Schiff, meanwhile, is planning to release transcripts as early as next week of closed-door depositions in which witnesses have testified about Trump’s efforts to press Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate former vice president Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden.
●As Trump moves to bully witnesses and derail impeachment, Democrats see obstruction.
●Americans are sharply divided over whether to impeach and remove Trump from office, a Post-ABC poll finds.
9:30 p.m.: With the impeachment inquiry ramping up in Washington, Trump travels to Mississippi for a campaign rally
The day after the House voted to formalize the impeachment inquiry, Trump left Washington for the first of a three-stop red state campaign tour through the South — a respite after some of the most dire days of his presidency.
Before leaving for Tupelo, Miss., on Friday evening, Trump told reporters outside the White House, “I’m going right now to a great place, and we’re going to a wonderful, totally sold-out big deal.”
From the stage at BancorpSouth Arena, former home to the Mississippi Mudcats indoor football team, Trump recounted his chief accomplishments as president — the economy, the confirmation of conservative judges and the death of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi — before launching into invective against the impeachment investigation.
“The deranged impeachment witch hunt,” Trump said near the beginning of remarks that lasted longer than 80 minutes. “This is one I never thought I’d be involved in, the word impeachment. To me, it’s a dirty word, not a good word.”
He called the Thursday vote “an attack on democracy itself,” but also claimed that the Republicans are really strong — “the strongest I’ve ever seen them, the most unified I’ve ever seen them” — even as an increasing number of Republican senators consider acknowledging the existence of a quid pro quo.
Trump mocked the idea that he would behave inappropriately on a call with a foreign leader when “whoever the hell wants to listen, they listen.”
“Now, I’m an honest person anyway,” he said. “But do you think, when I’m making a call to a newly elected president of a country, that I would say something improper when I know there are so many people listening on the line?”
“They must think we’re nuts, to be honest,” Trump said of Democrats, whom he also accused of trying to “delegitimatize” the 2016 presidential election.
Trump endorsed Mississippi Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, who is in a tight gubernatorial race against Democrat Jim Hood. On Monday, Trump will hold a rally in Kentucky, and two days later, he’ll travel to Louisiana — both states with close, off-year gubernatorial elections.
8:30 p.m.: A growing number of Republican senators consider acknowledging Trump’s quid pro quo on Ukraine
A growing number of Senate Republicans are ready to acknowledge that Trump used U.S. military aid as leverage to force Ukraine to investigate Biden and his family as the president repeatedly denies a quid pro quo.
In this shift in strategy to defend Trump, these Republicans are insisting that the president’s action was not illegal and does not rise to the level of an impeachable offense as the Democratic-led House moves forward with the open phase of its probe.
But the shift among Senate Republicans could complicate the message coming from Trump as he furiously fights the claim that he had withheld U.S. aid from Ukraine to pressure it to dig up dirt on a political rival, even as an increasing number of Republicans wonder how long they can continue to argue that no quid pro quo was at play in the matter.
The pivot was the main topic during a private Senate GOP lunch on Wednesday, according to multiple people familiar with the session who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the meeting. Sen. John Neely Kennedy (R-La.) argued that there may have been a quid pro quo but said that the U.S. government often attaches conditions to foreign aid and that nothing was amiss in Trump’s doing so in the case of aid to Ukraine, these individuals said.
Inside the lunch, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), who ran against Trump in 2016, said a quid pro quo is not illegal unless there is “corrupt intent” and echoed Kennedy’s argument that such conditions are a tool of foreign policy.
— Rachael Bade and Seung Min Kim
7:30 p.m.: Energy Secretary Rick Perry expected to testify in impeachment inquiry
Energy Secretary Rick Perry, who told Trump he would resign by the end of the year, is expected to testify Wednesday in the House impeachment inquiry, said a person working on the investigation who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss closed-door conversations.
Perry, who previously refused to comply with a subpoena demanding documents pertaining to the probe, is set to appear on the same day as a slate of other high-level agency officials.
David Hale, the third-highest-ranking official in the State Department, and T. Ulrich Brechbuhl, the closest adviser to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, are also expected to appear.
Hale and Brechbuhl were the two State Department officials whom Philip Reeker, the diplomat in charge of U.S. policy for Europe, approached with concerns about a conspiracy-fueled smear campaign targeting U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, a person familiar with Reeker’s testimony told The Washington Post last week.
Russell Vought, acting director of the Office of Management and Budget, is also expected to appear, said the person working on the inquiry.
Vought said in a tweet last week that he would not 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.
6:30 p.m.: Trump says a strong economy means he can’t be impeached
As he left the White House for a campaign rally in Mississippi, Trump laid out his latest defense against potential impeachment: a strong economy.
“Well I can’t believe they’d impeach — you have the greatest economy in the history of our country, you have the highest stock market in the history of our country,” Trump told reporters in an impromptu, helicopter-side news conference.
He added later that, “You can’t impeach a president who did nothing wrong. You can’t impeach a president who has the greatest economy in the history of our nation. You can’t impeach a president that has unemployment numbers, historic, never have so many people been working.”
Trump then boasted of his “tremendous support” in the House.
“We even had Democrats go over to the Republican side yesterday of the House to vote,” Trump said, referring to Collin C. Peterson of Minnesota and Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey, who voted against the resolution establishing rules for the impeachment process.
Both lawmakers, some of the party’s most conservative in Congress, are in tight reelection races. They’ve each said the impeachment process would be too divisive.
Trump also continued his attacks on Schiff, saying his opening statement in a hearing with acting director of national intelligence Joseph Maguire — when he paraphrased Trump’s call with Zelensky — amounted to “a high crime and a misdemeanor.”
5:45 p.m.: White House official who heard Trump’s call with Ukraine leader said he was told to keep quiet
Several days after Trump’s phone call with the leader of Ukraine, a top White House lawyer instructed a senior national security official not to discuss his grave concerns about the leaders’ conversation with anyone outside the White House, according to three people familiar with the aide’s testimony.
Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman testified that he received this instruction from John Eisenberg, the top legal adviser for the National Security Council, after White House lawyers learned July 29 that a CIA employee had anonymously raised concerns about the Trump phone call, the sources said.
The directive from Eisenberg adds to an expanding list of moves by senior White House officials to contain, if not conceal, possible evidence of Trump’s attempt to pressure Zelensky to provide information that could be damaging to Biden.
The instruction to stay quiet came after White House officials had already discussed moving a rough transcript of the call into a highly classified computer server, and the instruction was delivered by Eisenberg, who would later be involved in the administration’s battle to keep an explosive whistleblower complaint about the call from being shared with Congress.
The interaction between Eisenberg and Vindman suggests there was a sense among some in the White House that Trump’s call with Zelinsky was not, as the president has repeatedly claimed, “perfect.” And it threatens to undercut Trump’s argument that the expanding impeachment inquiry is politically driven.
— Tom Hamburger, Carol D. Leonnig, Greg Miller and Ellen Nakashima
3:45 p.m.: Kellyanne Conway dismisses House vote on inquiry as too late
White House counselor Kellyanne Conway said Friday that although the House now voted on the public phase of the impeachment inquiry as Republicans wanted, “due process” can’t be applied retroactively.
“How are you going to put the genie back into the bottle?” Conway asked reporters outside the White House.
Conway criticized Pelosi for the vote. Referring to the two Democrats who voted against it the inquiry, Conway noted that the “opposition was bipartisan” while support was not.
Still, she conceded that Trump’s impeachment was “certainly possible.”
“I’m prepared for the president to be impeached, I’m prepared for votes not to go that way depending on what the evidence says,” she said.
Conway wouldn’t say whether the White House has a point person working on the impeachment inquiry defense, chastising reporters for expecting “a window seat into the inner workings of everything we do here.”
As for the president’s role, Conway said, “he’s done plenty, you don’t know what he’s doing inside on this.”
2:05 p.m.: Schiff seeks to frame impeachment debate
Schiff tried to succinctly frame the debate surrounding impeachment on Friday, as a busy week in the inquiry neared a close.
“Soon, the American people will see new evidence of the President’s abuse of power,” Schiff tweeted. “Every Member of Congress will have to answer: is soliciting foreign interference in our elections acceptable? The answer must be no. Americans decide American elections.”
1:45 p.m.: White House promotes GOP senator’s view that inquiry is a ‘full-fledged fishing expedition’
The White House used its official Twitter account on Friday to promote the view of Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) that the impeachment inquiry has become a “full-fledged fishing expedition.”
“@HouseDemocrats have been holding a closed-door investigation in @RepAdamSchiff’s basement,” Blackburn said in a tweet that was retweeted by the White House, referring to the secure room in the Capitol where House investigators have been conducting closed-door depositions. “After facing intense flak, their #KangarooCourt has now turned into a full-fledged fishing expedition to find any reason to mask that the American people duly elected @realDonaldTrump.”
12:30 p.m.: Pelosi doesn’t rule out including obstruction of Mueller’s probe in impeachment articles
Pelosi on Friday did not rule out including instances of Trump’s possible obstruction of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation into Russian election interference in articles of impeachment drafted by the House.
“There were 11 obstruction-of-justice provisions in the Mueller report,” Pelosi said during an interview on Bloomberg television. “Perhaps some of them will be part of this, but again that will be part of the inquiry to see where we go.”
Her comments come amid a debate among Democrats about whether to keep the inquiry narrowly focused on the Ukraine controversy or to include other episodes of what Democrats see as abuse of power by Trump.
In his report, Mueller offered no conclusion on whether Trump obstructed his investigation, but detailed multiple episodes of possible obstruction, including Trump directing his top White House lawyer at the time to pursue Mueller’s firing.
During her interview on Bloomberg’s “Balance of Power,” Pelosi said the Ukraine controversy “is what changed everything for me” in the calculation about whether to open an impeachment inquiry.
“We have no choice,” Pelosi said. “We took an oath to protect and defend our democracy, and that is what [Trump] has made an assault on. And if Republicans have a higher loyalty to the president than their oath of office, that’s their problem.”
Pelosi said Democratic leaders have not made a decision about whether to impeach Trump.
11:45 a.m.: Grisham says White House expects impeachment
White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said Friday that the White House is “prepared for an impeachment to happen.”
Appearing on Fox News, Grisham said she doesn’t consider it a “foregone conclusion” that the Democrat-led House will vote to impeach Trump in coming months.
“That’s something we’re expecting, but we can always hope the Dems will come to their senses,” Grisham said. “They know the president has nothing wrong.”
During a roundtable with Bloomberg reporters and editors Friday, Pelosi said, “We have not made any decisions on if the president will be impeached.”
If Trump is impeached by the House, a trial would be held in the Republican-led Senate.
During her Fox News interview, Grisham went on to call the impeachment inquiry “a sham” and “a kangaroo court.”
She said “serious consideration” is being given to Trump’s idea, expressed in an interview with the Washington Examiner on Thursday, of holding a “fireside chat” on live television in which he would read the transcript of his call with Zelensky.
“That was his idea,” Grisham said. “He’s got nothing to hide. I think that’s the point that’s not getting across.”
She said the timing of a potential “fireside chat” is not clear.
11:40 a.m.: As Trump moves to bully witnesses and derail impeachment, Democrats see obstruction
Trump has sought to intimidate witnesses in the impeachment inquiry, attacking them as “Never Trumpers” and badgering an anonymous whistleblower. He has directed the White House to withhold documents and block testimony requested by Congress. And he has labored to publicly discredit the investigation as a “scam” overseen by “a totally compromised kangaroo court.”
To the Democratic leaders directing the impeachment proceedings, Trump’s actions to stymie their probe into his conduct with Ukraine add up to another likely article of impeachment: Obstruction.
The centerpiece of House Democrats’ eventual impeachment charges is widely expected to be Trump’s alleged abuse of power over Ukraine. But obstruction of Congress is now all but certain to be introduced as well, according to multiple Democratic lawmakers and aides, just as it was five decades ago when the House Judiciary Committee voted for articles of impeachment against President Richard Nixon.
— Philip Rucker, Rachael Bade and Rosalind S. Helderman
10:30 a.m.: Kudlow says he agrees with Trump that the impeachment process hurts stock market
White House National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow said Friday that he agrees with Trump that the impeachment inquiry is bad for the stock market.
Kudlow was asked whether he agreed with the sentiment expressed by Trump in a Thursday tweet in which he said the “Impeachment Hoax is hurting our Stock Market.”
“Yes, I think the impeachment story in fits and starts has hurt the stock market,” Kudlow told reporters at the White House. “I think President Trump is right.”
Kudlow said many investors “do not want to see a change in President Trump’s economic policies,” adding that they like tax cuts and rolling back regulations.
If Trump were to be removed from office, Vice President Pence would be elevated to the presidency.
Kudlow also defended Trump’s July call with Zelensky in which he pressed for an investigation of the Bidens at a time when U.S. military aid to Ukraine was being withheld.
“Having read that transcript of the phone call probably a dozen times, it just seems clear to me that there’s no problem with it,” Kudlow said. “There’s no legal problem, there’s no impeachable problem.”
10 a.m.: Trump calls Pelosi and Schiff ‘corrupt politicians’
Trump called Pelosi and Schiff “corrupt politicians” amid his latest flurry of tweets regarding the accelerating impeachment inquiry.
In one tweet, Trump quoted a guest on Fox News, former U.S. attorney Guy Lewis, saying the impeachment process is “very unfair.”
“The public is watching and seeing for themselves how unfair this process is,” Trump added in his own words. “Corrupt politicians, Pelosi and Schiff, are trying to take down the Republican Party. It will never happen, we will take back the House!”
9:20 a.m. Trump allies point to new jobs report
As Trump touted the latest jobs report, some of his Republican allies pointed to the numbers to argue against impeachment.
“While the Do Nothing Democrats waste all their time on a sham impeachment scheme, @realDonaldTrump is actually delivering results for hardworking American families,” House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) said in a tweet in which he noted that the addition of 128,000 jobs in October exceeded expectations.
Vice President Pence echoed Scalise’s sentiment about 30 minutes later.
“While the Democrats spent all of their time over the last month on a partisan impeachment sham, our Administration has been working for the American people!” he tweeted.
“This is far greater than expectations. USA ROCKS!” Trump said in a tweet of his own.
The report showed that the United States added 128,000 jobs in October as the jobless rate ticked up to 3.6 percent, a performance that outperformed analyst forecasts during a month in which a strike by autoworkers at General Motors, one of the largest private employers strikes in recent years, weighed on the economy.
9:05 a.m.: Pelosi says impeachment isn’t about Trump’s personality or politics
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) shared a clip of her appearance Thursday night on “The Late Show” during which she discussed the impeachment process with host Stephen Colbert.
“Our inquiry into @realDonaldTrump’s betrayal of his oath of office is deadly serious,” Pelosi wrote in a tweet that included the clip. “This isn’t about his personality or his politics. It is about our duty to #DefendOurDemocracy.”
8:35 a.m.: Jeffries dubs House Republicans “#CoverUpCaucus”
Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), an ally of Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) in House leadership, on Friday chided Republicans for voting en bloc against the resolution setting the parameters for the next stage of the impeachment inquiry.
“Every single House Republican voted against the rule of the law,” he tweeted. “What are they hiding from the American people?”
Jeffries added a hashtag: “#CoverUpCaucus”
8:30 a.m.: Trump shares assessments of conservative allies
Trump returned to Twitter on Friday morning to share assessments of the impeachment inquiry from conservative allies in Congress and the media.
That included a two-week old tweet from Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.).
“I’ve sat through EVERY interview so far of this so called ‘impeachment inquiry’ & the President hasn’t done anything to possibly impeach him for. NOTHING,” Zeldin said in his Oct. 18 tweet, which Trump retweeted Friday morning.
In another tweet, Trump quoted talk show host Mark Levin calling the impeachment inquiry “the biggest, most disgusting scandal.”
“[I]t’s all on the Democrat Party that has highjacked the Impeachment process, our tax dollars, the House of Representatives, to push their 2020 Election. That’s what’s going on,” Levin said, according to Trump’s tweet.
“Cannot be said any better!” Trump added in his own words.
7:50 a.m.: Scalise complains of ‘Soviet-style justice’ in Democratic rules
House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) pushed back Friday on a rule adopted by Democrats that would allow House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) to impose restrictions on Trump’s lawyers once impeachment proceedings begin before his panel.
Under a three-page summary of procedural safeguards for the president released earlier this week, the president’s lawyer is given the right to attend Judiciary Committee hearings and question witnesses who testify.
But Democrats included a significant caveat: Should Trump “unlawfully refuse” to comply with subpoenas issued by the investigating committees, Nadler would “have the discretion to impose appropriate remedies” — including the denial of Trump’s requests to call or question witnesses.
“I equate it to Soviet-style justice,” Scalise said during an interview on Fox News’s “Fox & Friends.” “This is the United States of America. We deserve better than this.”
Scalise also echoed Trump’s contention that Democrats are trying to impeach him because they can’t beat him at the ballot box.
“They’re infatuated with impeaching the president because they’re afraid he’ll get reelected,” Scalise said.
7 a.m.: GOP continues to tout unity on resolution vote
Republicans are continuing to tout their unity in voting against a House resolution Thursday that set the parameters for the next stage of the impeachment process.
Early Friday morning, Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel shared a tweet by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) relaying that “100% voted AGAINST impeachment sham.”
Two Democrats joined Republicans in voting against the resolution, which passed 232 to 196. Rep. Justin Amash (I-Mich.), who left the Republican Party in July, joined most Democrats in voting for the resolution.
“This president will be in power for only a short time, but excusing his misbehavior will forever tarnish your name,” Amash tweeted before the vote. “To my Republican colleagues: Step outside your media and social bubble. History will not look kindly on disingenuous, frivolous, and false defenses of this man.”
7 a.m.: Trump to rally faithful in Mississippi
Trump is headed Friday to Mississippi, a state he won overwhelming in 2016, to hold a “Keep America Great Rally.” Other recent campaign rallies have provided an opportunity for Trump to air grievances about the Democratic-led impeachment inquiry.
Trump is traveling to Tupelo to support Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, the GOP nominee for governor on the ballot on Tuesday.
Reeves is in a surprisingly tight race against Jim Hood, the state’s attorney general since 2003 and the only Democrat who holds statewide office in Mississippi.
6:30 a.m.: Americans sharply divided over whether to impeach and remove Trump from office, Post-ABC poll finds
As the House moves to a new, more public phase of its impeachment inquiry, the country is sharply divided along partisan lines over whether Trump should be impeached and removed from office, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll.
The poll finds that 49 percent of Americans say the president should be impeached and removed from office, while 47 percent say he should not. That finding is almost identical to support for impeachment in a poll by The Post and the Schar School taken earlier in October.
Among Democrats, support for removing the president from office is overwhelming, with 82 percent in favor and 13 percent opposed. Among Republicans, it is almost the reverse, with 82 percent opposed and 18 percent in favor, even as the president’s approval rating reached a new low among members of his party. Independents are closely divided, with 47 percent favoring removal and 49 percent opposed.
— Dan Balz and Emily Guskin
6:15 a.m.: Pelosi calls impeachment probe ‘very sad’ but necessary
Stephen Colbert had one question for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) about Trump’s conversation with the Ukrainian president that has now become central to an impeachment inquiry: “When you heard what was said in that telephone call, what was your first reaction?”
“I prayed for the United States of America,” Pelosi said on “The Late Show” on Thursday night. “We don’t want to impeach a president. We don’t want the reality that a president has done something that is in violation of the Constitution.”
In an interview hours after the House passed guidelines for the public portion of the impeachment inquiry, Pelosi deflected criticisms from GOP leaders and the White House about a process she argued is “very sad” but necessary.
“This is a sad thing for our country,” Pelosi said. “We do this prayerfully, with great seriousness. Nobody goes to Congress to impeach a president.”
6 a.m. : Schiff once wanted to be a screenwriter. Can he give the Trump presidency a Hollywood ending?
When Schiff was a young assistant U.S. attorney living in Los Angeles, he did what everyone does when they move to Hollywood. He wrote a screenplay.
He spent hours at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, reading the scripts for “Silence of the Lambs” and “Witness” in the library (it was the ’90s). He leaned on his courtroom experience, thinking back on snippets of dialogue during trials as he typed out a crime thriller. The prosecutor was the hero, naturally. He called it “Minotaur,” and, if you ask Schiff, it was pretty good.
“I got an offer of an option from Nick Wechsler,” Schiff said, leaning back in a leather chair inside his Capitol Hill office late last month. “He produced ‘The Player,’ remember that movie with Tim Robbins?”
Schiff turned down the offer, he said. He doesn’t remember it being a huge sum of money, and anyway, he was getting into a different kind of storytelling business: politics.
Read more of The Post’s profile of Schiff here.
5:30 a.m.: Trump wants a modern-day ‘fireside chat,’ says he’ll read the rough transcript of the Ukraine call on live TV
A week into President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s first term, the Great Depression was underway and banks were closing fast. Roosevelt took to the airwaves. His goal: to communicate his agenda and calm a reeling public. The tactic became one of Roosevelt’s trademarks, dubbed his “fireside chats.”
On Thursday, hours after the contentious House vote backing the impeachment inquiry, Trump suggested a fireside chat of his own.
“This is over a phone call that is a good call,” Trump said, referring to the investigation’s origins in an interview with the Washington Examiner. “At some point, I’m going to sit down, perhaps as a fireside chat on live television, and I will read the transcript of the call, because people have to hear it. When you read it, it’s a straight call.”
In the 80-minute Oval Office interview, Trump told Examiner reporters and editors that he would remain defiant in the face of the inquiry.
“You are setting a terrible precedent for other presidents,” Trump said, responding to a question about whether he would honor congressional document requests and subpoenas.
He told the outlet his defense strategy would rely on the White House’s account of his call with Zelensky. There would be T-shirts, too, he said, bearing the new slogan: “Read the transcript.”
5 a.m.: Schiff says witness transcripts could be released as early as next week
Schiff said Thursday night that he expects to begin publicly releasing transcripts from closed-door depositions as early next week.
Schiff’s comments came during an appearance on MSNBC in which he noted that the resolution passed by the full House earlier Thursday allows him to release the transcripts.
“I would expect that process to begin as early as next week,” Schiff told host Rachel Maddow.