10:34 PM UTC

It's Nadler's turn to take on Trump. Again.

On Manhattan's Upper West Side a few weeks ago, when a few elected officials held a pop-up town hall in front of a Fairway grocery store, voter after voter had the same question for Rep. Jerry Nadler: Why are you here?

"‘I'm leaving. I'm leaving Monday morning,’" Nadler told the questioners, according to Scott Stringer, New York City’s comptroller, who was 20 when he began working for Nadler. “Literally, people would say, ‘Why don't you go now?’”

The 14-term Democrat has been preparing for this moment since the House impeachment inquiry was formally announced in September. As chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Nadler is on deck to lead the next phase in the process of determining whether President Donald Trump should be impeached.

It isn't Nadler's first brush with presidential impeachment: He was a member of the Judiciary Committee, and a vocal defender of President Bill Clinton, during the process that ultimately led to Clinton's impeachment in the late 1990s.

Twenty years later, Nadler, 72, who has a law degree from Fordham, has been clear about his view that this time, the 45th president appears to have committed impeachable offenses. Nadler has repeated that view for months, saying over the summer that there is “very substantial evidence that the president has committed multiple crimes and impeachable offenses” — a statement made even before the revelations concerning Ukraine surfaced publicly.

Read the full story.

1035d ago / 10:22 PM UTC

Prosecutor says new charges 'likely' in case against Rudy Giuliani associates

The Justice Department is "likely" to file additional charges in the case against two associates of Rudy Giuliani accused of funneling foreign money to U.S. political candidates, a prosecutor said Monday.

The disclosure was made during a court hearing in New York related to the case of Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman. The federal prosecutor didn't offer any further details on the nature or target of any additional charges.

Parnas and Fruman were charged with violating campaign finance laws. The pair have pleaded not guilty.

The two men were carrying one-way tickets to Vienna when they were arrested at Dulles Airport outside of Washington, D.C., on Oct. 9.

The indictment unsealed the next day accused Parnas and Fruman of making illegal straw donations, including $325,000 to a pro-President Donald Trump political action committee. Federal prosecutors say the pair also engaged in a scheme to force the ouster of the then-U.S. ambassador in Ukraine.

Read the full story.

1035d ago / 10:19 PM UTC
1035d ago / 10:17 PM UTC

Judiciary Committee names witnesses appearing at Wednesday's hearing

The House Judiciary Committee has released the names of the witnesses testifying Wednesday's hearing exploring the constitutional grounds for impeachment.

Witnesses for the Democrats

  • Noah Feldman, the Felix Frankfurter professor of law and director of the Julis-Rabinowitz Program on Jewish and Israeli law at Harvard Law School.
  • Pamela S. Karlan, the Kenneth and Harle Montgomery professor of public interest law and co-director of the Supreme Court Litigation Clinic at Stanford Law School.
  • Michael Gerhardt, the Burton Craige distinguished professor of jurisprudence at the University of North Carolina School of Law.

Witness for the Republicans

  • Jonathan Turley, the J.B. and Maurice C. Shapiro professor of public interest law at the George Washington University Law School.

The hearing on Wednesday will begin at 10 a.m.

1035d ago / 9:30 PM UTC

Schumer slams GOP colleagues for claiming Ukraine interfered in 2016

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Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., ripped his Republican colleagues Monday afternoon for "increasingly outlandish claims" that Ukraine meddled in the 2016 election — an apparent swipe at Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., who repeated the allegation on NBC News' "Meet the Press" on Sunday.

"Let me be clear: The charge that Ukraine had something to do with the Russian meddling in 2016 is a lie spread by Vladimir Putin," Schumer said on the Senate floor. "To get things off his back. Putin and Russian intelligence services invented that lie to muddy the waters and distract from the fact that Russia, not Ukraine, interfered in our elections."

"And now, disgracefully, we have sitting U.S. senators helping spread that propaganda in an effort to defend the president," Schumer said. "Republicans must stop claiming that Ukraine had anything to do with election interference  in 2016. Repeating these claims, even speculating about them, is doing Putin’s job for him. I urge my Republican colleagues — they know who they are — to stop spreading these lies, which hurts our democracy.

On the Sunday program, Kennedy claimed multiple times that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 presidential election, prompting direct criticism from Hillary Clinton and praise from Trump.

            

1035d ago / 8:35 PM UTC
1035d ago / 8:29 PM UTC

Collins accuses Nadler of rushing impeachment process, leaving GOP in the dark

House Judiciary ranking member Doug Collins, R-Ga., sent letter Monday the committee's chairman, Jerrold Nadler, about the panel's process in the impeachment inquiry, complaining that “every letter and nearly every question" that he has raised "remains unanswered” with just 48 hours to go before the committee's first hearing.

In the letter — his sixth over the last few weeks — Collins also said Nadler still hasn't provided panel Republicans with a witness list and notes that the committee doesn't yet have a copy of the Intelligence Committee's report on its findings in the inquiry. Members of the Intelligence panel are expected to approve their report Tuesday evening.

"For the first time in history, this committee will weigh impeachment without any evidence for us to review," Collins wrote. "Any discussion with the yet-to-be identified witnesses will, therefore, be in the abstract."

"This ad hoc, poorly executed 'impeachment inquiry' will provide the Senate with ample justification for expeditiously disposing of it," Collins added.

"Once again, I request clarity on how you intend to conduct this inquiry," Collins wrote after warning that the "ad hoc, poorly executed" process would "provide the Senate with ample justification for expeditiously disposing of" the impeachment inquiry.

"As Republicans have stated before, and consistent with Chairman Schiff’s repeated statements, withholding information from the minority shall constitute evidence of your denial of fundamental fairness and due process, as well as obstruction of minority rights," Collins wrote.

1035d ago / 8:01 PM UTC
1035d ago / 7:56 PM UTC

Nadler questions Trump's refusal to participate in hearing

House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., criticized Trump on Monday for refusing to participate in the committee's first impeachment hearing on Wednesday, alleging the president's unwillingness to cooperate is just another sign that his claims about his dealings with Ukraine are disingenuous.

"The American people deserve transparency," Nadler said in a statement. "If the president thinks the call was 'perfect' and there is nothing to hide, then he would turn over the thousands of pages of documents requested by Congress, allow witnesses to testify instead of blocking testimony with baseless privilege claims, and provide any exculpatory information that refutes the overwhelming evidence of his abuse of power."

1035d ago / 6:06 PM UTC

Trump says impeachment is uniting the GOP like never before

1035d ago / 4:22 PM UTC

Trump blasts Dems for holding impeachment hearing while he’s in U.K. for NATO

President Donald Trump on Monday blasted House Democrats for holding impeachment hearings while he is at a NATO summit in London and claimed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy had cleared him of wrongdoing in an interview published earlier in the day.

Speaking to reporters as he departed the White House for the summit, Trump said Democrats had "decided" to hold the upcoming hearings at "the exact time" he's in London. The president also said Zelenskiy "came out and said very strongly that President Trump did nothing wrong," adding, "that should end everything, but that will never end it."

Trump was referring to an interview that Time and a handful of European publications published Monday in which Trump's Ukrainian counterpart said, "Look, I never talked to the president from the position of a quid pro quo."

"I don’t want us to look like beggars," Zelenskiy when asked about the $400 in military aid Trump held up while he pushed the Ukrainians to investigate the Bidens and Democrats. "But you have to understand. We’re at war. If you’re our strategic partner, then you can’t go blocking anything for us. I think that’s just about fairness. It’s not about a quid pro quo. It just goes without saying."

Read the story.

1035d ago / 4:06 PM UTC

Hillary Clinton slams Sen. Kennedy for 'parroting Russian propaganda'

On "Meet the Press" on Sunday with Chuck Todd, Kennedy repeated claims, disputed by U.S. intelligence agencies, that Ukrainian leaders interfered in the 2016 election. 

1035d ago / 2:49 PM UTC

Pompeo: Impeachment hearings should pause while Trump is abroad

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo blasted the House on Monday for scheduling impeachment hearings while President Trump is abroad.

Pompeo said it’s “very unfortunate” for the House Judiciary Committee to hold its hearing Wednesday at the same time that Trump is representing the U.S. at this week’s NATO summit in London.

Pompeo told “Fox & Friends” that there is a long tradition of supporting a president when he is traveling overseas and shouldn’t be distracted by problems at home while discussing international issues with allies.

"I regret that they've chosen to hold these hearings at the same time that the president and our entire national security team will be traveling to Europe, to London, to work on these important matters," Pompeo said. "It's very unfortunate."

Separately, Pompeo declined to say whether he planned to step down as secretary of state to run for a U.S. Senate seat in Kansas.

1035d ago / 2:22 PM UTC

The impeachment fight boils down to these four simple questions

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More than two months after the impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump began, you can break down the entire fight into four simple questions.

One, did the president of the United States ask another country to interfere in the upcoming 2020 election — against possible Democratic rival Joe Biden?

Two, did Trump and his administration withhold military aid and a White House visit to compel Ukraine to start this investigation into Joe Biden and his son?

Three, were those actions — first the ask of interference, then the temporary withholding of military aid — an abuse of the president’s powers?

And four — and most importantly — do those actions amount to impeachable offenses?

Get First Read's take here.

1035d ago / 2:00 PM UTC

Intelligence Committee to review report on its findings

This evening, members of the House Intelligence Committee are expected to begin reviewing a report on the panel's findings in the impeachment inquiry. The panel is expected to approve the report Tuesday evening, likely on a party-line vote, setting it up for consideration by the House Judiciary Committee, which is expected to draft and consider articles of impeachment.

The Judiciary Committee is taking the lead this week in the Trump impeachment inquiry, with its first public hearing Wednesday. Witnesses at the hearing will explain the historical and constitutional basis of impeachment and whether President Donald Trump’s actions justify removing him from office.

Lawmakers spent the weekend debating the makeup of Wednesday’s witness panel. Four yet-to-be-announced scholars are scheduled to appear, but Judiciary Committee ranking member Doug Collins, R-Ga., is requesting that more be added and that Republicans have an opportunity to select some of the witnesses.

The White House, meanwhile, told House Democrats on Sunday that it will not participate in Wednesday's impeachment hearing — Trump himself is scheduled to be in London for the final day of the NATO summit that day. But the White House left open the prospect of participating in future proceedings. House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., has set a Friday deadline for the president and his lawyers to decide if they will mount a defense by calling witnesses or presenting evidence.

1035d ago / 1:39 PM UTC
1035d ago / 12:49 PM UTC

Zelenskiy on Trump withholding aid: 'If you’re our strategic partner, then you can’t go blocking anything for us'

In a rare interview since the onset of the House impeachment inquiry in late September, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy spoke to reporters about the nearly $400 million in military aid President Donald Trump withheld from the country at the same time he was pushing for Ukraine to investigate the Bidens and Democrats.

"Look, I never talked to the president from the position of a quid pro quo," Zelenskiy told Time and a handful of European publications in an interview published Monday. "That’s not my thing. … I don’t want us to look like beggars. But you have to understand. We’re at war. If you’re our strategic partner, then you can’t go blocking anything for us. I think that’s just about fairness. It’s not about a quid pro quo. It just goes without saying."

Zelenskiy also spoke about the repeated assertion from Trump and others that Ukraine is a "corrupt" country, which is part of the administration's explanation for why they had withheld the money. 

"When America says, for instance, that Ukraine is a corrupt country, that is the hardest of signals," Zelenskiy said. "It might seem like an easy thing to say, that combination of words: Ukraine is a corrupt country. Just to say it and that’s it. But it doesn’t end there. Everyone hears that signal. Investments, banks, stakeholders, companies, American, European, companies that have international capital in Ukraine, it’s a signal to them that says, 'Be careful, don’t invest.' Or, 'Get out of there.' This is a hard signal."

"For me it’s very important for the United States, with all they can do for us, for them really to understand that we are a different country, that we are different people," he continued. "It’s not that those things don’t exist. They do. All branches of government were corrupted over many years, and we are working to clean that up. But that signal from them is very important."

Trump responded to Zelenskiy's interview Monday, tweeting, "Breaking News: The President of Ukraine has just again announced that President Trump has done nothing wrong with respect to Ukraine and our interactions or calls."

1036d ago / 1:49 AM UTC

Trump, lawyers won't participate in first Judiciary Committee impeachment hearing

The White House said Sunday it will not participate in the House Judiciary Committee's first impeachment hearing on Wednesday but left open the possibility that it may take part in future proceedings.

In a letter to committee chairman Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., White House counsel Pat Cipollone said next week's hearing does “not begin to provide the president with any semblance of a fair process.”

We apologize, this video has expired.

"We cannot fairly be expected to participate in a hearing while the witnesses are yet to be named," Cipollone said in the letter.

But Cipollone said President Donald Trump may participate if he is allowed to do so “meaningfully.”

Read more here.

1037d ago / 4:09 PM UTC

Six degrees of Rudy: Giuliani's web tangles three Trump controversies

Ukraine only skims the surface of Rudy Giuliani's influence in the Trump administration.

The former New York City mayor, now the president's personal lawyer, has made headlines for his role in the impeachment inquiry. But while Giuliani's efforts to have Ukraine launch investigations politically beneficial to Trump are much discussed, he and his associates have woven themselves into the fabric of Trump's world with dealings in Turkey and the Navy SEALs case.

Asked in a text Wednesday by NBC News about how his circle has been able to be so influential in the Trump administration, Giuliani responded, "I don't know."

Read more here

1038d ago / 8:10 PM UTC

Nadler gives Trump new impeachment deadline

A top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee is giving President Donald Trump until Dec. 6 to decide if he wants to call any witnesses in the impeachment proceedings.

The letter from Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., asks the president what “specific privileges” in the House Rules he would like to exercise, namely his ability to call witnesses to defend himself.

The president and Republicans have been arguing that the impeachment inquiry is a sham process and that the president has not had the ability to defend himself.

Nadler had earlier this week given the president a previous deadline of Dec. 1 to determine if he wanted his counsel to participate to cross-examine witnesses in the hearing scheduled for Dec. 4. The president hasn’t yet responded on if he will send counsel. 

Next week marks the new phase of the impeachment inquiry as it transitions from the fact-finding investigation by the Intelligence Committee to the explanatory phase by the Judiciary Committee. Witnesses in Wednesday’s hearing are expected to be constitutional scholars to help explain what impeachment is. 

 

1038d ago / 6:38 PM UTC
1038d ago / 4:16 PM UTC

Will Trump attend the Dec. 4 impeachment hearing?

1038d ago / 3:21 PM UTC

Gordon Sondland denies sexual misconduct allegations

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WASHINGTON — Gordon Sondland, U.S. Ambassador to the European Union and a key witness who testified publicly this month in the House impeachment inquiry, is categorically denying allegations of sexual misconduct that occurred before he took his diplomatic post and were published for the first time on Wednesday.

“In decades of my career in business and civic affairs, my conduct can be affirmed by hundreds of employees and colleagues with whom I have worked in countless circumstances. These untrue claims of unwanted touching and kissing are concocted and, I believe, coordinated for political purposes. They have no basis in fact, and I categorically deny them,” Sondland said in a statement about the claims, obtained by NBC News.

Read more here.

1038d ago / 3:13 PM UTC

DOJ inspector general draft report says FBI didn't spy on Trump campaign

WASHINGTON — A draft copy of a report compiled by the Department of Justice inspector general concludes that the FBI didn’t spy on President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign, a person familiar with the document confirmed to NBC News.

The information from the inspector general, Michael Horowitz, is expected to be included in the final report that’s due on Dec. 9, according to The New York Times. The Times first reported Wednesday that the report is expected to say that the DOJ watchdog found no evidence that the FBI tried to place informants or undercover agents inside Trump’s campaign.

Trump and his allies have long claimed that his 2016 campaign was spied on. Attorney General William Barr told a Senate Appropriations subcommittee in April that he thought “spying did occur” by the federal government on Trump’s campaign.

More here.

1040d ago / 9:30 PM UTC

Giuliani calls Trump to tell him he was joking about having an 'insurance policy'

President Donald Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, called the president this week to reassure him that he had been joking when he told media outlets he had “insurance” if Trump turned on him in the Ukraine scandal, Giuliani’s lawyer said on Wednesday.

The attorney, Robert Costello, said Giuliani “at my insistence” had called Trump “within the last day” to emphasize that he had not been serious when he said he had an “insurance policy, if thrown under the bus.”

“He shouldn’t joke, he is not a funny guy. I told him, ‘Ten thousand comedians are out of work, and you make a joke. It doesn’t work that way,’” Costello told Reuters. Giuliani has already said that he was being sarcastic when he made the comments. Trump, too, has brushed them off, telling reporters in the Oval Office this week that “Rudy is a great guy.” The White House declined to comment on Costello’s remarks.

Read the full story.

1040d ago / 8:22 PM UTC
1040d ago / 8:12 PM UTC

Highlights of Philip Reeker's testimony on Trump admin's Ukraine dealings

House impeachment investigators on Tuesday released a transcript of testimony from Philip Reeker, the acting assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian Affairs, who gave a closed-door deposition to the House Intelligence Committee on Oct. 26. In his testimony, Reeker described the smear campaign against Amb. to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch and his efforts to counter it and discusses what he knew about the freeze on aid to Ukraine. 

Here are some of the highlights:

  • Reeker described ousted U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch has having an "outstanding" reputation and being "extremely professional" as a foreign service officer; he called stories about her "outlandish and unrealistic"; and he said she was subjected to "really outrageous press coverage and innuendo and threats coming from high levels, retweeting irresponsible journalism, which affected her personally, her safety, affected our mission, reflected on the United States."
  • Reeker said he tried to find the source of the negative attacks on Yovanovitch, which he traced in part to an earlier letter from then-Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas, accusing Yovanovitch of being partisan; State Department officials determined those allegations to be unfounded.
  • The State Department told Ukrainian officials to stop "maligning" Yovanovitch; a "mortified" Ukraine embassy deputy chief of mission reported the demand back to Kyiv.
  • Reeker was part of the effort to get a "robust" statement of support for Yovanovitch from the State Department, but was denied.
  • Reeker said “there was unhappiness from the White House that Ambassador Yovanovitch was still there" in Kyiv.
  • Reeker said "there was an understanding" that Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani was "feeding the president a lot of very negative views about Ukraine."
  • On the freeze in Ukraine aid, Reeker said "our operating understanding" was that the aid "was being held by Mr. Mulvaney, the White House acting chief of staff.”

Read the full text of Reeker's testimony:

1040d ago / 7:30 PM UTC
1040d ago / 7:01 PM UTC

Judge puts brief hold on McGahn testimony order

The federal judge who ruled that former White House counsel Don McGahn must comply with a House subpoena for his testimony put her ruling on a brief hold Wednesday.

Such holds, known as administrative stays, are often issued to give lawyers a change to file their appeals. U.S. District Judge Kentanji Brown Jackson said her order "should not be construed in any way as a ruling on the merits" of keeping her ruling on a longer hold. Instead, she said, the order would give her time to consider the government's request for a longer stay.

After Jackson's ruling on Monday, in which she rejected the government's claim that senior White House advisers are absolutely immune to congressional subpoenas, the Justice Department immediately filed notice that it would appeal. Lawyers for the House told the judge that while they would not oppose a brief stay, they would oppose a longer one that lasted throughout the appeals process, saying, "Such a stay would impair the House’s ongoing impeachment inquiry."

Read the story.

1040d ago / 7:00 PM UTC
1040d ago / 6:58 PM UTC

Trump says he didn't direct Giuliani's Ukraine efforts. Witnesses say otherwise.

President Donald Trump claimed on Tuesday that he did not direct his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani to have Ukraine dig up dirt on his political rivals, contradicting testimony from several witnesses in the House impeachment inquiry.

"No, I didn't direct him but he's a warrior, Rudy's a warrior. Rudy went, he possibly saw something,” Trump told former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly in an interview.

Asked by O’Reilly what Giuliani was doing in Ukraine on Trump's behalf, the president said: "You have to ask that to Rudy, but Rudy, I don't, I don't even know. I know he was going to go to Ukraine and I think he canceled a trip. But, you know, Rudy has other clients other than me. I'm one person."

Trump added that Giuliani, the former mayor of New York City, had done “a lot of work in Ukraine over the years, and I think, I mean, that's what I heard, I might have even read that someplace.”

Read the full story.

1040d ago / 6:01 PM UTC
1040d ago / 6:00 PM UTC

Article II: Inside Impeachment — We've got mail

In Wednesday's episode of "Article II," host Steve Kornacki, national political correspondent for NBC News and MSNBC, opens up the mailbag with Julia Ainsley, NBC News' justice and homeland security correspondent, to answer listeners' questions about the impeachment inquiry.

Among the questions discussed: What was the impact of the Trump administration’s decision to withhold aid to Ukraine? Is the president’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, legally allowed to handle matters of foreign policy? Will Trump have the opportunity to answer for himself in the impeachment inquiry? Did Republicans who supported President Richard Nixon during Watergate pay a political price, and are there parallels to today?

Download the podcast.

1040d ago / 4:28 PM UTC

Judge delays sentencing for ex-Trump aide Michael Flynn

A federal judge on Wednesday delayed the sentencing date for Michael Flynn, President Donald Trump's first national security adviser.

Flynn was to be sentenced Dec. 18, but his lawyers and federal prosecutors asked for a delay. They said a report from the Justice Department's inspector general examining aspects of the FBI's investigation of the Trump campaign, due out Dec. 9, could contain material relevant to the sentencing. They also said the judge has yet to rule on a dispute between the prosecutors and Flynn's lawyers over the government's production of documents that the defense said could have affected Flynn's decision to plead guilty.

Flynn entered his plea two years ago to a single charge of lying to the FBI. He admitted that four days into his job as White House national security adviser, he falsely denied having two separate contacts during the Trump transition with Russia's ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Kislyak.

Read the full story.

1040d ago / 4:24 PM UTC
1040d ago / 3:33 PM UTC

Read the full text: Mark Sandy's testimony to House investigators

Mark Sandy, the deputy associate director for national security programs at the White House Office of Management and Budget, told impeachment investigators that two budget staffers left the agency after expressing frustrations about the unexplained hold on Ukrainian aid, according to new closed-door transcripts released Tuesday.

Sandy, the first OMB staffer to testify in the inquiry, testified behind closed doors before the House Intelligence Committee on Nov. 16.

Read the transcript:

 

1040d ago / 2:49 PM UTC
1040d ago / 2:48 PM UTC

Democrats question why DOJ inspector general isn't investigating Trump's attorneys general

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As the Justice Department's internal watchdog prepares to release a long-awaited report examining the FBI's conduct in 2016 and 2017 in the Russia investigation, Democrats are expressing frustration over what they view as his failure to examine the conduct of Donald Trump's attorneys general over the past two years.

While inspectors general at other major cabinet agencies have conducted high profile investigations of Trump appointees, the Justice Department's Michael Horowitz — appointed by President Obama in 2012 and confirmed by the Senate — has not. Trump's three attorney general appointees — Jeff Sessions, Matthew Whitaker and William Barr — have each escaped serious scrutiny from an inspector general who investigated Eric Holder, Obama's first attorney general, and many of his top deputies. It's a record that puzzles his allies and infuriates critics.

"I don't have so much of a problem with Horowitz investigating some of the allegations surrounding the 2016 election, because that's his job," said Matthew Miller, a Democratic former DOJ spokesman and NBC News legal analyst. "But it is striking to me that with all of Barr's known misconduct, all of the instances of conversations between senior leadership and the White House, there doesn't seem to have been a single investigation into any that."

Barr disputes that he has engaged in misconduct. Congressional Democrats argue he has done the political bidding of the president and has improperly discussed sensitive cases with the White House, including the special counsel's Russia probe. They have also questioned the premise of the ongoing criminal investigation that Barr commissioned into its origins.

Read the full story.

1040d ago / 2:39 PM UTC
1040d ago / 2:38 PM UTC

Trump denies investigation link to Ukraine aid amid new timeline revelations

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President Donald Trump continued to deny any connection between investigations and security funding to Ukraine as new details emerged about when the aid was frozen and when Trump knew about the whistleblower complaint.

“The Ukrainian foreign minister stated, and I quote, Ambassador Sondland did not tell us, and certainly did not tell me, about a connection between the assistance and the investigations. Never told him. I have never had a direct link between investigations and security assistance," Trump said at a rally Tuesday night. "OK, what that means, you know what it means, it means we did zero. We did nothing wrong.”

Documents released Tuesday by the House Budget Committee showed that the Office of Management and Budget made its first official move to withhold military aid to Ukraine the same day Trump spoke to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy by phone. A separate report in the New York Times said that Trump had already been briefed on a whistleblower complaint about his handling of Ukraine aid at the time the funds were released in September.

1040d ago / 2:33 PM UTC
1040d ago / 2:32 PM UTC

White House budget office formally held Ukraine aid on same day as Trump-Zelenskiy call

The White House Office of Management and Budget made its first official move to withhold military aid to Ukraine on July 25, the same day President Donald Trump spoke to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy by phone, according to a summary of OMB documents produced by the House Budget Committee.

The OMB documents also show that while a career official signed that first letter to withhold the apportionment of the funds, subsequent letters to freeze the aid were signed by a political appointee, Michael Duffey, the office's associated director for national security programs. Duffey has refused to testify before House impeachment investigators despite being served with a subpoena on Oct. 25.

The Budget Committee's summary of the documents says the review of the materials made the lawmakers "more concerned that the apportionment process has been abused to undermine Congress’s constitutional power of the purse," specifically citing the timeline of the withholding of aid and the "seemingly unprecedented step" of having a political appointee handle the apportionments of funding.

Read the full story.

1040d ago / 2:27 PM UTC
1040d ago / 2:23 PM UTC

Two OMB staffers quit after expressing frustration about frozen Ukraine aid, top official says

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Mark Sandy, a career staffer in the White House Office of Management and Budget, told impeachment investigators that two budget staffers left the agency after expressing frustrations about the unexplained hold on Ukrainian aid, according to new closed-door transcripts released Tuesday.

Sandy said that one staffer, who worked in OMB’s legal office and whose name was undisclosed, told him they were leaving the agency, at least in part, because of their concerns regarding the hold on Ukraine security assistance.

Sandy, who is the deputy associate director for national security Programs at OMB, testified behind closed doors before the House Intelligence Committee, one of the committees leading the impeachment inquiry, on Nov. 16. He is the first OMB staffer to testify in the inquiry.

Read the full story.

1041d ago / 8:35 PM UTC

Trump: Pardoned Thanksgiving turkeys have 'already received subpoenas'

Trump, who pardoned two turkeys named “Bread” and “Butter” as part of the White House Thanksgiving tradition Tuesday, used the annual event to joke about the House impeachment inquiry.

"Thankfully, Bread and Butter have been specially raised by the Jacksons to remain calm under any condition, which will be very important because they've already received subpoenas to appear in Adam Schiff's basement on Thursday," Trump said.

"It seems the Democrats are accusing me of being too soft on turkey, but Bread and Butter — I should note that, unlike previous witnesses, you and I have actually met. It's very unusual," Trump continued.

Read the full story here.

1041d ago / 8:28 PM UTC

Bolton's lawyer says McGahn ruling has no bearing on former Trump adviser's testimony

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WASHINGTON — The court ruling compelling former White House counsel Don McGahn to testify before the House Judiciary Committee has no bearing on whether ex-National Security Adviser John Bolton is compelled to testify, Bolton's lawyer said on Tuesday.

Charles Cooper, who represents Bolton and former deputy national security adviser Charles Kupperman, maintains that McGahn's case doesn't apply to his clients because Monday's court ruling does not answer whether presidential communications involving issues of national security are subject to "absolute testimonial immunity."

Read more here.

1041d ago / 8:21 PM UTC
1041d ago / 7:41 PM UTC

House Judiciary Committee announces its first impeachment hearing, invites Trump to attend

The House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday announced it will hold its first public impeachment hearing next week, and invited President Donald Trump and his lawyers "to participate."

"I am hopeful that you and your counsel will opt to participate in the Committee's hearing, consistent with the rules of decorum and with the solemn nature before us," Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler said in a letter announcing the hearing.

Nadler said the hearing, which will focus on "Constitutional Grounds for Presidential Impeachment," will take place on Dec. 4.

Nadler said the hearing comes as the inquiry enters "a new phase."

Read the story.

1041d ago / 6:47 PM UTC

Trump lashes out at 'D.C. Wolves' after McGahn ruling, claims he would 'love' for staff to testify

President Donald Trump tweeted Tuesday that people were "reading far too much" into a federal judge's ruling Monday that former White House counsel Don McGahn must obey a congressional subpoena and testify before the House Judiciary Committee — a ruling that could also have implications for a host of Trump administration aides and officials who refused to testify before the House impeachment inquiry.

"The D.C. Wolves and Fake News Media are reading far too much into people being forced by Courts to testify before Congress," Trump wrote. "I am fighting for future Presidents and the Office of the President. Other than that, I would actually like people to testify."

The president added that his former national security adviser John Bolton, who said he would not testify before impeachment investigators until a similar lawsuit involving his deputy has played out, "is a patriot and may know" Trump did not do anything wrong by withholding nearly $400 million in military aid to Ukraine at the same time he was pushing for the country to investigate the Bidens and Democrats.

"Likewise, I would love to have Mike Pompeo, Rick Perry, Mick Mulvaney and many others testify about the phony Impeachment Hoax," Trump wrote. "It is a Democrat Scam that is going nowhere but, future Presidents should in no way be compromised. What has happened to me should never happen to another President!"

Read the story.

1041d ago / 6:42 PM UTC
1041d ago / 6:32 PM UTC

CNN poll shows impeachment views unchanged from before public hearings

A new national CNN poll has found that views on impeachment remain locked in place, with 50 percent of Americans supporting Trump’s removal from office and 43 percent opposed. The results show no change from a month ago despite two weeks of public hearings in the House's two-month-old impeachment inquiry.

Trump has been tweeting the claim that polls show declining support for the inquiry, citing, for example, a Politico/Morning Consult poll from last week that Vanity Fair analyzed, focusing on independents. But most polls are showing a steady average percentage level of support hovering in the mid- to high-40s after an initial uptick when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., announced the inquiry in late September (those who say they don't support for impeachment have been averaging in the low- to mid-40s percentage-wise).

Among the CNN poll's other findings: 

  • Trump’s job approval rating is at 42 percent among all adults (up a percentage point from last month), while his disapproval rating is 54 percent (down three points from October).
  • 53 percent of respondents say Trump used the presidency improperly to gain political advantage against a potential 2020 opponent (up four points from October), while 42 percent said he did not use the office improperly (down a point from last month).
  • 56 percent of those surveyed said Trump was out to benefit himself personally regarding Ukraine, versus 36 percent who said he was interested more in fighting corruption in the country.
  • 40 percent say Democrats abused their constitutional powers in their handling of the impeachment process, while 52 percent say they have not.

The poll was conducted from Nov. 21-24 and has a margin of error of 3.7 percentage points.

1041d ago / 6:03 PM UTC
1041d ago / 6:01 PM UTC

Pompeo on Ukraine conspiracy: 'America should leave no stone unturned'

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo addressed the debunked conspiracy theory that it was Ukraine rather than Russia that hacked the 2016 election, a major talking point floated by Trump and his allies in recent weeks in response to the impeachment inquiry.

Pompeo appeared to defend the president's asking Ukraine to look into the conspiracy, saying that America has an "obligation" to address any and all allegation of election interference.

"I can assure you, there were many countries that were actively engaged in trying to undermine American democracy, our rule of law, the fundamental understandings we have here in the United States," he said, adding that "America should leave no stone unturned. So whatever nation it is, that we have information that so much as suggests that there might be an interference or an effort to interfere in our elections, we have an obligation to make sure that the American people get to go to the ballot box cast their ballots in a way that is impacted by these malevolent actors trying to undermine our Western democratic values."

1041d ago / 5:00 PM UTC
1041d ago / 4:18 PM UTC

GOP senator renounces Ukraine hacking claim, sort of

Sen. John Kennedy is backpedaling from his claims that Ukraine could be responsible for hacking Democratic emails during the 2016 election — with a caveat.

The Louisiana Republican told CNN's Chris Cuomo on Monday night that he was wrong to tell "Fox News Sunday" anchor Chris Wallace the day before that he didn't know, "nor do you, nor do any of us," whether Russia or Ukraine was responsible for hacking the Democratic National Committee server and the Clinton campaign's emails.

"Right," Kennedy said when Wallace countered that the entire U.S. intelligence community points to Russia as culpable. "But it could also be Ukraine. I’m not saying that I know one way or the other."

President Donald Trump asked Ukraine to investigate the debunked 2016 conspiracy theory — a key component of the House impeachment inquiry — as well as the Bidens.

The New York Times reported Friday that U.S. intelligence officials briefed senators in recent weeks that Russia has engaged in a years-long effort to frame Ukraine for their politically motivated hacking in 2016. In addition, former Trump aide Fiona Hill said last week that the allegation that Ukraine, and not Russia, was responsible for interfering in the 2016 election was "a fictional narrative being propagated by the Russian security services themselves."

On Monday, Kennedy said on "Cuomo Prime Time" that he had misheard Wallace's question and offered a correction: "I was wrong. The only evidence I have, and I think it's overwhelming, is that it was Russia who tried to hack the DNC computer. ... I've seen no indication that Ukraine tried to do it."

But, Kennedy added, when asked why Trump continues to push the Ukraine narrative despite his own intelligence agencies saying it isn't true, "There is a lot of evidence, proven and unproven, everybody's got an opinion, that Ukraine did try to interfere, along with Russia and probably others in the 2016 election."

1041d ago / 3:42 PM UTC

OPINION: President Trump's dictator-like administration is attacking the values America holds dear

We’re up against a crisis I never thought I’d see in my lifetime: a dictator-like attack by President Donald Trump on everything this country stands for. As last week’s impeachment hearings made clear, our shared tolerance and respect for the truth, our sacred rule of law, our essential freedom of the press and our precious freedoms of speech — all have been threatened by a single man.

It’s time for Trump to go — along with those in Congress who have chosen party loyalty over their oath to “solemnly affirm” their support for the Constitution of the United States. And it’s up to us to make that happen, through the power of our votes.

Read more here.

1041d ago / 3:32 PM UTC
1041d ago / 2:24 PM UTC

Supreme Court blocks subpoena for Trump financial records

The U.S. Supreme Court late Monday blocked a House subpoena directing President Donald Trump's accounting firm to turn over several years' worth of financial documents, giving the president at least a temporary legal victory.

In a brief order, the court said the subpoena would remain on hold until the president's lawyers file their appeal and the court acts on the case. The court gave his lawyers until Dec. 5 to file their appeal, a sign the justices intend to move quickly. But if the court agrees to hear the appeal, the stay would remain in effect for several more months.

The Democratic majority on the House Oversight Committee issued the subpoena in April, ordering the accounting firm Mazars USA to turn over Trump-related financial documents covering 2011 through 2018. The committee said it acted after former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen testified that "Mr. Trump inflated his total assets when it served his purposes and deflated his assets to reduce his real estate taxes."

Read the story.

1042d ago / 11:05 PM UTC
1042d ago / 11:04 PM UTC

Ex-White House counsel Don McGahn must obey subpoena to testify before Congress, judge rules

A federal judge ruled late Monday that former White House counsel Don McGahn must obey a subpoena for his testimony issued by the House Judiciary Committee, a decision that the Trump administration is certain to appeal.

Justice Department lawyers had argued that as a former close adviser to the president, McGahn could not be commanded to appear before Congress. The government said the longstanding view, under both Republican and Democratic administrations, is that the president and his immediate advisers are absolutely immune to such demands.

Administration lawyers cited a 1999 Justice Department legal opinion issued by Janet Reno, attorney general during the Clinton administration. "Subjecting a senior presidential advisor to the congressional subpoena power would be akin to requiring the president himself to appear before Congress" on matters related to his official duties, the Reno opinion said.

The current White House counsel, Pat Cipollone, notified the House that President Donald Trump directed McGahn not to testify before the House "in order to protect the prerogatives of the office of the presidency."

Read the full story.

1042d ago / 10:37 PM UTC

Prosecutors seeking info on payments to Rudy Giuliani

Federal prosecutors in New York are seeking records of payments to Rudy Giuliani, President Donald Trump’s lawyer, as part of an active criminal investigation, according to a grand jury subpoena seen by Reuters.

The subpoena does not indicate that Giuliani is suspected of wrongdoing. But the crimes being investigated, it says, include money laundering, wire fraud, campaign finance violations, making false statements, obstruction of justice, and violations of the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). It requires disclosure of lobbying on behalf of foreign interests.

The subpoena requests that the recipient provide “all documents, including correspondence, with or related to Rudolph Giuliani, Giuliani Partners or any related person or entity,” referring to his consulting company. The subpoena also seeks all “documents related to any actual or potential payments, or agreements to or with Giuliani.”

Read the story.

1042d ago / 10:13 PM UTC

McConnell on impeachment: Senate 'will take it up because we have no choice'

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell spoke to reporters on Monday morning during an event in London, Kentucky, making similar comments to what he has said in the past regarding how an impeachment trial will go in the Senate.

Asked how long a potential trial would last, McConnell said, "There's really no way to know. There's no set time. We'll just have to turn to it when we get it and work out the way forward."

"We will take it up because we have no choice," McConnel added. "And how long we're on it will be determined by the majority of the Senate."

1042d ago / 8:42 PM UTC
1042d ago / 8:36 PM UTC

Schiff says he is open to hearing from more witnesses

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WASHINGTON — House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said Monday that a report on the impeachment inquiry would be sent to the Judiciary Committee after the Thanksgiving holiday — and that as the process continued, he remained open to hearing from more witnesses.

"Even as we draft our report, we are open to the possibility that further evidence will come to light, whether in the form of witnesses who provide testimony or documents that become available," Schiff wrote in a letter to colleagues. "If other witnesses seek to show the same patriotism and courage of their colleagues and deputies and decide to obey their duty to the country over fealty to the President, we are prepared to hear from them."

There are currently no additional public hearings scheduled. But some key expected witnesses have so far ignored subpoenas, including former White House counsel Don McGahn, White House acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and President Donald Trump's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani. 

A federal judge was expected to rule by the end of the day Monday whether McGahn would be required to comply with the subpoena and testify before Congress.

1042d ago / 6:42 PM UTC

Documents released to ethics group show Giuliani, Pompeo contacts before Ukraine ambassador ousted

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An ethics group has published nearly 100 pages of previously unreleased State Department documents that the group says shows “a clear paper trail” between President Donald Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo before a Ukraine ambassador was abruptly recalled.

The documents were published late Friday by American Oversight, which calls itself a non-partisan and nonprofit ethics watchdog and Freedom of Information Act litigator investigating the Trump administration.

They appear to show two calls between Giuliani and Pompeo in March, around a month before former Ukraine ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, an anti-corruption expert, was abruptly called back to the U.S. in April and then removed from the post.

The information "reveals a clear paper trail from Rudy Giuliani to the Oval Office to Secretary Pompeo to facilitate Giuliani's smear campaign against a U.S. ambassador," Austin Evers, executive director of American Oversight, said in a statement.

Read the story.

1042d ago / 6:30 PM UTC

Everything we learned from the impeachment hearings

From Wednesday Nov. 13 to Thursday Nov. 21, Americans were glued to their televisions, computers and streaming devices, as the House Intelligence Committee held a series of long public hearings as part of a broader Democratic-led impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump.

Here are all the things we learned from two jam-packed weeks of public testimony.

1042d ago / 6:27 PM UTC
1042d ago / 6:25 PM UTC

'The global version of Watergate': Democrats confident in impeachment case after open hearings

Democrats on Sunday said that the two weeks of open hearings in the House impeachment inquiry bolstered the case against President Donald Trump and that "every single day provides new and incriminating evidence."

Speaking with ABC's "This Week," Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., said the president's conduct amounts to "the global version of Watergate, where a president is trying to get dirt on a political opponent from a world leader."

On CBS's "Face the Nation," Rep. Jim Himes, D-Conn., said he doesn't believe "any Democrat in the Congress looked at what happened over the last two weeks and said, 'Gosh, there's nothing there.'

Asked if this phase of the impeachment probe is wrapped up, Himes said, "Every single day provides new and incriminating evidence."

On "Fox News Sunday," Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., said there was an "urgency" to move the impeachment proceedings along and not wait for courts to rule on other potential witnesses. "We have powerful evidence already," he said.

Read the full story.

1042d ago / 6:19 PM UTC
1042d ago / 6:14 PM UTC

OMB says there was 'legal consensus' on withholding Ukraine aid

Rachel Semmel, a spokesperson for the Office of Management and Budget, said Monday that the administration followed "routine practices and procedures" in putting a hold on hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid to Ukraine.

“To be clear, there was a legal consensus at every step of the way that the money could be withheld in order to conduct the policy review," Semmel said. "OMB works closely with agencies on executing the budget. Routine practices and procedures were followed.”

The statement comes after reports in The Washington Post and The New York Times that a confidential White House Counsel's Office review of the hold revealed email discussions among acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and budget officials in August about justifying the halt, which Trump ordered in mid-July, after the fact and questioning whether the hold was legal.

1042d ago / 4:25 PM UTC

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1042d ago / 4:18 PM UTC

OPINION: Devin Nunes' impeachment defense of Trump — and possible Ukraine collusion — redefines partisan hackery

At last Thursday’s impeachment hearing, Fiona Hill, President Donald Trump's former top adviser on Russia and Europe, had a very direct message for Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif.

“Based on questions and statements I have heard, some of you on this committee appear to believe that Russia and its security services did not conduct a campaign against our country — and that perhaps, somehow, for some reason, Ukraine did,” Hill said. “This is a fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves.”

Her comments came the day after Russian President Vladimir Putin had boasted at an event in Moscow: “Thank God no one is accusing us of interfering in the U.S. elections anymore. Now they’re accusing Ukraine.”

In effect that was also a shout-out to Nunes. As Trump’s loyal attack ferret on the House Intelligence Committee, Nunes has continually pushed the same debunked conspiracy theories about Ukraine, the Democratic National Committee and CrowdStrike that the Russians have apparently worked so diligently to spread. Indeed, Nunes has become the de facto face of the GOP defense of Trump, in all of its bizarre contempt for facts, its willingness to ignore and defame witnesses and its zeal to defend the president at all costs — including actively colluding with efforts to dig up dirt on his political opponents.

Read the full opinion piece.

1042d ago / 4:16 PM UTC
1042d ago / 4:15 PM UTC

Sen. Coons rips Lindsey Graham over investigation of Bidens

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Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., blasted Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham's launching of an investigation of former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, saying the South Carolina Republican is doing Trump's "dirty work."

"I know that he's under enormous pressure from the Trump White House," Coons said of Graham in an interview Sunday on MSNBC's "Kasie DC." "He's up for reelection. He's facing a primary. But that doesn't justify abandoning a decades-old friendship and a commitment to the truth."

Last week Graham requested Secretary of State Mike Pompeo release documents related to contacts between the former vice president, his son, other Obama administration officials and former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. The request is related to an alleged conflict of interest of the then-vice president over his calls in 2016 for Ukraine to crack down on corruption, including removing the country's prosecutor general, Viktor Shokin, who was seen as ineffective. Shokin had investigated an energy company Burisma Holdings, where Biden's son Hunter Biden was a board member.

When asked about the move, Biden said Saturday that the Judiciary Committee "can have all the documents. There's not a single person, not a single solitary person in Ukraine, or in Europe or in the IMF, International Monetary Fund, or our allies that said anything other than I carried out the policy without one single moment of hesitation of the United States government in dealing with corruption in Ukraine. ... But it does disappoint me.

Graham on Monday defended his actions, saying, “My conscious is clear, I love Joe Biden as a person,  he is a really decent man. He's had a lot of tragedy in his life. But I have a conscious very clear right now, and I have a duty. If the House is going to shut it down, the Senate is going to pick it up.”

"My friendship with Joe Biden, if it can't withstand me doing my job, then it's not the friendship I thought we had," Graham added. "I admire him as a person. I think he's always tried to do right as a person."

Coons, who sits on the Judiciary Committee, said the allegations against the former vice president have been found to be "groundless, calling Graham's investigation a "red herring" and "a bad attempt to distract from the reality of the impeachment inquiry that’s going forward in  the House."  

Graham's "latest decision, this choice to betray a decades-old friendship and a clear-eyed view of the truth, I think is a really disappointing demonstration of just how  much Senator Graham's close relationship with President Trump has affected the core of who he is and his judgment," Coons added.  

1042d ago / 2:56 PM UTC

Nunes dodges questions about allegations he sought dirt on Biden from Ukraine

Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., on Sunday dodged questions about reports he met with Ukraine's former top prosecutor in an effort to investigate the Bidens, citing his threats to sue the media outlets that uncovered the allegations.

"I really want to answer all these questions, and I promise you I absolutely will come back on the show and answer these questions," Nunes, the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, told Fox News' "Sunday Morning Futures." "But, because there is criminal activity here, we’re working with the appropriate law enforcement agencies; we’re going to file this, and everyone’s going to know the truth, everybody’s going to know all the facts."

"But, I think you can understand that I can’t compete by trying to debate this out with the public media when 90% of the media are totally corrupt," he added. "And, because this is criminal in nature, and because it’s so bad, it’s so slanderous — we’ve got all the facts on our side, and we’re going to file in federal court, because I'm not going to sit here and try to compete against the media that I have no chance of winning. I will win in court, and they’ll have a chance to cooperate, and they’ll have to show how they work with somebody who has been indicted, which is likely conspiring to obstruct justice."

The allegations arose when the attorney for an indicted associate of President Donald Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani said he was willing to tell Congress that Nunes met with that ex-Ukrainian prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, about investigating former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, who had business dealings in Ukraine.

Read the full story.

1042d ago / 2:50 PM UTC
1042d ago / 2:32 PM UTC

OPINION: Democrats' 'bribery' impeachment strategy is an unforced error with sobering consequences

You don’t have to be closely following the inquiry into the impeachment of President Donald Trump to understand the case against the president. This past week, nine current or former administration officials testified before congressional investigators. All of them, to one degree or another, have told the same story.

In the words of former national security council official Fiona Hill, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, was “involved in a domestic political errand, and we were being involved in national security, foreign policy.” That errand involved the strong-arming of a strategic U.S. partner and the likely leveraging of congressionally authorized assistance to tar one of the president’s domestic political rivals. As Sondland himself confessed during his testimony, he was explicitly directed by the president to compel the new Ukrainian president to create the appearance of a scandal around Joe Biden. “He had to announce the investigations,” Sondland said of Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy. “He didn't actually have to do them, as I understood it.”

There is a lot we do not yet know about the events leading up to the release of the whistleblower complaint to Congress on Sept. 9, at which point the president began conspicuously denying the existence of a “quid pro quo” with Ukraine. We do not, for example, know why the president issued an explicit order to the Office of Management and Budget to waylay military aid, and we probably never will if chief of staff Mick Mulvaney manages to avoid a deposition. But that would not change the facts of the case as we know them, or the unavoidable conclusion that the president did exactly what he is alleged to have done, which was to abuse his executive power for personal gain.

But if Democrats have such an airtight case against the president, that is not evident in polling or the demeanor of even persuadable Republicans. In fact, after a week of damning testimony, the Democratic position appears to be deteriorating. For that, Democrats only have themselves to blame. 

Read the rest of the article here.

1042d ago / 1:54 PM UTC
1042d ago / 1:53 PM UTC

GOP senator: 'I don't know' if Ukraine or Russia hacked 2016 election

Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., on Sunday defended Trump by floating the same debunked 2016 conspiracy theory that the president asked Ukraine to investigate, a key component of the House impeachment inquiry.

Trump's former top Russia analyst Fiona Hill said during Thursday's impeachment hearings that the idea that Ukraine, and not Russia, was responsible for interfering in the 2016 election was "a fictional narrative being propagated by the Russian security services themselves." Trump first asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelinskiy to look into the CrowdStrike conspiracy during their July call, a theory he repeated on Friday during an interview with "Fox and Friends."

"Fox News" host Chris Wallace asked Kennedy if he believed Russia or Ukraine was responsible for hacking the Democratic National Committee server and the Clinton campaign's emails.

"I don’t know, nor do you, nor do any of us," Kennedy said. "Ms. Hill is entitled to her opinion."

Wallace responded that the "entire" intelligence community points to Russia's culpability.

"Right, but it could also be Ukraine," Kennedy said. "I’m not saying that I know one way or the other."

Read the story.

1042d ago / 1:50 PM UTC
1042d ago / 1:46 PM UTC

Schiff says House will move forward with impeachment inquiry after 'overwhelming' evidence from hearings

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff said Sunday that the two weeks of public hearings produced “overwhelming evidence” that President Donald Trump conditioned official acts for favors from Ukraine that would benefit his re-election bid, arguing that it's "urgent" for the House to move forward with its impeachment inquiry.

In an interview on "Meet the Press," Schiff, the California Democrat overseeing the hearings, said that while his committee has no more public testimony scheduled, he doesn’t “foreclose the possibility of others” being added.

Still, Schiff said he felt confident that the five days of open hearings with 12 witnesses produced clear evidence against the president even without hearing from some central Trump administration officials. And he said that he didn't want to delay the House's progress with protracted legal battles aimed at compelling those officials, like former national security adviser John Bolton and Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, to testify.

Read the full story.

1044d ago / 4:10 PM UTC

Catch up on Article II: Where things stand and what comes next

In a new episode of "Article II: Inside Impeachment," NBC News politics reporters Steve Kornacki and Jonathan Allen discuss where lawmakers stand after two weeks of public hearings.

The two discuss what House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff’s closing statement on Thursday reveals about the Democrats’ path forward on impeachment and the next steps of the inquiry. 

Listen to the episode here.

1044d ago / 3:45 PM UTC

Giuliani associate willing to testify Nunes met with ex-Ukrainian official, lawyer says

An attorney for Lev Parnas, the indicted associate of Rudy Giuliani says his client is willing to tell Congress that Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., met with Ukraine's former top prosecutor about investigating the activities of Joe Biden and his son, Hunter.

If true, the allegation would mean that Nunes — the chief defender of President Trump as ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee — was himself involved in the very plot the committee is investigating.

As vice president, Joe Biden joined a chorus of global pressure for Ukraine to fire then-state prosecutor Victor Shokin. Trump and Nunes say Joe Biden wanted Shokin out to protect his son when Hunter Biden's employer, Burisma, was under suspicion.

Joseph A. Bondy, a lawyer for Parnas, confirmed that his client was willing to testify that Nunes met with Shokin.

Read the full story

1045d ago / 10:12 PM UTC
1045d ago / 10:12 PM UTC

Rep. Dingell 'very disturbed by the undue influence' being put on Republicans

Rep. Debbie Dingell, R-Mich., said Friday that she was "very disturbed" by the pressure she said is being put on Republican lawmakers to toe the line during the House impeachment inquiry.

Asked on Fox News whether Democrats should move forward with impeachment without GOP backing, Dingell responded, "First of all, I don't know that there is no Republican support. I have talked to a number of people who are deeply disturbed, and they're being very cautious in their words. Their arms are being broken, and I'm very disturbed by the undue influence I'm seeing put on Republicans too."

Dingell said what she heard in testimony over the last two weeks "deeply disturbed" her and would accurately be described as bribery.

"It is very clear that the Ukrainian president was — the word 'bribe' does work with being told you are not going to get this aid that you need unless you agree to do this investigation, and you do it publicly," she said. "And we do have evidence that money was held up." 

The congresswoman added that the Intelligence Committee was already drafting its report, after which the Judiciary Committee will make its recommendations, and she would wait to see those before coming to any conclusions about impeachment.

Dingell also weighed in on the debunked conspiracy theory Trump and his allies have been chasing that it was really Ukraine, not Russia, that interfered in the 2016 election — which former top Russia expert Fiona Hill called a "fictional narrative" that echoed Russian propaganda during her testimony on Thursday.

"One of the things we do know and one of the reasons why I have been fearful about impeachment, but I am getting madder and madder ... is that we do know, there were Republican Cabinet members that testified that Russia interfered in our last elections. Russia is trying to divide us as a country. That's documented in the Mueller report. Intelligence agency after intelligence agency around the world is saying that they're trying to destabilize democracy.

"We need a president that's going  to protect the United States of America, not help destabilize democracies around the world," she said.

1045d ago / 7:31 PM UTC
1045d ago / 7:29 PM UTC

Impeachment testimony highlights how Trump has recast the way U.S. deals with the world

It is not normal for the United States to have two diplomatic channels for dealing with a foreign ally at war, as the U.S. apparently did with Ukraine under Trump, as the acting ambassador to Ukraine, Bill Taylor, told the House impeachment inquiry this month.

The first was the official one run by Taylor, aimed at supporting Ukraine in its war with Russian-backed separatists. The other was “irregular, informal” and unaccountable to Congress, with the goal of getting Ukraine’s new leader to do Trump “a favor” by investigating a political rival, as described by a number of witnesses — most explosively by the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, on Wednesday.

What is also not normal is the United States’ current standing in the world and the way other countries have engaged with it since Trump took office, but particularly since the revelations about his actions toward Ukraine prompted the impeachment inquiry against him.

Diplomatic and foreign policy experts tell NBC News that the president’s habit of deviating — sometimes wildly — from long-held alliances and diplomatic norms have substantially altered America’s relations with allies around the world, and made trusting U.S. intentions and policy positions increasingly difficult.

Read the full story.

1045d ago / 7:19 PM UTC
1045d ago / 7:16 PM UTC

Fact check: Trump's false claims about Ukraine, DNC server

President Donald Trump, hitting back after a marathon week of public impeachment hearings, continued to promote the debunked conspiracy that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election, falsely claiming that "a Ukrainian company" is harboring a hacked server belonging to the Democratic National Committee.

During a nearly hour-long phone interview with "Fox & Friends" Friday morning, Trump defended his administration's freeze on military aid to Ukraine earlier this year as well as his July 25 call with the Ukrainian president that prompted a whistleblower complaint, saying he was simply trying to root out corruption in the country.

"A lot of it had to do, they say, with Ukraine," he began, before alleging that the country has the DNC server that was hacked in 2016.

"The FBI went in and they told them get out of here, we’re not giving it to you. They gave the server to CrowdStrike... which is a company owned by a very wealthy Ukrainian, and I still want to see that server,” " Trump said of the DNC's actions upon learning that it had been hacked in the run-up to the election. "You know, the FBI has never gotten that server. That's a big part of this whole thing. Why did they give it to a Ukrainian company?"

Almost none of these claims are remotely true.

Read the fact check.

1045d ago / 7:14 PM UTC
1045d ago / 7:07 PM UTC

Giuliani claims Zelenskiy mentioned him on July 25 call because of his record fighting crime

Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani tweeted Friday that his previous record fighting crime as New York City's mayor is what prompted Ukrainian President Zelenskiy to bring him up on the July 25 call with Trump.

Giuliani made the remark in a Twitter post after tweeting out Trump's defense of Giuliani's Ukraine dealings during a nearly hour-long interview with "Fox & Friends" on Friday morning.

Multiple witnesses have told House investigators that Giuliani ran a shadow policy effort to pressure Ukraine to announce investigations into the Bidens and a debunked conspiracy theory that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election. Giuliani was involved in the effort as early as last spring and summer, and Zelenskiy reportedly met with aids to discuss their concerns over the U.S. demands for an investigation of the Bidens in early May — well before the July phone call and a day after U.S. Amb. Marie Yovanovitch, whom Trump called "bad news" on the phone call with Zelenskiy, was recalled from Ukraine.  

1045d ago / 6:23 PM UTC

Mystery grows over Lebanon aid hold-up as impeachment looms

The Trump administration is withholding more than $100 million in U.S. military assistance to Lebanon that has been approved by Congress and is favored by his national security team, an assertion of executive control of foreign aid that is similar to the delay in support for Ukraine at the center of the impeachment inquiry.

The hold came up in impeachment testimony by David Hale, the No. 3 official in the State Department, according to the transcript of the closed-door hearing released this week. He described growing consternation among diplomats as the administration would neither release the aid nor provide an explanation for the hold.

“People started asking: What's the problem?” Hale told the impeachment investigators.

As with the Ukraine assistance, the Office of Management and Budget has not explained the reason for the delay. However, unlike Ukraine, there is no suggestion that President Donald Trump is seeking “a favor” from Lebanon to release it, according to five officials familiar with the matter. The White House and OMB have declined to comment on the matter.

Read the full story.

1045d ago / 5:35 PM UTC
1045d ago / 5:30 PM UTC

Senate Dems demand Pompeo recuse himself over 'profound conflict of interest' in Trump-Ukraine matters

Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee are demanding Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recuse himself from all Trump-Ukraine matters, saying in a letter that the secretary was on the July 25 call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and has "profound conflict of interest."

While Pompeo has acknowledged being on the call, in which Trump asked Zelenskiy to investigate his political rivals, Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland drew the secretary more deeply into the Trump-Ukraine effort than was previously known during his testimony on Wednesday. Sondland told the House Intelligence Committee about emails to the secretary and a top aide in which the basic contours of the quid pro quo alleged by Democrats — which include allegations of placing a hold on military aid — seem clear.

Pompeo, meanwhile, has continued to "impede the House impeachment inquiry, including by refusing to produce any State Department records on the Trump-Ukraine scandal — including those that may shed further light on your own complicity," the 10 Democrats on the committee wrote Thursday. They added that Sondland testified the State Department refused to give him access to his own materials as he prepared for the hearing, which the department has disputed.

"The only legitimate option is for you to recuse and to delegate the department's response to the Trump-Ukraine scandal to a senior career department official," the senators wrote. "We urge you to do so immediately."

1045d ago / 5:20 PM UTC
1045d ago / 4:50 PM UTC

Yovanovitch's lawyers rate Trump's embassy portrait claim Pinocchio worthy

Lawyers for former Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch say President Donald Trump’s claim that she refused to hang his picture in the U.S. embassy in Ukraine is false.

“The Embassy in Kyiv hung the official photographs of the president, vice president, and secretary of state as soon as they arrived from Washington, D.C.,” a person connected to her legal team said,

Trump told "Fox & Friends" on Friday morning that he was angry with the former ambassador because “she wouldn’t hang my picture in the [U.S.] embassy [in Ukraine].” The president also told the talk show that Republican lawmakers had told him to be "kind to her" because "she's a woman."

The Washington Post reported in 2017 that pictures of Trump and Vice President Mike Pence still were not being displayed on thousands of federal buildings nearly eight months into Trump's term because the Government Publishing Office had yet to receive the images from the White House. The White House, in turn, said Trump and Pence hadn't decided when to sit for the portraits.

While Yovanovitch was testifying before the House Intelligence Committee on Friday, Trump tweeted negative claims about her, prompting Democrats to accuse him of witness intimidation.

1045d ago / 3:06 PM UTC
1045d ago / 3:05 PM UTC

Trump hits back against impeachment hearings, defends Giuliani's Ukraine dealings

Less than 24 hours after the House wrapped up a marathon round of public impeachment hearings, President Donald Trump on Friday hit back hard, denying all wrongdoing in his dealings with Ukraine, insulting witnesses and key Democrats involved in the inquiry and defending putting Rudy Giuliani in charge of a parallel policy process in Ukraine.

Over two weeks of public hearings, multiple witnesses have told the House Intelligence Committee that Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, ran a shadow policy team with the goal of pressuring the Ukrainian government to announce investigations into Burisma — the Ukrainian gas company that Hunter Biden joined as a board member in 2014 — and debunked conspiracies that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election.

Trump, however, defended his decision to put Giuliani, a private citizen, in the middle of Ukraine policy Friday, citing his experience, decades ago, in fighting corruption as a U.S. attorney and as the mayor of New York City.

He also rebutted the accounts of several key impeachment inquiry witnesses who testified publicly over the last two weeks — including Gordon Sondland, the ambassador to the European Union, Kurt Volker, the former U.S. special envoy to Ukraine and Marie Yovanovitch, the former ambassador to Ukraine.

Read the full story.

1045d ago / 3:02 PM UTC

'Fiona Hill is Donald Trump's worst nightmare'

1045d ago / 2:57 PM UTC

Hearings put the finishing touches on Dems' impeachment story

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After all the public hearings, all the transcripts and all the political back-and-forth, what’s so revealing is to look back at the evidence that existed at the very start of the impeachment inquiry into President Trump’s actions regarding Ukraine.

Looking again at those headlines, remarks, tweets and text messages, the story has always been in plain sight. They tell a simple story — one that might have gotten obscured after the last two weeks of public testimony.

Get First Read's take.

1045d ago / 2:52 PM UTC

Hill and Holmes: Everyone knew Burisma investigation was about the Bidens

1045d ago / 2:50 PM UTC

ANALYSIS: Officials handed the House a pile of evidence for impeachment

President Donald Trump presented little in the way of defense in the opening phase of his impeachment proceedings.

He refused to give Congress documents. He ordered subordinates to defy subpoenas. And he issued blanket proclamations of his innocence, over Twitter and in exchanges with reporters, without testifying under oath on Capitol Hill.

Meanwhile, as Democrats moved one step closer to a House floor vote on impeachment that they expect to hold before Christmas, a string of current and former administration officials collectively described for the House Intelligence Committee over the last two weeks how the president directed a concerted effort to aid his own re-election efforts at the expense of U.S. national security interests.

Read the full analysis.

1045d ago / 2:47 PM UTC
1045d ago / 2:43 PM UTC

Battle to uncover Trump's financial secrets heats up

Lawyers for a House committee and Manhattan prosecutors urged the Supreme Court on Thursday not to block a pair of subpoenas directing President Donald Trump's accounting firm to turn over several years' worth of financial documents.

They're likely to produce the first response by the Supreme Court to the growing number of legal battles over access to Trump's financial secrets.

The Democratic majority on the House Oversight Committee issued a subpoena in April, ordering the accounting firm Mazars to turn over Trump-related financial documents covering 2011 through 2018. The committee said it acted after former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen testified that "Mr. Trump inflated his total assets when it served his purposes and deflated his assets to reduce his real estate taxes."

Read the full story.

1047d ago / 9:13 PM UTC

1048d ago / 11:55 AM UTC
1049d ago / 11:56 PM UTC

Johnson recounts Ukraine conversation with Trump, omits '2016' mention

Sen. Ron Johnson on Monday sent a letter to Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee recounting a discussion he had with Trump about a hold on financial aid to Ukraine — but omitted that Trump had tied the issue to the 2016 campaign in their talk. 

Johnson sent the 10-page letter to Reps. Devin Nunes and Jim Jordan after they asked him to share "any firsthand information you have about President Trump's actions toward Ukraine between April and September 2019."

Johnson said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal last month that E.U. Ambassador Gordon Sondland had told him in August that almost $400 million in aid to Ukraine had been frozen because the Trump administration was trying to get a new prosecutor appointed in Ukraine. That prosecutor would move to "get to the bottom of what happened in 2016— if President Trump has that confidence, then he’ll release the military spending," he quoted Sondland as saying.

Johnson told the paper the suggestion made him "wince" because "I don't want to see those two things combined."

Johnson also told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel last month that he'd discussed the 2016 election with the president.    

 "He was very consistent on why he was considering it. It was corruption overall generalized, but yeah, no doubt about it, what happened in 2016, what happened in 2016, what was the truth about that, and then the fact that our NATO partners don’t step up to the plate,” Johnson told the paper in an interview posted on the paper's website.

In his letter to Nunes and Jordan, however, Johnson said his memory of that conversation is fuzzy. 

"I did not memorialize the conversation in any way, and my memory of exactly what Sondland told me is far from perfect. I was hoping that his testimony before the House would help jog my memory, but he seems to have an even fuzzier recollection of that call than I do," Johnson wrote.

He said he spoke to former national security adviser John Bolton after talking to Sondland, and Bolton suggested he call Trump and Mike Pence. 

"I requested calls with both, but was not able to schedule a call with Vice President Pence. President Trump called me that same day," Johnson wrote. 

"The president was not prepared to lift the hold, and he was consistent in the reasons he cited. He reminded me how thoroughly corrupt Ukraine was and again conveyed his frustration that Europe doesn’t do its fair share of providing military aid," Johnson wrote.  

Johnson said he asked if "there was some kind of arrangement where Ukraine would take some action and the hold would be lifted. Without hesitation, President Trump immediately denied such an arrangement existed."

 

1049d ago / 11:10 PM UTC

Article II podcast: What are voters saying?

On the latest episode of Article II, host Steve Kornacki talks to Vaughn Hillyard, a political reporter for NBC News, about where voters stand on impeachment after the first week of public hearings.

The two discuss:

  • Who’s watching the public hearings? What television viewership tell us about partisanship around impeachment
  • What Vaughn’s conversations with voters in Michigan and Georgia reveal about who is following the impeachment developments and how the news is shaping political opinion
  • What new polling reveals about the level of engagement Americans have with this inquiry

 Listen to the full episode here.

1049d ago / 10:46 PM UTC

How to watch week 2 of the impeachment hearings: Schedule, witnesses and more

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The first public presidential impeachment hearings in over 20 years continue on Tuesday with lawmakers' busiest day yet, as they're set to hear testimony from four witnesses — three of whom were listening in on the July 25 phone call between President Donald Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

Two of the three, National Security Council staffer Lt. Col. Alex Vindman and Jennifer Williams, an aide to Vice President Mike Pence, thought the call was troubling. The third, former NSC staffer Tim Morrison, said at his closed-door deposition that he didn't think there was anything illegal about the call, but recommended it be secured for fear it would leak.

Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee had asked that Morrison and the fourth of the day's witnesses, former special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker, be called to testify publicly. Both have defended the president — but both have also provided information corroborating Democrats' assertions that Trump was withholding aid in order to force its president to announce an investigation into Joe Biden's son Hunter.

Read more about how to watch.

1049d ago / 9:30 PM UTC

Embassy official who overheard Trump-Sondland call to testify Thursday

David Holmes, the official from the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine who overheard Amb. Gordon Sondland’s call with President Trump, will testify publicly on Thursday alongside ex-White House Russia expert Fiona Hill, according to a Democratic official working on the impeachment inquiry.

1049d ago / 9:13 PM UTC

Pompeo says Yovanovitch was pursuing 'appropriate' policy in Ukraine

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Monday when asked about Trump's attacks on ex-Ukraine Amb. Yovanovitch that she was "driving towards the appropriate Ukraine policy."

“It is worth noting that the Ambassador Yovanovitch’s departure preceded the arrival of Bill Taylor," Pompeo said. "So there's some ideas out there that somehow this change was designed to enable some nefarious purpose, you all should all just look at the  simple fact that it was Bill Taylor that replaced Ambassador Yovanovitch, who, in each case has been driving towards the appropriate Ukraine policy, which I'm happy to talk about."

Pompeo added that he thinks Taylor has been an effective envoy, although he did not say whether he had confidence in him. "The State Department is doing a fantastic job," Pompeo said, addressing the question more broadly. "I think we've delivered in a way that the Obama administration has not delivered on Ukraine, I think the Ukrainian people, and if you listen to their leadership, I think they think the same.” 

While Yovanovitch was testifying Friday, Trump attacked her on Twitter, saying everywhere she went "turned bad. She started off in Somalia, how did that go? Then fast forward to Ukraine, where the new Ukrainian president spoke unfavorably about her in my second phone call with him."

Asked on Monday if he agreed with the tweet, Pompeo deferred to the White House stating, “I don't have anything else to say about the Democrats' impeachment inquiry.”

Trump's attack on Yovanovitch prompted Democrats to accuse Trump of witness intimidation. Trump, meanwhile, has fumed for weeks that Pompeo is responsible for hiring State Department officials whose congressional testimony threatens to bring down his presidency, according to four current and former senior administration officials.

1049d ago / 8:00 PM UTC

Senate GOP support for Trump remains steady ahead of Week 2 of hearings

As the second week of the House's public impeachment hearings begins, Senate Republicans are not wavering on their support for Trump.

Even as a number of witnesses appear to corroborate that Trump was personally involved in pushing for Ukraine to investigate his political rivals, and holding up military aid along the way, Senate Republicans still appear to be unwavering in their opposition to convicting the president if/when the case makes it to the upper chamber.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., reiterated Monday in Kentucky that he expects to get the case, but that he does not expect the president to be removed from office. As we know, that would take 20 Senate Republicans to join every single Democrat to get the two-thirds majority needed to convict. That has never happened to a president in history, and looks unlikely this time around, particularly as the Senate trial will likely bleed into an election year. 

And while most of the impeachment inquiry story lives in the House, Republicans have asked Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisc., for information about his interactions with the Trump administration involving Ukraine and the military aid that was held up. They sent that request in a letter to Johnson on Friday, which he mentioned on NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday, and he’s working on a response (likely in writing.)

1049d ago / 7:38 PM UTC

House investigating whether Trump lied to Mueller, lawyer tells court

The House of Representatives’ top lawyer told a federal appeals court Monday that the House is investigating whether President Donald Trump lied to special counsel Robert Mueller, and the attorney urged the judges to order the release of still-secret material from Mueller’s investigation.

Two of the three judges who heard arguments at the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit — Judith Rogers, a Clinton appointee, and Thomas Griffith, an appointee of George W. Bush — seemed prepared to order at least some of the material sought by the House to be turned over.

House General Counsel Douglas Letter told the judges that the need for the still-secret material redacted from the Mueller report is “immense” because it will help House members answer the question, “Did the president lie? Was the president not truthful in his responses to the Mueller investigation?" in his written responses to the probe.

Read the full story here.

1049d ago / 7:17 PM UTC

Pelosi gives impeachment update

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., updated colleagues about the status of the impeachment inquiry in a letter on Monday.

In the letter, she says that the, "facts are uncontested: that the President abused his power for his own personal, political benefit, at the expense of our national security interests."

Read the full letter below:

Dear Democratic Colleague,

As we enter this pre-Thanksgiving week, we must extend the Continuing Resolution to keep government open and advance our legislative agenda to meet the needs of the American people. 

Thank you to the many Members who participated in our Speaker’s Meeting on Jobs. The presentation of the challenges facing America’s working families and the solutions presented by Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman DeFazio and Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Pallone helped advance our infrastructure legislation. The discussion on USMCA was constructive and will continue this week.

At the same time we legislate, we continue to investigate and litigate, as the impeachment inquiry proceeds.

Last week, the country was impressed by the valor and patriotism of the dedicated public servants and career diplomats, appointed by the President, in speaking truth to power. This week, we will hear from additional witnesses who will courageously expose the truth and defend our democracy.

The facts are uncontested: that the President abused his power for his own personal, political benefit, at the expense of our national security interests.

The weak response to these hearings has been, “Let the election decide.” That dangerous position only adds to the urgency of our action, because the President is jeopardizing the integrity of the 2020 elections.

There are also some who say that no serious wrongdoing was committed, because the military assistance to Ukraine was eventually released. The fact is, the aid was only released after the whistleblower exposed the truth of the President’s extortion and bribery, and the House launched a formal investigation.

None of us comes to Congress to impeach a President, but rather to make progress for America’s working families. However, our first order of business is our oath to support and defend the Constitution from all enemies foreign and domestic. As such, we are custodians of the Constitution and, For The People, defenders of our democracy.

Thank you for your patriotic leadership.

1049d ago / 7:03 PM UTC
1049d ago / 7:01 PM UTC

Trump tweeted as Marie Yovanovitch testified: Was it witness tampering?

Former U.S. ambassador Marie Yovanovitch was testifying Friday in the House impeachment inquiry when suddenly President Donald Trump weighed in.

“Everywhere Marie Yovanovitch went turned bad,” Trump tweeted. “She started off in Somalia, how did that go?” The president also asserted his “absolute right” to recall ambassadors, as he had done with Yovanovitch, whose most recent post was in Ukraine, a country at the heart of the impeachment inquiry.

Why it could be prosecuted as witness tampering

Federal criminal law contains a broad prohibition against illegitimately affecting the presentation of evidence in hearings. For example, it is unlawful to knowingly use intimidation or corrupt persuasion with intent to influence the testimony of any person in an official proceeding. An “official proceeding” includes hearings before Congress. Witness harassment also includes conduct intended to “badger, disturb or pester” and attempts to intimidate, even if the witness isn’t actually influenced, and even if the witness never actually received the threat.

Read the full analysis.

1049d ago / 6:41 PM UTC

McConnell says House impeachment timing could push Senate trial to 2020

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., suggested Monday that the House impeachment inquiry could last until the end of the year, which would push the start of the Senate process up against the Democratic presidential primary season.

“Well, all I can tell you at this particular point is it looks to me like the House is gonna be on this until Christmas,” McConnell told reporters at an event in downtown Louisville. He added, “Then it comes over to the Senate, it displaces all other business, the chief justice of the United States is in the chair, senators are not allowed to speak, they have to sit there and listen, and I’m not sure how long it will go on."

If the House were to wrap up the impeachment inquiry on the timeline McConnell predicted, then the earliest the Senate would begin their trial would be in January, just weeks before the first votes are cast in the 2020 Democratic primary. McConnell said that he was confident that the Republican-controlled Senate would not vote to impeach President Donald Trump, and suggested that view might influence how long members would want to continue with the trial.

Read the story.

1049d ago / 6:35 PM UTC
1049d ago / 4:54 PM UTC

Schumer calls on DoD to protect whistleblowers, hand over Ukraine documents

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., on Monday requested that the Department of Defense notify its personnel of their rights to make protected disclosures to Congress and halt any efforts to prevent officials from cooperating with impeachment investigators.

The request, in a letter to Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, comes ahead of public testimony Tuesday from Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a top White House expert on Ukraine, and Laura Cooper, a deputy assistant secretary of defense.

Vindman and Cooper "have been vilified and attacked by individuals in the media and elsewhere," Schumer wrote. "Some have even gone so far as to call LTC Vindman, a recipient of the Purple Heart after being wounded while serving in Iraq, a spy and question his loyalty to the United States."

Schumer added that he feared "these attacks will only increase after their participation in these public hearings."

Schumer asked Esper to brief him the actions being taken to ensure that Vindman, Cooper and others are protected from workplace reprisals and for their personal safety. The minority leader also asked the department to "immediately cease any efforts to prevent officials from cooperating with Congress" and to hand over documents related to U.S. military aid to Ukraine.

Read the letter.

1049d ago / 4:22 PM UTC

House staffers on a summer trip to Ukraine learned U.S. aid was frozen. Stunned, here's what they did next.

Two days after a whistleblower secretly filed a complaint about President Donald Trump's dealings with Ukraine in August, two top congressional staffers arrived in Kyiv on a routine business trip that ended up setting off alarm bells on Capitol Hill.

The aides work for the Democratic leadership of the House Appropriations Committee, which is responsible for federal spending. They had been dispatched to make an on-the-ground assessment of the cash Congress has been pumping into former Soviet states — including Moldova, Georgia and Ukraine — to aid their defenses against Russian aggression.

But after traveling from Chisinau, Moldova, for two days of meetings and Ukrainian special-forces training observation in Kyiv and Berdychiv starting on Aug. 14, the staffers were shocked to learn from U.S. embassy officials that there was no new money coming into Ukraine, a congressional aide familiar with their trip told NBC News.

Read the full story here.

1049d ago / 4:17 PM UTC

Secretary of state takes heat from Trump

1049d ago / 4:01 PM UTC

Catch up on Article II: Tom Brokaw remembers Watergate

In a bonus Saturday episode of "Article II: Inside Impeachment," NBC News special correspondent Tom Brokaw discusses his time covering the fall of President Richard Nixon and the parallels he sees to today. 

Listen to that episode here.

And, in case you missed Friday's podcast, we heard from national political reporter Josh Lederman, who discussed a long day of public testimony from ousted Ukraine Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch and the case each party is making to voters at this stage in the inquiry.

Listen to that episode here.