Speaking to reporters at the White House, Trump said Democrats are “trying to make us look as bad as possible” with the ongoing inquiry.
Closed-door depositions are scheduled to resume Saturday after a two-day pause with an appearance by a Foreign Service officer stationed in Kyiv, who is expected to testify on efforts of Giuliani and others to oust the previous U.S. ambassador to Ukraine.
●Justice Dept. investigation of Russia probe is criminal in nature, person familiar with case says.
White House restores trade benefits for Ukraine after more than two months of delay
The White House trade representative restored some of Ukraine’s trade privileges Friday evening, reinstating benefits that have been stalled since late August over concerns that President Trump would oppose any action that benefited Kyiv.
The move comes a day after The Washington Post reported on an exchange between Robert E. Lighthizer and then-national security adviser John Bolton. Bolton, according to people briefed on the matter, warned Lighthizer against restoring Ukraine’s ability to export some products to the United States on a duty-free basis.
The revelation of that exhortation was the first sign that the administration’s suspension of assistance to Ukraine extended beyond Trump’s withholding of $391 million in military aid and security assistance to the country — the action at the center of House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry.
In a statement, the White House said it suspended Ukraine’s ability to export some products to the United States on a duty-free basis in December 2017 amid long-standing concerns that the country was routinely violating U.S. intellectual property rights. It decided to reinstate roughly a third of them now, the statement said, because the Ukrainian government passed a law in 2018 that addressed U.S. concerns.
But the restoration would have come sooner, current and former administration officials said, if it weren’t for Bolton’s warning in August.
5:30 p.m.: Federal judge orders Mueller grand jury materials released to House Judiciary Committee in impeachment inquiry
A federal judge has ordered the Justice Department to release certain grand jury materials from former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation to the House Judiciary Committee as a part of its impeachment inquiry.
The opinion, from Chief U.S. District Judge Beryl A. Howell for the District of Columbia, directs the Justice Department to disclose the files by Wednesday.
The order comes after a July lawsuit from the Judiciary Committee, which sought a court order for the release of redacted portions of Mueller’s 448-page final report on the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, as well as grand jury materials cited in the report. The ruling said the House panel may also come back to court to seek additional material if needed.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) cheered the decision in a statement late Friday afternoon.
“The court’s thoughtful ruling recognizes that our impeachment inquiry fully comports with the Constitution and thoroughly rejects the spurious White House claims to the contrary,” Nadler said. “This grand jury information that the Administration has tried to block the House from seeing will be critical to our work.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) called the decision a “resounding rebuke to Attorney General Barr’s brazen effort to hold the President above the law.”
“This critical court ruling affirms Congress’s authority to expose the truth for the American people,” she said in a statement.
A Justice Department spokeswoman said: “We are reviewing the decision.”
4:50 p.m.: Federal judge says vote not necessary to launch impeachment inquiry
The federal judge also said Friday that the House is not required to hold a vote in order to make the impeachment inquiry formal, a ruling that undercuts one of the primary Republican arguments against the process.
In a 75-page opinion that gives the House Judiciary Committee access to redacted materials from the grand jury files of Robert S. Mueller III’s special counsel investigation, Howell said too that claims a vote is required to begin an inquiry are not supported by the Constitution.
“The precedential support cited for the ‘House resolution’ test is cherry-picked and incomplete,” Howell wrote, “and more significantly, this test has no textual support in the U.S. Constitution.”
Howell, a 2010 appointee of President Barack Obama, dealt a blow to the White House and its supporters in Congress, who have argued forcefully that House Democrats must hold a vote formalizing their impeachment inquiry.
Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) has been among Trump’s most vocal defenders in recent days, introducing a resolution that, among other criticisms, condemned Democrats for not holding a House debate and vote on the inquiry. Without that, Graham said, the process is “illegitimate.”
House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) dismissed that argument, saying in an interview on MSNBC that Republicans are “going to get a vote” — a vote on impeachment, he said.
3:45 p.m.: Trump compared impeachment inquiry to others who have faced criminal injustice
Trump, speaking at a criminal justice reform forum in South Carolina Friday afternoon, told the mostly African American audience that the impeachment inquiry he’s facing is like the criminal justice experiences of some in the room.
“You know I have my own experience. You see what’s going on with this witch hunt, a terrible thing going on in our country. It’s an investigation in search of a crime,” Trump said, addressing people who had served lengthy jail sentences for low-level drug offenses and other lesser crimes.
“In America, you are innocent until proven guilty, and we don’t have investigations in search of that crime,” Trump said, still referring to the House’s impeachment probe. “It’s a terrible thing: It hurts people very badly, and it divides the country.”
The president was about an hour into his remarks before he brought up his own troubles. He spoke about the importance of justice, fairness and due process before pivoting to a riff on President Abraham Lincoln.
“Honest Abe was something pretty special, Abraham Lincoln was a Republican, a president revered for what he did to abolish slavery,” Trump said. “I think we have to start bringing that up a little bit, people forget that.”
He then promised he would always “fight against abuses of power from any source.”
2 p.m.: GOP support for Graham resolution on impeachment grows
Graham said Friday that a resolution condemning the House impeachment inquiry now has 50 co-sponsors.
That’s up from 44 when he held a news conference Thursday afternoon to announce the effort, which is backed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
Three Republicans have yet to sign on: Sens. Susan Collins (Maine), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Mitt Romney (Utah). No Democrats are backing the measure.
1:10 p.m.: House investigators issue subpoenas to two OMB officials
House investigators issued subpoenas Friday to two Office of Management and Budget officials, one of whom said this week that neither “would not be complying with deposition requests.”
The three panels conducting the impeachment inquiry want Russell Vought, the acting director of the OMB, and Michael Duffey, the agency’s head of national security, to testify early next month.
Vought said in a tweet earlier this week that neither he nor Duffey would honor a request to appear voluntarily, citing a White House letter that argued the inquiry is illegitimate. He included the hashtag “#shamprocess” in his tweet.
At issue is whether the Trump administration withheld nearly $400 million in military aid to Ukraine as leverage to get it to investigate the president’s domestic political rivals.
A third subpoena was issued Friday to State Department counselor T. Ulrich Brechbuhl, a close confidant of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Duffey has been told to appear for a deposition on Nov. 5. Vought and Brechbuhl have been told to appear Nov. 6.
Letters to all three officials included a warning that their failure to appear “shall constitute evidence of obstruction of the House’s impeachment inquiry and may be used as an adverse inference against the President.”
12:40 p.m.: Trump defends Giuliani as ‘great crime fighter’
Trump said he wasn’t worried about growing criminal investigations around his personal attorney, Rudolph W. Giuliani, because “Rudy is a great gentleman. He’s been a great crime fighter, he looks for corruption wherever he goes.”
The president continued to vigorously defend Giuliani, adding that he’s “a fine man, he was the greatest mayor in the history of New York, and he’s been one of the greatest crime fighters and corruption fighters.”
“Rudy Giuliani is a good man,” Trump said.
There have been questions recently about whether Trump will keep Giuliani as his lawyer given Giuliani’s prominent role in seeking help from Ukraine in investigating the Bidens, which is at the center of the House’s impeachment inquiry.
Trump also derided William B. Taylor Jr., his acting ambassador to Ukraine, as a “Never Trumper.”
In testimony earlier this week, Taylor told lawmakers that the White House had threatened to withdraw much-needed military aid unless Kyiv announced investigations for Trump’s political benefit.
Speaking of Taylor’s hiring, Trump said, ‘Everyone makes mistakes.”
Trump also defended using the term “lynching” to describe the impeachment inquiry in a tweet earlier this week, saying Democrats had also used the term.
12:10 p.m.: Identity of whistleblower ‘irrelevant,’ his lawyers say
Lawyers representing the whistleblower whose complaint triggered the impeachment process wrote in an op-ed published Friday that the identity of the anonymous U.S. intelligence official is “irrelevant.”
Their piece in The Washington Post comes as Trump has continued to suggest that the whistleblower should be unmasked and testify before Congress. As recently as Thursday night, he took to Twitter to ask where the whistleblower was.
“As each allegation in the complaint is substantiated by new witnesses, the president and his supporters remain fanatically devoted to bringing our client into the spotlight. But the reality is that the identity of the whistleblower is irrelevant,” lawyers Andrew P. Bakaj and Mark S. Zaid wrote.
Some leading Democrats, who initially said the whistleblower should testify privately, have more recently come to adopt that view.
“For the record, we have notified both the House and Senate intelligence committees in a bipartisan manner that the whistleblower is willing to respond to any questions in writing and under oath,” the whistleblower’s lawyers wrote.
10:45 a.m.: In eulogy for Cummings, Hillary Clinton nods several times at his holding Trump accountable
In a eulogy delivered at the funeral of the late congressman Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.), Hillary Clinton recalled that Cummings, at the end of his life, said: “I am begging the American people to pay attention to what is going on, because if you want to have a democracy intact for your children and your children’s children, in generations yet unborn. We have got to guard this moment. This is our watch.”
Cummings was then, as Clinton was now, speaking about Trump and the House impeachment inquiry. Cummings was one of the chairmen leading that effort.
Clinton, the former secretary of state and 2016 Democratic presidential nominee, said Cummings had “little tolerance for those who put party above country or partisanship above truth.”
She received rousing applause when she compared the Maryland Democrat to the Old Testament prophet of the same name, who “stood against corrupt leadership of King Ahab and Queen Jezebel.”
10:30 a.m.: Inspectors general take issue with Justice Department opinion
The group representing government inspectors general said in a letter released Friday that the intelligence community whistleblower’s complaint about Trump’s phone call with his Ukrainian counterpart should have been turned over to Congress, and the Justice Department was wrong to block it.
The letter from the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency asserts that the intelligence community inspector general was right to want to get the complaint in lawmakers’ hands because it represented an “urgent concern,” and the Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel opinion that blocked its transmission was “wrong as a matter of law and policy.” Signed by dozens of inspectors general from an eclectic mix of government agencies, it asks Steven A. Engel, who heads the Office of Legal Counsel, to withdraw or modify the opinion.
“If intelligence community employees and contractors believe that independent IG determinations may be second guessed, effectively blocking the transmission of their concerns to Congress and raising questions about the protections afforded to them, they will lose confidence in this important reporting channel and their willingness to come forward with information will be chilled,” the group wrote.
The letter is likely to fuel allegations that the Justice Department sought to bury the complaint on specious legal grounds to protect the president. Justice Department officials have defended their handling of the matter, saying the complaint was more properly handled as a criminal referral because the complaint was about someone not inside the intelligence community.
Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel responded to the council’s letter Friday afternoon, asserting that they were not involved in setting policy, but rather, were charged with interpreting the law.
“We did precisely that in our recent opinion, which has been declassified and made public,” Engel wrote.
The office also disputed several points in the council’s letter.
10:15 a.m.: Conway says those who get parking tickets have more rights than Trump
White House counselor Kellyanne Conway continued the White House’s attacks on the Democrat-led impeachment inquiry on Friday as she spoke to reporters.
“You probably have more rights if you get a parking ticket or moving violation in terms of presenting evidence, disputing evidence, presenting witnesses, statements, challenging other people’s witnesses, cross-examining them,” Conway claimed.
Republicans have complained that Trump is not permitted to have attorneys present during closed-door depositions.
Democrats have compared this stage of the process to grand jury proceedings.
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.
“Frankly, Chief Justice Roberts will preside over the trial,” Hoyer said, referring to John G. Roberts Jr., who heads the U.S. Supreme Court. “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.”
10 a.m.: Lineup for next week’s impeachment inquiry depositions
A congressional aide confirmed the next slate of witnesses to appear before House investigators next week.
The committees will first hear on Monday from Charlie Kupperman, Trump’s deputy national security adviser, who worked alongside former national security adviser John Bolton.
Then on Tuesday, Alexander Vindman, European affairs director at the National Security Council will appear. Vindman was in the U.S. delegation who attended Zelensky’s inauguration ceremony in May.
And on Wednesday, Kathryn Wheelbarger, acting assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, will testify, probably about what the Pentagon knew about the White House’s decision to withhold military aid from Ukraine.
Finally, on Thursday, Tim Morrison, the National Security Council’s Europe and Eurasia director, will face questioning. Acting U.S. ambassador to Ukraine William B. Taylor Jr. told investigators that Morrison was on the July 25 call between Trump and Zelensky. Taylor said he spoke to Morrison several times about his concerns that Trump was using the aid as leverage to pressure Ukraine to investigate the Bidens.
9:45 a.m.: Kerry weighs in on activities at State Department
Former secretary of state John F. Kerry said he isn’t ready to draw conclusions about what transpired between Trump and Ukraine’s president but noted that “professional diplomats were seriously questioning what was going on,” according to excerpts of an interview tweeted by reporter Christiane Amanpour.
“They saw the politicization, the weaponization, of American aid,” he said, as quoted by Amanpour.
In the interview with the former top U.S. diplomat to air on both CNN International and PBS on Friday night, Kerry calls the evidence against Trump “more powerful already than what we saw in the impeachment of Richard Nixon.”
9:15 a.m.: Biden, Trump aides spar over roles of the men’s children
White House counselor Kellyanne Conway took a shot Friday at former vice president Joe Biden, as his and Trump’s adult children continued to be a flash point in the presidential campaign.
Hunter Biden’s role on the board of a Ukrainian gas company has been central to the impeachment drama. Trump pressed Ukraine to investigate the company, and Republicans more broadly have argued that Hunter Biden would not have had a position that paid $50,000 a month if his father hadn’t been the sitting vice president at the time.
In an interview with CBS’s “60 Minutes,” a portion of which aired Thursday, Joe Biden sought to turn the tables on Trump.
“I can just tell you this, that if I’m president, get elected president, my children are not going to have offices in the White House. My children are not going to sit in on Cabinet meetings,” Biden said.
Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, are both senior White House officials.
Conway responded to Biden during an appearance on Fox News on Friday.
“His kids are not going to have an office in the White House because he’s not going to have an office in the White House. He won’t be elected president, so it’s a moot point,” Conway said.
She went on to tout issues on which Kushner and Ivanka Trump have worked during their tenures at the White House, echoing a statement Thursday night from Trump’s campaign manager Brad Parscale.
During the Fox News interview, Conway also took issue with the process being used during the Democrat-led impeachment inquiry.
“We know what looks like a fair process, and this smacks of secretive and swampy to many in America,” she said.
8:55 a.m.: Trump shares Lou Dobbs’s assessment that inquiry is ‘illegitimate’
Trump went on Twitter on Friday morning to share the opinion of television commentator Lou Dobbs that the impeachment inquiry is “an illegitimate effort.”
“Donald J. Trump is an absolutely historic President already, in less than 3 years in office,” Trump tweeted, apparently quoting the Fox Business Network host. “His record is there for everyone to look at & to examine and compare. This is an illegitimate effort to overthrow a President, not a formal Impeachment inquiry.”
“Thank you Lou,” Trump added in his own words.
Trump’s tweet followed several on other topics, including his policy on Syria and the exit of Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) from the Democratic presidential race.
8:50 a. m.: Reader questions about the Trump impeachment inquiry, answered
Amber Phillips of The Fix tackles questions from Washington Post readers about the impeachment inquiry. Among them:
Could the Republican members of Congress who stormed into the secure room with their cellphones be censured for their conduct?
Is it possible to censure President Trump?
What is the process for writing articles of impeachment?
8:40 a.m.: Republicans seize on Gabbard’s criticism of closed-door depositions
Republicans seized Friday on a Democratic presidential contender’s criticism of closed-door depositions.
“The rebuke of Adam Schiff’s Kangaroo Court is bipartisan,” tweeted Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), a leading defender of Trump, referring to House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.).
Gaetz included a clip of an interview of Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) on Fox News on Thursday night in which she questioned the need to hold impeachment hearings in private.
“That inquiry needs to be done in a very narrowly focused way, and it must be done transparently. I don’t know what’s going on in those closed doors,” said Gabbard, a 2020 White House hopeful. “I think that the American people deserve to know exactly what the facts are, what the evidence is that’s being presented as this inquiry goes on.”
Schiff and other leading Democrats have likened the early stages of the impeachment inquiry to closed grand-jury proceedings. They say transcripts will be made available later and some witnesses will be recalled to provide public testimony.
Both Democratic and Republican lawmakers on three House committees have been participating in the questioning of witnesses.
8:15 a.m.: New poll shows Americans evenly divided over impeachment and removal
A poll released Friday morning shows Americans evenly divided over whether President Trump should be ousted from office.
Forty-nine percent think he should be impeached and removed from office, and 49 percent are against it, according to an NBC News-SurveyMonkey poll.
The poll also underscored sharp divisions along party lines.
Ninety percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents are against impeachment, and 89 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaners are in favor of impeachment.
Among independents who don’t lean toward either party, 53 percent favor impeachment and removal while 44 percent do not.
Support for impeachment and removal in other national polls released this month has ranged from 43 percent to 52 percent.
8 a.m.: How does this impeachment process compare with the Nixon and Clinton inquiries?
Amid persistent complaints by Republicans that the Democrat-led House is conducting an impeachment inquiry against all precedent and tradition, The Washington Post’s Fact Checker takes a look at how the proceedings compare to those involving Presidents Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton.
7:30 a.m.: GOP keeps focus on closed-door proceedings
Trump’s Republican allies continued to attack Democrats Friday for conducting closed-door dispositions in the impeachment inquiry.
“What are Schiff and House Democrats hiding from the American people with their secret hearings?” Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said in a tweet, referring to House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.). “It’s simple — their impeachment inquiry is just another partisan hoax, and they know it!”
7 a.m.: Trump highlights lack of testimony from whistleblower
Trump went on Twitter late on Thursday night to highlight the absence of congressional testimony from the whistleblower whose complaint sparked the impeachment inquiry. His tweet came as Democrats say such testimony from the anonymous U.S. intelligence official may be unnecessary given what they view as ample testimony from senior Trump administration officials to back his claims.
“Where is the Whistleblower, and why did he or she write such a fictitious and incorrect account of my phone call with the Ukrainian President?” Trump wrote in his tweet.
In fact, the account of the whistleblower closely tracked a rough transcript of the July call in which Trump pressed Zelensky to investigate the Bidens at a time when U.S. military aid to Ukraine was being withheld.
In his tweet, Trump lashed out at both the inspector general of the intelligence community, who deemed the complaint “urgent” and “credible,” and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.).
Trump repeated an unfounded claim that Schiff was an informant for the whistleblower.
“A giant Scam!” Trump concluded in his tweet.
He also retweeted a series of tweets from Republican allies, including one by Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.), who contended the impeachment inquiry “has produced NOTHING to impeach POTUS.”
6:30 a.m.: Trump wages battle against impeachment with a barrage of provocations, contradictions and exhortations
As the first full month of his impeachment investigation began to wane, Trump unleashed a rhetorical onslaught.
He announced that his Democratic rivals are “crazy,” “hate our country” and “want to destroy America.” He apparently called the House speaker “a third-grade politician” to her face, labeled his GOP critics “human scum,” knocked his first defense secretary as “the world’s most overrated general,” and argued that the Kurdish people of northern Syria “are no angels” as they faced Turkish invasion and a possible genocide.
While his lawyers argued presidents cannot be investigated for murder and threatened to sue CNN for claiming to produce journalism, Trump joked that he would defy the Constitution’s 22nd Amendment to stay in office 20 more years, while dismissing “that phony emoluments clause” in Article I, Section 9. He repeatedly implored Americans to vote for his former press secretary on “Dancing With the Stars,” mistakenly called his current defense secretary “Mark Esperanto,” instead of Esper, and threatened to get involved with a murder trial in Anguilla.