Congress

Impeachment news roundup: Nov. 22

Trump explains why he wanted Giuliani to lead Ukraine effort, and where does the inquiry go next?

From left, Reps. Dean Phillips, D-Minn., Madeleine Dean, D-Pa., Mark Meadows, R-N.C., Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., and Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., sit in the audience during the House Intelligence Committee’s impeachment hearing on Thursday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The House left town for its Thanksgiving recess on Thursday with little clarity on where the impeachment investigation into President Donald Trump goes from here.

After two weeks of public hearings with 12 witnesses, Democratic Intelligence Committee members have not said whether they will call more to testify after the Thanksgiving break.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday that the course impeachment takes is “up to the committees of jurisdiction.” But she also suggested that her party will not wait for the courts to decide whether Trump administration officials who have refused to provide documents and testimony to the panel conducting the impeachment probe must comply. That court process could take months, and Democrats have said they want to wrap up the impeachment process by as early as Christmas.

That would require the impeachment panel — comprised of the Intelligence, Foreign Affairs, and Oversight committees — to wrap up its probe soon and forward its findings in a report to the Judiciary Committee, which would draw up impeachment articles against the president. The Judiciary panel will then vote to send those impeachment articles — or charges — to the House floor for a full vote. The Judiciary Committee can call witnesses back for more testimony or depose entirely new witnesses if it feels it needs to bolster or double-check the case.

Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and former national security adviser John Bolton have been called to testify before the impeachment panel but have referred the question of their compliance to the courts. Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and Energy Secretary Rick Perry are among those who have refused to supply the impeachment panel with subpoenaed documents.

Impeachment inquiry Democrats have hinted that the White House’s noncompliance could make its way into the impeachment articles as an obstruction charge.

“They should be coming before us,” Pelosi told reporters on Thursday.

“They keep taking it to court, and no, we’re not going to wait until the courts decide. That might be information that’s available to the Senate, in terms of how far we go and when we go. But we can’t wait for that because, again, it’s a technique. It’s obstruction of justice, obstruction of Congress,” Pelosi said.

Here is the latest on the impeachment inquiry:

Rudy rationale: Trump on Friday for the first time explained his rationale for putting his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani in charge of Ukraine policy.

“He’s an iconic figure. He’s probably the greatest crimefighter, probably in the last 50 years,” Trump said of the former U.S. attorney and New York mayor. “He’s got credentials because of his reputation. So when Rudy Giuliani goes there … it means a lot.”

Giuliani’s role in a shadow foreign policy operation that was running a pressure campaign to force Ukraine to investigate Trump’s political rivals in return for releasing a military aid package was detailed in testimony in public hearings over the last two weeks.

Trump also took a shot at his former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, saying had Giuliani been in that post years ago, “this kind of crap wouldn’t have happened,” appearing to refer to the Mueller probe and Obama administration’s investigation of his 2016 campaign.

He also panned House Democrats’ public impeachment hearings, scoffing at their witnesses as “the best they’ve got” and saying Democrats “looked like fools the last five days.”

[Trump comes out swinging, but Fiona Hill fights back in dramatic impeachment finale]

He again criticized House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff, who ran the hearings, calling him a “sick puppy.”

Bring it on: “I want a trial,” Trump blurted out during the interview, alluding to impeachment to be tried in the Senate, but then refused to commit to one when questioned by the Fox hosts.

He did say he wants Democratic rival Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden and Schiff to testify at the Senate trial to which he would not commit. He also wants the intelligence community whistleblower whose complaint spawned the inquiry “to testify,” but he didn't specify if that should happen in the House process or a Senate trial.

Pollster in chief: Trump claimed he does not expect to be impeached because polling in places like Wisconsin and other swing states, where, he said, “I’m way up because of impeachment.”

Picture this: Trump criticized Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, for allegedly refusing to “hang my picture in the embassy.”

“This was an Obama person who didn’t want to hang my picture in the embassy. This was not an angel, this person,” he said, saying without details that she was doing things “I didn’t like.”

Yovanovitch was posted to Kyiv by Obama after being appointed ambassador to Kyrgyzstan in 2005 and Armenia in 2008 by then-President George W. Bush.

Clinton lawyers: Why didn’t U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland this week tell the House Intelligence Committee in his lengthy opening statement that Trump directly told him he wanted no quid pro quo with Ukraine? The president claimed Friday it’s because the former hotel executive came to the impeachment hearing with “Clinton lawyers.”

“They’re passing him notes all the time” during Wednesday’s dramatic hearing, Trump said. “He didn’t put the most important phrase in.”

Not backing down: Trump continued pushing a right-wing conspiracy theory that Ukraine, not Russia, meddled in the 2016 U.S. presidential election a day after a top former National Security Council Russia expert testified that was a myth.

“A lot of it has to do with Ukraine, they say,” Trump told “Fox & Friends” without explaining who “they” might be. “They gave the server to Crowdstrike, or whatever it’s called.”

Bolton’s back: Former national security adviser John Bolton, who has refused to testify in the impeachment inquiry, cryptically tweeted Friday morning to “stay tuned” for the “back story.”

Bolton’s opposition to Giuliani’s Ukraine operation was detailed in testimony by witnesses in this week’s public hearings, at one time referring to it as a “drug deal,” according to National Security Council Russia adviser Fiona Hill on Thursday.

House Democrats have debated subpoenaing Bolton, as well as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, but Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said that she doesn’t want to wait out a prolonged legal battle over their testimony before proceeding with impeachment proceedings if the House votes to go forward.

Bolton could also be referring to the book he is writing to be published before the 2020 election. Stay tuned.

Quick ruling: House Democrats urged the Supreme Court on Thursday to quickly allow enforcement of a congressional subpoena for eight years of President Donald Trump’s financial and tax records from accounting firm Mazars USA.

In a court filing, Democrats argue that not only was a lower court ruling correct when it backed House power to get the records, but also that a president doesn’t have a right to stall the production of documents, particularly during an impeachment inquiry.

“The President certainly has no right to dictate the timetable by which third parties provide information that could potentially be relevant to that inquiry, or to enlist this Court’s aid in doing so on the basis of arguments that have been rejected by each court to have considered them,” the House filing states.

His own investigation: Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham has written to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo requesting documents related to Vice President Joe Biden, Hunter Biden and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, among others. Graham curiously made this request in his capacity as chairman of the Judiciary Committee rather than as chairman of the State-Foreign Operations subcommittee.

Say it ain't so, Lindsey: Former Vice President Joe Biden expressed frustration at  Graham’s request. “He knows that if he comes out against Trump, he's got a real tough road for reelection,” Biden said in an interview to air later Friday on CNN. “I am disappointed, and quite frankly I’m angered by the fact. He knows me. He knows my son. He knows there’s nothing to this. Trump is now essentially holding power over him that even the Ukrainians wouldn't yield to. “Lindsey is about to go down in a way that I think he’s going to regret his whole life,” Biden said.

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