The latest on the Trump impeachment inquiry

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4:03 a.m. ET, November 9, 2019

How Democrats are prepping for public impeachment hearings

From CNN's Lauren Fox


After a week of riveting transcripts, Democrats are turning to the most public phase of their impeachment probe yet: open hearings.

Behind the scenes the preparations are exhaustive with one House Democratic leadership aide telling CNN that that the focus has been on everything from preparing lines of questioning and thinking through rebuttals to Republican talking points to hashing out a social media strategy that can be executed in real time.

The aide told CNN that the preparations are a “much bigger operation” and that the “coordination is on a whole other level” compared to what transpired before former special counsel Robert Mueller came to Capitol Hill to testify about his Russia investigation. There, Democrats sought to recapture momentum and change the public’s perception of a report that had been out for months. This time, Democrats view the moment is more urgent.

“The momentum is behind us for this. The objective for Mueller was harder, you were trying to recapture the momentum. This is an investigation we led, we obtained the information, we distilled the information,” the aide said.

Even during the current recess, rank-and-file members received daily talking points this week, an effort to help them boil down the essence of the hundreds of pages of transcripts. Even the schedule for next week has been carefully curated.

First, the spotlight will be on the top diplomat in Ukraine Bill Taylor and State Department official George Kent. The leadership aide said the aim of their testimony is to paint a full picture of the events that transpired. Taylor — who took meticulous notes — is seen by Democrats as an iron clad witness who came to believe through conversations with National Security Council official Tim Morrison and US Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland that “everything,” as Taylor said in his opening statement, was conditioned on Ukraine announcing public investigations into Trump’s political rivals. Kent is viewed by Democrats as someone who can shed light on the role the President’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani played in Ukraine.

“They tell as much of the story upfront and that was part of the objective,” the leadership aide told CNN. “The first hour of a hearing and the first hearing has got to be a blockbuster.”

On Friday, Marie Yovanovitch, a three-decade career diplomat who was removed from her post in the spring, will testify. She is the first political casualty of Giuliani’s efforts in Ukraine, a witness Democrats hope can display the toll that the President’s personal lawyer’s shadow foreign policy played there.  

One Democratic member who has taken part in the depositions, told CNN that next week will be an opportunity for the public to see that the witnesses “are credible, apolitical, detailed, true patriots, and very specific about exactly what has transpired. The story that will be told, based on the facts, will show the President broke the law and that the set up and cover up are both far more extensive than originally thought." 

Meanwhile, Republicans are preparing to submit their list of requested witnesses for public hearings. They have already publicly said they would like to hear from the whistleblower, something Democrats are expected to reject.

4:01 a.m. ET, November 9, 2019

Here's what happened in the Trump impeachment inquiry yesterday

Here are the latest developments in the impeachment inquiry into President Trump:

  • White House officials blame Mick Mulvaney for quid pro quo: White House officials Fiona Hill and Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman told lawmakers that Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, coordinated the effort to use military aid to Ukraine as leverage for investigation in his boss's political opponents, according to deposition transcripts released Friday.
  • About Hill's testimony: The White House's former top Russia expert testified that she was shocked by the transcript of Trump’s call with the Ukrainian leader, calling Trump’s push for investigations “pretty blatant.” She also said Trump’s advisers “spent a lot of time” trying to convince him that the theory that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election was false.
  • About Vindman's testimony: The National Security Council's Ukraine expert testified that there was "no ambiguity" ahead of Trump's July call with his Ukrainian counterpart that the Ukrainians would have to start an investigation into Trump's political rival in order to secure a US-Ukraine meeting. He also said he had raised concerns about the July 25 call to NSC lawyers, and that the process that was used for placing the call transcript on a highly secure server was abnormal.
  • Mick Mulvaney was a no-show: The acting White House chief of staff defied a subpoena from the House and did not show up for his closed-door testimony Friday. He cited "absolute immunity." Mulvaney dramatically confirmed last month that Trump froze nearly $400 million in US security aid to Ukraine partially to pressure the country into investigating Democrats — and proceeded hours later to deny having said so.
  • Lawyers hint at John Bolton's "relevant" information: Bolton's lawyer said the former national security adviser has significant insights into matters being probed by the impeachment investigators. But Bolton’s attorney said his client will not testify until a court resolves whether he must obey a subpoena.