Congress

Impeachment news roundup: Oct. 28

Ex-White House security adviser skips testimony for impeachment probe despite House subpoena

House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff wrote to a former top Trump aide’s lawyer that he must comply with a House subpoena to testify in its impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call file photo)

House Democrats are drawing up a measure in the House Rules Committee to ensure transparency and provide next steps for the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump. The move comes as lawmakers prepare to move from the current closed-door investigative stage to a more public forum to review witness allegations of the president’s misconduct.

Charles Kupperman, former deputy assistant to the president for national security affairs, did not appear for his impeachment deposition Monday, setting up the latest showdown between the legislative and executive branches over fundamental constitutional powers.

The Justice Department appealed a district court ruling ordering it to turn over grand jury materials from the Mueller investigation to the House Judiciary Committee by Wednesday.

And the president continued to defend his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, as a “crimefighter” despite multiple impeachment witnesses reportedly telling investigators they were troubled by Giuliani’s behavior conducting a shadow foreign policy for Trump in Ukraine — and amid speculation that he may soon face a criminal probe of his own.

Here’s the latest on the impeachment investigation:

‘Firsthand’ information: Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff said in a statement that the impeachment inquiry resolution the House will vote on this week will establish the format for open hearings that will be conducted by his committee.

“The American people will hear firsthand about the President’s misconduct,” he said.

It was unclear from Schiff’s statement whether the Oversight and Foreign Affairs Committees, which have been working with the Intelligence panel to conduct closed-door witnesses depositions, will be able to participate or host their own public hearings.

Winning: Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham claimed victory with the announcement by House Democrats of an impeachment process floor vote.

“There is no doubt in my mind that the overwhelming response House Democrats heard from the American people and Senate Republicans in support of my resolution forced their hand. Today’s announcement is an acknowledgment of the success of our efforts last week,” the South Carolina Republican said in a statement.

Pelosi disputed claims Monday night that the resolution amounts to an acknowledgment.

“This is a resolution on how we proceed in the committees. Understand, it is not a resolution of any inquiry. That is already done,” she told reporters.

Dear Colleague:  Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced the House will vote Thursday on a resolution affirming the authority of its impeachment inquiry and establishing procedures governing the next phases of the probe in a “Dear Colleague” letter Monday afternoon.

Pelosi affirmed in her letter that Democrats do not believe a House vote formalizing the impeachment inquiry is required by the Constitution, echoing what a district court judge wrote last week in a case granting the Judiciary Committee access to grand jury materials from the special counsel’s investigation. But the speaker said the vote will affirm that authority.

Rules Chairman Jim McGovern, who is sponsoring the resolution, announced that his panel will mark up the measure Wednesday. He is expected to introduce the text on Tuesday.

Stood up: An attorney for Kupperman had warned lawmakers that the former top deputy to ex-national security adviser John Bolton would not show up for his testimony on Monday unless a federal judge orders him to.

Kupperman, through his attorney, said he is waiting on a court ruling to determine whether he has to appear for a deposition, said Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, the ranking Republican on the Oversight and Reform Committee.

“If the court says he has to come, he’s more than willing to come,” Jordan said.

Kupperman’s lawyers filed a lawsuit last week seeking a declaratory judgment as to whether he should comply with the House subpoena.

Jordan repeated his view that the impeachment inquiry is a “charade” and accused the Democratic majority of leaking details of the depositions to the media despite arguing that they need to be held behind closed doors. He cited a Washington Post report about the types of questions that are being asked as an example of a Democratic leak, saying many details of the story are “inaccurate and false.”

Fellow Oversight Committee Republican Mark Meadows of North Carolina said Democrats have designed the depositions to support their predetermined outcome. He said every witness the panel has spoken with who has had direct communication with Trump has said the president is innocent and has done nothing wrong. The witnesses with secondhand information are suggesting wrongdoing, he said.

House Intelligence Chairman Adam B. Schiff of California said Kupperman’s absence amounts to “additional evidence of obstruction.” Schiff ruled out going to court, saying he won’t engage in a lengthy court battle with the administration over witnesses.

“We are not willing to allow the White House to engage us in a lengthy game of rope-a-dope,” Schiff said.

Schiff, along with House Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot L. Engel of New York and acting Oversight and Reform Chairwoman Carolyn B. Maloney of New York, wrote a letter to the White House on Saturday saying that their “duly authorized subpoena remains in full force” and that Kupperman “remains legally obligated” to give his deposition on Monday.

“Dr. Kupperman’s lawsuit — lacking in legal merit and apparently coordinated with the White House — is an obvious and desperate tactic by the President to delay and obstruct the lawful constitutional functions of Congress and conceal evidence about his conduct from the impeachment inquiry,” the chairmen wrote to the former Trump adviser’s lawyers.

Kupperman was on the July phone call between Trump and Zelenskiy in which Trump appeared to threaten to withhold U.S. military aid from Ukraine if Zelenskiy’s nascent administration didn’t open anti-corruption probes into Trump’s political rivals.

No surprise: As expected, the Justice Department on Monday appealed a district court ruling that ordered it to turn over grand jury materials from the Mueller investigation by Wednesday.

Justice also asked the district court in Washington to halt enforcement of the ruling, arguing in part that the House could, with a simple majority vote, decide to publicize the grand jury materials.

Upcoming testimony: In addition to Kupperman, at least five other current or former Trump administration officials are scheduled to give depositions this week before investigators, according to an official working on the inquiry.

Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the director for European affairs on the National Security Council, is expected to appear in closed session on Tuesday.

Kathryn Wheelbarger, acting assistant secretary of Defense for international security affairs; Catherine Croft, special adviser for Ukraine at the State Department; and Christopher Anderson, a language student at the State Department, are expected to appear in closed session on Wednesday.

Timothy Morrison, special assistant to the president and senior director for Europe and Russia on the NSC, is scheduled to give testimony on Thursday.

Message manager: Trump let his Republican congressional allies know Monday he wants them to focus more of their public remarks on his phone call with Ukraine’s new president and less on House Democrats’ process.

“Process is good, but I think you ought to look at the case,” Trump told reporters before boarding Air Force One, contending that a look at the facts would clear him “quick.”

Much media coverage in recent days has focused on Republicans attacking the impeachment process rather than the facts that they are hearing in depositions.

Trump criticized Schiff as the “biggest leaker in Washington.” That came when he was asked why he had notified the Kremlin about a raid that killed Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, leader of the Islamic State terrorist group, before letting congressional Democratic leaders know.

Weekend update: Reeker, the top State Department diplomat for European and Eurasian Affairs, explained to lawmakers on Saturday how he tried, unsuccessfully, to shield ex-ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch from criticism by Trump and Giuliani, multiple news outlets reported on Saturday.

Yovanovitch was eventually recalled by Trump over concerns regarding her loyalty to him, despite a career in the foreign service that dates back to 1986 under multiple Republican and Democratic presidents. Both Yovanovitch and Reeker testified that such concerns were unmerited, multiple outlets have reported.

Reeker also testified about how he quickly discovered upon his arrival to the State Department in March that Trump was relying on unusual channels outside the State Department to conduct U.S. foreign policy in Ukraine. He was unaware that Trump had sought to withhold military aid from that country in exchange for investigations into Democrats’ actions during the 2016 presidential election as well as former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden.

“He’s being helpful in some respects,” Massachusetts Democratic Rep. Stephen Lynch told reporters Saturday of Reeker’s testimony. “He is corroborating previous witnesses and their testimony. It’s a much richer reservoir of information that we originally expected.”

But Republicans say Reeker’s testimony didn’t add much value to the overall picture

“I don’t see him as being directly involved with firsthand knowledge. I don’t see him being directly involved,” Meadows told reporters on Saturday.

The North Carolina Republican said Reeker frequently referred to an extensive binder of notes that he brought with him.

Rudy the “crimefighter”: Trump claimed he isn’t concerned that his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, might be in legal trouble over his actions on behalf of the president in Ukraine.

“No,” Trump said when asked if the former U.S. attorney and New York mayor could be in legal jeopardy. The president called his attorney a “good man” who is “always looking for corruption.” For the second time in three days, Trump called Giuliani “a crimefighter.”

Moscow misstatement: In a misstatement likely to be pounced on by House Democrats, Trump on Monday referred to Zelenskiy as the “new Russian president.”

But the former comedian is president of Ukraine, which Russia invaded earlier this decade and annexed its Crimea region.

During a recent White House meeting on his decision to remove U.S. forces from northern Syria, Pelosi told Trump that “all roads” with his many decisions and scandals seem to lead to Russia.

There is no new Russian president. Vladimir Putin, who Democrats say seems to have some kind of hold over Trump, has been the head man in Moscow since 2012.

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