House investigators are hearing from Michael McKinley, the former senior adviser to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, behind closed doors. McKinley resigned last week amid worsening morale at the State Department and widespread concern that Pompeo has done little to defend diplomats who became ensnared in efforts by Trump to get Ukraine to investigate former vice president Joe Biden and his son Hunter.
● White House directed ‘three amigos’ to run Ukraine policy, senior State department official tells House investigators.
12:15 p.m.: Perry declines to say whether he will comply with subpoena
In an appearance on Fox Business Network on Wednesday, Energy Secretary Rick Perry declined to commit about complying with a congressional subpoena.
“Hey, listen,” Perry said. “The House has sent a subpoena over for the records that we have. And our general counsel and the White House counsel are going through the process right now. And I’m going to follow the lead of the, of my counsel on that.”
Friday is the deadline for documents to be released from the White House and Perry. Trump has said Perry asked him to make the July call to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, but Perry told reporters last week he did it so that the two could talk about energy issues.
11:45 a.m.: Trump says Pelosi has ‘done this country a tremendous disservice’
Hours before they were set to meet face-to-face for the first time since the launch of the impeachment inquiry, Trump told reporters that Pelosi has “done this country a tremendous disservice.”
“She’s created a phony witch hunt, another one,” Trump said of the impeachment inquiry focused on his pressuring of Ukraine to investigate the Bidens. “This one is just absolutely crazy. … This is an open-and-shut simple case.”
Trump’s comments came during an Oval Office meeting with Italian President Sergio Mattarella. Later Wednesday, Trump is scheduled to meet with congressional leaders, including Pelosi, about the Turkish incursion in Syria.
Speaking to reporters at the White House, Trump contended Democrats are “desperate because they know they’re going to lose the election.”
“They’re playing games,” he said. “They figure they can’t win the election, so maybe we can find some ground, somebody that Trump never met, and maybe they’ll say something bad about Trump, and if they do, really bad, maybe it can stick a little bit. I don’t think it’s going to work.”
11:30 a.m.: ‘I don’t know that he got along with Rudy Giuliani,’ Trump says of Bolton
In an exchange with reporters in the Oval Office after meeting with Mattarella, Trump claimed he personally got along “pretty well” with his former national security adviser, John Bolton, but suggested that there was friction between Bolton and Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani.
“Look, John Bolton, I get along well with him,” Trump said when asked whether he was concerned that Democrats may call Bolton to testify in their impeachment inquiry. “I actually got along with him pretty well. It just didn’t work out. … I don’t know that he got along with Rudy Giuliani.”
Trump defended Giuliani, arguing that he “was seeking out corruption, and I think there’s nothing wrong with seeking out corruption.”
According to two people familiar with the matter, Fiona Hill, the National Security Council’s former top adviser on Russia and Europe, told lawmakers earlier this week that Bolton was infuriated by a shadow operation being conducted by Giuliani to pressure Ukraine into digging up dirt on the president’s political rival.
Bolton had likened Giuliani to a “hand grenade” and had instructed Hill to raise the matter with White House lawyers, the people said.
Pressed Wednesday about a Washington Post report that Giuliani had urged Trump to extradite a Turkish cleric living in exile in the United States, the president dismissed the fact that Giuliani had not registered as a foreign lobbyist.
“You have to ask Rudy those questions,” Trump said. “Don’t ask me.”
11:15 a.m.: Fourth defendant in Giuliani associates’ case arrested at New York airport
David Correia, the fourth defendant in a campaign finance case involving business associates of President Trump’s personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani, was arrested Wednesday morning at a New York City airport, officials said.
Correia has been charged with participating in a scheme to use foreign money to build political support for a fledgling recreational marijuana business in Nevada and other states, according to an indictment unsealed last week. The indictment also charged Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman with conspiracy and making false statements to election regulators.
The other three defendants were quickly arrested by the FBI, but Correia’s whereabouts have been unclear until Wednesday morning. All four defendants are due to appear in federal court Thursday morning.
“The defendant was taken into custody by the FBI at JFK earlier this morning,” said Nicholas Biase, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan.
10:45 a.m.: House Republicans accuse Democrats of ‘Soviet-style tactics’
At their weekly news conference, House Republican leaders ratcheted up their rhetoric against Democrats, accusing them of “Soviet-style tactics” for holding closed-door depositions — even though Republican lawmakers have joined Democrats in those depositions.
“What is Chairman Schiff trying to hide from the American people?” House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) said, referring to House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.).
Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) struck a similar note, saying of Schiff: “He’s taken this to a Soviet-style inquiry.”
McCarthy argued that Democrats’ handling of the impeachment inquiry suggests they “believe you’re guilty until you prove your innocence.”
But McCarthy also denied that Trump had asked foreign countries to investigate Biden — even though the president has done so publicly in remarks to reporters on the South Lawn of the White House.
“Every single day in America, we work with other countries to solve open cases,” McCarthy said, adding that the president “did nothing wrong.”
10:40 a.m. Jeffries says Republicans are ‘unable to defend the indefensible’
Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), a Pelosi ally in House leadership, on Wednesday defended her resistance to Republican demands to hold a full House vote authorizing the impeachment inquiry.
Speaking at a news conference, Jeffries said it was a “textbook abuse of power” for Trump to have pressed Ukraine to investigate the Bidens at a time when nearly $400 million in U.S. military aid was being withheld.
Jeffries said there is nothing in the Constitution, Supreme Court precedent or House rules that requires a vote to launch an impeachment inquiry.
“They are unable to defend the indefensible, so the Republicans are arguing about cosmetic procedural matters,” he said, characterizing Trump’s actions as “abhorrent behavior.”
10 a.m.: Pompeo adviser to decry politicization of State Department in impeachment probe testimony
McKinley, the former senior adviser to Pompeo until his sudden resignation last week, will tell House impeachment investigators Wednesday that career diplomats were mistreated during his tenure and some had their careers derailed for political reasons, according to a person familiar with his testimony.
McKinley will outline how his concerns culminated with the recall of the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, a punitive action he and many other rank-and-file diplomats viewed as wholly unjustified.
“The unwillingness of State Department leadership to defend Yovanovitch or interfere with an obviously partisan effort to intervene in our relationship with Ukraine for the political benefit of the president was too much for him,” said the person, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to be candid.
— Carol Morello and John Hudson
9:50 a.m.: McKinley arrives at the Capitol
McKinley, the former senior adviser to Pompeo, has arrived at the Capitol in advance of a scheduled deposition with House investigators.
9:40 a.m.: Volker arrives at the Capitol to review transcripts of testimony
Kurt Volker, the former special representative to Ukraine, has arrived at the Capitol. He is reviewing transcripts of his Oct. 3 testimony, according to a committee aide who spoke on the condition of anonymity to share details that are not public.
Volker previously gave House committees text messages depicting State Department officials apparently coordinating with Giuliani to leverage a public promise of an investigation into the Bidens for a meeting between Trump and Ukraine’s new president.
8:30 a.m.: Trump, Pelosi to see one another for first time since inquiry began
Trump and Pelosi are scheduled to come face-to-face for the first time since the launch of the impeachment inquiry during a meeting at the White House scheduled for 3 p.m. Wednesday about Turkish military aggression in Syria. Trump has invited congressional leaders from both parties.
Trump might get questions earlier in the day about the impeachment inquiry. He is scheduled to hold a joint news conference at noon with visiting Italian President Sergio Mattarella.
7:45 a.m.: Trump suggests he’s facing possible impeachment because the Democratic presidential field is weak
In a morning tweets, Trump panned the performances of the Democratic presidential candidates in Tuesday night’s debate — and suggested he is facing an impeachment inquiry because the field is weak.
“You would think there is NO WAY that any of the Democrat Candidates that we witnessed last night could possibly become President of the United States,” Trump wrote. “Now you see why they have no choice but to push a totally illegal & absurd Impeachment of one of the most successful Presidents!”
He later predicted dire consequences if any of the Democrats prevail.
“Our record Economy would CRASH, just like in 1929, if any of those clowns became President!” he wrote.
In another tweet, Trump quoted conservative cable host Graham Ledger calling the impeachment inquiry a “Constitutional Travesty” and said he is the wrong politician to target.
“It is Adam Schiff and Nancy Pelosi who should be impeached for fraud!” Trump tweeted, referring to the House Intelligence Committee chairman and the House speaker, both California Democrats. Members of Congress cannot be impeached.
Trump also echoed the arguments of his Republican allies who have spent more time attacking the impeachment process than defending Trump’s actions.
“Republicans are totally deprived of their rights in this Impeachment Witch Hunt,” Trump tweeted.
7:30 a.m.: McCarthy ramps up attacks on Pelosi over process
McCarthy ramped up his attacks Wednesday on Pelosi, arguing that Democrats were treating Trump unfairly during the impeachment inquiry.
“You’ve got a better chance of having a fair judicial system in China than in Speaker Pelosi’s House of Representatives,” McCarthy said during an appearance on Fox News’s “Fox & Friends.”
McCarthy complained that House investigators are taking depositions behind closed doors, that only Democrats can call witnesses and that Trump does not have a lawyer present to cross-examine witnesses.
During the depositions, Republican lawmakers and staff are allowed to question witnesses. Democrats have said that they are conducting depositions behind closed doors so that witnesses cannot tailor their accounts to previous testimony.
Earlier this week, Schiff said he expects some witnesses to testify again in open sessions and said transcripts will be released later.
The process is consistent with House rules but has differed in some respects from previous impeachment inquiries.
“You know in America you’re innocent until proven guilty until you let the Democrats become in charge,” McCarthy said during his Fox News interview.
7 a.m.: Former Pompeo adviser to testify about State Department
McKinley is expected to testify before House investigators leading the impeachment inquiry on Wednesday morning.
He will come to the Hill with an intimate understanding of how Pompeo wielded power in the highest echelons of the State Department, given his proximity to the top diplomat on his many trips abroad.
The format for the testimony is a “transcribed interview,” said a congressional aide who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss matters not yet made public, which places fewer restrictions on the interview process than in a formal deposition.
6:40 a.m.: Trump campaign calls inquiry a ‘sham’ because of no formal vote
The Trump campaign seized Wednesday morning on the announcement by Democratic leaders that they still have no plans for a full House vote to authorize the impeachment inquiry.
In morning tweets, campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh said Democrats were “trampling all over due process” and called the ongoing inquiry an “illegitimate, unprecedented sham” and an “illegitimate plot to overthrow a duly elected President.”
In a news conference Tuesday, Pelosi noted that there is no constitutional requirement for a full House vote to open an impeachment inquiry.
“There is no requirement that we have a vote, and so at this time we will not be having a vote,” Pelosi said.
Schiff told reporters that Republicans are calling for a vote because “they don’t want to discuss the president’s conduct; they would much rather discuss process.”
6 a.m.: Impeachment first topic in Democratic presidential debate
The impeachment inquiry was the first topic tackled at Tuesday night’s Democratic debate in Westerville, Ohio.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) fielded the first question, on why she believes Congress should hold impeachment proceedings rather than leaving the issue of Trump’s fitness for office up to the voters to decide next November.
Warren’s response: “Because sometimes there are issues that are bigger than politics, and I think that’s the case with this impeachment inquiry.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), too, defended his call for impeaching Trump, adding that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) “has got to do the right thing and allow a free and fair trial in the Senate.”
Biden — who only recently came out in favor of impeachment — called Trump the most corrupt U.S. president in history. He highlighted the White House’s efforts to stonewall the impeachment inquiry. “They have no choice but to move,” he said of House Democrats.
Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) echoed her competitors, expressing her support of the impeachment inquiry and adding that she didn’t think the impeachment process would take very long.
“I don’t really think this impeachment process is going to take very long because as a former prosecutor I know a confession when I see it. And he did it in plain sight, he’s given us all the evidence & he tried to cover it up, putting it in that special server.”