President Trump claimed Friday that Democrats “looked like fools” during this week’s impeachment proceedings, as he called in to Fox News for nearly an hour to weigh in on the blitz of public testimony from witnesses summoned to bolster the case that he used his office for personal political gain.

After public hearings by the House Intelligence Committee over the past two weeks, both parties are digging in as Democrats prepare to draft articles of impeachment, with a full House vote possible by the end of the year.

Democrats have been seeking to build the case that Trump sought to leverage U.S. military aid to Ukraine and a White House visit by President Volodymyr Zelensky in exchange for investigations of former vice president Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden, among others.

●With a warning on Russia, blitz of public testimony in impeachment inquiry comes to an end.

●Hearings unite Democrats behind impeachment.

●White House and Republicans discuss limiting impeachment trial to two weeks.

● Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) launches probe of Bidens, Burisma and Ukraine.

November 22, 2019 at 5:30 PM EST
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Blackburn attacks Vindman, calls him whistleblower’s ‘handler’

By Michael Brice-Saddler

Republican Sen. Marsha Blackburn (Tenn.) attacked Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a key witness in the impeachment inquiry, alleging Friday that he was a “handler” for the whistleblower whose complaint triggered the impeachment probe.

“Vindictive Vindman is the ‘whistleblower’s’ handler,” she wrote in a Friday tweet.

Vindman, a Purple Heart recipient, testified Tuesday that he was alarmed by Trump’s call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, which Vindman called “improper.” He also testified under oath that he doesn’t know who the whistleblower is.

Through her attack, Blackburn joins a chorus of Trump’s allies who have questioned Vindman’s loyalty to the United States. Some have cited the fact that he immigrated to the United States as a toddler from the Soviet Union.

Responding to Blackburn on Friday, Democratic presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg said he feels “sorry for Senator Blackburn and for anybody who feels required by partisan politics to embarrass themselves by smearing the good name of a patriot.”

November 22, 2019 at 3:20 PM EST
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Biden says he’s ‘embarrassed’ for Graham

By Colby Itkowitz

Following the news that Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) was seeking information about the Bidens and Ukraine, Biden expressed anger and disappointment in his onetime Senate colleague and friend.

Biden told CNN’s Don Lemon in a pretaped interview, “Lindsey is about to go down in a way that I think he’s going to regret his whole life.”

CNN released these quotes ahead of airing the interview in full Friday night.

“I am disappointed, and quite frankly I’m angered, by the fact: he knows me, he knows my son, he knows there’s nothing to this,” Biden said. “Trump is now essentially holding power over him that even the Ukrainians wouldn’t yield to. The Ukrainians would not yield to, quote, ‘investigate Biden.’ There’s nothing to investigate about Biden or his son.”

Asked what he would say to Graham, Biden said, “I say, ‘Lindsey, I just — I’m just embarrassed by what you’re doing, for you.’ I mean, my Lord.”

Earlier Friday, a video resurfaced on social media of Graham in 2016 speaking affectionately about Biden.

“If you can’t admire Joe Biden as a person, then probably you’ve got a problem; you need to do some self-evaluation. Cause what’s not to like?” Graham said at the time. “He is as good a man as God ever created.”

November 22, 2019 at 3:00 PM EST
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Moderate GOP Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick says Trump actions ‘troubling’ but not impeachable

By Colby Itkowitz

Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) said that while he found the impeachment inquiry witnesses credible and the president’s actions “troubling,” he had not heard anything impeachable in the public hearings, according to a tweet from a local reporter in Fitzpatrick’s district.

Fitzpatrick, a former FBI agent from a moderate Philadelphia suburban district that narrowly picked Hillary Clinton over Trump in 2016, is a top target for Democrats in 2020 and would seem among the most likely in the House Republican Caucus to vote to impeach Trump.

Fitzpatrick’s comments follow similar ones by fellow moderate Republican Rep. Will Hurd (Tex.) on Thursday, when he said he had not yet heard “overwhelmingly clear and unambiguous” evidence that the president committed an impeachable offense.

With Fitzpatrick and Hurd stating they are unlikely to support impeaching Trump, it’s difficult to imagine any Republicans doing so.

A spokesman for Fitzpatrick did not immediately return a request for comment.

November 22, 2019 at 1:45 PM EST
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Bolton accuses White House of blocking access to his personal Twitter account

By John Wagner

Former national security adviser John Bolton on Friday accused the White House of having blocked access to his personal Twitter account for more than two months.

Returning to Twitter for the first time since September, Bolton said he was “speaking up.”

“[S]ince resigning as National Security Advisor, the @WhiteHouse refused to return access to my personal Twitter account. Out of fear of what I may say? To those who speculated I went into hiding, I’m sorry to disappoint!”

It is not immediately clear how the White House would have blocked access to a personal Twitter account.

Trump denied any such action during a morning call-in interview on Fox News’s “Fox & Friends” after host Brian Kilmeade asked him, “Did you guys freeze his account?”

“No, of course not,” Trump responded. “Of course not. No, I actually had a good relationship with John. We disagreed on some things and some methods, but I actually had a good relationship. No, I didn’t do that. No, I didn’t even know that.”

At the time of the interview, Bolton had announced his return to Twitter in a separate tweet but not publicly accused the White House of freezing his account.

Bolton departed the White House in September amid disagreements with Trump on several major policy issues.

A person close to Bolton, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, confirmed that the tweets were sent by him.

Bolton has rebuffed efforts by House investigators to testify in the impeachment inquiry.

Bolton’s lawyer, Charles Cooper, said this month that Bolton was “part of many relevant meetings and conversations” pertaining to the impeachment inquiry but that he would appear before Congress only if a judge orders him to do so.

November 22, 2019 at 1:30 PM EST
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Amash says a GOP lawmaker is applying too high a standard on impeachment

By John Wagner

Rep. Justin Amash (I-Mich.) said Friday that one of his House colleagues was applying too high a standard on the question of whether Trump should be impeached.

In a tweet, Amash singled out Rep. Will Hurd (R-Tex.), writing: “With respect, my friend @HurdOnTheHill applies the wrong standard. House impeachment is an indictment, not a conviction. The question in the House is whether there is probable cause to charge President Trump with an impeachable offense. The answer to that question is clearly yes.”

The tweet by Amash, who left the Republican Party in July, came a day after Hurd said during a House Intelligence Committee that some of Trump’s actions were “inappropriate” but that he was not convinced of Trump’s culpability.

“An impeachable offense should be compelling, overwhelmingly clear and unambiguous, and it’s not something to be rushed or taken lightly,” Hurd said. “I’ve not heard evidence proving the president committed bribery or extortion.”

November 22, 2019 at 12:45 PM EST
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Remaining transcripts of depositions not expected before Monday

By Karoun Demirjian

House investigators do not expect to release the remaining transcripts from closed-door depositions before Monday, according to an official working on the impeachment inquiry who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal matters.

Still outstanding are the transcripts of depositions taken of Mark Sandy, an Office of Management and Budget official, and Philip Reeker, the diplomat in charge of U.S. policy for Europe.

November 22, 2019 at 12:30 PM EST
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Senate Democrats tell Pompeo to recuse himself from overseeing State impeachment response

By Colby Itkowitz

Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee sent Secretary of State Mike Pompeo notice Friday that he should immediately delegate his agency’s response to the impeachment inquiry to a State career official and recuse himself.

The Democrats said Pompeo has “a profound conflict of interest,” citing testimony from Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union. He said Pompeo knew about Trump’s desire for Ukraine to announce an investigation into Burisma, the energy company that employed Hunter Biden on its board. The Democrats also cited the State Department’s attempts to block witnesses from testifying.

“These acts leave us with little doubt that you are blocking the Congress and American people from obtaining a full account of the scandal solely because the facts are damaging to your and the President’s personal and political interests,” the Democrats wrote.

Pompeo, asked about Sondland’s testimony earlier this week while visiting NATO, said he didn’t see it, and was not going to recuse himself.

“I know precisely what American policy was with respect to Ukraine. I was working on it, and I’m very proud of what we’ve accomplished,” Pompeo said. “There were remarkable outcomes for the Ukrainian people. I hope that we’re able to continue to do so. … Our focus at the State Department is on making sure that we get our policy right, execute it flawlessly and deliver security on behalf of the American people.”

November 22, 2019 at 12:10 PM EST
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‘We had a tremendous week with the hoax,’ Trump says

By John Wagner

Speaking to reporters at the White House, Trump said the impeachment inquiry has “worked out in­cred­ibly well” for him.

“I think we had a tremendous week with the hoax,” Trump said. “You know, the great hoax. They call it the impeachment hoax. And that’s really worked out incredibly well.”

Trump said he has “tremendous support” among fellow Republicans.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen support in the Republican Party like we do right now,” he said. “We’ve never had this kind of support.”

Asked if the whistleblower whose complaint sparked the inquiry should be fired, Trump didn’t answer directly.

“What whistleblower?” Trump said. “I don’t think there is. I consider it to be a fake whistleblower, because what he wrote didn’t correspond to what I said.”

Much of what the whistleblower wrote closely tracked a rough transcript of Trump’s call with Zelensky that was released by the White House.

November 22, 2019 at 11:20 AM EST
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RNC responds to impeachment hearings with new video

By John Wagner

The Republican National Committee responded to the blitz of open hearings with a new video suggesting that Democrats are pursuing impeachment while neglecting issues more important to the country.

The two-minute video, set to ominous music, intersperses clips of Republicans raising issues with the impeachment process and ones suggesting a lack of progress on issues such as prescription drug costs, trade and infrastructure.

Among the Trump allies featured prominently in the video is Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter and senior White House adviser.

“I think everything’s a question of priorities,” she says.

Viewers also see House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) banging his gavel when he ruled that Republican lawmakers were speaking out of order.

And Trump is seen complaining at a rally that “Democrats in Washington are trying to stop me because I’m fighting for you.”

House Democrats have argued that a lack of legislative progress this year is actually the fault of Senate Republicans, who have not taken up House-passed bills on a variety of issues, including prescription drug pricing and gun control.

November 22, 2019 at 11:00 AM EST
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Yovanovitch lawyers say Trump, Pence portraits were hung in embassy as soon as they arrived

By Colby Itkowitz

Lawyers for former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch disputed Trump’s claim from earlier Friday morning that she had waited a year or two before hanging the president’s official headshot in the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv.

“The Embassy in Kyiv hung the official photographs of the President, Vice President, and Secretary of State as soon as they arrived from Washington, DC,” Yovanovitch’s lawyers said, according to an NBC tweet.

In September 2017, The Washington Post reported that many federal buildings were missing the official portraits of Trump and Pence, but not because of any refusal to hang them.

Instead, the Government Publishing Office said it had not yet received the images from the White House that would then be printed and distributed to hang in U.S. government buildings.

In response to Trump’s comments, Lewis Lukens, a former U.S. diplomat, took to Twitter to share his experience while in charge of the U.S. Embassy in London during Trump’s first year.

“We didn’t hang his picture either,” he tweeted. “Why? It took the WH almost 15 months to get official photos sent to embassies to hang. And we were instructed not to print other photos.”

November 22, 2019 at 10:30 AM EST
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Bolton returns to Twitter

By John Wagner and Carol Leonnig

Former national security adviser John Bolton announced his return to Twitter on Friday with some cryptic tweets.

“Glad to be back on Twitter after more than two months,” his verified @AmbJohnBolton account tweeted at 8.am. “For the backstory, stay tuned........”

Two and a half hours later came another tweet: “We have now liberated the Twitter account, previously suppressed unfairly in the aftermath of my resignation as National Security Advisor. More to come.....”

The pair of tweets were the first from Bolton’s account since Sept. 10, when he went on Twitter to dispute the circumstances under which Trump said he was ousted from his position.

A person close to Bolton confirmed that the tweets were sent by him.

Bolton’s lawyer, Charles Cooper, said this month that Bolton was “part of many relevant meetings and conversations” pertaining to the impeachment inquiry but that he would appear before Congress only if a judge orders him to do so.

November 22, 2019 at 9:50 AM EST
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Hillary Clinton asks what GOP will do about Trump’s ‘impeachable crimes’

By Colby Itkowitz

Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton tweeted Friday that Trump’s “crimes” are no longer in question, but what the Republicans will do about it is.

“The question is not whether Trump has committed impeachable crimes. He has. The question is whether Republicans in Congress will affirm that an American president is not above the law,” she wrote.

Clinton has periodically weighed in on the impeachment inquiry since it began. On Wednesday, during testimony from Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, Clinton tweeted: “A reminder: None of these hearings would have happened if organizers, volunteers, and voters hadn’t worked together to win back the House majority for Democrats last year. Let’s keep working together in 2020 to hold power to account.”

November 22, 2019 at 9:10 AM EST
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McCarthy casts doubt on whether Democrats have votes for impeachment

By John Wagner

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) cast doubt Friday on whether Democrats would have the votes to impeach Trump, arguing that they are losing support based on the public hearings.

“I’m not so sure that Dems will even have the votes to pass impeachment,” McCarthy tweeted.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has expressed confidence in the direction of the inquiry, asserting at a news conference Friday that it was clear that Trump “has used his office for his own personal gain.”

In his tweet, McCarthy also included a clip from his interview Thursday on “Lou Dobbs Tonight,” in which he weighed in on the impassioned closing remarks at the Thursday hearings by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.).

“He knows he’s losing,” McCarthy said. “There’s no way anybody would bang a gavel that hard if they didn’t know they were losing.”

November 22, 2019 at 8:50 AM EST
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Trump says he knows identity of whistleblower

By John Wagner

Trump said during the Fox News interview that he knows the identity of the whistleblower whose complaint sparked the Democratic-led impeachment inquiry.

“You know who the whistleblower is. So do I,” Trump told the hosts.

Trump also said he didn’t believe House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) when he recently asserted that he doesn’t know the identity of the anonymous U.S. intelligence official.

“If he doesn’t, then he’s the only person in Washington who doesn’t,” Trump said.