foreign-policy

Trump contends Sondland clears him
‘I want nothing. That’s what I want from Ukraine,’ POTUS says he told ambassador

President Donald Trump speaks to reporters at the White House on Oct. 10. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

Reading from his own marker-written notes and running an hour behind schedule for a trip to Texas, President Donald Trump contended Wednesday that Gordon Sondland’s testimony proves he did not order a quid pro quo with Ukraine’s new president.

In yet another surreal moment of his presidency, Trump appeared to recite a version of a July 26 phone conversation with Sondland that his ambassador to the EU took while sitting on the outdoor patio of a Kyiv restaurant.

Sondland tells Congress he acted at Trump's direction on Ukraine
Testimony from top ambassador ties Trump, Pompeo and other top official to Ukrainian pressure campaign

Gordon Sondland, U.S. ambassador to the European Union, arrives to testify before the House Intelligence Committee during a hearing on the impeachment inquiry of President Trump. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

Gordon Sondland, U.S. ambassador to the European Union, on Wednesday told Congress that the president directed him to pressure Ukraine to investigate the Ukrainian energy company Burisma and, in turn, former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter.

The Trump donor and appointee stressed that the president never directly told him U.S. military aid to Ukraine was contingent upon the politically motivated investigations. But he testified, among other new revelations, that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo signed off on a pressure campaign.

Impeachment news roundup: Nov. 20
Republicans push 2016 election Ukraine-Democratic collusion narrative in Sondland questioning

Gordon Sondland, U.S. ambassador to the European Union, testifies during the House Intelligence Committee hearing on the impeachment inquiry of President Trump on Wednesday. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

House Intelligence ranking member Devin Nunes began his questioning of Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland on Wednesday by highlighting instances where former Ukrainian government officials disparaged President Donald Trump during his 2016 campaign and allegedly sought to boost Hillary Clinton.

Nunes and his fellow House Republicans have argued that Trump fervently believed Ukrainians are “all corrupt” and that he had legitimate cause to request that the new Ukrainian government launch anti-corruption investigations into allegations of wrongdoing by Democrats during the 2016 election and former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden.

‘I don’t know any of these people’: 3 takeaways as Trump watches impeachment saga
Williams gives VP cover after his spox noted ‘she doesn’t directly report to the vice president’

President Donald Trump talks to the media on the South Lawn upon his return to the White House via Marine One on Nov. 3. (Photo by Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images)

The third day of public impeachment hearings temporarily transformed President Donald Trump into a history professor as he and his surrogates tried to discredit government witnesses and panned House Democrats.

Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, who oversees European matters at the National Security Council, told the House Intelligence Committee that Trump’s talk on a July 25 call with Ukraine’s president of his government investigating U.S. Democrats was “inappropriate” and a “partisan play.” He also panned attacks on other witnesses as “callow and cowardly,” appearing to criticize his commander in chief. Jennifer Williams, an aide to Vice President Mike Pence, called that telephone conversation “unusual” because Trump was focused on a domestic political matter.

‘Remain in Mexico’ policy faces internal critiques at House hearing
Migration Protection Protocols spurs human rights violations, an asylum officer told Homeland Security panel

A Customs and Border Protection agent processes migrants who recently crossed the border in the Rio Grande Valley Sector of Texas in August. (Jinitzail Hernández/CQ Roll Call)

The Migrant Protection Protocols, a program that has so far forced more than 57,000 migrants to wait in Mexico while their immigration cases wind through the court, is illegal and enables human rights abuses against the vulnerable, a Department of Homeland Security employee told lawmakers Tuesday.

“These policies are illegal, they’re immoral, and they’re the basis for human rights abuses on behalf of our nation," Michael Knowles, president of a union that represents U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services employees and a longtime asylum officer, said in his testimony to a House Homeland Security panel.

Pentagon report: US pullout from Syria strengthens terrorists
ISIS regrouping, readying new attacks despite death of leader, according to assessment

Syrian Kurds gather around a U.S. armored vehicle during a demonstration against Turkish threats next to a U.S.-led international coalition base on the outskirts of Ras al-Ain in Syria's Hasakeh province near the Turkish border in October. (Delil Souleiman/AFP via Getty Images file photo)

The sudden departure of most U.S. troops from northeastern Syria in early October has strengthened the Islamic State terrorist group in that country, despite the U.S. military’s recent killing of the group’s leader, according to a new Pentagon assessment. 

ISIS is reconstituting its forces and readying new plans for terrorist attacks in the wake of the U.S. troop withdrawal and Turkey’s subsequent invasion of Syria, and other forces in the area are unlikely to prioritize counterterrorism as the U.S. military did, according to an intelligence report summarized in a Pentagon audit published Tuesday. 

Sondland testimony cliffhanger: Will he vindicate or implicate Trump?
Neither Democrats nor Republicans know what Sondland will say about new information since his deposition

Gordon Sondland, U.S. ambassador to the European Union, testifies in public on Wednesday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

As the House impeachment inquiry has moved from closed depositions to open hearings, lawmakers largely knew what witnesses would say. But Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union who will testify Wednesday, is a cliffhanger.

The House Intelligence Committee will hear from Sondland after three days of testimony with seven other witnesses, many of whom spoke to conversations they’ve had with him. Those accounts place Sondland in the center of the controversy about whether Trump withheld security assistance to Ukraine and a White House meeting with the country’s new president to secure investigations into his political rivals.

Trump calls Pelosi ‘incompetent’ for launching impeachment inquiry
White House official says Trump ‘is expected to sign’ short-term spending bill

President Donald Trump argues at December meeting about border security with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi as Vice President Mike Pence looks on in the Oval Office. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Continuing their yearslong feud, President Donald Trump on Tuesday called Speaker Nancy Pelosi “incompetent” over House Democrats’ impeachment probe.

The president also lashed out at the media, saying their coverage of his unscheduled visit to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Saturday shows news outlets are “sick.” There also were indications from the president’s staff that he will not trigger another government shutdown later this week.

Impeachment news roundup: Nov. 19
Congressional investigators hearing from two aides who listened in on Trump’s July call with Zelenskiy

Jennifer Williams, left, special adviser for Europe and Russia to Vice President Mike Pence, and Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, director for European Affairs at the National Security Council, are sworn in Tuesday before testifying in the House Intelligence Committee’s impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The House Intelligence Committee heard Tuesday afternoon from two witnesses called by Republicans on the panel in its impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.

Kurt Volker, the former U.S. special envoy to Ukraine, and Tim Morrison, the National Security Council’s former senior director for Europe and Russia policy both gave testimony Tuesday afternoon.

In run-up to crucial impeachment hearings, president hits a rough patch
Despite Trump’s troubles, has impeachment ‘moved the needle?’ One Dem strategist says no

Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch told House lawmakers she felt “threatened” and intimated by President Donald Trump. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

An embattled Donald Trump enters one of the most consequential weeks of his presidency on defense, reeling from self-inflicted wounds, political setbacks and a surprise hospital visit the White House is struggling to explain.

This week will keep the focus on the president as nine administration witnesses head to Capitol Hill to testify in the House impeachment inquiry. Several told lawmakers behind closed doors they understood Trump ordered military aid to Ukraine frozen until its new president agreed to publicly state he would investigate U.S. Democrats.