Ambassador Bill Taylor, who testified in impeachment inquiry, leaving Ukraine post

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Bill Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat for Ukraine who testified before the House in the impeachment inquiry, plans to leave his post by the end of the year, a person familiar with his plans told Fox News on Tuesday.

Under the terms of the Vacancies Act, Taylor could have remained in his position until Jan. 8 — and even longer under his current State Department contract — but will hand over his responsibilities to the Deputy Chief of Mission on Jan. 1 and leave Kiev the following day.

Ambassador Bill Taylor and George Kent, deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian Affairs, testify before a House Intelligence Committee hearing as part of the impeachment inquiry into President Trump. 

Ambassador Bill Taylor and George Kent, deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian Affairs, testify before a House Intelligence Committee hearing as part of the impeachment inquiry into President Trump. (Reuters)

Taylor’s future plans with the State Department were not immediately clear, nor was it clear who Taylor’s permanent replacement would be.

Taylor was serving as the acting ambassador, having never been formally confirmed by the Senate. Ukraine has been without a permanent ambassador since Marie Yovanovitch was fired from the position in May.

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Taylor, a Vietnam War veteran who previously served as the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine under President George Bush, was tapped by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to replace Yovanovitch in June.

Taylor made headlines last month while testifying before the House Intelligence Committee regarding his knowledge of President Trump’s dealings with Ukraine that have set in motion an impeachment investigation.

In September, Taylor texted U.S. Ambassador to the E.U. Gordon Sondland saying it was “crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign.”

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Hours later, Sondland replied: “The President has been crystal clear: no quid pro quo’s of any kind.”

Original Article

Biden confronted on Ukraine but doesn’t answer, later links Trump to El Paso massacre

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Joe Biden performed his own version of a Texas two-step at a campaign stop in San Antonio on Friday night, letting a crowd of supporters drown out a protester who confronted him on Ukraine — before the ex-vice president could answer — and then continuing his rhetorical attack on President Trump.

It happened while Biden was assailing Trump’s record on immigration and veteran care.

“America can overcome four years of Donald Trump’s chaos and corruption, but if re-elected it will forever fundamentally change the character of who we are as a nation," Biden told the crowd. "We can’t let this happen. This election is about the soul of our nation and Donald Trump has poisoned our soul.”

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Soon a man in the crowd – not shown on camera – interjected to ask: “What about corruption in Ukraine?”

The reference was to Biden's past dealings in the country, where his son, Hunter Biden, reportedly held a seven-figure job with Ukraine’s largest natural gas company, Burisma Holdings. At the same time, the elder Biden — as vice president under Barack Obama — was leading an effort to oust a Ukrainian prosecutor who was investigating the company, raising concerns about a possible conflict of interest.

The Bidens' history in Ukraine has been a growing concern for the White House and Republicans as Democrats in Congress pursue the possible impeachment of President Trump over a July phone call in which the president allegedly tried to make an announcement of a Ukraine investigation into the Bidens a condition for the country's new administration to receive military aid from the U.S.

But before Biden could address the Ukraine question on Friday, the crowd booed the protester and began to chant, “We want Joe!”

Biden seemed to follow the crowd's lead.

“This man represents Donald Trump very well. He’s just like Donald Trump,” Biden said of the protester, who appeared to leave the event, with the crowd waving goodbye to him — though it was unclear if he chose to leave or if he was forced out either by security or other attendees.

“A great American,” Biden continued. "Just let him go. … Don’t hurt … Just let him go. … This is not a Trump rally. This is a real rally.”

With Texas considered a battleground state in the 2020 presidential race, Biden refrained from side-swiping any other top-tier Democratic rivals despite tightening polls ahead of February’s primary and caucus in New Hampshire and Iowa, respectively, the first times voters will actually help determine the party’s nominee for the White House.

With the protester gone, Biden resumed his verbal attack on Trump.

“As my mother would say, God bless me. Bless me, Father, for I have sinned,” Biden said, making the sign of the cross before continuing his rebuke of the president.

Biden then seemed to imply that Trump was responsible for the Aug. 3 shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, that left 22 people dead.

“Remember in '18, {Trump] claimed there was an invasion of Latinos coming across the border? 'They’re going to invade and pollute America,'" Biden said. "Well guess what? The words presidents say matter. It didn't take long after that, that a guy down in El Paso walked into a parking lot and gunned down a lot of innocent people and he says, 'I’m doing it to prevent the invasion of Texas by Hispanics.'”

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Authorities said the suspect, Patrick Crusius, 21, of Allen, Texas, had written a manifesto that said the shooting was fueled by fear of an "invasion" by illegal immigrants, adding that the city's large Hispanic population played a part in their targeting. In October, Crusius pleaded not guilty in connection with the shooting and is due to return to court Nov. 7.

Trump condemned the shooting as “an act of cowardice” on Twitter, adding, “I know that I stand with everyone in this Country to condemn today’s hateful act. There are no reasons or excuses that will ever justify killing innocent people.”

San Antonio, where Biden spoke Friday, is the city where long-shot Democratic presidential candidate Julián Castro served as mayor before joining Obama's administration as secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

Original Article

Tom Ridge says Trump’s Ukraine call left him ‘disappointed and troubled,’ says he won’t back president in 2020

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President Trump abused the power of his office by asking the leader of Ukraine to investigate Democrat Joe Biden, the nation’s first homeland security secretary said Tuesday.

Tom Ridge, who led the Department of Homeland Security from its creation in 2003 until February 2005, made the remarks in Harrisburg, the Pennsylvania capital, just a short distance from where Trump addressed a rally in Hershey later in the day.

RON JOHNSON CASTS DOUBT ON VINDMAN TESTIMONY, SAYS NSC OFFICIAL FITS 'PROFILE' OF NEVER-TRUMPER

“I am disappointed and troubled by the very fact that my president – and he is my president – would ask a foreign leader of a troubled country who’s been besieged by an enemy of the United States, to do him a political favor,” Ridge said at a renewable energy event sponsored by the Pennsylvania Conservative Energy Forum, PennLive.com reported. “As far as I’m concerned, it is abuse of power.”

Ridge, now 74, was a Republican governor of Pennsylvania from 1995 until 2001, when he resigned soon after taking the job of homeland security adviser to former President George W. Bush soon after the terror attacks of Sept. 11. The adviser job eventually evolved into the Cabinet-level position it remains today.

Tom Ridge was the inaugural secretary of Homeland Security under former President George W. Bush. (Associated Press)

Tom Ridge was the inaugural secretary of Homeland Security under former President George W. Bush. (Associated Press)

He made it clear that he won’t support Trump in 2020 and has said previously that he didn’t support Trump in 2016. He said his 2020 choice will be whichever candidate can bring “experience and demeanor and global perspective” to the job, when Republican or Democrat.

But he won’t publicly endorse a Democrat, he added.

“I’m going to wait and see what the Democrats do before I make my final decision,” he told PennLive. “People know how I feel about Trump so obviously I will be looking for an alternative. If not, as I’ve said to folks before, I wrote in the names of two Republican governors before because I love govs.”

Ridge added that he thinks Trump’s handling of foreign policy has allowed other countries to assert their own agendas, particularly Russia.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin “has got to be one of the happiest world leaders,” Ridge said.

“Even in his wildest imagination he never imagined when he played in our election in 2016, and he’s playing with it in 2019 and 2020, that he would have four years of incredible political destabilization because of what he did and he’ll keep doing it.”

Original Article

Biden blames staff, says nobody ‘warned’ him son’s Ukraine job could raise conflict

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Biden says he won't appear as impeachment witness in potential Senate trial

2020 Democrat hopeful Joe Biden tells Fox News' Peter Doocy he will not voluntarily appear if called to testify in a Senate impeachment trial for President Trump.

Former Vice President Joe Biden claimed in a new interview that when his son Hunter was a board member of Ukrainian energy company Burisma Holdings while he was in office, no one informed him that it could pose a problem.

Biden insisted again that Hunter did nothing wrong, but this time appeared to fault his staff for not cluing him in that there could be concerns about his son's involvement with the foreign company that had been under investigation while Biden was in office and dealing with Ukraine policy.

FORMER VP BIDEN DISMISSES CLAIMS THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY IS TURNING HARD LEFT

"Nobody warned me about a potential conflict of interest. Nobody warned me about that," Biden told NPR in a story posted Monday.

State Department official George Kent addressed this during his testimony as part of the impeachment inquiry of President Trump, acknowledging that he told staff members there was concern over the appearance of a conflict of interest, but that no one told the vice president because his older son Beau was suffering from what was ultimately a fatal battle with brain cancer.

"They should have told me," Biden says now. Hunter's dealings and the elder Biden's role ousting a prosecutor looking into Burisma are being used by Trump and his supporters against the now-2020 presidential candidate, even as Trump's effort to press for an investigation into that conduct has spurred the impeachment inquiry.

"The appearance looked bad and it gave folks like Rudy Giuliani an excuse to come up with a Trumpian kind of defense, while they were violating the Constitution," Biden said.

Trump's impeachment inquiry has focused primarily on his request for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate the Bidens, as well as Democratic activities during the 2016 election. Democrats have accused Trump of using a White House visit for Zelensky and the delay of military aid to Ukraine as leverage.

JOE BIDEN GETS JOHN KERRY 2020 ENDORSEMENT

Trump insists he did nothing wrong and that he never called for any quid pro quo with the investigations. His administration claims that Trump was simply concerned about corruption within the Ukrainian government, asserting that is part of why he delayed the aid. Trump has also hammered the Bidens for alleged impropriety, blasting the former vice president for pressuring Ukraine to fire a prosecutor who was investigating Burisma.

In the past, Biden has bragged publicly about threatening to withhold money from Ukraine in order to force the prosecutor's termination, but he claims it was due to suspicions of corruption, not because of his son's role with Burisma.

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Former Secretary of State John Kerry, who recently endorsed Biden for president, also claimed following a Biden campaign event Sunday that he "had no knowledge" of Hunter's involvement with Burisma while he was secretary.

This, despite Kerry's stepson Christopher Heinz reportedly notifying two of Kerry's aides after Hunter Biden became a Burisma board member. Heinz and Hunter Biden had been business partners, co-owning the private equity firm Rosemont Seneca. According to the Washington Examiner, an email from Heinz to Kerry's aides distanced Heinz from Burisma, saying "there was no investment by our firm in their company," and claiming ignorance as to why Hunter became involved in the Ukrainian firm.

Fox News' Rob DiRienzo contributed to this report.

Original Article

Esper: Delay of Ukraine aid did not have ‘any impact on U.S. national security’

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Defense Secretary Mark Esper on challenges to US national security

'Fox News Sunday' exclusive: Defense Secretary Mark Esper joins Chris Wallace for a wide-ranging interview at the Reagan National Defense Forum.

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper was reluctant to discuss details behind the withholding and release of military aid to Ukraine, but he did reject the notion that the delay had any negative effect on national security.

Over the course of the House impeachment inquiry of President Trump, Democrats have been accusing the president of using the aid and a White House visit with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky as leverage to get them to investigate his political opponents. Democrats claim that by putting political interests ahead of national interest, Trump put national security at risk. Esper was quick to deny such a claim.

MIKE PENCE: NOT A 'FOREGONE CONCLUSION' DEMS WILL SECURE IMPEACHMENT VOTES

"At the end of the day, the bottom line is most of that aid got out on time and at no time did it have any impact on United States national security," Esper said.

Esper said there were three factors that were considered regarding the aid.

"When I came onto the scene, the three things we were looking at were this: one, was the aid necessary and vital to the Ukrainians in terms of defending against Russia; No. 2, had the Ukrainians addressed corruption, and that was a congressional concern; and No. 3, were other countries in the region, other allies and partners assisting them. And given those three things we decided to support the provision of Ukrainian aid."

Esper would not address whether there were any political factors involved in the delay of the aid's delivery, citing the ongoing impeachment inquiry.

"I'll leave that process unto itself," he said.

Esper also discussed a number of other issues related to national security. He addressed the shooting at the naval air station in Pensacola, Fla., where Americans were killed before the suspect, a Saudi Air Force officer, was shot and killed. The defense secretary would not definitively state whether the incident should be classified as terrorism.

"I don't know yet. I think that's why it's important to allow the investigation to proceed, to understand exactly what he was doing and why."

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Esper did say he called on officials to "begin review of what our screening procedures are with regard to foreign nationals coming into the United States." At the same time, he emphasized the need to maintain programs where foreign individuals come to train with U.S. forces.

"The ability to bring foreign students here to train with us, to understand American culture, is very important to us in building those long-term relationships that keep us safer."

Esper also addressed how the U.S. was prepared to respond to potential "bad behavior" on the part of Iran.

"We've reached a point, I think, that we've deterred Iranian bad behavior," Esper said, pointing to an end in recent Iranian aggression that included attacks against ships in the Strait of Hormuz and shooting down of a U.S. drone.

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But when asked about Iran's latest military efforts, including shipping missiles to other countries in the region and the testing of a ballistic missile that has the capability of delivering a nuclear weapon, Esper said that the U.S. is ready to act, if need be.

"We are prepared to respond, depending on what Iran does," he said. "And they need to understand that our restraint should not be interpreted as weakness."

Original Article

Man who confronted Biden over Ukraine rebuffs heckler: ‘Stick it up your a–‘

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Joe Biden's heated exchange with Iowa voter

Joe Biden didn't like an Iowa voter questioning him about getting Hunter Biden a job in Ukraine, so he challenged him to pushups. Ford O'Connell weighs in.

The retired Iowa farmer who confronted former Vice President Joe Biden over his son's business activity in Ukraine was heckled while speaking with the media after the event.

The 83-year-old, identified by the New York Post as Marine Corps veteran Merle Gorman, was telling reporters a candidate, presumably Biden should "please drop out of the race and put your support…" before he was cut off by the heckler — according to video posted by the Washington Examiner.

"Why don't you just get out of here?" the second man said, leaning to speak into Gorman's ear as he sat in a chair across from reporters.

Gorman wasn't amused by the heckling, telling the man, "Stick it up your a–, fella," as the heckler walked away.

"Come here," he continued.

BIDEN LASHES OUT AT TOWN HALL QUESTIONER IN HEATED EXCHANGE

Joe Biden has heated exchange with Iowa voter over Hunter Biden's work in UkraineVideo

When the second man came back over to him, Gorman asked if he wanted him thrown out. The man replied that he didn't want to be sued if he could remove Gorman.

After a short discussion, Gorman closed the back-and-forth by telling the man the United States is "a free country."

"I can say what I want," he said, smiling.

According to the Post, Gorman told reporters he is a supporter of all the Democrats in the primary field save for Biden, and is not a fan of President Trump.

“I would love any of them [as president] except Joe Biden. He's been there all his life… I don’t have any ill feelings toward Joe Biden," he said, according to the paper.

'THAT WASN'T SLEEPY': THE FIVE REACTS TO BIDEN GOING OFF ON IOWA VOTER OVER HUNTER, UKRAINE

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Gorman added that he is not intending to torpedo anyone's campaign, but that voters should "know what kind of fellow they're electing."

“I love the country, I want good people in there and not the kind of crap we got now," he said.

Of Biden's apparent challenge that he and Gorman do push-ups to determine their relative strength, the retired farmer remarked he had a 105-year-old friend who could do so.

"[I]t doesn't mean anything about how smart you are," he said, according to the Post.

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In the initial exchange during a question-and-answer period, Gorman told Biden: "You sent your son over there to get a job and work for a gas company where he had no experience. … In order to get access for the president … you’re selling access to the president just like he was."

Biden fired back: “You’re a damn liar, man. That’s not true and no one has ever said that.”

Gorman is a registered independent, according to the Examiner.

Fox News' Brooke Singman and Allie Raffa contributed to this report.

Original Article

Devin Nunes sues CNN for $435M over ‘false and defamatory’ Ukraine story

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Devin Nunes: 'Mother of fake news stories'

Congressman Devin Nunes, House Intelligence Committee, vows to hold CNN and The Daily Beast accountable for reporting recent stories about his involvement with Ukraine

Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., sued CNN for defamation on Tuesday, accusing the cable network of publishing a “demonstrably false hit piece” about him amid his high-profile opposition to the Trump impeachment inquiry.

The 47-page lawsuit, filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, accuses the liberal network of publishing “numerous egregiously false and defamatory” statements about Nunes on Nov. 22, 2019 when journalist Vicky Ward reported claims that Nunes met with Ukranian prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, in Vienna in 2018 to dig "up dirt" on Hunter and Joe Biden.

Nunes, who has been leading GOP opposition to the House Democratic impeachment inquiry in the House Intelligence Committee, says he “did not go to Vienna or anywhere else in Austria in 2018” and “has never met” Shokin.

“CNN is the mother of fake news. It is the least trusted name. CNN is eroding the fabric of America, proselytizing, sowing distrust and disharmony. It must be held accountable,” the lawsuit, obtained by Fox News, states.

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Nunes is seeking at least $435,350,000 in compensatory and punitive damages.

CNN did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“CNN is the mother of fake news. It is the least trusted name. CNN is eroding the fabric of America, proselytizing, sowing distrust and disharmony. It must be held accountable."

— Rep. Devin Nunes' lawsuit

The lawsuit mocks the “trusted” source of CNN’s story, Lev Parnas, a man recently indicted by the U.S. government and charged with multiple federal crimes. The CNN story said Parnas’ attorney told them his client was willing to tell Congress about Nunes’ travels. The suit includes a tweet sent by MSNBC justice and security analyst Matthew Miller, who publicly questioned Parnas’ credibility.

CNN'S CHRIS CUOMO MOCKED AFTER ATTEMPT TO DISPROVE TRUMP'S PHONE THEORY WITH CALL TO MOM FAIL

“It was obvious to everyone – including disgraceful CNN – that Parnas was a fraudster and a hustler,” the suit said. “It was obvious that his lies were part of a thinly-veiled attempt to obstruct justice and to trick either the United States Attorney or House Intelligence Committee Chairman, Adam Schiff into offering ‘immunity’ in return for information’ about [Nunes].”

Rep. Devin Nunes of Calif., is seeking at least $435,350,000 from CNN in compensatory and punitive damages. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Rep. Devin Nunes of Calif., is seeking at least $435,350,000 from CNN in compensatory and punitive damages. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

The suit also named Ward, the reporter who penned the piece in question, and “Cuomo Prime Time” namesake Chris Cuomo, who promoted the article.

THIS IS CNN? PRIMETIME SHOWS FILLED WITH LIBERAL OPINION, NOT STRAIGHT NEWS AS NETWORK CLAIMS

“The ulterior purpose of the CNN Article is to advance the impeachment inquiry, to seed doubt in the minds of Americans, and to influence the outcome of the 2020 election,” the lawsuit says.

The suit mocks Cuomo for “having recently threatened to assault a man who referred to him as ‘Fredo,’ who Nunes claims also helped “disseminate the false and defamatory statements at issue in this case as part of a scheme to boost CNN’s ratings and further the House Democrats’ impeachment 'inquiry.'”

“CNN reviewed, approved and ratified the fake news prior to publication,” the lawsuit states. “Prior to November 22, 2019, CNN knew that Parnas and his attorneys or other political operatives were shopping a story to the press that made claims about the Plaintiff, implicating him in efforts to get ‘dirt’ on Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden. CNN knew that no other news outlet would touch the salacious story because none of the ‘facts’ provided could be verified.”

The lawsuit indicates that Nunes feels “CNN’s goal was to inflict maximum damage” to his reputation so that he would be removed from the impeachment inquiry against Trump. CNN Worldwide president Jeff Zucker has a longstanding feud with Trump, and the network is often criticized for focus solely on impeachment even at the expense of other important news.

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Zucker, who began his career at NBC, rose from researcher all the way to president and CEO of NBC Universal. Along the way, he was responsible for increasing Trump’s fame when he greenlighted “The Apprentice.” The duo has famously feuded since Trump’s foray into politics, with the president attacking the liberal network on a regular basis and accusing CNN of unfair coverage.

“CNN harbors an institutional hatred, extreme bias, spite and ill-will towards Plaintiff, the GOP and President Trump, going back many years."

— Rep. Devin Nunes' lawsuit

“CNN harbors an institutional hatred, extreme bias, spite and ill-will towards Plaintiff, the GOP and President Trump, going back many years. CNN is notorious for making false claims about Republicans and publishing fake news that later has to be retracted,” the suit said.

The lawsuit references other high-profile CNN personalities who shared the damning article, including Jake Tapper and Vaughn Sterling, a senior broadcast producer for the network.

TRUMP MOCKS CNN’S CHRIS CUOMO OVER VIRAL VIDEO: ‘I THOUGHT CHRIS WAS FREDO ALSO

“The breadth of CNN’s publication is staggering,” the suit says. “CNN acted with actual malice and reckless disregard for the truth.”

The suit continues: “The CNN Article was nothing less than opposition research. CNN rushed to get the story out in order to blunt the disastrous spectacle of the House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry, and to hurt the leader of the Republican opposition. CNN misrepresented facts and oversimplified issues in promoting the fake news story.”

Nunes is seeking damages for “insult, pain, embarrassment, humiliation, mental suffering, injury to his reputation, special damages, costs, and other out-of-pocket expenses” totaling almost half a billion dollars."

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Nunes promised to take legal action last month on "Sunday Morning Futures," saying the only way to hold the "corrupt" media accountable is to challenge them in federal court. He told host Maria Bartiromo it was inappropriate for a news organization to take the word of someone who is attempting to smear a congressman, while still under federal indictment.

"It is not OK to work with someone who has been indicted on [a] serious federal crime, to build a media narrative and dirty up a member of Congress," he said. "You’ve seen it, the American people have seen it over the last three years. We out them, and then they come out with a media narrative to try to dirty up the people who are doing the work on behalf of the American people.

Fox News’ Nick Givas contributed to this report.

Original Article

Sen. Kennedy claims former Ukraine leader ‘actively’ worked with Hillary Clinton in 2016

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Sen. Kennedy reacts to McGahn subpoena, clarifies Ukraine election meddling comments

Republican Sen. John Kennedy reacts on 'America's Newsroom' to White House counsel Don McGahn being subpoenaed to testify on Capitol Hill and clarifies his comments on the DNC server hacking in 2016.

Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., on Sunday walked back an erroneous comment he made last weekend touting the debunked theory that Ukraine hacked the Democratic National Committee's emails in 2016, but then quickly followed that up with another unproven theory accusing former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko of actively working for Hillary Clinton in her 2016 presidential run.

Speaking on NBC’s “Meet The Press,” Kennedy admitted he was wrong when he told Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday” last week that Ukraine could have been responsible for meddling in the 2016 presidential elections.

MARK LEVIN BLASTS MEDIA'S UKRAINE NARRATIVE, CLAIMS TRANSCRIPT DESTROYS BIDEN 'FAVOR' ARGUMENT

“I walked it back because I was wrong,” Kennedy said, adding that he thought Wallace asked if Ukraine had meddled in the U.S. elections, not about discredited theories of Ukrainian hacking. “I went back and looked at the transcript and realized Chris was right and I was wrong.”

New report raises questions about timing of President Trump's decision to release US aid to UkraineVideo

Kennedy, however, went on to make another unfounded accusation when he accused Poroshenko of “actively” working with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during her White House bid in 2016.

“Russia was very aggressive and they're much more sophisticated,” he said. “But the fact that Russia was so aggressive does not exclude the fact that President Poroshenko actively worked for Secretary Clinton.”

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A flabbergasted NBC anchor Chuck Todd countered that the only other person pushing this narrative of Ukrainians working to get Clinton elected is Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Witnesses shoot down claims of Ukraine meddling in 2016 electionVideo

“You've done exactly what the Russian operation is trying to get American politicians to do,” Todd said. “Are you at all concerned that you've been duped?”

Kennedy countered naming a number of news publications who have reported on the theory, including the Financial Times, the Washington Examiner and Politico. A 2017 Politico article has been widely referenced in supporting claims of a pro-Clinton bias from Poroshenko and the government in Kiev at the time.

“You should read the articles,” Kennedy said. “They're very well documented.”

Politico’s reporting since the 2017 article has stated that “no evidence has emerged” to support the claims that Ukrainian officials were working with the Clinton camp. In a statement to the Washington Examiner, the news website added that the previous reporting indicated that Ukraine worked with intermediaries at the DNC to spread dirt on then-candidate Donald Trump.

Original Article

House Intel Committee to review draft Ukraine report this week

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Democrats' impeachment push moves to House Judiciary Committee

The House Judiciary Committee will hold its first public impeachment hearings as a new poll shows more Americans are against removing the president. Karl Rove reacts.

Members of the House Intelligence Committee on Monday will review a report on the panel’s investigation into whether President Trump committed an impeachable act, specifically by allegedly withholding military aid to Ukraine until the country investigated former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Fox News has confirmed.

Lawmakers will then approve the report before sending it – along with minority views – to the House Judiciary Committee, which will draft and consider articles of impeachment in the weeks ahead.

REP. DINGELL ON IMPEACHMENT PUSH: ‘NOBODY IS ABOVE THE LAW’

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., right, shown with committee staffer Daniel Noble at left, speaks at the conclusion of public impeachment hearings last month. (Associated Press)

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., right, shown with committee staffer Daniel Noble at left, speaks at the conclusion of public impeachment hearings last month. (Associated Press)

Intelligence panel Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., sent a letter to his colleagues last week that report would be coming “soon” from his committee but did not provide a specific time frame.

He has also said the report would summarize the panel’s two-month investigation into President Trump and Ukraine and list the likely articles of impeachment.

The House has moved swiftly to investigate the president since Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., announced the formalization of an impeachment inquiry in September.

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This week's first impeachment hearing is scheduled for Wednesday and will feature a panel of constitutional experts who will offer what constitutes an impeachable offense.

Original Article

Trump knew about whistleblower complaint before Ukraine aid released

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Mike Pompeo, Secretary of State, discusses the

President Trump was briefed about the whistleblower complaint prompted by his dealings with Kiev before the White House lifted a hold on more than $391 million in aid to Ukraine, according to people familiar with the matter.

DEMS' DOOMSDAY SCENARIO: COULD MODERATES SCUTTLE IMPEACHMENT PLANS

The president was briefed about the complaint in August by White House counsel Pat Cipollone and John Eisenberg, an attorney with the White House National Security Council, the people said. The complaint triggered the impeachment inquiry by Democrats in the House, which Trump has dismissed as a hoax.

The inquiry alleges that Trump abused the power of his office by pressing Ukraine to open investigations that could benefit him politically at a time when he had ordered congressionally approved Ukraine aid put on hold. The White House has defended the president’s actions, in part by saying there was no link between suspending the aid and the president’s request for investigations because the hold on the money was lifted in September.

The August briefing Trump received from the White House lawyers, which was earlier reported by the New York Times, indicates Trump was aware of the whistleblower complaint before he ordered the hold on aid lifted.

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A White House spokeswoman didn’t respond to a request for comment.

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Original Article

Holmes’ claim that Sondland told Trump the Ukraine president ‘loves your a–‘ sparks GOP lawmaker’s rebuke

closeRep. Turner tells Holmes he 'embarrassed' Zelensky by disclosing the 'Zelensky loves your a--' remarkVideo

Rep. Turner tells Holmes he 'embarrassed' Zelensky by disclosing the 'Zelensky loves your a–' remark

Republican Rep. Mike Turner lectures impeachment witness David Holmes on disclosing a remark Amb. Gordon Sondland made to President Trump on Zelensky: 'That information had nothing whatsoever to do with the subject manner of any of these hearings.'

Rep. Mike Turner, R-Ohio, blasted State Department official David Holmes, accusing him of embarrassing Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky on Thursday by revealing that Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland told President Trump that Zelensky "loves your a–."

Turner confronted Holmes about his testimony that he overheard a phone conversation between Sondland and Trump a day after the controversial July 25 phone call at the center of the impeachment inquiry into alleged quid pro quo dealings between Trump and Ukraine.

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 Zelensky opening up an investigation into the Ukraine business dealings of 2020 presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son Hunter.

MARK MEADOWS: IMPEACHMENT HEARING PRODUCED THIS 'REAL BOMBSHELL'

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."

Turner did not ask any questions to Holmes or Fiona Hill, a former top National Security Council who also appeared for testimony on the fifth day of public impeachment inquiry hearings, but instead lambasted the diplomat for his account of what he heard.

"Mr. Holmes, that information had nothing whatsoever to do with the subject matter of any of these hearings. It was anecdotal, it was extraneous. Your statements that your interests are protecting Ukraine are very dubious when you embarrass President Zelensky by making those statements you didn’t have to make," Turner said.

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"Who cares that Ambassador Sondland said that? And, you didn't embarrass Ambassador Sondland, you embarrassed Zelensky, because you know that he got asked that question in his own country, and people are hearing that statement as if it's true, and it’s totally dubious of you to do that," he added.

Holmes did not respond, and Turner yielded back his time.

Original Article

Graham demands documents on Ukraine, Bidens, Obama administration from 2016

closeGraham demands Biden documents from the State DepartmentVideo

Graham demands Biden documents from the State Department

South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham on Hunter Biden, impeachment hearings on 'Hannity.'

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., sent a letter Thursday to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo requesting the release of any documents related to contacts between former Vice President Joe Biden, his son Hunter and former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.

Graham’s letter, which was released as the final day of public hearings in the House impeachment inquiry into President Trump wrapped up, asked Pompeo to release a series of documents and transcripts of conversations in 2016 between Biden and Poroshenko in relation to an investigation into the Ukrainian natural gas company, Burisma Holdings.

Burisma – and more specifically, Hunter Biden’s role on the company’s board of directors – has become one of the main talking points from Trump and the Republicans amid the impeachment inquiry into the president.

READ: GORDON SONDLAND'S IMPEACHMENT HEARING OPENING STATEMENT

Speaking on Fox News’ “Hannity” on Wednesday night, Graham said the phone calls between Biden and Poroshenko coincided with the time frame in which a Ukrainian prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, was fired.

“I want to know, are there any transcripts or readouts of the phone calls between the vice president and the president of Ukraine in February [2016] after the raid on the gas company president's house,” Graham said. “After this raid, Hunter Biden kicks in. Hunter Biden's business partner meets with [then-Secretary of State] John Kerry, and Vice President Biden on three occasions makes a phone call to the president of Ukraine and goes over there in March and they fire the guy, and this is the same man that the ambassador wanted investigated in 2015.”

Shokin was investigating Burisma Holdings at a time when Hunter Biden sat on its board and while the vice president was leading the Obama administration's diplomatic dealings with Kiev. Though the timing raised concerns among anti-corruption advocates, many Western nations had supported Shokin’s firing.

Fiona Hill: Many officials 'bet on the wrong horse'Video

Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee, meanwhile, have been pushing Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., to subpoena Hunter Biden.

Ranking Member Devin Nunes, R-Calif., along with Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, penned a scathing letter to Schiff in which they slammed the “sham ‘impeachment inquiry’” and notified the chairman of their intent to subpoena Biden and the whistleblower whose report sparked in the inquiry. Jordan, the ranking member of the House Oversight Committee, has been appointed as a temporary member of the House Intelligence Committee.

“The American people understand how you have affirmatively prevented Republicans from examining serious issues directly relevant to the issues,” the two GOP lawmakers told Schiff in their letter. “Therefore, to provide some basic level of fairness and objectivity to your ‘impeachment inquiry,’ we intend to subpoena the anonymous whistleblower and Hunter Biden for sworn testimony in closed-door depositions.”

Bret Baier on fallout from Gordon Sondland's testimony, future of Democrats' impeachment pushVideo

The whistleblower last August reported that Trump had pushed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to launch a public investigation into the Biden family’s dealings in Ukraine—specifically, why the former vice president pressured Poroshenko to fire Shokin. The complaint questioned whether Trump withheld military aid and the opportunity of a White House meeting from Zelensky until Ukraine publicly announced an investigation into the Bidens. Trump and the White House repeatedly have denied the president did anything wrong.

On Wednesday, Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland said he never heard directly from Trump on a quid pro quo linking military aid for Ukraine to politically advantageous investigations.

But, Sondland said, “we all understood” that a meeting at the White House for Ukraine’s president and a phone call with Trump would happen only if Zelensky agreed to an investigation into the 2016 U.S. election and the Bidens. And, he testified that he came to presume aid was linked to investigations too.

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He said he sent an email on July 19, just days before the July 25 call at the center of the impeachment inquiry, in which he laid out the issue in detail to members of the State and Energy Departments and White House staff.

Sondland added: “It was no secret.”

Fox News Charles Creitz contributed to this report.

Original Article

Impeachment witness Fiona Hill once opposed sending lethal aid to Ukraine in fight with Russia

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Fiona Hill's Ukraine contradiction

Brett Baier and Bill Hemmer report Fiona Hill wrote an op-ed in 2015 for the Washington Post in which she argues against providing military aid to Ukraine

A former top Russia expert at the National Security Council who testified Thursday before the House Intelligence Committee as part of its ongoing impeachment inquiry into President Trump once argued against supplying weapons to Ukraine following the Russian annexation of Crimea.

Fiona Hill, who resigned from her post at the NSC in August, argued in a 2015 opinion piece published in The Washington Post that sending such lethal military aid to Ukraine could provoke Russia further. If Washington were to send weapons to Kiev, the piece argued, “the Ukrainians won’t be the only ones caught in an escalating military conflict with Russia.”

Hill, who at the time was the director of the Center on the United States and Europe at the Brookings Institution, said in the piece that while the logic of sending arms to Ukraine may seem a “straightforward” way to counter Russian President Vladimir Putin’s aggression, the move could actually cause Moscow to ramp up its incursion into its neighbor and erode the Western alliance.

SONDLAND IMPLICATES TOP OFFICIALS ON UKRAINE, BUT SAYS HE ‘NEVER HEARD’ QUID PRO QUO FROM TRUMP

“It is hard to find effective alternatives to the current sanctions policy, but if we plunge headlong into sending weapons, we may lose our allies, and we may never have the opportunity to get things right,” Hill wrote, along with Clifford Gaddy, a senior fellow at Brookings.

Hill, however, has since changed her stance on providing lethal aid to Ukraine. She acknowledged in Thursday's hearing that she was not initially in favor of sending Javelin anti-tank missiles, but eventually learned that a "lot of work" was put into the planning and there was a system for "sustainability long-term of the Ukrainian military."

"So, I changed my mind," she testified.

She likewise told lawmakers in her deposition in October that when she was appointed to her position at the NSC by Trump, she saw that the administration “had a proper plan for the long-term sustainability of the Ukrainian military.”

In her deposition, Hill acknowledged her past statements in The Washington Post on not supporting supplying Ukraine with lethal aid.

“Everybody changes their mind, you know, and kind of learns things, I, you know, was basically persuaded that, you know, this was actually worth doing, even though I still had qualms about Russian escalation dominance and was worried about how this would be provided and making sure not to provoke the Russians,” Hill said, according to a transcript of the testimony.

At the heart of the House impeachment inquiry is the question of whether Trump withheld millions in aid from Ukraine as pressure to get officials in the country to announce they were investigating the business dealings of former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter.

TRUMP IMPEACHMENT HEARINGS DAY FIVE: LIVE UPDATES

A whistleblower in August reported that Trump had pushed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to launch a public investigation into the Biden family’s dealings in Ukraine—specifically, why the former vice president pressured former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to fire a top prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, who was investigating Ukrainian natural gas firm Burisma Holdings.

Hunter Biden worked for Burisma at the time his father was leading the Obama administration's diplomatic dealings with Kiev. Though the timing raised concerns among anti-corruption advocates, there has been no evidence of wrongdoing by the former vice president.

Chris Wallace: Censure instead of impeachment seems like 'reasonable compromise'Video

Republicans, though, have pointed out numerous times during the impeachment inquiry that the Obama administration did not provide lethal aid to Ukraine, while Trump ultimately sent the aid in question and committed to selling $47 million in Javelin missiles. In 2017, Trump also agreed to provide other lethal aid to Kiev.

“This was a very strong message that Americans are willing to provide more than blankets,” Rep. Devin Nunes, the ranking Republican on the Intelligence Committee, said. “This was the Obama administration’s approach.”

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The Republican assertion that the Obama administration sent only “blankets” to Ukraine is a slight exaggeration.

While the Obama administration refused to provide Ukraine with lethal weapons in 2014 to fight Russian-backed separatists, it offered a range of other military and security aid.

Impeachment witnesses: Amb Sondland in charge of Ukraine policyVideo

By March 2015, the Obama administration had provided more than $120 million in security aid for Ukraine and promised $75 million worth of equipment, including counter-mortar radars, night vision devices and medical supplies, according to the Defense Department. The U.S. also pledged 230 Humvee vehicles.

In the last year of the Obama administration, the U.S. established the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, which provided U.S. military equipment and training to help defend Ukraine against Russian aggression. From 2016 to 2019, Congress appropriated $850 million for this initiative.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Original Article

Ex-NSC aide Fiona Hill rips ‘fictional narrative’ about Ukraine’s role in 2016 election

closeHouse Intelligence Committee's impeachment inquiryVideo

House Intelligence Committee's impeachment inquiry

Former National Security Council aide Fiona Hill lambasts what she calls the “fictional narrative” that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 presidential election during her testimony in the Trump impeachment inquiry on Thursday.

Hill and David Holmes, a U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, are set to testify before the House Intelligence Committee on Thursday. The inquiry has focused on how President Trump pressured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to announce investigations related to the Bidens, as well as alleged actions taken by Ukraine in the 2016 election, as aid was withheld.

SONDLAND IMPLICATES TOP OFFICIALS ON UKRAINE, BUT SAYS HE ‘NEVER HEARD’ QUID PRO QUO FROM TRUMP

In her prepared testimony obtained by Fox News, Hill says, “Based on questions and statements I have heard, some of you on this committee appear to believe that Russia and its security services did not conduct a campaign against our country—and that perhaps, somehow, for some reason, Ukraine did. This is a fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves.”

She adds: “I refuse to be part of an effort to legitimize an alternate narrative that the Ukrainian government is a U.S. adversary, and that Ukraine—not Russia—attacked us in 2016.”

The transcript of Trump's July 25 call with Zelensky shows Trump asking for a “favor” in the form of Ukraine providing information about the hacking of the DNC server in 2016. He referenced CrowdStrike, a cyber firm used by the DNC to investigate the attacks.

“I would like you to do us a favor though because our country has been through a lot and Ukraine knows a lot about it. I would like you to find out what happened with this whole situation with Ukraine, they say Crowdstrike… I guess you have one of your wealthy people… The server, they say Ukraine has it,” Trump said.

Hill's comments appear to reference such allegations.

“These fictions are harmful even if they are deployed for purely domestic political purposes,” Hill says.

She also plans to tell lawmakers: “The unfortunate truth is that Russia was the foreign power that systematically attacked our democratic institutions in 2016. This is the public conclusion of our intelligence agencies, confirmed in bipartisan Congressional reports. It is beyond dispute, even if some of the underlying details must remain classified.”

Democrats have dismissed the notion that Ukraine played a role in the 2016 race. But Republicans throughout the hearing have repeatedly asked witnesses about a separate Ukraine-related allegation involving Alexandra Chalupa—a former Democratic National Committee consultant who allegedly had meetings during the 2016 campaign with officials at the Ukrainian Embassy in D.C. to discuss incriminating information about Trump campaign figures.

On Thursday, California Rep. Devin Nunes — the top Republican on the Intelligence Committee — railed into Democrats during the hearing, saying, "They got caught covering up for Alexandra Chalupa—a Democratic National Committee operative who colluded with Ukrainian officials to smear the Trump campaign—by improperly redacting her name from deposition transcripts and refusing to let Americans hear her testimony as a witness in these proceedings."

Hill is also expected to testify Thursday about what she witnessed inside the White House as two men — European Union Ambassador Gordon Sondland and Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani — carried out foreign policy for the president.

Trump says 'it's all over' for impeachment inquiry after Sondland testimonyVideo

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In closed-door testimony last month, Hill testified that she spent an "inordinate amount of time" at the White House coordinating with Sondland, whose donation to Trump's inauguration preceded his appointment as ambassador to the EU. Sondland testified Wednesday that Trump and Giuliani sought a quid pro quo with Ukraine tied to a White House meeting, but stressed he never heard Trump himself tie military aid to his request for investigations, the matter at the heart of the probe.

Holmes, a U.S. diplomat in Kiev who overheard that July 26 call, is also testifying Thursday as investigators wrap up two weeks of public hearings. Holmes heard Trump ask Sondland whether Zelenskiy was going to conduct the investigations he wanted and be told he would.

Opening the hearing on Thursday, Schiff said lawmakers in the coming days will “determine what response is appropriate” after the recent testimony.

“It will be up to us to decide, whether those acts are compatible with the office of the presidency,” Schiff said.

Trump on Thursday railed against the proceedings as a "phony impeachment hoax." He denied putting pressure on Ukraine and tweeted, "I never in my wildest dreams thought my name would in any way be associated with the ugly word, Impeachment!"

Fox News' Mike Emanuel and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Original Article

FBI has reportedly sought interview with Ukraine whistleblower

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President Trump addresses the testimony of Ambassador Sondland.

The FBI last month reportedly requested an interview with the whistleblower who made the complaint about President Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and sparked the ongoing impeachment inquiry in the House.

A source familiar with the situation told The Associated Press on Wednesday that an agent from the bureau's Washington field office reached out to the whistleblower’s lawyers.

The source added that it was clear from the FBI that the whistleblower was not regarded as the target of any investigation but rather a potential witness. It was not immediately clear what specifically the FBI might be looking into. The requested interview has not taken place.

TRUMP IMPEACHMENT HEARINGS: LIVE UPDATES FROM DAY FOUR

Yahoo News first reported on the FBI’s request.

The whistleblower, a CIA officer, filed a complaint on Aug. 12 about Trump’s phone call weeks earlier with Zelensky. During the call, it's been alleged, Trump pressed for investigations into Democratic rival Joe Biden, his son Hunter, and their business dealings in that country, among other things.

Video

A rough transcript of the call was released in September by the White House. The Democratic-controlled House has subsequently opened an impeachment inquiry centered on Trump’s effort to seek political investigations at the same time the U.S. was withholding hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid from Ukraine.

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Trump has said he wants to know the identity of the whistleblower. House Democrats have said they do not need to hear from the whistleblower as part of the impeachment inquiry and have heard now from multiple witnesses who, unlike the whistleblower, listened to the actual call between the two leaders.

Ambassador Sondland: 'Trump never told me aid was conditioned,' it was my 'personal guess'Video

U.S. whistleblower laws exist to protect the identity and careers of people who bring forward accusations of wrongdoing by government officials. Lawmakers in both parties have historically backed those protections.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Original Article

Pence office denies Sondland claim on Ukraine warning: ‘Never happened’

closeKey moments from Gordon Sondlond's testimony: Martha MacCallum and Bret Baier weigh inVideo

Key moments from Gordon Sondlond's testimony: Martha MacCallum and Bret Baier weigh in

Gordon Sondland, U.S. ambassador to the European Union, is a key witness in the House impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.

Vice President Pence's office on Wednesday flatly denied Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland's testimony that the two had a conversation in Ukraine in which the latter raised concerns that aid had become linked to investigations sought by President Trump — the matter at the heart of the impeachment inquiry.

Pence Chief of Staff Marc Short said in a statement that the purported conversation between him and Sondland “never happened.”

“The vice president never had a conversation with Gordon Sondland about investigating the Bidens, Burisma, or the conditional release of financial aid to Ukraine based upon potential investigations,” Pence said in his statement. “Ambassador Gordon Sondland was never alone with Vice President Pence on the September 1 trip to Poland. This alleged discussion recalled by Ambassador Sondland never happened.”

TRUMP IMPEACHMENT HEARINGS: LIVE UPDATES FROM DAY FOUR

Sondland on Wednesday morning said in his opening statement that he had spoken to Pence about the delay in military aid to Ukraine, voicing concern this was tied to investigations. Sondland said he believed the aid would not be released until Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky's government announced an investigation concerning the Bidens.

“I mentioned to Vice President Pence before the meetings with the Ukrainians that I had concerns that the delay in aid had become tied to the issue of investigations,” Sondland said. “During the actual meeting, President Zelensky raised the issue of security assistance directly with Vice President Pence. The Vice President said he would speak to President Trump about it.”

Sondland added: “Based on my communications with Secretary Pompeo, I felt comfortable sharing my concerns with Mr. [Andriy] Yermak [an aide to Zelensky]. In a very brief pull-aside conversation, that happened within a few seconds, I told Mr. Yermak that I believed that the resumption of U.S. aid would likely not occur until Ukraine took some kind of action on the public statement that we had been discussing for many weeks.”

Sondland also made clear he never heard directly from Trump on such a quid pro quo.

The impeachment inquiry into Trump began when a whistleblower reported that the president had pushed Zelensky to launch a public investigation into the Biden family’s dealings in Ukraine—specifically, why former Vice President Joe Biden pressured former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to fire a top prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, who was investigating Ukrainian natural gas firm Burisma Holdings.

CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APP

Hunter Biden worked for the Ukrainian gas company at the same time his father was leading the Obama administration's diplomatic dealings with Kiev.

Sondland told the House Intelligence Committee that he never heard Trump say that military aid to Ukraine was conditioned on a public announcement by the Ukrainian president that the country was investigating Democrats, but he added that it was clear that a meeting in the White House between Trump and Zelensky was conditioned on investigations.

Ambassador Sondland: 'Trump never told me aid was conditioned,' it was my 'personal guess'Video

He also said Trump never told him a White House meeting with the Ukrainian president would not happen without a public announcement. He heard that from Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani.

Sondland said it was a personal guess that the military aid was being held up until an announcement, one that others eventually also made.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Original Article

Republicans seek to subpoena Hunter Biden, Ukraine whistleblower, DNC files

closeRep. Nunes makes opening statement ahead of Ambassador Sondland's testimony in the Trump impeachment inquiryVideo

Rep. Nunes makes opening statement ahead of Ambassador Sondland's testimony in the Trump impeachment inquiry

House Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Devin Nunes gives his opening statement ahead of former U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland Capitol Hill testimony.

The top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee has sent a letter to Chairman Adam Schiff asking that Hunter Biden and the whistleblower whose complaint sparked the ongoing impeachment inquiry into President Trump be subpoenaed to appear before the committee.

Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., along with Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, penned a scathing letter to Schiff in which they slammed the “sham ‘impeachment inquiry’” and notified the chairman of their intent to subpoena Biden and the whistleblower. Jordan, the ranking member of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, has been appointed as a temporary member of the House Intelligence Committee.

“The American people understand how you have affirmatively prevented Republicans from examining serious issues directly relevant to the issues,” the two GOP lawmakers told Schiff in their letter. “Therefore, to provide some basic level of fairness and objectivity to your ‘impeachment inquiry,’ we intend to subpoena the anonymous whistleblower and Hunter Biden for sworn testimony in closed-door depositions.”

READ: GORDON SONDLAND'S IMPEACHMENT HEARING OPENING STATEMENT

Nunes and Jordan added that they plan to subpoena the whistleblower’s documents and communications regarding the complaint, the records surrounding Hunter Biden’s role on the board of the Ukrainian energy company Burisma Holdings and the Democratic National Committee’s communications with Ukrainian officials and records relating to Alexandra Chalupa.

A Ukrainian-American consultant for the Democratic National Committee, Chalupa allegedly had meetings with officials at the Ukrainian Embassy in Washington, D.C. to discuss incriminating information about Trump campaign officials during the 2016 presidential election.

This is the second letter that Nunes has sent to Schiff that relayed his intentions to call the whistleblower and Hunter Biden.

Earlier this month, Nunes sent a similar letter to Schiff about wanting those witnesses, but it remains unclear how many of the Republicans’ proposed witnesses will be approved by Schiff. A recently approved resolution governing the impeachment inquiry gave the approval power to the chairman and the members of the majority.

"To provide transparency to your otherwise opaque and unfair process, and after consultation with [House Oversight Committee] Ranking Member Jim Jordan and [House Foreign Affairs Committee] Ranking Member Michael McCaul, the American people deserve to hear from the following witnesses in an open setting," Nunes said in his earlier letter.

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The impeachment inquiry began when a whistleblower reported that Trump had pushed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to launch a public investigation into the Biden family’s dealings in Ukraine—specifically, why former Vice President Joe Biden pressured former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to fire a top prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, who was investigating Ukrainian natural gas firm Burisma Holdings.

Hunter Biden worked for a Ukrainian gas company at the same time his father was leading the Obama administration's diplomatic dealings with Kiev. Though the timing raised concerns among anti-corruption advocates, there has been no evidence of wrongdoing by the former vice president or his son.

Fox News’ Brooke Singman and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Original Article

Sondland denies ‘rogue diplomacy’ in Ukraine talks, acknowledges ‘potential quid pro quo’ with aid holdup

closeWATCH: Week 2, day 2 of Trump impeachment inquiry hearingsVideo

WATCH: Week 2, day 2 of Trump impeachment inquiry hearings

European Union ambassador Gordon Sondland – one of the most highly anticipated witnesses in the Democrat-led impeachment inquiry against President Trump – disputed the notion Wednesday that he was involved in “rogue diplomacy” with Ukraine but acknowledged a “potential quid pro quo” involving military aid to the country and investigations desired by the president.

Sondland, a wealthy hotelier Trump tapped as his ambassador to the European Union, is more directly entangled than any witness yet in the Republican president's efforts to get Ukraine to investigate political rival Joe Biden and Democrats in the 2016 election.

READ: GORDON SONDLAND'S IMPEACHMENT HEARING OPENING STATEMENT

“The suggestion that we were engaged in some irregular or rogue diplomacy is absolutely false,” Sondland, the sole witness in the House Intelligence Committee’s morning hearings, told lawmakers.

Sondland — who recently amended his previous testimony to acknowledge he did talk to Ukraine about investigations after initially indicating otherwise – went further Wednesday than he has before in describing efforts to get Ukraine to commit to investigations.

“I shared concerns of the potential quid pro quo regarding the security aid with Senator Ron Johnson,” Sondland said, referring to the Republican senator involved in Ukraine policy. “And I also shared my concerns with the Ukrainians.” He stressed he never got a clear answer on why the aid was held up, saying in the absence of an explanation he came to believe that the aid and the investigations were linked.

He also said he specifically told Vice President Pence he "had concerns" the military aid to Ukraine "had become tied" to the investigations. And linking more top officials to the efforts, he said he kept Secretary of State Mike Pompeo aware of what was going on.

What does Ambassador Sondland know?Video

"Everyone was in the loop," Sondland testified in opening remarks. "It was no secret."

The inquiry was sparked by a whistleblower’s complaint about Trump's July 25 call when he asked Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky for political investigations – including involving Biden's family — at the same time as U.S. military aid for the ally was being stalled.

Sondland repeatedly made clear he did not support preconditions on the aid.

“We had no desire to set any conditions on the Ukrainians,” Sondland said. “Indeed, my personal view — which I shared repeatedly with others — was that the White House meeting and security assistance should have proceeded without pre-conditions of any kind.”

Sondland was more explicit when it came to the link between investigations and a White House meeting and call between Trump and Zelensky.

He told the committee: “I know that members of this committee have frequently framed these complicated issues in the form of a simple question: Was there a ‘quid pro quo?’” Sondland said. “As I testified previously, with regard to the requested White House call and White House meeting, the answer is yes.”

At the hearings kicked off, Republicans dismissed the proceedings as they have done during previous sessions. California Rep. Devin Nunes, the GOP’s top member on the committee, told the witness: "Ambassador Sondland, you are here today to be smeared.” Nunes also reiterated his calls for the committee to subpoena Hunter Biden, the whistleblower who wrote the complaint against Trump and Democratic National Committee documents – something Democrats have not granted.

Meanwhile, the top committee Democrat, Rep. Adam Schiff, in his opening remarks accused Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo of making "such a concerted and across-the-board effort to obstruct this investigation and this impeachment inquiry." Schiff added, "They do so at their own peril."

Sondland, throughout the inquiry, has been portrayed as a key player in an irregular channel of diplomacy led by the president's lawyer Rudy Giuliani. On Wednesday, Sondland repeatedly expressed his displeasure with Giuliani's involvement in Ukraine policy but said they were working with him at Trump's direction.

VINDMAN ACCUSES TRUMP OF MAKING IMPROPER UKRAINE ‘DEMAND,’ SAYS HE ALERTED INTEL OFFICIAL

Rudy Giuliani finds timing of clients' arrest and indictment suspiciousVideo

“We did not want to work with Mr. Giuliani,” Sondland said. “Simply put, we played the hand we were dealt. We all understood that if we refused to work with Mr. Giuliani, we would lose an important opportunity to cement relations between the United States and Ukraine. So we followed the president’s orders.”

He said he and other officials “disagreed with the need to involve” Giuliani but they “did not believe that his role was improper at the time.”

“If I had known of all of Mr. Giuliani’s dealings or of his associations with individuals now under criminal indictment, I would not have acquiesced to his participation,” Sondland said. “Still, given what we knew at the time, what we were asked to do did not appear to be wrong.”

He bluntly described Giuliani's requests linking a White House visit for Zelensky with investigations as a quid pro quo.

Sondland's appearance at Wednesday morning's hearing, and his closeness to Trump, is of particular concern to the White House as the historic impeachment inquiry reaches closer to the president, pushing through an intense week with nine witnesses testifying over three days in back-to-back sessions.

Sondland, who has had to amend his testimony related to his conversations with Ukraine, told lawmakers he has had hundreds of meetings and calls with individuals in his role but is not a note-taker. He said he has requested documents from the State Department and the White House for documents phone records to help refresh his memory. “In the absence of these materials, my memory has not been perfect,” he said.

Among the details that other witnesses have filled in are those concerning a call he placed to Trump from a busy Kiev restaurant the day after the president prodded Ukraine's leader to investigate the Bidens. After another diplomat witness revealed this, Sondland confirmed Wednesday they had the call — saying he doesn't remember much of it but has no reason to doubt other accounts, which said the conversation dealt with the topic of investigations.

Also testifying on Wednesday are Pentagon official Laura Cooper and Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Hale.

Trump has recently tried to suggest that he barely knows his hand-picked ambassador, but Sondland has said he has spoken several times with the president and was acting on his direction.

Sondland's appearance follows the testimony Tuesday of four national security and diplomatic officials, including Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a career Army officer, who described Trump's call with Zelenskiy as "improper."

At the White House, Trump said he had watched part of the day's testimony and slammed the ongoing impeachment hearings as a "disgrace."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Original Article

Ex-Ukraine envoy Volker says he didn’t realize Burisma probe was ‘tantamount’ to investigating Biden

closeHouse Intelligence Committee's impeachment inquiryVideo

House Intelligence Committee's impeachment inquiry

A former U.S. envoy to Ukraine testified at the second round of Tuesday’s impeachment hearings that he didn't initially realize the connection between a President Trump-sought investigation of "Burisma" and the Bidens, as he appeared to distance himself from any efforts to investigate the latter in conversations over the summer.

Former U.S. Special Representative for Ukraine Kurt Volker and former National Security Council aide Tim Morrison — who were involved in the Trump administration’s Ukraine policy at the time of Trump’s momentous summer phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in which he sought the Biden probe — both testified Tuesday afternoon. The testimony followed five hours of testimony earlier in the day with the NSC's Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman and Vice President Pence aide Jennifer Williams.

Volker, in his opening statement, went into great detail about his understanding of efforts to seek investigations from Ukraine.

Trump, in the infamous July call, had pressed Kiev to look into how Hunter Biden was a board member of Ukrainian energy company Burisma Holdings, which had been under investigation before then-Vice President Joe Biden pressured Ukraine to fire the prosecutor in charge. Biden is one of the Democrats running to challenge Trump in 2020.

In a lengthy opening statement, Volker said he didn't have any problem with pushing Ukraine to open an investigation into Burisma or corruption. “It has long been U.S. policy under multiple administrations to urge Ukraine to investigate and fight internal corruption,” Volker said.

Former top national security adviser to President Donald Trump, Tim Morrison, arrives for a closed door meeting to testify as part of the House impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Oct. 31, 2019. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Former top national security adviser to President Donald Trump, Tim Morrison, arrives for a closed door meeting to testify as part of the House impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Oct. 31, 2019. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Volker, who resigned in September after becoming embroiled in the scandal, added that he didn’t “understand” at the time that an investigation of Burisma “was tantamount to investigating Vice President Biden.”

“I saw them as very different – the former being appropriate and unremarkable, the latter being unacceptable,” Volker said. “In retrospect, I should have seen that connection differently, and had I done so, I would have raised my own objections."

Until Tuesday, none of the witnesses who have testified at the public hearings had first-hand knowledge of the president's thinking, which Republicans have used to cast doubt on Democrats' allegations. But Vindman, Williams, and Morrison all listened in on Trump's July 25 phone call with Zelensky.

“I feared at the time of the call on July 25th how its disclosure would play in Washington’s political climate," Morrison said in his opening statement. "My fears have been realized.”

VINDMAN ACCUSES TRUMP OF MAKING IMPROPER UKRAINE ‘DEMAND,’ SAYS HE ALERTED INTEL OFFICIAL

Former envoy to Ukraine Volker grilled by lawmakers in closed-door interviewVideo

The impeachment inquiry has focused on a possible link between military aid to Ukraine and investigations sought by Trump pertaining to the Bidens and Democrats. The questions arose after the July 25 phone call between Trump and Zelensky led to a whistleblower complaint alleging that Trump was trying to pressure Ukraine into helping him.

“As we have heard from other witnesses, when Joe Biden was considering whether to enter the race for the presidency in 2020, the president’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, began a campaign to weaken Vice President Biden’s candidacy by pushing Ukraine to investigate him and his son,” Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said in his opening statement.

Intelligence Committee Devin Nunes, R-Calif., opened his remarks by welcoming people to “act two of today’s circus," dismissing the inquiry as a partisan exercise.

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“It’s an ambitious attack to deprive the American people of their right to elect a president that the Democrats don’t like,” Nunes said. He added, “The chairman of this committee claims that democracy is under threat. If that’s true, it’s not the president who poses the danger.”

Both Volker and Morrison previously gave closed-door interviews to the Democratic-led inquiry: Volker provided investigators with a package of text messages with Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland and William Taylor, the U.S. chargé d'affaires for Ukraine, who said he grew alarmed at the possible linkage of the investigations to the aid.

Morrison, who served as the NSC's senior director of European and Russian affairs, has told lawmakers 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.

Morrison resigned from the NSC last month. In his testimony Tuesday, he said he left on his “own volition” and made the decision “before I decided to testify.”

Among the biggest revelations Tuesday morning came when Vindman acknowledged communications with an unnamed intelligence official — during an at-times tense exchange with Republicans, immediately raising apparent questions over whether he could have been a source of information for the anonymous whistleblower who reported the call.

Schiff, D-Calif., interjected to express concern that Republicans were trying to out the whistleblower through the questioning. After consulting his attorney, Vindman said, "Per the advice of my counsel, I’ve been advised not to answer the specific questions about members of the intelligence community."

Rep. Chris Stewart challenges Lt. Col. Vindman's interpretation of Trump-Zelensky phone callVideo

Still, Vindman told lawmakers, “I do not know who the whistleblower is.”

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Vindman was critical of Trump's call with Zelensky, describing the investigation "demand" as "improper." At one point, Vindman described his reaction to Trump’s call as one of “shock.”

“Frankly, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing,” he testified. “In certain regards, my worst fear of how our Ukraine policy could play out was playing out.”

The other morning witness, Williams, also expressed concern about Trump's call with Zelensky, saying, “I found the July 25th phone call unusual because, in contrast to other presidential calls I had observed, it involved discussion of what appeared to be a domestic political matter.”

The White House downplayed the hearing as a debate over two individuals’ personal opinions about a call that Americans can read for themselves. “We have learned nothing new in today’s illegitimate ‘impeachment’ proceedings,” White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said after Vindman and Williams' testimony.

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Vindman testifies he was asked to be Ukraine defense minister

closeChris Wallace breaks down key moments of Lt. Col. Vindman's public impeachment testimonyVideo

Chris Wallace breaks down key moments of Lt. Col. Vindman's public impeachment testimony

The most dramatic moment was the tussle between Adam Schiff and Devin Nunes over the whistleblower's identity, says 'Fox News Sunday' anchor Chris Wallace.

White House official Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman testified Tuesday as part of the House impeachment inquiry that he was asked to serve as Ukraine’s defense minister — but repeatedly denied the offers — when he traveled to Kiev for the inauguration of President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Minority counsel Steve Castor asked Vindman about the offer made by Ukraine’s Defense Council Oleksandr Danylyuk earlier this year.

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Vindman testified Tuesday that Danylyuk offered him the position “three times.”

“Every single time, I dismissed it,” Vindman said. “Upon returning, I notified my chain of command and the appropriate counterintelligence folks about this offer.”

Castor pressed Vindman, saying the post was “a pretty key position” in Ukraine’s war against Russia, and added that it would have been an “honor” for Danylyuk to “bestow” the offer to him.

“I think it would be a great honor,” Vindman said, adding that he was “aware of service members that have left service to help nurture the developing democracies in that part of the world, certainly in the Baltics.”

“But I am an American,” Vindman said. “I came here when I was a toddler and I immediately dismissed these offers. Did not entertain them.”

Vindman went on to say that “the whole notion is rather comical, that I was being asked to consider whether I wanted to be minister of defense.”

“I did not leave the door open at all, but it is pretty funny, for a lieutenant colonel of the U.S. Army, which really is not that senior, to be offered that illustrious of a position,” he said, noting that the offers were made in English, and that Danylyuk is a “flawless English speaker.”

Castor went on to ask Vindman whether he reported the offers to his superiors in the U.S., to which Vindman replied: “I did, but I don’t know if I fully entertained that as a legitimate offer. I just made sure I did the right thing in terms of reporting it.”

WHITE HOUSE OFFICIAL DESCRIBES TRUMP CALL AS 'IMPROPER,' SAYS HE ALERTED INTEL OFFICIAL

Vindman was then asked whether the invitation would have created “a perception of a conflict that Ukrainians thought so highly of you to offer you defense ministry” while he served as a top official on the White Houses’ National Security Council.

“Frankly, it’s more important about what my American leadership and chain of command thinks than … these are honorable people,” Vindman explained. “I’m not sure if he meant it as a joke or not but it’s much more important what my civilian, White House, NSC chain of command thinks, moreso than anybody else.”

He added: “And frankly, if they were concerned about me being able to perform my duties, they would have brought that to my attention.”

The line of questioning came as part of the House Intelligence Committee’s public impeachment inquiry hearing Tuesday morning.

At the center of the impeachment inquiry, which began in September, is Trump’s July 25 phone call with Kiev. That call prompted a whistleblower complaint to the intelligence community inspector general, and in turn, the impeachment inquiry in the House.

The president’s request came after millions in U.S. military aid to Ukraine had been frozen, which Democrats and witnesses have claimed shows a "quid pro quo" arrangement. Trump denies that.

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