The latest on the Trump impeachment inquiry

By Meg Wagner, Veronica Rocha, Fernando Alfonso III and Lauren Said-Moorhouse, CNN

Updated 10:20 p.m. ET, October 17, 2019
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6:07 p.m. ET, October 17, 2019

Defense official expected to testify next week in impeachment inquiry

From CNN's Manu Raju

Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Laura Cooper is scheduled to testify behind closed doors next Thursday, according to an official working on impeachment inquiry. 

Cooper was scheduled to testify tomorrow in the House impeachment inquiry.

She is the deputy assistant Secretary of Defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia. No reason for the delay was given. 

5:18 p.m. ET, October 17, 2019

Podcast: A look at Gordon Sondland's testimony

CNN Political Director David Chalian covers the deposition of Gordon Sondland, US ambassador to the European Union, in the latest episode of "The Daily DC: Impeachment Watch" podcast.

Sondland told Congress he was directed by President Trump to work with Rudy Giuliani on Ukraine, and was left with a choice: abandon efforts to bolster a key strategic alliance or work to satisfy the demands of the President's personal lawyer.

He also looks at:

  • Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney's remarks today. He acknowledged that Trump suspended Ukrainian aid because he wanted Ukrainian help on an investigation into the 2016 election.
  • The Trump administration's attempt to push debunked conspiracy theories about 2016 election interference.
  • Nancy Pelosi's impeachment strategy. She is resisting to set a timeline for the inquiry.
  • How would an impeachment trial actually work?

Chalian is joined by CNN reporter and producer Marshall Cohen and CNN Justice Correspondent Jessica Schneider. 

Listen to the podcast here.

6:33 p.m. ET, October 17, 2019

Democrats say questions are emerging over Gordon Sondland's testimony on Giuliani

From CNN's Manu Raju, Jeremy Herb and Lauren Fox 

House Democrats say questions are emerging over some elements of US Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland’s testimony, particularly his contention that he was unaware of Rudy Giuliani’s desire to have Ukraine investigate President Trump’s potential 2020 opponent Vice President Joe Biden.

In his opening statement, Sondland testified that he wasn’t aware until “much later” that Giuliani's agenda might have included an effort to investigate the Bidens, despite Giuliani talking about his efforts publicly in the spring.

Here's what Democrats are saying about Sondland's testimony:

  • Rep. David Cicilline, a Rhode Island Democrat on the Foreign Affairs Committee: “I think he’s basically trying to defend his reputation and his own behavior. Some of the testimony that he provided was not credible to me with respect to his sort of not understanding all the things that were happening around him and in full view of the American people. I would say there were parts of his testimony that were credible, there were parts of his testimony that were incredible, like this sort of overall lack of knowledge about all of these moving parts seems to me really hard to accept.”
  • Rep. Eliot Engel, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee: “I think he is trying to make some distance between him and the President.”
  • Rep. Harley Rouda, a California Democrat on the Oversight Committee: She said Sondland appeared to have “a severe case of selective amnesia” in his closed-door testimony.
  • Rep. Ami Bera, a Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee: He said he wished the ambassador's memory "was a little bit better," adding that there were "gaps."

What we know: Sondland’s testimony is ongoing, and lawmakers predict it will last well into the evening.

5:02 p.m. ET, October 17, 2019

Sources: Energy Secretary Rick Perry notified Trump today that he plans to resign

From CNN's Nikki Carvajal and Sarah Westwood 

Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images North America/Getty Images
Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images North America/Getty Images

Two sources confirm to pool reporters that Energy Secretary Rick Perry notified President Trump today that he plans to resign from his post. 

Earlier today, Deputy White House press secretary Hogan Gidley would not dispute reports that Perry was stepping down. 

This is the second time this month that rumors of Perry's departure have surfaced.

On Oct. 4, reports in both The Washington Post and The New York Times had Perry leaving his position in December.

Perry is among one of the longest serving Cabinet members who has remained on the job since the start of Trump's presidency.

About Perry: He was confirmed as energy secretary on March 2, 2017, with a 62-37 vote in the Senate. The former Texas governor, who has largely kept a low profile throughout his tenure, has been drawn into the impeachment inquiry.

Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney confirmed today that Trump asked Perry to work with Rudy Giuliani on policies related to Ukraine, but he denied doing so constituted a “shadow foreign policy,” as multiple witnesses have said Giuliani conducted.

4:38 p.m. ET, October 17, 2019

Democratic congressman calls Mulvaney's comments "damning" to the President

Rep. Ted Lieu, a Democrat from California, said acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney's remarks that the White House conditioned aid to Ukraine on the opening of an investigation are "very damning" for President Trump. 

"Mick Mulvaney today on national TV says yes, there was a quid pro quo, essentially on the [Democratic National Committee] conspiracy theory investigation and so that is all very damning for the President of the United States," Lieu said. 

What Mulvaney said: He made a stunning admission at news briefing earlier today by confirming that Trump froze nearly $400 million in US security aid to Ukraine in part to pressure that country into investigating Democrats.

Mulvaney insisted that he only knew of a US request to investigate the handling of a DNC server hacked in the 2016 election, but text messages between US diplomats show efforts to get Ukraine to commit to an investigation into Burisma, the company on whose board former Vice President Joe Biden's son sat. There is no evidence of wrongdoing in Ukraine by either Biden.

4:08 p.m. ET, October 17, 2019

Democrats say there doesn't have to be a quid pro quo to make Trump's action impeachable

From CNN's Jeremy Herb

CNN
CNN

Democrats say that the existence of a quid pro quo on Ukraine aid is not required for President Trump to have committed an impeachable offense — because enlisting a foreign government to aid in your campaign is already a crime.  

That said, Democrats do believe that acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney’s admission of an apparent quid pro quo tying the release of foreign security aid to Ukraine to an investigation into the 2016 election was significant and further evidence advancing the impeachment probe. 

But it isn’t essential for the impeachment inquiry to move forward. 

“The reality is, as much as there's a lot of focus on a quid pro quo, I just want to remind everyone, you do not need a quid pro quo. The United States asking a foreign leader to interfere in an American presidential election is illegal, un-American, unpatriotic and in it of itself constitutes grounds for impeachment,” said Rep. David Cicilline, a Rhode Island Democrat.

Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, an Illinois Democrat on the Oversight Committee, agreed. 

“I thought that was a big, almost admission, of a quid pro quo — not that you need a quid pro quo for a crime to have been committed in this instance,” Krishnamoorthi said of Mulvaney’s comments. “But the fact that he said that openly is either a brazen admission or they just don’t know the law. They just don’t know how to operate government.”

4:19 p.m. ET, October 17, 2019

Two men involved in alleged campaign finance scheme tied to Giuliani associates plead not guilty

From CNN's Erica Orden 

Two men charged in a federal campaign-finance case involving associates of Rudy Giuliani pleaded not guilty today in Manhattan federal court. 

The two defendants, David Correia and Andrey Kukushkin, were arraigned and each charged with one count of conspiring to funneling foreign money into the US election system.  

Two additional defendants in the case, Igor Fruman and Lev Parnas, are set to be arraigned next week. They have not yet entered a plea.

Some background: The case has received particular attention because Parnas and Fruman are linked closely to Giuliani, President Trump's personal attorney, having introduced Giuliani to former and current Ukrainian officials in his effort to compile what he has claimed is damaging information on Trump's political rival, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden. 

Giuliani himself is also a subject of the ongoing investigation by federal prosecutors, who are examining his Ukrainian business dealings, CNN has reported, and that probe includes a counterintelligence component.

3:42 p.m. ET, October 17, 2019

Meadows defends Trump, says witnesses have not testified that aid was held up for probes

From CNN's Manu Raju 

Rep. Mark Meadows, one of President Trump’s biggest allies, said witnesses have not testified that the Ukraine aid was held up for investigations.

"The key today is to date every single witness, every single fact has not supported any pause or holdup on foreign aid being attached to any conditions — and that’s been consistent with every words we have heard from so far," he said.

Asked about Mulvaney’s remarks that the aid was tied to Trump’s wish for an investigation into the 2016 election, Meadows said: “I haven’t seen it. All I’ve seen is the headline. And I’m going to read the transcript”

Asked if he’s OK that Trump directed Gordon Sondland, US ambassador to the European Union, to talk to Rudy Giuliani, who was pursuing the investigations, Meadows said: “What I’m not OK with is adjudicating this based on half truths and partial statements.”

3:51 p.m. ET, October 17, 2019

Source on Mulvaney performance: "It was not helpful"

From CNN's Jim Acosta and Evan Perez

A source familiar with discussions inside President Trump's legal team was baffled by acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney's performance today in the briefing room.

"It was not helpful," the source said.

The source questioned what Mulvaney was talking about when he tied the aid being held up for Ukraine to investigating the Democratic National Committee hack and the 2016 election. 

Trump's attorney Jay Sekulow said the President's "legal team was not involved in the acting chief of staff's press briefing." 

A source familiar with the reaction inside the President's legal team added: "I think people are a bit stunned."

A senior DOJ official, reacting to Mulvaney appearing to lump in the investigation by US Attorney John Durham into the origins of the Russia investigation with what Rudy Giuliani was doing in Ukraine, tells CNN, “If the White House was withholding aid in regards to the cooperation of any investigation at the Department of Justice, that is news to us.” 

Justice officials were confused and angry at the White House comments linking the Ukraine aid delay with Durham’s work.

Durham was spotted at the Justice Department headquarters today; he’s frequently in the building since Attorney General William Barr appointed him to review the 2016 election interference investigation.