Reaction and analysis from Fox News contributor Guy Benson, host of 'The Guy Benson Show,' and Brett Bruen, former director of global engagement in the Obama White House.
The White House said Friday it will not participate in House Judiciary Committee impeachment proceedings, blasting the inquiry as "completely baseless" in a curt response to Democrats ahead of Monday's scheduled hearing.
“House Democrats have wasted enough of America’s time with this charade," White House counsel Pat Cipollone said in a scathing one-page letter to Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., obtained by Fox News. "You should end this inquiry now and not waste even more time with additional hearings."
Friday was the deadline for Trump to respond to Nadler's request for participation in committee proceedings.
But instead of giving House Democrats a direct "no" answer, Cipollone penned a two-paragraph letter derailing the entire process.
"As you know, your impeachment inquiry is completely baseless and has violated basic principles of due process and fundamental fairness," he wrote. "Nevertheless, the Speaker of the House yesterday ordered House Democrats to proceed with articles of impeachment before your Committee has heard a single shred of evidence.”
A senior administration official, though, made it clear they won't be participating, telling Fox News: "We don’t see any reason to participate because the process is unfair. Speaker (Nancy) Pelosi has already announced the predetermined result. They will not give us the ability to call any witnesses.”
Nadler is set to continue hearings in the committee on Monday.
The decision by the administration likely accelerates the pace of impeachment.
In 1998, the Clinton Administration took 30 hours to present its side of things to the Judiciary Committee. That means there may not be another hearing after Monday’s session.
Trump telegraphed Thursday he wanted to sidestep the House impeachment process and move quickly to the Senate where he believes he'll be acquitted by the GOP-led upper chamber.
“Therefore I say, if you are going to impeach me, do it now, fast, so we can have a fair trial in the Senate and so that our Country can get back to business,” Trump tweeted. “We will have Schiff, the Bidens, Pelosi and many more testify, and will reveal, for the first time, how corrupt our system really is.”
Cipollone repeated Trump's comments in the letter and said the House Democrats would be making a historically unjust mistake by plowing forward.
"Adopting articles of impeachment would be a reckless abuse of power by House Democrats, and would constitute the most injust, highly partisan and unconstitutional attempt at impeachment in our Nation’s history," he said.
Trump and his allies in Congress have dismissed the impeachment as a “sham” partisan exercise aimed at undoing the results of the 2016 presidential election. Trump says his July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was “perfect” when he asked the newly elected foreign leader to investigate the Bidens and the Democratic National Committee server.
Pelosi, however, said the facts of Trump’s wrongdoing involving Ukraine are “uncontested” and announced Thursday Democrats are plowing forward with drafting articles of impeachment against Trump.
“The president abused his power for his own personal political benefit at the expense of our national security,” Pelosi said.
Trump declined to have his lawyers participate in the House Judiciary Committee’s first impeachment hearing Wednesday when four legal scholars debated whether Trump’s conduct was impeachable.
Cipollone blasted the “baseless and highly partisan inquiry” in a letter Sunday declining to attend. The White House also accused the Judiciary Committee of “purposely” scheduling its first impeachment hearing when Trump would be meeting with NATO leaders in London and couldn’t attend.
At Wednesday’s hearing, the three lawyers the Democrats invited made the case that Trump’s efforts to pressure Ukraine for personal political purposes and his stonewalling of Congress are impeachable. The lone GOP witness, George Washington University Law Professor Jonathan Turley, said Trump’s call was “anything but perfect” but said Democrats haven’t made the case.
“One can oppose President Trump’s policies or actions but still conclude that the current legal case for impeachment is not just woefully inadequate, but in some respects, dangerous, as the basis for the impeachment of an American president,” Turley said.
Nadler, D-NY, had set a deadline of 5 p.m Friday in a letter he penned to the president a week ago.
“I am writing to determine if your counsel will seek to exercise the specific privileges set forth in the Judiciary Committee’s Impeachment Procedures … and participate in the upcoming impeachment proceedings,” Nadler wrote in the Nov. 29 letter.
In the same pillared room that hosted last month's House Intelligence Committee hearings, lawmakers will hear from Stanford law professor Pamela Karlan, Harvard law professor and Bloomberg columnist Noah Feldman, University of North Carolina law professor Michael Gerhardt, and George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley.
All are Democrat witnesses except for Turley — a point that did not escape the notice of the president Tuesday evening.
"They get three constitutional lawyers … and we get one," Trump said during a bilateral meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in London. "That's not sounding too good, and that's the way it is. We don't get a lawyer, we don't get any witnesses — we want Biden, we want the son Hunter, where's Hunter? We want Schiff. We want to interview these people. Well, they said no. We can't do it."
Following opening statements from Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., and ranking member Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., the witnesses will be sworn in and give opening statements of ten minutes apiece, followed by questioning.
The Judiciary Committee could approve articles of impeachment against the president within days. However, a senior member of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's leadership team told Fox News Tuesday evening that it seems unlikely the full House can vote on impeaching Trump before Christmas, saying it's "too complex" a process.
“I just don’t see it,” the source said. “It’s too big.”
In the meantime, Democrats are trying to pass the annual defense bill. Congress has to fund the federal government by Dec. 20 or risk another shutdown. The House and Senate are expected to approve several of the annual 12 spending bills and then pass an interim spending bill for the remainder – or perhaps glom the remainders together and approve them for the rest of the fiscal year.
The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) also looms large. If the decision is made to forge ahead with the USMCA this calendar year, then there is almost no way Congress can tackle impeachment. Democrats would face both a messaging problem and a floor traffic problem. Fox News has been told repeatedly in recent days that the USMCA is not ripe and action on that will likely take place after the turn of the year.
The 13-9 party-line vote on the 300-page report was a necessary step before the document could be transferred to the Judiciary Committee. The report included call logs documenting apparent conversations involving Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani, House Intelligence Committee ranking member Devin Nunes R-Calif., and Soviet-born businessman Lev Parnas, who was arrested in October.
"We have Americans and foreigners contact us every single day with information," Nunes told Fox News' "Hannity" on Tuesday night. "I was talking with Rudy Giuliani, and we were talking about how [Special Counsel Robert] Mueller bombed out."
Nunes added that it was possible he had spoken to Parnas. Separately, Republicans called for phone records belonging to House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., who has acknowledged that he should have been "more clear" about his communications with the whistleblower at the center of the impeachment inquiry.
While invited to participate in the opening Judiciary hearing, the White House declined. “This baseless and highly partisan inquiry violates all past historical precedent, basic due process rights, and fundamental fairness,” White House counsel Pat Cipollone wrote in a letter to Nadler on Sunday.
Cipollone accused Nadler of "purposely" scheduling the proceedings to coincide with Trump's attendance at the NATO Leaders' Meeting in London. He also said Nadler provided "vague" details about the hearing, and that only then-unnamed academics — and not "fact witnesses" — would apparently be attending.
Wednesday's hearing is expected to mirror the format used by the House Intelligence Committee last month. The proceedings start with a 45 minute period for the Democrats, most likely led by Judiciary Committee counsel Norm Eisen. Republicans will then get 45 minutes.
Then, the hearing will go to five-minute rounds for each of the 41 members. The five-minute round alone should consume three hours and 25 minutes.
Fox News expects the House to hold a vote series around 1:30 p.m. ET, forcing a recess in the committee. There will probably be some parliamentary fighting and stunting, which could delay proceedings further.
White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham and other administration officials have long argued that Democrats are wasting valuable legislative time with their impeachment probe.
“At the end of a one-sided sham process, Chairman [Adam] Schiff and the Democrats utterly failed to produce any evidence of wrongdoing by President Trump,” Grisham said Tuesday, adding that Democrats' impeachment report "reflects nothing more than their frustrations" and "reads like the ramblings of a basement blogger straining to prove something when there is evidence of nothing.”
During a press conference Tuesday, House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy called on Democrats to end the impeachment “nightmare," saying “They’re concerned if they do not impeach this president, they can't beat him in an election."
The Schiff-led Intelligence Committee conducted extensive interviews with witnesses connected to the Trump administration’s relationship with Ukraine after an anonymous whistleblower filed a complaint alleging that during a July 25 phone call, Trump tried to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to help Rudy Giuliani investigate Democratic activities in 2016 as well as former vice president Joe Biden and his son Hunter.
"The President engaged in this course of conduct for the benefit of his own presidential reelection, to harm the election prospects of a political rival, and to influence our nation’s upcoming presidential election to his advantage," the Democrats' report said. "In doing so, the President placed his own personal and political interests above the national interests of the United States, sought to undermine the integrity of the U.S. presidential election process, and endangered U.S. national security."
Schiff also tweeted: "The impeachment inquiry uncovered overwhelming and uncontested evidence that President Trump abused the powers of his office to solicit foreign interference in our election for his own personal, political gain."
Schiff’s committee held closed-door sessions before opening up the inquiry to public hearings, which featured testimony from witnesses including National Security Council official Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, U.S. Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland, and former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch.
The report concluded that Trump withheld nearly $391 million in military aid from Ukraine, conditioning its delivery as well as a White House visit for Zelensky on a public announcement that Zelensky was conducting the investigations. It also accuses Trump of committing obstruction by instructing witnesses not to comply with congressional subpoenas.
Republicans drafted a report of their own, which rejected the Democratic majority's claims.
"The evidence presented does not prove any of these Democrat allegations, and none of the Democrats’ witnesses testified to having evidence of bribery, extortion, or any high crime or misdemeanor,” the GOP report said.
If the House should vote to impeach, the Senate would hold a trial, where a two-thirds majority would be needed to convict.
A Senate trial could also dig deeper into at least one of the issues Trump once sought to have investigated: Joe Biden's role ousting a Ukraine prosecutor who had been looking into the natural gas firm Burisma Holdings, where his son Hunter had a lucrative board role.
Fox News' Chad Pergram, Ronn Blitzer, and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
California Congressman Eric Swalwell, Democratic member of the House Intelligence Committee, joins Chris Wallace on 'Fox News Sunday.'
Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., defended on Sunday the hasty pace of the impeachment inquiry into President Trump – arguing that with the 2020 presidential election less than a year away, and the start of Democratic primaries only a few months ahead, it is pertinent to discover whether Trump asked a foreign government to interfere in the country’s election process.
“Most importantly the president invoked an upcoming election – there’s an urgency to make sure the election and the ballot box have integrity, and if he’s asking a foreign government to interfere, we are on the clock to make sure that election is protected,” Swalwell said during an appearance on “Fox News Sunday.”
Swalwell, a member of the House Intelligence Committee that is holding the hearings in the impeachment inquiry, said that if lawmakers let the issue go to the courts “we could lose everything we value in our democracy” by waiting for the process to play out. He added that the witnesses who have come before the committee over the past two weeks have already laid out damning evidence against Trump.
Anchor Chris Wallace brought up the Watergate scandal, arguing that no witnesses with first-hand knowledge have come forward to testify that there was a quid pro quo between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. The panel is working to determine whether Trump threatened withholding military aid and a one-on-one meeting if Kiev didn’t publicly announce an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter’s business dealings in Ukraine.
“We don’t have as many courageous men in the White House, but we do have a lot of the president’s appointees who have come forward,” Swalwell said.
Released on Thursday, the "Bull-Schiff" t-shirts show the word "bull" alongside a caricature of Schiff with an extended neck — an apparent reference to Trump calling him a "pencil neck."
"Our bull-schiff-o-meter is off the charts!" the Trump campaign tweeted. "Shifty-Schiff pushed the FAKE Russian collusion story for three years and now he’s on to another sham. Don’t let Adam Schiff get away with the bull-Schiff Ukrainian investigation." Sizes range from small to 3XL.
The new shirts were made available as Schiff led the fifth day of public hearings in House Democrats' impeachment inquiry, focusing on activities surrounding President Trump's July 25 call with Ukraine.
Trump has repeatedly denounced Schiff, who helped lead both the Ukraine inquiry and the House intelligence committee's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
On Wednesday, Trump blasted Schiff as a "corrupt politician," telling reporters the congressman "stands up and he tells lies all day long … We have no due process."
On Thursday, Trump directly attacked the congressman on Twitter. "No pressure on Ukraine," he said, referring to allegations of a quid pro quo. "Great corruption & dishonesty by Schiff on the other side!"
Schiff has accused Trump of engaging in a quid pro quo in pushing for Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, his son Hunter and Hunter's role on the board of Ukrainian natural gas company Burisma Holdings. "[Trump's efforts] to help his reelection campaign was a basic quid pro quo," he said.
He added that Trump's actions were a "conditioning of official acts for something of great value to the president. These political investigations — it goes right to the heart of the issue of bribery as well as other potential high crimes or misdemeanors."
Fox News' Charles Creitz contributed to this report.
The fifth day of public hearings in the Trump impeachment inquiry is set to begin at 9 a.m. on Thursday.
Fiona Hill, the former senior director for Russia at the National Security Council, will testify this morning, alongside David Holmes, an aide to diplomat Bill Taylor who overheard the phone call on July 26 between Ambassador Gordon Sondland and President Trump. Holmes said that he heard Trump ask Sondland about the status of "investigations" into his political rivals, just one day after the now-infamous phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Rep. Matt Gaetz reacts to House impeachment hearings on Ukraine on 'Tucker Carlson Tonight.'
The House impeachment hearings are scheduled to continue Thursday with the highly anticipated testimony from Fiona Hill, a former top National Security Council expert on Russia, and David Holmes, a State Department official.
Their scheduled appearances will follow Wednesday's marathon day of testimony, most notably from Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, whose remarks raised eyebrows on both sides of the aisle.
Hill is among several witnesses who have testified behind closed doors. It is believed she played a central role in a July 10 meeting at the White House in which Sondland and Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney allegedly told Ukrainian officials that President Trump would meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky — if Zelensky would agree to investigate the Ukraine business dealings of former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden.
At that meeting, Hill said, former national security adviser John Bolton "immediately stiffened and ended the meeting."
Bolton "made it clear that he believed that they were making, basically, an improper arrangement to have a meeting in the White House, that they were predicating the meeting in the White House on the Ukrainians agreeing, in this case, based on the meeting on July 10, to restart investigations that had been dropped in the energy sector," Hill said.
She added that Bolton later told her: "I am not part of whatever drug deal Sondland and Mulvaney are cooking up" and asked her to relay that message to a White House lawyer.
Hill said she reminded Sondland after the meeting of the need for proper procedures and the role of the National Security Council in talks between the U.S. and foreign leaders.
'I remember it vividly'
During his closed-door testimony, Holmes told lawmakers he was sitting in close proximity to Sondland at a restaurant in Kiev — just one day after the highly controversial July 25 phone call between Trump and Ukraine's leader that set off the impeachment inquiry — and overheard a phone call between Trump and Sondland, in which he heard the president ask the ambassador how the "investigation" was going.
Holmes said Trump was talking loud enough over the phone that he could hear the president say, "So, he's gonna do the investigation?" referring to Ukraine's president, Zelensky. Holmes then said he heard Sondland reply, "He's gonna do it," and tell the president that Zelensky “loves your a–" and would do "anything you ask him to."
Holmes said Sondland later told him that "the president did not 'give a sh– about Ukraine'" and that he only cares about "big stuff" like the "Biden investigation."
"I've never seen anything like this," the State Department official reportedly said. "Someone calling the president from a mobile phone at a restaurant, and then having a conversation of this level of candor, colorful language. There's just so much about the call that was so remarkable that I remember it vividly."
Democrats are expecting that Holmes' testimony will support the notion that Trump initiated a "quid pro quo" deal with Ukraine — that Trump would provide military aid to the country in exchange for an investigation into the Ukraine business dealings of Biden and his son Hunter Biden.
Republicans, on the other hand, are likely to point out that Holmes previously testified that he immediately reported the phone call to William Taylor, the U.S. chargé d'affaires for Ukraine, contradicting Taylor's claim that he had learned of the July call only last month.
Fox News' Gregg Re and Alex Pappas contributed to this report.
I had to prepare, make sure I knew what everyone said before in their closed-door depositions. Williams testified that it struck her “as unusual” and “inappropriate” for the U.S. to ask for a favor from Ukraine. Williams said, “It shed some light on possible other motivations for the security assistance hold.” Vindman said there was no question President Trump wanted a deliverable from Ukraine.
“It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see where the gain would be for the president in investigating the son of a political opponent,” Vindman testified behind closed doors, referring to former Vice President Joe Biden's son, Hunter.
Volker indicated that the freeze on the aid to Ukraine came from acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney.
So, you cram, try to incorporate each line of thought into a “capsule” for each witness. You don’t know what might come up.
But, Monday night, I may as well have been in fifth grade.
I remember one chilly May night in 1980 when I was 11 and faced a science test the next day. I was trying to learn some of the elements. Standard fifth-grade fare — but the Reds and Mets were playing. I was next door at my grandparents’ house while my parents went shopping. I toggled between studying and listening to the game. I asked my grandmother to call out questions about the elements, but it was obvious where I focused the majority of my divided attention: the ballgame. I mean, Tom Seaver of the Reds was pitching against his old club at Shea Stadium. How could the mind of a fifth-grader possibly focus his mind on boron and argon with Tom Terrific on the mound?
I did okay on the test the next day, but not great. The Reds did okay, but not great. They lost 3-2 in 10 innings. It was a no-decision for Seaver.
And, on Monday night, I was at home, trying to cram for the third day of open impeachment hearings and the Caps were on. On top of that, I got added homework dumped on me.
The House Intelligence Committee just released the transcripts of two closed-door depositions — 213 pages from U.S. diplomat to Ukraine David Holmes after his late-night deposition Friday and 190 pages from Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale.
The committee released a total of 403 pages just 13 hours before the next morning’s hearing, a grand total of 3,917 pages released from all depositions.
Mrs. Newland was tough in fifth grade. She taught math and science. I wasn’t particularly talented at either. Mrs. Newland never would have assigned 403 pages of reading at 8 p.m. After all, it was fifth grade.
But, this is impeachment.
So, on top of sorting out what Vindman and Williams said in their depositions, I studied the words of Hale and Holmes.
Holmes told House investigators it was “clear that some action on a Burisma-Biden investigation was a precondition for an Oval Office meeting.” He recounted a lunch in Kiev with U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland and how he overheard a loud phone call Sondland placed to Trump – after a bottle of wine. A veteran diplomat, Holmes said the call was “an extremely distinctive experience in my foreign service career. I’ve never seen anything like this, someone calling the president from a mobile phone at a restaurant, and then having a conversation of this level of candor, colorful language. There’s just so much about the call that was so remarkable that I remember it vividly.”
This was where Holmes told investigators that Sondland said Trump “did not give a sh– about Ukraine.” He said the president cared only about “big stuff” like “this Biden investigation that Giuliani is pushing.”
You thought it was hard to keep remember which elements were gasses and which were metals? How could a fifth-grader possibly learn these things when Ken Griffey Sr. just hit a triple?
Fast forward to the present day.
Here’s a problem with covering impeachment: information overload. As a reporter, it’s a chore to digest and synthesize the context and importance of the hearing with Yovanovitch on Friday – then swing into action around 4:30 pm for a deposition running until nearly 10 p.m. Then, be back at it the next morning for a closed-door deposition Saturday with Office of Management and Budget official Mark Sandy – and comprehend two lengthy transcripts from Morrison and Williams released a few hours later.
If it’s hard for reporters to keep it straight, consider the task facing the public.
This has been a chief problem facing Democrats. Many party lawmakers, in the middle of building a case against the president, have been trying to weave together a complicated mosaic of alleged international skullduggery, possible intimidation, perceived aspirations of personal gain over country, bribery and flat-out corruption. But, it’s unclear how the public may interpret this challenging narrative and if it would make a difference.
The public struggled with the concept of “quid pro quo,” and later, Democrats amended the verbiage to “extortion” and “bribery.” People have heard of “Kiev,” but statements about Ukraine’s capital repeatedly spelled it “Kyiv.” Witnesses familiar with the region pronounced it “KEEV” during the hearings.
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A packed week of impeachment hearings kicks off Tuesday with back-to-back panels featuring a total of four witnesses, some expected to offer sharp criticism of President Trump’s interactions with Ukraine.
Tuesday’s sessions will include testimony from National Security Council (NSC) official Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman and his counterpart at Vice President Pence’s office Jennifer Williams in the morning, as well as former U.S. Special Representative for Ukraine Kurt Volker and NSC outgoing senior director of European and Russian affairs Tim Morrison in the afternoon.
Questioning so far has focused on whether Trump made the release of military aid to Ukraine contingent on an agreement to help investigate his political opponents including former vice president Joe Biden and his son Hunter. Hunter Biden was a board member of Ukrainian energy company Burisma Holdings, which had been under investigation before then-Vice President Biden pressured Ukraine to fire the prosecutor in charge.
Suspicion over a possible link between the aid and investigations arose after a July 25 phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky led to a whistleblower complaint alleging that Trump was trying to pressure Ukraine into helping him. Trump insists that the call was "perfect," and Zelensky has also claimed that there was no pressure.
Vindman and Williams have said that they were uneasy as Trump talked to Zelensky about investigations of the Bidens. Vindman also said he reported the call to NSC lawyers.
Williams said she found it "unusual" and inserted the White House's readout of it in Pence's briefing book.
"I did not think it was proper to demand that a foreign government investigate a U.S. citizen," Vindman said, adding there was "no doubt" what Trump wanted.
Vindman also said he recalled U.S. Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland saying during White House meetings on July 10 that Ukrainians would have to deliver an investigation into the Bidens to receive the aid.
But, Sondland told a different version of the day. He said he didn’t recall mentioning Ukraine investigations or Burisma. The only conflict he described from that day was a disagreement on whether to schedule a call between Trump and Zelensky promptly. He was in favor.
Morrison previously told lawmakers during his own a closed-door session that he was not concerned that Trump’s phone calls with Zelensky were connected to political interests, and that the president did not want taxpayers funding Ukrainian corruption.
Thus far, none of the witnesses who have testified at the public hearings have had first-hand knowledge of the president's thinking, which Republicans have used to cast doubt on Democrats' allegations. Vindman, Williams, and Morrison all listened in on Trump's July 25 phone call.
Monday, President Trump indicated he may testify himself.
"Even though I did nothing wrong, and don’t like giving credibility to this No Due Process Hoax, I like the idea & will, in order to get Congress focused again, strongly consider it!" Trump tweeted, referencing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's suggestion that Trump testify, and that he could do so in writing.
Beginning Tuesday morning, in a rush of five hearings ahead of the Thanksgiving recess, eight witnesses — including several who have provided inconsistent accounts of key events — are set to testify over three days in what could be a make-or-break week in House Democrats' impeachment investigation.
Less than 24 hours before the proceedings are set to be gaveled in at 9 a.m. ET, President Trump floated the idea of testifying, rather than tweeting, during the inquiry. A top Republican called for a last-minute postponement, citing secretive new developments behind closed doors. And, the Trump campaign has pointed out apparent inconsistencies in some witness testimony already on the record.
Though he's not slated to testify until Wednesday, the key witness expected to come up throughout the week is Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, the wealthy donor who has bragged about his proximity to President Trump — and who repeatedly has frustrated Democrats' narrative by contradicting several other key witnesses in the probe.
For example, Sondland previously testified behind closed doors that Trump explicitly told him there were to be "no quid pro quos of any kind" with Ukraine, and that he didn’t recall any conversations with the White House about withholding military assistance in return for Ukraine helping with the president’s political campaign. Democrats have alleged that Trump held up the aid to ensure a public probe into the Ukraine business dealings of former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter.
Then, William Taylor, the U.S. chargé d'affaires for Ukraine, told lawmakers that Sondland himself said "everything" — a White House visit for Ukraine's new leader and the release of military aid to the former Soviet republic — was contingent on a public announcement of investigations into the 2016 election and into Ukraine gas company Burisma. Hunter Biden sat on its board.
Weeks later, after testimony from Taylor and National Security Council [NSC] official Tim Morrison placed him at the center of key discussions, Sondland suddenly amended his testimony and claimed his recollection had been "refreshed." Sondland said he now could recall a September conversation in which he told an aide to Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky that military aid likely would not occur until Ukraine made public announcements about corruption investigations. Sondland said he came to "understand" that arrangement from other sources.
Morrison, the NSC's outgoing senior director of European and Russian affairs and White House deputy assistant, is to testify Tuesday afternoon. In his closed-door deposition, which Democrats released over the weekend, Morrison said Trump didn't want tax dollars funding Ukrainian corruption, and remarked that he wasn't concerned Trump's calls with Ukraine's leader were tied to his political interests.
Additionally, Sondland has insisted he knew acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney only well enough to wave and say hello — and that’s about it. He said he may have spoken to him once or twice on the phone, but not about Ukraine. Meanwhile, Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a National Security Council official, has testified Sondland cited a discussion with Mulvaney when pushing Ukrainian officials to open the investigations that Trump wanted into the 2016 U.S. presidential election and into potential 2020 election opponent Joe Biden.
Vindman is scheduled to testify Tuesday morning. Republicans have further noted that Morrison has testified privately that he "had concerns about Lieutenant Colonel Vindman’s judgment" and had heard concerns that Vindman was a leaker.
Separately, Fiona Hill, another White House national security official, said Sondland often talked of meetings with Mulvaney. In a further link between the two men, she quoted the-then National Security Adviser John Bolton as telling her he didn’t want to be part of “whatever drug deal Sondland and Mulvaney were cooking up.”
Hill is to testify Friday morning, after Sondland's appearance.
She also has recalled scolding Sondland face-to-face after tense July 10 meetings at the White House involving U.S. and Ukrainian leaders, reminding him of the need for proper procedures and the role of the National Security Council. She said Bolton "stiffened" when Sondland brought up investigations in front of the Ukrainian officials and immediately ended the meeting. Vindman, too, said he made clear to Sondland his comments were inappropriate "and that we were not going to get involved in investigations."
But, Sondland said he didn't recall a cross word from Hill, Bolton or anyone else about his Ukraine work. In fact, he said, Bolton signed off on the whole Ukraine strategy.
"Indeed, over the spring and summer of 2019, I received nothing but cordial responses from Ambassador Bolton and Dr. Hill. Nothing was ever raised to me about any concerns regarding our Ukrainian policy," Sondland said. When Hill left her post in government, he recalled, she gave him a big hug and told him to keep in touch.
Testimony from multiple witnesses has centered on the July 10 White House meetings. Several of those present said Sondland, on that day, explicitly connected a coveted White House visit to the country’s public announcement of corruption investigations. It was something he just “blurted out,” Hill said, recalling him saying: "Well, we have an agreement with the Chief of Staff for a meeting if these 'investigations in the energy sector start."
Vindman, too, said he remembered Sondland saying that day that the Ukrainians would have to deliver an investigation into the Bidens.
But, Sondland told a different version of the day. He said he didn’t recall mentioning Ukraine investigations or Burisma. The only conflict he described from that day was a disagreement on whether to schedule a call between Trump and Zelensky promptly. He was in favor.
Sondland likely won't be the only witness in the impeachment inquiry facing credibility concerns this week. Late Monday, the Trump campaign pointed out that State Department official David Holmes' testimony concerning Trump's call with Sondland — in which Trump allegedly called for "investigations" — seemed to conflict with Taylor's remarks under oath.
Taylor, who testified before the House Intelligence Committee last Wednesday, said he had just learned about the July phone call this month. But, Holmes' timeline of events, according to a written statement from his closed-door interview, seemed to depart from Taylor's — saying he notified Taylor of the call shortly after it happened. Holmes is slated to testify Thursday.
House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Doug Collins, R-Ga., sent a letter Monday to the panel's chairman, Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., panning what he called the "Democrat impeachment crusade" for lacking the "due process protections afforded in all past presidential impeachments, including those protections afforded to President Clinton by Republicans."
Collins continued, "It is an unfair process for many other reasons, chief among them the fact that minority questions are not being answered in depositions and the president’s counsel has had no voice in the fact-gathering phase of this impeachment inquiry."
For his part, Trump revealed Monday he was considering an invitation from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., to provide his own account to the House, possibly by submitting written testimony. That would be an unprecedented moment in this constitutional showdown between the two branches of U.S. government.
Trump tweeted: “Even though I did nothing wrong, and don’t like giving credibility to this No Due Process Hoax, I like the idea & will, in order to get Congress focused again, strongly consider it!”
But, a Democratic official working on the impeachment probe told Fox News on Monday that they weren't taking the offer seriously.
"If President Trump were serious about providing information to our investigation, he’d stop obstructing his administration from providing documents and people to provide testimony," the official said. "There are people who could testify, including John Bolton and Mick Mulvaney. This is not serious. We're not going to play that game."
Tuesday’s sessions at the House Intelligence Committee are to start with Vindman, an Army officer at the National Security Council, and Jennifer Williams, his counterpart at Vice President Mike Pence’s office.
The witnesses, both foreign policy experts, said they listened with concern as Trump spoke on July 25 with the newly elected Ukraine president. The government whistleblower’s complaint about that call led the House to launch the impeachment investigation.
Pence's role remained unclear. "I just don't know if he read it," Williams testified in a closed-door House interview.
Vindman also lodged concerns about Sondland, relaying details from the explosive July 10 meeting at the White House and saying the ambassador pushed visiting Ukraine officials for the investigations Trump wanted.
"He was talking about the 2016 elections and an investigation into the Bidens and Burisma," Vindman testified.
Morrison referred to Burisma as a "bucket of issues" — the Bidens, Democrats, investigations — from which he had tried to "stay away."
Along with Volker's testimony, their accounts further complicated Sondland’s testimony and characterized Trump as more central to the action.
Sondland met with a Zelensky aide on the sidelines of a Sept. 1 gathering in Warsaw, Poland, and Morrison, who was watching the encounter from across the room, testified that the ambassador told him moments later he pushed the Ukrainian for the Burisma investigation as a way for Ukraine to gain access to the military funds.
Volker provided investigators with a package of text messages with Sondland and Taylor, who said he grew alarmed at the possible linkage of the investigations to the aid.
Republicans are certain to mount a more aggressive attack on all the witnesses as the inquiry has reached closer into the White House.
The president has aimed to see a robust defense by his GOP allies on Capitol Hill, but so far they have offered a changing strategy as the fast-moving probe spilled into public view.
Republicans first complained the witnesses were offering only hearsay, without first-hand knowledge of Trump’s actions. But, as more witnesses came forward bringing testimony closer to Trump, they more recently have said the president was innocent because the military money eventually was released.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., during an appearance Monday in Louisville, Kentucky, acknowledged the House will likely vote to impeach the president.
But, the GOP leader said he "can't imagine" a scenario in which there would be enough support in the Senate — a supermajority 67 votes — to remove Trump from office.
McConnell said House Democrats "are seized with 'Trump derangement syndrome,'" a catch-phrase used by the president's supporters. He said the inquiry seemed "particularly ridiculous since we're going into the presidential election and the American people will have an opportunity in the very near future to decide who they want the next president to be."
Pelosi, though, said the president could speak for himself.
"If he has information that is exculpatory, that means ex, taking away, culpable, blame, then we look forward to seeing it," she said in a CBS News interview that aired Sunday. Trump "could come right before the committee and talk, speak all the truth that he wants if he wants," she said.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Trump "should come to the committee and testify under oath, and he should allow all those around him to come to the committee and testify under oath." He said the White House's insistence on blocking witnesses from cooperating raised the question: "What is he hiding?"
The White House has instructed officials not to appear, and most have received congressional subpoenas to compel their testimony.
Those appearing in public already have given closed-door interviews to investigators, and transcripts from those depositions largely have been released.
Sondland is to appear Wednesday. The wealthy hotelier, who donated $1 million to Trump’s inauguration, was the only person interviewed to date who had direct conversations with the president about the Ukraine situation.
Morrison said Sondland and Trump had spoken about five times between July 15 and Sept. 11 — the weeks that $391 million in U.S. assistance was withheld from Ukraine before it was released.
Reaction and analysis from Claremont Institute senior fellow John Eastman and former Whitewater independent counsel Robert Ray.
Words are spilling into digitized pixels, onto blogs and good, old-fashioned newspapers about the impeachment hearings. There are essays on how to watch. Essays on the dramatis personae. Why is it important that Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, is now on the Intelligence Committee? Why isn’t he wearing a jacket?
We’ve seen tutorials about how journalists should cover the hearings. How not to get “distracted” by “stunts.” Guides on the Constitutional concept of “impeachment.” What Alexander Hamilton wrote about in Federalist Paper #65 regarding impeachment.
All apply and are worthy of study. But perhaps the best primer for understanding the impeachment hearings is none other than William Shakespeare.
No one studied the questions of morality, politics and ambition more astutely than the Bard of Stratford-upon-Avon. Shakespeare explored racial and religious divisions in “The Merchant of Venice.” Philosophical debates in “The Tempest.” Betrayal in “King Lear. The lure of power in “Macbeth.”
Many of Shakespeare’s plays focus on war. The consequences of bad political decisions. What it takes to serve as a successful leader. And, the corrupting intersection of a thirst for authority and the public good.
There’s a reason we portray major moments in politics as “theatrical” and even “Shakespearean.” It wasn’t so much that Shakespeare was prescient in foretelling major political events – be they about a fictitious Venetian court or a real-life political saga on Capitol Hill. Shakespeare simply wrote about the tensions involving power – which are inevitably present on every political stage from 7th grade student council to the highest levels of American government.
The goal of House Democrats in the impeachment hearings is to contour a narrative about what happened with Ukraine. Democrats hope their witnesses construct a gripping tale.
So, let’s see what Shakespeare can tell us about L’Affaire Ukraine.
“The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose.” – The Merchant of Venice, Act I, Scene III
What Shakespeare gets at here is that people manipulate words to their advantage. Take the interpretation of the phone call President Trump conducted with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Persons familiar with the call, ranging from the whistleblower to National Security official Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, immediately saw flashing red lights. They were concerned about what was said on the call. Vindman fretted about how the NSC staff locked down the call. The phone call is seminal to the entire investigation. But many Republicans look at the phone call and see little that’s wrong with the verbiage. That ranges from Mr. Trump himself to Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., to Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. The public must discern what it thinks of the text of the phone call after the hearings.
“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” Hamlet, Act II, Scene 2
Shakespeare may have channeled Zen for this one. Some yin and yang. Here, Hamlet ponders ways to avenge his father’s death while speaking with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. One could argue that Democrats are fixated on the impeachment of President Trump – dating back to the Russia probe and Independent Counsel Robert Mueller. Therefore, the more Democrats stew over the results of the 2016 election, the more they see impeachable offenses.
Shakespeare and Chaucer romanticized the day in much of their work and as a result it gained tremendous popularity in Britain and throughout the rest of Europe. (iStock)
“This is not about (House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam) Schiff, D-Calif., finding the truth,” fumed Graham on Fox. “This is about Schiff trying to destroy the Trump presidency.”
But if one posits that there were in fact misdeeds by the President, then, Democrats will argue they have no choice but to impeach. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., insists Democrats “haven’t made a decision to impeach.” But frankly, lots of Democrats decided long ago to impeach Mr. Trump. Go talk to Reps. Al Green, D-Texas, and Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich.
“More of your conversation would infect my brain.” – Coriolanus, Act II, Scene 1
For starters, no one can quite turn a phrase like Shakespeare. And, for the record, while obscure, Coriolanus is one of Shakespeare’s most political works. The entire play is an expose on the power of populism and how people can overthrow a corrupt regime.
Republicans have long touted that the witnesses at the first impeachment hearing – acting Ambassador to Ukraine Bill Taylor and State Department official George Kent – lacked firsthand knowledge of the phone call. So Sheryl Gay Stolberg of the New York Times asked Pelosi about that at her weekly press conference.
“I’m wondering if you think it would be worth waiting for those who heard things firsthand, like (former National Security Adviser) John Bolton and (Acting White House Chief of Staff) Mick Mulvaney to testify?” asked Stolberg.
“Sheryl, Sheryl, Sheryl,” interrupted Pelosi. “Don’t fall into the secondhand stuff. Really. That is such a fraudulent proposition put forth by the Republicans. That is such a fraudulent proposition. And they know it. That's why they're talking about process rather than the substance of what we have heard. I just won't even dignify what they are saying in that regard.”
“We must not make a scarecrow of the law, setting it up to fear the birds of prey, and let it keep one shape till custom make it their perch and not their terror.” – Measure for Measure, Act II, Scene I
In Measure for Measure, Shakespeare argues that the rule of law is paramount and those who break it should face consequences.
Pelosi repeatedly argued that impeachment hinges on “the truth” and the hearings are “the message of the Constitution.” In fact, Pelosi has lately begun to cite the word “bribery” when citing reasons the House is investigating Mr. Trump.
“Bribery,” said Pelosi. “That is in the Constitution, attached to the impeachment proceedings.”
Article II, Section 4 of the Constitution indeed mentions “Bribery,” capitalizing it, as a potential impeachable offense.
Most major, historic Congressional hearings are distilled into a memorable moment, curated for posterity. Think of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas decrying his confirmation process as “high-tech lynching.” Attorney Joseph Welch saying to Sen. Joe McCarthy, R-Wis., “have you no sense of decency?” at hearings investigating communism in 1954. Welch’s retort ended McCarthy’s career.
Only one moment in the two days of open impeachment hearings left such an indelible impression. Yet, the “moment” didn’t even unfold in the hearing room – at least at first. This moment screamed out of the digital ether, radiating like an isotope from the powerful Twitter feed of President Trump.
Via Twitter, the President assailed the professional accomplishments of former Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch as she appeared before the House Intelligence Committee.
“She started off in Somalia, how did that go? Then fast forward to Ukraine, where the new Ukrainian President spoke unfavorably about her in my second phone call with him. It is a U.S. President’s absolute right to appoint ambassadors,” tweeted Mr. Trump.
Moments later, Adam Schiff read the tweets aloud in the hearing room, seeking Yovanovitch’ s reaction.
“We didn’t need that” said one senior House Republican source.
Before the hearing, Democrats wondered if GOPers risked being too aggressive with Yovanovitch during the questioning.
“If they do that today, it will not look good,” said one Democrat on the committee.
Republicans on the committee didn’t have to. President Trump did it for them.
Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch told lawmakers behind closed doors she felt 'threatened' by President Trump before she was recalled from her post in May; chief congressional correspondent Mike Emanuel reports from Capitol Hill.
Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine who was recalled this past May, became teary-eyed as she recounted her sudden firing during a closed-door deposition last month, sources told Fox News.
That may have been the easy part.
On Friday morning at 9 a.m. ET, the 60-year-old diplomat will take the stand again for Day Two of the public impeachment hearings against President Trump — and Republicans are set to hammer her with an aggressive cross-examination related to her previous statements under oath, as well as her reported role in shielding a George Soros-linked nonprofit allegedly connected to documented Ukrainian election interference efforts.
“The former ambassador from the United States, the woman, was bad news,” was how Trump described Yovanovitch to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in a July 25 phone call, according to The Washington Post.
“She’s going to go through some things,” the president added ominously.
“The former ambassador from the United States, the woman, was bad news. She’s going to go through some things.”
— President Trump
Shortly before Yovanovitch was set to take the stand, Fox News contributor John Solomon published an explosive March interview with Yuriy Lutsenko, a former prosecutor general in Ukraine. Lutsenko claimed that Yovanovitch had given him a “do not prosecute” list — and Solomon reported that Yovanovitch pressured Ukrainian prosecutors to back off a case involving the AntiCorruption Action Centre, funded by Soros, the liberal megadonor.
The U.S. Embassy under Yovanovitch, Solomon reported, also influenced Ukraine to drop prosecution against top law enforcement official Artem Sytnyk, who was singled out by a Ukrainian court for leaking damaging information about Paul Manafort, then Trump's campaign chairman, to help Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election. Ukraine courts have ruled that the Manafort financial disclosures constituted illegal election meddling.
Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, center, leaves Capitol Hill in Washington, after testifying before congressional committee members, Oct. 11, 2019. (Associated Press)
Though multiple reports, including one from The Associated Press, indicated Lutsenko had recanted his claims about Yovanovitch, Soros said he had not — a revelation later confirmed by The New York Times.
On Friday and beyond, House Republicans plan to sharpen their focus on allegations of Ukraine meddling in the 2016 presidential election, voicing frustration after top diplomats who testified Wednesday said they had no knowledge of the issue. A senior Republican official told Fox News on Thursday that the issue of Ukrainian election meddling would be a “theme” of questions asked by GOP members of the House Intelligence Committee moving forward.
Making matters more complicated for Democrats, Yovanovitch's testimony was set to come just hours after a bombshell report that a top Ukrainian official said Thursday that U.S. Ambassador Gordon Sondland, a key Democrat impeachment witness, "did not link financial military assistance to a request for Ukraine to open up an investigation into former vice president and current Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden."
Citing that report in a tweet late Thursday, Trump called the impeachment probe "dead."
Sondland has testified that Trump explicitly told him there were "no quid pro quos of any kind" with Ukraine, including one in which military aid would be conditioned on any politically motivated investigations. (Sondland later amended his testimony, claiming his recollection had been "refreshed," to say he had come to "understand" from other sources that Trump wanted Ukraine to issue an "anti-corruption statement.")
Forced out of her job in April, Yovanovitch likely can't offer much of substance on her own about the central allegations against the president. Democrats leading the impeachment inquiry contend that several months later in the year, Trump pressured Zelensky to investigate the Bidens, and withheld U.S. military aid as leverage.
The timeline will render Yovanovitch vulnerable to the same criticisms that Republicans had for William Taylor and George Kent, the two diplomats who testified during Day One of the impeachment proceedings: That all she can offer is unverifiable hearsay and speculation.
Additionally, Republican lawmakers have argued that Yovanovitch wasn't entirely truthful in her previous remarks under oath. She communicated via her personal email account with a Democratic congressional staffer concerning a "quite delicate" and "time-sensitive" matter — just two days after the whistleblower complaint that kickstarted the impeachment inquiry was filed, and a month before the complaint became public, emails exclusively obtained by Fox News showed.
The emails appear to contradict Yovanovitch's deposition on Capitol Hill last month, in which she told U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin, R-N.Y., about an email she received Aug. 14 from the staffer, Laura Carey — but indicated under oath that she never responded to it.
"I specifically asked her whether the Democratic staffer was responded to by Yovanovitch or the State Department," Zeldin told Fox News. "It is greatly concerning that Ambassador Yovanovitch didn't answer my question as honestly as she should have, especially while under oath."
Yovanovitch's colleagues, for their part, have said she was the target of a smear campaign by the White House, and Trump himself has called the diplomat "bad news."
Separately during her remarks, Yovanovitch outlined how she lost her job in Ukraine, even as she remains an employee of the State Department.
“You’re going to think that I’m incredibly naive,” Yovanovitch told impeachment investigators. “But I couldn’t imagine all the things that have happened over the last six or seven months. I just couldn’t imagine it.”
“You’re going to think that I’m incredibly naive. But I couldn’t imagine all the things that have happened over the last six or seven months. I just couldn’t imagine it.”
— Marie Yovanovitch, former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine
Democratic lawmakers are expected to point to the circumstances of her ouster as they try to make their case that Trump, with the help of his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, mounted an inappropriate pressure campaign to enlist Zelensky in the effort to damage Biden.
“Giuliani also conducted a smear campaign against the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch,” House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff said at the first public impeachment hearing earlier this week. “A senior State Department official told her that although she had done nothing wrong, President Trump had lost confidence in her.”
Former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, center, arrives on Capitol Hill, Friday, Oct. 11, 2019, in Washington, to testify before congressional lawmakers as part of the House impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump. (Associated Press)
Trump was convinced Yovanovitch was a rogue actor who held a political bias against him, according to a rough transcript of the July 25 call between the president and Zelensky.
At the time of the call, the Trump administration had put a hold on nearly $400 million in military aid to Ukraine and Zelensky and his team were trying to get Trump to commit to a date for a White House meeting.
The intelligence community whistleblower who spurred the House investigation cited Yovanovitch’s ouster as one in a series of events that amounted to an abuse of power by the president.
Meanwhile, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday accused the president of "bribery" by allegedly "threatening to withhold military aid" in exchange for an "investigation into his political rival" — signaling that Democrats were preparing to go all-in on impeachment. The Washington Post had reported Democrats were retiring the "quid pro quo" language in exchange for "bribery" following an internal study showing the word "bribery" resonated more in battleground states.
Yovanovitch, a State Department employee for 33 years who also led U.S. embassies in Kyrgyzstan and Armenia, is well known in diplomatic circles for her measured demeanor and diligence in representing both Republican and Democratic administrations, according to former colleagues.
“Mr. Giuliani was almost unmissable starting in mid-March,” Kent, a deputy assistant secretary of state, testified Wednesday. “As the news campaign, or campaign of slander, against not only Ambassador Yovanovitch unfolded … he was on TV, his Twitter feed ramped up and it was all focused on Ukraine.”
After the ambassador’s recall, Giuliani told Ukrainian journalists that Yovanovitch was pulled from Kiev because she was part of efforts against the president. The former New York City mayor also has said that he told the president there were concerns among Trump supporters that she had displayed anti-Trump bias in private conversations.
In late March, the president’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., posted a tweet referring to her as a “joker,” and linked to an article from the conservative website Daily Wire that detailed a growing call for Yovanovitch’s ouster.
Yovanovitch raised concerns about the U.S. media reports with Sondland. In response, Sondland encouraged her to tweet her support for Trump on social media.
“He said, ‘You know, you need to go big or go home,'” she recalled. “‘You need to, you know, tweet out there that you support the president.’”
“I just didn't see that there would be any advantage to publicly taking on a fight with those who were criticizing me in the United States,” she said.
“I just didn't see that there would be any advantage to publicly taking on a fight with those who were criticizing me in the United States.”
— Marie Yovanovitch, former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine
Now Yovanovitch, hardly a marquee name in Washington, finds herself thrust into the spotlight of just the fourth impeachment inquiry in U.S. history.
Nancy McEldowney, a former U.S. ambassador to Bulgaria who has known Yovanovitch for three decades, said the accusations levied by Trump and Giuliani don’t square with the professional envoy whose focus throughout her career has remained on “serving American national interests and supporting the people around her.”
Some GOP senators have talked about contingency plans should the House impeach the president. Specifically, Republicans have floated the idea of holding a lengthy Senate trial early next year, which would potentially jam up several Democratic presidential contenders in the middle of the primary season.
House Democrats, however, could preempt that strategy — perhaps by approving an article of impeachment, then waiting to approve a second resolution formally notifying the Senate of the impeachment until after the primary season is over.
Fox News' Gillian Turner, Chad Pergram, Brooke Singman, and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
“$3,144,257 RAISED YESTERDAY!” Brad Parscale, Trump’s 2020 campaign manager, tweeted Thursday. “’[Trump] loves these huge numbers. He knows that it isn’t enough to end this IMPEACHMENT SCAM.”
Even before the public hearings began, Trump fundraisers reported seeing a surge in donations in response to impeachment talk. Parscale tweeted in September that donors gave $5 million in the 24 hours after Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi announced the impeachment inquiry.
Other pro-Trump groups also saw a spike in donations. Linda McMahon, chair of the America First Action PAC board of directors, previously told FOX Business’ Neil Cavuto that the group had raised about $1 million each day in the week after Pelosi announced the impeachment inquiry.
"That speaks, I think, volumes to how people are rallying around the president," she said.
WinRed, the new GOP online fundraising platform designed to compete for small-dollar campaign donations, reported raising a little more than $30 million in the third fundraising quarter, which began in July and ended at the close of September.
"You see exactly what America voted against in 2016, career government bureaucrats doing their thing,” the executive vice president of the Trump Organization said.
“Everything was hearsay, ‘I heard it from a friend, who heard it from a friend, how heard it from a friend.’ I’m saying, ‘this is a joke.’”
At one point in Wednesday's hearing, Rep. Mike Quigley, D-Ill., even appeared to embrace hearsay testimony, claiming that "hearsay can be much better evidence than direct" and that "countless people have been convicted on hearsay because the courts have routinely allowed and created, needed exceptions to hearsay." It was unclear which of those limited exceptions would apply to Wednesday's testimony — and whether Quigley's argument would persuade critical swing-vote Democrats.
Trump commented on Quigley’s statements telling Sean Hannity, “Then I heard the Democrats, and this is when you realize how bad or, frankly, nonexistent their case is, ‘well hearsay is often times much better than regular evidence.’ I’m saying, ‘did that guy say that with a straight face?’”
Trump then compared Quigley’s comments to “the telephone game we learned about in Kindergarten.”
“So it’s better to have heard it from a friend who heard it from a friend who heard it from a friend than to have heard it with your own ears? I mean that’s the level of insanity that you’re seeing from these bureaucrats who’ve taken an anti-Trump position,” he said.
Earlier Wednesday Trump Jr. also tweeted about Quigley’s comments writing, “Can you believe this insanity? “Heresay [sic] can be much better evidence than DIRECT EVIDENCE” according to Democrat Mike Quigley. Are you fricken kidding me? 3rd and 4th party info better than hearing it yourself?”
On "Hannity" Trump said, “When Republicans start questioning, [House Intelligence Committee Chairman] Adam Schiff changes the rules, changes the goal posts, pretends they can’t even ask that question anymore. It’s never ending. It’s a comedy at this point.”
The House is now comprised of 431 members, meaning Democrats need 217 yeas to impeach Trump. There are currently 233 Democrats, so Democrats can only lose 16 of their own and still impeach the president. 31 House Democrats represent more moderate districts that Trump carried in 2016.
Trump Jr. told Hannity on Wednesday that the left “is not looking to govern, they’re not looking to do anything, they are looking to try to resist. Because they know they can’t beat Trump in the polls, they’re going to try to impeach and it’s not going to work in the long run and the American people see through it. They are sick of this garbage.”
White House dismisses new testimony; chief White House correspondent John Roberts reports.
All eyes were on moderate House Democrats in swing districts Wednesday night, after the first day of public hearings in the impeachment inquiry against President Trump wrapped up with some new revelations — but also highlighted weaknesses in Democrats' key witnesses, who relied primarily on second-hand information.
At one point in Wednesday's hearing, Rep. Mike Quigley, D-Ill., even appeared to embrace hearsay testimony, claiming that "hearsay can be much better evidence than direct" and that "countless people have been convicted on hearsay because the courts have routinely allowed and created, needed exceptions to hearsay." It was unclear which of those limited exceptions would apply to Wednesday's testimony.
Freshman Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Mich. — who flipped a GOP district in 2018 that President Trump won by 7 points in 2016 — told Fox News that she was tentatively weighing all the evidence.
"My constituents expect me to make an objective decision," Slotkin said as the hearings concluded, "not one based on an hour of testimony."
Slotkin went on to acknowledge that launching an impeachment inquiry was a "politically tough thing to do."
"I'm not waking up in the morning looking for some golden poll," Slotkin said, insisting that she would analyze all testimony carefully in the coming days.
Reports have emerged that, should Trump be impeached by a majority vote in the House, Senate Republicans might hold a lengthy trial to "scramble" the 2020 Democratic presidential primary — including by requiring several of the contenders to remain in Washington to handle the trial. Trump is all but certain to be acquitted by the GOP-controlled Senate in the event of impeachment, given that a two-thirds vote is required in the Senate to remove the president.
For the first time, the Democrats' case for Trump’s impeachment streamed from Americans' TVs earlier in the day, including the previously undisclosed contention that he was overheard asking about political "investigations" that he demanded from Ukraine in trade for military aid.
As the hearing wrapped up, the panel voted 13-9, along party lines, to table a Republican motion to subpoena the whistleblower — signaling that not many minds had been swayed.
A GOP source close to the House Intelligence Committee told Fox News late Wednesday that Republicans have full confidence in counsel Steve Castor, and he will continue to lead the questioning in the next round of public impeachment hearings. GOP members were pleased with his questioning today, the source said.
Career diplomat William Taylor, the charge d’affaires in Kiev, offered testimony earlier in the day that Trump was overheard asking on the phone about "the investigations" of Democrats that he wanted Ukraine to pursue. Republicans pointed out that Taylor's comment was unverifiable hearsay, several layers deep.
"'Ambassador Taylor recalls that Mr. [Tim] Morrison told Ambassador Taylor that I told Mr. Morrison that I had conveyed this message to Mr. [Andriy] Yermak on September 1, 2019, in connection with Vice President Pence’s visit to Warsaw and a meeting with President [Volodymyr] Zelensky,'" Ohio GOP Rep. Jim Jordan said, incredulously reading a statement from U.S. ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland.
"We’ve got six people having four conversations in one sentence, and you just told me this is where you got your 'clear understanding,'" Jordan continued, as Taylor appeared to laugh. "Ambassador, you weren't on the call, were you? You've never talked to Chief of Staff [Mick] Mulvaney? You've never met the president. … And you're their star witness?"
Jordan also reminded viewers that President Obama had declined to provide lethal aid to Ukraine, even after Russia's invasion. Trump, on the other hand, eventually provided Javelin missiles.
Trump, for his part, said he was too busy to watch on Wednesday and denied having such a phone call. "First I've heard of it," he said when asked.
The president, at a news conference with Turkey's leader, vowed to release another transcript of an earlier call with Ukraine on Thursday. He called Democrats' efforts a hopeless "witch hunt."
The president pointed to Sondland's written testimony: "The one thing I've seen that Sondland said, he did speak to me for a brief moment, he did speak to me for a brief moment — [he testified previously that] I said, no 'quid pro quo,' under any circumstances, and that's true. In any event, it's more second-hand information. … The only thing, and I guess Sondland has stayed with his testimony, that there was no quid-pro-quo, pure and simple."
Media observers questioned whether the proceedings ultimately would sway any opinions, or make things any easier for moderate Democrats. ABC News' George Stephanopoulos mused on-air, "part of me is wondering, what do facts matter anymore in these debates?"
Meanwhile, Christian Jacobs, 50, sat in a beach bar in St. Petersburg, wearing a fedora and reluctantly watching the drama on television, as The Associated Press put it.
"I did not want this," Jacobs, a Democrat, said, glancing at the TV and vaping. He said he had been leaning closer toward impeachment.
"I'm so afraid, left to his own devices, what else he may do," Jacobs said of Trump.
"I did not want this."
— Christian Jacobs, 50, wearing fedora and sipping marijuana vape pen
Anthony Harris, cutting hair in Savannah, Georgia, had the hearing on in his shop, but he said, "It's gotten to the point now where people are even tired of listening."
Lawmakers largely signaled that the hours of partisan back-and-forth did not appear to leave a singular moment etched in the public consciousness the way the Watergate proceedings or former President Clinton's impeachment did.
"No real surprises, no bombshells," said committee member Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah.
Taylor and Kent had defied White House instructions not to appear. Both received subpoenas.
They were among a dozen current and former officials who already testified behind closed doors. Wednesday was the start of days of public hearings expected to stretch into next week.
All day, the diplomats testified about how an ambassador was fired, the new Ukraine government was confused and they discovered an "irregular channel" — a shadow U.S. foreign policy orchestrated by the president's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani which raised alarms in diplomatic and national-security circles.
For their part, Republican lawmakers observed that the president — not unelected career bureaucrats — dictated foreign policy.
At its core, the inquiry has stemmed from Trump’s July 25 phone call when he asked Zelensky for "a favor."
The White House already has released a transcript of the call, in which the two discussed past U.S. "support" for Ukraine, as well as Ukraine's issues with corruption. On the call, Trump asked Kiev to investigate reports that Ukraine was involved in 2016 election interference.
Warren, who was in New Hampshire Wednesday to file to place her name on the Granite State's presidential primary ballot, also took another shot at former New York City mayor and billionaire business and media mogul Mike Bloomberg, who’s taking steps towards jumping into the Democratic race.
Warren – one of the first Democratic White House hopefuls to call for Trump’s impeachment — told reporters after filing that “I believe it is appropriate for this impeachment inquiry to go forward. I think it should have happened earlier, but we're here now. Let’s do it.”
When asked if she had been watching the testimony from the televised public hearing, Warren said: “I just haven’t been able to catch up with it. Fortunately, I will catch up tonight.”
If the Democratic-controlled House impeaches the president, the GOP-led Senate would then hold a trial which could lead to Trump’s removal from office. Such a trial would probably keep Warren and the other Senate Democrats running for president off the campaign trail during the weeks leading up to the first nominating contests in Iowa and New Hampshire.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts files to place her name on the New Hampshire primary ballot in Concord Wednesday.
"I have Constitutional responsibilities," Warren said. "I took an oath of office, as did everyone in Congress and part of that oath of office is the basic principle that no one is above the law. That includes the president of the United States. And if the House goes forward and sends an impeachment over to the Senate, then I will be there for the trial.”
Warren told Fox News that she hadn’t talked with Patrick in recent days and said “no” when asked if the fellow Massachusetts Democrat’s potential entry into the race would complicate her own campaign. When asked about Patrick's years working at investment firm Bain Capital, Warren answered “I’m not here to criticize other Democrats. I’m here to talk about why I’m running for president.”
Patrick is likely to announce his candidacy on Thursday by video or social media, multiple outlets reported on Wednesday. He would then travel to neighboring New Hampshire on Friday the last day for candidates to file to place their names on the primary ballot.
Patrick isn’t the only Democrat likely to launch a campaign at this late date in the primary cycle. Bloomberg has placed his name on the presidential primary ballots in Alabama and Arkansas in recent days as he moves closer to launching a White House run.
I believe that what our election should be about is grassroots. How you build something all across New Hampshire, all across the country, and that we really shouldn’t have elections that are about billionaires calling all the shots, whether they’re reaching into their pockets to fund their own elections or whether they’re counting on getting other people to run," said Warren, who’s been critical of Bloomberg in recent days.
“I’ve noticed that billionaires go on TV and cry," she added. "Other billionaires encourage their billionaire buddies to jump into the race."
Warren may have been referring to billionaire Omega Advisors CEO Leon Cooperman, who lamented during an interview on CNBC last week that Trump is dividing and polarizing Americans while Warren is pushing “Idiocy.” Like many other billionaires, Cooperman has heavily criticized Warren’s proposed tax on the richest Americans, calling it a “bankrupt concept.”
White House officials and GOP lawmakers say House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff should have to testify as Ken Starr did during Bill Clinton's impeachment; insight from Robert Ray, former independent counsel for the Whitewater investigation.
In a pillared House chamber at 10 a.m. ET on Wednesday, in the shadow of the 2020 presidential and congressional elections, House Democrats are set to host the first public hearing involving the potential impeachment of a president since November 19, 1998 — and, they insist, they aren't happy about it.
"It’s a sad day," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif, told Fox News on Tuesday. "A calm day. A prayerful day." For his part, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., called the hearings a "solemn undertaking" in a letter to colleagues.
Behind the scenes, House Democrats were predicting a "phenomenal week," Fox News is told. At the same time, Republicans have been preparing a methodical and vigorous cross-examination of Democrats' witnesses, whose accounts of President Trump's alleged wrongdoing have been based largely on hearsay and intuition.
Capitol Hill security officials told Fox News they're not anticipating the kinds of organized protests that rocked the Supreme Court confirmation hearings of Brett Kavanaugh last year, but sources on both sides of the aisle have cautioned that the proceedings will be unpredictable. The proceedings are to be held in the cavernous House Ways and Means Committee hearing room at the Longworth House Office Building.
The Capitol on Tuesday as the House is set to begin public impeachment inquiry hearings as lawmakers debate whether to remove President Trump from office. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
A whistleblower's complaint about Trump's July 25 telephone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky ignited the impeachment investigation. During the hearing Wednesday, a key exchange during that 30-minute call, which has been outlined in a Sept. 24 transcript released by the White House, could take center stage. Zelensky has said he felt no pressure during the call.
"I would like you to do us a favor though," Trump said at one point in the call, after a mention of U.S. aid to Ukraine, which was being held up at the time. Ukraine apparently was not aware that the aid was being withheld until August, approximately two weeks before the U.S. ultimately released the aid.
On the call, Trump then asked Zelensky to investigate reports that Ukraine had some involvement in 2016 election interference. Later on in the conversation, amid a discussion of deep-seated Ukrainian corruption, Trump mentioned Biden's push to have Ukraine's prosecutor fired, and suggested the country look into the matter.
Republicans have pointed out that the U.S. also delayed military aid assistance for Lebanon and Armenia. The GOP is expected to say the European Union was not doing its fair share to help root out corruption in Ukraine.
“The Russia invasion of Crimea ([n Ukraine] had more to do with Europe than with the U.S.,” one Republican source told Fox News.
Trump has said the call was "perfect" and contained no "quid pro quo," or this for that. Democrats, meanwhile, have said it showed Trump using his office to pressure a foreign government to help him politically.
Big questions loomed, including how strongly administration officials connected Trump's apparent desire for a probe to the question of whether to provide military aid to Ukraine — and whether such a probe would have been inappropriate. At its heart, the GOP argument was that the impeachment effort was unfair and sparked because "unelected and anonymous bureaucrats disagreed" with Trump's decisions on Ukraine.
Shortly after Schiff's gavel, he and ranking Republican Devin Nunes, R-Calif., are to begin the questioning. They get 45 minutes each, or can designate staff attorneys to do so.
Members of the panel will then get five minutes each to ask questions, alternating between Republicans and Democrats.
For the Democrats, expect to hear from Daniel Goldman and Daniel Noble, both counsels for the Intelligence Committee. Fox News is told on the GOP side, Steve Castor, whom Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan brought over from the Oversight Committee, will be the counsel to pose questions for the minority.
Republicans recently placed Jordan on the Intelligence Committee. Though Nunes is the senior Republican, the congressman from Ohio could act as an especially fierce attacker of the witnesses' credibility and the Democrats' case for impeachment.
Goldman and Castor asked the bulk of the questions of witnesses during weeks of closed-door depositions with current and former administration officials and diplomats.
"You're going to see a prosecutorial approach," said Elie Honig, a former federal prosecutor who worked with Goldman to successfully prosecute a Genovese family boss and two mob hit men for racketeering, two murders and an attempted murder. "You will see somebody who knows every detail of every piece of evidence and will bring it to bear in his questioning. You'll see someone who knows how to get right to the point."
Democrats chose Ambassador Bill Taylor and career Foreign Service officer George Kent to kick off the public hearings. "They both were witness to the full storyline of the president’s misconduct," a Democratic aide told Fox News.
The two likely will describe a parallel foreign policy toward Ukraine led by Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and other White House officials.
"I discovered a weird combination of encouraging, confusing and ultimately alarming circumstances," Taylor testified in an Oct. 22 statement. Taylor, a West Point graduate and Vietnam War veteran who has served under every presidential administration, Republican and Democrat, since 1985, also worked for then-Sen. Bill Bradley, D-N.J.
Demonstrators marching on Pennsylvania Avenue protesting against climate policies and President Trump, in Washington last week. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
Taylor said it was "crazy" that the Trump administration may have been withholding U.S. military assistance to the Eastern European ally over the political investigations, with Russian forces on Ukraine's border on watch for a moment of weakness.
Fox News is told the Democrats' game plan has been to let the witnesses "tell their story" on Wednesday. "We need to facilitate and stay out of the way," one Democrat involved in the questioning said.
Democrats also told Fox News that Taylor had "the best view of the scheme. He is a habitual note-taker. He is your worst nightmare. Very prepared."
One source told Fox News the most important line in all of the previously released transcripts so far may have come from Taylor: "Irregular policy channels were running contrary to longstanding goals of U.S. policy," Taylor said in his testimony.
But, Republicans have countered that it's the role of the president — not unelected career bureaucrats — to set U.S. foreign policy.
The hearing room where the House is to begin public impeachment inquiry hearings Wednesday, on Capitol Hill. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
And, Taylor wasn’t on the phone call between Trump and Zelensky. Fox News is told Republicans will cross-examine Taylor repeatedly over his lack of "first-hand knowledge" about the call.
"Hearsay puts a lot of people in jail," one Democratic source told Fox News. "Eyewitness testimony can be tough. Cops will tell you that. Taylor's deducing all of this."
Republicans, meanwhile, are expected to ask Taylor how and why he thought there was a "linkage" and "who told you that."
Kent, a career foreign service officer, testified on Oct. 15 there were three words Trump wanted to hear from the Ukraine president: "Investigations, Biden and Clinton."
He also told the investigators about the "campaign" of smears against former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch that he said Giuliani waged, leading to her being recalled from the position.
In this Nov. 19, 1998 file photo, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Henry Hyde, R-Ill., presided over the committee's impeachment hearing for President Clinton. (AP Photo/Joe Marquette, File)
Yovanovitch is set to testify Friday. She previously testified on Oct. 11 that she was told people were "looking to hurt" her.
Fox News reported last week that Yovanovitch, a key witness for Democrats, communicated via her personal email account with a Democratic congressional staffer concerning a "quite delicate" and "time-sensitive" matter — just two days after the whistleblower complaint that kickstarted the inquiry was filed, and a month before the complaint became public.
Emails obtained by Fox News appeared to contradict Yovanovitch's deposition on Capitol Hill last month, in which she told U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin, R-N.Y., about an email she received Aug. 14 from the staffer, Laura Carey — but suggested under oath that she never responded to it.
Zeldin told Fox News: "I specifically asked her whether the Democratic staffer was responded to by Yovanovitch or the State Department. It is greatly concerning that Ambassador Yovanovitch didn't answer my question as honestly as she should have, especially while under oath."
FILE – In this Aug. 3, 1973, file photo, the Senate Watergate Committee hearings continue on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/File)
Republicans have privately acknowledged to Fox News that they might have a problem. "How do you counteract Kent and Taylor when you don’t have a witness to counter them?" one Republican source asked.
Schiff has approved just three of nine witnesses sought by the GOP. They were envoy Kurt Volker, State Department official David Hale and National Security Council aide Timothy Morrison.
Last week, Schiff rejected a request by Republicans to have the Ukraine phone call whistleblower testify, saying that their testimony was "redundant and unnecessary." The GOP witness list, obtained by Fox News this past Saturday, also included Hunter Biden.
Late Tuesday, Schiff announced that open hearings will again be held next week from Nov. 19-21. In addition to Volker, Hale and Morrison, the new witness list included Jennifer Williams, an aide to Vice President Pence; Alexander Vindman, the director for European affairs at the National Security Council; U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland; Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Russian, Ukrainian, and Eurasian Affairs Laura Cooper; and former National Security Council official Fiona Hill.
White House acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, for his part, said Tuesday he no longer plans to sue over the impeachment proceedings and will instead follow Trump's directions and decline to cooperate.
Aside from witnesses, there will also be exhibits — lots and lots of exhibits. Democrats, at least, are expected to display excerpts from transcripts, text messages, relevant news articles and social media posts.
The Democrats reportedly have been wary of Republicans trying "stunts" and being argumentative in an effort to distract from the case against the president.
The Dec. 20, 1998 editions of newspapers from Massachusetts and Rhode Island with headlines of President Clinton's impeachment. (AP Photo/Peter Lennihan, File)
"By Act II, I suspect the Dancing Bears will enter the room," one Democratic source said. But, GOP sources downplayed the idea of guerilla tactics during the hearing.
Schiff, in a memo and open letter to colleagues on the eve of Wednesday's proceedings, outlined some of the rules — including that members not assigned to the Intelligence Committee were not permitted to make statements or question witnesses, but were allowed to sit in the audience.
"It is important to underscore that the House’s impeachment inquiry, and the committee, will not serve as venues for any member to further the same sham investigations into the Bidens or into debunked conspiracies about 2016 U.S. election interference that President Trump pressed Ukraine to undertake for his personal political benefit," Schiff wrote.
The goal is to end the hearing by 4:30 p.m.
It's only the fourth time in American history that Congress has launched impeachment proceedings against a sitting president. Two of those — against Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton 130 years later— resulted in their impeachments, or formal charges approved by the House.
Both were acquitted by the Senate, which requires a two-thirds vote to remove a sitting president under the Constitution. The House impeaches by a majority vote.
Former President Richard Nixon resigned in 1974 before the House could vote to impeach him.
During Watergate, the Senate held televised hearings that served to turn public opinion against Nixon. The most sensational moments — including the testimony of White House counsel John Dean and Sen. Howard Baker's famous question, "What did the president know and when did he know it?" — occurred not during House impeachment hearings but during special Watergate hearings in the Senate.
Pelosi initially was reluctant to launch a formal impeachment inquiry. As Democrats took control of the House in January, she said impeachment would be "too divisive" for the country. Trump, she said, was simply "not worth it."