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Impeachment news roundup: Oct. 17
Ambassador Sondland on the Hill, investigation goes on despite Cummings’ death

Gordon Sondland, second from left, U.S. ambassador to the European Union, arrives at the Capitol on Thursday for his deposition as part of the House’s impeachment inquiry on Thursday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union and a key player in the investigation into President Donald Trump’s dealings with Ukraine, is testifying this morning before the three House Committees conducting the impeachment inquiry.

Capitol Hill was shocked by the death of Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, one of the three committees conducting the impeachment investigations, but didn”t affect the ambassador’s appearance.

Rep. Elijah Cummings fondly remembered by Hill Democrats, Republicans
‘No better friend than Elijah Cummings,’ GOP Rep. Mark Meadows says of late Maryland Democrat

Then-ranking member Elijah Cummings laughs with then-chairman Jason Chaffetz during a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee meeting at the beginning of the 115th Congress in 2017. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Rep. Elijah Cummings, who died Thursday after longtime health complications, threaded a needle that few recent chairmen and chairwomen of high-profile investigative committees have been able to manage: He remained widely popular among his colleagues on both sides of the aisle.

As chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform over the last 10 months and a key player in the ongoing impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump, Cummings has been on the receiving end of a stream of invective from a frustrated White House.

Rep. Elijah Cummings, key Democrat in impeachment investigation, has died
House Oversight chairman had battled health issues in recent years

Rep. Elijah Cummings presides over a House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing in July. The longtime Maryland Democrat died early Thursday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee and a key player in the ongoing impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump, died early Thursday of complications from longtime health issues, his office said in a statement. The Maryland Democrat was 68.

Cummings had missed roll call votes since Sept. 11 and said in a Sept. 30 statement that he expected to return to the House by mid-October after having a medical procedure, according to the Baltimore Sun.

Can church ever be separate from state at a Franklin Graham rally?
Spiritual leader’s message of love and unity isn’t reaching all backers of the president he supports so strongly

“We live in a political world, so we can’t avoid politics,” the Rev. Franklin Graham said at a recent Charlotte, N.C., rally. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images file photo)

[OPINION] CHARLOTTE, N.C. — After the Rev. Billy Graham became less a counselor of presidents and more a political player, particularly in the unfortunate case of Richard Nixon, he learned a lesson. The Rev. Franklin Graham, heir to his father’s legacy, has chosen a different path, arguably becoming as well known for his politics as for his role as a spiritual leader.

Considering his remarks as he brought his “Decision America” tour to his hometown this past weekend, it’s a box Graham the younger is not exactly comfortable being placed in. But for the preacher who credited the “God factor,” in part, for Donald Trump’s 2016 win, that narrative is set. Vocal support of the president pre- and post-election exists right alongside his philanthropic and mission outreach — such as recent efforts in the Bahamas — through the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan’s Purse.

Graham abruptly leaves hearing during official's testimony

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., questions a witness at a hearing in May. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., abruptly left a Senate Foreign Relations hearing Wednesday during the testimony of a senior administration official.

The moment came after nearly three hours of testimony by Brian Hook, the U.S. Special Representative for Iran. Most of Hook's statements defended the Trump administration's recent troop withdrawal from northern Syria.

Will Trump abandoning the Kurds hurt him politically with former comrades in arms?
Military members and veterans have been among the commander in chief’s staunchest supporters

Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb., who served with Kurdish forces during the war in Iraq, said they were “the one group you could have behind you and not worry about your back. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

With President Donald Trump in essence abandoning former Kurdish allies in northern Syria who helped the U.S. beat back ISIS over the last half decade, some Republican lawmakers who served in the military and outside advocacy groups are divided whether the policy could damage the president’s support among current and former service members, which has remained high throughout his administration.

Despite the U.S. military and Kurds working hand-in-hand on military operations in the Middle East for more than two decades, Trump told reporters in the Oval Office on Wednesday that the Kurds are “no angels,” and deemed his move to withdraw U.S. personnel who had served as a buffer between them and Turkish forces “strategically brilliant.”

Rare, and unapologetic, bipartisan congressional rebuke for Trump on Syria
Mitch McConnell, Nancy Pelosi, Lindsey Graham, Liz Cheney all part with president

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says he’s expressed his opposition to the president’s Syria policy in public and private. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

“I think Lindsey should focus on Judiciary,” President Donald Trump said Wednesday when asked about criticism from South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of his decision to effectively side with Turkey over the Kurdish population of Syria.

Graham, who is often an ally of the president, was comparing Trump’s move to pull back U.S. forces supporting the Kurds to the Obama administration policy of withdrawal from Iraq. The senator is chairman of both the Judiciary Committee and the Appropriations subcommittee responsible for funding the State Department.

House Republicans break 2-to-1 against Trump on withdrawal of Kurd support
Veterans who fought alongside them praise Kurds as allies who ‘had our back’

Nebraska Rep. Don Bacon joined 128 of his Republican colleagues in a resolution criticizing the withdrawal of forces in Syria that led to a Turkish assault on Kurdish allies (Thomas McKinless/CQ Roll Call file photo)

By a 2-to-1 margin, House Republicans on Wednesday broke with President Donald Trump and opposed his decision to pull back U.S. forces in Syria, a move that exposed Kurdish fighters to attack from Turkey.

A resolution opposing the move passed 354 to 60, with 129 Republicans siding with the unanimous Democrats and 60 opposed. It was a noteworthy rebuke of Trump from Republicans who have long been wary of crossing the president.

Dems say Trump has meltdown at Syria meeting, calls Pelosi a ‘third-rate politician’
Amid impeachment inquiry, speaker says president appeared ‘very shaken’

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, walk out of the White House after the Democrats met to discuss the situation in northern Syria with President Donald Trump on Wednesday, October 16, 2019. (BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)

Wednesday’s White House meeting on Syria deteriorated into a “meltdown” as Republican and Democratic leaders presented a unified front against President Donald Trump on his decision to abandon Kurdish fighters in Syria.

The two top House Democrats and the party’s top senator emerged from the West Wing following what they said was a substance-free and insult-filled few minutes with Trump. In a reverse of their last meeting with Trump on infrastructure in which he stormed out on the Democratic leaders, this time they walked out on him.

Senate floor debate beckons amid spending bill impasse
Under stopgap law, lawmakers have about five weeks to reach funding agreement

Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard C. Shelby says there’s a “good chance” the chamber can start debating spending bills next week. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The Senate next week could debate a package of spending bills that have received bipartisan support in the Appropriations Committee, according to Chairman Richard C. Shelby.

“I’ve been hearing that and conversations lend me to think there’s a good chance,” the Alabama Republican said Wednesday, noting that the final decision is up to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. “I think there are five, six, seven appropriations bills that we could pass if we get to the floor.”