The latest on the Trump impeachment inquiry
Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan testified today that he was aware that outside forces, including Rudy Giuliani, had been lobbying of the removal of Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch from Ukraine.
He also confirmed that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pushed back on the efforts to have her recalled from her post.
“This had been a discussion that I’d had with the Secretary over a period of time and the Secretary had pushed back and sought justification from those who were criticizing Ambassador Yovanovitch,” Sullivan said during his Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearing. “And after several months had elapsed, the secretary finally told me there had come a point that the President had lost confidence in the ambassador and we needed to make a change in our mission to Ukraine.”
Sullivan is appearing this morning before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to be vetted as the next US ambassador to Russia.
Why this matters: Yovanovitch testified earlier this month in the impeachment inquiry. She told lawmakers that President Trump wanted her removed from her post based on "unfounded and false claims."
In a blistering statement to the committee, Yovanovitch said she had been dismissed last spring because of pressure from Trump and "a concerted campaign against me."
She questioned whether the associates of Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani -- who were pushing for her ouster — were looking to benefit financially from her removal, and warned that the State Department, where she still works, was being "attacked and hollowed out from within."
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell slammed the House Democrats' impeachment resolution, saying it falls short of giving Trump the due process he deserves.
“House Democrats released their much-hyped resolution which was advertised as bringing fairness and due process to Speaker Pelosi and Chairman Schiff’s closed-door partisan inquiry," he said on the floor. "Unfortunately, the draft resolution that has been released does nothing of that sort. If falls way, way short.”
The Democratic-led House Rules Committee will meet at 3 p.m. ET to consider the resolution. Members will debate and then vote on the measure, and It's expected to pass.
Tomorrow, the full House will vote on the resolution.
State Department official Catherine Croft was issued a subpoena to appear this morning, according to an official working on the impeachment inquiry.
“In light of an attempt by the White House and State Department to direct Catherine Croft not to appear for her scheduled deposition, and efforts to also limit any testimony that does occur, the House Intelligence Committee issued a subpoena to compel her testimony this morning," the official said.
Croft, a special adviser on Ukraine, is now testifying.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has written a letter to the Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy and Chief of Staff of the Army James McConville, in which he says the “vitriol” towards Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman since testifying yesterday “may result in professional reprisals and threats to his personal safety and that of his family.”
Schumer is requesting a briefing on “what actions the Army is taking to ensure that LC Vindman and other whistleblowers like him are afforded appropriate protections.”
“It is incumbent on the Army to ensure that he [Vindman] is afforded the same protections as whistleblowers and protected from reprisal for testifying before Congress,” the letter says.
A defense official told CNN that even though Vindman is not the whistleblower, he is protected under the whistleblower laws. That determination has been made by military lawyers.
Schumer is expected to speak on the floor of the Senate this morning and will address this letter. He has previously requested information on whistleblower protections from the acting DNI director and the ICIG.
What's this about: Some Republicans have criticized Vindman this week. On Tuesday, Former GOP Rep. Sean Duffy said about Vindman: "It seems very clear that he is incredibly concerned about Ukrainian defense." Trump also claimed without evidence that the White House's top Ukraine expert is a "Never Trumper." Trump repeated this unfounded claim this morning on Twitter.
Vindman served multiple overseas tours as a US infantry officer, including a deployment to Iraq where he received a Purple Heart after being wounded in an IED attack. He has served in Trump's National Security Council since 2018.
The House Rules Committee is expected to vote today on a resolution that will formalize the procedures of the impeachment inquiry into President Trump and Ukraine.
This is not a vote to impeach President Trump — rather, it's a vote to formalize the impeachment proceedings. You can read the full resolution here.
Here's how we're expecting things to play out this week:
- Today: The Democratic-led House Rules Committee will meet at 3 p.m. ET to consider the resolution. Members will debate and then vote on the measure. It's expected to pass.
- Tomorrow: The full House, which is controlled by the Democrats, will vote on the resolution.
- After that: The impeachment inquiry will continue, under the protocols described in the resolution. The working theory among Democrats is there will be another week or two of closed depositions — and that public hearings before the House Intelligence Committee could begin as soon as the second week in November.
About the possible impeachment vote: House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler told CNN on Monday that it's "possible" a vote could be held in his committee on articles of impeachment before Christmas.
After that committee vote, the articles, if approved, are given special status on the House floor and it requires a simple majority of voting lawmakers to approve them. This full House vote would be the vote to impeach the President.
You can read more about the impeachment process here.
President Trump is tweeting about impeachment and quote-tweeting "Fox and Friends," claiming that Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is using impeachment to retain her speakership.
Trump then adds in his own words: “A disgraceful use of Impeachment. Will backfire!”
Pelosi has described the impeachment inquiry as a "solemn" process and has maintained that "nobody comes to Congress to impeach a president."
"You come about the future, about our children, about issues you care, well there’s education, climate you know it, gun safety. So nobody comes for that," she said over the weekend.
Here's Trump's full tweet:
State Department experts on Ukraine Catherine Croft and Christopher Anderson are scheduled to testify in separate closed-door hearings before the House Intelligence, Oversight and Foreign Affairs committees today.
They are both foreign service officers, described as "two stars of the midlevel ranks" by a former State Department colleague. They each worked as deputy to then-Special Envoy for Ukraine Kurt Volker.
That colleague told CNN that the State Department always picked its "best people" to take Ukraine jobs due to the challenging nature of the work.
About Croft: She took over the role from Anderson in the summer of 2019. She had previously served at the National Security Council, focusing on Ukraine issues, and on the State Department's Ukraine desk.
About Anderson: He is now taking language courses at the Foreign Service Institute ahead of his next overseas posting. He served at the US Embassy in Kiev.
Both have long memories of established US-Ukraine policy — another former State Department official who worked with them said they were "steeped in the policy issues." According to their prepared opening statements, both Anderson and Croft will testify to this wealth of experience.
The US government runs out of money in three weeks. That, of course, is a problem – and an even more acute one given the white-hot political battle taking place over the House Democratic impeachment inquiry.
It's not time to panic yet: Senate staff and lawmakers are very much trying to hammer something out at the moment. It isn’t time yet to fire up the countdown clock, and there are pathways to a rather drama-free resolution. But those pathways haven’t been cleared yet, which means things are going to need to start moving fast and furious soon, or lawmakers will have a major problem on their hands.
How impeachment could affect impeachment: There are a lot of theories rolling around about what impeachment will mean for funding the government. Most of them, to be blunt, are either enormously speculative, or, in some cases, just dumb.
Here’s one very real dynamic, however: Should, as expected, Democrats vote to adopt articles of impeachment, it will quickly move to the Senate, where the trial that follows will be all-consuming. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has told Republicans it would be six days a week and trial-only until its completion.
That means that for that period, nothing legislatively will get done. Which means that spending bills either need to be completed before the trial commences, or a stop-gap bill freezing funding at its current levels must be passed that reaches beyond the Senate trial. That complicates things.
As Sen. John Cornyn, a Texas Republican, told CNN:
“Once it comes over to us, we don’t have any choice but to take it up and you can’t do anything else without consent. And you know how hard that can be.”