The latest on the Trump impeachment inquiry

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10:08 a.m. ET, November 6, 2019

Pence's impeachment advice to Republican senators: Lean on the transcript

From CNN's Kaitlan Collins

Vice President Mike Pence walks to the Republican policy luncheon at the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday
Vice President Mike Pence walks to the Republican policy luncheon at the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday Drew Angerer/Getty Images

During a lunch with Republicans senators yesterday, Vice President Mike Pence had a piece of advice for the lawmakers in the room who have struggled with a viable defense strategy: Read the transcript. 

The Vice President urged the lawmakers in the room to point out that the Trump administration has provided Ukraine with lethal aid and he advised them to simply refer back to the transcript when facing questions about the president’s conduct. 

The advice is not new and comes as some senators have complained to the White House that they need a better defense strategy. It’s unclear if what he said yesterday will be sufficient. 

Remember: The White House released a transcript of the July call, but it's only a rough log and not a word-for-word readout. The rough transcript shows Trump repeatedly pushed Ukraine's president to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter.

9:57 a.m. ET, November 6, 2019

Kellyanne Conway: There was no quid pro quo, despite diplomat's testimony

From CNN's Betsy Klein

White House counselor Kellyanne Conway maintained there was no quid pro quo related to withheld military aid for Ukraine by President Trump — despite ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland's amended testimony.

Asked if there was no quid pro quo, Conway said: "That is the White House’s position, and I don’t think that his latest revisions change that."

Sondland, a Republican donor turned diplomat, reversed his testimony to say that a quid pro quo was needed from Kiev to free up military aid, according to documents released yesterday.

Conway continued:

"Ambassador Sondland said he 'presumed' and last week, we had a witness who said 'my interpretation was.' Ladies and gentlemen, be careful, because you cannot impeach a president and remove him from office in a constitutional democracy centered on the rule of law based on somebody saying they presumed and somebody else saying they interpreted."
12:14 p.m. ET, November 6, 2019

GOP congressman says EU ambassador's amended testimony about Ukraine quid pro quo is his "opinion"

From CNN's Shawna Mizelle

Republican Rep. Jim Jordan was asked about the transcripts released this week in the impeachment inquiry as he arrived for more testimony on Capitol Hill today.

On Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland stating in his amended testimony that he now believes that there was a quid pro quo related to withheld military aid for Ukraine by President Trump, Jordan said, "It is Sondland's opinion."

Jordan added:

"Y'all want to make a big deal out of Mr. Sondland's presumption. I trust the call. I trust President Zelensky and President Trump."

Jordan called the testimony of special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker — released along with the Sondland transcript yesterday — in which Volker said he wasn't aware of any quid pro quo the "definitive account on all this."

"His account is consistent with the fundamental facts. There was nothing wrong on the call transcript," Jordan added about Volker's testimony.

10:37 a.m. ET, November 6, 2019

David Hale has arrived on Capitol Hill

David Hale, right, arrives on Capitol Hill, Wednesday, November 6.
David Hale, right, arrives on Capitol Hill, Wednesday, November 6. Susan Walsh/AP

Impeachment witness David Hale has arrived on Capitol Hill for his deposition.

Hale, a high-ranking State Department official, is one of four witnesses scheduled to testify today — but he's the only one who's expected to show up.

According to the AP, Hale intends to tell Congress that the Secretary of State was reluctant to defend his Ukraine ambassador because it would hurt efforts to get Ukraine military aid and there was worry about the reaction of Rudy Giuliani. 

12:13 p.m. ET, November 6, 2019

A high-ranking State Department official is expected to testify today

One of the four witnesses scheduled to testify this morning will show up for his deposition.

Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale is expected to appear this morning. He'll tell investigators “that political considerations were behind the agency’s refusal to deliver a robust defense of the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine,” according to the AP. 

Three more witnesses — Energy Secretary Rick Perry, Acting Office of Management and Budget Director Russ Vought and State Department counselor Ulrich Brechbuhl — were scheduled to testify today but are not expected to show. 

Hale is a high-ranking official in the State Department. And he has a lot of foreign affairs experience: He was executive assistant to then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright during the Clinton administration and the director for Israel-Palestinian affairs from 2001 to 2003.

He became ambassador to Jordan in 2005. In 2008, he became deputy assistant secretary of state for Israel, Egypt and the Levant. He was deputy special envoy in 2009 and special envoy for Middle East peace from 2011 to 2013. He was US ambassador to Lebanon from 2013 until 2015, when he became ambassador to Pakistan.

7:59 a.m. ET, November 6, 2019

We're not sure what to expect today in the impeachment inquiry

From CNN's Zachary B. Wolf

The House is pressing forward with its impeachment inquiry into President Trump today — but we're not exactly sure what to expect.

There are two key questions here:

  • What transcripts will be released today? We don't yet know.
  • Who will testify? We don't entirely know.

Investigators have requested testimony from four people today — but yesterday's and Monday's scheduled witnesses refused to show up.

Today's scheduled witnesses are...

  • Energy Secretary Rick Perry
  • Acting Office of Management and Budget Director Russ Vought
  • David Hale, a State Department official.

The House also requested testimony from State Department counselor Ulrich Brechbuhl, but he is instead traveling with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Germany, according to a pool report.

12:12 p.m. ET, November 6, 2019

How Lindsey Graham reacted to a key diplomat's admission

Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Republican from south Carolina, responded to Gordon Sondland revising his testimony to impeachment investigators and admitting a quid pro quo linking US aid to Ukraine with an investigation into President Trump's political rival.

“That’s his opinion. All I can say is that the president of Ukraine didn’t believe that. The president of the United States on the phone call didn’t say that. So all this is just intrigue to me,” Graham told reporters. 

“If the person being threatened with withholding the aid, if they say I wasn’t threatened, I don’t care what any bureaucrat says," he added.

Watch more:

 

7:25 a.m. ET, November 6, 2019

Transcripts show Republicans are anything but sidelined in impeachment inquiry

From CNN's Kevin Liptak in Washington

Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., speaks to reporters outside a secure area of the Capitol where Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a military officer at the National Security Council, arrived for a closed door meeting to testify as part of the House impeachment inquiry on October 29.  
Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., speaks to reporters outside a secure area of the Capitol where Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a military officer at the National Security Council, arrived for a closed door meeting to testify as part of the House impeachment inquiry on October 29.  

In a pattern established over four closed-door depositions whose transcripts were released this week, Republicans have used their allotted time to question the impeachment inquiry's validity and accuse Democrats of shutting them out of the process.

But for all of the Republicans' complaints about unfairness, the transcripts indicate they were fully involved in the questioning of witnesses during the sometimes-contentious closed door hearings. Over the course of the lengthy sittings, Republicans, Democrats and witnesses' lawyers have clashed over the propriety of questions and the terms of the proceedings.

It mirrors their public attempts to discount the impeachment probe, including an attempt to storm the secure hearing room where the depositions have occurred.

The transcripts provide the fullest picture yet of the closed depositions, which have occurred over long days inside a stuffy room in the basement of the US Capitol. As the inquiry enters a more public phase, the back-and-forth that transpired in private provides a likely preview of upcoming open hearings, where procedural matters and questions of the impeachment probe's legitimacy are likely to arise.

Read Liptak's full story here.

7:22 a.m. ET, November 6, 2019

Trump's impeachment defense splintered by new revelations

Analysis by CNN's Stephen Collinson

President Donald Trump talks to reporters before departing the White House on Friday.
President Donald Trump talks to reporters before departing the White House on Friday.

President Donald Trump's impeachment defense is being stripped away plank by plank by some of the administration officials caught up in his scheme to pressure Ukraine for political favors.

A dramatic reversal by Republican donor turned diplomat Gordon Sondland, who now says that a quid pro quo was needed from Kiev to free up military aid, rocked Washington Tuesday and undercut GOP strategy.

In testimony released by impeachment investigators, the US ambassador to the European Union also testified that he assumed it would be "illegal" for Trump's fixer and personal attorney Rudy Giuliani to push Ukraine to investigate the President's political opponents.

Sondland's adjusted testimony did much to dismantle the President's core and repeated defense: that he did not hold up aid to Kiev to force it to open a probe into Joe Biden and that any suggestion to the contrary is simply the "crazed" delusion of "Never Trumpers."

Read more of Collinson's analysis here.