In revised testimony, Sondland acknowledged telling one of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s advisers that resumption of U.S. aid was tied to an anti-corruption pledge sought by President Trump.
The acknowledgment was a reversal from his earlier testimony on Oct. 17. It puts Sondland in the middle of what national security officials saw as an attempt by the White House to leverage nearly $400 million in security assistance for investigations that could benefit Trump politically.
House Democrats continue to probe Trump’s efforts to press for an investigation into former vice president Joe Biden and his son Hunter, who sat on the board of a Ukrainian gas company.
Democrats are also seeking a deposition of acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney on Friday. He is not expected to comply with the request.
Meanwhile, Republicans are considering changes to their lineup on the House Intelligence Committee ahead of public hearings on the impeachment inquiry, including the installation of Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), a boisterous Trump supporter.
●Former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch testifies that she felt threatened by Trump’s comments about her.
●A U.S. judge fast-tracks a hearing over a House impeachment subpoena to former national security aide Charles Kupperman.
●Lev Parnas, an associate of Trump personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani, is willing to comply with the House impeachment inquiry, his attorney says.
9:25 p.m.: Roger Stone excused from court because of illness as jury selection for his trial continues
Roger Stone was excused from court during jury selection late Tuesday for his criminal trial on charges of lying to Congress and witness tampering after he complained of suffering food-poisoning-like symptoms.
Stone, 67, a longtime confidant of Trump, has pleaded not guilty to charges of lying to a House committee about efforts to gather information about Democratic emails that prosecutors say were stolen by Russia during the 2016 campaign and released through the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks.
Stone waived his constitutional right to be present in court for all phases of his trial before being excused Tuesday afternoon, after completing a morning session of jury selection. U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson of Washington got Stone’s assurance that he waived his right “knowingly, voluntarily and intentionally.”
8:45 p.m.: Justice Department trying to finish IG report on Russia probe before Thanksgiving
Justice Department officials are trying to release in the coming weeks a potentially explosive inspector general report about the FBI’s investigation into Trump’s 2016 campaign, according to multiple people familiar with the effort.
One person involved in the discussions said the target date for the report’s release has been Nov. 20, but another indicated that the Justice Department is unlikely to deliver it by then and that it is more likely to come after Thanksgiving because of the complicated and contentious mix of legal, classification and political issues at play.
The report’s findings will mark a major public test of Attorney General William P. Barr’s credibility, given his past suggestions of significant problems with the investigative decisions made by former FBI leaders involved in the case.
— Devlin Barrett, Robert Costa and Matt Zapotosky
8:20 p.m.: Senate impeachment trial to test chief justice who has tangled with Trump
Break out the umpire trope one more time: If Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. is called upon to preside over a Senate impeachment trial, it will be the most high-profile and likely unwelcome test of his skills as neutral arbiter.
Roberts steps into a precarious spot after a spat with Trump last year over the president’s derogatory remarks about federal judges and sharp criticism from both Democrats and Republicans in the Senate about Supreme Court rulings.
It is an ill-defined role, dictated by rules and precedents developed by the Senate. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) briefly described the process Tuesday and offered a prediction.
— Robert Barnes and Seung Min Kim
8:00 p.m.: Biden campaign says testimony reveals the ‘appalling depths’ to which Trump went to escape facing former vice president
Biden’s deputy campaign manager, Kate Bedingfield, issued a scathing statement Tuesday night, arguing that the Volker and Sondland transcripts reveal “even more about the appalling depths to which Donald Trump was willing to sink in order to escape facing Joe Biden next year — directly undermining American national security for the sake of his reelection.”
Sondland, Bedingfield said, “has now testified under oath that there was indeed a quid pro quo arranged by the president to extort a foreign country into spreading universally-debunked lies” about Biden.
Volker, she added, has become “the latest Republican to refute the conspiracy theory that Trump was attempting to blackmail Ukraine into spreading” about the former vice president’s communications with Ukraine.
7:10 p.m.: House likely to be in session week before Christmas, Hoyer says
In a conference call with Democratic lawmakers Tuesday, House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) said members “should plan for the possibility” of being in Washington the week before Christmas, according to a senior Democratic aide.
Among the issues that may come up at the time is a short-term resolution to keep the government funded. But depending on how long the investigators’ work takes, a House impeachment vote could also end up taking place that week.
6:40 p.m.: Hale, third-ranking U.S. diplomat, to testify Wednesday
David Hale, one of the State Department’s most senior diplomats who was alerted of attempts to denigrate the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, is expected to testify Wednesday before House impeachment investigators, according to two people familiar with the inquiry.
Hale is the third-highest-ranking official diplomat, just below Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the deputy secretary, John Sullivan.
Hale may be able to shed more light on Pompeo’s involvement with the decision not to issue a strong statement of support for Yovanovitch, as many diplomats had been urging.
The ambassador to Ukraine until earlier this year, Yovanovitch was the target of false rumors questioning her loyalty to Trump. According to testimony by previous witnesses, Yovanovitch had been outspoken against corruption in Ukraine, and allies of Trump wanted her out of the way amid a campaign to get Ukrainian officials to investigate the activities of Joe and Hunter Biden.
Philip Reeker, the assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, told investigators he had learned of the smear campaign against Yovanovitch as soon as he took over the job in March. According to a person familiar with his testimony, Reeker spoke directly with Hale, imploring the State Department to issue a strong statement of support for Yovanovitch. He later heard from staff members working for Hale that no statement would be issued.
Hale is a career ambassador, the highest honorific granted to only a handful of the highest-performing diplomats. He has been an ambassador to Pakistan, Lebanon and Jordan, and served in numerous U.S. missions around the Middle East and at the United Nations.
Jennifer Williams, a special adviser to the vice president for Europe and Russia, is expected to testify Thursday before House lawmakers, according to an official working on the impeachment inquiry.
— Carol Morello and Karoun Demirjian
Schiff called Volker denial related to alleged quid pro quo ‘remarkable’
A former top diplomat’s testimony that “there was no leverage implied” by Trump’s requests for political favors while the U.S. withheld military aid from Ukraine drew a notable reaction from a leader of the impeachment inquiry, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.).
In a prolonged back-and-forth with Schiff during a closed-door deposition, Volker emphasized his understanding that Ukraine’s top leadership did not learn that U.S. aid was on hold until weeks after Trump requested investigations of the Biden family.
Volker argued that the chronology undermines the alleged link between the two developments.
At one point, Schiff said Volker was “making this much more complicated than it has to be.”
“My question is very simple. You would agree that when Ukraine learned that the U.S. was withholding military assistance that it desperately needed, that the president’s request to investigate his opponent carried that much more weight and urgency?” Schiff asked.
Volker replied: “I can’t say that. I think that the sequence of events goes the other direction.”
Later, Schiff told Volker that he found it “remarkable, as a career diplomat, that you have difficultly acknowledging” that Ukraine learning its aid was on hold would “add additional urgency” to Trump’s requests.
Bolton was ‘very comfortable’ with the people running Trump’s Ukraine policy, Sondland says
Sondland testified that former national security adviser John Bolton was included on a phone call establishing that a group known as the “three amigos” would run U.S.-Ukraine policy and that Bolton and everyone else on the call “all felt very comfortable with the strategy moving forward.”
Bolton’s perspective on Trump’s Ukraine policy has been the source of interest for House impeachment investigators, who want him to appear for testimony on Thursday.
His former aide, Fiona Hill, said Bolton viewed the attempt to pressure Ukraine into launching investigations as a “drug deal” run by Sondland and Mulvaney that he didn’t want to be part of.
But in June, Sondland said he participated in a conference call with Bolton, in which Energy Secretary Rick Perry “laid out” that Sondland, Perry and Volker would help run Ukraine policy alongside the top U.S. diplomat to Ukraine, William B. Taylor Jr.
Sondland said that the participants also discussed that Trump wanted Giuliani to be included in the process. Though both Bolton and Sondland preferred that Giuliani not be involved, Sondland said, “We all felt very comfortable with the strategy moving forward, that we would all help on Ukraine.”
Sondland was also asked if he “liked” the nickname “three amigos” describing himself, Perry and Volker. His lawyer interjected: “We’ve all heard worse.”
4:35 p.m.: Graham won’t read transcripts, calls process ‘bunch of BS’
Graham, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, told reporters on Capitol Hill that he would not be reading the deposition transcripts.
“I’ve written the whole process off … I think this is a bunch of BS,” Graham said, according to a tweet from CBS News reporter Kathryn Watson.
Some Democrats immediately seized on Graham’s comment.
“The mounting evidence that Donald Trump abused his power is so obvious that the new Republican strategy is to close their eyes and plug their ears,” tweeted Rep. Dina Titus (D-Nev.).
“What happens when Republicans can’t come up with any legitimate defense to the abuse of power by @realDonaldTrump? They are simply going to stop reading the evidence,” Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) wrote in a tweet.
Graham’s refusal to read the deposition transcripts contradicts Trump’s calls for people to read the transcript of his call with the Ukrainian president, which the president says is “perfect.”
At Trump’s rally on Monday night, some supporters standing behind him even wore T-shirts the said: “Read the transcript!”
4:20 p.m.: Mulvaney news conference upended Sondland deposition
While lawmakers took a lunch break during their Oct. 17 deposition of Sondland, a striking scene played out in the White House briefing room, with Mulvaney publicly confirming that military aid was held back from Ukraine to force its government to cooperate with Trump’s request for an investigation.
The fallout was immediate inside the closed-door deposition, with Schiff immediately raising it as soon as the meeting reconvened: “Ambassador Sondland, during our lunch break, Chief of Staff Mulvaney gave a rather remarkable press conference. Did you have an opportunity to watch it?”
Sondland said he had not, but Schiff took the opportunity to remind Sondland of his own prepared statement: “Let me state clearly: Inviting a foreign government to undertake investigations for the purpose of influencing an upcoming U.S. election would be wrong. Withholding foreign aid in order to pressure a foreign government to take such steps would be wrong. I did not and would not ever participate in such undertakings. In my opinion, security aid to Ukraine was in our vital national interest and should not have been delayed for any reason.”
Sondland said he stood by his testimony, while several Republicans demanded to be provided transcripts of Mulvaney’s remarks or disputed Schiff’s characterization of what he had said.
Schiff asked Sondland whether “this would be the first you would be learning” that the military aid had been held up due to a desire to have Ukraine investigate the Democratic National Committee. Sondland said it was — if, in fact, Mulvaney had said that.
“And would you ever have countenanced the withholding of aid to secure Ukraine’s commitment to investigate the DNC?” Schiff asked.
“I believe I have testified … I would not have withheld aid for any reason,” Sondland said.
Hours later, Mulvaney retracted his statement at the news conference and denied any quid pro quo.
4 p.m.: Sondland said he tried to make sure “Rudy/the president” would like Ukrainian statement
Sondland said that in early August, he sought to ensure that if Ukraine’s president issued a statement about investigating the Bidens, it would pass muster with President Trump and his personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani.
At the time, Giuliani and U.S. officials were pressing Ukraine to issue a public statement about launching an investigation into the son of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden. But Sondland and others were concerned that unless they knew in advance what Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky planned to say, the statement might not be good enough for the White House.
“What I was concerned about was that Zelensky would say whatever he would say on live television and it still wouldn’t be good enough for Rudy/the president, and then we would be having to go back and tell Zelensky, sorry, not good enough, and that would be extremely embarrassing,” Sondland said.
To prevent that from happening, Sondland suggested that the Ukrainians provide a summary of what they planned to say, “so that it can be run by Mayor Giuliani first to nail down what it is exactly that the president was asking or Giuliani was asking versus what Zelensky was intending to say? I didn’t want there to be a false press statement made live that was inadequate in some way.”
The ambassador insisted that his principal concern in the matter was “trying to protect our reputation with the Ukrainians.”
3:50 p.m.: Volker concedes Burisma probe was all about serving Trump’s political interests
Volker repeatedly made the case to House lawmakers that he saw the push to get the Ukrainians to investigate former vice president Joe Biden as separate and distinct from requests to probe Burisma, the gas company that had hired Biden’s son to be on its board.
In a May 2019 tweet, Rudolph W. Giuliani made explicit the connection between Biden and Burisma. “New Pres of Ukraine still silent on investigation of Ukrainian interference in 2016 election and Biden bribery of President Poroshenko. Time for leadership [to] investigate both.”
But Volker said he didn’t remember that tweet and didn’t link Burisma and the Bidens until September, when he read the transcript of Trump’s call with the Ukrainian president. Volker said it became obvious in retrospect that Guiliani’s push for the Burisma investigation was an effort to serve Trump’s political interests and not the interests of the country. “In retrospect, when you see the transcript of the phone call and you hear what Rudy Giuliani has now said on television, that’s clear,” Volker said.
3:45 p.m.: White House claims Volker, Sondland transcripts show there’s ‘less evidence’ for impeachment than before
In a statement, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham played down the importance of the latest transcripts, arguing that they “show there is even less evidence for this illegitimate impeachment sham than previously thought.”
Grisham noted that Sondland “squarely states that he ‘did not know, (and still does not know) when, why or by whom the aid was suspended.’ He also said he ‘presumed’ there was a link to the aid — but cannot identify any solid source for that assumption.”
The testimony of Volker “confirms there could not have been a quid pro quo because the Ukrainians did not know about the military aid hold at the time,” Grisham said.
“No amount of salacious media-biased headlines, which are clearly designed to influence the narrative, change the fact that the president has done nothing wrong,” she said.
3:40 p.m.: Nunes and Schiff spar over Steele dossier
During the Sondland deposition, Rep. Devin Nunes (Calif.), the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, pressed the ambassador on his knowledge of the “Steele dossier” — a document compiled by a former British intelligence operative raising concerns about possible Russian influence over Trump that helped prompt a federal counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign, and in turn the domestic political saga that ensued.
Nunes’s line of questioning raised objections from Schiff. “We cannot accept that as an actual or factual representation,” he said, after Nunes claimed the origins of the dossier were in Ukraine. “You can certainly ask the witness whether he’s aware of any allegations.”
Nunes shot back: “I’ll ask the witness whatever I’d like to ask the witness.”
That prompted Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) to speak up: “Would you mind if we clarified your questions when it’s your hour?” he said, referring to Democrats’ questioning time.
Said Schiff, “When you’re chairing a committee, should that day ever come, you’re more than welcome to do so.”
Ultimately, in pressing Sondland about whether he knew about the dossier — and why it might explain why Trump has taken such a dim view of Ukraine — Nunes did not find a receptive audience for his suggestions.
Sondland, however, confirmed that Trump was suspicious of the Ukrainians: “He kept repeating it … they tried to take me down, they tried to take me down. He was not a fan of Ukraine, per se.”
3:25 p.m.: Sondland said NSC staffer Fiona Hill was furious at Trump
Sondland told lawmakers that Hill, a key former National Security Council staffer and witness in the congressional impeachment probe, was visibly angry when he visited her in her office in July, days before her departure.
“I was at the White House for some other unrelated reason and I dropped up and we sat and had coffee. And she was pretty upset about her role in the administration, about her superiors, about the president. She was sort of shaking. She was pretty mad,” Sondland said.
The two had a 15-20 minute chat, and Sondland said it was alarming because he’d never seen her that upset before. Among Hill’s complaints, according to Sondland, was that the White House national security team was poorly run. Hill was also “railing” against Trump, Bolton and the “disorder” within the NSC, Sondland said.
Later in his testimony, Sondland said the conversation with Hill “resonated with me because I’ve never seen anyone so upset.”
3:20 p.m.: Volker proposed adding references to Burisma, 2016 election to draft Zelensky statement
The former U.S. special envoy to Ukraine told an aide to Ukraine’s president in mid-August that a public statement announcing investigations should include specific mention of the 2016 presidential election and Burisma, the energy company where Hunter Biden once served as a board member, according to text messages released Tuesday by impeachment investigators.
On Aug. 12, Andrey Yermak, an aide to Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky, texted Volker a draft statement in which Zelensky would promise a “transparent and unbiased investigation” into the “problem of interference in the political processes of the United States.”
The next day, following a phone conversation between Yermak, Volker and Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, Volker sent Yermak another text message proposing an “insert at the end for the 2 key items.”
Volker proposed that Zelensky’s statement read: “We intend to initiate and complete a transparent and unbiased investigation of all available facts and episodes, including those involving Burisma and the 2016 U.S. elections, which in turn will prevent the recurrence of this problem in the future.”
In a deposition, Volker told impeachment investigators that Yermak expressed reservations about including the new language in the statement and that Volker “agreed with him.”
“They expressed discomfort with that, and I agreed with that and said I don’t think you should do it,” Volker said, according to a transcript of the interview.
3:15 p.m.: Sondland said he told the president about his coming testimony
Sondland said he told Trump in early October that he had been asked to testify to Congress about the administration’s dealings with the Ukraine.
Sondland said he ran into the president at a White House reception for the president of Finland.
“I said I’ve been asked to come in and testify,” Sondland told lawmakers. “And there were a lot of people around. He said, ‘good, go tell the truth.’ That was the extent of our conversation.”
The ambassador said he also had a brief phone conversation with the White House Counsel’s Office after a whistleblower’s report mentioning him came out. “I believe we had a short, fairly nonsubstantive 3, 4, 5-minute conversation. They wanted me to come in for an interview, and I declined until I spoke to my counsel, and I never did give that interview,” Sondland said.
2:30 p.m.: McConnell says if Senate trial held today, Trump would be acquitted
McConnell laid out the steps for a Senate trial on Tuesday but said that the outcome is probably already known.
“I will say, I’m pretty sure how it’s likely to end. If it were today, I don’t think there’s any question it would not lead to a removal,” McConnell told reporters. “So the question is how long does the Senate want to take, how long do the presidential candidates want to be here on the floor instead of Iowa and New Hampshire?”
McConnell refused to answer questions about the House impeachment inquiry, including whether the whistleblower who filed the complaint, or whistleblowers generally, deserve to have their identities protected.
But McConnell did explain how a Senate trial would be conducted, beginning with an agreement between McConnell and Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) on procedure. Then the Senate turns it over to the chief justice of the United States to proceed, as the senators sit in the chamber as the jury.
“We’re not allowed to speak when we’re in open session, which I suggested might be good therapy for some of our members,” McConnell said.
2:20 p.m.: Volker and Sondland testimony brings Trump’s Ukraine ‘scheme’ into clearer focus, committee chairs say
The leaders of the three committees involved in the impeachment inquiry said Tuesday that the newly released testimony from Sondland and Volker reveals the extent of efforts of Trump and Giuliani to “use the State Department to press Ukraine to announce investigations beneficial to the president’s personal and political interests.”
Those efforts began as early as May 2019, they said.
“Finally, with the release of the full production of text messages provided to the Committees by Ambassador Volker, and an additional declaration by Ambassador Sondland, the president’s scheme comes into clearer focus,” House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot L. Engel (D-N.Y.), House Intelligence Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) and acting Oversight Committee Chairwoman Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.) said in a joint statement.
The three chairs accused the State Department of “blanket stonewalling,” which they said will “only continue to build the case against the president for obstruction of Congress, especially in light of the damning evidentiary record the Committees have already gathered.”
2 p.m.: Top diplomat revises his earlier testimony, says U.S. aid to Ukraine was tied to public anti-corruption pledge
In excerpts of Gordon Sondland’s deposition, the ambassador to the European Union revised his earlier testimony. He said he acknowledged telling one of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s advisers in Warsaw that “resumption of U.S. aid would likely not occur until Ukraine provided the public anti-corruption statement that we had been discussing for many weeks.”
House impeachment investigators released the transcript on Tuesday.
Sondland’s reversal puts him in the middle of what national security officials saw as an attempt by the White House to leverage nearly $400 million in security assistance for investigations that could benefit the president politically.
Sondland had initially testified that he knew of only one quid pro quo: a coveted White House invitation for Ukraine’s new president if Ukraine would commit to launching investigations that could have impugned the reputation of Joe Biden.
But Taylor challenged Sondland’s claim that he did not know of a second quid pro quo involving the security aid.
Taylor testified that Sondland had conditioned the release of the funding on the investigations targeting Biden in a meeting in Poland in September.
Taylor said he understood that on Sept. 1, Sondland warned Zelensky aide Andrey Yermak that the security assistance “would not come” unless Zelensky committed to pursuing the investigation into Burisma, an energy company where Hunter Biden had held a board position.
“I was alarmed,” Taylor wrote, saying a national security official had told him that the demand was relayed in person by Sondland while the ambassador was traveling in Poland with Vice President Pence. “This was the first time I had heard that the security assistance … was conditioned on the investigation.”
In the footnote, Sondland said he “presumed” the funding was being held up because of the lack of the sought-after investigations.
1:35 p.m.: Testimony from two diplomats at heart of impeachment inquiry released
As part of the House’s push to make the impeachment probe public, House investigators have released testimony from closed-door depositions taken from Kurt Volker, the former U.S. special envoy for Ukraine, and Sondland.
Both are key witnesses in the probe. They were questioned last month about Trump pressuring Ukraine to dig up dirt on his political rivals.
Volker testified Oct. 3, while Sondland appeared Oct. 17.
Volker worked with Giuliani, the White House and Ukrainian officials to arrange the July 25 phone call between Trump and Zelensky and a potential White House visit by Zelensky while pushing for investigations into Trump’s political foes. Later, Volker would release revealing text messages of the exchanges.
Sondland sought to broker an agreement that would have included Ukraine announcing an investigation of the Bidens. He testified that Trump urged him to work with Giuliani on matters related to Ukraine.
Read Volker’s testimony here.
Read Sondland’s testimony here.
1:30 p.m.: House GOP likely to shuffle lineup on Intelligence panel
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy is planning to make a last-minute lineup change before open impeachment hearings of Trump, potentially placing at least one of several fierce Trump defenders on a key committee — a move that has the president’s backing.
Jordan, the top Republican on the House Oversight and Reform Committee and a veteran combatant in highly charged Capitol Hill investigations, has taken the leading role in closed-door depositions of key witnesses in the impeachment inquiry. But he is not a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, which Democrats last week voted to give the sole power to conduct public hearings.
According to three Republicans familiar with the talks but not authorized to comment publicly, McCarthy (R-Calif.) is considering placing Jordan on the panel, as well as others — such as Meadows and Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.), who have been involved in the depositions but do not sit on the Intelligence Committee.
— Mike DeBonis and Josh Dawsey
1:20 p.m.: Former defense secretary and GOP senator: Trump committed ‘an impeachable act’
William Cohen, a former Republican congressman on the House Judiciary Committee who supported President Richard Nixon’s impeachment, told the Associated Press that he thinks Trump’s actions are impeachable.
Cohen, who also served as defense secretary under President Bill Clinton, said if it’s true that Trump was withholding money from a foreign ally in exchange for an investigation into a political foe, then it’s “a form of bribery, a form of a high crime and misdemeanor,” the AP reported.
Trump pressed for investigation of the Bidens at a time when U.S. military aid was being withheld from Ukraine.
: House investigators seek deposition from Mulvaney
House impeachment investigators are seeking a deposition of Mulvaney on Friday, according to a letter released Tuesday.
The request targets the highest-ranking White House official to date in the impeachment inquiry. Mulvaney, a former Republican congressman, is unlikely to show.
“Based on evidence gathered in the impeachment inquiry and public reporting, we believe that you possess substantial firsthand knowledge and information relevant to the House’s impeachment inquiry,” the Democratic chairmen of the three committees conducting the inquiry wrote to Mulvaney.
The House investigators said they are interested in particular in Mulvaney’s involvement in an effort by Trump, Giuliani and others to withhold a White House meeting from the Ukrainian president and nearly $400 million in U.S. military aid at a time when Trump was pressing investigations that could benefit him politically.
12:05 p.m.: Senate Democrats press Defense inspector general for investigation
A group of Senate Democrats pressed the inspector general of the Defense Department on Friday to investigate the Trump administration’s withholding of nearly $400 million in military aid to Ukraine at a time when Trump was seeking an investigation of the Bidens.
“In light of the Department’s role in the delay of execution of the Ukraine funds and concerns that political pressure is being applied by other parts of the Executive Branch to prevent scrutiny of this delay, we continue to believe that an impartial investigation by your Office is important to get to the truth and ensure appropriate accountability,” the senators wrote in a letter to Glenn A. Fine, the acting inspector general.
Sen. Richard J. Durbin’s (Ill.) office said he and three other Democratic senators met with Fine last week to discuss the request, which was initially made more than a month ago.
11:55 a.m.: Schumer says calls for unmasking whistleblower should prompt ‘bipartisan outrage’
Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) chastised Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Trump for their calls to unmask the whistleblower whose complaint sparked the impeachment inquiry.
Schumer’s comments on the Senate floor followed Paul’s appearance with Trump Monday night at a campaign rally in Kentucky where Paul argued that the identity of the anonymous U.S. intelligence official should be made public.
“I cannot stress just how wrong this is,” Schumer said. “We have federal whistleblower laws designed to protect the identity and safety of patriotic Americans who come forward to stand up for the Constitution.”
“There should be bipartisan outrage at the public attempts by the president and a member of this body to expose the identity of a federal whistleblower,” Schumer continued. “You don’t get to determine when our whistleblower laws apply or they don’t, whether you like what the whistleblower said or you don’t.”
11:30 a.m.: Majority thinks better way to remove Trump is at ballot box
A majority of Americans thinks the better way to remove Trump from office is at the ballot box next year rather than through impeachment, according to a new poll.
A Monmouth University poll asked Americans if they agree with the statement that “if you want Trump out of office, it makes more sense to focus on next year’s election rather than go through an impeachment process now.”
Fifty-nine percent agree with that statement, while 34 percent disagree, the poll found.
Even among those who support removing Trump from office through impeachment, 39 percent agree that focusing on next year’s election provides a better opportunity to oust him, according to the poll.
The poll also found that only 24 percent of Americans think that the Republican-led Senate would vote to remove Trump from office in a trial if he is impeached by the Democratic-led House.
11 a.m. Pelosi highlights Schiff op-ed on impeachment inquiry
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) sought to draw attention to an op-ed by Schiff that argues that Trump’s call to Zelensky was “just one piece” of broader wrongdoing.
In a tweet, Pelosi referred to Schiff’s op-ed in USA Today as a “must read.”
“We now know that the call was just one piece of a larger operation to redirect our foreign policy to benefit Donald Trump’s personal and political interests, not the national interest,” Pelosi quoted Schiff as writing.
Trump and his Republican allies have sought to focus attention on the rough transcript of the call, arguing that Trump did nothing wrong because he does not explicitly condition the resumption of U.S. military aid on investigating the Bidens.
“In the past few weeks, and despite the White House’s continued obstruction, we have learned a great deal about what occurred from those with firsthand knowledge of the call, and those who witnessed the president’s actions preceding and following it,” Schiff wrote in the op-ed.
10:15 a.m.: Scalise discounts Yovanovitch as an ‘Obama holdover’
House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) sought Tuesday to discount testimony from Marie Yovanovitch, the ambassador to Ukraine recalled by Trump, calling the career diplomat an “Obama holdover.”
According to a transcript of her deposition released Monday, Yovanovitch testified that she was the target of a shadow campaign to orchestrate her removal that involved Giuliani and Ukrainian officials suspected of fostering corruption.
Yovanovitch said that she remained worried that she would be a target of retaliation by Trump, who referred to her in his July 25 phone call with Ukraine’s president as “bad news” and someone who was “going to go through some things.”
Yovanovitch, who was nominated as ambassador to Ukraine by then-President Barack Obama in 2016, has been a member of the Foreign Service since 1986 and previously served stints as ambassador to Armenia and Kyrgyzstan in both Democratic and Republican administrations.
“She was an Obama holdover, somebody who didn’t necessarily support President Trump’s agenda,” Scalise said during an appearance on Fox News. “She wasn’t elected to be commander in chief to set our foreign policy. Donald Trump was. … He brought in somebody that was going to carry out a much better foreign policy.”
9:45 a.m.: Gaetz advocates for moving several Republicans to Intelligence panel
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), a staunch Trump ally, said Republicans should move Jordan and other “effective questioners” to the Intelligence Committee in advance of the public hearings on impeachment.
Gaetz suggested two other lawmakers: Meadows and Zeldin.
“@GOPLeader has full discretion to put our most effective questioners on intel for this matter,” Gaetz tweeted. “If @Jim_Jordan @RepMarkMeadows & @RepLeeZeldin aren’t moved on in favor of Republicans who have skipped a majority of the testimony, then shame on us for failing @realDonaldTrump.”
8:30 a.m.: Jordan confirms possible role on Intelligence Committee
Jordan confirmed during a television appearance that he might be added to the House Intelligence Committee as it prepares to hold public hearings in the impeachment inquiry.
“We’ll see. That’s a call for Leader McCarthy,” he said in an interview on Fox News.
“I just want to help our team,” Jordan said. “I want to help the country see the truth here, that President Trump didn’t do anything wrong, and that what the Democrats are doing is partisan, it’s unfair and frankly it’s ridiculous.”
8:20 a.m.: Trump Jr. urges public to ‘read the transcript’
Donald Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son, urged the public to read the rough transcript of his father’s July call with Zelensky.
“My father put the transcript out. Read it,” Trump Jr. said during an appearance on “CBS This Morning.” “Everything else is opinion. Read the transcript and make your decision from there.”
The president has argued that the rough transcript of the call shows he did nothing wrong because he does not explicitly link a request to investigate the Bidens to U.S. military aid to Ukraine that was being withheld at the time.
During his CBS interview, Trump Jr. also took aim at Schiff for the way he is conducting the impeachment process and called him a “known hater” of his father.
“He’s being judge, jury and executioner,” Trump Jr. said.
8 a.m.: Lawyer for whistleblower highlights protections advocated by Grassley
Mark S. Zaid, a lawyer for the whistleblower whose complaint sparked the impeachment inquiry, suggested Tuesday that Republicans who have called for his client to testify publicly should follow the counsel of Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa).
A morning tweet by Zaid was aimed at two Republican senators: Graham and Paul.
“Perhaps @LindseyGrahamSC & @RandPaul should listen to their senior colleague,” Zaid tweeted. “He understands how & the need to protect #whistleblowers.”
Zaid attached a news story about comments made Monday by Grassley about whether the whistleblower should come forward.
“That’s strictly up to the whistleblower,” Grassley said. “A person like me that has advocated for whistleblowers for a long period of time, including this whistleblower, I want maximum protection for whistleblowers.”
7:45 a.m.: Trump shares previous commentary on impeachment
Trump went on Twitter on Tuesday morning to retweet some of his previous commentary on the impeachment inquiry.
Among other things, he advocated that the whistleblower whose complaint sparked the inquiry should testify publicly and complained that the media is focused on the inquiry at a time when the stock market is at an all-time high.
Trump’s retweets on impeachment came amid other tweets urging voters to back Republican candidates in elections Tuesday in Virginia, Kentucky and Louisiana.
7:15 a.m.: Volker, Sondland transcripts expected to be released
House investigators are expected to release transcripts Tuesday from the closed-door depositions on Oct. 3 of Volker and on Oct. 17 of Sondland.
Volker worked with Giuliani, the White House and Ukrainian officials to arrange the July 25 phone call between Trump and Zelensky and a potential White House visit by Zelensky while pushing for investigations into Trump political foes. Later, Volker would release revealing text messages of the exchanges.
Sondland sought to broker an agreement that would have included Ukraine announcing an investigation of the Bidens. He testified that Trump urged him to work with Giuliani on matters related to Ukraine.
On Monday, transcripts of two other witnesses were made public: Yovanovitch and former top State Department aide Michael McKinley.
7 a.m.: House GOP considers adding Jordan to Intelligence panel
House Republicans are considering installing Jordan, a fierce Trump ally, on the Intelligence Committee at a key juncture in the impeachment proceedings, according to two GOP aides familiar with the dynamics.
The move would have to be approved by the full House when it comes back into session next week.
The GOP aides spoke on the condition of anonymity to share private deliberations about the panel.
Jordan, the ranking Republican of the Oversight and Reform Committee, would provide a powerful voice for Republicans as the Intelligence Committee starts to hold public hearings, the aides said.
It remained unclear which Republican currently on the committee would be bumped if Jordan is added.
— Mike DeBonis and Rachael Bade
6:30 a.m.: Two more Trump administration officials plan to skip depositions
At the direction of the White House, two more Trump administration officials are planning to skip scheduled depositions Tuesday.
They are Michael Duffey, associate director for national security programs at the Office of Management and Budget, and Wells Griffith, an energy adviser at the National Security Council.
Duffey was allegedly involved in approving orders to hold back nearly $400 million in congressionally approved military aid for Ukraine. Griffith took part at a key meeting at the White House with Ukrainian officials in July.
6 a.m.: Schiff says ‘patriotic public servants’ will testify publicly
Schiff offered a preview of upcoming public hearings and defended the use of closed-door depositions in an op-ed published Tuesday by USA Today.
“Americans will hear directly from dedicated and patriotic public servants about how they became aware that U.S. foreign policy had been subverted for the president’s personal political interests, how they responded and how the president’s scheme jeopardizes our national security,” Schiff said in the piece.
He also noted that he had resisted calls for an impeachment inquiry for more than a year.
“But the Founders who devised our government understood that someday, a president might come to power who would fail to defend the Constitution or would sacrifice the country’s national security in favor of his own personal or political interests, and that Congress would need to consider such a remedy,” Schiff wrote. “Tragically, that time has come.”
5 a.m.: Williams, special adviser to Pence, expected to testify Thursday
Jennifer Williams, a special adviser to the vice president for Europe and Russia, is expected to testify Thursday before House lawmakers, according to an official working on the impeachment inquiry.
Williams, a career Foreign Service officer, is the first person from Vice President Pence’s office to testify before Congress. She is scheduled for the same day as Bolton, who has indicated that he will not attend the hearing.
Williams joined the vice president’s staff this spring and accompanied Pence in September to Warsaw, where he met with Zelensky to discuss nearly $400 million in military aid that had been mysteriously put on hold by Trump.
Williams’s testimony should offer the first insights into what Pence knew about the hold on the Ukrainian funds and efforts by Trump and Giuliani to pressure the Ukrainians to investigate Joe and Hunter Biden.
In his meeting with Zelensky, Pence conveyed the news that the U.S. aid to Ukraine was not going to be released amid concerns about the country’s lagging efforts to combat corruption. But officials close to Pence insist that he was unaware of Trump’s efforts to press Zelensky for damaging information about Biden and his son, who had served on the board of an obscure Ukrainian gas company when his father was overseeing U.S. policy on Ukraine.
Williams should also shed light on Pence’s decision not to attend Zelensky’s inauguration in May — an event White House officials had pushed to put on the vice president’s calendar — when Ukraine’s new leader was seeking recognition and support from Washington.
Hill, who served as the White House’s top expert on Russia and Ukraine until July, testified earlier that Trump ordered Pence to cancel his trip to Kyiv for the inauguration. A delegation led by Perry went in Pence’s place.