impeachment inquiry
December 1, 2019

As promised, President Trump's impeachment inquiry will pick up right where it left off this week.

Members of the House Intelligence Committee will reportedly begin reviewing a report on the panel's probe into Trump's alleged efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate his Democratic rivals Monday.

The committee members will reportedly have a 24-hour window to sift through the report before it goes to a vote Tuesday. The vote is mainly a formality and is expected to be split along party lines, which means it will likely be approved and then passed along to the House Judiciary Committee. The Judiciary Committee will then begin its own proceedings Wednesday.

President Trump's counsel has been invited to attend and participate in the initial hearing, but there is no indication that will happen. Trump, for his part, seemingly made it clear he won't be involved when he tweeted Saturday evening that he'll be in London on Wednesday for NATO business. Read more at NBC News and Politico. Tim O'Donnell

November 27, 2019

Another day, another new report on Rudy Giuliani's interactions with Ukraine.

President Trump's personal lawyer reportedly negotiated to represent Ukraine's former lead prosecutor Yuri Lutsenko earlier this year for more than $200,000, The Washington Post reports. Lutsenko was simultaneously aiding Giuliani in his quest — which is now at the heart of Trump's impeachment inquiry — to dig up dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, as well as any information on the unfounded allegations that Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in the 2016 general election.

Lutsenko reportedly wanted Giuliani and two other Trump-allied lawyers, Victoria Toensing and Joe diGenova, to help recover money he says was stolen from the Ukrainian government.

An agreement would have had benefits for both men, the Post notes. Lutsenko would have had easy access to Trump's lawyer, which in turn could have provided him with an opening to other top U.S. officials. Giuliani, meanwhile, would have received a financial boon from the same person who was already supplying him with what he considered valuable information.

The negotiations reportedly went far enough that legal agreements were drafted, but there was never any resolution, and no evidence suggesting Giuliani was paid by Lutsenko exists, the Post reports. Read more at The Washington Post.. Tim O'Donnell

November 25, 2019

Rudy Giuliani may have been targeting legally vulnerable Ukrainians to provide assistance in his quest to dig up dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter, The New York Times reports.

Ukrainian energy tycoon Dmitry Firtash said Soviet-born American businessmen Lev Parnas and Igor Frumin offered to help Firtash, who is facing extradition to the United States on bribery and racketeering charges, with his legal troubles by convincing him to hire lawyers Victoria Toensing and Joseph diGenova, who have ties to President Trump.

Parnas' lawyer Joseph Bondy confirmed the account, but added a twist. In Bondy's telling, Parnas and Frumin — at Giuliani's direction — encouraged Firtash to help find any potential compromising information related to the Bidens or other Democrats "as part of any resolution to his extradition matter."

The Times notes that Firtash's relationship with Toensing and diGenova has led to speculation that he is at least indirectly financing Giuliani's quest, but Firtash denies providing anybody with information about the Bidens or financing the search for it. Giuliani has also denied tasking Parnas with approaching Firtash, though he did say he sought information from Firtash's original legal team. Either way, Giuliani said there wouldn't have been anything wrong with asking Firtash about it even if he had. Read more at The New York Times. Tim O'Donnell

November 23, 2019

A series of documents unveiled Friday night have thrown Secretary of State Mike Pompeo even deeper into the midst of the impeachment inquiry.

The documents, which were comprised of 100 pages, revealed that President Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani spoke to Pompeo on the phone at least twice in March. The timeframe lines up with events currently under investigation in the House impeachment inquiry, per Fox News.

The timing of the phone call seemingly bolsters testimony from witnesses in the impeachment inquiry that senior Trump administration officials were involved in or aware of Giuliani's efforts to push Ukraine to launch corruption investigations and possibly tie Democrats like former Vice President Joe Biden to them. The specific contents of the conversations remain unknown, however.

That hasn't stopped people from considering the mere fact that the calls took place as a knock against Pompeo. Austin Evers, the executive director of American Oversight — a non-profit ethics watchdog that published the documents — said they show a clear paper trail from Giuliani to Trump to Pompeo which allowed for Giuliani's alleged smear campaign against former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch to come to fruition. Yovanovitch was ousted from her post in May, not long after the conversations took place.

Among the documents are records of a March 27 email exchange between Trump's former personal assistant Madeleine Westerhout and Giuliani's team. Giuliani's assistant asked Westerhout for help getting in touch with Pompeo because she was unable to "through regular channels." Read the documents at American Oversight and more on the story at The Guardian and Fox News. Tim O'Donnell

November 23, 2019

Well, the impeachment investigation just got a little more awkward.

Joseph Bondy, the attorney who represents recently indicted Soviet-born American businessman Lev Parnas, said his client is willing to participate in the impeachment inquiry and inform Congress about a meeting between Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), the top-ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee who has been heavily involved in impeachment proceedings, and former Ukrainian Prosecutor General Victor Shokin in Vienna in 2018, CNN reports.

Parnas, who worked with President Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani to push accusations of Democratic corruption in Ukraine, reportedly heard directly from Shokin that the prosecutor met with Nunes. Bondy's client also said he was in touch with Nunes prior to the Vienna trip, putting him in contact with Ukrainians who could help Nunes find dirt on Democrats in Ukraine, including former Vice President Joe Biden, since Nunes was reportedly working on his own investigation into the matter, spurred by reports on the Biden conspiracy from journalist John Solomon. "Nunes had told Shokin of the urgent need to launch investigations into Burisma, Joe and Hunter Biden, and any purported Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election," Bondy told CNN.

Congressional records show Nunes did travel to Europe in 2018 from Nov. 30 to Dec. 3, but he was not required to disclose specific details from the trip, and there is no specific indication that he went to Vienna.

CNN notes the report could place Nunes in a "difficult spot" as the impeachment process continues. Read more at CNN. Tim O'Donnell

November 21, 2019

On Thursday, six Republican senators and multiple White House officials met to privately discuss strategy for a potential impeachment trial of President Trump, several officials with knowledge of the matter told The Washington Post.

The meeting was attended by Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham (S.C.), Mike Lee (Utah), Ron Johnson (Wis.), John Kennedy (La.), Ted Cruz (Texas), and Tom Cotton (Ark.); White House Counsel Pat Cipollone; acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney; senior adviser and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner; counselor Kellyanne Conway; advisers Tony Sayegh and Pam Bondi; and White House legislative affairs director Eric Ueland, the Post reports.

During the meeting, the senators and White House officials came up with several different ways to deal with a Senate hearing, including not having a defense for Trump, in an attempt to show the trial is so flawed it doesn't need to be legitimized. There was some agreement that the best bet would be a two-week trial, a speedy affair that wouldn't damage Trump as much as a longer trial. Former President Bill Clinton's impeachment trial, which ended in an acquittal, lasted five weeks.

In public hearings this week, several witnesses testified before the House Intelligence Committee, painting a picture of Trump pressuring Ukraine to announce investigations into former Vice President Joe Biden in exchange for the release of $400 million in military aid and a meeting at the White House. If the House, which is controlled by Democrats, votes to impeach Trump in December, the Senate trial could start as early as January, the officials said. The impeachment inquiry is making Trump "miserable," people familiar with his feelings told the Post, and he wants a trial dismissed immediately. Catherine Garcia

November 17, 2019

U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland kept several Trump administration officials in the loop regarding his attempts to get Ukraine to launch investigations that President Trump would later bring up with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, The Wall Street Journal reports.

During a July 25 call, Trump asked Zelensky to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter, as well as an unsubstantiated conspiracy theory that Ukraine meddled in the 2016 presidential election. The Journal obtained emails Sondland sent to top officials, including acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and Energy Secretary Rick Perry, before that phone call, discussing his push for those investigations.

In a July 19 email, Sondland told Mulvaney, Perry, and others that he spoke to Zelensky and he was "prepared" for Trump's call. Zelensky "will assure him that he intends to run a fully transparent investigation and will 'turn over every stone,'" Sondland wrote. Text messages from the same time show that Sondland was passing along instructions to Zelensky from Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani.

Several officials have testified in the House impeachment inquiry about Giuliani pursuing a shadow Ukraine agenda, which they found disturbing. Others have said in sworn depositions that they overheard Sondland and Trump discussing investigations. Sondland will testify this week in an open hearing before lawmakers. Read more about Sondland's emails at The Wall Street Journal. Catherine Garcia

November 16, 2019

President Trump apparently does not follow former President Theodore Roosevelt's foreign policy advice about speaking softly.

David Holmes, an official from the United States Embassy in Ukraine, testified before Congress in a closed-door impeachment inquiry hearing Friday that he overheard a phone call in July between Trump and U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland while he was having lunch with the latter in Kyiv. The call reportedly took place just one day after Trump's infamous call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that sparked the impeachment inquiry.

During the call, Holmes reportedly heard Trump — who Holmes testified was speaking so loudly that Sondland had to hold the phone away from his ear — ask Sondland if Zelensky was "going to do the investigation." Sondland reportedly responded in the affirmative, saying that Zelensky would do "anything you ask him to."

After the call, Sondland reportedly told Holmes that Trump didn't care about Ukraine, except for "big stuff" like investigating former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, over the younger Biden's ties to a Ukrainian gas company.

Holmes' testimony confirmed an account from acting Ambassador to Ukraine William Taylor's public impeachment inquiry testimony Wednesday. Going forward, The New York Times and The Washington Post note, Sondland will almost certainly be asked about the alleged conversation during his public testimony next week. The ambassador did not mention it during his previous private testimony. Read more at The New York Times and The Washington Post. Tim O'Donnell

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