Trump-Ukraine live updates: Pelosi says rough transcript of Trump call with Ukraine’s Zelensky confirms need for impeachment inquiry to investigate Biden

The Washington Post

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement Wednesday that the rough transcript released of President Trump’s July call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky confirms the need for an impeachment inquiry of a president who, she said, “has tried to make lawlessness a virtue in America and now is exporting it abroad.”

The California Democrat’s statement followed the release of a document that showed Trump offering the help of the U.S. attorney general to investigate Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and promising Zelensky a White House meeting after he promised to conduct such an inquiry.

The latest developments in the burgeoning controversy over the July call came on a day in which Trump was also scheduled to meet with Zelensky on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in the afternoon.

The July 25 call has been the subject of intense scrutiny since The Washington Post reported last week that a whistleblower had come forward with concerns about the matter.

Trump has acknowledged publicly that he asked Zelensky to investigate Biden’s son, who served on the board of Burisma, a Ukrainian gas company that came under scrutiny by authorities there.

2:20 p.m.: Cruz says Democrats are trying to ‘undo’ 2016 election

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) joined other Republicans in accusing Democrats of seeking to “undo” the results of the 2016 election through impeachment.

But if Trump were removed from office, it would not result in a Democrat taking his place. Instead, Vice President Pence would be in line to become president.

“Since the day President Trump was elected, congressional Democrats have been working to find any reason under the sun to impeach the president and undo the results of the last election,” Cruz said. “First, it was Mueller, then the Mueller report found no collusion. Now it’s Ukraine. Next month, it will be something else.”

2 p.m.: Pelosi privately urges narrow Trump impeachment probe focused on Ukraine

Pelosi urged fellow Democratic leaders in a private meeting to keep the impeachment investigation narrowly focused on Trump and his dealings with the president of Ukraine, according to five Democrats familiar with the conversation.

The closed-door meeting took place hours after the White House released a rough transcript of the July 25 phone call between Trump and Zelensky in which Trump pressed Zelensky to work with Attorney General William P. Barr and personal attorney Rudolph Giuliani to investigate Biden.

Inside the room, Democrats said, Pelosi told colleagues that keeping the inquiry narrowly focused on the Ukraine allegations could help keep the investigation out of the courts, where a slew of investigative matters have been bogged down for months — though she did not rule out ultimately including other episodes in a potential impeachment package.

Read more here.

— Mike DeBonis and Rachael Bade

1:20 p.m.: White House mistakenly sends Trump-Ukraine talking points to Democrats

In the hours after the release Wednesday of the rough transcript of Trump’s July phone call with Zelensky, the White House circulated an email with proposed talking points for Trump’s defenders.

Unfortunately for the White House, the email was mistakenly sent to not only Republicans but also Democratic lawmakers and their staff.

The message, titled, “What You Need To Know: President Trump’s Call with President Zelensky,” was quickly recalled — but not before Democrats took to Twitter to ridicule the White House over the error.

Read more here.

1:15 p.m.: Trump calls House impeachment inquiry a ‘manufactured crisis’

Trump called the House impeachment inquiry a “manufactured crisis” Wednesday afternoon and said it undermines the ability of Democrats to make progress on trade deals and gun legislation.

“I don’t think they can do any deals. All they’re talking about is nonsense,” Trump said at a meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in New York.

“She’s wasting her time on … a manufactured crisis,” Trump said of Pelosi.

1 p.m.: Democratic chairmen says no “quid pro quo” is required for wrongdoing

A joint statement issued Wednesday afternoon by four Democratic committee chairmen sought to push back on Trump’s argument that he had done nothing wrong because his request for Zelensky to investigate the Bidens was not linked to U.S. military aid to Ukraine.

“Let’s be clear: no quid pro quo is required to betray our country,” the statement said. “Trump asked a foreign government to interfere in our elections — that is betrayal enough. The corruption exists whether or not Trump threatened — explicitly or implicitly — that a lack of cooperation could result in withholding military aid.”

The statement was issued by Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (Calif.), House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler (N.Y.), Oversight Chairman Elijah E. Cummings (Md.) and Foreign Relations Chairman Eliot L. Engel (N.Y.).

12:45 p.m.: Impeachment inquiry threatens to overtake Capitol, upend trade and spending talks

House Democrats’ new impeachment inquiry threatens to overtake Capitol Hill and chill legislating on other fronts, deepening partisan divisions and mistrust between lawmakers and administration officials who’ve already struggled to secure deals on spending and trade.

Trump’s top agenda item, a rewrite of the 1994 trade deal between Mexico, Canada and the United States, could be the first victim.

The formal impeachment inquiry, announced Tuesday, will test whether congressional Democrats and the White House can attempt to continue governing on other matters. Numerous Republicans have said the impeachment inquiry changes everything.

Democrats are trying to forge ahead, multitasking on trade and budget talks while also preparing for impeachment.

Read more here.

— Erica Werner and David J. Lynch

12:30 p.m.: Some Senate Republicans question White House’s judgment

Several Senate Republicans were stunned Wednesday and questioned the White House’s judgment after it released a rough transcript of Trump’s call with Ukraine’s president.

One Senate Republican, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to speak candidly, said the transcript’s release was a “huge mistake” that the GOP now has to confront, even as Republicans argue that House Democrats are overreaching with their impeachment effort.

A top Senate GOP aide said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is expecting Wednesday’s closed-door lunch to be eventful and possibly tense as Republicans react to the transcript and debate their next step.

“It remains troubling in the extreme. It’s deeply troubling,” Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) told reporters Wednesday, when asked about the transcript.

Read more here.

Robert Costa

12:15 p.m.: Schiff says rough transcript reveals “mafia-like shakedown”

At a news conference Wednesday afternoon, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) said the rough transcript reveals “a classic mafia-like shakedown of a foreign leader.”

Schiff said Zelensky’s statements in the rough transcript “reflect a Ukrainian president who was desperate for U.S. support.” Trump, he said, was eager to leverage that situation.

“This is how a mafia boss talks. … ‘I have a favor I want to ask you,’ ” Schiff said. And the favor, “of course, is to investigate his political rival,” he added.

He also took aim at Trump’s mentions of Barr in the call.

The fact that Trump would invoke the attorney general, Schiff said, sends a message to the Ukrainian president that “this is the United States government asking, and we plan to effectuate that through the Department of Justice.”

12:05 p.m.: Pelosi says rough transcript confirms need for impeachment inquiry, questions whether Trump cares about ethics

Pelosi said in a statement that the rough transcript confirms the need for an impeachment inquiry of a president who, she said, “has tried to make lawlessness a virtue in America and now is exporting it abroad.”

“The release of the notes of the call by the White House confirms that the President engaged in behavior that undermines the integrity of our elections, the dignity of the office he holds and our national security,” Pelosi said.

The California Democrat said that she respects Trump’s responsibility to engage with foreign leaders.

But, she said, “It is not part of his job to use taxpayer money to shake down other countries for the benefit of his campaign. Either the President does not know the weight of his words or he does not care about ethics or his constitutional responsibilities.”

Pelosi also accused the Justice Department of “acting in a rogue fashion” and being “complicit in the President’s lawlessness.”

12 p.m.: Trump-Zelensky call shows lengths to which foreign leaders go to flatter Trump

The rough transcript of Trump’s phone call with Zelensky provides evidence of Trump asking the Ukrainian president to investigate the conduct of Biden and his son Hunter.

But it also reveals the lengths to which foreign leaders will go in their private conversations with Trump to flatter the president to win his favor.

Zelensky, who was elected in April, lavishes praise on Trump in four distinct ways in the July phone call.

Most significantly, Zelensky mentioned that he stayed at one of Trump’s properties.

“Actually, last time I traveled to the United States, I stayed in New York near Central Park, and I stayed at the Trump Tower,” Zelensky told Trump, according to the rough transcript.

Read more here.

11:30 a.m.: Hoyer says House focus will be on Ukraine matter

House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) called the rough transcript “pretty damning” and told reporters Wednesday morning that Democrats would focus on it.

“We are going to focus on this particular matter,” Hoyer said, adding that it’s “not hard to understand.”

As they move forward with an impeachment inquiry, House Democrats have been in talks about how narrowly to focus on the Ukraine matter vs. material from an array of other investigations.

Holding up a copy of the rough transcript, Hoyer said, “Even that which is in this document is pretty damning. … These are very serious national security issues.”

Hoyer added that there are no plans to cancel an upcoming two-week recess because it is important for members to have time to explain to constituents what happened in the Ukraine matter.

Earlier Wednesday, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) said the rough transcript confirmed “several things.”

“The President, Donald Trump, clearly pressured the Ukrainian president to commence an investigation of the Biden family to dig up political dirt in order to bolster the president’s electoral prospects in 2020,” Jeffries said. “That is textbook abuse of power, and the transcripts have become Exhibit A in that regard.”

— Rachael Bade and Mike DeBonis

11:20 a.m.: Nadler says Barr should recuse himself from Ukraine matter

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) demanded Wednesday that Attorney General William P. Barr recuse himself from further involvement in the Ukraine matter, citing his mention in the rough transcript.

The document shows that Trump urged Ukraine’s leader to contact Barr about opening an inquiry tied to Biden.

“The President dragged the Attorney General into this mess. At a minimum, AG Barr must recuse himself until we get to the bottom of this matter,” Nadler tweeted.

— Mike DeBonis

11:15 a.m.: Democratic presidential candidates pounce on release of rough transcript

Several Democratic presidential candidates pounced on the release of the rough transcript of Trump’s call with Zelensky, saying it bolstered the case for the president’s impeachment.

“This ‘transcript’ itself is a smoking gun,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said on Twitter. “If this is the version of events the president’s team thinks is most favorable, he is in very deep jeopardy. We need to see the full whistleblower complaint and the administration needs to follow the law. Now.”

Former Obama Cabinet secretary Julián Castro also called the rough transcript a “smoking gun.”

“Donald Trump pressured a foreign government to work with his Justice Department to investigate a political opponent. Congress should cancel recess and begin impeachment proceedings immediately,” Castro said on Twitter.

Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), meanwhile, said the document amounted to an admission on the part of Trump.

“Trump pressured the Ukrainian president to work with the U.S. Attorney General to investigate a political opponent. He must be impeached,” she tweeted.

Billionaire activist Tom Steyer said the rough transcript showed Trump is “a traitor,” while former congressman Beto O’Rourke (D-Tex.) said it showed Trump is “unfit for office and needs to be impeached.”

10:40 a.m.: Schumer says he strongly supports House impeachment inquiry

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Wednesday that he strongly supports Pelosi’s decision to move forward with a formal impeachment inquiry.

“The president’s conduct made an impeachment inquiry unavoidable,” Schumer said during remarks on the Senate floor. “The events of recent days have brought sharply into focus the question of whether President Trump abused the powers of his office and betrayed the public trust for personal and political gain.”

10:40 a.m.: Trump calls on Democrats to apologize

Shortly after the rough transcript was publicly released, Trump went on Twitter to call on Democrats to apologize.

“Will the Democrats apologize after seeing what was said on the call with the Ukrainian President?” he wrote. “They should, a perfect call — got them by surprise!”

Trump also tweeted a clip of a younger Pelosi speaking on the House floor about how unfairly Republicans were treating then-President Bill Clinton during his impeachment.

Shortly afterward, speaking to reporters in New York, he continued to insist he is the victim of “the single greatest witch hunt in American history.”

“It’s a disgraceful thing,” Trump said. “The letter was a great letter, meaning the letter revealing the call.”

He claimed the rough transcript showed he put “no pressure” on Zelensky.

While Democrats had suggested he had a “call from hell,” Trump said, it instead “turned out to be a nothing call.”

10:30 a.m.: “Is it out?” House Republican leaders were unaware rough transcript was released

House Republican leaders were apparently caught unawares that the White House released the rough transcript of Trump’s call with Zelensky.

At their weekly news conference, which began at 10 a.m., House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) and others stuck largely to talking points that were the same as those they used on Tuesday — keeping the focus on Biden and Pelosi.

“No one has read this transcript,” McCarthy said at one point, chastising a reporter.

At another point, McCarthy said, “When this transcript comes out …”

After reporters and others in the room clarified that the rough transcript had already been released, McCarthy responded, “Is it out?”

Shortly afterward, House Republican leaders wrapped up the news conference.

10:15 a.m.: Hillary Clinton says Trump has “betrayed our country”

Shortly after the rough transcript was released, Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee defeated by Trump in 2016, took to Twitter to offer her support for impeachment.

“The president of the United States has betrayed our country,” she wrote. “That’s not a political statement — it’s a harsh reality, and we must act. He is a clear and present danger to the things that keep us strong and free. I support impeachment.”

10:15 a.m.: McConnell accuses House Democrats of rushing to judgment

In remarks shortly after the rough transcript was released, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) accused House Democrats of having an “impeachment addiction.”

“While our friends across the Capitol rush to judgment and dive deeper into their nearly three-year-old impeachment addiction, we’ll stay focused on the American people’s business,” McConnell said during remarks of the Senate floor.

10 a.m.: Rough transcript shows Trump offering U.S. assistance to Zelensky for Biden investigation

Trump told Zelensky to work with the U.S. attorney general to investigate Biden’s conduct and offered to meet with the leader of Ukraine at the White House after he promised to conduct such an inquiry, according to a newly released rough transcript of the call.

Those statements and others in a July 25 phone call between Trump and Zelensky were so concerning that the intelligence community inspector general thought them a possible violation of campaign finance law. In late August, intelligence officials referred the matter to the Justice Department as a possible crime, but prosecutors concluded last week that the conduct was not criminal, according to senior Justice Department officials.

The administration’s disclosures underscore how the president’s phone call has consumed the federal government in recent days, and how the White House is scrambling to defuse the situation by offering more details of what the president said.

On Wednesday, the administration released a White House rough transcript of the call and detailed behind-the-scenes discussions about how to handle the accusations.

Read more here.

Devlin Barrett, Matt Zapotosky, Carol D. Leonnig and Josh Dawsey

9:30 a.m.: Number of House members supporting impeachment inquiry swells to 200

The number of House members who say they support at least opening an impeachment inquiry into Trump has swelled to 200, a figure that includes 199 Democrats and Rep. Justin Amash (Mich.), a former Republican who recently left the party, according to an updated Washington Post tally.

In just the past two days, the number has grown by 60, with many members tying their decisions to Trump’s call with Zelensky.

Twenty-two of the 24 Democratic members of the House Judiciary Committee, which has jurisdiction over the impeachment inquiry, have expressed public support for the move.

Read more here.

— JM Reiger

9:15 a.m.: House to vote Wednesday afternoon to condemn administration for withholding whistleblower complaint

The House plans to vote Wednesday afternoon on a resolution condemning the administration’s efforts to block the release of the whistleblower complaint alleging that Trump’s promise to a foreign leader constituted an “urgent concern” to national security.

Acting director of national intelligence Joseph Maguire has refused to share the complaint from a U.S. intelligence official in what Democrats say is a clear violation of the law.

Michael Atkinson, the inspector general for the intelligence community, reviewed the complaint and determined that it was credible and troubling enough to be considered a matter of “urgent concern,” a legal threshold that requires notification of congressional oversight committees.

“We hope that all Members of the House — Democrats and Republicans alike — will join in upholding the rule of law and oath of office to protect and defend the Constitution as Representatives of the American people,” Pelosi and House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) said in a joint statement.

In a rare, albeit subtle protest from the GOP-led Senate, lawmakers adopted a resolution on Tuesday calling for the White House to turn over the complaint to the intelligence committees, as is required under law.

8:30 a.m.: Giuliani says the rough transcript was read to him

Giuliani said Wednesday morning that the rough transcript had been read to him, an acknowledgment that prompted protests from Democratic members of Congress who had yet to review the document.

During an appearance on Fox News’s “Fox & Friends” in which he defended Trump and attacked Biden, Giuliani was asked if he had seen the rough transcript.

“Let’s say it was read to me,” he replied.

“The whole thing?” asked co-host Brian Kilmeade.

“I hope,” Giuliani replied.

Democrats, including House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), argued that Giuliani, who doesn’t hold a government position, should not have had an opportunity to review the rough transcript before they did.

8:15 a.m.: Schiff raises concerns about the validity of what will be released

Ahead of the expected release of a rough transcript, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) raised concerns about whether it would provide a full picture of what transpired between Trump and Zelensky.

“We won’t know whether what we get from the White House is the complete story in terms of that conversation,” Schiff said during an interview on CNN. “We certainly know we can’t rely on the White House to be forthcoming.”

Schiff said Democrats are concerned that “whatever they release today may not be the full content of that conversation.”

“If there’s anything we know from the Mueller investigation, it’s that this president will go to extraordinary lengths to obstruct an investigation into his misconduct,” he added, referring to the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.

Asked to elaborate on his concerns, Schiff said it is unclear that “if it is in fact a transcript, that is someone taking word-by-word notes of what was said, like a stenographer, or whether there was a recording of the conversation that can be transcribed or whether instead this is one of the president’s staff or someone else from the [National Security Council] or someone else from the State Department sitting in on the call and writing only that which would not thoroughly embarrass the president.”

He said House Democrats investigating Trump’s conduct want to talk to the note-taker.

7:25 a.m.: Trump complains again about Democrats “frozen with hatred and fear”

Trump went on Twitter early Wednesday to complain about continued Democratic scrutiny of his actions.

“There has been no President in the history of our Country who has been treated so badly as I have,” he wrote. “The Democrats are frozen with hatred and fear. They get nothing done. This should never be allowed to happen to another President. Witch Hunt!”

Trump’s salvo followed several tweets on Tuesday night in which he shared video clips of friendly commentators arguing that he is being treated unfairly.

6:40 a.m.: New poll shows limited support for impeachment

Amid a groundswell of support for impeachment proceedings among House Democrats, a new poll finds a majority of Americans do not favor ousting Trump from office.

Thirty-seven percent of voters say that Trump should be impeached and removed from office, while 57 percent say he should not be impeached, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday morning.

The poll was conducted from Thursday through Monday, as details were emerging about Trump’s call with Zelensky.

The poll shows a stark partisan divide on the question of impeachment. Among Democrats, 73 percent support impeachment, while 21 percent are opposed. Among Republicans, only 4 percent support impeachment, while 95 percent are opposed.

Read more here.

5 a.m.: Trump’s meeting with Zelensky is a high-wire act for both leaders

Trump meets with Zelensky on Wednesday afternoon as he seeks to dispel concerns about his decision to temporarily hold nearly $400 million of military aid from the embattled country.

The meeting, scheduled at 2:15 p.m., is a high-wire act for both leaders as Zelensky tries to avoid angering the U.S. president or his Democratic opponents while Trump tries to disarm allegations that have generated a formal impeachment inquiry by the Democrat-controlled House.

At issue is the July phone call between Trump and Zelensky in which Trump is said to have brought up investigating former vice president Biden, a potential 2020 presidential opponent, and his son. Days before the phone call, Trump ordered a hold on the aid for Ukraine, which has been fending off Russian-backed separatists in the country’s east.

Read more here.

— John Hudson

5 a.m.: Giuliani pursued shadow Ukraine agenda as key foreign policy officials were sidelined

Trump’s attempt to pressure the leader of Ukraine followed a months-long fight inside the administration that sidelined national security officials and empowered political loyalists — including the president’s personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani — to exploit the U.S. relationship with Kiev, current and former U.S. officials said.

The sequence, which began early this year, involved the abrupt removal of the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, the circumvention of senior officials on the National Security Council, and the suspension of hundreds of millions of dollars of aid administered by the Defense and State departments — all as key officials from these agencies struggled to piece together Giuliani’s activities from news reports.

Several officials described tense meetings on Ukraine among national security officials at the White House leading up to the president’s phone call on July 25, sessions that led some participants to fear that Trump and those close to him appeared prepared to use U.S. leverage with the new leader of Ukraine for Trump’s political gain.

Read more here.

— Greg Miller, Josh Dawsey, Paul Sonne and Ellen Nakashima

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