Impeachment inquiry depositions have paused until Saturday as members participate in memorial services for the late Maryland Democratic Rep. Elijah E. Cummings scheduled for Thursday and Friday.
The investigation will pick back up on Saturday with closed-door testimony from Philip Reeker, acting assistant secretary of State for the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs
Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham introduced a resolution Thursday that would condemn the closed-door nature of the impeachment investigation, despite assurances from House Democratic leaders that they will hold public hearings with key witnesses once they have gathered more information.
This week’s two-day break comes after the most turbulent series of events in the impeachment proceedings so far: On Tuesday, Democrats said State Department official Bill Taylor drew a direct link between the withholding of military aid to Ukraine and requests from the White House for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to open up anti-corruption probes into President Donald Trump’s political rivals.
The next day, a group of House Republicans frustrated by the lack of transparency during the investigation so far, stormed the secure room at the Capitol where impeachment depositions are being taken.
Here’s the latest on the impeachment investigation:
Slate of hearings: More closed depositions have been scheduled for next week in the impeachment inquiry.
Charles Kupperman, former deputy assistant to the president for national security affairs, is scheduled to appear for a deposition Monday.
Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, director for European affairs, National Security Council, will testify Tuesday and Kathryn Wheelbarger, acting assistant secretary of Defense for international security affairs, will testify Wednesday, according to a source working on the investigation.
Timothy Morrison, special assistant to the president and senior director for Europe and Russia on the National Security Council, is on Thursday’s schedule.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is listed as one of the 39 original co-sponsors of Graham’s resolution, according to his office.
“Every American should be disturbed by what is taking place in the House of Representatives regarding the attempt to impeach President Trump,” Graham said in a statement.
“One of the cornerstones of American jurisprudence is due process — the right to confront your accuser, call witnesses on your behalf, and challenge the accusations against you. None of this is occurring in the House,” the South Carolina Republican said.
House Intelligence Chairman Adam B. Schiff has said that members will have a chance to question witnesses in public hearings once investigators have gathered information and evidence from them.
Graham dismissed a suggestion Thursday that his resolution could taint the jury pool for a trial of impeachment. As a House member during the impeachment proceedings against President Bill Clinton in 1998, Graham served as an impeachment manager representing the House in the Senate chamber.
“Let me tell you about being a juror. I sat there for five weeks, in the Senate, and a juror made a motion to dismiss,” Graham said. “In a court of law, juries can’t get up and say, ‘I want to dismiss the case,’ so this is one part legal and two part politics.”
Graham did not name the juror, but he was referencing a motion from the late Democratic Sen. Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia.
Honoring Cummings: House votes and business — including impeachment depositions — were canceled for Thursday as Cummings’ body lay in state in the Capitol’s Statuary Hall following a private morning ceremony. Lawmakers and members of the public paid tribute to the late Maryland Democrat.
Friday’s funeral service in Cummings’ hometown of Baltimore is at 10 a.m. at the New Psalmist Baptist Church. Speakers include the late congressman’s wife, former Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
White House messaging: The White House is putting together a messaging team to combat the House impeachment inquiry, Graham indicated on Thursday, citing a conversation with acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney.
“I think they’re working on getting a messaging team together,” Graham said, when asked if Republican lawmakers are taking the lead more than the White House on impeachment messaging.
Boys will be boys: “What happened yesterday was a high school prank by a bunch of 50-year-old white men,” California Democratic Rep. Jackie Speier said Thursday on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” about the Republicans who stormed the Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility, or SCIF, where impeachment investigators have been taking witness depositions.
The group of Republicans, led by House Minority Whip Steve Scalise and Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz, refused to leave the SCIF from roughly 10 a.m. until votes at 2 p.m. Aides brought the lawmakers pizza, chips, and Chick-fil-A sandwiches for lunch.
“The idea of walking back into the room after five hours and seeing these pizza boxes there was pretty stunning,” Speier said.
SCIFs are tightly secured rooms where officials and lawmakers share highly sensitive government information — no cameras, no microphones, no cell phones. Numerous Republicans brought their phones into the SCIF on Wednesday, a major national security no-no, experts have said.
Speier indicated Thursday that Republicans’ gripes about transparency and process are unfounded and that they are getting as equal a shake as Democrats.
“What that committee room normally looks like is a typical committee room in which both Republicans and Democrats are given the opportunity on an equal basis to ask questions: an hour on the Democratic side, an hour on the Republican side, and then 45 minutes on each side, mostly done by staff attorneys and then by members afterwards,” the California Democrat said.
By the book: Fox News contributor Judge Andrew Napolitano suggested Thursday that Republicans should look in the mirror regarding their complaints about the closed-door nature of the House impeachment inquiry’s investigative stage.
The depositions being taken by House investigators on the three committees leading the probe “are consistent with the rules,” Napolitano said on “Fox & Friends.”
“When were the rules written last? In January of 2015. And who signed them? John Boehner. And who enacted them? A Republican majority,” Napolitano said.
Democrats have maintained that they are in the investigative stage of the impeachment process, which they are conducting behind closed doors so that witnesses can’t coordinate their testimony. Schiff has promised “transparency” toward the end of the investigative stage and once it is complete.
That’s when Republicans will get their chance to grill witnesses in public, Napolitano said.
“Eventually there will be a public presentation of this, at which lawyers for the president can cross-examine these people and challenge them,” he said.
Presidential attaboy: Trump gave House Republicans an attaboy on Twitter a day after they stormed a secure room being used for an impeachment inquiry deposition of a senior Pentagon official and delayed her testimony by around five hours — but failed to stop it.
“Thank you to House Republicans for being tough, smart, and understanding in detail the greatest Witch Hunt in American History. It has been going on since long before I even got Elected (the Insurance Policy!). A total Scam!” the president tweeted.
Thank you to House Republicans for being tough, smart, and understanding in detail the greatest Witch Hunt in American History. It has been going on since long before I even got Elected (the Insurance Policy!). A total Scam!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 24, 2019
Trump had urged Republicans earlier this week to fighter harder and stick together, saying Democrats are more effective because they don’t break ranks.
Victim in chief: Trump told an audience at a speech on energy policy in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on Wednesday that he is a victim of investigations aimed at bringing down his presidency.
“I have witch hunts every week,” he said. “I say, ‘What’s the witch hunt this week?’”
During official functions and at campaign events, Trump often portrays himself and his supporters, via their shared conservative ideology, as victims of a conspiracy.