Earlier Wednesday, President Trump lashed out anew at “terrible” Democrats a day after damaging testimony from a key diplomat in the Ukraine controversy.
William B. Taylor Jr., the acting U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, testified Tuesday that Trump wanted military aid to Ukraine linked to the country’s willingness to investigate the 2016 election and former vice president Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden.
●Trump made Ukraine aid contingent on a public pledge to investigate the Bidens and the 2016 election, U.S. envoy says he was told.
●New testimony undercuts Trump’s claim of no quid pro quo on Ukraine. How will Washington respond?
●Prosecutors flagged possible ties between a Ukrainian gas tycoon and associates of Trump personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani.
10 p.m.: Next witness expected to meet with investigators Saturday
The House investigators are taking a two-day break from depositions to honor the late congressman Elijah E. Cummings, who will lie in state in the Capitol on Thursday and whose funeral is Friday.
They will then be back at it Saturday with a closed-door testimony from Philip Reeker, acting assistant secretary for European and Eurasian affairs, according to an official working on the impeachment inquiry.
On Monday, the committees are expected to hear testimony from Charles Kupperman, former deputy assistant to the president for national security affairs.
Timothy Morrison, special assistant to the president and senior director for Europe and Russia in the National Security Council, is expected to appear in a closed session on Thursday. Morrison was on the July 25 call between Trump and the Ukrainian president.
8:15 p.m.: Biden blasts Trump as ‘despicable’
Biden responded to Trump’s attacks on Ambassador Taylor earlier in the day, strongly condemning the president for going after a career Foreign Service officer.
“It’s despicable,” Biden told reporters in Iowa Wednesday night. “This man is incredibly honorable. He’s decent. He’s told the truth.”
Biden was also asked about testimony last week from former deputy secretary of state George Kent who said he warned the vice president’s office that Hunter Biden taking a job for a Ukrainian company would be inappropriate, but was told the vice president didn’t have the bandwidth to deal with it.
“I never heard a thing. He never spoke to me. No one ever spoke to me, period,” Biden said. “He may have said something to somebody else, but no one said anything to me. And no one ever said I said I didn’t have the bandwidth to deal with it.”
“And let’s get something straight,” Biden continued. “My son did nothing wrong or illegal, period. Let’s talk about what Trump did and what he’s doing.”
7 p.m.: Cooper’s hearing has ended
Cooper has left Capitol Hill after a three-and-half-hour hearing that started hours behind schedule due to Republican protesters in the room.
Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), speaking to reporters after the hearing, called Cooper a “credible witness” but said he did not believe there were “groundbreaking revelations” from her testimony.
Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) has not given his assessment of her testimony, but said earlier about Cooper that “the witness is a real professional and has come forward notwithstanding the obstacles.”
— Kayla Epstein
5:50 p.m.: Graham criticizes House Republicans, then quickly backtracks
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) criticized House Republicans Wednesday afternoon for storming the secure room where Cooper’s deposition was set to take place.
Hours later, Graham reversed himself.
“CORRECTION: I was initially told House GOP took the SCIF by force – basically like a GOP version of Occupy Wall Street,” Graham said in a tweet. “Apparently it was a peaceful protest. Big difference. I understand their frustration and they have good reason to be upset.”
Earlier in the day, Graham had told reporters that storming the secure room was “not the way to do it.”
“That’s nuts,” he said, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Graham was a vocal critic of Trump during the 2016 campaign; he has since become one of the president’s closest allies on Capitol Hill.
5:30 p.m.: U.S. judge says he will order State Dept. to begin releasing Ukraine records in 30 days
A federal judge said Wednesday that he will order the State Department to begin releasing Ukraine-related documents in 30 days, potentially making public sensitive records and communications at the heart of the ongoing House impeachment inquiry.
The decision, by U.S. District Judge Christopher R. “Casey” Cooper of Washington, D.C., came in a public records lawsuit filed Oct. 1 by a government watchdog group, American Oversight.
The group in May asked the State Department for records related to alleged efforts by Trump and his administration to pressure Ukraine to investigate the Bidens.
— Spencer S. Hsu
4:35 p.m.: House Homeland Security chairman asks that GOP members be reprimanded
Some of the House Republicans who barged into the secure room where testimony is heard took video and tweeted from inside. No electronic devices are allowed into a SCIF (Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility).
Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), chairman of the House Homeland Security committee, sent a letter to the Sergeant at Arms alerting him to this “security breach.”
“This unprecedented breach of security raises serious concerns for Committee Chairmen, including me, responsible for maintaining SCIFs,” Thompson wrote.
“As such, I am requesting you take action with respect to the Members involved in the breach. More broadly, I urge you to take House-wide action to remind all Members about the dangers of such reckless action and the potential national security risks of such behavior.”
Other Democrats also condemned the House GOP members for breaking the rules.
South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, a 2020 Democratic presidential contender, tweeted about working in a SCIF in the military and having to abide by the no-technology rule.
“The importance of keeping it secure (i.e. from cell phone signals) was drilled into us so deeply that I’d have bad dreams about accidentally leaving my phone in the pocket of my uniform,” Buttigieg wrote. “This behavior is an embarrassment.”
4 p.m.: Twenty past D.C. Bar Association presidents endorse impeachment inquiry
Twenty former presidents of the District of Columbia Bar wrote a letter Wednesday endorsing the House impeachment inquiry. The signers include both Republicans and Democrats, according to those releasing the letter.
“Nothing is more fundamental to American democracy than the rule of law,” the letter reads. “As past presidents of the District of Columbia Bar, we have watched with dismay the persistent disregard for the rule of law during the current administration, a pattern and practice that is so pervasive and pernicious that only the impeachment process can attempt to rectify the president’s abuse of office.”
“Therefore, we endorse and encourage the continuing pursuit of impeachment proceedings by the House of Representatives to prepare for a vote on appropriate articles of impeachment of the president.”
3:45 p.m.: Trump calls Taylor a ‘Never Trumper,’ accuses own administration of hiring people opposed to his presidency
Trump complained that Taylor is represented by attorney John Bellinger, a Republican who opposed Trump’s candidacy in 2016 and joined a group that called themselves “Never Trump” Republicans.
“Never Trumper Republican John Bellinger, represents Never Trumper Diplomat Bill Taylor (who I don’t know), in testimony before Congress! Do Nothing Democrats allow Republicans Zero Representation, Zero due process, and Zero Transparency,” Trump tweeted. “Does anybody think this is fair? Even though there was no quid pro quo, I’m sure they would like to try. Worse than the Dems!”
He then accused of his administration of hiring “Never Trumpers.”
“It would be really great if the people within the Trump Administration, all well-meaning and good (I hope!), could stop hiring Never Trumpers, who are worse than the Do Nothing Democrats. Nothing good will ever come from them!” Trump said.
It wasn’t clear who in his administration he was referring to other than Taylor.
Taylor, a lifetime public servant, was brought in by Secretary of State Pompeo in May to serve as acting U.S. ambassador to Ukraine after the abrupt ouster of Marie Yovanovitch. Taylor previously had the job under President George W. Bush.
3:25 p.m.: Cooper testimony begins after five-hour delay
Cooper’s testimony has begun, according to two people with knowledge of the matter. The proceedings had been delayed for more than five hours by a group of House Republicans who stormed into the room and refused to leave, disrupting the closed-door proceedings.
— Kayla Epstein and Rachael Bade
3:15 p.m.: New York City Bar says Barr should recuse himself from Ukraine-related issues
The New York City Bar on Wednesday called for Attorney General William P. Barr to recuse himself from any “ongoing or future review by DOJ of Ukraine-related issues” and asserted that — if he does not do so — he should resign or face possible removal from his job by Congress.
In a strident statement, the association asserted that Barr “appears to view his primary obligation as loyalty to the President individually rather than to the nation,” and that he had been “willing to take or countenance actions that are contrary to the professional standards of the DOJ, his oath of office and his own obligations as an attorney.”
The association said its concerns culminated when Barr did not recuse himself from review of a whistleblower complaint about a July 25 phone call in which Trump pressed his counterpart in Ukraine to investigate Biden and his son and alleged Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election.
A rough transcript of the call shows that Trump told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky he should work with Barr on the matter. The Justice Department reviewed the complaint to determine if it should open an investigation into whether campaign finance violations had been committed, but ultimately determined there was not sufficient predicate to do so.
That decision was made by Assistant Attorney General Brian Benczkowski, though Barr was not recused from the matter and was aware of discussions about the whistleblower complaint and transcript, officials have said.
A Justice Department spokeswoman has said previously that Trump had never spoken with Barr “about having Ukraine investigate anything related to former vice president Biden or his son.” Officials have said Barr only learned later, after the complaint made its way to the Justice Department, Trump had mentioned him on the call.
A Justice Department spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.
While there is no public indication the Justice Department has continued its review of the whistleblower complaint, Barr has tasked a U.S. Attorney in Connecticut with running an investigation that could examine issues related to Ukraine. The U.S. Attorney, John Durham, is examining the origins of the FBI’s probe into possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia.
— Matt Zapotosky
2:40 p.m.: Scalise and about a dozen House Republicans leave secure room
At approximately 2 p.m., House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), flanked by about a dozen Republican congressmen, left the secure room to address the media. Scalise accused House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), who is overseeing the hearings, of “bullying” and using “Soviet-style tactics” throughout the impeachment inquiry.
Joined by frequent inquiry critic Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) and others, Scalise also voiced skepticism about the evidence being compiled by the three committees involved in the hearings. Schiff “wants to do it on a one-sided term to create some kind of file of his own to use as the basis of impeachment,” Scalise said.
“Whatever Adam Schiff is putting together today is a tainted document, because it’s a one-sided document,” he added. “It’s a document that’s been created in secret, behind closed doors. And when we showed up today to find out exactly what’s going on, he got out of the room and left with the witness.”
It was unclear whether Scalise and the other House Republicans would return to continue their protest inside the secure room.
— Kayla Epstein
2:25 p.m.: Cicilline says Republicans trying to please Trump with ‘stunt’
Rep. David N. Cicilline (D-R.I.) said Republicans who stormed the secure room where Cooper was set to testify were “playing to an audience of one,” a reference to Trump.
“This is an effort to slow down our ongoing search for the truth and to collect evidence,” Cicilline said. “This is a stunt that corresponded very specifically to the president’s complaint that they weren’t fighting hard enough for him, and in direct response to devastating testimony yesterday from Ambassador Taylor. Republicans, you know, are playing to an audience of one, and the president’s proud of them, but we’re going to continue to do all the work.”
— Karoun Demirjian
2:10 p.m.: Large number of GOP lawmakers leave secure room
A large number of Republicans emerged from the secure room where Cooper was scheduled to testify, indicating that they were headed to the House floor for votes. It was not clear whether they were ending their protest, or whether all GOP members had departed.
It also remained unclear whether House investigators still planned to hear from Cooper on Wednesday.
— Kayla Epstein
1:40 p.m.: Trump departs White House without taking questions on impeachment
Trump made brief comments to reporters about Syria and the economy but took no questions on the impeachment inquiry or other subjects as he left the White House on Wednesday afternoon.
Trump is headed to Pittsburgh to address a national conference of the shale industry.
Shortly after his departure, he took to Twitter and blasted Republicans who have never supported him.
“The Never Trumper Republicans, though on respirators with not many left, are in certain ways worse and more dangerous for our Country than the Do Nothing Democrats,” the president tweeted. “Watch out for them, they are human scum!”
1:35 p.m.: Senior GOP senator vows to not pay attention to impeachment
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.), who served 10 years in GOP leadership and is now a senior member of the Judiciary Committee, vowed Wednesday to not pay attention to the House impeachment proceedings, telling reporters he would not watch the daily maneuvers of a process that could end up before him in a Senate trial.
“No, I am not, or by an hourly basis, or minute by minute,” Cornyn told reporters.
He was asked whether he had read the published 15-page opening statement that the acting Ukraine ambassador delivered to the House committees leading the closed-door deposition phase of the inquiry into Trump’s pressure campaign over Kyiv officials.
“No. I don’t know Bill Taylor from Adam. I know you better than I know Bill Taylor,” Cornyn said, saying that he spent his time on other issues. “Doing important things, not participating in a sham process over in the House.”
Was he at all curious about the content of testimony?
“No, I think it’s just an illegitimate process. It’s completely unfair to House Republicans that can’t participate in the process like they would if it were handled the same way previous impeachment inquiries were handled,” Cornyn said, complaining about how some testimony ends up in the media.
“The drip, drip, drip of leaked testimony is producing daily news stories like you’re asking me about — is part of their plan, their scheme. And I’m just not gonna — I do not approve,” Cornyn said.
He explained that he intends to keep this posture throughout the House impeachment process.
— Paul Kane
1:30 p.m.: Status of Cooper’s deposition remains unclear as GOP lawmakers continue protest
Republican lawmakers remained holed up in the secure room where Cooper had been set to testify Wednesday.
It was not immediately clear how the standoff would be resolved. Democrats debated asking the Capitol Police to physically remove the GOP lawmakers who don’t sit on one of the three committees conducting the inquiry but decided against it, fearing that such a dramatic move would play into Republican hands, several lawmakers said.
The staff of House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) declined to comment on whether Cooper’s testimony would be canceled for the day, given the disruption.
1:15 p.m.: Two Giuliani associates plead not guilty in campaign finance case
NEW YORK — Two indicted associates of Giuliani pleaded not guilty Wednesday to charges that they violated campaign finance law and conspired to use foreign money to buy political influence, as one of their attorneys suggested that Trump could try to invoke executive privilege over some of the evidence in the case.
Igor Fruman and Lev Parnas — two Soviet emigres who hired Trump’s personal attorney and then helped him investigate Joe Biden — made a brief appearance in federal court in a case that has also led federal investigators to scrutinize Giuliani’s interactions with the pair.
At the hearing, Parnas’s attorney, Edward MacMahon, raised concerns to U.S. District Court Judge J. Paul Oetken that some of the evidence gathered in the case may be protected by attorney-client privilege, or even executive privilege.
— Renae Merle and Devlin Barrett
12:35 p.m.: Democratic chairmen renew demand for subpoenaed State Department documents
The three House Democratic chairmen leading the impeachment inquiry sent a letter to the State Department on Wednesday with a fresh demand for documents already subpoenaed that have not been turned over.
“As part of the House of Representatives’ ongoing impeachment inquiry, our Committees have now obtained detailed information identifying specific documents in the possession, custody, or control of the Department of State that are directly and highly relevant to the inquiry,” the chairmen wrote. “These documents include information central to the inquiry’s core area of investigation: the President’s efforts to press Ukraine to initiate investigations that would benefit his personal and political interests, and not the national interest.”
The requested documents include readouts of meetings, email correspondence, diplomatic cables and text messages from State Department officials.
If the department fails to comply with the subpoena, “the Committees may draw the inference that their nonproduction indicates that these documents support the allegations against the President and others,” said the letter, signed by Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot L. Engel (D-N.Y.) and acting Oversight and Reform Committee chairwoman Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.).
11:50 a.m.: GOP lawmakers tweet updates on protest
Republicans involved in storming the secure room have begun tweeting updates about their activities and about how Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) has responded.
“BREAKING: I led over 30 of my colleagues into the SCIF where Adam Schiff is holding secret impeachment depositions. Still inside - more details to come,” tweeted Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.).
“Reporting from Adam Schiff’s secret chamber....” Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) began his first tweet, in which he said there were still 15 GOP House members in the secure room, including House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) and Rep. Mark Walker (R-N.C.).
In another tweet, Biggs wrote, “When Republican members were in the SCIF, Chairman Schiff immediately left with the witness.”
Republican lawmakers on the three committees involved in the inquiry have been permitted to attend and ask questions during depositions of witnesses. The lawmakers who have been asked to leave are not members of those committees.
11:30 a.m.: Democrats decry Republican shutdown of testimony
Democrats decried the Republican shutdown of Wednesday’s planned testimony by Cooper, dismissing it as a stunt.
“It’s totally inappropriate,” said Rep. Harley Rouda (D-Calif.), who watched the episode unfold. “When the facts are against you, when the law is against you … you’re left arguing process.”
Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) called the Republicans’ actions “a violation of House rules.”
“They can’t just crash into this,” Lieu said.
— Rachael Bade
11:25 a.m.: Trump attorney argues a sitting president would be immune from prosecution even if he were to shoot someone
NEW YORK — A Trump private attorney said Wednesday that the president could not be investigated or prosecuted as long as he is in the White House, even for shooting someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue.
The claim of “temporary presidential immunity” from William S. Consovoy came in court in response to a judge’s question that invoked the president’s own hypothetical scenario. As a candidate in 2016, Trump said his support was so strong that he could “stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody” and not “lose any voters.”
The president’s attorney was asking the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit to block a subpoena for Trump’s private financial records from New York prosecutors investigating hush-money payments made before the 2016 election. The judges seemed skeptical of the president’s sweeping claims of immunity not just from prosecution, but also from investigation.
— Ann E. Marimow and Jonathan O’Connell
11 a.m.: House Republicans temporarily shut down impeachment proceedings with protest
A group of House Republicans temporarily shut down the Democrat-led impeachment inquiry on Wednesday, barging into a secure room where a witness was set to testify and refusing to leave despite orders from top Democrats.
A group of about two-dozen Trump allies stormed a room in the Capitol basement where three investigative committees were supposed to hear testimony from Laura Cooper, the Pentagon official who oversees Ukraine policy. Those members were not on the committees of jurisdiction and were not supposed to be present during the closed-door deposition.
A shouting match began between Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Tex.) and some Democrats in the room as House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) left to consult with the sergeant at arms, according to Rep. Gerald E. Connolly (D-Va.), who witnessed the entire episode.
Cooper was slated to begin testimony at 10 a.m. but was still being held in a private room off the secure area.
The protest was part of a Republican effort to change the narrative from the substance of the allegations against Trump to complaints about the process. Republicans have accused Democrats of trying to conduct a secretive takedown of the president by investigating behind closed doors; Democrats say, however, that they will open up the process for public hearings in a matter of weeks after they conduct their investigation.
Democrats are now looking at whether they will have to physically remove Republican members from the room. They may instead reschedule the deposition and have Capitol Police guard the doors to block entry.
Republicans broke the rules when they followed lawmakers into the locked facility and brought their phones into the secretive space. All electronics are barred from the secure area, which is meant for discussing highly sensitive or classified information.
— Rachael Bade and Elise Viebeck
10:30 a.m.: O’Rourke decries Trump’s comparison of impeachment to lynching
Democratic presidential hopeful Beto O’Rourke said Wednesday that Trump made the ultimate case for why he is not fit for office when he compared the impeachment proceedings to a lynching in a tweet this week.
“If you had not been convinced of how unfit he is to lead this country, his invocation of lynching to describe what is happening to him in a fair, deliberate, democratic process, that should convince you beyond a shadow of a doubt,” O’Rourke said at a Washington Post Live event Wednesday morning.
O’Rourke said that he was recently in Montgomery, Ala., and visited a memorial that has the name of every African American who was lynched at a time when terror was used “to keep people down, through lynchings, through burnings, through drownings, through beatings.”
“To have the most privileged, the most powerful white man on the face of the planet invoke that same word to describe what is happening to him is one of the most obscene things that I’ve heard in American life in my lifetime,” O’Rourke said. “And it goes to show the extent to which he will lie, the extent to which he will commit these obscenities.”
— Jenna Johnson
10:15 a.m.: Schiff chides Trump about presidential powers
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff, the California Democrat leading the impeachment inquiry, took aim at Trump in a tweet about things the president has recently said about his powers.
“The emoluments clause isn’t ‘phony’ — it’s in the Constitution,” Schiff tweeted. “He is not ‘in charge of the Hatch Act.’ It’s been the law since 1939, to prevent federal employees from using their offices for partisan activities. President Trump is not above the law.”
Trump referred to the emoluments clause as “phony” Monday as he sought to justify his now-abandoned decision to hold a gathering of international leaders at a golf resort he owns in Florida. The emoluments clause is designed to prevent presidents from becoming beholden to corrupting foreign influences.
The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday that, ahead of a June campaign rally in Orlando, Trump pushed to bring members of his Cabinet along but was rebuffed by acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, who cautioned about potential violations of the Hatch Act.
“I’m in charge of the Hatch Act,” Trump told Mulvaney in a room full of other top aides, according to the Journal’s account.
10:10 a.m.: Conservative lawmakers attempt to enter classified area
Before Cooper was scheduled to begin speaking to lawmakers, about two dozen conservative Republican lawmakers led by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) gathered around the classified area where depositions are being held to protest what they described as Democrats’ secretive approach to the inquiry.
Several in the group accused Democratic leaders of trying to undo the 2016 election result, rallying behind a talking point promoted by House GOP leaders.
The group walked into the restricted area en masse, and chants of “Let us in” were heard from outside the doors.
— Elise Viebeck
9:55 a.m.: Trump administration sought billions of dollars in cuts to programs aimed at fighting corruption in Ukraine
The Trump administration has sought repeatedly to cut foreign aid programs tasked with combating corruption in Ukraine and elsewhere overseas, White House budget documents show, despite recent claims from the president and his administration that they have been singularly concerned with fighting corruption in Ukraine.
Those claims have come as the president and his administration sought to explain away a July phone call between Trump and Zelensky, during which Trump pressured his counterpart to open investigations into Biden and his son Hunter, and into a debunked conspiracy theory involving a hacked Democratic National Committee computer server.
— Erica Werner
9:40 a.m.: Cooper arrives for closed-door deposition
Cooper has arrived at the Capitol for testimony related to the White House’s decision to withhold military aid from Ukraine.
9:30 a.m.: Taylor testified Ukrainian official was aware military aid was being withheld
Several Republicans, including Rep. John Ratcliffe (Tex.), are arguing that Ukrainians were unaware that U.S. military aid was being withheld and therefore Trump could not have offered a “quid pro quo” by asking for an investigation of the Bidens.
Amid a spate of early morning tweets, Trump quoted Ratcliffe on that point, writing, “Neither he (Taylor) or any other witness has provided testimony that the Ukrainians were aware that military aid was being withheld. You can’t have a quid pro quo with no quo.”
In fact, Taylor said in his opening statement Wednesday that a Ukrainian official was aware of the link.
Taylor told House investigators that Tim Morrison, a National Security Council adviser on Russia, described a conversation between Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, and Andriy Yermak, a top aide to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Warsaw.
“Ambassador Sondland told Mr. Yermak that the security assistance money would not come until President Zelensky committed to pursue the Burisma investigation,” Taylor said, referring to the Ukrainian gas company that employed Hunter Biden.
8:45 a.m.: Giuliani associates due in court on campaign finance violation charges
Two indicted associates of Giuliani are due to appear in federal court Wednesday to enter expected not guilty pleas to charges they violated campaign finance law and conspired to use foreign money to buy political influence.
Fruman and Parnas are charged in a case that has also led federal investigators to scrutinize Giuliani’s interactions with the pair.
Fruman and Parnas were charged in an indictment earlier this month with conspiracy and with making false statements to the Federal Election Commission about political donations.
Two of their co-defendants, David Correia and Andrey Kukushkin, pleaded not guilty last week in Manhattan federal court.
— Renae Merle and Devlin Barrett
8 a.m.: Pentagon official to testify about withheld aid to Ukraine
The Pentagon official who oversees Ukraine policy is scheduled to testify Wednesday in the House impeachment inquiry, raising the possibility of fresh revelations one day after a key diplomat undercut Trump’s denial of a quid pro quo involving military aid.
Cooper, the deputy assistant secretary of defense, will appear in a closed-door session on Capitol Hill, where she is expected to answer questions about the mechanics of U.S. security assistance for Ukraine and the fallout from the White House’s decision to withhold it for several months over the summer.
A career bureaucrat who has served in the Pentagon since 2001, Cooper is unlikely to have had many interactions with the president or his inner circle, but she would have played a role in overseeing much of the roughly $391 million in aid at issue in the probe.
Cooper is likely to have firsthand knowledge of an assessment described by Taylor and conducted by the Pentagon that gauged the effectiveness of U.S. aid to Ukraine after it was put on hold. The effort led to a recommendation that the aid be reinstated.
Cooper is also expected to detail interagency meetings in which senior officials discussed the need for aid and the best ways to convince Trump to resume it. The White House released the funds in September under bipartisan pressure from lawmakers.
— Elise Viebeck
7:45 a.m.: Charlie Dent chides fellow Republicans defending Trump
In a television interview, former Republican congressman Charlie Dent (Pa.) chided members of his party who are continuing to defend Trump’s actions regarding Ukraine.
“People ask me why I push back against this administration and the president,” he said during an appearance on CNN. “Because my nose is not a heat-seeking missile for the president’s backside. People have to stand up and say and talk clearly to the American people. This is wrong. I mean, you cannot use your official resources of the government to investigate your political opponent.”
7:30 a.m.: Trump lashes out again at ‘terrible’ Democrats
Trump lashed out at Democrats in a spate of tweets and retweets that stretched past midnight, with many focusing on the fact that Democrats are conducting depositions during the impeachment inquiry behind closed doors.
“The Witch Hunt continues!” Trump said in one tweet in which he shared House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) accusing Democrats of “using shady backroom tactics completely out of the public eye.”
“The Democrats Scam goes on and on! They Do Nothing!” Trump said in another tweet in which he shared Rep. Robert B. Aderholt (R-Ala.) complaining that the “impeachment process is literally being conducted in the basement of the Capitol, behind closed doors” and calling it “a mockery.”
In a tweet of his own, Rep. Bobby L. Rush (D-Ill.) characterized Trump’s missives as “rage-tweeting at midnight.”
Trump returned to Twitter shortly before dawn on Wednesday, picking up where he left off.
“It never ends. The Do Nothing Dems are terrible!” he said in one tweet.
In another, he asked, “Where is the Whistleblower?” and asserted, “The Do Nothing Dems case is DEAD!”
Trump then retweeted an assessment by former acting attorney general Matthew G. Whitaker: “This #impeachment is not a constitutional process but an unprecedented #Democrat attack on a #Republican @POTUS”
Democratic leaders have likened this stage of the impeachment inquiry to grand jury proceedings and have said they are conducting depositions behind closed doors so that witnesses are less likely to be aware of one another’s testimony.
Both Democrats and Republicans and their staff have participated in the questioning.
Democrats have said it may no longer be necessary for the whistleblower whose complaint sparked the inquiry to testify given firsthand witnesses who are corroborating what he relayed.
7:25 a.m.: Swalwell says Trump is getting ‘a fairer trial than he deserves’
Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), a member of the House Intelligence Committee, said Wednesday that Congress would give Trump “a fairer trial than he deserves.”
During an appearance on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Swalwell vouched for the credibility of Taylor after having witnessed his testimony on Tuesday.
“He had unimpeachable credibility and a detailed recall of the events that had happened,” Swalwell said.
He was then asked if what he heard amounts to an impeachable offense.
“We’re going to give the president a fairer trial than he deserves,” Swalwell said. “If this was Donald Trump justice, he’d be impeached by now. In America, even people who confess to crimes get a fair process.”
7:20 a.m.: Trump presides over a coarsening of American politics
Trump unleashed a gusher of foul language, referring to himself as a “son of a bitch,” claiming that Biden was a good vice president only because “he understood how to kiss Barack Obama’s ass,” and saying “hell” 18 times — and that was all in a single campaign rally.
At another rally the following night, Trump denigrated Biden’s son Hunter for his struggles with substance abuse and called him a “loser,” while also declaring that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) “hates the United States of America.”
And just this week, Trump declared that the House impeachment inquiry was a “lynching” — equating his political troubles with the systematic murders of African Americans by racist white mobs.
Trump, who long ago busted traditional standards for civil discourse and presidential behavior, has taken his harsh rhetoric and divisive tactics to a new level since impeachment proceedings began a month ago — and he appears to be pulling a significant part of the country along with him.
— Philip Rucker and Ashley Parker
6 a.m.: Majority says Trump pursued personal interests, not national interests, in Ukraine
A solid majority of registered voters believe Trump was pursuing his own personal interest in his dealings with Ukraine rather than the national interest, according to a new poll that also showed growing support for the Democrat-led impeachment inquiry.
In the Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday, 59 percent say Trump was pursuing his own personal interest, while 33 percent say he was pursuing the national interest.
In the poll, 55 percent voiced support for the impeachment inquiry, the highest level recorded in Quinnipiac surveys. Forty-three percent opposed the inquiry.
The poll showed that 48 percent of respondents support impeaching Trump and removing him from office, while 46 percent are opposed.
In other national polls conducted this month, support for removing Trump from office has ranged from 43 percent to 52 percent.
In the Quinnipiac poll, Trump’s job approval rating dipped below 40 percent for the first time since the impeachment inquiry began.
Thirty-eight percent say they approve of the job he is doing, while 58 percent disapprove.
5 a.m.: Pence attributes damaging testimony to ‘the swamp’
Vice President Pence blamed testimony damaging to Trump on “the swamp” during an interview broadcast Tuesday night on Fox News.
His appearance followed a day of damaging testimony by Taylor, the latest in a succession of diplomatic officials who have appeared on Capitol Hill in defiance of orders from the leadership of the State Department.
“What can be done about that?” asked host Laura Ingraham, who bemoaned “this permanent resistance trying to undo the results of an election.”
“We have some extraordinary men and women in our diplomatic corps who know their work and who are strong and are out fighting for America’s interest,” Pence said. “But there’s no question that when President Trump said we’re going to drain the swamp, that an awful lot of the swamp has been caught up in the State Department bureaucracy, and we’re just — we’re just going to keep fighting it. And we’re going to fight it with the truth.”
Pence went on to argue that Trump’s July call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky included “no quid pro quo” between military aid and investigating the Bidens.