Trump impeachment inquiry live updates: House panels subpoena Defense, OMB documents on suspension of Ukraine military aid

Trump impeachment inquiry live updates: House panels subpoena Defense, OMB documents on suspension of Ukraine military aid

A State Department official declined to appear Monday morning at a planned deposition by House committees seeking to learn more about Trump’s efforts to press the leader of Ukraine to investigate former vice president Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden at a time when U.S. military assistance had been suspended.

On Sunday, the attorney representing the whistleblower who first raised an alarm about their July call said that “multiple” whistleblowers have come forward.

●Whistleblower’s attorney says team now representing “multiple” officials as impeachment inquiry expands.

●Trump’s defiance of oversight presents a new challenge to Congress’s ability to rein in the executive branch.

●A torrent of impeachment developments has triggered a reckoning in the Republican Party.

Read the whistleblower complaint | The rough transcript of Trump’s call with Zelensky |What’s next in the Trump impeachment inquiry

4:15 p.m.: House Democrats consider masking identity of whistleblower from Trump’s GOP allies in Congress

House Democrats eager to protect the whistleblower are considering testimony at a remote location and possibly obscuring the individual’s appearance and voice — extraordinary moves to prevent Trump’s congressional allies from revealing the identity, according to three officials familiar with the discussions.

Democratic investigators are concerned that without such rare precautions, Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee could learn and then leak the identity of the whistleblower, who has agreed to answer questions before the intelligence committees in both the House and Senate.

Democrats overseeing the logistics of the testimony for the House impeachment inquiry are discussing a location away from the Capitol as well as a staff-only session that would prevent lawmakers from attending and asking questions.

Read more here.

Rachael Bade, Greg Miller, Ellen Nakashima and Karoun Demirjian

4:00 p.m.: Giuliani pushes back against AP story on Ukranian gas company

Trump’s personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani went on Twitter on Monday afternoon to push back against a report by the Associated Press detailing efforts by business executives and Republican donors to steer Ukranian gas contracts to companies controlled by Trump allies.

Giuliani also took aim at CNN and what he called “other Swamp Media,” who he claimed are “going back 20 years to find anything I did which they can paint as wrong.”

“AP just falsely asserted I was proposing a deal in Ukraine earlier this year,” he said. “Meanwhile the Biden Family gets pass.”

The AP reported that it was unclear what role, if any, Giuliani had in the episode involving Ukraine’s state-owned gas company.

Giuliani had earlier told the AP: “I have not pursued a deal in the Ukraine. I don’t know about a deal in the Ukraine. I would not do a deal in the Ukraine now, obviously. There is absolutely no proof that I did it, because I didn’t do it.”

2:40 p.m.: Democrats say House Republicans ‘continue to duck and cover’ on Trump’s China comments

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee seized on comments made by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy on Monday morning, in which the California Republican told “Fox and Friends” that he thought Trump was joking about asking China to investigate the Bidens.

“House Republicans continue to duck and cover” on Trump’s remarks, the DCCC said.

McCarthy had echoed other Republicans — notably Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.) and Rep. Jim Jordan (Ohio) — when he dismissed the president’s statement as a joke.

1:35 p.m.: Pelosi turns Trump attacks into a fundraising pitch

Pelosi sought Monday to parlay Trump’s late-night Twitter attacks into donations for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

In a fundraising solicitation, she referred to tweets by Trump that suggested she was guilty of “High Crimes and Misdemeanors, and even Treason,” and insisted that both she and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) should be impeached. (Members of Congress cannot be impeached.)

“Late last night, President Trump took to Twitter to spew personal attacks at me,” Pelosi said in the solicitation. “Well, I have news for him: All he’s done is make me more determined than ever to keep fighting to reveal the truth about his abuses of power. I need your help. Democrats need to band together to stand up to President Trump and protect our Majority.”

12:15 p.m.: House committees subpoena Pentagon chief and acting director of Office of Management and Budget for documents

Three House panels key to the impeachment inquiry said Monday that they had sent subpoenas to Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper and Office of Management and Budget acting director Russell Vought for documents related to the withholding of U.S. military aid from Ukraine.

“The Committees are investigating the extent to which President Trump jeopardized national security by pressing Ukraine to interfere with our 2020 election and by withholding military assistance provided by Congress to help Ukraine counter Russian aggression, as well as any efforts to cover up these matters,” the lawmakers said in a letter.

Signing the letter were Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), Oversight Chairman Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.) and Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot L. Engel (D-N.Y.).

Trump told his acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, to hold back almost $400 million in military aid for Ukraine shortly before his July call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky in which he pressed Zelensky to investigate the Bidens.

Trump has repeatedly denied that there was a “quid pro quo” between the military assistance and the request to investigate the Bidens.

11:30 a.m.: Kudlow not sure Trump was joking about asking China to investigate the Bidens

White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said Monday he wasn’t certain whether Trump was joking when he publicly called upon China to investigate Joe and Hunter Biden.

“I don’t honestly know,” Kudlow said during a morning gaggle with reporters.

That Trump wasn’t serious has become a talking point for Republicans questioned about Trump’s request, which he made while speaking with reporters Thursday on the White House lawn.

“I think he did it to provoke you to ask me and others, and get outraged by it,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) told a reporter Friday. “Like I said, he plays it like a violin, and everybody falls right into it. It’s not a real request.”

Republicans recycle defense that Trump was joking about China investigating the Bidens

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), echoed Rubio during an appearance Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.” Dodging host George Stephanopoulos’s questions about the appropriateness of Trump’s request, he asked, “George, you really think he was serious about thinking that China’s going to investigate the Biden family?”

During his conversation with reporters Monday, a reporter asked Kudlow whether the president can conclusively state that he does not want China to investigate the Bidens.

“You’re straying way off the reservation,” he responded.

Kudlow also said that in the president’s view, there’s no linkage between trade talks with China and Trump’s call for an investigation. “I guarantee there will be no linkage,” he added.

11:10 a.m.: Volker resigns as executive director of McCain Institute

Kurt D. Volker, the Trump administration’s former special envoy for Ukraine, announced Monday that he is resigning as executive director of the McCain Institute.

Volker tendered his resignation as special envoy for Ukraine, a job he had held on a part-time basis for two years, on Sept. 27 as he became a focus of the controversy over Trump’s communications with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

On Monday, Volker said he is parting ways with the McCain Institute, which he has led since its creation in 2012, saying the media’s focus on his work as special envoy “risks becoming a distraction from the accomplishments and continued growth of the Institute.”

The institute, which is part of Arizona State University, bills itself as a think tank “inspired by the leadership” of the late senator John McCain (R-Ariz.).

“I know the Institute is well equipped with a first rate team of staff and Trustees to continue its progress in the future,” Volker said in a statement.

As the special envoy to Ukraine, Volker worked for months to facilitate a meeting between Trump and Zelensky, a young anti-corruption reformer elected in April.

Volker testified behind closed doors last week before three House committees and shared text messages that have become key to the impeachment inquiry.

10:45 a.m.: Pence says Democrats have misplaced priorities

Pointing to the Trump administration’s efforts to pass a new trade deal, Vice President Pence suggested Monday that Democrats pursuing the impeachment inquiry have their priorities out of order.

“While Dems in Congress have been trying to overturn the will of the American people by reversing Election Day 2016, our Admin will continue to fight for policies that create jobs & benefit American workers,” Pence wrote in a Monday morning tweet, quoting from an op-ed he wrote for the Arizona Daily Star.

The vice president has undertaken a nationwide tour to promote the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement as a replacement for the North American Free Trade Agreement. He made a stop in Arizona on Thursday, touting the USMCA at a Caterpillar facility in Green Valley. In a Wednesday tweet about the visit, he said the White House is ready to move forward with the deal “whenever the Democrats in Congress are done with Presidential harassment.”

In his op-ed, Pence urged lawmakers to “put partisanship aside” and support the USMCA.

“The USMCA is an idea whose time has come,” the op-ed said. “Let’s put partisanship aside, put American jobs and American workers first, and give our economy a boost by passing the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement.”

Pence is scheduled to make another appearance later Monday in Nashville to promote the USMCA.

10 a.m.: Pelosi highlights concerns of Founding Fathers about foreign election interference

Pelosi shared an article on Twitter on Monday highlighting concerns that the nation’s founders had with foreign election interference.

Jordan E. Taylor, at Smith College, wrote that Pelosi, in a letter last week to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), pointed out that “our Founders were specifically intent on ensuring that foreign entities did not undermine the integrity of our elections.”

“Pelosi is right,” Taylor continued. “The first generation of American political leaders understood the danger of foreign involvement in their elections because they lived through it. Throughout the 1790s, France’s ambassadors repeatedly sought to influence the results of American elections, hoping to sway policy in their favor. Even after this meddling ended, fear of foreign influence persisted, ultimately making subsequent untainted elections seem illegitimate.”

9 a.m.: State Department official does not appear at scheduled deposition

George Kent, the deputy assistant secretary of state in the European and Eurasian Bureau, did not appear for a deposition before three House committees scheduled for Monday morning.

“No, Democrats originally scheduled him for deposition today, but his appearance has not yet been worked out or confirmed,” said a person familiar with the planned deposition who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

Last week, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo balked at the timing of several planned depositions of State Department officials, saying House Democrats were not giving them adequate time to prepare.

House investigators are planning to hear Tuesday from Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union who has become a central figure in the probe, and Friday from Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine who was recalled from the post early.

Discussions remain ongoing with other State Department officials, a Democratic aide said.

— reporting by John Hudson

8:05 a.m.: Trump again accuses whistleblower of being partisan

In Monday morning tweets, Trump again accused the anonymous whistleblower of being “partisan” without citing evidence and claimed the whistleblower was “very wrong” about Trump’s July call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

In fact, the whistleblower’s complaint closely tracks a rough transcript of the call released by the White House.

Trump also referred to reports of multiple whistleblowers, writing, “Bring in another Whistleblower from the bench!”

6:45 a.m.: Republicans step up attacks on Pelosi

Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel attacked Pelosi in an early morning tweet, echoing Trump and other leading members of the GOP who have upped their efforts to tear down the House speaker.

“Nancy Pelosi isn’t interested in the truth,” McDaniel tweeted. “She is only out to destroy @realDonaldTrump — and the American people see right through it!”

McDaniel included a link in her tweet to an opinion piece by former House speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) published by Fox News over the weekend. In it, he argued that Pelosi and House Democrats are “creating a rigged game that sets up a coup to destroy the president.”

Giuliani also went on Twitter early Monday morning, resurrecting his idea of filing a lawsuit against Pelosi for “conspiracy to violate constitutional and civil rights.”

6:30 a.m.: Dozens of national security officials applauding whistleblower

A group of 90 former national security officials who served under presidents of both parties released an open letter on Sunday applauding the original whistleblower in the Ukraine controversy and calling on the government and media to protect his identity.

“A responsible whistleblower makes all Americans safer by ensuring that serious wrongdoing can be investigated and addressed, thus advancing the cause of national security to which we have devoted our careers,” the letter says. “What’s more, being a responsible whistleblower means that, by law, one is protected from certain egregious forms of retaliation. Whatever one’s view of the matters discussed in the whistleblower’s complaint, all Americans should be united in demanding that all branches of our government and all outlets of our media protect this whistleblower and his or her identity.”

Those signing the letter, which was first reported by the Wall Street Journal, include former CIA director John Brennan, former director of national intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. and former defense secretary Chuck Hagel.

6:15 a.m.: Colin Powell: ‘The Republican Party has got to get a grip on itself’

As many GOP lawmakers continue to defend Trump amid an expanding impeachment inquiry, Colin Powell, the retired general who served under three Republican presidents, said the party “has got to get a grip on itself.”

In remarks broadcast Sunday on CNN, Powell criticized Republican members of Congress for staying silent as Trump’s efforts to pressure a foreign power to target a political rival were exposed.

Republican leaders, Powell said, “are holding back because they’re terrified of what will happen to any one of them if they speak out.”

He continued, “When they see things that are not right, they need to say something about it, because our foreign policy is in shambles right now.”

Read more here.

— Deanna Paul

6 a.m.: Trump suggests Pelosi, Schiff committed ‘Treason,’ should be impeached

Since Democrats began an impeachment inquiry, Trump has repeatedly lashed out at Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), the House Intelligence Committee chairman, by accusing him of treason and demanding that he be removed from office.

On Sunday night, Trump repeated those claims on Twitter — and this time, suggested that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is also guilty of “High Crimes and Misdemeanors, and even Treason,” while insisting that both Democratic leaders should be impeached.

Members of Congress cannot be impeached. The Constitution gives the House or Senate the power to expel one of its own members by a two-thirds vote.

“Nancy Pelosi knew all of the many Shifty Adam Schiff lies and massive frauds perpetrated upon Congress and the American people, in the form of a fraudulent speech knowingly delivered as a ruthless con, and the illegal meetings with a highly partisan ‘Whistleblower’ & lawyer,” Trump tweeted.

Read more here.

— Tim Elfrink

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