The president’s comments came as his Republican allies escalated their attacks on the impeachment proceedings — accusing Democrats of “Soviet-style tactics” — as another witness testified behind closed doors on Capitol Hill.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), meanwhile, told Republican senators that the Senate will probably meet six days a week during the impeachment trial, which he expects to begin around Thanksgiving.
House investigators are hearing from Michael McKinley, the former senior adviser to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, behind closed doors. McKinley resigned last week amid worsening morale at the State Department and widespread concern that Pompeo has done little to defend diplomats who became ensnared in efforts by Trump to get Ukraine to investigate former vice president Joe Biden and his son Hunter.
● White House directed “three amigos” to run Ukraine policy, senior State department official tells House investigators.
● Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney emerges as a key facilitator of the campaign to pressure Ukraine.
● Testimony exposes deepening discontent with Pompeo at State Department.
8:15 p.m.: Trump tweets derisive remarks about Pelosi, calls her ‘a very sick person’
Hours after their contentious White House meeting, Trump suggested Pelosi was mentally ill and told people to “pray for her.”
“Nancy Pelosi needs help fast! There is either something wrong with her ‘upstairs,’ or she just plain doesn’t like our great Country. She had a total meltdown in the White House today. It was very sad to watch. Pray for her, she is a very sick person!” Trump tweeted.
Earlier he tweeted a photo of the meeting where Pelosi is standing while speaking and everyone else is seated. The White House said it was evidence of her “meltdown,” but Pelosi supporters said it showed she was standing up to the president, literally. Pelosi made the photo the main image for her Twitter account.
Trump’s attack on the speaker of the House are in contrast to the many kind things he’s said about her in the past. He seemed to stick up for her when she was vying for votes to become speaker earlier this year, and after she secured the gavel he said she deserved a “great deal of credit for what she’s done and what she’s accomplished.”
6:45 p.m.: Schiff sends House members update on impeachment, says he intends to make transcripts public
Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff, who is overseeing the impeachment inquiry, said in a letter sent to House colleagues that he intends to make the interview transcripts public, but was vague on when.
“As the investigation proceeds, and at a time that it will not jeopardize investigative equities, we will make the interview transcripts public, subject to any necessary redactions for classified or sensitive information,” Schiff wrote. “We also anticipate that at an appropriate point in the investigation, we will be taking witness testimony in public, so that the full Congress and the American people can hear their testimony firsthand.”
Schiff also pushed back at the claim by Republicans and the White House that the Democrats have blocked GOP members from participating in the interviews with key witnesses, saying both “the majority and minority have been provided equal staff representation and time to question witnesses.”
He also said the decisions by Trump administration agencies and officials, including Vice President Pence, to defy congressional subpoenas would be viewed “as evidence of the President’s effort to obstruct the impeachment inquiry, and we may also use that obstruction as additional evidence of the wrongfulness of the President’s underlying conduct.”
5:15 p.m.: McCarthy says Pelosi’s ‘whole focus has to be on impeachment,’ even though it didn’t come up in meeting
After exiting the White House, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) took aim at Pelosi, calling her behavior “unbecoming” and accusing her of storming out of what had later turned out to be “a very productive” meeting.
“Unfortunately, the speaker tries to make everything political,” McCarthy said, adding: “Her whole focus has to be on impeachment.”
Asked whether the impeachment inquiry came up during the meeting, however, McCarthy said that it did not.
5 p.m.: Democrats walk out of Syria meeting with Trump, saying he was insulting and went on a ‘nasty diatribe’
At their first meeting since the impeachment inquiry began, Trump disparaged Pelosi, prompting the speaker, Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) to make an abrupt exit.
“He couldn’t handle it,” Pelosi told reporters at the Capitol, referring to a House vote earlier Wednesday condemning Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from northeastern Syria. “He just couldn’t handle it. . . . So, he just kind of engaged in a meltdown.”
Pelosi added that she is praying for Trump’s health. Pressed for more, she responded: “I’m not talking about mentally. I’m talking about handling the truth.”
In remarks outside the White House, Schumer had told reporters that Trump had called Pelosi a “third-rate politician.” Pelosi later clarified at the Capitol that Trump had called her a “third-grade politician.”
Schumer said that during the meeting, Trump “was insulting, particularly to the speaker.”
“She kept her cool completely. But he called her a third-rate politician. . . . It was sort of a diatribe, a nasty diatribe not focused on the facts,” Schumer told reporters after the meeting, which focused on Syria and during which impeachment was not discussed.
Hoyer said after the meeting that Trump had made disparaging remarks about a number of Democrats, including former president Barack Obama.
“It became a derogatory meeting from the president’s side and very quickly went downhill,” he said.
— Seung Min Kim and Mike DeBonis
4:05 p.m.: Conservative group to air TV ads against Romney
The Club for Growth, a free-market advocacy group historically focused on fiscal conservatism, has a new TV ad going after Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah).
The ad calls Romney “slick, slippery, stealthy” and a “Democrat secret asset” who is “plotting to take down President Trump with impeachment.”
Romney has been more critical of the president over the Ukraine issue than any other congressional Republican, and Trump has fired back angrily.
Notably, the group targeted Trump with attack ads in 2015, warning conservatives that “he’s really playing us for chumps.”
At the time, Trump called the Club for Growth “little respected.”
3:30 p.m.: McConnell says he expects Senate to meet six days a week during impeachment trial, beginning around Thanksgiving
McConnell told Senate Republicans he expects that the House will vote to impeach Trump and that the Senate trial will probably begin around Thanksgiving, according to a senator who attended.
At the weekly Senate GOP luncheon, McConnell also fielded questions about the details of the process and told lawmakers that the Senate would probably meet six days a week during the trial, Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) said.
“There’s sort of a planned expectation that it would be sometime around Thanksgiving, so you’d have basically Thanksgiving to Christmas — which would be wonderful, because there’s no deadline in the world like the next break to motivate senators,” Cramer said.
He added that McConnell, his staff and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) fielded “every question you could imagine” during the luncheon.
“I have to admit I was grateful for the civics lesson, because it’s not something we deal with very often, thank God,” he said.
One issue that came up, Cramer noted, was the fine line Republican senators walk between criticizing the House-led impeachment inquiry and maintaining neutrality ahead of the likely Senate trial.
“The question becomes, how do we as a conference remain strongly united and open-minded should it come to trial, while at the same time, in the meantime, standing up for obvious injustices between now and then?” Cramer said.
— Erica Werner
2 p.m.: Trump claims, without evidence, that Obama was behind 2016 election ‘corruption’
At a joint news conference with Italian President Sergio Mattarella on Wednesday, Trump was asked by an Italian reporter about Attorney General William P. Barr’s meetings with Italian officials.
Trump dodged the question, saying he didn’t know the details. He then pivoted, declaring that there was “a lot of corruption” in the 2016 campaign and accusing former president Barack Obama of being behind it.
No evidence has emerged to back up Trump’s assertion.
“There was a lot of corruption; maybe it goes right up to President Obama,” Trump said. “I happen to think that it does.”
1:50 p.m.: One Giuliani associate released on bond
One of two associates of Trump attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani arrested at Dulles International Airport last week has been released on bond, a day before they are both set to appear in federal court in New York on campaign finance charges .
Igor Fruman left the Alexandria federal courthouse with his attorney just before 2 p.m. Wednesday and declined to answer questions about his case.
Fruman put up property in Florida worth $1 million to secure his release, according to court records. Lev Parnas, his business partner, remains behind bars. A federal judge in Alexandria agreed to release Parnas if he could offer as collateral a $1 million business. He has not yet done so.
Where Parnas and Fruman got the money they are accused of illegally pouring into American politics remains a mystery. Parnas paid Giuliani $500,000 as a consultant while helping him drum up support for an investigation into Hunter Biden in Ukraine. But he also owes more than that in a civil suit involving a failed movie project.
— Rachel Weiner
1 p.m.: ‘Mr. President, release your tax returns, or shut up,’ Biden says
In an exchange with reporters in Ohio, Biden faced repeated questions about the actions of his son in Ukraine.
He said his son’s comments speak for themselves, then turned the question back to Trump: “Mr. President, release your tax returns, or shut up.”
12:45 p.m.: Schumer says Senate Republicans should withhold judgment on Trump
In remarks on the Senate floor, Schumer called on Republicans in the chamber to withhold judgment on Trump, given that the Senate may be called upon to act as jurors in a potential impeachment trial.
“We are several steps away from a potential trial in the Senate,” Schumer said. “The House continues to do its work diligently, even-handedly, with only the facts in mind. So I’d remind my Republican colleagues in this chamber that committing, today, to vote ‘not guilty’ is contrary to their oath to ‘do impartial justice.’ That’s their oath.”
He took particular aim at McConnell and Graham, arguing that they “seem determined to turn this serious inquiry into another partisan exercise.”
12:40: Democrats plan to derail resolution calling for censure of Schiff
Democrats are expected to vote Thursday to derail a Republican-sponsored resolution to censure Schiff for his handling of the impeachment inquiry, according to a House Democratic aide.
Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) is the lead sponsor of the resolution.
Republicans have taken issue with several aspects of Schiff’s handling of the inquiry, including a statement in a recent hearing in which Schiff included an embellished version of Trump’s July phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Schiff later said his remarks were intended as a parody and that should have been apparent to Trump and other critics.
Pelosi has stood by Schiff, and Democrats are expected to have the votes to “table” the resolution, which will prevent a vote on the measure itself.
12:15 p.m.: Perry declines to say whether he will comply with subpoena
In an appearance on Fox Business Network on Wednesday, Energy Secretary Rick Perry declined to commit about complying with a congressional subpoena.
“Hey, listen,” Perry said. “The House has sent a subpoena over for the records that we have. And our general counsel and the White House counsel are going through the process right now. And I’m going to follow the lead of the, of my counsel on that.”
Friday is the deadline for documents to be released from the White House and Perry. Trump has said Perry asked him to make the July call to Zelensky, but Perry told reporters last week he did it so that the two could talk about energy issues.
11:45 a.m.: Trump says Pelosi has ‘done this country a tremendous disservice’
Hours before they were set to meet face-to-face for the first time since the launch of the impeachment inquiry, Trump told reporters that Pelosi has “done this country a tremendous disservice.”
“She’s created a phony witch hunt, another one,” Trump said of the impeachment inquiry focused on his pressuring of Ukraine to investigate the Bidens. “This one is just absolutely crazy. . . . This is an open-and-shut simple case.”
Trump’s comments came during an Oval Office meeting with Mattarella. Later Wednesday, Trump is scheduled to meet with congressional leaders, including Pelosi, about the Turkish incursion in Syria.
Speaking to reporters at the White House, Trump contended Democrats are “desperate because they know they’re going to lose the election.”
“They’re playing games,” he said. “They figure they can’t win the election, so maybe we can find some ground, somebody that Trump never met, and maybe they’ll say something bad about Trump, and if they do, really bad, maybe it can stick a little bit. I don’t think it’s going to work.”
11:30 a.m.: ‘I don’t know that he got along with Rudy Giuliani,’ Trump says of Bolton
In an exchange with reporters in the Oval Office after meeting with Mattarella, Trump claimed he personally got along “pretty well” with his former national security adviser, John Bolton, but suggested that there was friction between Bolton and Giuliani.
“Look, John Bolton, I get along well with him,” Trump said when asked whether he was concerned that Democrats may call Bolton to testify in their impeachment inquiry. “I actually got along with him pretty well. It just didn’t work out. . . . I don’t know that he got along with Rudy Giuliani.”
Trump defended Giuliani, arguing that he “was seeking out corruption, and I think there’s nothing wrong with seeking out corruption.”
According to two people familiar with the matter, Fiona Hill, the National Security Council’s former top adviser on Russia and Europe, told lawmakers earlier this week that Bolton was infuriated by a shadow operation being conducted by Giuliani to pressure Ukraine into digging up dirt on the president’s political rival.
Bolton had likened Giuliani to a “hand grenade” and had instructed Hill to raise the matter with White House lawyers, the people said.
Pressed Wednesday about a Washington Post report that Giuliani had urged Trump to extradite a Turkish cleric living in exile in the United States, the president dismissed the fact that Giuliani had not registered as a foreign lobbyist.
“You have to ask Rudy those questions,” Trump said. “Don’t ask me.”
11:15 a.m.: Fourth defendant in Giuliani associates’ case arrested at New York airport
David Correia, the fourth defendant in a campaign finance case involving business associates of Giuliani, was arrested Wednesday morning at a New York City airport, officials said.
Correia has been charged with participating in a scheme to use foreign money to build political support for a fledgling recreational marijuana business in Nevada and other states, according to an indictment unsealed last week. The indictment also charged Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman with conspiracy and making false statements to election regulators.
The other three defendants were quickly arrested by the FBI, including Andrey Kukushkin, who is also accused in the alleged scheme. But Correia’s whereabouts have been unclear until Wednesday morning. All four defendants are due to appear in federal court Thursday morning.
“The defendant was taken into custody by the FBI at JFK earlier this morning,” said Nicholas Biase, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan.
— Devlin Barrett
10:45 a.m.: House Republicans accuse Democrats of ‘Soviet-style tactics’
At their weekly news conference, House Republican leaders ratcheted up their rhetoric against Democrats, accusing them of “Soviet-style tactics” for holding closed-door depositions — even though Republican lawmakers have joined Democrats in those depositions.
“What is Chairman Schiff trying to hide from the American people?” House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) said, referring to the House Intelligence Committee chairman.
Biggs struck a similar note, saying of Schiff: “He’s taken this to a Soviet-style inquiry.”
McCarthy argued that Democrats’ handling of the impeachment inquiry suggests they “believe you’re guilty until you prove your innocence.”
But McCarthy also denied that Trump had asked foreign countries to investigate Biden — even though the president has done so publicly in remarks to reporters on the South Lawn of the White House.
“Every single day in America, we work with other countries to solve open cases,” McCarthy said, adding that the president “did nothing wrong.”
10:40 a.m. Jeffries says Republicans are ‘unable to defend the indefensible’
Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), a Pelosi ally in House leadership, on Wednesday defended her resistance to Republican demands to hold a full House vote authorizing the impeachment inquiry.
Speaking at a news conference, Jeffries said it was a “textbook abuse of power” for Trump to have pressed Ukraine to investigate the Bidens at a time when nearly $400 million in U.S. military aid was being withheld.
Jeffries said there is nothing in the Constitution, Supreme Court precedent or House rules that requires a vote to launch an impeachment inquiry.
“They are unable to defend the indefensible, so the Republicans are arguing about cosmetic procedural matters,” he said, characterizing Trump’s actions as “abhorrent behavior.”
10 a.m.: Pompeo adviser to decry politicization of State Department in impeachment probe testimony
McKinley, the former senior adviser to Pompeo until his sudden resignation last week, will tell House impeachment investigators Wednesday that career diplomats were mistreated during his tenure and that some had their careers derailed for political reasons, according to a person familiar with his testimony.
McKinley will outline how his concerns culminated with the recall of the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, a punitive action he and many other rank-and-file diplomats viewed as wholly unjustified.
“The unwillingness of State Department leadership to defend Yovanovitch or interfere with an obviously partisan effort to intervene in our relationship with Ukraine for the political benefit of the president was too much for him,” said the person, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to be candid.
— Carol Morello and John Hudson
9:50 a.m.: McKinley arrives at the Capitol
McKinley, the former senior adviser to Pompeo, has arrived at the Capitol in advance of a scheduled deposition with House investigators.
9:40 a.m.: Volker arrives at the Capitol to review transcripts of testimony
Kurt Volker, the former special representative to Ukraine, has arrived at the Capitol. He is reviewing transcripts of his Oct. 3 testimony, according to a committee aide who spoke on the condition of anonymity to share details that are not public.
Volker previously gave House committees text messages depicting State Department officials apparently coordinating with Giuliani to leverage a public promise of an investigation into the Bidens for a meeting between Trump and Ukraine’s new president.
8:30 a.m.: Trump, Pelosi to see one another for first time since inquiry began
Trump and Pelosi are scheduled to come face-to-face for the first time since the launch of the impeachment inquiry during a meeting at the White House scheduled for 3 p.m. Wednesday about Turkish military aggression in Syria. Trump has invited congressional leaders from both parties.
Trump might get questions earlier in the day about the impeachment inquiry. He is scheduled to hold a joint news conference at noon with visiting Italian President Sergio Mattarella.
7:45 a.m.: Trump suggests he’s facing possible impeachment because the Democratic presidential field is weak
In morning tweets, Trump panned the performances of the Democratic presidential candidates in Tuesday night’s debate — and suggested he is facing an impeachment inquiry because the field is weak.
“You would think there is NO WAY that any of the Democrat Candidates that we witnessed last night could possibly become President of the United States,” Trump wrote. “Now you see why they have no choice but to push a totally illegal & absurd Impeachment of one of the most successful Presidents!”
He later predicted dire consequences if any of the Democrats prevail.
“Our record Economy would CRASH, just like in 1929, if any of those clowns became President!” he wrote.
In another tweet, Trump quoted conservative cable host Graham Ledger calling the impeachment inquiry a “Constitutional Travesty” and said he is the wrong politician to target.
“It is Adam Schiff and Nancy Pelosi who should be impeached for fraud!” Trump tweeted, referring to the House Intelligence Committee chairman and the House speaker, both California Democrats. Members of Congress cannot be impeached.
Trump also echoed the arguments of his Republican allies who have spent more time attacking the impeachment process than defending Trump’s actions.
“Republicans are totally deprived of their rights in this Impeachment Witch Hunt,” Trump tweeted.
7:30 a.m.: McCarthy ramps up attacks on Pelosi over process
McCarthy ramped up his attacks Wednesday on Pelosi, arguing that Democrats were treating Trump unfairly during the impeachment inquiry.
“You’ve got a better chance of having a fair judicial system in China than in Speaker Pelosi’s House of Representatives,” McCarthy said during an appearance on Fox News’s “Fox & Friends.”
McCarthy complained that House investigators are taking depositions behind closed doors, that only Democrats can call witnesses and that Trump does not have a lawyer present to cross-examine witnesses.
During the depositions, Republican lawmakers and staff are allowed to question witnesses. Democrats have said that they are conducting depositions behind closed doors so that witnesses cannot tailor their accounts to previous testimony.
Earlier this week, Schiff said he expects some witnesses to testify again in open sessions and said transcripts will be released later.
The process is consistent with House rules but has differed in some respects from previous impeachment inquiries.
“You know in America you’re innocent until proven guilty until you let the Democrats become in charge,” McCarthy said during his Fox News interview.
7 a.m.: Former Pompeo adviser to testify about State Department
McKinley is expected to testify before House investigators leading the impeachment inquiry on Wednesday morning.
He will come to the Hill with an intimate understanding of how Pompeo wielded power in the highest echelons of the State Department, given his proximity to the top diplomat on his many trips abroad.
The format for the testimony is a “transcribed interview,” said a congressional aide who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss matters not yet made public, which places fewer restrictions on the interview process than in a formal deposition.
— John Hudson
6:40 a.m.: Trump campaign calls inquiry a ‘sham’ because of no formal vote
The Trump campaign seized Wednesday morning on the announcement by Democratic leaders that they still have no plans for a full House vote to authorize the impeachment inquiry.
In morning tweets, campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh said Democrats were “trampling all over due process” and called the ongoing inquiry an “illegitimate, unprecedented sham” and an “illegitimate plot to overthrow a duly elected President.”
In a news conference Tuesday, Pelosi noted that there is no constitutional requirement for a full House vote to open an impeachment inquiry.
“There is no requirement that we have a vote, and so at this time we will not be having a vote,” Pelosi said.
Schiff told reporters that Republicans are calling for a vote because “they don’t want to discuss the president’s conduct; they would much rather discuss process.”
6 a.m.: Impeachment first topic in Democratic presidential debate
The impeachment inquiry was the first topic tackled at Tuesday night’s Democratic debate in Westerville, Ohio.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) fielded the first question, on why she believes Congress should hold impeachment proceedings rather than leaving the issue of Trump’s fitness for office up to the voters to decide next November.
Warren’s response: “Because sometimes there are issues that are bigger than politics, and I think that’s the case with this impeachment inquiry.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) also defended his call for impeaching Trump, adding that McConnell “has got to do the right thing and allow a free and fair trial in the Senate.”
Biden — who only recently came out in favor of impeachment — called Trump the most corrupt U.S. president in history. He highlighted the White House’s efforts to stonewall the impeachment inquiry. “They have no choice but to move,” he said of House Democrats.
Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) echoed her competitors, expressing her support of the impeachment inquiry and adding that she didn’t think the impeachment process would take very long.
“I don’t really think this impeachment process is going to take very long, because as a former prosecutor, I know a confession when I see it. And he did it in plain sight. He has given us the evidence. And he tried to cover it up, putting it in that special server.”