The latest on the Trump impeachment inquiry

By Fernando Alfonso III, Mike Hayes, Veronica Rocha and Peter Wilkinson, CNN

Updated 8:01 p.m. ET, October 24, 2019
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10:34 a.m. ET, October 24, 2019

Sources: House Democrats could begin public hearings by mid-November

From CNN's Manu Raju and Jeremy Herb

Democrats plan on holding public hearings with some witnesses who have been deposed as part of their plan to provide some transparency to the inquiry.  

It is possible, sources say, that public hearings could begin in mid-November. It is also possible, they could slip until after Thanksgiving.

Multiple House Democratic sources say the exact timeline is unknown because witnesses have provided more leads for them to track down and other witnesses have been difficult to schedule.

It’s also possible that former US ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, President Trump's former top Russia adviser Fiona Hill, top US diplomat in Ukraine Bill Taylor and Gordon Sondland, the US Ambassador to the European Union, could be among the witnesses to testify in open session.

10:14 a.m. ET, October 24, 2019

Sen. Lindsey Graham rejects Ukraine ambassador's testimony as “hearsay”

From CNN's Manu Raju

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Sen. Lindsey Graham said to CNN’s Many Raju this morning that he rejects Ukraine ambassador Bill Taylor’s testimony that he had been told that the President had withheld military aid for Ukraine in exchange for publicly announcing investigations that could help him politically. 

Graham called it “hearsay” because Taylor only talked to Sondland about his conversation with President Trump.

Taylor’s testimony needs to be “tested,” Graham said

Here is Graham's full exchange with CNN:

CNN: Hey Senator, are you okay with what has came out of the Bill Taylor testimony—that the President apparently had directed the military aid to be withheld in exchange for a public declaration investigations that could help politically?

GRAHAM: Did he talk to the President?

CNN: He talked to Ambassador Sondland who talked to the President.

GRAHAM: Oh, that’s hearsay.

CNN: You don’t think he’s trustworthy?

GRAHAM: No, here’s what I cant get over, if Rudy Giuliani has a 15-page statement saying he did nothing wrong wouldn’t you want to know more? Would you accept that statement? I’ve got nothing against Bill Taylor, it’s the process. You’re asking me do I believe something based on a statement that hasn’t been tested. I can not tell you how disgusted I am with this process. House failed to have an impeachment inquiry of over 100 vote. I think they’ve got 95 votes for a formal inquiry, so that was rejected. They’ve come up with a process in intel where you do things behind the closed doors. You give me 15 pages of testimony that has never been subject to cross examination and wont be to comment on it? Forget that.

CNN: Do you think he is a "Never Trumper" like President Trump said?

GRAHAM: I have no idea.

9:16 a.m. ET, October 24, 2019

Democrats do plan on holding public hearings

From CNN's Manu Raju and Jeremy Herb

Democrats are planning on holding public hearings with some witnesses who have been deposed as part of their plan to provide some transparency to the inquiry.  

As CNN reported a few days ago, we are currently in the first phase of the impeachment inquiry: the closed-door depositions, which are taking longer than expected.

What happens next?

After these depositions, Democrats plan to hold public hearings with some of the witnesses they have interviewed. Then the committees will release a public report that could be used as a basis for articles of impeachment voted on by the House Judiciary Committee.

When will public hearings start?

It is possible, sources say, that public hearings could begin in mid-November. It is also possible, they could slip until after Thanksgiving. Multiple House Democratic sources say the exact timeline is unknown because witnesses have provided more leads for them to track down and other witnesses have been difficult to schedule. 

Who will testify?

It’s possible that Marie Yovanovitch, Fiona Hill, Bill Taylor and Gordon Sondland could be among the witnesses to testify in open session.

So far, Adam Schiff is not saying.

But, as CNN reported, it’s quite possible final votes on impeachment could slip to the end of the year.

9:10 a.m. ET, October 24, 2019

The other "Nixon" leaves ultimate responsibility for Trump's removal with Congress

From CNN's Joan Biskupic

President Donald Trump has been trying to avert impeachment, tweeting furiously to influence public opinion and predicting that any legal battle could go all the way up to the US Supreme Court.

But when it comes to the last word on an actual House impeachment and Senate trial, the justices have previously said it will not be theirs. Under the Constitution, the two chambers of Congress have the ultimate power to determine whether a President is removed from office.

Important disputes over Trump documents for various investigations, in Washington and New York, are certainly being heard by federal judges and likely to land before the nine justices. A paradigm of the Supreme Court impact on a president was United States v. Nixon, the 1974 case that forced President Richard Nixon to turn over the Watergate tapes. He eventually resigned rather than face impeachment.

President Trump has predicted that any legal battle could go all the way up to the US Supreme Court.
President Trump has predicted that any legal battle could go all the way up to the US Supreme Court. SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images

But a different Nixon case stands for the proposition that an actual House of Representatives impeachment or Senate trial would not be settled by the justices.

In the 1993 case of Nixon v. United States, the Supreme Court ruled impeachment "nonjusticiable," that is, a political question. Under the Constitution, Congress bears the responsibility and control for a presidential impeachment.

The determination involved not the former president but US District Court Judge Walter Nixon of Mississippi, who had been impeached and convicted in 1989. He subsequently challenged the Senate procedures used.

Today, as members of the US House continue hearing witnesses related to Trump's dealings with Ukraine, that Supreme Court decision could become more salient. A new CNN poll found that half of Americans now say Trump should be impeached and removed from office.

For more on this story, click here.

9:10 a.m. ET, October 24, 2019

Get caught up on the stunt Republicans pulled yesterday

From CNN's By Manu Raju and Jeremy Herb

Patrick Semansky/AP
Patrick Semansky/AP

A group of Republican lawmakers Wednesday morning stormed into the House room where Deputy Assistant Defense Secretary Laura Cooper was scheduled to testify in the impeachment inquiry to protest the way Democrats are leading the impeachment process.

Here's everything we know about the storming stunt:

  • What happened: About two dozen House Republicans stormed the closed-door deposition in secure House Intelligence Committee spaces to rail against the Democratic-led impeachment inquiry — a political stunt ratcheting up the GOP complaints about the process that threw the deposition into doubt. The group was led by Florida's Rep. Matt Gaetz.
  • Why the protesters were not allowed in: They are not on the three committees leading the impeachment inquiry, and are therefore are barred from today's testimony.
  • What they want: Republicans say they forced their way in because Democrats are holding impeachment depositions behind closed doors, denying the public the ability to see what's being said by witnesses that could be used to impeach Trump. (Members of the committees leading the inquiry — both Republicans and Democrats — have attended the hearings.)
  • They brought electronics — which aren't allowed: The Republicans walked into the hearing room with their electronics, according to Democratic Rep. Gerry Connolly, which is prohibited in the space, known as a SCIF — a sensitive compartmented information facility — because it's a secure room used for discussing and handling classified information. GOP Rep. Mike Conaway, who is on the House Intelligence Committee, collected the electronics.
  • The protest is ongoing: Pizza and snacks were brought into the committee area, signaling the standoff might not be wrapping up anytime soon.
  • Where Trump stands: The storm-the-room stunt came three days after Trump said that he thought Republicans "have to get tougher and fight." Many of the Republicans engaged in the protest were at a White House meeting Tuesday, according to lawmakers in attendance, though GOP Rep. Mark Meadows said Wednesday's protest was not raised at the meeting.

4:43 a.m. ET, October 24, 2019

Trump and his defenders are inventing the reality they want

Analysis by Stephen Collinson, CNN

President Donald Trump's impeachment defense has come to this.

His Republican shock troops storm secure hearing rooms, he blasts Republican doubters as "human scum" and his aides slam diplomats who testify about his alleged abuses of power as "radical bureaucrats" at war with the Constitution.

Yet neither Trump nor his White House has come up with a strong counterargument to the potential smoking-gun testimony of the US top diplomat in Ukraine, which is still reverberating through Washington.

 Donald Trump speaks in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on Wednesday night.
 Donald Trump speaks in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on Wednesday night. BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images

A day of inflammatory behavior by the President and his allies on Wednesday actually hinted at the depth of Trump's troubles on Capitol Hill and in courtrooms beyond instead of its apparent purpose in distracting from it.

In a remarkable moment Wednesday morning, around two dozen Republican lawmakers stormed a secure hearing room that was due to hear a deposition by a senior Pentagon official on the Ukraine scandal.

Top US diplomat in Ukraine Bill Taylor's deposition on Tuesday added to a pile of damning testimony alleging that Trump used presidential power to pressure a foreign government to try to sway the 2020 election, which Republicans and the White House are struggling to refute with facts and arguments of their own.

And it led to a rare sign of concern in the Republican ranks on which Trump will rely to save him in any Senate impeachment trial -- from senior GOP Sen. John Thune.

"The picture coming out of it, based on the reporting that we've seen, I would say is not a good one," said the South Dakotan, though like many of his colleagues he faulted the so-far closed Democratic investigative process.

The President did what he often does when an unappealing political reality threatens: He simply invented a more advantageous one, launching misleading attacks on the conduct of the inquiry and picking new fights.

"The Never Trumper Republicans, though on respirators with not many left, are in certain ways worse and more dangerous for our Country than the Do Nothing Democrats. Watch out for them, they are human scum!" he tweeted.

Read more of Stephen Collinson's analysis here.