Roger Stone Is Found Guilty in Trial That Revived Trump-Russia Saga - The New York Times
Fri, 15 Nov 2019 15:31
Mr. Stone, a longtime informal adviser to President Trump, obstructed one of Congress's Russia investigations and lied to lawmakers.
Roger J. Stone Jr. was found guilty on Friday of obstructing a congressional inquiry into Russia's 2016 election interference. Credit... Doug Mills/The New York Times Nov. 15, 2019Updated 3:12 p.m. ET
WASHINGTON '-- Roger J. Stone Jr., a former aide and longtime friend of President Trump, was found guilty on Friday of obstructing a congressional investigation into Russia's interference in the 2016 election in what prosecutors said was an effort to protect Mr. Trump.
Mr. Stone, 67, was charged with lying to the House Intelligence Committee, trying to block the testimony of another potential witness and concealing reams of evidence from investigators. Prosecutors claimed he tried to thwart the committee's work because the truth would have ''looked terrible'' for both the president and his campaign. He was found guilty of all seven counts he was charged with.
The government built its case over the past week with testimony from a friend of Mr. Stone and two former Trump campaign officials, buttressed by hundreds of exhibits that exposed Mr. Stone's disdain for congressional and criminal investigators. Confronted with his lies under oath by one associate, prosecutors said, Mr. Stone wrote back: ''No one cares.'' They asked the jurors to deliver a verdict proving him wrong.
The evidence showed that in the months leading up to the 2016 election, Mr. Stone strove to obtain emails that Russia had stolen from Democratic computers and funneled to WikiLeaks, which released them at strategic moments timed to damage Hillary Clinton, Mr. Trump's Democratic opponent. Mr. Stone briefed the Trump campaign about whatever he had picked up about WikiLeaks' plans ''every chance he got,'' Jonathan Kravis, a lead prosecutor, said, but denied to congressional investigators that he did so.
The trial revived the saga of Russia's efforts to bolster Mr. Trump's chances of winning the White House at the same time that House impeachment investigators are scrutinizing Mr. Trump's efforts to pressure Ukraine, a foreign ally, for help with his 2020 election.
Unfolding in a courtroom just blocks from the impeachment hearing room on Capitol Hill, the case resurrected a narrative that dogged Mr. Trump's presidency until the two-year investigation by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, ended last spring. Mr. Stone was accused of lying to the same House intelligence panel that is now leading the impeachment inquiry.
The jury of nine women and three men deliberated for about seven hours over two days before convicting Mr. Stone, a 40-year friend of Mr. Trump and well-known political provocateur. Mr. Stone listened impassively to the verdict, eyebrows arched and one hand in his pocket. He and his lawyers, still under a gag order imposed by the judge months ago, left the courthouse without comment.
Within minutes of the verdict, Mr. Trump protested on Twitter that it was unfair. ''So they now convict Roger Stone of lying and want to jail him for many years to come,'' Mr. Trump wrote, though his own administration's Justice Department waged the prosecution.
''Didn't they lie?,'' he added before naming nearly a dozen favorite targets of his ire and suggesting they had lied without punishment, including Hillary Clinton, Mr. Mueller, the former F.B.I. director James B. Comey and Representative Adam B. Schiff, who heads the House Intelligence Committee.
Testimony by Rick Gates, Mr. Trump's deputy campaign chairman, called into question Mr. Trump's answers to queries from Mr. Mueller. Mr. Trump, who agreed to respond to questions only in writing rather than sit for an interview, said he could not recall the specifics of any of 21 conversations he had with Mr. Stone in the six months before the election. Mr. Stone told House investigators that he never discussed his conversations with an intermediary to WikiLeaks with anyone involved in the Trump campaign.
But in one of the trial's most revealing moments, Mr. Gates recounted a July 31, 2016, phone call between Mr. Stone and Mr. Trump, just days after WikiLeaks had released a trove of emails embarrassing the Clinton campaign. As soon as he hung up with Mr. Stone, Mr. Gates testified, Mr. Trump declared that ''more information'' was coming, an apparent reference to future releases from WikiLeaks that would rattle his political rival.
Mr. Stone, 67, joins a notable list of former Trump aides convicted of lying to federal authorities. It includes Mr. Gates; Michael T. Flynn, the former national security adviser; Michael D. Cohen, the president's longtime personal lawyer and fixer, and George Papadopoulos, a former Trump campaign aide. And his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who was also once Mr. Stone's partner in a political consulting firm, was convicted of a string of financial crimes and is serving a seven-and-a-half-year prison term.
The most serious charge against Mr. Stone, witness tampering, carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. The other charges carry a maximum of five years each. But the punishment for a first-time offender like Mr. Stone will almost certainly be much lighter.
Working against Mr. Stone could be his multiple run-ins earlier this year with Judge Amy Berman Jackson, who is overseeing the case and will preside over sentencing, set for Feb. 6. After a series of infractions, including posting a photo of the judge with an image of cross-hairs next to her head on Instagram in February, she banned him from social media.
After the verdict was announced, prosecutors asked Judge Jackson to order Mr. Stone into custody, saying he had violated her gag order by making comments the previous day in a broadcast by Infowars, a far-right website run by Alex Jones. But the judge rejected their motion, saying that in recent months Mr. Stone had complied with her orders and proof of a new infraction was not entirely clear.
In a video posted to Infowars, titled ''Roger's Emergency Message To America,'' Mr. Jones said that Mr. Stone had told him that he expected to be convicted and wanted Mr. Trump to pardon him. ''I appeal to the president to pardon me, because to do so would be an action that would show these corrupt courts that they're not going to get away with persecuting people for their free speech or for the crime of getting the president elected,'' he said Mr. Stone told him.
Mr. Stone's lawyers argued that the prosecution's case was based on speculation and false assumptions about Mr. Stone's motives. They pointed out that Mr. Gates had no knowledge about what was said during the phone call between Mr. Stone and Mr. Trump. Bruce S. Rogow, the lead defense lawyer, told jurors that Mr. Stone had no reason to lie in order to protect the president nearly a year after Mr. Trump had won the election, and that Mr. Stone had simply confined his answers to the strict parameters of the committee's inquiry.
Besides Mr. Gates, the trial featured testimony from another well-known former Trump aide, Stephen K. Bannon, who led Mr. Trump's campaign through its final three months and served as a top White House adviser early in the administration. He and Mr. Gates both testified that Mr. Stone portrayed himself as the campaign's link to WikiLeaks, even though he and his lawyers now assert that was mere braggadocio.
Much of the trial revolved around interactions between Mr. Stone and Randy Credico, a New York radio host and comedian who Mr. Stone identified to congressional investigators as his intermediary with Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks. Prosecutors said that Mr. Stone pressured Mr. Credico not to cooperate with the House committee because his account would have exposed Mr. Stone's lies.
During their tortuous 17-year friendship, Mr. Credico said, Mr. Stone repeatedly played him as a ''patsy,'' including publicly blaming him for his own misdeeds. He said he misidentified him to the committee as his go-between with WikiLeaks in the summer of 2016 despite his repeated pleas to Mr. Stone to tell the truth.
In fact, prosecutors said, in late July of that year, Mr. Stone had dispatched another associate, an author and conspiracy theorist named Jerome Corsi, to ''get to Assange.'' In one of the mysteries of the trial, prosecutors never called Mr. Corsi to testify. Asked why, Mr. Corsi replied in a text message: ''Ask them '-- I don't know.''
Text messages and other evidence suggested that Mr. Stone alternately flattered and threatened Mr. Credico in an effort to ward off his testimony. At one point, he pretended that he had written a letter to the House committee characterizing Mr. Credico as highly talented and successful.
He repeatedly urged Mr. Credico to ''Do a Frank Pentangeli,'' referring to a character in the movie ''The Godfather: Part II'' who gave false testimony during a Senate hearing on organized crime. Borrowing a quote from Richard Nixon to a top aide during the Watergate cover-up, Mr. Stone texted Mr. Credico in late 2017: ''Stonewall it. Plead the fifth. Anything to save the plan.''
If he refused to go along, Mr. Credico testified, Mr. Stone threatened to retaliate against him and Margaret Ratner Kunstler, a lawyer for Mr. Assange and one of Mr. Credico's dearest friends. Prosecutors described Ms. Kunstler as a particularly effective ''pressure point'' with Mr. Credico, an unmarried man with no children and a 34-year history of alcohol abuse.
Mr. Stone ''knew that when the time came he would be able to bend Randy Credico until he broke,'' Mr. Kravis, the prosecutor, told the jurors in his closing arguments. Mr. Credico ultimately asserted his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination and refused to testify to the House committee.
Prosecutors argued that jurors had black-and-white proof that Mr. Stone had lied to the House committee when he said he had no electronic communications with Mr. Credico, describing him as ''not an email guy.'' In fact, they exchanged more than 1,500 emails and text messages between June 2016 and September 2017, including 72 text messages on the day of Mr. Stone's testimony.
Because Mr. Stone misled them, prosecutors said, lawmakers failed to pursue promising leads and arrived at inaccurate conclusions in their final report on Russia's election interference. For instance, they said, the committee never discerned the full scope of contacts between Mr. Stone and the Trump campaign about WikiLeaks.
Impeachment inquiry against Donald Trump - Wikipedia
Sun, 17 Nov 2019 07:01
Previous efforts for impeachment Efforts to impeach President Trump have been made by various people and groups, and talk of impeachment began even before Trump took office. Formal efforts were initiated by Representatives Al Green and Brad Sherman, both Democrats (D), in 2017, the first year of his presidency. A December 2017 resolution of impeachment failed in the then''Republican-led House by a 58''364 vote margin.
Democrats gained control of the House following the 2018 elections and launched multiple investigations into Trump's actions and finances. On January 17, 2019, new accusations involving Trump surfaced, claiming he instructed his long-time lawyer, Michael Cohen, to lie under oath surrounding Trump's involvement with the Russian government to erect a Trump Tower in Moscow. This also sparked requests for an investigation and for the president to "resign or be impeached" should such claims be substantiated.
The Mueller Report, released on April 18, 2019, reached no conclusion as to whether Trump had committed criminal obstruction of justice. Special Counsel Robert Mueller strongly hinted that it was up to Congress to make such a determination. Congressional support for an impeachment inquiry increased as a result. Speaker Nancy Pelosi initially resisted calls for impeachment. In May 2019, she indicated that Trump's continued actions, which she characterized as obstruction of justice and refusal to honor congressional subpoenas, might make an impeachment inquiry necessary. An increasing number of House Democrats and a then-Republican, Justin Amash (who later became an independent), were requesting such an inquiry.
As of September 2019[update], the following resolutions had been introduced in the 116th Congress regarding possible impeachment:
H. Res. 13 (alleging interference with the Mueller investigation) introduced on January 3, 2019, by Representative Sherman (D-California)'--immediately referred to the Judiciary Committee and to Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties on February 4, 2019.H. Res. 257 (which would launch an impeachment inquiry with no specific allegations) introduced on March 27, 2019, by Representative Rashida Tlaib (D-Michigan)'--referred to the Rules Committee.H. Res. 396 (which names 19 areas of inquiry) introduced on May 22, 2019, by Representative Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas)'--referred to the Rules Committee.H. Res. 498 (which alleges Trump is unfit for office due to racist comments) introduced on July 17, 2019, by Representative Green (D-Texas)'--a privileged resolution which was blocked from proceeding by a vote of 332''95.Fewer than 20 Representatives in the House supported impeachment by January 2019, but this number grew after the Mueller Report was released in April and after Mueller testified in July, up to around 140 Representatives before the Trump''Ukraine scandal began.
Trump''Ukraine scandal Whistleblower complaint dated August 12, 2019, regarding a July 25 phone conversation between Trump and Zelensky
Memorandum of the call between Trump and Zelensky released by the White House on September 25, 2019
From May to August 2019, Trump and his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani pressed the Ukrainian government to investigate business activities of Hunter Biden, the son of 2020 presidential candidate Joe Biden, who had taken a board seat on Ukrainian natural gas company Burisma Holdings. Despite the allegations, as of September 2019, there has been no evidence produced of any wrongdoing by the Bidens. As early as May 2019, Amos Hochstein, a former diplomat and a member of Naftogaz's supervisory board, alerted the National Security Council (NSC) staff that Rudy Giuliani and Gordon Sondland's pressure tactics, carried out in part by two Florida businessmen and associates of Giuliani, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, were rattling Ukraine president Zelensky.
The whistleblower report centered around one instance of such pressure that had occurred in a July 25 phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in which Trump mentioned two investigations he wanted to see Ukraine launch. One of these would concern allegations that connected the American cybersecurity technology company CrowdStrike to Ukrainian actors supposedly interfering in the 2016 election. Trump had been repeatedly told by aides that Ukraine did not interfere in the 2016 election, but refused to accept these assurances. The theory, which originated on 4chan in 2017, has been spread by blogs, social media, and Fox News. The other requested investigation concerned Joe Biden, former U.S. Vice President and a candidate for the 2020 presidential election, and the Ukrainian business dealings of his son Hunter Biden. At the time of the inquiry, Joe Biden was the leading candidate in Democratic Party primary polling, according to poll aggregators, making him Trump's most likely 2020 election opponent. On July 18, 2019, Trump had placed a hold on military aid to Ukraine while "providing no explanation". Trump lifted the hold September 11.
On September 25, the White House released a non-verbatim memorandum of Trump's conversation with Zelensky following a promise to do so the previous day; on the same day, the whistleblower complaint was released to Congress. Trump did not mention the hold in his conversation with Zelensky, but he repeatedly pointed out that the United States has been "very very good" to Ukraine, with which Zelensky agreed. Zelensky then expressed interest in obtaining more U.S. missiles, to which Trump replied "I would like you to do us a favor though" and brought up his request for investigations. The memorandum of the conversation confirmed the allegations by the first whistleblower that Trump had requested investigations into Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden, as well as a conspiracy theory involving a Democratic National Committee server, while repeatedly urging Zelensky to work with Giuliani and Barr on these matters.
Democratic candidate for president Elizabeth Warren described this sentence as a "smoking gun" suggesting a quid pro quo. Prominent Democrats, including Senators Robert Menendez and Chris Murphy, suggested that the hold may have been intended to implicitly or explicitly pressure the Ukrainian government to investigate Hunter Biden. Former Ukrainian presidential advisor Serhiy Leshchenko said it was made a "clear fact" that Ukraine's communication with the United States was dependent on discussing a future investigation into the Bidens, while another anonymous Ukrainian lawmaker said Trump attempted to "pressure" and "blackmail" them into accepting a "quid pro quo" agreement based upon cooperation.
Rudy Giuliani and his business associates In 2018, Fruman and Parnas had hired Guiliani as a consultant in their security company, paying him $500,000. In turn, Fruman and Parnas assisted him in his search in Ukraine for damaging information about Trump's political opponents. Giuliani sent the two to Ukraine to seek information to undermine the Special Counsel's investigation and damage Biden's presidential campaign.
At the same time, Fruman and Parnas were being paid by Dmytro Firtash, a Ukrainian oligarch, with alleged ties to Russian organized crime and the Kremlin, who is facing federal bribery charges in the U.S. and is fighting extradition from Austria. Firtash also hired Joseph diGenova and Victoria Toensing, a husband and wife team of attorneys with ties to Giuliani and Trump and who frequently appear on Fox News to promote conspiracy theories related to Ukraine. DiGenova and Toensing met with Attorney General William Barr and other Justice Department officials in failed attempt to convince the prosecutors to drop the charges against Firtash.
Fruman and Parnas were arrested at Washington Dulles International Airport on October 9, 2019, on campaign finance-related charges brought by federal prosecutors in New York City.
Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky with Donald Trump in New York City on September 25, 2019
On September 20, Roman Truba, head of the Ukraine State Bureau of Investigations, told The Daily Beast that his agency had not investigated the Biden''Burisma connection and there were no signs of illegality there. Anton Herashchenko, a senior advisor to the Ukraine interior minister, told The Daily Beast that Ukraine will open such an investigation if there is an official request, along with details of why an investigation is needed and what to look for; Trump's requests had come through unofficial representatives such as Giuliani.
Ukrainian foreign minister Vadym Prystaiko told a Ukrainian news outlet on September 21: "I know what the [phone] conversation was about and I think there was no pressure. This conversation was long, friendly, and it touched on many questions, sometimes requiring serious answers." Prystaiko was also quoted as saying: "I want to say that we are an independent state, we have our secrets." On September 22, Senator Murphy said Zelensky told him he had no intention to get involved with an American election.
In an interview released on September 24, Ukrainian diplomat and politician Valentyn Nalyvaichenko told The Daily Beast that Ukrainian authorities would be reopening corruption investigations into multiple individuals and organizations including, potentially, Burisma, Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, TV host Larry King, and former prosecutor Yuriy Lutsenko. King was suspected of having received slush fund payments recorded in the "black ledger" that also named Manafort. Nalyvaichenko accused Lutsenko of having been in communication with associates of Trump "for vindictive purposes".
Trump and Zelensky held a joint press conference at the United Nations the same day the transcript of their phone call was released. Zelensky told reporters: "We had I think good phone call. It was normal. We spoke about many things. So, I think, and you read it, that nobody pushed me." The next day, Zelensky said President Trump had not pressured anyone nor made any promises, and that the Prosecutor General Ruslan Riaboshapka would investigate all domestic cases without prejudice. On September 30, Zelensky made it clear that he was not going to interfere with the intra-American party confrontation. Subsequently, at an all-day press conference on October 10, Zelensky said that he learned about the blockage of the military aid only after the July 25 phone call. "We didn't speak about this. There was no blackmail."
The New York Times reported on October 3 that Sondland, U.S. Ambassador to the European Union, and Kurt Volker, U.S. Special Envoy to Ukraine, had in August drafted a statement for Zelensky to sign that would commit Ukraine to investigate Burisma, the company that Hunter Biden worked for, as well as the conspiracy theory that Ukraine interfered with the 2016 election to benefit Hillary Clinton.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff said on September 13, 2019, that he had issued a subpoena to Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire, as Maguire had failed to release a whistleblower's complaint filed under the Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act on August 12 to the congressional intelligence committees, as was arguably required by the relevant statute. Schiff argued that he had concerns that the complaint might have been withheld from Congress "in an unlawful effort to protect the President and conceal from the Committee information related to his possible 'serious or flagrant' misconduct, abuse of power, or violation of law".
On September 22, shortly after the public had become aware of the existence of a whistleblower, Trump acknowledged that he had discussed Joe Biden during a call with Zelensky on July 25. Trump said, "The conversation I had was largely congratulatory, was largely corruption, all of the corruption taking place, was largely the fact that we don't want our people like Vice President Biden and his son creating [sic] to the corruption already in Ukraine." Trump denied that his hold on military aid for Ukraine was linked to the Ukrainian government's refusal to investigate the Hunter Biden controversy, while also saying that withholding aid for this reason would have been ethically acceptable if he had done it. On September 26, 2019, Trump accused the person who provided the whistleblower with information of the call of being a "spy" and guilty of treason, before noting that treason is punishable by death. As a result of Trump's comments, the whistleblower's lawyers said their client feared for his or her safety.
Two people close to Trump told The New York Times that the behavior in the scandal was "typical" of his "dealings on the phone with world leaders", e.g. engaging in flattery, discussing mutual cooperation, and bringing up a personal favor which then could be delegated. In an interview, Giuliani defended Trump, calling the president's request of the Ukrainian president "perfectly appropriate," while also indicating that he himself may have made a similar request to Ukrainian officials. A second whistleblower, who is also an intelligence official, came forward on October 5 with "first-hand knowledge of allegations" associated with the phone call between Trump and Zelensky, according to the lawyer representing both whistleblowers.
Further revelations President Trump states on October
3, 2019, that "China should start an investigation into the Bidens."
On September 27, 2019, the White House confirmed an allegation by the first whistleblower that a record of the call between Trump and Zelensky was sealed in a highly classified system, as per the advice of National Security Council lawyers. This came alongside media reports that the White House had used the most highly classified computer system to store memorandums of conversations with the leaders and officials of countries including Ukraine, Saudi Arabia and Russia. Administration officials had began storing these transcripts into this system after Trump's conversations with Australia's prime minister Malcolm Turnbull and Mexico's president Enrique Pe±a Nieto leaked earlier in 2017. This was seen by critics and the media as a deliberate attempt to hide potentially damaging information. Also on September 27, it was reported that Trump had told Russian officials in 2017 that he was unconcerned about Russian interference in U.S. elections.
On October 3, after stating that the United States has "tremendous power" and "many options" in the trade war with China "if they don't do what we want", Trump was asked by a reporter on what he hoped Zelensky would do after his phone call. Trump responded by publicly urging both Ukraine and China to investigate the Bidens.
Soon after the release of the Mueller report, Trump began urging an investigation into the origins of the Russia probe, wanting to "investigate the investigators" and possibly discredit the conclusions of the FBI and Mueller. In April 2019, Attorney General Barr announced that he had launched a review of the origins of the FBI's investigation, even though the origins of the probe were already being investigated by the Justice Department's inspector general and by U.S. attorney John Huber, who had been appointed to the same task in 2018 by then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Barr assigned U.S. Attorney John Durham to lead the probe, and Trump directed the American intelligence community to "promptly provide assistance and information" to Barr, and delegated to him the "full and complete authority" to declassify any related documents. Although Durham was nominally in charge of the investigation, Barr himself began contacting foreign governments to ask for information about the origins of the FBI probe. Barr personally traveled to the United Kingdom and Italy to seek information; Italy's parliament is expected to begin its own investigation into Barr's meetings with Italian secret services. At Barr's request, Trump himself phoned the prime minister of Australia, Scott Morrison, to ask for assistance.
On the evening of September 24, 2019, Pelosi announced that six committees of the House of Representatives would undertake a formal impeachment inquiry into President Trump. Pelosi accused Trump of betraying his oath of office, U.S. national security, and the integrity of the country's elections. The six committees charged with the task are the committees on Financial Services, the Judiciary, Intelligence, Foreign Affairs, Oversight and Reform, and Ways and Means.
Maguire, who had delayed the whistleblower complaint from reaching Congress, testified publicly before the House Intelligence Committee on September 26, 2019. Maguire defended his decision not to immediately forward the whistleblower complaint to Congress and explained that he had consulted the White House Counsel and the Office of Legal Counsel at the Justice Department but was unable to determine whether the document was protected by executive privilege. Democrats on the committee questioned his actions, arguing that the law demands that he "shall" forward such complaints to the committee. Maguire countered that the situation was unique since the complaint involves communications of the president. Members of the Intelligence Committee also asked the director why he chose to consult with White House lawyers when he was not required to do so by law, to which he responded that he believed "it would be prudent to have another opinion".
In a private conference call with Democratic lawmakers on September 29, 2019, Pelosi explained how three of these House committees will begin investigating the President's alleged abuse of power. The Intelligence Committee will focus on the contents of the whistleblower complaint and whether the complaint may have been wrongfully hidden from Congress, while the Foreign Affairs Committee will focus on interactions the State Department may have had with the President's personal attorney Giuliani, and the Oversight and Reform Committee will investigate whether White House classification systems were used to secure potentially damaging records of phone calls between the President and leaders of various countries around the world.
Requests for evidence and White House refusal Letter from White House Counsel to the Speaker and committee chairs stating that the Trump administration will not participate in the House's "partisan and unconstitutional" inquiry
On September 27, 2019, a subpoena was issued by the House to obtain documents Secretary of State Mike Pompeo refused to release earlier. Said documents include several interactions between Trump, Giuliani, and Ukrainian government officials. The documents are requested to be filed with the involved committees probing the issue; the failure to do so "shall constitute evidence of obstruction of the House's impeachment inquiry," as stated in a letter written to Pompeo. The subpoena comes after several requests by the House to receive the documents from the Secretary which he did not fulfill. Several members of the House involved with the impeachment inquiry sent him subsequent letters stating that they will be meeting with members of the State Department who may provide further information. The following week, a subpoena was also issued to Giuliani for production of documents.
On October 4, 2019, the House Intelligence Committee issued subpoenas both to the White House and to Vice President Mike Pence for documents related to the whistleblower complaint. Among the White House documents requested include audio tapes, transcripts, notes, and other White House documents related to the whistleblower controversy.
On October 8, 2019, the White House announced that it would cease all cooperation with the investigation in a letter from White House Counsel Pat Cipollone to Speaker Pelosi and the three committee chairmen conducting the impeachment investigation. In the letter Cipollone said the investigation "violates the Constitution, the rule of law, and every past precedent" and that "The President cannot allow your constitutionally illegitimate proceedings to distract him and those in the Executive Branch." The letter went on to say "[the investigation's] unprecedented actions have left the President with no choice. In order to fulfill his duties to the American people, the Constitution, the Executive Branch, and all future occupants of the Office of the Presidency, President Trump and his Administration cannot participate in your partisan and unconstitutional inquiry under these circumstances." House Speaker Nancy Pelosi responded to the letter saying "The White House should be warned that continued efforts to hide the truth of the president's abuse of power from the American people will be regarded as further evidence of obstruction."
Giuliani's attorney, Jim A. Sale, sent a letter to the House Intelligence Committee on October 15, 2019, stating that Giuliani will not hand over documents subpoenaed by the committee. Citing attorney''client and executive privilege, the letter characterized the subpoena as "beyond the scope of legitimate inquiry".
Subpoenas for documents Requests and subpoenas to appear NamePositionDeadline dateStatus of complianceJoseph MaguireActing Director of National Intelligence'--Testified on September 26, 2019, before the House Intelligence CommitteeSteve LinickState Department Inspector General'--Met with Congress on October 2, and shared conspiracy-theory documents Giuliani had previously sent to the FBIMarie YovanovitchFormer United States Ambassador to UkraineOctober 2, 2019Deposed on October 11Kurt VolkerFormer U.S. Special Envoy to UkraineOctober 3, 2019Deposed on October 3; returned for additional questioning on October 16Michael AtkinsonIntelligence Community Inspector General'--Deposed on October 4George KentDeputy Assistant SecretaryOctober 7, 2019Blocked from appearing on October 7; deposed on October 15Lev ParnasBusinessman, associate of Rudy GiulianiOctober 11, 2019Arrested on October 9 at Dulles Airport and charged with alleged federal campaign finance-related crimes in New YorkIgor FrumanBusinessman, associate of Rudy GiulianiOctober 11, 2019Fiona HillFormer White House Russia adviser'--Deposed on October 14Semyon KislinBusinessman, associate of Rudy GiulianiOctober 14, 2019Reached "an understanding" with committees and is cooperating, according to his attorneyMichael McKinleySenior adviser to Secretary Pompeo'--Deposed on October 16, 2019Gordon SondlandUnited States Ambassador to the European UnionOctober 16, 2019First subpoenaed to appear by October 10; deposed on October 17Bill TaylorU.S. Charg(C) d'affaires to Ukraine'--Deposed on October 22, 2019Laura CooperDeputy Assistant Secretary of Defense'--Was initially expected to appear on October 18, 2019; deposed on October 23Philip T. ReekerActing Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs'--Deposed on October 26, 2019Charles KuppermanFormer Deputy National Security AdvisorOctober 28, 2019Was expected to appear on October 28, 2019; refused, pending court ruling; subpoena withdrawn on November 6Alexander VindmanNational Security Council director for European Affairs'--Deposed on October 29, 2019Catherine CroftNational Security Council staff'--Deposed on October 30, 2019Kathryn L. WheelbargerActing Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs'--Was expected to appear on October 30, 2019Tim MorrisonNational Security Council Senior Director for Europe and Russia'--Deposed on October 31, 2019John EisenbergDeputy Counsel to the President for National Security Affairs'--Subpoenaed on November 1 for appearance; refused to appear through counselMichael DuffeyAssociate Director for National Security ProgramsNovember 5, 2019Did not appear voluntarily on October 23, 2019; given a subpoena on October 25, 2019Ulrich BrechbuhlCounselor of the State DepartmentNovember 6, 2019Did not appear voluntarily on October 8, 2019; given a subpoena on October 25, 2019Russell VoughtActing Director of the Office of Management and BudgetNovember 6, 2019Did not appear voluntarily on October 25, 2019; given a subpoena that dayDavid HaleUnder Secretary of State for Political Affairs'--Deposed on November 6, 2019Jennifer WilliamsForeign Service Officer'--Deposed on November 7, 2019David HolmesCounselor for Political Affairs, Ukraine'--Scheduled on November 15, 2019Mark SandyOffice of Management and Budget Deputy Assoc. Director for National Security Programs'--Scheduled on November 16, 2019Depositions Initial depositions were taken before the House Intelligence, Foreign Affairs, and Oversight committees, meeting jointly in a secure room, a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility in the basement of the United State Capitol. Only members of the three committees (47 Republicans and 57 Democrats) were permitted to attend. Witnesses were questioned by staff lawyers, and committee members were allowed to ask questions, with equal time being given to Republicans and Democrats. Transcripts were expected to be released and public hearings to be held at some time in the future. Transcripts began to be released in early November, and public hearings were scheduled to begin on November 13.
On the morning of the Cipollone letter on October 8, 2019, Sondland had been scheduled to testify before the House regarding his involvement in the withholding of aid from the Ukraine. However, he was instructed not to attend at the last minute by the State Department upon Trump's command.
Early depositions: October 11''17 Ambassador
Marie Yovanovitch's opening statement to her testimony before three House committees, October 11, 2019
Marie Yovanovitch, the former ambassador to Ukraine, testified on October 11 in defiance to the White House although she remains an employee of the U.S. State Department. Yovanovitch told House committees that she was "incredulous" at having been dismissed in May. She described the State Department as "attacked and hollowed out from within." Yovanovitch testified that she had never met or spoken with Hunter Biden and that Joe Biden had never raised the subject of his son or the Ukrainian gas firm that employed him. During his July 25 phone call with Zelensky, Trump called Yovanovitch "bad news" and mentioned that "[s]he's going to go through some things".
A former adviser to the president on Russian affairs, Fiona Hill, testified before congressional investigators on October 14, 2019. She told the House committees that Giuliani circumvented State Department officials and diplomats, and that she had confronted Ambassador Sondland, who was assisting Giuliani in his efforts to pressure Ukraine into beginning investigations that would personally benefit Trump. After a meeting in which Sondland announced that there were "[Ukrainian] investigations that were dropped [and] need to be started up again" and under instruction from John Bolton (the National Security Advisor from April 2018 to September 2019), Hill expressed her and Bolton's concerns about Giuliani's activities to John Eisenberg, an attorney for the National Security Council. Hill testified that she, Bolton, Volker, Energy Secretary Rick Perry, and two Ukrainian officials, were at that meeting on July 10, 2019, and that Bolton was furious after the meeting when he told her he was "not part of whatever drug deal Sondland and Mulvaney are cooking up." Hill told the committees that Giuliani was running a rogue foreign policy while informing the president's official advisers but leaving them powerless to stop it. When she confronted Sondland, who she believed was involved in affairs outside his position's purview, he claimed that, according to Trump, he was in charge of Ukraine matters.
George Kent, Deputy Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs, appeared before the House Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight committees on October 15, 2019. Kent is the second current State Department official to defy White House instructions and comply with House subpoenas to testify before the committees. According to Representative Gerry Connolly (D-Virginia), Kent testified that, during a meeting at the White House on May 23 organized by Mulvaney, Sondland, Volker, and Perry, who called themselves the "three amigos", had declared that they were now responsible for Ukrainian affairs. Connolly also said that Kent testified that he had been directed to "lay low" and to focus on foreign relations with the five other countries in his purview.
Gordon Sondland's opening statement to his testimony before three House committees, October 17, 2019
A former senior adviser to Secretary Pompeo, Michael McKinley, testified on October 16, 2019, after having resigned from his position the previous week. McKinley testified that he had resigned from his position out of frustration with the Trump administration and that the recall of Ambassador Yovanovitch was the "last straw". In his opening remarks, he said "[t]he timing of my resignation was the result of two overriding concerns: the failure, in my view, of the State Department to offer support to Foreign Service employees caught up in the impeachment inquiry on Ukraine and, second, by what appears to be the utilization of our ambassadors overseas to advance a domestic political objective." McKinley said he was "disturbed by the implication that foreign governments were being approached to procure negative information on political opponents".
Before appearing in front of three House committees on October 17, 2019, Ambassador Sondland publicly released his opening remarks. He testified that Trump had refused to meet with the Ukrainian president without preconditions and that, in a May 23 meeting, State Department officials were directed to work with Giuliani to address Trump's "concerns" about the Ukrainian government. Sondland claimed he was ignorant of Giuliani's intentions and had no choice but to work with the president's personal attorney. According to The New York Times, this conflicts with previous testimony given during the inquiry in which other State Department officials testified that Sondland was "a willing participant who inserted himself into Ukraine policy even though the country is not in the purview of his posting, and was a key player in [Trump]'s efforts to win a commitment from the new Ukrainian government to investigate his political rivals." The Washington Post also disputes this claim, asserting that it conflicts with the known timeline of events. According to The Washington Post, "In the weeks leading up to that May 23 White House briefing, Giuliani's and even Trump's interest in spotlighting the Bidens' actions in Ukraine were hardly a secret."
Bill Taylor Ambassador
Bill Taylor's opening statement to his testimony before three House committees, October 22, 2019
On October 22, 2019, Bill Taylor, the United States' senior diplomatic official in Ukraine, testified to Congressional investigators. Taylor testified that he had learned in mid-July 2019 that a potential White House meeting between Trump and Zelensky "was conditioned on the investigations of Burisma and alleged Ukrainian interference in the 2016 U.S. elections", and that he later was told, in September 2019, that U.S. military aid to Ukraine was also dependent on such investigations'--including into the Bidens.
Taylor testified that other than the "regular, formal diplomatic processes" to Ukraine led by himself, there was a "highly irregular", "informal channel of U.S. policy-making" with regard to Ukraine. The informal channel began in May 2019, being "guided" by Rudy Giuliani, and also involving Kurt Volker, Gordon Sondland and Rick Perry. Taylor said that by August 2019 he had realized the informal channel "was running contrary to the goals of longstanding U.S. policy", while the formal channel wanted "a strong U.S.''Ukraine partnership". According to Taylor, the informal channel had "driven" the idea of a White House meeting between the presidents being conditional on the investigations.
Taylor noted that for a June 2019 call between himself, Zelensky, Sondland, Volker and Perry, Sondland had said "he did not wish to include most of the regular interagency participants" and that "he wanted to make sure no one was transcribing or monitoring". As for Trump's July 2019 call with Zelensky, Taylor said he did not receive any report regarding the call from the White House even though he was scheduled to meet Zelensky a day later.
Taylor said he heard from National Security Council aide Tim Morrison that, on September 1, Sondland told Zelensky aide Andriy Yermak that the military aid to Ukraine was dependent on Zelensky's pursuit of the Burisma investigation. Taylor cited Sondland's telling him in a call that Trump wanted Zelensky to publicly announce he would order the two investigations, thus placing Zelensky "in a public box". Taylor quoted Sondland stating "everything" including military aid and a Trump''Zelensky meeting was contingent upon that announcement.
According to Taylor, he wrote a first-person cable to Secretary Pompeo on the advice from Bolton: "I wrote and transmitted such a cable on August 29, describing the 'folly' I saw in withholding military aid to Ukraine at a time when hostilities were still active in the east and when Russia was watching closely to gauge the level of American support for the Ukrainian government. I told the secretary that I could not and would not defend such a policy." Taylor reported that Pompeo gave no reply to his cable.
Republican protest and legal challenges On October 23, 2019, Laura Cooper, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia, testified in closed session before three Congressional committees. Cooper's testimony, originally scheduled for that morning, was delayed roughly five hours when a group of House Republicans led by Matt Gaetz (R-Florida) stormed the SCIF where impeachment inquiry committee meetings are being held, and refused to leave, at one point ordering pizza. The group protested what they asserted were secret Democratic hearings closed to Republicans, although 48 Republicans who are members of the three committees jointly holding the hearings were entitled to attend the hearings and some had done so. Thirteen of those members participated in the protest. Democrats responded with criticism over the interruption and accused the Republicans of violating the rules governing the SCIF, which prohibit cell phones in the area. After the protest ended, Cooper completed her testimony which lasted approximately 3.5 hours. She was expected to speak about how the process works for transferring military aid to Ukraine. She is believed to have tried to get the aid released. The next day it was revealed that her attorney had received a letter from the Pentagon telling her not to testify, citing an administration-wide policy against cooperating with the probe.
The House Judiciary Committee asked to see secret grand jury information which had been used in compiling the Mueller Report. The Department of Justice refused to turn it over, arguing that secrecy of grand jury material must be preserved and that the impeachment inquiry was invalid. On October 25, 2019, Federal Judge Beryl A. Howell ruled that the inquiry is valid and that the Justice Department must forward the information to the committee within the week. Justice Department attorneys had previously asserted that congressional investigators had "not yet exhausted [their] available discovery tools", arguments Howell said "smack of farce", as the administration had openly said it would stonewall the investigation. Some legal analysts noted that a White House counsel letter to Democratic leaders days earlier stating the administration would not cooperate with the impeachment inquiry'--which was widely derided as more of a political rather than a legal argument'--may have backfired by contributing to Howell's rationale for her decision.
Charles Kupperman, Trump's deputy national security advisor from January to September 2019, filed a lawsuit on October 25, 2019, in which he asked a federal judge to rule which conflicting order he should follow: a subpoena from the House or an order from the White House not to appear. His attorney said that as a private citizen Kupperman is not able to choose which directive to obey, adding that "Constitutional disputes between the Legislative and Executive Branches should be adjudicated by the Judicial Branch". Hearings on the case were scheduled for December 2019. The subpoena was withdrawn on November 6, but the judge indicated the case will go on.
Alexander Vindman Alexander Vindman's opening statement to his testimony before three House committees, October 29, 2019
On October 29, 2019, the National Security Council's head of European Affairs, Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, testified before the House committees, stating he had overheard Trump's phone conversation with the Ukrainian President. He had released his opening statement the day before. Vindman testified: "In Spring of 2019, I became aware of outside influencers promoting a false and alternative narrative of Ukraine inconsistent with the consensus views of the interagency, [which was] harmful to U.S. national security [and also] undermined U.S. government efforts to expand cooperation with Ukraine."
Vindman said that, additionally, he was concerned by two events, both to which he objected to senior officials in real time, and which he reported to the National Security Council's lead attorney. The first event occurred at a July 10 meeting between Ukraine's then Secretary of National Security and Defense Council Oleksandr Danlylyuk, and then U.S. National Security Advisor Bolton, at which Ambassadors Volker and Sondland, and Secretary Perry were in attendance. At the meeting, Sondland asked Ukraine to launch investigations into the Bidens in order to get a meeting with President Trump. Vindman states that Bolton cut the meeting short, and that both he and Fiona Hill told Ambassador Sondland his comments were inappropriate, and that he reported the concerns to the NSC's lead counsel.
The second event occurred on a July 25 phone call between President Trump and Zelensky. Vindman states, "I was concerned by the call. I did not think it was proper to demand that a foreign government investigate a U.S. citizen, and I was worried about the implications for the U.S. government's support of Ukraine. I realized that if Ukraine pursued an investigation into the Bidens and Burisma, it would likely be interpreted as a partisan play which would undoubtedly result in Ukraine losing the bipartisan support it has thus far maintained. This would all undermine U.S. national security." Vindman also reported this event to Eisenberg, the NSC's lead counsel. Vindman also testified that the "rough transcript" of the call released by the White House omitted crucial words and phrases, including Trump asserting recordings of Joe Biden discussing Ukraine corruption exist, which Trump stated in the third set of ellipses in the released transcript. Vindman said he had tried but failed to restore the full transcript. A senior White House official had asserted when the transcript was released that the ellipses "do not indicate missing words or phrases," but rather "a trailing off of a voice or pause." Trump had previously characterized the released transcript as "an exact word-for-word transcript of the conversation".
Vindman also testified that the "rough transcript" of the July 25 phone call omitted President Zelensky stating the name Burisma (the natural gas company on whose board Hunter Biden sat), and substituted it with the phrase "the company that you mentioned in this issue".
October 30''31 On October 30, 2019, Catherine Croft, a State Department Ukraine expert and NSC staff member testified. She noted in her opening statement that she was aware of Giuliani's communication with Volker, though she was not involved with those discussions, that former Republican lawmaker Bob Livingston repeatedly called her to promote the removal of Ambassador Yovanovitch. She added: "On July 18, I participated in a sub-Policy Coordination Committee video conference where an OMB representative reported that the White House Chief of Staff, Mick Mulvaney, had placed an informal hold on security assistance to Ukraine. The only reason given was that the order came at the direction of the President."
Christopher J. Anderson, a career Foreign Service officer who succeeded Croft as adviser to Volker, was also deposed the same day. In his opening statement, Anderson said he and Volker had attempted to satisfy Giuliani while at same time assisting the Ukrainian government to fight corruption and build a relationship with the United States. However, their efforts repeatedly conflicted with Giuliani's. Anderson confirmed that Bolton had concerns with Giuliani's involvement in Ukraine affairs, and that he had written a memo summarizing Bolton's concerns to share with other State Department officials including Kent. Anderson also noted that he and several other State Department officials prepared a statement condemning the Russian military intervention in Ukraine after the 2018 attack on Ukrainian vessels in the Sea of Azov. However, the statement was blocked from publication by the White House.
Tim Morrison, an official on the National Security Council, testified in a closed-door session on October 31. Morrison corroborated previous testimony by William Taylor, saying Taylor had been "accurate" on the "substance" of their conversations, but that there were two differences in the details, the first being a location of a meeting. Regarding the second difference, Morrison testified that in his September 1, 2019, conversation with Sondland, he learned that Sondland had proposed to Ukrainian presidential advisor Andriy Yermak that military aid to Ukraine was "conditioned on a public statement" by the new Ukrainian prosecutor general's reopening an investigation into Burisma. (Taylor's testimony was that Zelensky should make the announcement.) Morrison also discussed the July 2019 Trump''Zelensky call, having listened to the call himself. He told lawmakers he "promptly" brought concerns about the call to White House lawyers because he worried a summary would be leaked with negative consequences, but he said he did not necessarily think anything illegal was discussed.
White House officials refuse to be deposed Democrats had hoped to hear from four current White House officials on November 4, including John Eisenberg, deputy counsel to the president for National Security Affairs; Michael Ellis, senior associate counsel to the president; Robert Blair, a top aide to the chief of staff; and Brian McCormack, an official with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). Like former deputy national security adviser Charles Kupperman, Blair is waiting for the courts to solve a conflict between the White House prohibition and a Congressional subpoena. The case is scheduled to be decided in December.
Michael Duffey, OMB's associate director for National Security Programs, and acting OMB Director Russell Vought, did not appear for scheduled closed-door depositions on November 5 and 6, respectively. Ulrich Brechbuhl, Counselor of the State Department, defied the subpoena for November 6 and traveled to Europe with Pompeo instead. Bolton has said he will not voluntarily testify on November 7, and he is expected to legally challenge a subpoena.
November 6''8 On November 6, David Hale, the undersecretary of State for political affairs, testified for several hours on the subject of the ouster of Yovanovitch. Jennifer Williams, a top aide to Vice President Pence who listened in on the July 25 call, testified on November 7.
November 15''16 On November 15, David Holmes, an official who works at the US embassy in Ukraine was deposed. Holmes is an Aide to Bill Taylor, who just testified to a conversation he and two unnamed aides overheard between Sondland and Trump.On November 16, OMB official Mark Sandy was deposed.
Resolution to begin public hearings and release deposition transcripts Transcript of the deposition of Marie Yovanovitch on October 11, 2019, released on November 4, along with
excerptsTranscript of the interview of Michael McKinley on October 16, 2019, released on November 4, 2019, along with
excerptsTranscript of the interview of Gordon Sondland on October 17, 2019, released on November 5, along with an addendum added the previous day and
excerptsTranscript of the interview of Kurt Volker on October 3, 2019, released on November 5, along with
excerptsTranscript of the deposition of Bill Taylor on October 22, 2019, released on November 6, along with
excerptsTranscript of the interview of George Kent on October 15, 2019, released on November 7, along with
excerptsOn October 29, 2019, Representative Jim McGovern (D-Massachusetts) introduced a resolution (H. Res. 660), referred to House Rules Committee, which set forth the "format of open hearings in the House Intelligence Committee, including staff-led questioning of witnesses, and [authorization for] the public release of deposition transcripts." It also proposed the procedures for the transfer of evidence to House Judiciary Committee as it considers articles of impeachment. The resolution was debated in Rules Committee the next day and brought to a floor vote on October 31. It was adopted with a vote of 232 to 196, with two Democrats and all Republicans voting against the measure.
On November 4, 2019, two transcripts of the closed-door depositions, those of Ambassadors Yovanovitch and McKinley, were released by the three presiding House committees. The transcripts revealed that Yovanovitch first learned, from Ukrainian officials in November or December 2018, of a campaign by Giuliani and Lutsenko to remove her from her post. Yovanovitch also testified that the U.S. embassy in Ukraine denied a visa application from the former Ukrainian prosecutor Viktor Shokin "to visit family" in the U.S. Although the application was simply denied because of his corrupt dealings in Ukraine, the ambassador later learned he had lied on his application and that the true purpose of the visit was to meet with Giuliani and "provide information about corruption at the embassy, including my [alleged] corruption", she told the committees. Giuliani lobbied the assistant secretary for consular affairs, conceding the true purpose of Shokin's planned visit to the U.S. The State Department meanwhile remained silent while she faced public attacks in an attempt to recall her to the U.S. Yovanovitch had been told by Sondland that showing support for the U.S. president may help prevent her dismissal but she chose not to heed the advice.
McKinley, a former ambassador and later senior adviser to Secretary Pompeo, testified that he had three times advised the Secretary of State to defend Yovanovitch after the July 25 call in which Trump disparaged her became public knowledge. McKinley also said Kent was being pressured by State Department lawyers to remain silent and that Kent feared the State Department was relaying inaccurate information to Congress. McKinley told the committees: "To see the emerging information on the engagement of our missions to procure negative political information for domestic purposes, combined with the failure I saw in the [State Department] to provide support for our professional cadre in a particularly trying time, I think the combination was a pretty good reason to decide enough, that I had no longer a useful role to play".
Transcripts of the depositions of Ambassadors Volker and Sondland were released on November 5, 2019. The transcript of Sondland's deposition on October 17 included an addendum filed by the ambassador on November 4. In the addendum, he said he had "refreshed [his] recollection" having now reviewed the testimonies of Taylor and Morrison which contradicted his original testimony. Sondland had originally claimed that he "never" believed there were any preconditions for the release of military aid to Ukraine and that he "was dismayed when it was held up," but "didn't know why." In his new four-page sworn statement published along with the transcripts, Sondland confirmed that he had told President Zelensky's aid, Yermak, during a meeting on September 1, that the release of aid was predicated on the Ukrainian president committing to an investigation of Burisma.
The transcript of Ambassador Taylor's deposition was also released on November 6. During his deposition on October 22, he described the campaign, led by Giuliani, to instigate investigations into the Bidens in Ukraine. Taylor said it was his "clear understanding, security assistance money would not come until the [Ukrainain] president committed to pursue the investigation". The following day saw the release of Kent's testimony transcripts in which he said, "[President Trump] wanted nothing less than President Zelensky to go to a microphone and say investigations, Biden and Clinton".
Following public release of the transcripts, Trump asserted they had been "doctored" by Schiff and encouraged Republicans to "put out their own transcripts!"
On November 6, 2019, Chairman Schiff announced that the first public hearings of the impeachment inquiry would be held on November 13, beginning with Taylor and Kent. The announcement added that Yovanovitch would testify in the second public hearing on November 15. The White House appointed new aides, including Pam Bondi and Tony Sayegh, to work on communications during the inquiry. House Republicans assigned Representative Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) to the House Intelligence Committee to participate in the hearings. Jordan replaced Representative Rick Crawford (R-Arkansas), who stepped down so Jordan could take his place.
Per the House resolution adopted in October 2019, House Republicans can subpoena witnesses only with the concurrence of Democratic committee chairman or with approval of majority members. The House Intelligence Committee ranking member, Representative Devin Nunes (R-California), in a November 9 letter, provided a list of eight witnesses from whom the minority party wished to hear, including Hunter Biden. In Schiff's decline of the request to hear from Biden, he said he would not allow Republicans to use the hearings to conduct "sham investigations". Schiff also rejected Nunes's request to question the anonymous whistleblower, for the individual's safety and because subsequent evidence "not only confirms but far exceeds" the whistleblower's complaint, so "the whistleblower's testimony is therefore redundant and unnecessary".
As public hearings approached, a staff memo to Republican members of the three relevant committees outlined the major themes they should pursue in Trump's defense. This includes focusing on the July 25 call summary which they allege "shows no conditionality or evidence of pressure" and that both Presidents Trump and Zelensky have said there was no pressure. The memo contended that any concerns Zelensky may have had about negative consequences of publicly acknowledging he felt pressure from Trump were unwarranted. The memo also claims that the "Ukrainian government was not aware of a hold on U.S. security assistance" before the July 25 call. It also points out that "President Trump met with President Zelensky and U.S. security assistance flowed to Ukraine in September 2019'--both of which occurred without Ukraine investigating President Trump's political rivals." The release of the Ukraine aid came two days after the House Intelligence Committee was notified of the whistleblower complaint and opened an investigation. It was also two days after three House committees announced an investigation into Giuliani's activities in Ukraine.
November 13: Kent and Taylor With live coverage on television, public hearings began at 10 am EST (15:00 UTC) on November 13, 2019, in which Kent and Taylor testified before House Intelligence Committee. After opening statements from Chairman Schiff and ranking member Representative Nunes, Taylor and Kent read their openings statements. This was followed by questions from the Chairman and the majority counsel Daniel S. Goldman.
According to data from Nielsen, the first day of hearings had 13,098,000 viewers tuning in on various cable and broadcast channels. This number does not count views from PBS, C-SPAN, or streaming sites such as YouTube.
Taylor testified that the day after the Trump''Zelensky phone call, one of his aides, David Holmes, overheard Sondland speaking to Trump via cellphone in a Kyiv restaurant, hearing the president refer to "the investigations". Another diplomat, Suriya Jayanti, also overheard the call. Holmes testified behind closed doors on November 15 that he heard Trump ask, "so, he's gonna do the investigation?" to which Sondland replied, "he's gonna do it", adding Zelensky would do "anything you ask him to". Holmes also testified that Sondland later told him that Trump "did not give a shit about Ukraine" and "only cared about the big stuff ... the big stuff that benefits the president like the Biden investigation that Mr. Giuliani was pushing."
Analysts noted that the Sondland call itself constituted a major security breach, as it could have been intercepted by foreign intelligence services.
November 15: Yovanovitch Marie Yovanovitch's testimony began at 9 am EST (14:00 UTC) and lasted for six hours. She directly contradicted the Republican theory that Ukraine had tried to undermine Trump in the 2016 elections. She said that she had three contacts with Giuliani, not involving the current allegations, and did not know why he chose to attack and discredit her. She said his allegations against her were false and that no one in the State Department believed them. She added that she was "shocked and devastated" when Trump disparaged her and said she was "going to go through some things" during his telephone call with Zelensky.
During her testimony, Trump berated her on Twitter, questioning her competence and saying that the Ukrainian president spoke unfavourably about her. Chairman Schiff informed Yovanovitch during the hearing, to which she said that that the tweet was "very intimidating". Trump's behavior was labelled as witness intimidation. Eric Swalwell, who participated in questioning Yovanovitch during the hearing, said that this could be laid out as a separate article of impeachment for the president, saying that "it's evidence of more obstruction".
White House In the wake of the inquiry, the White House threatened to "shut down" all major legislation as political leverage. Trump and his surrogates engaged in a misinformation campaign to discredit impeachment, with Giuliani taking a lead role. Efforts focused on attacking Joe Biden and his son and attempting to discredit the whistleblower over their motivations and for making the complaint based on hearsay.
On September 30, CNN, citing analysis by Laura Edelson at New York University's Tandon School of Engineering, reported that Trump and his reelection campaign had spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on Facebook advertisements to push for his defense. More than 1,800 ads on Trump's Facebook page that mentioned "impeachment" had run the week prior, and had been viewed between 16''18 million times on Facebook. The analysis indicates the campaign spent between $600,000 and $2 million on the ads, which reportedly attempted to rally and enlist people for the "Official Impeachment Defense Task Force". A further $700,000 is believed to have been spent for ads on Pence's Facebook page, which mirrored the content on Trump's.
The White House officially responded to the impeachment proceedings in a letter from White House Counsel Pat Cipollone to House Speaker Pelosi that it would cease all cooperation with the investigation due to a litany of concerns, including that there had been no vote of the full House, and the secrecy of the proceedings. In the October 8 letter, the White House officially declined to cooperate with what they claimed was an illegitimate effort "to overturn the results of the 2016 election". The eight-page letter said the investigation "violates the Constitution, the rule of law, and every past precedent". House Speaker Nancy Pelosi responded to the letter: "The White House should be warned that continued efforts to hide the truth of the president's abuse of power from the American people will be regarded as further evidence of obstruction."
During an October 17 press conference, White House acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said he "was involved with the process" of the freezing of military aid. Mulvaney gave his account of why Trump decided to hold back military aid to Ukraine. One, Trump felt the other European countries were not doing enough. Two, Trump felt Ukraine was a "corrupt place" which included having "corruption related to the DNC server" with regard to "what happened in 2016". As a result, reporter Jonathan Karl told Mulvaney "what you just described is a quid pro quo. It is: 'Funding will not flow unless the investigation into the Democratic server happens as well'." Mulvaney replied to Karl: "We do that all the time with foreign policy ... Get over it. There's going to be political influence in foreign policy." Later in the press conference, Mulvaney quoted a third reason on why military aid was frozen - they had yet to cooperate with a United States Justice Department investigation into alleged Ukrainian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
After media reports of these comments circulated, Republicans joined Trump's aides and legal counsel in distancing themselves from his remarks. Later that same day, Mulvaney issued a statement criticizing the media for their coverage of his comments and denying his earlier remarks, reiterating there was "no quid pro quo" regarding the withheld aid and requests to investigate the Democrats' behavior during the 2016 election.
Trump Donald Trump Twitter @realDonaldTrump "... If the Democrats are successful in removing the President from office (which they will never be), it will cause a Civil War like fracture in this Nation from which our Country will never heal." Pastor Robert Jeffress, @FoxNews
September 29, 2019
Donald Trump Twitter @realDonaldTrump So some day, if a Democrat becomes President and the Republicans win the House, even by a tiny margin, they can impeach the President, without due process or fairness or any legal rights. All Republicans must remember what they are witnessing here '' a lynching. But we will WIN!
October 22, 2019
Trump took to Twitter, attacking opponents and praising supporters. He suggested that Representative Schiff, chairman of the Intelligence Committee, could be arrested for treason, and that a Second American Civil War would occur if he were removed from office. Trump also falsely described the impeachment inquiry as "a coup, intending to take away the power of [the] people, their vote, [and] their freedoms," and said the Democrats were "wasting everyone's time and energy on bullshit". He compared the inquiry to lynching on his Twitter account, stating that "All Republicans must remember what they are witnessing here '' a lynching! But we will WIN!"
Trump told supporters at a private event on September 26 that the whistleblower's actions were close to that of a spy, saying, "You know what we used to do in the old days when we were smart? Right? The spies and treason, we used to handle it a little differently than we do now." The remarks were recorded and reported by the Los Angeles Times and interpreted as implying execution. On September 30, Trump said "we're trying to find out" who the whistleblower was.
On October 3, Trump told reporters that in addition to Ukraine, China should also investigate the Bidens. Vice President Pence echoed his support later the same day.
On November 6, Donald Trump Jr. tweeted a Breitbart News link purportedly revealing the name of the whistleblower.
Whistleblowers and their lawyers Andrew P. Bakaj, the lead attorney representing the whistleblowers, sent a joint letter to Maguire on September 28, made public on September 29, in which they raised concerns about the language used by Trump, amongst other things. In the letter the lawyers state "The events of the past week have heightened our concerns that our client's identity will be disclosed publicly and that, as a result, our client will be put in harm's way." The letter also mentioned the $50,000 "bounty" that two conservative Trump supporters have offered as a reward for information about the whistleblower.
Mark Zaid, co-counsel for the whistleblower, said in a statement in September 2019 that whistleblowers' identities are protected by law and cited testimony by Maguire which drew upon the Whistleblower Protection Act. The statement was released after Trump questioned on Twitter the validity of the whistleblower's statements. Bakaj took to Twitter to issue a warning on September 30 that the whistleblower is entitled to anonymity, is protected by laws and policies, and is not to be retaliated against; to do so would violate federal law. Bakaj argued in an October 25 Washington Post op-ed that the identity of his client is no longer pertinent after further events corroborated his client's account of the matter.
On November 7 Bakaj sent a letter to the White House warning Trump to "cease and desist" calling for the public disclosure of the whistleblower's identity and "engaging in rhetoric and activity that places [the whistleblower] and their family in physical danger." The lawyer said the president would be legally and morally liable if anyone were to be "physically harmed as a result of his, or his surrogates', behavior."
Kupperman v. House of Representatives of the U.S.A. et al. On October 25, 2019, Charles Kupperman, Trump's former deputy national security adviser, filed an advisory lawsuit, asking a D.C. federal judge to rule on whether he is lawfully obliged to comply with a subpoena he received from the House of Representatives. He said he will follow whatever the judge says. He was scheduled to testify on October 28, but did not appear. On October 31, Judge Richard J. Leon scheduled a hearing for December 10.[citation needed ] On November 7 the House joint investigating committees dropped their subpoena of Kupperman, saying they no longer need his testimony and asking that they abide by the ruling in a similar lawsuit pending against Don McGahn. Judge Leon indicated that the suit will go on anyway.
On November 9, former national security advisor John Bolton, who had joined in the Kupperman lawsuit, had his lawyer send a proffer to the committees, saying he could supply much additional pertinent information the committee did not have. White House acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney also attempted to join in the Kupperman lawsuit. On November 11, Bolton's attorney filed a motion to block Mulvaney from joining the suit, arguing that Mulvaney had effectively waived immunity by acknowledging a quid pro quo in the Ukraine matter during an October 17 press briefing. Kupperman also objected to Mulvaney's participation and the judge said he was inclined not to allow it, whereupon Mulvaney withdrew his request.
John Lewis says on September 24, 2019, "The time to begin impeachment proceedings, against this president, has come."
A majority of House members voted in favor of initiation of the impeachment inquiry, including 231 Democrats, and one independent, Justin Amash from Michigan, who left the Republican Party on July 4, 2019, in the wake of his protests about holding Trump accountable. Amash became a leading supporter of impeachment after the whistleblower report was released, saying the call script was a "devastating indictment of the president".
Republicans have largely focused their complaints on the inquiry process, particularly on the use of closed-door hearings, which they allege are secret Democratic hearings closed to Republicans. Forty-eight Republicans are members of the three committees jointly holding the hearings and thus are entitled to attend the hearings, and dozens have done so. In response to Republican complaints, Chairman Schiff pointed out that past impeachment inquiries began with an investigation by an independent prosecutor appointed by the Justice Department'--the Watergate investigators in the case of Richard Nixon and the Whitewater prosecutors regarding Bill Clinton. "Unlike in past impeachment proceedings in which Congress had the benefit of an investigation conducted in secret by an independent prosecutor, we must conduct the initial investigation ourselves," Schiff said. "This is the case because the Department of Justice under Bill Barr expressly declined to investigate this matter after a criminal referral had been made."
For impeachment inquiry A notable Republican critic of Trump is Senator Mitt Romney of Utah, who called Trump's actions "troubling in the extreme" and "wrong and appalling". Romney said it strained credulity to say Trump's actions were anything other than politically motivated.
Phil Scott, the governor of Vermont, became the first Republican governor to support the impeachment inquiry. Charlie Baker, the Republican governor of Massachusetts, also announced his support. Republican Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan later announced his support for an inquiry, though clarifying he did not yet support impeachment itself.
On October 18, John Kasich, former Ohio governor and a CNN political commentator since January 2019, publicly said President Trump should be impeached. Until this point, he had argued that there was not enough evidence to impeach the President.
Against impeachment inquiry Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) criticized the whistleblower, calling the complaint hearsay and a sham.
On October 3, 2019, House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy called on Pelosi to suspend the inquiry and requested answers to 10 questions before it moved forward. Several Republican politicians, including Representative Jordan and former South Carolina Representative Trey Gowdy, who had been stout defenders of congressional oversight during the Obama Administration and the Investigation into the 2012 Benghazi attack, joined Trump's resistance to the investigation.
On October 23, more than two dozen Republican members of the House'--led by Representative Gaetz and with Trump's prior knowledge and assent'--staged a protest against impeachment proceedings by entering the SCIF where a hearing was about to commence, some carrying cellphones in violation of security protocols. The protest caused a five hour stand-off during which the House Sergeant at Arms was summoned to intervene. Days earlier, Gaetz'--who is not a member of any of the three committees'--had entered the hearings and was instructed to leave after a parliamentarian ruling.
On October 24, Senator Graham, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee proposed a Senate resolution ( S. Res 378 ) condemning the closed door impeachment process and urging the House to hold a formal vote to initiate the impeachment inquiry, which by October 28, 50 Republican senators cosponsored. As of November 2019, only three Republican Senators, of the 53 in the Senate, Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and Mitt Romney of Utah, declined to cosponsor the resolution opposing the impeachment process.
Legal professionals and academics Historians and diplomats called the severity of the allegations "unprecedented" in American history. A group of 17 former Watergate special prosecutors published an opinion piece in The Washington Post in which they said the public record contains prima facie evidence that Trump had committed impeachable acts.
Some academics responded to tweets by Trump in which he quoted a longtime evangelical pastor who warned of a "civil war" if Democrats continued the inquiry. On Twitter, Harvard Law School professor John Coates cautioned that the tweet was an independent basis for impeachment as the sitting president was threatening civil war if Congress exercised its constitutionally authorized power. A fellow faculty member of Harvard Law, Laurence Tribe, agreed but cautioned that, due to the typical tone of Trump's tweets, the statement could be interpreted as "typical Trumpian bloviating" that would not be taken seriously or literally.
Academic historian Kevin Kruse took issue with Trump's assertion that the Democrats would be solely responsible if he were removed from office through the impeachment process. Kruse said that for the U.S. Senate to remove Trump from office, 20 Republicans would need to join the 45 Democrats and two Independents, and blaming only the Democrats was both "dangerous" and "dumb".
USA Today ' s Supreme Court correspondent Richard Wolf published an overview of the opinions of various legal experts, including law professors. The University of Texas's Sanford Levinson says "nobody really knows" how to define the "high crimes and misdemeanors" of the Constitution's impeachment clause. According to Georgetown University's Randy Barnett, "The Constitution gets violated all the time. That doesn't make the violation of the Constitution a high crime or misdemeanor." Barnett further states that Trump's accusers "have been alleging impeachable offenses since before [he] took the oath of office". The University of Southern California's Orin Kerr says, "It's about abusing the office, not about violating a technical provision of a particular clause," and "[Trump is] taking care of himself, not taking care of the country."