Trump insisted that he did not know the two men, who are charged with scheming to funnel foreign money to U.S. politicians in a bid to affect U.S.-Ukraine relations. Both Parnas and Fruman have helped Giuliani investigate former vice president Joe Biden and his son, though the indictment does not mention Giuliani or suggest that he was part of the alleged crimes.
The developments played out as Trump prepared to head to Minneapolis for his first campaign rally since House Democrats launched the impeachment inquiry.
Meanwhile, Trump’s woes continued to mount. According to people briefed on the matter, political appointees in the White House budget office intervened to freeze aid to Ukraine despite some career staffers raising concerns that the move was improper.
And at least four national security officials were so alarmed by the Trump administration’s attempts to pressure Ukraine that they raised concerns with a White House lawyer, people familiar with the matter said.
9:00 p.m.: Trump takes aim at Biden, says Democrats’ impeachment effort will ‘produce a backlash at the ballot box’
At a raucous campaign rally — his first since Democrats began their impeachment inquiry — Trump predicted that his political opponents will pay a price at the ballot box, despite polls showing that a majority of the public supports impeaching him.
“The Democrats’ brazen attempt to overthrow our government will produce a backlash at the ballot box, the likes of which they have never, ever seen before in the history of our country,” Trump told the crowd in Minneapolis.
A Fox News poll released Thursday showed that 51 percent of voters want to see Trump impeached and removed from office. And despite Trump’s claim of an “attempt to overthrow our government,” the impeachment process is established in the Constitution.
Trump also launched a broadside against Biden and his son, Hunter.
Joe Biden “was never considered smart,” Trump said. “He was never considered a good senator. He was only considered a good vice president because he understood how to kiss Barack Obama’s ass.”
8:30 p.m.: ‘Lock him up!’ Eric Trump says of Hunter Biden
The president’s son, Eric Trump, warmed up the crowd in Minneapolis by taking aim at Biden’s son, Hunter, leading the crowd in a chant of, “Lock him up!”
The phrase is a play on “Lock her up,” a Trump rally favorite.
“We don’t need to lock him up,” Eric Trump said of Hunter Biden. “We’re just going to beat the hell out of him. We’re going to win.”
7:40 p.m.: White House political appointees overrode career staffers before freezing Ukraine aid
Political appointees in the White House budget office intervened to freeze aid to Ukraine despite some career staffers raising concerns that the move was improper, people briefed on the matter said.
Acknowledging some of the concerns, White House budget aides eventually disclosed to other government officials that the money was being frozen outside of the normal “apportionment” process. But they didn’t give officials at the State Department or other agencies a reason why the money was being withheld, or who had initially made the decision to freeze it, after substantive discussions about whether the move was legal.
The unorthodox steps were carried out in connection with Michael Duffey, associate director of national security programs at OMB. Duffey was involved in approving orders to hold back nearly $400 million in congressionally approved military aid for Ukraine, according to people familiar with what transpired.
— Josh Dawsey and Karoun Demirjian
7:30 p.m.: McMaster says it was ‘absolutely not’ appropriate for Trump to solicit foreign interference
One of Trump’s former national security advisers, H.R. McMaster, minced no words. When asked Thursday by the New Yorker’s Susan Glasser whether he thought it was appropriate for the president of the United States to solicit foreign interference in the American political process, McMaster replied: “Of course, no. Absolutely not.”
Speaking at a Foundation for the Defense of Democracies event, McMaster elaborated: “Of course what has to happen here is seeing our democracy play out, the separation of powers play out, and for the American people through their representatives and their representatives in Congress to make a judgment as to whether or not that happened.”
But, he added, “to answer your question directly, of course it’s just not appropriate.”
7:20 p.m.: Female ambassadors object to Trump’s treatment of former envoy to Ukraine
Trump’s recall and denunciation of former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch incensed Women Ambassadors Serving America (WASA), an organization of over 170 current and former U.S. envoys.
In a statement, the group chided Trump for comments that “demean and threaten Ambassador Yovanovitch… despite her very strong record of speaking out clearly and firmly against corruption in Ukraine.”
She had already been recalled from Kiev in May, but that didn’t stop Trump from “denigrating the Ambassador and stating that ‘she’s going to go through some things’” during the call, the statement complained.
Trump’s comment “suggests that it might be an intention to punish the Ambassador for unspecified actions,” the Women Ambassadors added. “This appears to be a threat of retaliation for political reasons, which is both shocking and inappropriate.”
7:00 p.m.: Tillis declines to say whether it’s appropriate for Trump to ask foreign countries to investigate his political rivals
Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), who faces a tough reelection battle in 2020, declined to say Thursday whether he believes it’s appropriate for Trump to ask foreign countries to investigate his political opponents.
His comments come after another vulnerable Republican, Sen. Cory Gardner (Colo.), also repeatedly declined to criticize Trump on the issue.
Tillis dismissed the impeachment inquiry as a “waste of resources.”
“I’ve seen the transcript,” he said, referring to a rough White House transcript on Trump’s call with the Ukranian president. “I’ve seen the [whistleblower] complaint. And if that alone is all they’re using to drive all the resources of the House, then I think it’s a waste of resources.”
6:50 p.m.: At least four national security officials raised alarms about Ukraine policy before and after Trump call with Ukrainian president
At least four national security officials were so alarmed by the Trump administration’s attempts to pressure Ukraine for political purposes that they raised concerns with a White House lawyer both before and immediately after Trump’s July 25 call with that country’s president, according to U.S. officials and other people familiar with the matter.
The nature and timing of the previously undisclosed discussions with National Security Council legal adviser John Eisenberg indicate that officials were delivering warnings through official White House channels earlier than previously understood — including before the call that precipitated a whistleblower complaint and the impeachment inquiry of the president.
— Greg Miller and Greg Jaffe
6:30 p.m.: Biden campaign fundraising off mugshots of Giuliani associates
Biden’s campaign sent out a fundraising email Thursday night featuring the mugshots of Parnas and Fruman. The email includes an MSNBC headline: “Two businessmen who helped Giuliani go after Biden in Ukraine arrested on campaign finance charges.”
“The tide is turning,” the message reads. “These Trump allies who helped Rudy Giuliani try to smear Joe Biden in Ukraine will face a court of law and the Trump Administration is facing an impeachment inquiry.”
6:20 p.m.: Trump dismisses concerns about blocking officials from testifying
In an exchange with reporters outside the White House before departing for Minneapolis, Trump dismissed concerns about his blocking testimony by ambassadors and aides, arguing that allowing such testimony would interfere with his efforts to run the country.
“You’re running a country — I just don’t think you can have all of these people testifying about every conversation you’ve had,” Trump said. “In this case, we have a transcript, and I’ve given it almost immediately. It’s called transparency. Nobody’s been more transparent than me. ... I don’t think people should be allowed.”
6:10 p.m.: Seventeen Watergate prosecutors say Trump should be impeached
Seventeen members of the Watergate special prosecutor force called for Trump’s impeachment in a Washington Post op-ed Thursday.
The prosecutors noted that in the case of President Richard Nixon, the House adopted three articles of impeachment: “one for obstruction, one for abuse of power and one for contempt of Congress. Shortly thereafter, the president resigned rather than face a Senate trial.”
“In our considered view, the same three articles of impeachment could be specified against Trump, as he has demonstrated serious and persistent abuses of power that in our view satisfy the constitutional standard of ‘high crimes and misdemeanors,’” the prosecutors wrote.
6:00 p.m.: McCarthy to donate Fruman, Parnas funds
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s office said Thursday that the California Republican will give to charity the sum of the donations made by the two Giuliani associates.
“These contributions were made ahead of events sponsored by Protect the House, a joint fundraising committee that McCarthy helped form last cycle,” McCarthy spokesman Matthew Sparks said in a statement. “The deception documented in today’s indictment has no place in our country and as a result, McCarthy plans to donate amounts received to a local charity.”
5:45 p.m.: Giuliani says government has come down ‘too hard’ on his associates
In a phone interview with The Washington Post, Giuliani declined to answer specific questions about the arrest of his two associates, saying he would need a “waiver” to talk about the issue given that he had represented the two men in two legal matters.
“They helped me find people,” Giuliani said. “They helped me find Lutsenko. They helped me find Shokin. There is no doubt they’ve done a lot of business in Ukraine.” Viktor Shokin was Ukraine’s prosecutor general; Yuri Lutsenko succeeded him in the position.
Giuliani added that he was not paying Parnas and Fruman to find people but declined to explain his financial relationship with them.
He praised the two men even after their arrest, arguing that the government had come down “too hard” on them. He also suggested, without evidence, that their arrest was part of “an attempt to push back in order to discredit anyone that gets involved in trying to show the protected people are crooks.”
“I certainly am not going to disavow them,” Giuliani said. “I have no reason to doubt them. Everything I’ve known about them says they would not commit a crime.”
He claimed that Parnas and Fruman were “not fleeing the country” and argued that “the prosecutors don’t always tell the truth.” (Giuliani himself is a former prosecutor.)
The two men, he said, had gone to Vienna several times in the past two months and “have business there.”
Asked whether he had had lunch with Parnas and Fruman at the Trump International Hotel on Wednsday, Giuliani repeatedly declined to say.
“I’m just not going to tell you,” he said.
He said he knew they’d met with Donald Trump Jr. and Tommy Hicks Jr., a top official at the Republican National Committee.
Giuliani said no law enforcement agency has sought to ask him questions or obtain documents.
“I have no reason to believe that I am under investigation other than I have reason to believe that the swamp machine is going after me,” he said.
5:30 p.m.: Legal team asks whether whistleblower can submit written testimony
Attorneys for the whistleblower at the center of the impeachment inquiry have asked whether their client can submit testimony in writing rather than in person, according to a person familiar with the matter.
The whistleblower’s attorneys have submitted the request to the House and Senate intelligence committees, the person added.
The Wall Street Journal first reported the news, which comes amid mounting concerns about the whistleblower’s safety and fears that the person’s identity may be revealed.
5:15 p.m.: Sessions says he can’t confirm whether he was ‘Congressman One’
Former congressman Pete Sessions (R-Tex.) said in a statement Thursday that he can’t confirm whether he is the member of Congress mentioned in the indictment of Fruman and Parnas.
The indictment charges that Fruman and Parnas schemed to donate money to an unidentified U.S. congressman, at the same time they were asking that congressman to get the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine removed from her job.
“There has been a suggestion that I am ‘Congressman One’, which I cannot confirm,” Sessions said. “However, I will vigorously defend myself against any allegations of wrongdoing.”
Sessions added that even if he were the unidentified congressman, he “could not have had any knowledge of the scheme described in the indictment or have involvement or coordination of it” based on the indictment.
“As it relates to my role as a member of Congress and a candidate in 2018, the most important sentence in the indictment is this: ‘The defendants concealed the scheme from the candidates, campaigns and federal regulators,’” he said. Sessions lost his 2018 reelection bid to Democrat Colin Allred.
In the statement, Sessions confirmed that he had met with Parnas and Fruman several times but maintained that “at no time did I take any official action after these meetings.”
He also confirmed that he wrote a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo about Yovanovitch. But he claimed that he was prompted to write the letter “after several congressional colleagues reported to me” that Yovanovitch “was disparaging President Trump to others.”
Sessions added: “I have been friends with Rudy Giuliani for more than 30 years. I do not know what his business or legal activities in Ukraine have been.”
4:45 p.m.: Trump says he doesn’t know Giuliani associates Parnas and Fruman
In an exchange with reporters outside the White House before departing for Minneapolis, Trump claimed he doesn’t know Parnas and Fruman and dismissed a photo of himself together with the two men and Giuliani.
“I don’t know those gentlemen,” Trump said. “Now, it’s possible I have a picture with them, because I have a picture with everybody. ... I don’t know about them; I don’t know what they do. I don’t know, maybe they were clients of Rudy. You’d have to ask Rudy.”
Trump also said he hopes Giuliani doesn’t get indicted.
“China has to do whatever they want. If they want to look into something, they can look into it. If they don’t ... they don’t have to,” Trump said, adding that it would be “great” either way.
A number of prominent Republicans, including McCarthy, Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.) and Rep. Jim Jordan (Ohio), have claimed that Trump was joking about the request to China.
4 p.m.: House Democrats subpoena Energy Secretary Rick Perry
Three House committees on Thursday subpoenaed Perry, giving him a deadline of Oct. 18 by which to produce key documents related to the impeachment inquiry.
The move by Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.) and Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot L. Engel (D-N.Y.) comes just hours after the three chairmen issued subpoenas to Parnas and Fruman, the two Giuliani associates arrested Wednesday night.
It also comes two days after the White House told Congress it would not cooperate with the inquiry.
“Recently, public reports have raised questions about any role you may have played in conveying or reinforcing the President’s stark message to the Ukrainian President,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter to Perry. “These reports have also raised significant questions about your efforts to press Ukrainian officials to change the management structure at a Ukrainian state-owned energy company to benefit individuals involved with Rudy Giuliani’s push to get Ukrainian officials to interfere in our 2020 election.”
In a phone call with House Republicans last week, Trump emphasized that he had made a July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky at the request of Perry. Trump said Perry urged him to contact Zelensky to discuss a liquefied natural gas project.
Energy Department spokeswoman Shaylyn Hynes said in an email last week that Perry “absolutely supported and encouraged the President to speak to the new President of Ukraine to discuss matters related to their energy security and economic development.”
3:45 p.m.: Pompeo says Giuliani ‘doesn’t work for me’
Pompeo declined to say Thursday whether he thinks it’s inappropriate for Giuliani to have held meetings with Ukranian officials even though he is not on the State Department payroll.
In an interview on Gray Television’s “Full Court Press with Greta Van Susteren,” Pompeo was asked whether Giuliani is “an envoy, shadow secretary of state, or is he a personal lawyer in this Ukraine controversy.” Pompeo first dodged the question.
“I run the State Department,” he said.
Pressed further, Pompeo declared that Giuliani “doesn’t work for me. He’s not on our payroll.” Pompeo then told Van Susteren that she has “the facts wrong” on Giuliani’s actions, but he declined to “go into the details here with you.”
“It’s not uncommon for private citizens to help and inform U.S. government deliver its policy,” Pompeo said. “The ultimate responsibility falls to the United States government, for the secretary of state, to deliver on behalf of the outcomes President Trump has committed to the American people he’d achieve.”
3:30 p.m.: Trump travels to liberal Minneapolis for his first rally since the impeachment probe began
Trump is slated to travel to Minneapolis Thursday night to host a campaign rally and do what he often does when he feels threatened: seize on divisions in the country and try to split Americans into two distinct camps, those who are with him and those who are against him, with seemingly no middle ground allowed.
The event will allow him to fire up die-hard supporters at a time when polls suggest a majority of Americans are troubled by his conduct and favor the investigation.
But unlike most of his rallies held in Republican strongholds, Trump selected a congressional district for Thursday night’s event that he lost by 55 points in 2016 — and one that is represented by Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), the outspoken Somali American and Muslim lawmaker whom Trump has repeatedly attacked, sometimes using false information.
“It seems provocative. He wants to provoke a clash so he can arouse his cult to a civil war,” said Polly Kellogg, 76, a retired social justice professor who plans to protest the rally. “He’s looking for violent videos.”
3:15 p.m.: Senate Democrats ask DOJ: Why didn’t you investigate Trump’s Ukraine call?
Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary Committee sent a letter to Assistant Attorney General Brian Benczkowski Thursday asking that he explain why the Justice Department decided not to investigate Trump’s controversial call with the Ukrainian president.
“On its face, the White House memorandum of the July 25 call raises significant questions, including what was done following the call to follow through on the president’s requests,” the senators wrote.
The Justice Department had instructed that the whistleblower’s complaint not be given to Congress. After the White House released its transcript of the call, DOJ said it had determined it wasn’t a campaign finance violation and said “no further action was warranted.”
“Since this matter involves allegations about the President’s conduct, and given this President’s stated belief that he has the ’absolute right to do what I want to do with the Justice Department,’ it is important to ensure that the Department has acted in an objective, independent manner in declining even to investigate this matter,” the Democrats wrote.
2:30 p.m.: Sen. Gardner is latest GOP member who won’t say if Trump’s request to Ukrainian president was wrong
Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) was asked repeatedly on Thursday to answer “yes or no” on the question of whether it was appropriate for Trump to ask a foreign leader to investigate a political rival.
Gardner refused to do so, blaming partisan politics for his unwillingness to answer, according to a video posted by Joe St. George, the local Fox31 reporter who asked the questions.
“Unfortunately what we’ve seen is a very political process takeover,” Gardner said as he spoke with reporters in Colorado.
When St. George tried to press him, Gardner said, “I think I’ve answered your question.” But when he turned to the next reporter, she followed up: “Is it yes or no?”
Gardner then a blamed the news media for focusing these questions on Colorado, Arizona, Maine and North Carolina (the four states where GOP incumbents are most vulnerable). “It seems to be about politics and elections,” Gardner said.
“But the question is, is it appropriate?” St. George tried again. Gardner dodged.
St. George tried another way: “Would you be okay with it if a Democrat asked a foreign government to investigate...” No answer. Then he asked if it’d be okay for the senator to ask a foreign government for help. No answer
By the end, St. George became exasperated.
“But you’re not answering the question, we want to hear from you, you’re a smart guy, you know the debate,” the reporter said.
“This is about the politics of the moment,” Gardner replied, still not answering the question.
2:20 p.m.: GOP anger over Syria not translating to support for impeachment inquiry
Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.) said today he’s so furious about Trump’s decision to pull U.S. troops out of northern Syria that he no long supports the president.
“While my votes will continue to support the president’s domestic policy agenda, because of this terrible foreign policy decision I asked that my name be removed from his campaign’s official list of supporters,” said Shimkus, who is retiring.
His spokesman said, “This has nothing to do with impeachment.”
Many congressional Republicans have expressed outrage over Trump’s decision on Syria, but they are unmoved on the question of whether the president’s behavior rises to an impeachment inquiry.
1:25 p.m.: Democratic campaign committee says Republicans should return contributions from Parnas
Parnas contributed to the National Republican Congressional Committee and to GOP Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) in 2018, and the Democratic campaign arm is calling on them to return that money.
“If the GOP Minority Leader and his campaign committee are willing to pocket money from a man who was just arrested for funneling Russian campaign donors into American elections, then it is clear there no line they will not cross,” DCCC spokesman Cole Leiter said. “This is a question of un-American activity: either you stand for the sanctity of our elections and defending our Constitution, or you do not. Today, Minority Leader McCarthy and his campaign arm need to make a choice.”
This is a common tactic in congressional politics, where one side demands the other return money from donors who have conducted themselves in an illegal or unethical manner.
1:15 p.m.: Trump’s lawyer says president didn’t know about allegations against Giuliani’s associates
Jay Sekulow, a personal attorney for Trump, sought to distance his client from the arrests of Giuliani’s associates.
“As the indictment makes clear, neither the President nor the campaign were aware of these allegations,” Sekulow said in a statement.
The two men had been major political donors to Trump. They were arrested on charges of campaign finance violations.
1 p.m.: Trump adviser questions Chinese officials about Biden’s son
Michael Pillsbury, an informal Trump adviser who regularly consults with the president, recently asked Chinese officials questions about Hunter Biden and his business dealings, the conservative scholar said Thursday.
“Most everything I learned was already public or well-known,” he said. Pillsbury claimed he was told that money from the Bank of China went to Hunter Biden’s firm, but that it was difficult to determine exactly how much. He said the Chinese were largely reticent to speak about Biden. “They really, really didn’t want to talk about it,” he said.
Pillsbury, who works at the conservative Hudson Institute, said he recently returned from a 10-day trip, during which he also visited Hong Kong. Pillsbury first made comments about his activities to the Financial Times.
Pillsbury said he spoke with Trump just before he went on his trip to China last month, but he said the president didn’t ask him to raise Biden to Chinese officials. “I haven’t reported back to him, no,” he said.
The China expert said he’d never spoken with Trump about Hunter Biden but was aware of the president calling for the Chinese to investigate from the South Lawn of the White House last week.
“What a wonderful, hypothetical question,” he said, when asked if he plans to report back to Trump. Pillsbury declined to say more, saying that White House officials had asked him not to disclose his conversations with the president.
Chinese officials, Pillsbury said, also told him that Trump was more likely to win because of impeachment — and were deeply interested in the 2020 election.
Pillsbury regularly speaks with Trump, who calls him “Mr. Pillsbury” and tells others he is the world’s leading expert on China.
12:30 p.m.: House Democrats issue subpoenas to Giuliani associates
House investigators issued subpoenas Thursday to the two Giuliani associates who were arrested on campaign finance charges, seeking “key documents” that they have not voluntarily produced as part of the impeachment inquiry against Trump.
In a letter to the attorney for Parnas and Fruman, three House Democratic committee chairmen also indicated that they expect the two men to testify before Congress at a later date.
Parnas and Fruman have assisted Giuliani with his investigation of Biden and his son in connection with the son’s business dealings in Ukraine.
In the letter to John Dowd, the attorney for Parnas and Fruman, the Democrats express frustration with the lack of cooperation from previous requests for documents.
“They are required by law to comply with the enclosed subpoenas,” the letter says. “They are not exempted from this requirement merely because they happen to work with Mr. Giuliani, and they may not defy congressional subpoenas merely because President Trump has chosen the path of denial, defiance, and obstruction.”
The letter is signed by Schiff, Cummings and Engel.
11:30 a.m.: Democrats react to arrests of Giuliani associates
Democrats in Congress started to weigh in on the news that two men who helped Giuliani investigate Biden were arrested on charges of campaign finance violations.
Sen. Kamala D. Harris (Calif.) immediately tweeted that “Rudy Giuliani must testify under oath.”
“Let’s be clear about what just happened,” tweeted Sen. Chris Murphy (Conn.) soon after. “The two Russian born ringleaders of the Ukraine scandal just got arrested for making hundreds of thousands of dollars of illegal contributions to Trump’s re-election.”
Giving each word its own line for emphasis, Murphy added:
11:10 a.m.: Zelensky says he’s open to a ‘joint investigation’
Four hours into a marathon meeting with journalists at a food hall in Kiev, Zelensky said he would be open to a “joint investigation” of Ukraine’s role in the U.S. presidential election in 2016 and of the Burisma gas company, which had recruited Joe Biden’s son Hunter to its board.
But Zelensky didn’t elaborate, except to point out that no one has presented Ukraine with any evidence of wrongdoing.
Speaking of his July 25 phone call with Trump, he said, “There was no pressure or blackmail from the U.S. I had no idea the military aid was held up. When I did find out, I raised it with [Vice President] Pence at a meeting in Warsaw.”
Zelensky said impeachment is an internal American affair.
“If you will involve Ukraine in this process, that will be a big, big mistake for USA and for Ukraine,” he said in English. “We have our own country. That’s it.”
Zelensky said he is confident of continuing American support for Ukraine, but if that changes, he expects to find out on Twitter.
10:40 a.m.: Biden campaign presses case for impeachment with new video
A day after Biden delivered a fiery speech in New Hampshire calling for Trump’s impeachment, his campaign continued to press the issue with the release of a video contending that Trump has violated the oath of his office.
The minute-long video opens with historical footage of the swearing in of past presidents — including Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama — before cutting to Trump’s inauguration.
It then cuts to footage of Trump calling on China to investigate the Bidens from the White House lawn before showing a clip of Biden’s speech Wednesday in Rochester, N.H.
“Trump has violated his oath of office, betrayed this nation and committed impeachable acts,” Biden says in the speech.
10:15 a.m.: Two business associates of Giuliani arrested on campaign finance charges
Two business associates of President Trump’s personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani have been charged with a scheme to route foreign money into U.S. elections, according to a newly unsealed indictment.
The two men, who helped Giuliani investigate Joe Biden, were arrested Wednesday night in Virginia, according to a person familiar with the charges. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation.
Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman have been under investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s office in Manhattan and are expected to appear in federal court in Virginia later on Thursday.
According to the indictment, Parnas, Fruman and other defendants “conspired to circumvent the federal laws against foreign influence by engaging in a scheme to funnel foreign money to candidates for federal and state office so that the defendants could buy potential influence with the candidates, campaigns, and the candidates’ governments.”
The indictment also charges that Fruman and Parnas schemed to donate money to an unidentified U.S. congressman, at the same time they were asking that congressman to get the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine removed from her job.
9:10 a.m.: Trump lashes out at Fox News in response to impeachment poll finding
Trump lashed out Thursday morning at Fox News in the wake of a new poll that showed 51 percent of voters want to see Trump impeached and removed from office.
“From the day I announced I was running for President, I have NEVER had a good @FoxNews Poll,” Trump tweeted. “Whoever their Pollster is, they suck.”
He went on to contend that Fox News is “much different than it used to be in the good old days,” citing a number of commentators on the network who have been critical of him.
“It is so different than it used to be. Oh well, I’m President!” Trump said.
9:05 a.m.: Trump seizes on comments by leader of Ukraine
Trump seized on comments by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in a Fox News report to claim that talk of impeachment should “immediately end.”
As part of a day-long event with media inside a Kiev food market, Zelensky told reporters there was “no blackmail” when Trump pressed him to investigate the Bidens at a time when U.S. military aid was suspended.
In his tweet, Trump quoted the lead of the Fox News story: “Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told reporters Thursday his controversial July call with President Trump involved no bribe, blackmail or quid pro quo, as impeachment-minded Democrats claim.”
“This should immediately end the talk of impeachment!” Trump added in his own words.
9 a.m.: House Republican leaders launch fresh attacks on Democrats over impeachment
Top House Republicans launch fresh attacks on Democrats over impeachment on Thursday, seeking to portray the chamber’s leaders as so focused on ousting Trump that they are unable to get anything else done.
“Democrats are so obsessed over impeaching President Trump, they’ve turned their back on the border crisis,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) tweeted.
His tweet came minutes after House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) shared a two-year-old video on Twitter of Rep. Al Green (D-Tex.) calling for Trump’s removal from office.
“Democrats were already trying to impeach @realDonaldTrump without a reason back in MAY 2017,” Scalise wrote on Twitter. “This has always been about politics and power for them — not the facts.”
8:30 a.m.: Omar re-ups impeachment call ahead of Trump rally in her district
Omar went on Twitter on Thursday morning to preempt an expected attack on her at Trump’s Minneapolis rally and to remind voters that she has called for impeaching the president.
Omar, a naturalized U.S. citizen who was born in Somalia, has been in Trump’s crosshairs for months and was the subject of a “send her back” chant at a Trump rally in North Carolina in July.
“Trump will see his rally in my district today as an opportunity to attack me,” Omar tweeted Thursday morning, hours before Trump was scheduled to depart the White House. “But no smear will ever stop me from working toward what I’m in Congress to do.”
She listed several of her priorities, ending with “Impeach Trump.”
7 a.m.: Trump hits campaign trail for first time since inquiry opened
Ahead of his planned campaign rally in Minneapolis, Trump posted a video on Twitter on Wednesday night that features a montage of photos from past events with large crowds of enthusiastic supporters.
The two-minute video is set to the renowned Queen song, “We Will Rock You.”
Thursday night’s rally will be the first since House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced the impeachment inquiry against Trump on Sept. 24.
It marks a rare campaign appearance in a state that Trump did not carry in 2016. His campaign, however, is pouring significant resources into Minnesota in hopes of putting it into play next year.
6 a.m.: George Conway and other prominent conservatives call for ‘expeditious’ impeachment probe
More than a dozen prominent conservative lawyers, including George T. Conway III, offered their legal reasoning for an “expeditious” impeachment probe into Trump, creating a document they hope will be read by Republicans who continue to stand by the president.
The 16 attorneys, many of whom worked in Republican administrations, wrote in a joint statement released Thursday morning that Trump’s now infamous call with Zelensky, the text messages between diplomats and Trump’s public call for China to investigate a political opponent are “undisputed” events that amount to Trump violating his oath of office.
“We have not just a political candidate open to receiving foreign assistance to better his chances at winning an election, but a current president openly and privately calling on foreign governments to actively interfere in the most sacred of U.S. democratic processes, our elections,” they wrote.
5:45 a.m.: Biden campaign slams New York Times for op-ed by conservative author behind Ukraine claims
As Trump has lobbed unsubstantiated and false claims of international corruption at Biden and his son, he’s often turned to one source for ammunition: conservative author Peter Schweizer.
So when the New York Times ran an op-ed on Wednesday written by Schweizer about the Bidens, the Democratic presidential candidate’s campaign cried foul.
In a letter sent to New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet, Biden’s campaign called Schweizer a “discredited right-wing polemicist” and suggested the op-ed was part of a larger pattern of “journalistic malpractice.”
“Are you truly blind to what you got wrong in 2016, or are you deliberately continuing policies that distort reality for the sake of controversy and the clicks that accompany it?” Kate Bedingfield, Biden’s deputy campaign manager, wrote in the Wednesday letter.
6:30 a.m.: 51 percent of voters want Trump removed from office, Fox News poll finds
A Fox News poll is the latest to show growing support for ousting Trump.
Fifty-one percent of voters want Trump impeached and removed from office, according to the poll released Wednesday night.
That number has risen from 42 percent in a July poll by the network.
Fox noted that support for impeachment has risen since July among several of Trump’s key constituencies, including white evangelical Christians (up five percentage points), white men without a college degree (up eight points) and rural whites (up 10 points).
5 a.m.: Ousted Ukraine envoy expected to testify in impeachment probe despite White House vow not to cooperate, congressional aides say
Congressional investigators expect that Marie Yovanovitch, the former ambassador to Ukraine, will appear as planned for a Friday deposition in the House’s ongoing impeachment inquiry, despite the White House’s emphatic pledge not to cooperate with Democrats’ efforts to investigate Trump, according to congressional officials involved with the process.
Yovanovitch and her lawyer are “on board,” according to a senior congressional aide, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive negotiations. State Department officials would not address questions about the matter, and efforts to contact Yovanovitch on Wednesday were unsuccessful.
White House lawyer Pat Cipollone issued a letter to Democrats on Tuesday outlining the Trump administration’s objections to the impeachment inquiry, calling it unconstitutional and vowing to reject congressional requests to cooperate.
House Democrats have deposed only Trump’s former special envoy to Ukraine, Kurt Volker, who resigned his post late last month and then provided the committees with copies of text messages he exchanged with other diplomats, Trump personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani and a top aide to Zelensky.
— Karoun Demirjian and Carol Morello