House Republicans prepared a preemptive rebuttal Monday to Democratic allegations that President Trump abused his power and acted in contempt of Congress, arguing that the president did nothing wrong.

The release of the 123-page report came shortly after Democrats announced the four witnesses who will testify when the House Judiciary Committee holds its first hearing on impeachment Wednesday morning.

As he departed the White House earlier Monday en route to a NATO gathering in London, Trump sharply criticized Democrats for moving forward with impeachment proceedings while he plans to be out of the country.

A report by the House Intelligence Committee circulated among its members later Monday ahead of Wednesday’s Judiciary hearing, in which Trump’s lawyers have declined to participate.

Democrats are seeking to build a case that Trump leveraged military assistance and an Oval Office meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in exchange for investigations of former vice president Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden and a debunked theory alleging Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election. In an interview published Monday, Zelensky issued a fresh denial of discussing a “quid pro quo” with Trump but questioned the fairness of freezing military aid.

●House Republicans release 123-page rebuttal to Democratic allegations against Trump.

●Trump’s counsel says president won’t participate in House Judiciary’s first impeachment panel, calling it unfair.

●House Intelligence Committee to meet Tuesday to approve release of Ukraine report.

●Ukraine’s Zelensky is making headway against corruption, but the fight risks angering Trump.

December 2, 2019 at 8:45 PM EST
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Democrats quietly debate expanding impeachment articles beyond Ukraine

By Rachael Bade

House Democrats are debating whether to expand articles of impeachment to include charges beyond abuse of power in the Ukraine controversy, setting up a potential internal clash as the party races to impeach Trump by Christmastime.

Members of the House Judiciary Committee and other more liberal-minded lawmakers and congressional aides have been privately discussing the possibility of drafting articles that include obstruction of justice or other “high crimes” they believe are clearly outlined in special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s report — or allegations that Trump has used his office to benefit his bottom line.

The idea, however, is running into resistance from some moderate Democrats wary of impeachment blowback in their GOP-leaning districts, as well as Democratic leaders who sought to keep impeachment narrowly focused on allegations that Trump pressured Ukraine to investigate his political rivals, according to officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to talk freely.

Read more here.

December 2, 2019 at 8:15 PM EST
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Kennedy defends claim that Ukraine interfered in 2016 election, despite intelligence community’s assessment

By Paul Kane and Felicia Sonmez

Sen. John Neely Kennedy (R-La.) on Monday defended his claim that both Russia and Ukraine interfered in the 2016 presidential election, despite the intelligence community’s assessment that only Russia did so.

In an appearance on NBC News’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday, Kennedy argued that Ukraine’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 campaign have been “very well-documented” and claimed that former Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko “actively worked for” Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

On Monday, Kennedy told reporters at the Capitol that he had based his comments on “reputable” reports from the Economist, the Financial Times, Politico and others. He read aloud excerpts about individual Ukranian officials preferring Clinton over Trump for policy reasons. But he did not present evidence of any top-down effort by Ukraine’s government to interfere in the 2016 campaign similar to the effort the U.S. intelligence community says was mounted by Russia.

Kennedy reiterated that he has not been briefed by U.S. intelligence officials on the matter and appeared to voice skepticism of the need for a briefing.

“I don’t need to be briefed to be able to read and to be able to see,” Kennedy said. “And if you look at these articles, you will see that there is documented evidence that Ukraine did meddle in the U.S. election. They did not, and nor did I ever say that they meddled and Russia didn’t.”

Pressed about why he believes he doesn’t need to be briefed, Kennedy declined to say.

“No, I said I haven’t been briefed,” he responded. “I said I don’t need to be briefed to see and read. Now, don’t take me out of context.”

Kennedy also said he has no regrets about his recent statements on the matter.

“No. I told the truth,” he said.

December 2, 2019 at 7:45 PM EST
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Kellyanne Conway tweeted about Joe Biden and Ukraine. Then her husband replied.

By Reis Thebault

It began, apparently, at home. Then it crept into newspaper and magazine profiles of the political power couple and finally burst forth in 280-character fusillades and a string of op-eds. All the while, the awkward reality of the Conways’ deep disagreement over Trump was ever-present. Yet, Kellyanne and George Conway had refrained from direct, public sniping. No longer. Now, the subtweets have become quote tweets.

Read more here.

December 2, 2019 at 7:30 PM EST
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Barr doesn’t accept key inspector general finding about FBI’s Russia investigation

By Devlin Barrett and Karoun Demirjian

Attorney General William P. Barr has told associates he disagrees with the Justice Department’s inspector general on one of the key findings in an upcoming report — that the FBI had enough information in July 2016 to justify launching an investigation into members of the Trump campaign, according to people familiar with the matter.

The Justice Department’s inspector general, Michael Horowitz, is due to release his long-awaited findings in a week, but behind the scenes at the Justice Department, disagreement has surfaced about one of Horowitz’s central conclusions on the origins of the Russia investigation. The discord could be the prelude to a major fissure within federal law enforcement on the controversial question of investigating a presidential campaign.

Barr has not been swayed by Horowitz’s rationale for concluding the FBI had sufficient basis to open an investigation on July 31, 2016, these people said.

Read more here.

December 2, 2019 at 7:00 PM EST
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Schiff says Republican counter-report ‘ignores voluminous evidence’

By Felicia Sonmez

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) on Monday dismissed the Republican counter-report, arguing that GOP lawmakers had turned a blind eye to evidence and had written the document with only one person in mind: Trump.

“The Minority’s rebuttal document, intended for an audience of one, ignores voluminous evidence that the President used the power of his office to pressure Ukraine into investigating his political rival by withholding military aid and a White House meeting the President of Ukraine desperately sought,” Schiff said in a statement. “In so doing, the President undermined our national security and the integrity of our elections.

“Tellingly, the Minority dismisses this as just part of the President’s ‘outside the beltway’ thinking,” he added. “It is more accurately, outside the law and constitution, and a violation of his oath of office.”

December 2, 2019 at 6:40 PM EST
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Lawmakers review Intelligence Committee report

By Felicia Sonmez and Karoun Demirjian

Members of the House Intelligence Committee are reviewing the panel’s report on its findings in the impeachment probe, according to a committee official.

Lawmakers will have 24 hours in which to review the report ahead of the panel’s vote, which is expected to take place during a business meeting that begins at 6 p.m. Tuesday.

Republicans will have until Thursday to submit their views, which will be forwarded to the House Judiciary Committee together with the report, said the official, who was not authorized to speak publicly about the process.

December 2, 2019 at 6:30 PM EST
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McCarthy praises GOP counter-report

By Felicia Sonmez

In a statement, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) praised the counter-report released by members of the GOP conference and called on Democrats to “stop this ridiculous impeachment.”

“House Democrats have been trying to undo the results of President Trump’s historic election since before he was sworn in,” McCarthy said. “Today’s report clearly shows how weak the Democrats’ case for impeachment is and that they have failed to find a single, legitimate reason to impeach the president. After countless hours of wasted time, Chairman Schiff has only succeeded in exposing this sham for what it is: a political hit job.”

December 2, 2019 at 6:00 PM EST
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Judge denies motion for stay in McGahn case

By Felicia Sonmez and Spencer S. Hsu

U.S. District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson of Washington on Monday denied a motion by former Trump White House counsel Donald McGahn for a stay pending appeal.

Jackson had ruled last week that McGahn must comply with a House subpoena, finding that “no one is above the law” and that top presidential advisers cannot ignore congressional demands for information.

In denying McGahn’s motion, Jackson wrote Monday that “any additional delay in McGahn’s compliance with the committee’s valid subpoena causes real and certain harm to the Judiciary Committee and to the broader interests of the public.”

Monday’s decision by Jackson was expected. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit has already granted an administrative stay while it considers a longer-term order and has fast-tracked oral arguments in the case for a hearing Jan. 3.

McGahn could appeal the latest ruling as well. But the matter will probably get wrapped into the underlying appeal of the order that he must comply with the House Judiciary Committee subpoena.

December 2, 2019 at 5:30 PM EST
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Trump praises House GOP counter-report

By Felicia Sonmez

In his first tweet after landing in the United Kingdom, Trump said he had read the counter-report released by House Republicans and praised them for doing a “great job.”

“Just landed in the United Kingdom, heading to London for NATO meetings tomorrow,” Trump tweeted. “Before landing I read the Republicans Report on the Impeachment Hoax. Great job! Radical Left has NO CASE. Read the Transcripts. Shouldn’t even be allowed. Can we go to Supreme Court to stop?”

December 2, 2019 at 5:10 PM EST
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Trump lands in London

By Ashley Parker

Trump and first lady Melania Trump landed at London Stansted Airport just before 10 p.m. local time. They took no questions as they deplaned and left via motorcade for Winfield House, the official home of the U.S. ambassador to the United Kingdom.

December 2, 2019 at 5:00 PM EST
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House will be in session week of Dec. 16, Hoyer announces

By Felicia Sonmez

House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) announced Monday that the House will be in session the week of Dec. 16, with votes expected to take place Dec. 17 through 20.

The announcement was expected, as the current government funding law expires on Dec. 20, and lawmakers will need to pass a new measure to keep the government open beyond that date.

The House is also likely to be voting around that time on articles of impeachment against Trump.

December 2, 2019 at 4:45 PM EST
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Republicans maintain that Trump has ‘genuine’ skepticism of Ukraine because of corruption concerns

By Mike DeBonis

Among the findings in the Republican draft report meant to rebut the Democratic charges are:

●that Trump “has a deep-seated, genuine, and reasonable skepticism of Ukraine due to its history of pervasive corruption” as well as a “long-held skepticism of U.S. foreign assistance”;

●that there is “indisputable evidence that senior Ukrainian government officials opposed President Trump’s candidacy in the 2016 election,” giving Trump special reason to be wary of Ukraine;

●that the evidence gathered by Democrats “does not support” their core claim that Trump withheld a White House meeting or hundreds of millions of dollars in security aid to pressure Ukraine to conduct investigations that would politically benefit Trump; and

●that Trump’s decision to resist House subpoenas on sweeping grounds of executive privilege “is a legitimate response to an unfair, abusive, and partisan process.”

December 2, 2019 at 4:40 PM EST
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In report countering Democratic accusations, Republicans argue that Trump did nothing wrong

By Mike DeBonis

House Republicans said Monday that Trump acted out of “genuine” concern about corruption in Ukraine and wariness about foreign aid in their defense of the president’s actions and as a preemptive rebuttal to Democratic allegations that Trump abused his power — grounds for expected articles of impeachment.

In a 123-page draft report, GOP investigators assert that Democrats failed to make the case that Trump committed impeachable high crimes and misdemeanors by withholding military aid and a highly-sought-after White House meeting to compel Ukraine to launch investigations into his political opponents.

Nor, the Republicans say, do Democrats have a basis for impeachment in Trump’s decision to spurn House document requests and witness subpoenas pertaining to Trump’s Ukraine dealings.

Read more here.

December 2, 2019 at 4:20 PM EST
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Democrats release witness list for Wednesday hearing

By Felicia Sonmez

Democrats released the list of four witnesses who will testify when the House Judiciary Committee holds its first hearing on impeachment Wednesday. All four of the witnesses are law professors.

Three were chosen by Democrats: Harvard Law School professor Noah Feldman, Stanford University professor Pamela S. Karlan and University of North Carolina law professor Michael Gerhardt.

One, George Washington University Professor Jonathan Turley, was selected by Republicans.