But debate over the fairness of the inquiry is continuing unabated, with Trump praising House Republicans for storming a secure room where depositions are being held and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) accusing GOP lawmakers of “covering up” for a president abusing his power.
Democrats, meanwhile, are looking to make the proceedings public by mid-November as they build a case about Trump pressing Ukraine to investigate former vice president Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden while U.S. military aid to the country was being withheld.
●House Democrats look to take the impeachment probe public as soon as mid-November.
●Republicans storm a closed-door impeachment hearing as the escalating Ukraine scandal threatens Trump.
●U.S. ambassador to E.U. “does not recall” threatening Ukraine over funding, attorney says.
5:00 p.m.: White House delayed Ukraine trade decision in August, a signal that U.S. suspension of cooperation extended beyond security funds
The White House’s trade representative in late August withdrew a recommendation to restore some of Ukraine’s trade privileges after John Bolton, then-national security adviser, warned him that Trump probably would oppose any action that benefited the government in Kyiv, according to people briefed on the matter.
The warning to Robert E. Lighthizer came as Trump was withholding $391 million in military aid and security assistance from Ukraine.
The August exchange between Bolton and Lighthizer over the trade matter represents the first indication that the administration’s suspension of assistance to Ukraine extended beyond the congressionally authorized military aid and security assistance to other government programs.
It is not clear whether Trump directed Bolton to intervene over Ukraine’s trade privileges or was even aware of the discussion.
Read more here.
— David J. Lynch and Josh Dawsey
4:45 p.m.: Nine Republican senators have not co-sponsored Graham’s resolution
Graham’s resolution condemning the House impeachment inquiry had 44 co-sponsors as of late Thursday afternoon — but nine Senate Republicans are not yet on board.
Two of the nine — Sens. Susan Collins (Maine) and Cory Gardner (Colo.) — are facing tough reelection battles in states Trump lost in 2016.
Three others — Sens. Lamar Alexander (Tenn.), Johnny Isakson (Ga.) and Mike Enzi (Wyo.) — are retiring.
The other four are Sens. Mitt Romney (Utah), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Dan Sullivan (Alaska) and Rob Portman (Ohio).
3:45 p.m.: Graham says Trump should follow the Clinton model on impeachment messaging
At a Capitol news conference, Graham told reporters that his resolution, which has 44 Republican co-sponsors, sends “a strong signal to our House colleagues that you’re off script here.”
But he was not joined at the podium by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who instead issued a written statement announcing the introduction of the measure.
Graham acknowledged that the White House has frequently changed course on its impeachment message. “Have you noticed?” he joked to a reporter who brought up the issue. The South Carolina Republican said that he has spoken with acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and that “they’re working on getting a messaging team together.” Graham also publicly counseled the White House to follow what he described as the Clinton model of impeachment counter-messaging.
“What he did is he had a team that was organized, had legal minds that could understand what was being said versus the legal proceedings in question,” Graham said of President Bill Clinton’s impeachment in 1998. “And they were on message every day.”
“President Clinton defended himself, but he never stopped being president,” Graham said. “And I think one of the reasons that he survived is that the public may not have liked what the president had done but believed that he was still able to do his job. And as he governed during impeachment, I think that was probably the single best thing he did, quite frankly. … I’m hoping that will become the model here.”
2:20 p.m.: Fox legal analyst says Democrats’ handling of impeachment inquiry is ‘consistent with the rules’
In an interview on “Fox & Friends,” Fox legal analyst Andrew Napolitano said that while he understands House Republicans are “frustrated” with the impeachment inquiry, their critiques of the process are off the mark because Democrats are simply following rules that were enacted by the Republican majority in 2015.
“I read the House rules,” Napolitano said. “And as frustrating as it may be to have these hearings going on behind closed doors — the hearings over which Congressman Schiff is presiding — they are consistent with the rules.”
When co-host Brian Kilmeade interjected, claiming that Democrats “can make up any rules they want,” Napolitano said that wasn’t the case.
“Well, they can’t change the rules; they follow the rules,” Napolitano said, noting that the rules were last written in January 2015, signed by then-House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) and enacted by the Republican House majority.
“The rules say that this level of inquiry, this initial level of inquiry, can be done in secret. … Secret evidence doesn’t work in this world, so eventually there will be a public presentation of this, at which lawyers for the president can cross-examine these people and challenge them,” Napolitano said. “This is like presenting a case to a grand jury, which is never done in public.”
1 p.m.: Scalise calls impeachment inquiry a ‘Soviet-style star chamber’
House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) called the impeachment inquiry a “Soviet-style star chamber” Thursday and lashed out at House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff, the California Democrat who is leading it.
“We’ve had enough of Adam Schiff running this Soviet-style star chamber, because only in the Soviet Union would you have a process where they are trying to impeach a duly elected president in secret, behind closed doors,” Scalise said on SiriusXM’s “Breitbart News Daily.” “You can’t go in, the press can’t go in, and voting members of Congress can’t go in. About 75 percent of the entire Congress, who was duly elected, is not allowed in that room.”
Scalise’s comments came a day after he and other Republicans stormed the secure room where depositions are taking place, prompting a five-hour delay in testimony from a Pentagon official.
“We wanted to go in and see what was happening,” Scalise said. “We didn’t try to go in to disrupt things. We wanted to actually just go look.”
Under House rules, only members of the three committees leading the inquiry are allowed to participate.
Schiff and other Democrats have compared the process to that of a grand jury and said the private depositions are necessary so that witnesses don’t coordinate testimony.
Both Democrats and Republicans are allowed to participate in the questioning.
12:10 p.m.: Navarro dodges question on whether he asked China to investigate the Bidens
In an interview with CNN’s Jim Sciutto, White House trade adviser Peter Navarro repeatedly declined to say whether he asked Chinese officials to investigate the Bidens as part of the ongoing U.S.-China trade negotiations.
“I’m asking you a direct question,” Sciutto said. “Did you bring up investigating the Bidens as part of the negotiations?”
Navarro demurred, saying, “It’s not an appropriate question, in my judgment.”
Earlier in the interview, Navarro told Sciutto: “You don’t have a right to know what happens behind closed doors in the administration.”
In an exchange with reporters on the South Lawn of the White House earlier this month, Trump himself publicly called on China to investigate the Bidens.
11:45 a.m.: Pompeo says State will do what it’s ‘required to do under the law’ when asked about court order for documents
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Thursday that the State Department would do “everything we’re required to do under the law” when asked whether he would comply with a court order to begin releasing Ukraine-related documents in 30 days.
“I saw a headline. I haven’t seen the ruling,” Pompeo said in an interview with the Wichita Eagle and Kansas City Star. “But I can assure the American people that their State Department always complies with everything we’re required to do under the law. There’s no reason to think we would do any different there.”
The decision on Wednesday, by U.S. District Judge Christopher R. “Casey” Cooper in Washington, came in a public records lawsuit filed Oct. 1 by a government watchdog group, American Oversight.
In May, the group asked the State Department for records related to alleged efforts by Trump and his administration to pressure Ukraine to investigate the Bidens. Using the Freedom of Information Act, the group sought communications, such as those between Pompeo and Trump personal attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani.
The State Department has been resisting similar requests by House investigators.
Pompeo, a former Kansas congressman, was in Wichita for a workforce development event with Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter and White House adviser.
Earlier in the interview, Pompeo bristled when asked about the impeachment inquiry.
“Look, I came here today to talk about workforce development,” he said when questioned about how he had responded to a diplomat’s concern about withholding military aid to Ukraine.
“I came here today to talk about the great things that are going on here in Kansas,” Pompeo continued. “This inquiry will proceed. Congress will perform its oversight function, the State Department will continue to do all of the things that we’re required to do under the law and the Constitution.”
11:15 a.m.: Graham accuses Democrats of ‘creating a shadow process’
In an interview with The Washington Post, Graham said his resolution will criticize the Democratic-led impeachment inquiry, a process he argued is “out of line with what we have done in the past and denies the chance for the president to defend himself.”
“They’re creating a shadow process that, I think, is just denying basic fairness. And we’re urging them to go back to what worked before,” Graham said.
The South Carolina Republican dismissed the fact that House Republicans conducted closed-door depositions during the 1998 impeachment of Bill Clinton, saying, “I don’t even think this is really close. … If you’ve got a good case, show it.”
Graham is facing increasing pressure from Trump’s allies, who have used the #WheresLindsey hashtag on Twitter in recent days to call on Graham to more strongly defend the president from impeachment.
Graham acknowledged Thursday that the White House has asked him to call some people to testify before his own committee, although he added, “That makes no sense to me.”
“I’m going to do it the way I want to do it,” Graham said. “I’m not going to turn the Senate into a circus. I can understand the frustration the Republicans have with the process in the House.”
It was unclear whether Graham’s statement meant that he would no longer call Trump’s personal attorney, Rudolph W. Giuliani, to testify before his committee. Graham had previously said he would call Giuliani to testify about “corruption and other improprieties involving Ukraine.” At the time, Giuliani had replied that he was “very interested” in the offer but needed to sort out the potential legal questions of doing so.
Graham said Thursday that he respects the role of the Intelligence Committee in investigating the whistleblower complaint, and that his own Senate Judiciary Committee is going to focus on the Justice Department inspector general’s report.
— Paul Kane
11 a.m.: Schumer accuses Republicans of hypocrisy
Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Thursday accused Republicans of hypocrisy for demanding more openness in the impeachment inquiry while not pressing the Trump administration to comply with subpoenas from House investigations that it has rebuffed for documents.
“If the White House and its congressional allies truly wanted an open and transparent process, the White House would provide the documents Congress requested, it wouldn’t defy subpoenas, it wouldn’t forbid executive branch employees from testifying,” Schumer said on the Senate floor. “You can’t just flip a switch: one day suppress evidence, and the next argue for a transparent and open process. The hypocrisy, the self-dealing, self-interested dealing, is self-evident.”
His comments came a day after the Republican storming of the secure room.
“Rather than stomp their feet in a fit of staged political theater, House Republicans — all Republicans — should join in getting all the facts,” Schumer said. “That’s what we ask for in this chamber. We’re not prejudging the facts. We may be like a jury. But we want the facts to come out. Not some, but all.”
10:55 a.m.: Rep. Lieu mocks Republican protest of closed-door depositions
Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) mocked House Republicans for storming the secure room where depositions are held, suggesting that the tactic had accomplished nothing.
“Summary of what went down yesterday.
“They charged into the SCIF!
“They came back out to talk to the press.
“They went back in to have pizza.
“Then the 3 Committees continued the important work of uncovering the truth,” Lieu tweeted.
10:30 a.m.: Trump thanks House Republicans for being ‘tough’
After urging House Republicans earlier this week to “get tough and fight,” Trump took to Twitter on Thursday to praise them for being “tough, smart and understanding.”
His tweet followed the storming by Republicans on Wednesday of the secure room where closed-door depositions are being held during the impeachment inquiry.
“Thank you to House Republicans for being tough, smart, and understanding in detail the greatest Witch Hunt in American History,” Trump tweeted. “It has been going on since long before I even got Elected (the Insurance Policy!). A total Scam!”
10 a.m.: Graham, McConnell to introduce resolution condemning House impeachment inquiry
Graham plans a 3 p.m. news conference to discuss a resolution condemning the House impeachment inquiry that he plans to file with McConnell.
Graham previewed his action this week during an interview on Fox News.
“This resolution puts the Senate on record condemning the House,” he told host Sean Hannity. “Here’s the point of the resolution: Any impeachment vote based on this process, to me, is illegitimate, is unconstitutional and should be dismissed in the Senate without a trial.”
McConnell confirmed his participation to reporters at the Capitol.
“We’re going to have more to say on that later,” he said. “Obviously, I support it. We’ll get back to you on the timing.”
9:30 a.m.: Pelosi accuses House Republicans of ‘covering up’ for Trump
Pelosi on Thursday accused House Republicans of “covering up for a president who abuses his power.”
In a tweet, Pelosi pointed to news coverage of a House bill passed Wednesday largely along party lines that seeks to provide additional protections of the country’s elections from foreign interference.
Among other things, the bill would require candidates and political committees to notify the FBI if a foreign power offers campaign help. It also includes stricter rules for political advertisements on social media.
Republicans have argued that the bill raises concerns about free speech and is unenforceable.
“We took action to protect our elections from foreign interference,” Pelosi wrote. “House Republicans, once again, voted against that — choosing instead to continue covering up for a president who abuses his power. It’s outrageous.”
9:15 a.m.: Hoyer says Trump will have opportunity to defend himself at Senate trial
House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) said Thursday that Trump will have ample opportunity to defend himself once a trial is held in the Senate.
Hoyer, during an appearance on MSNBC, responded to Republican critics of the House impeachment process who have argued that it is unfair to Trump.
“Frankly, [Supreme Court] Chief Justice Roberts will preside over the trial,” Hoyer said. “That’s in America … where you get the chance to call witnesses, to present evidence, to cross-examine the people who are asserting wrongdoing. That’s when you get that chance, not now.”
Hoyer also dismissed GOP critics who have called for a vote to formally open the impeachment inquiry.
“They’re going to get a vote. They’re going to get a vote on the floor. That’s the only way impeachment can happen,” Hoyer said.
8:45 a.m.: Grisham says Trump ‘very supportive’ of GOP storming hearing room
Grisham said Thursday that Trump was “very supportive” of the Republicans who stormed the secure room where depositions are being taken and prompted a five-hour delay Wednesday in the testimony from a witness.
“It was great, and the point was well taken,” Grisham said during an appearance on Fox News’s “Fox & Friends.” “I think this showed full support for the president.”
The move came after Trump urged congressional Republicans this week to “get tougher and fight” against his impeachment.
Under House rules, only members of the three committees involved in the impeachment inquiry are allowed to attend the closed-door depositions. Both Democrats and Republicans who are on the committee are being given opportunities to question witnesses, but Republicans have argued that the process should be more open.
Their protest Wednesday was intended to convey that message.
“He was happy to see it happen,” Grisham said of Trump. “He was very supportive of it, as he should be.”
During the interview, Grisham also said Trump did not regret using the term “human scum” to describe Republicans who’ve opposed his presidency known as “Never Trumpers.”
“No, no he shouldn’t,” she said. “The people who are against him and have been against him and working against him since the day he took office are just that. … They deserve strong language like that.”
8:15 a.m.: Swalwell says ‘very key witnesses’ in inquiry have talked to one another
Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), a member of the Intelligence Committee, said Thursday that House investigators have “direct evidence” that “very key witnesses” in the impeachment inquiry have talked to another about their testimony.
Swalwell made the comments during an interview on CNN in which he defended the use of closed-door depositions, which he described as “a first pass” at gathering information that will later become public.
“We have evidence, very recently, that there are witnesses in our case who are talking to each other,” Swalwell said. “That’s exactly what we don’t want to happen until we have that preliminary investigation. We don’t want them to tailor their testimony to each other. We don’t want them to manufacture alibis. So we’re trying to protect the information as much as we can before we bring it forward to the public.”
Pressed for elaboration, Swalwell said more could be said in a few weeks.
“We have direct evidence that very key witnesses in this case have talked to each other about their testimony,” he said.
8 a.m.: House investigators pause depositions in honor of Cummings
House investigators have postponed additional depositions until Saturday in honor of Cummings.
The Maryland Democrat will lie in state in the Capitol on Thursday ahead of a funeral Friday in Baltimore, where scheduled speakers include former presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, as well as former secretary of state Hillary Clinton and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
Depositions resume Saturday with testimony from Philip Reeker, acting assistant secretary for European and Eurasian affairs, according to an official working on the impeachment inquiry.
On Monday, the three House committees conducting the inquiry expect 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.
7:20 a.m.: RNC chairwoman says impeaching Trump is ‘all Democrats have wanted from the start’
Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel on Thursday sought to portray Democrats as having had designs on impeaching Trump long before the Ukraine scandal emerged.
In a tweet, she quoted House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) saying, “None of us came to Congress to impeach a president.”
“Oh really?” McDaniel wrote in her own words, before citing two Democrats who called for Trump’s impeachment long ago, Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) and Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.). Tlaib generated headlines in January after she expressed her desire to see Trump impeached on her first day in office, using a profane term.
“This is all Democrats have wanted from the start!” McDaniel wrote in her tweet.
Pelosi resisted calls from many in the Democratic caucus to formally launch impeachment proceedings until the details of the Ukraine controversy came to light.
7 a.m.: Democrats eye Bolton as key witness
As Democrats prepare to hold public hearings in the impeachment inquiry, many are eyeing Bolton as a key witness.
Bolton, who was ousted last month, made known around the White House his visceral opposition to the campaign to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, which was directed in part by Giuliani.
Testimony from Bolton could be particularly devastating for the White House, though it remains unclear whether Democrats would subpoena him or when. After Bolton resigned, he told The Washington Post that he would “have my say in due course.”
— Rachael Bade and Karoun Demirjian
6:30 a.m.: Trump returns to Twitter for another post-midnight airing of grievances
For the second day in a row, Trump turned to Twitter after midnight to air grievances about the impeachment process, calling it a “Witch Hunt” and lashing out at the “Do Nothing Dems” who are leading it.
Trump also highlighted the move by Republicans on Wednesday to storm the secure room at the Capitol where testimony is being taken from witnesses in the impeachment inquiry. That included a retweet of House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), who participated in the protest, which delayed a deposition for five hours.
“If people scatter out of a room when you walk in & turn on the light, it begs the question: What are they hiding in there?” Scalise tweeted. “That’s exactly what happened when my colleagues & I entered the backroom Schiff is trying to impeach @realDonaldTrump from to get the truth. Unacceptable!”
6:15 a.m.: House Republicans seek public testimony from whistleblower
House Republicans are calling for public testimony from the whistleblower whose complaint sparked the inquiry.
In a letter Wednesday to House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), three leading Republicans expressed concerns that he had backed away from publicly announced plans to have the whistleblower appear before House investigators behind closed doors.
Schiff has since said it may not be necessary to hear from the anonymous U.S. intelligence official because other witnesses have corroborated information in his complaint.
“As the so-called impeachment inquiry gathers information that contradicts the employee’s allegations, we ask that you arrange for the Committees to receive public testimony from the employee and all individuals he or she relied upon in formulating the complaint,” says the letter, signed by Reps. Jim Jordan (Ohio), Devin Nunes (Calif.) and Michael T. McCaul (Tex.).
They are the top Republicans, respectively, on the Oversight and Reform, Intelligence and Foreign Affairs committees.
6 a.m.: Sanders expressed hope for ‘a fair trial’ in the Republican-led Senate
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) expressed hope Wednesday night that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) would “do the right thing” and allow “a fair trial” in the Republican-led Senate if Trump is impeached by the Democrat-led House.
Appearing on ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” Sanders, a Democratic presidential hopeful, said he thinks there is “a strong case for impeachment.”
“I think the House will impeach him,” Sanders said. “I hope they do. The trial comes to the Senate. And I hope, I just hope, that the Republican leadership allows for a fair trial, and lets the American people and the Senate make their decision.”
“I hope McConnell will do the right thing,” Sanders added.
“He’s never done the right thing before, though,” Kimmel interjected.
“Right,” Sanders said. “Maybe I’m being overly optimistic here, but bottom line is you have a president in my view who is probably the most corrupt president in the modern history of this country.”
Sanders said that many of his Republican colleagues have been “intimidated and frightened by this president.”
“With very few exceptions, they don’t have the guts to stand up and tell the truth about what’s going on,” he said. “I hope that in this process, some of these Republicans understand that the future of this country is more important than just Donald Trump.”