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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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


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. 

2:43 p.m. ET, October 17, 2019

Democratic congressman says Mulvaney "co-signed the President's confession"

From CNN's Sam Fossum and Manu Raju 

Rep. Eric Swalwell, a Democrat on the Intelligence and Judiciary committees, reacted to acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney's remarks that aid to Ukraine was in fact tied to President Trump’s wish for an investigation into the 2016 election.

"He co-signed the President's confession, I guess," he told reporters as he left the Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility at Capitol Hill.

Swalwell reiterated that Trump still deserves a fair process even though he believes the President has confessed. 

"We have a confession from the President," Swalwell said. "When a suspect confesses you can reduce the number of witnesses you need to call, still give them a fair process, but you know, kind of circling in on the timeline and who did what when."

Earlier today, Rep. Adam Schiff told CNN that Mulvaney’s "acknowledgement means that things have gone from very, very bad to much, much worse.”                        

2:30 p.m. ET, October 17, 2019

Schiff: "Things have gone from very, very bad to much, much worse"

From CNN's Manu Raju

House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff said acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney’s comments today mean things are now "much, much worse."

“I think Mr. Mulvaney’s acknowledgement means that things have gone from very, very bad to much, much worse," he told CNN while leaving the Capitol Hill Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility.

Earlier today, Mulvaney told reporters that aid to Ukraine was in fact tied to President Trump’s wish for an investigation into the 2016 election.

Schiff declined to answer further questions including whether he wants to speak to Mulvaney.

1:36 p.m. ET, October 17, 2019

Mulvaney confirms Trump asked officials to work with Giuliani

From CNN's Sarah Westwood

Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images
Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney confirmed that President Trump asked Energy Secretary Rick 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.

Mulvaney said this took place during a May meeting at the White House that was attended by Perry, Gordon Sondland, the US ambassador to the European Union, and Kurt Volker, the former special envoy to Ukraine.

“The President asked Rick Perry to work with Giuliani,” Mulvaney told reporters at the White House.

Mulvaney added he "wasn’t asked” to work with the President’s personal lawyer.

Mulvaney said the administration was “very interested in trying to get Ukraine as an energy partner,” and said that is why Perry was involved.

He characterized the President’s instruction as: "Yeah, go ahead and talk to Rudy."

Asked about witness testimony about Giuliani’s “shadow foreign policy,” Mulvaney argued that is a “pejorative” term.

“There’s not a shadow policy here. The President is entitled to have whoever he wants to work,” he argued.

Mulvaney argued it was fine for the President to have made the request of Perry because Sondland, who is testifying today on Capitol Hill, and Volker were in the room. However, Ukraine is not a member of the EU and so Sondland’s outsize role, as ambassador to the EU, has come into question during the impeachment proceedings.

9:47 p.m. ET, October 17, 2019

Mulvaney says Ukraine aid was tied to Trump's desire for investigation

From CNN's Allie Malloy 

Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney told reporters today that aid to Ukraine was in fact tied to President Trump’s wish for an investigation into the 2016 election.

When asked about the decision to withhold aid from Ukraine, Mulvaney told reporters that President Trump told him at the time, "This is a corrupt place. Everyone knows this is a corrupt place…Plus, I'm not sure that the other European countries are helping them out either.”

Mulvaney also added, “Did he also mention me in the past that the corruption related to the DNC server? Absolutely. No question about that."

When questioned on Mulvaney saying that the White House held up security money from Ukraine until the president got assurances, Mulvaney told reporters to “get over it” saying there are going to be political impacts on foreign policy.

"The corruption of the country, whether or not other countries participating in support of Ukraine, and whether or not cooperating in an ongoing investigation with the department of justice. That is completely legitimate, yes"

A reporter then questioned Mulvaney on his explanation saying it sounds like a quid-pro-quo to which Mulvaney said: “We do that all the time with foreign policy.”

1:32 p.m. ET, October 17, 2019

Mulvaney says White House is reviewing Ukraine call

From CNN's Maegan Vazquez

Evan Vucci/AP
Evan Vucci/AP

Acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney appeared to confirm that the White House was conducting a review of the call between the Ukrainian president and President Trump, which was flagged in an intelligence community whistleblower report.

“If you’re having the House do what they’re going to do, doesn’t it simply make sense for us to sort of try and find out what happened?” Mulvaney asked during a White House news briefing today.

Mulvaney also said there is not an impeachment “war room” at the White House.

However, Mulvaney added, “Yes, we’re having lawyers look at it. Yes, we’re having our PR people looking at it. If we … weren’t doing that, we’d be committing malpractice. But I don’t think there’s anything extraordinary that we’re doing.”

Mulvaney also said the review was not part of an attempt to uncover the whistleblower. 

He later added that “no one here had any difficulty with the call. We do think the call is perfect.”

“No one raised any difficulty with me on the call at all,” he continued.