The latest on Trump's impeachment inquiry
President Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani gave his documents to the White House, which were then passed to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, according to a source familiar with the matter.
Those documents, which contain unproven allegations about the investigation, the Bidens and other Ukraine matters, were part of the packet of pages provided to Congress by the State Department inspector general in today’s briefing.
Pompeo gave the documents to a subordinate who provided them to the legal counsel at State, the source said. The documents were ultimately given to the inspector general.
Some background: Earlier tonight, Giuliani told CNN about how in late March he “routed” what he called an “outline” of allegations against the Biden as well the US ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, to the office of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Giuliani said he also sent details of his interviews from earlier in the year with the incumbent and former top prosecutors in Ukraine, who helped provide him with the information in his outline.
President Trump told advisers he believed he could convince Australia and the United Kingdom's new leaders—both viewed as more politically aligned with him than their predecessors—to work with Attorney General William Barr in seeking information to discredit the Russia investigation, according to multiple sources.
Not only did Trump view Australia's Scott Morrison and Boris Johnson of the United Kingdom as more cooperative to his position, he blamed both of their predecessors as partly responsible for the entire investigation, believing that under their leadership it was allowed to sprout, people familiar with the President's thinking said.
Trump's cultivation of the newly installed leaders as potential associates in his political agenda reflects his intent at using foreign relationships to go after domestic rivals. It continues a norm-breaking pattern of using fellow leaders to advance a partisan agenda.
His actions came after Trump spent months quizzing aides, allies and friends if they thought the United Kingdom and Australia played a role in the origins of Russia probe, according to people familiar with the conversations.
As Trump learned more about Morrison, Trump grew similarly convinced the new prime minister—who, like Trump, defied polls and ran on a hardline immigration message—would prove open to his requests for help.
How receptive those leaders were to Trump's overtures isn't entirely clear. Morrison said Wednesday his call with Trump was a "fairly uneventful conversation" but suggested Australia was ready to cooperate with the US.
On Monday, an official familiar with Trump's phone call with Morrison said Barr has asked the President to request the help of several countries, including Australia, with a review of the early stages of the Russia investigation. That review is being led by US Attorney John Durham.
Vice President Mike Pence's last-minute September meeting with the Ukrainian president has drawn him into the ongoing impeachment inquiry of President Trump.
Rather than traveling to Warsaw, Poland, last month to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Trump decided to stay home to track the damage from Hurricane Dorian. Trump sent Pence in his place. Pence's face-to-face meeting with Zelensky now puts him at the heart of events that led to the impeachment inquiry by the House of Representatives.
Trump isn't making it easy for Pence to distance himself, even suggesting the details of Pence's phone calls and conversations with Zelensky should be released.
"I think you should ask for Vice President Pence's conversation because he had a couple conversations also," Trump told reporters last week after the release of the White House transcript of his own July 25 call with Zelensky.
Recent conversations with a person close to the matter reveals a deep level of anxiety inside the vice president's office.
Pence advisers are frustrated with how the White House has handled the fallout from the Ukraine disclosures, including bringing Pence into the mess. An additional Pence adviser tells CNN, "It's a challenging environment."
President Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani told CNN today that some of the documents provided to Congress by the State Department’s inspector general originated with him.
Earlier this afternoon, State Department inspector general Steve Linick met with senior congressional staff and provided them with a packet of dozens of pages of documents. The documents make many of the same unproven claims about Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, that Giuliani and his allies have been sharing, according to a copy of the documents obtained by CNN.
There is no evidence of wrongdoing by either Joe or Hunter Biden.
Giuliani said in late March of 2019, he “routed” what he called an “outline” of allegations against Biden as well the US ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, to the office of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Giuliani said he also sent details of his interviews from earlier in the year with the incumbent and former top prosecutors in Ukraine, who helped provide him with the information in his outline.
Giuliani said he received a phone call shortly thereafter from Pompeo, who told him he would be referring the documents for investigation.
“They told me they were going to investigate it,” Giuliani told CNN.
The White House Counsel’s office sent out a preservation email, called a record hold, today to all White House employees to preserve any and all records related to President Trump’s foreign calls, according to two sources familiar with the matter.
Earlier today, the Justice Department told a federal judge that it had instructed the White House to preserve all documents related to Trump’s meetings and phone calls with foreign leaders.
Some background: The question of whether the White House was preserving the information arose in federal court Tuesday, following government transparency and historical archivist groups' emergency request to maintain the notes from the Trump-Volodymyr Zelensky July 25 call and other Trump discussions with world leaders.
Your impeachment questions, answered
House Democrats said they are hoping to possibly impeach Trump by Thanksgiving. If they succeed, the Senate will then conduct a trial to determine if he will be removed from office.
How long does the impeachment process take?
Legally, there is no time limit on the impeachment process. This is in contrast to the criminal justice process, which limits the amount of time that can pass between the commission of a crime and indictment (the "statute of limitations") and the time between indictment and trial ("speedy trial" rules).
Practically and politically, however, Congress knows the clock is ticking. The current Congress sits until January 2021, so any impeachment proceedings must and certainly will conclude by then (although the next Congress can resume any pending inquiry if it sees fit). And, of course, a presidential election looms in November 2020.
As the election draws closer, impeachment proceedings will become increasingly contentious and politically fraught. House leaders understand the need to move quickly here. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff have both vowed to move "expeditiously," and the House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerry Nadler has declared "full speed ahead."
The Bill Clinton impeachment timeline provides a useful guide:
- The House opened an official impeachment inquiry in October 1998.
- The House impeached Clinton in December 1998.
- The Senate then held Clinton's trial, which resulted in acquittal, in January and February 1999.
It seems realistic for Congress now to replicate the fairly quick pace of proceedings in the Clinton case.
But right now Congress is on an even tighter political timeline: In the Clinton case, the next presidential election (in November 2000) was just under two years away, whereas now the next presidential election (in November 2020) is just under one year away. Time will be of the essence for Democrats.
A Democratic aide who attended the session with State Department Inspector General Steve Linick described it as a “very strange meeting” and said “it was basically just handing over a pile of paper” without explanation.
The aide said the material, which was not classified, was all related to Ukraine.
“I truly don’t have [a] clue what to say to you about it,” said the aide who was holding a manila folder with about 30 or 40 pages in it. “The purpose of the meeting was to hand us a package of materials, which they did.”
The briefing was solely the idea of the inspector general, the aide said.
Nothing about Secretary of State Mike Pompeo or retaliation or funds for Ukraine was discussed, the aide added. The inspector general was asked many questions during the session but he didn’t provide any additional context about what was in the papers, the aide said.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he and the State Department would “try and cooperate” with Congress and its impeachment inquiry, according to an interview he did with Italy’s Sky TG24 in Rome today.
Pompeo also declined to say whether he agrees with President Trump’s assertion that the impeachment inquiry is a “coup.”
“I’ve seen the United States policy on Ukraine. We’ve been very clear about this. President Trump has been clear since the very beginning. We’ve wanted only the best things for the people of Ukraine, and that’s what — that’s what President Trump was trying to do. It was what he was trying to do for the entire time I’ve known him, including that phone call,” Pompeo said.
Earlier today: Pompeo admitted that he was on the July 25 phone call in which President Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden.
Late last week, Pompeo was subpoenaed by the chairmen of the House Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight committees over his failure to produce documents related to Ukraine.
In addition to the subpoena, the chairmen informed Pompeo in a separate letter that they had scheduled depositions for five State Department officials who have been mentioned in relation to the inquiry. Pompeo had responded Tuesday that the proposed timetable for witnesses to testify in the coming days was too compressed, and Democrats warned Pompeo that any effort to prevent those officials from speaking to Congress "is illegal and will constitute evidence of obstruction of the impeachment inquiry."
Sen. Jerry Moran, a Republican from Kansas, voiced his disapproval of the ongoing impeachment effort today.
After reading the whistleblower complaint and a transcript of the phone call between President Trump and Ukraine's leader, Moran said he does not see evidence to support impeaching the President.
"I'm not of the view that there is a conclusion that impeachment should occur. I don’t see that evidence," Moran said.
He spoke after a roundtable with Attorney General William Barr and local law enforcement officials at Wichita State University. Barr did not discuss Ukraine at the roundtable, or at a separate event earlier Wednesday in Topeka, Kansas. Moran said he had not spoken with Barr about Ukraine or the attorney general's mention of the July call.
Moran said impeachment was getting in the way of the "normal everyday, every year kind of work" done in Congress.
"We need a country in which we’re working together, not pulled apart, and this latest conversation about impeachment is pulling us apart further," he added.