House launches Trump impeachment inquiry
The intelligence community inspector general last week suggested that the controversial whistleblower complaint that triggered the Ukraine-Trump drama, raised concerns about multiple actions, sources told CNN.
However, the inspector general — who spoke at a closed-door briefing last week — would not say if those instances involved President Trump, the sources said.
One source said that Inspector General Michael Atkinson referenced "a sequence of events" and "alleged actions" that took place. However, another source disputed that the IG provided substantive details regarding the whistleblower claim.
Remember: We still haven't seen the whistleblower's complaint. Yesterday, the Senate unanimously approved a resolution urging the Trump administration to provide the full whistleblower compliant to Congress.
What we do know about the complaint: The Trump-Ukraine drama was first triggered by a whistleblower, who filed a complaint about Trump's contact with a foreign leader. After that, allegations surfaced that Trump threatened to withhold $400 million in military and security aid from Ukraine to force Kiev to open an investigation into his potential 2020 rival Joe Biden and his son, Hunter.
There is no evidence of wrongdoing by Biden or his son.
Speaking at The Atlantic Festival this morning, GOP Sen. Mitt Romney said he found the details revealed from the President's call with the Ukrainian president to be "deeply troubling."
"My reaction was the same as I had a few days ago, which is this remains deeply troubling and we'll see where it leads. But the first reaction is troubling," Romney said.
Romney is one of the few Republicans in Congress who has spoken about the need to investigate Trump.
On whether he perceived a "quid pro quo" between Trump and President Zelensky, Romeny said he's not "focused so much on the quid pro quo element."
"I said this in my first reaction, which is if the president of the United States asks or presses the leader of a foreign country to carry out an investigation of a political nature that's troubling. And I feel that," Romney said.
Asked if this could rise to an impeachable offense, Romney said, "I'm going to leave it what I've said and let the process gather the facts that will ultimately come out."
Presidential candidiate Bernie Sanders just tweeted a strong condemnation of the President:
President Trump's 2020 campaign manager Brad Parscale called the Ukraine drama and the impeachment inquiry "another hoax from Democrats and the media."
"The facts prove the President did nothing wrong," he said in a statement. "The fact is that the President wants to fight the corruption in Washington, where the Bidens, the Clintons, and other career politicians have abused their power for personal gain."
Reminder: There is no evidence of wrongdoing by Joe Biden or his son, Hunter.
The Trump campaign also sent out a fundraising email with the subject line "total smear job." The body of the email leads with news that the Democrats have launched an impeachment inquiry and asked people to contribute to the "Official Impeachment Defense Task Force."
"This is only the beginning of yet ANOTHER nasty Witch Hunt against me, and we need to fight back BIGGER and STRONGER than ever before," the email from Trump read.
On a call with outside allies this morning, White House officials encouraged surrogates to stress that there was no quid pro quo on Trump's call with the Ukrainian president.
They're also encouraged to stress that President Trump decided to release the transcript to combat “disinformation.”
The White House urged allies to argue that the President’s conversations with foreign leaders are not themselves intelligence activities and therefore not under the jurisdiction of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Nonetheless, White House officials on the call also pushed allies to argue that the whistleblower complaint has been handled “by the book.”
The White House surrogates call did not involve much in the way of a broader argument against impeachment, however. Rather, White House officials focused on specific rebuttals to the limited issue of the Ukraine phone call.
A senior White House official clarified how the transcript was crafted:
"The transcript was developed with assistance from voice recognition software along with note takers and experts listening."
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff says the transcript reads like a "classic mob shakedown."
More context: Earlier today, Schiff sent a letter to the attorney general demanding information on the handling of the whistleblower complaint. Schiff claims that should the Justice Department’s previously stated position — which said “the disclosure in this case did not concern allegations of conduct by a member of the Intelligence Community or involve an intelligence activity under the DNI’s Supervision” — be allowed to stand, it could have “serious corrosive consequences for whistleblowing within the IC and the Committee’s exercise of its lawful oversight duties.”
In a tweet, House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler called on Attorney General Bill Barr to recuse himself “until we get to the bottom of this matter.”
More context: In the transcript of the call, Trump told the Ukrainian president: "I would like to have the Attorney General call you or your people and I would like you to get to the bottom of it."
House Republicans just wrapped a news conference. They quickly exited when the press started asking questions about the transcript of the call, not having realized that it had been released.
In their statements, members roundly criticized Nancy Pelosi’s call for an impeachment inquiry yesterday. Rep. Kevin McCarthy said he watched Pelosi “demean the office of the speakership.”
McCarthy also slammed Pelosi for making the call “based on facts she never read and a whistleblower that wasn’t in the room,” and was critical that there was “not one word” about allegations against Joe Biden and his son.