The latest on the Trump impeachment inquiry
A second intelligence official with concerns and more direct knowledge regarding President Trump's dealings with Ukraine is considering filing a whistleblower complaint, The New York Times reported Friday.
The Times' report, citing two people briefed on the matter, comes as House Democrats ratchet up their impeachment inquiry centered on Trump's July phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky by issuing a subpoena to the White House and a documents request to Vice President Mike Pence.
The second official is one of the people interviewed by Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson in his efforts to confirm the initial complaint, one of the people told the Times. It is unclear whether Atkinson mentioned the second official's potential complaint in his closed-door briefing on Friday with lawmakers explaining how he corroborated the initial whistleblower's complaint, which alleged that Trump had pressured Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden -- Trump's potential Democratic rival -- and Biden's son Hunter. There is no evidence of wrongdoing in Ukraine by Joe or Hunter Biden.
A more direct complaint could draw greater scrutiny to Trump's attacks discrediting the original complaint as composed of secondhand information. The President has said he wants to meet not only the whistleblower, "who presented SECOND & THIRD HAND INFORMATION, but also the person who illegally gave this information, which was largely incorrect, to the 'Whistleblower.' "
More context: Last week, Trump also described whoever had provided the whistleblower with information about his call with the Ukrainian President as "close to a spy," adding that in the old days spies were dealt with differently.
In a rare statement released Monday, Atkinson addressed the false claim pushed by Trump and some of his allies on Capitol Hill that the whistleblower lacked firsthand knowledge of the conduct outlined in the complaint and therefore the allegations were based on "hearsay." The statement made clear that the whistleblower was not simply communicating secondhand knowledge.
Trump has openly called on Ukraine and China to investigate the Bidens, asserting on Thursday that he has the "absolute right" to ask "other Countries" to investigate corruption, amid escalating scrutiny over his interactions with foreign leaders.
"As the President of the United States, I have an absolute right, perhaps even a duty, to investigate, or have investigated, CORRUPTION, and that would include asking, or suggesting, other Countries to help us out!" Trump tweeted.
There's no evidence that the former vice president received any money from China, and a lawyer for Hunter Biden has pushed back on Trump's characterization, calling it "a gross misrepresentation."
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo failed to meet the House's subpoena deadline to produce Ukraine related documents today.
“Secretary Pompeo has failed to meet the deadline to produce documents required by the subpoena. However, the State Department has contacted the Committees on this matter and we hope the Department will cooperate in full promptly. Apart from the outstanding subpoena, we look forward to hearing from Ambassadors Sondland and Yavonovitch next week," a House Foreign Affairs Committee aide tells CNN.
Some more context: Gordon Sondland, the US ambassador to the European Union, is scheduled to testify before three House committees on Tuesday, two congressional sources tell CNN. The ambassador is mentioned in a series of text messages between US diplomats and a Ukrainian aide.
Joe Biden's presidential campaign says President Trump is "lying about the one Democrat he doesn't want to face" in the first new spot to be included in the former vice president's $6 million broadcast and digital advertising push across the four early-voting states.
The 30-second ad, titled "Unhinged," focuses on Biden's response to Trump's public and private efforts to get foreign governments to investigate Biden and his son Hunter.
There is no evidence of wrongdoing by the Bidens.
The ad will run in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada.
Speaking with reporters in Los Angeles, Democratic presidential candidate Julian Castro said that President Trump is taking an "honest and honorable" public servant and trying to muddy his reputation, talking about former Vice President Joe Biden.
"He’s taking an honest and honorable public servant and trying to muddy their reputation by creating this image of a global elite and using false accusations to smear Joe Biden’s reputation hoping that that’s going to shave off enough votes if Joe Biden is his general election opponent so that he can win another narrow electoral college victory," Castro said.
Some background: Kurt Volker, the former US special envoy to Ukraine, was the first witness to appear before three congressional committees and to be deposed on the whistleblower complaint, which alleges that Trump tried to pressure Ukraine to investigate Biden and his son Hunter.
Joe Biden grew visibly angry today as he was asked to defend his son, Hunter Biden. Instead, Biden slammed Trump, saying, “He's indicted himself by his own statements, this is not about me it's not about my son."
House Democrats continued to move forward with their impeachment inquiry into President Trump today.
Here are the latest developments:
- White House subpoenaed: House Democrats subpoenaed the White House this evening as part of the impeachment investigation into Trump. The White House said the "subpoena changes nothing — just more document requests, wasted time, and taxpayer dollars that will ultimately show the President did nothing wrong." (You can read the subpoena here.)
- Gordon Sondland testifies next week: The US ambassador to the European Union is scheduled to testify before three House committees on Tuesday, two congressional sources tell CNN. The ambassador is mentioned in a series of text messages between US diplomats and a Ukrainian aide.
- Joe Biden reacts to Trump: The former vice president and Democratic presidential candidate grew visibly angry as he was asked to defend his son, Hunter Biden. Instead, Joe Biden slammed Trump, saying, “He's indicted himself by his own statements, this is not about me it's not about my son."
- Kurt Volker did not resign: A spokesperson for Arizona State University told CNN that the former US special envoy to Ukraine is still the executive director of the McCain Institute. CNN reported earlier today that Volker was planning to resign, according to a source familiar with the matter. Volker met with staff of the institute this afternoon and two sources familiar with the meeting tell CNN that Volker did not resign in a staff meeting and said he has no imminent plans to resign.
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The White House has released a statement in response to the decision by House Democrats to subpoena the administration earlier tonight.
“This subpoena changes nothing — just more document requests, wasted time, and taxpayer dollars that will ultimately show the President did nothing wrong. The do nothing Democrats can continue with their kangaroo court while the President and his Administration will continue to work on behalf of the American people," press secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a statement.
More on the subpoena: The three chair overseeing the investigation — House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, House Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot Engel and House Oversight Chairman Elijah Cummings — expressed their regret over the position the President has placed them and the country in.
"The White House has refused to engage with — or even respond to — multiple requests for documents from our Committees on a voluntary basis. After nearly a month of stonewalling, it appears clear that the President has chosen the path of defiance, obstruction, and cover-up," the statement said.
The three chairmen overseeing the investigation into President Trump's phone call with Ukraine's leader and the impeachment hearings have subpoenaed the White House.
In a statement, the three chairmen leading the probe — House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, House Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot Engel and House Oversight Chairman Elijah Cummings — wrote, "We deeply regret that President Trump has put us — and the nation — in this position, but his actions have left us with no choice but to issue this subpoena."
"The White House has refused to engage with—or even respond to—multiple requests for documents from our Committees on a voluntary basis. After nearly a month of stonewalling, it appears clear that the President has chosen the path of defiance, obstruction, and cover-up," the statement said.
Some background: Earlier this week, Democrats told the White House to expect subpoenas related to the Ukraine matter.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has not yet held a full vote in the House approving of the impeachment inquiry. Trump’s allies have argued that means the process has not formally begun.
Pelosi said in a letter Thursday to House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy there "is no requirement under the Constitution, under House Rules, or House precedent that the whole House vote before proceeding with an impeachment inquiry.”
US Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland is scheduled to testify before three House committees on Tuesday, two congressional sources tell CNN.
Sondland is expected to attend, one of the sources said.
He had originally been scheduled for later next week.
What we know about Sondland: The ambassador is mentioned in a series of text messages between US diplomats and a Ukrainian aide. The messages, which were released last night, show how a potential Ukrainian investigation into the 2016 election was linked to a desired meeting between Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and President Trump.
In one exchange, Sondland seemed to downplay the concerns raised by his counterpart in Kiev.
"Gordon, one thing Kurt and I talked about yesterday was Sasha Danyliuk's point that President Zelenskyy is sensitive about Ukraine being taken seriously, not merely as an instrument in Washington domestic, reelection politics," Ambassador William "Bill" Taylor, the charge d'affaires at the US Embassy in Kiev, wrote on July 21.
Sondland replied, "Absolutely, but we need to get the conversation started and the relationship built, irrespective of the pretext."
On September 1, Taylor raised a question about the conditions upon which the aid was stalled and a White House visit by Zelensky would be predicated.
"Are we now saying that security assistance and WH meeting conditioned on investigations?" Taylor asked.
"Call me," Sondland replied.
Sondland has been the ambassador to the European Union since late June 2018.
CNN Political Director David Chalian analyzes a series of text messages between US diplomats and a senior Ukrainian aide in the first episode of "The Daily DC: Impeachment Watch" podcast.
The text messages, which were released last night, show how a potential Ukrainian investigation into the 2016 election was linked to a desired meeting between Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Trump.
Chalian is joined by CNN National Correspondent Athena Jones and New York Times White House Correspondent and CNN Political Analyst Maggie Haberman.