White House and Justice Department officials were angered Thursday after a combative news briefing by acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney in which he insisted President Trump did nothing inappropriate, but seemed to confirm that Trump’s dealings with Ukraine amounted to a quid pro quo.

Mulvaney later said that his comments were misconstrued and that no conditions were put on releasing military aid to Ukraine.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) refused to put a timeline on the impeachment process, declining to say whether she agrees with the assessment of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) that the House would vote by Thanksgiving, setting up a Senate trial late this year.

“The timeline will depend on the truth line,” Pelosi told reporters at the Capitol amid a busy day of developments.

Sondland was testifying behind closed doors about Trump’s efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate former vice president Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden at a time when nearly $400 million in military aid to Ukraine was being withheld.

● Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) tells Senate Republicans to be ready for an impeachment trial of Trump, which he expects to begin around Thanksgiving.

● Former adviser to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tells impeachment investigators that he was “disturbed” by attempts to enlist foreigners to hurt Trump’s political opponents.

● Sondland, a Trump envoy and a key figure in the impeachment probe, faces criticism over a $1 million taxpayer-funded home renovation.

8:45 p.m.: Rep. Meadows throws water on one of two investigations Trump wanted Ukraine to undertake

One of President Trump’s closest congressional allies on Thursday sharply criticized one of two investigations that the president pressured Ukrainian leaders to launch — a debunked conspiracy theory involving a Democratic National Committee server that was hacked in 2016.

The debunked theory is that after the DNC hired the security firm Crowdstrike to investigate the hack, the server ended up in Ukraine — and that if found, it would show that Ukraine, and not Russia, interfered in the 2016 election. Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to look into Crowdstrike during their July 25 call.

On Thursday, Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) told reporters he didn’t buy the Crowdstrike theory, and questioned why Trump’s lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani had pressed the Ukrainians on it.

“I’ve never been a Crowdstrike fan, I mean this whole thing of a server... I would not on my dime send a private attorney looking for some server in a foreign country,” Meadows said.

The shot from Meadows was significant, coming just hours after acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said that the administration had held up military aid to Ukraine in part to secure the Crowdstrike investigation, before recanting his comments.

Meadows guessed the president bought into the theory because “when you get falsely accused of a number of things... you’re willing to listen to a whole lot of things that may have been a problem.”

Meadows repeated that he has “never” been on board with the “Crowdstrike server in Ukraine” theory, though he was quick to say he had seen other documents and information showing “there was a Ukrainian connection as it relates to the 2016 election.”

“Without a doubt, I am very confident of that,” he said without specifying what the information was.

Karoun Demirjian


7:15 p.m.: Former Trump attorney says Giuliani kept a book of all his Ukraine contacts

Jay Goldberg, a longtime friend and former lawyer for Trump, told MSNBC that Giuliani has a book of his Ukraine contacts that hasn’t yet been subpoenaed and if it is could be harmful to the president.

“Yes, there’s a book that he kept of all the contacts he made while in Ukraine. It hasn’t been subpoenaed thus far, it hasn’t come to light,” Goldberg told host Ari Melber.

Goldberg said he’s seen the book. He said he didn’t believe there was enough in it to impeach and convict Trump, but sidestepped the question when asked if the book will make it look like Giuliani broke the law.

Goldberg also said he advised Trump in March not to hire Giuliani as a personal attorney and said it’s time for the president to cut ties with the former New York mayor because he’d “gone off the rails.”

“Somehow he got seduced into the likelihood of high publicity and he lost his sense of balance,” Goldberg said.


7:05 p.m.: Democrats claim ‘strong position’ on impeachment messaging

The top Democrat charged with keeping the House in her party’s hands told colleagues Thursday that they are in a “strong position” politically on impeachment of President Trump “due to the focus and restraint with which our Caucus has approached this pressing and serious matter.”

Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.), chairwoman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said in a message obtained by The Washington Post that there is scant evidence that impeachment has worsened the political environment for Democrats in swing districts. A memo prepared by DCCC pollsters claimed that “the numbers do not back up Republicans’ posture that impeachment worsens the political environment for House Democrats.”

Polling across the 57 most competitive battleground districts, the memo said, found opinion on moving forward with an impeachment inquiry almost evenly split with little change in the “generic ballot” question testing a unnamed Democratic House candidate against an unnamed Republican.

The memo urged Democrats to “keep the language simple, direct and values-based” by emphasizing that Trump “abused his power and put himself above the law” and that supporting the impeachment inquiry is “simply working to uphold the rule of law.”

Mike DeBonis


5:55 p.m.: Mulvaney says earlier comments were misconstrued, says there was no quid pro quo

Mulvaney accused the media of misconstruing his remarks Thursday, saying in a statement that “there never was any condition on the flow of the aid related to the matter of the [Democratic National Committee] server.”

“Let me be clear, there was absolutely no quid pro quo between Ukrainian military aid and any investigation into the 2016 election,” he said. “The president never told me to withhold any money until the Ukrainians did anything related to the server. The only reasons we were holding the money was because of concern about lack of support from other nations and concerns over corruption.”

People familiar with the president’s thinking have told The Washington Post that Trump suspects that the DNC server hacked by Russian intelligence agents in 2016 may have been hidden in Ukraine.

Mulvaney’s statement came nearly six hours after he said at a news conference that the White House withheld aid from Ukraine in part to urge the country to investigate allegations that Democrats were helped by foreign countries in the 2016 election. There is no evidence to suggest they were.

“Did he also mention to me in the past the corruption related to the DNC server? Absolutely,” Mulvaney said, referring to Trump. “No question about that. But that’s it, and that’s why we held up the money.”

Trump critics immediately jumped on Mulvaney’s remarks as contradicting the president’s repeated denial of “quid pro quo.”

Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff, who is heading up the impeachment inquiry, said that in light of Mulvaney’s comments, “things have just gone from very, very bad to much, much worse.”

“The idea that vital military assistance would be withheld for such a patently political reason for the reason of serving the president’s reelection campaign is a phenomenal breach of the president’s duty to defend our national security, and I hope that every member, Democrat and Republican, will speak out and condemn this illicit action by the president and his chief of staff,” Schiff (D-Calif.) said.

Trump, when asked about it, said he did not see Mulvaney’s briefing but that he heard his acting chief of staff did well.

“Mick is a good man,” Trump said, according to a pool report. “I have a lot of confidence in him.”


5 p.m.: Perry tells Trump he is planning to resign

Energy Secretary Rick Perry told Trump aboard Air Force One on Thursday that he is planning to resign, according to a person with knowledge of the matter.

Two administration officials confirmed that the conversation occurred. Another said Perry gave Trump his resignation in writing. It was not immediately clear what Perry’s effective end date would be; he had earlier signaled that he would step down by the end of the year.

The conversation comes amid increasing scrutiny of Perry’s role in the administration’s communications with Ukraine. House Democrats have given Perry a Friday deadline by which to produce documents related to the matter.

Trump has said Perry asked him to make his July call to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, but Perry told reporters last week he did it so that the two could talk about energy issues.

Perry also told the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday that he called Giuliani at Trump’s direction to discuss Ukraine.

Trump confirmed Perry’s plans, telling reporters he’d be leaving” toward the end of the year” and that he’d be announcing his replacement at his Texas rally tonight, according to a White House pool report.

— Tom Hamburger, Ashley Parker, Philip Rucker and Josh Dawsey


4 p.m.: Democrats view Trump’s plans to hold G-7 summit at his Doral resort as another abuse of power

Trump’s decision to host global leaders at his Miami-area golf resort next year has provided more ammunition to Democrats’ probes into what they see as his corrupt behavior as president.

Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) sent a letter to Trump urging him not to hold the Group of Seven meeting at “a property that would benefit you and your family personally, and would only further erode U.S. leadership and anti-corruption efforts around the world.”

“At a time when the U.S. role as a global leader is hanging by a thread—marred by your actions with regard to Ukraine, Syria, and weaponizing U.S. foreign assistance as a tool for your own political gain — what we need now is to restore confidence in global leadership, not undermine it,” Menendez wrote.

Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, a freshman Democrat who represents Miami, said the president “using his office to line his own pockets is the epitome of corruption.”

“It’s blatantly unethical and against the law. This could be so great for South Florida but the President ruined it with his selfish, money-hungry agenda,” she tweeted.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), in a statement, called it “among the most brazen examples yet of the President’s corruption.”

Nadler said that it needed to be probed but that “we will not allow this latest abuse of power to distract from Congress’ efforts to get to the bottom of the President’s interference in the 2020 election.”


3:20 p.m.: White House and Justice officials furious over Mulvaney’s remarks

Officials close to Trump were infuriated by Mulvaney’s comments during his news conference that essentially acknowledged a quid pro quo under which Ukraine would receive aid in exchange for helping with a Justice Department investigation that might benefit Trump’s campaign.

One Trump adviser said Mulvaney did “far more damage” than Sondland’s testimony, calling it “totally inexplicable.”

“He literally said the thing the president and everyone else said did not happen,” the adviser said.

One person who spoke to Trump said, however, that he was pleased with Mulvaney’s performance.

Mulvaney also caught the Justice Department by surprise when he asserted that Ukraine’s “cooperating in an ongoing investigation with our Department of Justice” was connected to aid money being withheld. A department official said, “If the White House was withholding aid in regards to the cooperation of any investigation at the Department of Justice, that is news to us.”

The official also disputed that the White House made the Justice Department aware of the July phone call between Trump and Ukraine’s leader immediately after it occurred, saying the department wasn’t aware of the call until mid-August.

A third outside official said it was incredible that in the middle of an impeachment inquiry and the chaos in Syria that the White House would also invite another emoluments issue.

“Clearly, they just don’t care anymore,” this person said.

But a person close to Mulvaney said the reaction inside the West Wing had been “positive,” and this person disputed the notion that Mulvaney admitted there was any sort of corrupt quid pro quo.

Jay Sekulow, Trump’s personal attorney, later said in a statement: “The President’s legal counsel was not involved in acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney’s press briefing.”

— Josh Dawsey and Matt Zapotosky


2:50 p.m.: House members delay vote on resolution to censure Schiff

Democrats were prepared earlier Thursday to block a Republican-drafted resolution to censure Schiff — a measure being pushed by Trump.

But lawmakers decided to put off consideration of the measure in light of the death Thursday of House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.), who members of both parties praised during speeches on the chamber’s floor.

The resolution, introduced by Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), takes issue with Schiff’s remarks at a Sept. 26 hearing. Schiff embellished the transcript of the July phone call in which Trump pressed Zelensky to investigate the Bidens.

Schiff later said his remarks were intended as parody and that Trump and others who have criticized him should have recognized that.

1:45 p.m.: Mulvaney confirms Ukraine aid was held up in part due to Trump’s request to investigate DNC server

At a combative session in the White House briefing room, acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney acknowledged Thursday that the Trump administration held up U.S. military aid to Ukraine in part because of the president’s request for that country to investigate a Democratic National Committee server.

“We do that all the time with foreign policy,” Mulvaney said when asked about criticism that the administration’s dealings with Ukraine amounted to a quid pro quo.

He later added: “Did [Trump] also mention to me, in the past, the corruption related to the DNC server? Absolutely. No question about that. But that’s it. And that’s why we held up the money. . . . The look back to what happened in 2016 certainly was part of the thing that he was worried about in corruption with that nation. And that is absolutely appropriate.”

People familiar with the president’s thinking have told The Post that Trump has come to suspect that the DNC server hacked by Russian intelligence agents in 2016 may have been hidden in Ukraine.

Mulvaney maintained Thursday that Trump’s request of Ukraine was unrelated to the Bidens, even though Trump mentioned the former vice president in his July phone call with Zelensky.

“The money held up had absolutely nothing to do with Biden,” Mulvaney said.

He also pushed back against claims that the White House had engaged in a coverup of the phone call, arguing that the White House eventually released a rough transcript of the call.

“Everyone wants to believe there’s a coverup. . . . There was no coverup,” he said.

A whistleblower complaint alleged that the White House had taken the unusual step of moving the rough transcript of the call into a highly classified database typically reserved for covert intelligence programs and operations.

Mulvaney defended Trump’s use of Giuliani as an unofficial envoy, as well.

“It’s not illegal. It’s not impeachable. The president gets to use who he wants to use” to conduct foreign policy, Mulvaney said.

Giuliani is not employed by the U.S. government and does not hold a security clearance.

“I have news for everybody: Get over it,” Mulvaney said of the administration’s handling of the military aid to Ukraine. “There’s going to be political influence in foreign policy. . . . That’s going to happen. Elections have consequences, and foreign policy is going to change from the Obama administration to the Trump administration.”


11:45 a.m.: Mulvaney to brief reporters at the White House

Mulvaney will hold an on-camera briefing for reporters at 12:30 p.m., the White House announced.

The briefing comes as Mulvaney has emerged as a key facilitator of the campaign to pressure Ukraine to investigate the Bidens.


11:30 a.m.: Pelosi urges caution on impeachment timeline

At a news conference Thursday morning, Pelosi declined to say whether she agrees with McConnell’s assessment that the House will vote on articles of impeachment by Thanksgiving and the Senate will hold a trial that lasts until late December.

“The timeline will depend on the truth line,” Pelosi told reporters at the Capitol.

She pushed back on Republicans’ argument that the voters should deliver the final verdict on Trump at the polls next November, describing the issues that have triggered the impeachment inquiry as completely separate from concerns about the president’s policies on matters such as Syria, gun violence, immigration and climate change.

“We don’t know where this path could take us, but it could take us down a further path. But these two are completely separate,” Pelosi said.

And she defended Schiff’s handling of the inquiry.

“I’m very proud of the work that Adam Schiff is doing,” she said. “I value the way he is conducting this.”

Of the photo of her confronting Trump during Wednesday’s contentious White House meeting, Pelosi said she was making a point to the president: “All roads lead to Putin.”


10:55 a.m.: Trump departs White House without taking questions from reporters

Trump has departed the White House in his motorcade en route to Joint Base Andrews without taking questions from reporters about impeachment and other subjects. He plans to fly to Texas for several events, including a rally for his reelection campaign.


10 a.m.: Maloney becomes acting Oversight Committee chair due to seniority

Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.), the second-highest ranking Democrat on the House Oversight and Reform Committee, will become the panel’s acting chair following the passing of Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.), according to a senior Democratic leadership aide.

The process to elect a permanent chair of the committee will be announced at a later time, the aide said. The succession process will be handled by the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee, with the results later ratified by full House Democratic Caucus.

Besides Maloney, other contenders could include Reps. Stephen F. Lynch (Mass.) and Gerald E. Connolly (Va.). None have formally announced an intention to run.

— Mike DeBonis



9:40 a.m.: Sondland tells impeachment investigators Trump urged him to work with Giuliani on Ukraine

In his opening statement, Sondland told impeachment investigators that Trump urged him to work with his personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani on matters related to Ukraine, including a possible visit by Zelensky.

Sondland said Trump was skeptical that Ukraine was serious about reforms and anti-corruption efforts, according to a written copy of his statement.

“He directed those of us present at the meeting to talk to Mr. Giuliani, his personal attorney, about his concerns,” Sondland said. “It was apparent to all of us that the key to changing the president’s mind on Ukraine was Mr. Giuliani.”

Sondland said he did not understand “until much later that Mr. Giuliani’s agenda might have also included an effort to prompt the Ukrainians to investigate Vice President Biden or his son or to involve Ukrainians, directly or indirectly, in the president’s 2020 reelection campaign.”

Sondland said that he and others were “disappointed by the President’s direction that we involve Mr. Giuliani.”

“Our view was that the men and women of the State Department, not the President’s personal lawyer, should take responsibility for all aspects of U.S. foreign policy toward Ukraine,” he said.

Sondland said he also “strongly believed” that a White House meeting between Trump and Zelensky should have been scheduled “without any preconditions.”


9:10 a.m.: Sondland arrives at the Capitol

Sondland has arrived at the Capitol for his scheduled 9:30 a.m. deposition before three House panels.


9 a.m.: Trump offers ‘warmest condolences’ to family of Cummings

Trump tweeted his condolences Thursday morning over the death of Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.), chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, which is involved in the impeachment inquiry.

“My warmest condolences to the family and many friends of Congressman Elijah Cummings,” Trump tweeted. “I got to see first hand the strength, passion and wisdom of this highly respected political leader. His work and voice on so many fronts will be very hard, if not impossible, to replace!”

During the summer, Trump repeatedly lashed out at Cummings and the city he represents, saying at various points that residents of Baltimore were living in a “rodent infested mess” and that Cummings was to blame because he had a “very iron hand” on it.

Twenty minutes after praising Cummings for his work, Trump returned to lashing out at the impeachment inquiry on Thursday, writing on Twitter: “The Greatest Witch Hunt in American History!”


8:30 a.m.: Republicans postpone news conference on impeachment inquiry following death of Cummings

A group of House Republicans postponed a news conference scheduled for Thursday morning at which they planned to demand greater “transparency and inclusion” in the impeachment inquiry.

A statement released by the office of Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) said the decision was made following the death of Cummings, chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, one of the panels involved in the inquiry.

“We anticipate the conference may be rescheduled for the near future and will be working on those details, but out of respect for Representative Cummings it will not take place today,” the statement said.

Gaetz’s office said more than 30 House Republicans had planned to attend, including House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.).


8 a.m.: Sondland scheduled for 9:30 a.m. deposition behind closed doors

House investigators expect to hear testimony Thursday from Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union and a central figure in the impeachment inquiry. He is scheduled to appear behind closed doors at 9:30 a.m.

Sondland, a hotel developer and major Trump fundraiser who had no background in diplomacy before he was confirmed by the Senate in June 2018, was pivotal to the administration’s efforts to pressure the government of Ukraine to investigate Trump’s political rivals, according to text messages and testimony from current and former officials.

He plans to say that a text message he sent Sept. 9 to the senior U.S. diplomat in Kyiv denying any quid pro quo with Ukraine, which was desperate for U.S. military aid and diplomatic support, was relayed to him directly by Trump, according to a person familiar with his testimony who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss matters not yet public.


7:45 a.m.: Trump heading to Texas for another campaign rally

Trump plans to head to Dallas on Thursday for a “Keep America Great Rally.” In recent weeks, he has used such events to air grievances about the impeachment process and the Democrats who are leading it.

Trump is scheduled to depart the White House at 10:30 a.m. and has several other events scheduled in Texas before he plans to stage his reelection rally around 7 p.m. Central time.

The rally comes a day after Pelosi and other top Democrats walked out of a meeting with Trump at the White House after Trump disparaged Pelosi. It was the first time they had come face-to-face since Pelosi launched the impeachment inquiry.

In remarks outside the White House, Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) 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.”


7:30 a.m.: Trump urges support for resolution censuring Schiff

President Trump is urging House members to support a Republican resolution to censure Schiff for his handling of the impeachment inquiry. Democrats are expected to block the resolution Thursday afternoon.

“Hope all House Republicans, and honest House Democrats, will vote to CENSURE Rep. Adam Schiff tomorrow for his brazen and unlawful act of fabricating (making up) a totally phony conversation with the Ukraine President and U.S. President, me. Most have never seen such a thing!” Trump tweeted late Wednesday night.

The resolution, introduced by Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), takes issue with Schiff’s remarks at a Sept. 26 hearing. Schiff embellished the transcript of the July phone call in which Trump pressed Zelensky to investigate the Bidens.

Schiff later said his remarks were intended as parody and that Trump and others who have criticized him should have recognized that.

The resolution contends that Schiff “manufactured a false retelling of the conversation.”

It also takes aim at Schiff for other actions, including some related to the investigation by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III into possible coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign during the 2016 election.

“Members of the Intelligence Committee have lost faith in his objectivity and capabilities as Chairman, with every Republican member on the Committee having signed a letter calling for his immediate resignation as Chairman,” the resolution says.

House Democrats were prepared to vote to “table” the resolution as early as Thursday. That would prevent a vote on the resolution itself.


7:20 a.m.: Trump shares tweets by McConnell critical of the impeachment process

Trump took to Twitter early Thursday to share tweets from McConnell that were critical of the House impeachment inquiry.

If Trump is impeached by the Democratic-led House, the Republican-led Senate would hold a trial on whether to remove him from office.

“Washington Democrats have been engaged in a three-year-long impeachment parade in search of a rationale,” McConnell wrote in one tweet. “Prominent House Democrats were promising impeachment at the very beginning of this presidency. Fairness and due process are not their objectives here.”

In another, McConnell said that the “Democrats’ impeachment obsession is blocking urgent work for American families,” including passage of a trade deal to replace NAFTA.

On Wednesday, McConnell told Senate Republicans he expects that the House will vote to impeach Trump and that the Senate trial will probably begin around Thanksgiving.


7:10 a.m.: Trump tried to insult ‘unhinged’ Pelosi with an image. She made it her Twitter cover photo.

The image was meant to be an insult — “Nervous Nancy’s unhinged meltdown!” Trump wrote as a caption. But instead, it ended up as Pelosi’s Twitter cover photo.

The photo is striking: Pelosi, in electric blue, the only woman visible at the table, standing across from a homogeneous row of men, pointing her finger at the president.

To Democrats, what the photo conveyed was clear: the speaker “literally standing up to the president” after the House overwhelmingly voted to condemn his decision to pull out of northern Syria. The remarkable moment marked the latest episode in the long-running theatrical feud between Pelosi and Trump, ending, like others, with the Democratic leader reclaiming the president’s insult as a badge of pride.

Read more here.

— Meagan Flynn


7 a.m.: Donald Trump Jr. slammed for attacking Hunter Biden over nepotism

Donald Trump Jr. listened Wednesday night as Fox News host Sean Hannity scrutinized Hunter Biden’s foreign business dealings, suggesting that the son of a former vice president only had opportunities in other countries because “they’re really buying favor with the father.”

“Of course they are,” Trump Jr. chimed in. “When you’re the father and your son’s entire career is dependent on that, they own you.”

Trump Jr.’s Wednesday remarks sparked collective head-scratching and ridicule, but it’s a critique that he and his brother Eric Trump have repeatedly voiced in recent days — much to the increasing annoyance of critics, including Comedy Central host Trevor Noah, who are vexed by the pair’s apparent lack of self-awareness.

“Now, let’s be clear, I’m not defending Hunter Biden,” Noah said on his show Wednesday. “All I’m saying is the last people who should be talking about the blurred lines of family names and political influence are the people currently running their home office from the White House.”

.

Read more here.

— Allyson Chiu