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The latest on the Trump impeachment inquiry
By Fernando Alfonso III, Mike Hayes and Lauren Said-Moorhouse, CNN
House Democrats have requested a deposition from Bill Taylor, the top US diplomat in Ukraine, multiple sources familiar with the issue told CNN.
However his interview has not yet been formally scheduled, the source said.
The request is expected to be met with opposition from the White House and State Department, and could present a quandary for Taylor, according to former State Department officials who know him.
Those officials suggested that if Taylor was made to choose between staying on to guide US policy as charge d'affaires in Kiev -- a post he came out of retirement to take -- or resigning to be able to testify, he would choose the former.
What's his role in all this? Taylor was thrust into the public eye following the release of his text exchanges with Kurt Volker, former special envoy for Ukraine, and Gordon Sondland, Trump's appointee for US ambassador to the European Union,
In the texts, Taylor repeatedly questioned the decision to stall hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid to Ukraine as a potential quid pro quo, calling it "crazy."
Will he actually testify? It appears unlikely. On Tuesday, just hours before he was due to appear, the State Department instructed Sondland not to testify at his scheduled hearing. Of the five diplomats scheduled to testify by the House, only Volker has been deposed. He resigned from the State Department days before his congressional appearance in order to testify -- an option that Taylor could take.
Marie "Masha" Yovanovitch was the top US diplomat in Ukraine before she was unexpectedly removed from her post in Kiev in May.
However she now finds herself increasingly ensnared in the scandal as new developments come to light.
What's her role in all this? Yovanovitch is scheduled to be deposed by House committees in the impeachment inquiry on Friday.
Here's why: Two associates of Rudy Giuliani, Trump's personal lawyer, were arrested for federal campaign finance violations. The two are also reported to have been involved in helping Giuliani try to find damaging information on former Vice President Joe Biden in Ukraine. They allegedly played a role in pushing Yovanovitch's ouster while she was still US ambassador to Ukraine.
Her removal: Trump personally ordered Yovanovitch's removal, according to the Wall Street Journal. She was accused of trying to undermine the President and blocking efforts to investigate Democrats like Biden.
What's Trump saying now? Trump signaled today that he may not let Yovanovitch testify on Capitol Hill on Friday, continuing the White House’s efforts to force a House vote on impeachment.
“I just don’t think, you’re running a country, I just don’t think that you can have all of these people testifying about every conversation you’ve had,” Trump said.
Fiona Hill, President Trump's former top Russia adviser, is set to testify before Congress next week -- and will explain that she unaware of some aspects of the Ukraine scandal, according to a source close to Hill who spoke with her Thursday.
Who is she? Hill officially departed the Trump administration in August. She had internally handed over most of her responsibilities in mid-July, but was involved as Rudy Giuliani was making public pronouncements about Ukraine.
What might she say? Democrats have had trouble scheduling witness interviews and subpoenaed Hill. But since she left the administration, she presumably would be freer to speak to the committees than current administration officials and State Department employees.
When is she speaking? She is expected to be interviewed behind closed doors Monday, according to a source familiar with the matter.
Hill has been keeping a low profile in England with her mother in recent weeks. CNN has reached out to her attorney.
Retired Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, Trump's former national security adviser, said on Thursday it was "absolutely not" appropriate for a president to ask other countries to interfere in American politics.
He was attending an event at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies when a reporter asked if it was appropriate for a president to solicit foreign interference in the US political process.
"No, it's absolutely not," McMaster replied.
McMaster also said Thursday he had never witnessed Trump soliciting foreign assistance.
He served under Trump as national security adviser from early 2017 until April 2018, when he was replaced by John Bolton.
Some context: The comment comes as Trump faces an impeachment inquiry, centered on a July phone call in which he asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter.
During that call, Trump also asked Zelensky to investigate the 2016 election, leaving at least one White House official "shaken" by events.
Michael McKinley, a senior adviser to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, is leaving his post, according to two sources familiar with the matter.
The sources did not reveal the reason for McKinley's departure. However it comes as the Ukraine controversy continues to grow.
The Washington Post first reported McKinley’s departure. Citing a person familiar with the situation, it said: “Like many others, [McKinley] was disappointed in the secretary’s lack of public support for diplomats who have been named in the Ukraine controversy.”
What Pompeo has said: Pompeo said Wednesday his department and the White House would fulfill their legal and constitutional requirements in the impeachment probe.
"I've made clear, I think the White House has made very clear, we will ensure that we do everything that we're required to do by the law and the Constitution. Every time," he told "PBS NewsHour."
But his comments, coming amid a week of silence from the rest of the State Department, offered little clarity as to whether it will allow its diplomats to cooperate with the probe.
President Trump devoted at least 20 minutes at his Minneapolis rally to railing against the Democrats, the impeachment inquiry, and the Bidens.
His attacks against former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, became personal.
Trump complained about press coverage that says the accusations against the Bidens are "unsubstantiated." There is no evidence of wrongdoing by either Joe or Hunter Biden.
He outlined a mock interview between Hunter Biden and "sleepy eyes Chuck Todd." Trump also complained about Hunter Biden's deal with the Chinese.
He then went off — presumably unscripted — on Hunter Biden.
"Hunter, you know nothing about energy, you know nothing about China, you know nothing about anything, frankly. Why did you get $1.5 billion Hunter?" Trump said.
He continued: "And your father was never considered smart, he was never considered a good senator, he was only a good vice president because he understood how to kiss Barack Obama's ass."
Here's what we know: A company, whose board Hunter Biden sat on, received a large investment of Chinese capital shortly after Hunter Biden visited the country with his father.
According to the New York Times, Biden's son Hunter has a 10% interest in BHR Partners, a private-equity fund that the Chinese government-owned Bank of China has invested in. As of May 2019, both The New York Times and the Washington Post reported that Hunter had not received any money from the fund or in connection with his role as an unpaid advisory board member.
In July 2019, more than two years after his father left office, Hunter purchased an equity stake in the BHR fund, valued around $430,000, according to the Washington Post.
After Trump's meeting with Zelensky at the United Nations, one of Hunter's lawyers told the Washington Post that, "To date, Mr. Biden has not received any return or compensation on account of this investment or his position on the board of directors."
The characterization of Mr. Biden as owning a $1.5 billion private equity firm funded by the Chinese, or suggesting that Mr. Biden has earned millions of dollars from the firm is a gross misrepresentation of Mr. Biden's role with BHR."
President Trump slammed Democrats at his rally in Minneapolis tonight, saying they are pursuing an impeachment inquiry because "know they can’t win the 2020 election."
This is his first campaign rally since House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced the impeachment inquiry.
Democrats, he said, "know they can’t win the 2020 election so they’re pursuing the insane impeachment witch hunt. I’ve been going through it now for more times than I’ve been in office," he said.
A lot happened today in the ongoing impeachment inquiry into President Trump. Let us catch you up.
- Giuliani associates arrested: Two men who are connected to the President's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, were arrested and charged with federal campaign finance violations. Igor Fruman and Lev Parnas are alleged to have illegally funneled foreign money into the US political system and also played a role in pushing the ouster of former US ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch. The two are reported to have been involved in helping Giuliani try to dig up dirt on Joe Biden in Ukraine. Trump said he does not know Parnas and Fruman despite photos of him with them.
- Rick Perry subpoena issued: House democrats have issued a subpoena to Secretary of Energy Rick Perry for documents pertaining to the ongoing impeachment inquiry. The committees want Perry to produce the documents by Oct. 18. Perry has met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on at least three occasions.
- More House members support the impeachment inquiry: More Democratic holdouts in the House came out in favor of the impeachment inquiry today — pushing the total number of House members to 230 who support the move. That is more than half of the House's 445 members. An impeachment vote only needs a simple majority to pass in the House.
- What the polls are saying: More than half of US voters want Trump impeached and removed from office, according to a Fox News Poll.
- How Trump is handling all this: President Trump took to Twitter earlier to rail against the impeachment inquiry. He tweeted a link to a Fox News story of Zelensky saying there was “no blackmail” in the controversial July phone call, adding that the Ukrainian leader's comments should “immediately end the talk of impeachment!” He also criticized Fox News for their poll on impeachment, tweeting “whoever their Pollster is, they suck,” adding that the network is “much different than it used to be in the good old days.”