House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Thursday that testimony presented by two career diplomats during Wednesday’s open impeachment hearing “corroborated evidence of bribery” by President Trump in his relations with Ukraine.

Her comments come as Democrats seek to build a case that Trump sought to withhold military assistance and an Oval Office meeting until Ukraine announced investigations into former vice president Joe Biden and his son, as well as an unfounded theory that Ukrainians interfered in the 2016 presidential election to hurt Trump.

Meanwhile, it was learned Thursday that a second official from the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv was present when U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland spoke on a July 26 phone call from Ukraine with Trump that more directly ties the president to his administration’s effort to pressure Ukraine’s new leadership.

Earlier Thursday, Trump asserted that “normal people” would close the case on his impeachment after Wednesday’s nationally televised hearing.

●Impeachment hearings begin with new evidence of phone call implicating Trump in Ukraine controversy.

●Pelosi calls Trump’s actions ‘bribery’ as Democrats sharpen case for impeachment.

●Republicans discuss a longer Senate impeachment trial to scramble Democratic primaries.

●Republicans’ conspiracy theories slam into sworn testimony in collision of divergent worlds.

1:50 a.m.
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Trump claims GOP senators are benefiting politically from impeachment

Trump claimed Republican senators have told him they want to prolong the impeachment process because it is benefiting them politically.

Trump told his supporters at a political rally that the senators have said, “Sir, our poll numbers are going through the roof, do you think we could keep this going?’ I said, ‘Do me a favor, let’s get it ended.’ They said, ‘But let’s keep it going, President, it’s so great.’”

Recent polls have shown Democrats with an advantage over Republicans on congressional generic ballots since the impeachment inquiry began.

Colby Itkowitz

1:45 a.m.
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Trump mocks State Department witnesses

Trump railed against the impeachment inquiry at the beginning of a political rally in Louisiana Thursday night, mocking the two career diplomats who testified for their silence when asked what is impeachable about Trump’s actions.

“How about when they asked these two Never Trumpers, ‘what exactly do you impeach him for?’ They went like, “What?” Trump said.

Several times during Wednesday’s public hearing, acting U.S. ambassador to Ukraine William B. Taylor Jr., said he was there to present the information he had and not to weigh in on whether to impeach Trump.

Colby Itkowitz

1:15 a.m.
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Biden says impeachment hearing made clear he ‘didn’t do a damn thing wrong’

Biden, in his first comments about the impeachment inquiry since Wednesday’s hearing, responded defensively, saying it further proved he and his son did nothing wrong.

“It made it clear from the beginning — I didn’t do a damn thing wrong. I did my job,” Biden said. “I did what the rest of the world wanted me to do and my son didn’t do a damn thing wrong.”

“This guy has done something really bad, he’s invited three foreign governments to interfere in the election process,” Biden continued, referring to Trump. “It’s an impeachable offense.”

Colby Itkowitz

11:30 p.m.
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OMB official agrees to testify on Saturday

A longtime career employee at the White House Office of Management and Budget is expected to break ranks and testify Saturday in the House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry, potentially filling in important details on the hold-up of military aid to Ukraine.

Mark Sandy would be the first OMB employee to testify in the inquiry, after OMB acting director Russell T. Vought and two other political appointees at the agency defied congressional subpoenas to appear.

He was among the career staffers who raised questions about the hold-up on the military aid to Ukraine, people familiar with the matter said, and his role gave him responsibility for signing the documents required to hold it up.

Read more here.

Erica Werner

10:30 p.m.
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President Clinton offers Trump advice on handling impeachment

Former president Bill Clinton, the only other living person who knows what it is like to be president and face impeachment, said the White House’s assertion that the investigation is halting progress on policy is “just an excuse.”

Clinton, in an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper about gun control after Thursday’s school shooting, said Trump should do as Clinton did during his impeachment and keep focused on the work.

“Look, you got hired to do a job. … Every day’s an opportunity to make something good happen,” Clinton said. “And I would say, ‘I’ve got lawyers and staff people handling this impeachment inquiry and they should just have at it. Meanwhile, I’m going to work for the American people.’ That’s what I would do.”

Colby Itkowitz

10:10 p.m.
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Trump asks Supreme Court to shield his tax returns from prosecutors, setting up historic separation-of-powers showdown

Trump asked the Supreme Court on Thursday to stop a prosecutor’s investigation of his personal finances, a bold assertion of presidential power that seeks a landmark decision from the nation’s highest court.

The filing by the president’s private lawyers represents a historic moment that tests the court’s independence and highlights the Constitution’s separation-of-powers design. It also marks a new phase in the investigations that have dogged Trump throughout his presidency and have culminated in an impeachment inquiry.

Read more here.

Robert Barnes and Ann E. Marimow

10:00 p.m.
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Trump takes no questions from reporters as he departs for Louisiana

Trump left the White House shortly before 5 p.m. and boarded Marine One. He did not stop to take questions from reporters, as he often does before departing Washington.

Felicia Sonmez

9:45 p.m.
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Trump meets with Barr, Cipollone before White House departure

Trump was scheduled to leave the White House shortly after 4 p.m. for a “Keep America Great” rally in Louisiana. But he still had not left by 4:45 p.m., and reporters saw him speaking inside the Oval Office with officials including Attorney General William P. Barr, White House counsel Pat Cipollone and White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham.

Felicia Sonmez

9:00 p.m.
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Cramer says Senate trial should go past New Hampshire primary ‘just for the fun of it’

Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) said that he thinks the Senate should take its time with a potential impeachment trial, musing that it should go past the Feb. 11 New Hampshire primary “just for the fun of it.”

Several of the Democratic presidential contenders are members of the Senate, and drawing out the impeachment trial could put them in the difficult position of having to choose between being present for the proceedings or hitting the campaign trail.

“I’ve always felt like, if our process is the only process that airs all of the facts, or at least both sides of the story, then we ought to at least have some of that, and maybe we could go somewhere beyond the New Hampshire primary, just for the fun of it,” Cramer said. “But the president didn’t have an opinion about it, interestingly, to this point. He said, you know, ‘You guys will have to decide that.’ ”

Seung Min Kim

8:30 p.m.
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Trump shows GOP senators copy of first Zelensky call

Over lunch at the White House, Trump showed a group of Republican senators a rough transcript of a call he had with Zelenksy in April to congratulate the Ukrainian president on his election victory.

Trump shared the contents of the call with the senators — who will be among his jurors if the case against him moves to a Senate trial — ahead of releasing it publicly, which he had said he’d do by Thursday.

Witnesses who heard the call have testified in closed-door depositions that there was nothing out of the ordinary about the April conversation, which is what made the July call notable.

Cramer, who was at the lunch with Trump, said it was a very short call.

“There’s one meaty page. … The first page is kind of loose, if you will, like, ‘Mr. President, congratulations on the victory.’ … It’s pretty benign,” Cramer said.

Seung Min Kim

7:20 p.m.
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A second State Department official overheard Trump’s call with E.U. envoy discussing Ukraine and ‘investigations’

A second official from the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv was present when U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland spoke on a July 26 phone call from Ukraine with Trump that more directly ties the president to his administration’s effort this year to pressure Ukraine’s new leadership into publicly committing to investigate Biden.

Suriya Jayanti, a Foreign Service officer based at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv, overheard the phone call and also witnessed Sondland’s other interactions during his trip to Ukraine, where the call took place in a restaurant, according to a person familiar with the matter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a matter involved in the impeachment proceedings.

Jayanti was the embassy official tasked with accompanying Sondland throughout the day of the call.

It became clear Wednesday that at least one embassy staffer, David Holmes, overheard Sondland on the call in Ukraine. He is slated to testify behind closed doors in the House impeachment probe Friday.

Jayanti’s presence near Sondland during the call in Ukraine was first reported by the Associated Press.

Trump has said he doesn’t remember the call, which William B. Taylor Jr., the acting U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, revealed during testimony to the House Intelligence Committee on Wednesday.

After the call, according to Taylor, Sondland told one of the embassy staffers that Trump cared more about the Ukrainians committing to investigate Biden than other policy matters involving the country.

Paul Sonne

6:30 p.m.
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Rep. King offers ‘clues’ to the whistleblower’s identity with four photos shared on Twitter

With a tweet on Thursday, Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), a lawmaker prone to controversy, seemingly suggested that he knows the identity of the whistleblower whose complaint has sparked the impeachment inquiry against Trump.

In his tweet, King referenced comments from House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) that he doesn’t know the identity of the whistleblower. “@RepAdamSchiff here are four strong clues,” King wrote.

The “clues” were four photos of the same man posing with prominent Democrats. But to many of Twitter, it was instantly apparent that the man in the photos didn’t match the description of the whistleblower as a U.S. intelligence official.

It was, in fact, Alexander Soros, the 34-year-old son of George Soros, the liberal billionaire philanthropist. Neither Soros is a member of the U.S. intelligence community.

A spokesman for King did not immediately respond to a request for comment about whether he was deliberating implying Alexander Soros is the whistleblower. Shortly afterward, King deleted the tweet and posted pictures of another individual.

In a statement, Laura Silber, a spokeswoman for the Open Society Foundations, an international grant-making network where Alexander Soros serves as deputy chairman, said King was “circulating false information.”

“[Alexander Soros] is not the whistleblower, and any attempt to identify the whistleblower is a violation of protections put in place to help people in government root out waste, fraud and abuse,” Silber said. “Rep. King should know better, but as a member of Congress with a long established history of white nationalism, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia — whose behavior is so abhorrent House Republican leaders stripped him of his committee assignments — our expectations of his suddenly showing any principles are low.”

John Wagner

4:55 p.m.
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McCarthy claims without evidence that Schiff was lying about not knowing whistleblower’s identity

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) accused House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) of lying when he said Wednesday that he does not know the identity of the whistleblower.

Pressed for evidence to back up his claim, McCarthy did not directly answer the question but instead repeatedly accused Schiff of lying.

“I think Adam Schiff has lied numerous times,” McCarthy told reporters at his weekly news conference.

Schiff’s staff met with the whistleblower early on, but Schiff said Wednesday that he himself did not and is unaware of the person’s identity.

McCarthy also contended that Wednesday’s hearing produced no new evidence. Asked how Republicans can simultaneously complain that they are hearing only “secondhand” witnesses while supporting the White House’s efforts to block those closer to Trump from appearing, McCarthy again pointed to the transcript of Trump’s July call with Zelensky.

“We have all the information that we need,” McCarthy said.

Felicia Sonmez and John Wagner

4:20 p.m.
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Pelosi says testimony of diplomats ‘corroborated evidence of bribery’

Speaking to reporters on Nov. 14, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) characterized President Trump’s dealings with Ukraine as “bribery.” (Reuters)

Pelosi used the word “bribery” Thursday to describe Trump’s actions toward Ukraine, going further than she previously has done in outlining House Democrats’ accusations against the president.

Wednesday’s testimony by acting ambassador to Ukraine William B. Taylor Jr. and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent corroborated “evidence of bribery” and supported allegations that Trump violated his oath of office, Pelosi said at her weekly news conference.

Her comment comes two days after House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) also floated the idea that Trump committed bribery.

“On the basis of what the witnesses have had to say so far, there are any number of potentially impeachable offenses, including bribery, including high crimes and misdemeanors,” Schiff said in an interview with NPR on Tuesday.

At her news conference, Pelosi also forcefully pushed back against the efforts by Trump and his allies to dismiss the testimony of Kent and Taylor as “secondhand.”

“That is such a fraudulent proposition put forward by the Republicans,” Pelosi said. “We are not here to be manipulated by the obstruction of justice of the administration.”

Felicia Sonmez