By doing this in public, Trump inoculates himself from the potential of a “bombshell” coming out in the press, and he can claim that there was nothing wrong about the request because he made it openly in front of the cameras.
But remember: Doing it in public doesn’t negate the fact that Trump is still asking a foreign government to get involved in the 2020 presidential election and investigate his chief political rival.
Trump’s private request for Zelensky was referred to the Justice Department as a potential violation of campaign finance laws. The Justice Department did not launch a full investigation but determined that there was not evidence to prove that Trump did anything illegal.
This situation has some parallels to the Mueller investigation. Special counsel Robert Mueller examined plenty of comments that Trump made publicly, to determine whether Trump was obstructing justice. Mueller’s team wrote in their report that, regarding obstruction laws, there wasn’t any difference between Trump saying something in public, versus Trump saying the same thing in private. The Mueller report regularly cited Trump’s public remarks and tweets as proof of his wrongdoing or of his intention to obstruct the investigation.
Here's one key excerpt from the Mueller report...
“…many of the President's acts directed at witnesses, including discouragement of cooperation with the government and suggestions of possible future pardons, took place in public view. That circumstance is unusual, but no principle of law excludes public acts from the reach of the obstruction laws. If the likely effect of public acts is to influence witnesses or alter their testimony, the harm to the justice system's integrity is the same.”
“…many of the President's acts directed at witnesses, including discouragement of cooperation with the government and suggestions of possible future pardons, occurred in public view. While it may be more difficult to establish that public-facing acts were motivated by a corrupt intent, the President's power to influence actions, persons, and events is enhanced by his unique ability to attract attention through use of mass communications. And no principle of law excludes public acts from the scope of obstruction statutes. If the likely effect of the acts is to intimidate witnesses or alter their testimony, the justice system's integrity is equally threatened.” (Vol. II, page 157)
11:17 a.m. ET, October 3, 2019
Could the House censure Trump instead of impeaching him?
From CNN legal analyst Elie Honig
Your impeachment questions, answered
The House of Representatives is currently conducting a formal impeachment investigation into President Trump after an explosive whistleblower complaint was released. If a majority of the House votes to impeach, the trial moves to the Senate, where a two thirds majority is required to convict and remove the president.
Could the House conduct a formal impeachment investigation and then vote to censure the President, rather than impeaching and sending it to the Republican-controlled Senate for trial?
Constitutional law scholar Laurence Tribe has proposed a similar procedure designed to create a formal record of Trump's conduct in the Democratic-controlled House without sending the matter to the Republican-controlled Senate for what many see as an inevitable party-line vote of acquittal.
Under Tribe's proposal, the House would hold an impeachment investigation, affording Trump the right to mount a defense. The House would then vote on a resolution proclaiming the President impeachable — which Tribe calls "far stronger than a mere censure" — but would not forward the matter to the Senate for a formal vote on removal from office.
Tribe's proposal has some merit. It would promote public understanding of Trump's conduct and create an important historical record.
But there are arguments against Tribe's approach.
First, it is an end-run around the process set forth in the Constitution: the House votes to impeach, then the Senate holds a trial and votes either to acquit or to convict and remove from office.
Second, Tribe's approach is more sizzle than steak. While the House would go through the motions, the end result (at most) would be a sternly-worded resolution condemning the President, but without actual penalty (such as removal from office).
This Democrat didn't support the impeachment inquiry. "We have no choice now but to proceed," he says.
Rep. Max Rose — a Democrat from Staten Island, New York, who won a district in 2018 that Trump won in the 2016 presidential election — has changed his mind and says he now supports the impeachment inquiry.
Rose officially announced his support last night at an appearance on Staten Island.
Rose told CNN today, "What we have seen...over the last few days is not only this president and his White House, but the Secretary of State and [Trump's] personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, obstruct each and every step of the way."
"We have no choice now but to proceed with an impeachment inquiry. And the only person that the President has to blame is himself," Rose added.
Even though he now supports the inquiry, Rose says he believes it is important to follow the facts before drawing any conclusions about impeaching the president.
"What's most important here is that we do not jump either to any conclusions. This is a sad, sad day for America," Rose said.
Ask by CNN if he's worried he might lose his seat in his Trump voter-heavy district, Rose said, "I'm not afraid at all."
11:01 a.m. ET, October 3, 2019
Trump: McConnell said the July call was "the most innocent phone call"
President Trump said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called a transcript of his call with Ukraine's leader "the most innocent phone call."
"He read my phone call with the president of Ukraine. Mitch McConnell, he said, 'That was the most innocent phone call that I've read.' I mean, give me a break. Anybody that reads it says the same thing," Trump said.
Last week, the White House released a rough transcript of the July call. McConnell urged the White House to release the summary, sources said.
Trump also said that the "only people" who don't understand the transcript are those who listen to House Intelligence Chair Adam Schiff.
"And the only people that don't understand it, is when they look at the false, fabricated, fraudulent statement made by shifty Schiff," Trump said.
What this is all about: Trump has repeatedly claimed Schiff lied while reading the rough White House transcript to Congress.
We can't endorse Trump's claim that Schiff "lied," since Schiff introduced his comments at Thursday's committee hearing by saying he would be outlining "the essence of what the president communicates," not providing "the exact transcribed version of the call."
Trump says he heard "very bad things" about recalled US ambassador to Ukraine
From CNN's Maegan Vazquez
President Trump said today that he had heard “very bad things” about US Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, who was unexpectedly recalled from her post last May.
Asked why she was recalled, Trump said, “I heard very bad things about her.”
“I don’t know if I recalled her or somebody recalled her, but I heard very, very bad things about her for a very long period of time — not good,” he continued.
Trump told Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky in the July 25 call, according to a White House transcript: "The former ambassador from the United States, the woman, was bad news and the people she was dealing with in the Ukraine were bad news so I just want to let you know that.”
More on this: Yovanovitch was previously scheduled to appear this week before the House Intelligence Committee in the impeachment inquiry, but is now scheduled to appear next week on Oct. 11.
10:56 a.m. ET, October 3, 2019
Trump is on his way to Florida for Medicare event
President Trump is attending an event in Florida today, as ex-diplomat to Ukraine Kurt Volker testifies before Congress.
Trump is expected to sign an executive order emphasizing the benefits of preserving the status quo for Medicare, in particular Medicare Advantage plans offered by private insurers.
The event is part of a concentrated plan by the White House to roll out health care policies to help Trump compete with 2020 Democrats.
The Trump administration has been heavily promoting Medicare Advantage plans since 2017.
The President will visit the Villages, a sprawling retirement community in Sumter County, Florida.
As he left the White House, the president told reporters he wanted both Ukraine and China to investigate Joe Biden and his son, Hunter. There is no evidence of wrongdoing by either of the Bidens.
10:38 a.m. ET, October 3, 2019
Trump says he'll think about asking China's president to investigate Bidens
From CNN's Kevin Liptak
Speaking to reporters at the White House, President Trump says he hasn't yet asked his Chinese counterpart to investigate Joe Biden and his son.
But he said it was something he'd consider, alleging without evidence that the Bidens engaged in wrongdoing.
“I haven’t but clearly it’s something we should start thinking about," he said when asked whether he'd raised the matter with Xi Jinping.
Where is this coming from: On several occasions, Trump has intimated that the Bidens have received millions of dollars from China, implying they capitalized on the then vice-president's political power and connections.
Trump's allegations are misleading. There is no evidence that former Vice President Joe Biden received money from China. Though when it comes to Biden's son Hunter, Trump's allegations are not thoroughly unfounded. A company whose board Hunter sat on, received a large investment of Chinese capital shortly after Hunter visited the country with his father.
11:10 a.m. ET, October 3, 2019
Trump says Ukraine and China should investigate Bidens
From CNN's Kevin Liptak
President Trump says he wants both Ukraine and China to investigate Joe Biden and his son.
Speaking to reporters at the White House, Trump was again asked what he wanted Ukrainian President Zelensky to do with regard to the Bidens. Trump raised both Ukraine and China in his answer, saying he thinks both countries should investigate the former vice president and his son Hunter.
Trump repeated his criticism of a whistleblower complaint, saying it was “total fiction” and again said his conversation with Ukraine’s president was “absolutely perfect.”
While Trump has repeatedly accused Biden and his son of corruption, there is no evidence of wrongdoing by either Joe or Hunter Biden.