The latest on the Trump impeachment inquiry
Assistant Secretary of Energy Melissa Burnison told the three committees involved in the House impeachment inquiry that the Energy Department is "unable to comply with your request for documents and communications at this time."
The letter argues about the validity of the inquiry and also contends the request is for confidential communications “that are potentially protected by executive privilege and would require careful review to ensure that no such information is improperly disclosed.”
Burnison concludes by saying the department “remains committed to working with Congress.”
CNN's senior political reporter Nia-Malika Henderson looks at acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney's attempt to walk back his comments on the withheld Ukraine aid in the latest episode of "The Daily DC: Impeachment Watch" podcast.
Mulvaney told reporters on Thursday that the Trump administration "held up the money" for Ukraine because President Trump wanted to investigate "corruption" in Ukraine related to a conspiracy theory involving the whereabouts of the Democratic National Committee's computer server hacked by Russians during the last presidential campaign.
Today, Trump told reporters that he thinks Mulvaney clarified his remarks.
In today's podcast, Henderson also covers:
- The subpoenas in the impeachment inquiry. Can the administration continue to ignore document requests?
- The Trump administration's claim that Ukraine interfered with the 2016 election. Where does that idea come from?
- The whistleblower’s credibility. Trump says the whistleblower has been discredited, but the facts tell a different story.
Henderson is joined by CNN senior justice correspondent Evan Perez and CNN reporter Daniel Dale.
President Trump just tweeted that Secretary of Energy Rick Perry will depart the job at the end of the year.
In another tweet, the President said he'll nominate Deputy Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette to replace Perry.
Brouillette is a former executive at USAA and Ford. He also was chief of staff to the House Energy Committee. He’s a military veteran from Texas via Louisiana who has nine children.
Perry announced Thursday night in a video that he is resigning effective later this year. His resignation comes amid scrutiny over his role in the Trump administration's dealings with Ukraine.
Former Ohio Gov. John Kasich said today during an appearance on CNN that he now believes that President Trump deserves to be impeached.
Kasich, a Republican, said that what he's learned about the withholding of military aid to Ukraine — which he called "totally inappropriate" and "an abuse of power" — does "rise to the level of impeachment."
"I now believe it does and I say it with great sadness. This is not something...I really wanted to do," Kasich said.
Watch the moment:
In case you're just tuning in, here are the latest developments in the impeachment inquiry into President Trump:
- Subpoena deadlines: Today is the deadline for Energy Secretary Rick Perry and the White House to produce subpoenaed documents to the Hill.
- Mick Mulvaney's comments: President Trump was asked to clarify his acting chief of staff's remarks in the briefing room yesterday. Trump responded: “I think he clarified it.” Meanwhile, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called Mulvaney’s comments a “confession” — and said it’s an example of the administration trying to make “lawlessness normal and even make lawlessness a virtue.”
- Testimony on Hunter Biden: Career diplomat George Kent told congressional investigators earlier this week he had voiced concerns in early 2015 about Hunter Biden working for a Ukrainian natural gas company, the Washington Post reported Friday.
- Republicans blast inquiry: House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy said he expects a vote to censure Intelligence Committee Chair Rep. Adam Schiff will “come up Monday.” Republican Rep. Jim Jordan slammed the House impeachment probe as "partisan" and "unfair," saying Schiff is "the new special counsel."
- GOP lawmaker on impeachment: Rep. Francis Rooney, a Republican from Florida, would not rule out the prospects of supporting impeaching the President. He called Mulvaney's acknowledgment about withholding Ukraine aid "troubling," saying it is "not a good thing" to do that in connection "with threatening foreign leaders."
- Perry is resigning: The Energy Secretary yesterday said his resignation "has nothing to do with Ukraine" and he's "looking to get back to Texas." He said he's leaving his post later this year.
A March 2014 photograph showing Donald Trump with a recently indicted associate of Rudy Giuliani appears to have been taken at a fashion show hosted by Ivanka Trump at the Trump National Doral in Florida, a CNN KFile review reveals.
CNN's KFile identified that the photo with Trump and Lev Parnas was apparently taken at a fashion show at the Cadillac Championship, an annual professional golf tournament. Donald Trump spoke at the event, according to photos and a video posted on YouTube.
Some background: Parnas, along with his associate Igor Fruman, were arrested last week trying to leave the country and indicted on criminal charges for allegedly funneling foreign money into US elections. The two men are associates of Giuliani, an attorney for the President, and are connected to efforts to dig up dirt in Ukraine on Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden.
The photo of Trump and Parnas smiling side-by-side was posted on Facebook on March 8, 2014, by user Shawn Jaros, who indicated in subsequent posts that he was a business associate of Parnas. Jaros declined to comment on the photo, as did John Dowd, a lawyer for Parnas.
Parnas' attendance at a Trump event in 2014 raises questions about whether he had any existing relationship with the President. Trump said last week he didn't know Parnas or Fruman.
"I don't know those gentlemen. Now it's possible I have a picture with them because I have a picture with everybody, I have a picture with everybody here," Trump said.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has become increasingly frustrated in recent weeks by the departure of top State Department officials and claims that he failed to defend the former US Ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, from a smear campaign against her, according to three sources familiar with the situation.
Some context: As part of the ongoing impeachment inquiry into President Trump, Yovanovitch testified to Congress this week that she was unfairly removed based on false claims pushed by Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani.
One of the sources told CNN that Pompeo was alerted to internal and external concerns about Giuliani's effort to push out Yovanovitch, but Pompeo failed to act — he was wary of getting too deeply involved over fears of derailing US-Ukraine policy and potentially sharing the fate of his former colleague John Bolton, Trump's national security adviser who was fired for not being aligned with the President.
President Trump was asked to clarify acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney’s comments in the briefing room yesterday. Trump responded: “I think he clarified it.”
Trump then dodged the question from CNN's Jim Acosta, not discussing the briefing and instead saying he had a “tremendous day in Texas," where he held a rally last night.
Here's what Mulvaney said: He made a stunning admission yesterday, confirming that Trump froze nearly $400 million in US security aid to Ukraine in part to pressure that country into investigating Democrats. Hours later, he denied that he admitted to the quid pro quo in a statement.
After recapping his trip, Trump stuck to his typical lines on the impeachment inquiry, calling it a “witch hunt” and saying that “Crooked Schiff is coming after the Republican party," referencing House Intelligence Chair Adam Schiff.
Trump added that Career diplomat George Kent — who was brought in as a witness against him — ended up “excoriating” Joe and Hunter Biden.
Some background: Kent told congressional investigators earlier this week he had voiced concerns in early 2015 about Hunter Biden working for a Ukrainian natural gas company, the Washington Post reported Friday.
Citing three people familiar with the testimony, the newspaper reported that Kent, the deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, recounted concerns during his testimony Tuesday that Hunter Biden's work could undercut American efforts to convey to Ukraine the importance of avoiding conflicts of interest.
There's no evidence of wrongdoing by either Joe or Hunter Biden.
As they left Capitol Hill for the weekend, Democrats reacted to acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney's attempt to walk back his remarks on the withheld Ukrainian aide.
Mulvaney told reporters on Thursday that the Trump administration "held up the money" for Ukraine because the President wanted to investigate "corruption" in Ukraine related to a conspiracy theory involving the whereabouts of the Democratic National Committee's computer server hacked by Russians during the last presidential campaign.
Today, Congressman Mike Quigley, a Democrat on the House Intel committee, weighed in on Mulvaney.
"You always take what the person said first to be the most realistic," Quigley said. "Under the heat of action, he said the truth, which should be awfully painful to the White House but is obvious."
Congressman Dan Kildee, a Democrat on the House Ways and Means committee, slammed the administration, describing it as "off the rails." He said that Mulvaney had a "moment of truth" before realizing it was bad for the President and walked it back.
"It's pretty obvious what's going on here," he said.