The latest on the Trump impeachment inquiry

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3:23 p.m. ET, October 8, 2019

House Democrats will have a call Friday. The impeachment inquiry will likely come up.

Sarah Silbiger/The Washington Post/Getty Images
Sarah Silbiger/The Washington Post/Getty Images

House Democrats are having a caucus-wide call Friday, according to two sources, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is expected to be on the call.

The topic of the call is to be determined, but the impeachment inquiry is very likely to be discussed.

The Democrats have been having periodic calls during recess on a range of topics. Friday's planned call comes before the House returns next week, as members are eager to learn details on next steps. 

3:06 p.m. ET, October 8, 2019

White House is seeking outside impeachment counsel help

Trey Gowdy, a former congressman from South Carolina, is pictured at the Library of Congress in Washington, in December 2018.
Trey Gowdy, a former congressman from South Carolina, is pictured at the Library of Congress in Washington, in December 2018. Zach Gibson/Bloomberg/Getty

The White House has reached out to outside lawyers for impeachment counsel, according to a person familiar.

One of the lawyers they reached out to is Trey Gowdy, a former congressman and an ex-federal prosecutor. He now regularly appears on Fox News.

2:45 p.m. ET, October 8, 2019

Ukraine's former prosecutor general says he met with Rudy Giuliani in New York City

Ukrainian Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko speaks during a briefing at the Central Election Commission in Kiev, Ukraine, in March 2019.
Ukrainian Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko speaks during a briefing at the Central Election Commission in Kiev, Ukraine, in March 2019. Efrem Lukatsky/AP

Former Ukrainian Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko revealed details of his meetings with President Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani in an interview with Ukraine’s Radio NV, which aired today.

According to an excerpt of the interview published on the NV.ua website, Lutsenko said the first proposal to meet Giuliani in the US came to him at the end of 2017. According to Lutsenko, he agreed after a fourth request and traveled to the US privately to meet Giuliani.

“In the end of 2018 — I’m sorry, 2017 — Giuliani offered a meeting in the US via one of my subordinates with whom his people had business, I agreed because of my national interests," Lutsenko said. "But after a few months, Mr. Giuliani asked for a meeting for the fourth time, and that’s when I took a vacation with my son and went to New York City for this meeting."

Lutsenko said he agreed to meet because it was “the only way to try to achieve a joint investigation into the money of the organized criminal group of [former Ukrainian President Viktor] Yanukovych,” who fled Ukraine in 2014 and is currently in Russia. 

“We talked for three days, about two to three hours every day,” Lutsenko said of his conversations with Giuliani. “He also asked one day if I could tell him about the possible interference of Ukrainian figures in the 2016 US election. It seems to me that these actions are obvious, but they do not fall under the Ukrainian Criminal Code.” 

Lutsenko added that if he found that any such activities fell under US law, he would have been willing to start joint investigation with the US. During a meeting on the second day of his visit to the United States, according to Lutsenko, he and Giuliani discussed the case of Burisma, which previously employed Hunter Biden, the son of former Vice President Joe Biden.

There is no evidence of wrongdoing by either Joe or Hunter Biden.

What we know: As reported by CNN, Lutsenko and another former prosecutor general, Viktor Shokin, supplied Giuliani’s team with a list of unsupported allegations that asserted corruption by the Bidens, as well as collusion between officials in Ukraine and the Democrats in the US to publicize damaging information about Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort in 2016. Lutsenko, who left office in August, has changed his account of events surrounding those efforts several times.

Ukraine’s State Bureau of Investigation last week opened a criminal proceeding involving Lutsenko, an agency official told CNN.

7:45 p.m. ET, October 8, 2019

Trump confidant: The President is "overreacting" by blocking Sondland's deposition

Chris Ruddy, a confidant of President Trump, told CNN's Christiane Amanpour that he believes Trump is "overreacting" by preventing US Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland from testifying before Congress.

"I think the President, frankly, is overreacting and the White House is over reacting by withholding testimony," Ruddy said. 

The Newsmax Media CEO also said the impeachment inquiry is "a mortal threat to his presidency, and he certainly should treat it that way."

Watch for more:

About Sondland's deposition: The State Department directed Sondland not to testify before Congress today. House Democrats said they will issue a subpoena for the testimony in response.

1:37 p.m. ET, October 8, 2019

White House officials scrambled to alert lawyers and contain damage after Trump's Ukraine call

Aides to President Trump scrambled in the aftermath of his July 25 phone call with Ukraine’s leader — both to alert lawyers of their concerns and to contain the damage, new CNN reporting shows.

At least one National Security Council official alerted the White House's national security lawyers about the concerns, three sources familiar with the matter said. Those same lawyers would later order the transcript of the call moved to a highly classified server typically reserved for code-word classified material.

Those concerns were raised independently of the complaint brought forward by an intelligence community whistleblower. They reflect new evidence of the unease mounting within the administration at the President’s actions.

Unsettled aides also immediately began quizzing each other about whether they should alert senior officials who were not on the call — mainly those at the Justice Department, since Trump had invoked the agency’s boss, Attorney General Bill Barr, multiple times during the 30-minute talk.

White House lawyers, aware of the tumult, initially believed it could be contained within the walls of the White House. As more people became aware of the conversation — and began raising their internal concerns about it — a rough transcript of the call was stored away in a highly classified server that few could access. The order to move the transcript came from the White House's national security lawyers to prevent more people from seeing it, according to people familiar with the situation.

The scramble and fallout from the call, described by six people familiar with it, parallels and expands upon details described in the whistleblower complaint. The anxiety and internal concern reflect a phone conversation that deeply troubled national security professionals, even as Trump now insists there was nothing wrong with how he conducted himself. And it shows an ultimately unsuccessful effort to contain the tumult by the administration’s lawyers.

1:27 p.m. ET, October 8, 2019

A federal judge brought up Watergate in a hearing with DOJ lawyers today

A federal judge forced the Justice Department today to compare proceedings during Watergate to the impeachment inquiry into President Trump.

Judge Beryl Howell grilled House and Justice Department lawyers on the current inquiry for more than two hours. The hearing was set to focus on grand jury secrets in the report by special counsel Robert Mueller, but Howell has asked several pointed questions about the parameters of the current impeachment probe.

At one point, Howell cut off a Justice Department lawyer arguing the administration could withhold grand jury secrets from Congress.

She then brought up Judge John Sirica, who became one of President Richard Nixon’s greatest foils during Watergate. Sirica had ruled to give a secret grand jury report to Congress as it investigated Nixon. Its release bolstered impeachment so much it was called the “Watergate roadmap.”

Howell asked twice, “Was former Judge Sirica wrong?" 

Justice Department attorney Elizabeth Shapiro said the Nixon-era judge wasn’t wrong at the time, but the Watergate grand jury decision by the court may have resulted differently today.

Howell responded to Shapiro, saying, "Wow."

"The Department (of Justice) is taking an extraordinary position in this case," Howell said.

What this hearing is all about: This hearing has covered many of the legal questions that the House and White House are fighting over this week as the Ukraine impeachment inquiry moves forward.

1:04 p.m. ET, October 8, 2019

Nancy Pelosi: Protecting whistleblowers "is absolutely essential"

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi stressed the importance of protecting whistleblowers as she spoke to reporters in Seattle.

“The intelligence community respects the role of whistleblowers," Pelosi said. "We all do, but in intelligence, protecting the whistleblower is absolutely essential so that there’s no retribution or anything for speaking truth."

"Whistleblowers must be protected," she added.

Some background: House Intelligence Committee and lawyers for the whistleblower who filed a complaint about President Trump's conduct are discussing extreme measures to protect the individual's identity amid growing concerns about his or her safety, according to several sources familiar with the process.

It is still unclear when the whistleblower might ultimately talk with the committee, but among the measures being discussed are the possibility of using an off-site location, limiting Hill staff and members who would be present and even disguising the individual's image and voice.

1:03 p.m. ET, October 8, 2019

Pelosi: Trump is "obstructing Congress from getting the facts that we need"

Win McNamee/Getty Images
Win McNamee/Getty Images

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, speaking to reporters in Seattle, said President Trump is "obstructing Congress from getting the facts that we need" after his administration blocked a US diplomat's deposition this morning.

She went on to say Trump's behavior is "an abuse of power," adding "that is one of the reasons that we have an impeachment inquiry."

Earlier today, the Trump administration blocked US Ambassador to European Union Gordon Sondland's deposition before three House committees.

Pelosi said Sondland had said to his lawyers that he was prepared to testify.

"There will be a subpoena issued for him to come testify," she said.

12:39 p.m. ET, October 8, 2019

Nancy Pelosi is "totally on board" with the impeachment inquiry scope, lawyer says

House General Counsel Doug Letter said he spoke to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi last night and “she is totally on board with this.”

Letter told Judge Beryl Howell earlier in today’s hearing that the House of Representatives may be considering articles of impeachment against the President that go further than the Ukraine issue — and may include obstruction of justice and interference with federal elections accusations.

What this hearing is all about: This hearing has covered many of the legal questions that the House and White House are fighting over this week as the Ukraine impeachment inquiry moves forward.

The hearing was set to focus on grand jury secrets in the report by special counsel Robert Mueller, but Howell has asked several pointed questions about the parameters of the current impeachment probe.