The latest on the Trump impeachment inquiry
An aide to Vice President Mike Pence, Jennifer Williams, has arrived on Capitol Hill ahead of her scheduled testimony before House committees.
She was on the July 25 call between President Trump and Ukraine President Volodymr Zelensky. Williams was concerned about what she heard on the call but there is no indication she raised her concerns to her superiors, according to the source.
President Trump discussed having Attorney General Bill Barr hold a news conference to declare he didn't break any laws in his phone call with the Ukrainian President, according to a person familiar with the matter.
Trump has raised the idea in conversations surrounding the ongoing impeachment inquiry over recent weeks, and has said he thought the idea could help project the message that he hadn’t done anything wrong.
Remember: Barr hasn’t held such a press conference, and this source could not say whether Barr and Trump had formally discussed the idea or whether Barr had ruled it out.
Some background: In two tweets, one sent last night and another this morning, the President disputed reporting from the Washington Post that he asked Barr to publicly defend his phone call with Ukraine. However, the Post story does not say that he asked Barr directly.
And while Barr may not have held a press conference the Justice Department publicly announced that criminal division prosecutors had found no wrongdoing by the president, at least as it relates to campaign finance law. The department also released a legal memo on why the Intelligence Community inspector general was not required to turn over a whistleblower complaint to Congress.
Yesterday another transcript from the House's impeachment inquiry was released. This time it was from the testimony of Bill Taylor, the top US official in Ukraine at the moment.
Here are the key things he said:
- He said the investigations President Trump wanted into his rival Joe Biden would have equaled election meddling — and that Ukraine announcing them was his nightmare.
- He squarely blamed the Ukraine controversy on Giuliani and Trump
- He was OK with Giuliani's role at first
- It took time for him to understand that "investigations" meant probes into the Bidens and the DNC hacks
- He said Trump held up Ukraine aid for "domestic political gain" to cast Biden in "bad light"
- He testified he didn't feel the same pressure as Yovanovitch
- He felt Giuliani wanted Ukraine to meddle in US election
- He said Volker supported the US officially asking Ukraine to investigate Burisma
An aide to Vice President Mike Pence, Jennifer Williams, will show up for testimony on today if she receives a subpoena, according to a source familiar with the matter.
Why Williams matters: She was on the July 25 call between President Trump and Ukraine President Volodymr Zelensky. Williams was concerned about what she heard on the call but there is no indication she raised her concerns to her superiors, according to the source.
Justin Shur, Williams' attorney, told CNN in a statement Wednesday night that she would answer the committee's questions "if required to appear."
"Jennifer is a longtime dedicated State Department employee," Shur said in the statement. "If required to appear, she will answer the Committees' questions. We expect her testimony will largely reflect what is already in the public record."
Generally, the House has been sending subpoenas on the morning of their scheduled testimony.
Trump's former national security adviser John Bolton is also scheduled to appear. However, chances look slim that Bolton would comply with the Democratic-led investigation's request, as his lawyer has said Bolton will not testify voluntarily, but it remained unclear if he would comply with a subpoena, should one be issued at the last moment.
Vice President Mike Pence's role in the events leading to the House of Representatives' impeachment inquiry is expected to come under scrutiny Thursday as a top aide is likely to comply with a request to testify on Capitol Hill.
Jennifer Williams, an aide to Pence and a longtime State Department staffer, would be the first person on the vice president's staff to appear before Congress. She is expected to show up for testimony on Thursday if she receives a subpoena, her lawyer said Wednesday. House Democrats have typically issued those subpoenas the morning of a witness's scheduled testimony.
What's the back story?
Williams was one of the nearly dozen officials listening on President Donald Trump's July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, according to two sources familiar with the matter.
She was concerned about what she heard on the call but there is no indication Williams raised her concerns to her superiors, according to one of the sources.
Though Pence was not on that call, he has met with and held a call with Zelensky himself.
John Bolton has already left his mark on the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, even if he doesn't show for a scheduled deposition Thursday morning.
Trump's former national security adviser is at the center of several key events related to the investigation, including suggestions that he had raised concerns about the President and Ukraine, calling efforts by some top officials to help push for investigations into former Vice President Joe Biden and matters related to the 2016 election a "drug deal," according to testimony last month from former top Russia adviser Fiona Hill.
Chances looked slim that Bolton would comply with the Democratic-led investigation's request to appear Thursday morning, as his lawyer has said Bolton will not testify voluntarily, but it remained unclear if he would comply with a subpoena, should one be issued at the last moment.
Several witnesses in the probe have already testified that Bolton had concerns about Trump's dealings with Ukraine and encouraged his staff to sound the alarm about potentially illegal actions by the President's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani.
But despite those apparent misgivings, it appears Bolton has little interest in playing the role of star witness for House Democrats.
"Bolton still wants to be a player in GOP politics and Trump still has such high approval ratings," a source close to Bolton said.
"So far, he has tried to walk that tightrope. I expect he will continue to do that," the source added, noting that Bolton is unlikely to try to take on Trump directly due to concerns that attacking the President might make it difficult for Bolton to attract wealthy GOP donors to his super PAC.
House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff on Wednesday announced impeachment hearings will begin next week as Democrats prepare to take their case against President Donald Trump to the public.
The open hearings mark a new phase of the Democrats' impeachment inquiry into Trump and Ukraine. It will be the first time that the country hears directly from the officials at the center of allegations that Trump pushed Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and the 2016 election in order to help the President politically.
Here's a look at who's testifying next week:
Friday: Former US Ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch.
Rudy Giuliani's fingerprints are everywhere. Despite being invisible for days after shelving his train wreck TV interviews he is emerging with President Donald Trump as the most dominant and intriguing figure in the impeachment drama.
The man once feted as America's mayor is looming over events on Capitol Hill as details of his expansive role in the scandal fill publicly released witness testimony.
"He was always swirling around somewhere," US Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland testified, adding that Giuliani's shadow foreign policy mission in Ukraine got more "insidious" as time went on.
Giuliani was ubiquitous, on the phone with Ukrainian officials, inserting himself in US diplomatic meetings, sowing confusion and exasperation about what he was up to, witnesses said.
Even Secretary of State Mike Pompeo couldn't rein in the President's man, rolling his eyes when Sondland mentioned him and saying: "Yes, it's something we have to deal with," according to transcripts of Sondland's testimony.
Revelations about Giuliani's mission are piling up as the Democratic impeachment push races ahead. A critical new stage of the inquiry opens next week with public hearings where the absent Giuliani's name is sure to be on everyone's lips.
As the top US diplomat in Ukraine was working to release frozen security assistance to Kiev, he discovered the focus back in Washington was elsewhere: President Donald Trump's interest in buying Greenland.
Speaking to impeachment committees last month, Ambassador Bill Taylor described difficulty in convening a meeting of top-level Cabinet officials with Trump to discuss the Ukraine assistance, which was put on hold over the summer.
Part of the issue was logistics, he said. But it also came as national security officials inside the White House were scrambling to contain Trump's Greenland idea.
"It turns out, Mr. Chairman, that those principals, as we call them, were on different trips at different times," he said during his closed-door deposition, a transcript of which was released on Wednesday. "I think this was also about the time of the Greenland question, about purchasing Greenland, which took up a lot of energy in the NSC."
What's the back story?
Trump raised the idea of purchasing Greenland -- an autonomous Danish territory -- on multiple occasions over the past year. It was first reported in mid-August that he was interested. After the Danish government shot the idea down, Trump canceled a planned trip to Copenhagen.