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George Kent, the deputy assistant secretary of state responsible for Ukraine, criticized Rudolph W. Giuliani, President Trump’s personal lawyer, for engaging in a smear campaign against the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, according to the transcript of his closed-door deposition released by House investigators Thursday.
Kent testified that Giuliani’s “assertions and allegations against former Ambassador Yovanovitch were without basis, untrue, period.”
Earlier Thursday, Jennifer Williams, a special adviser to Vice President Pence on Europe and Russia, appeared after being subpoenaed and testified behind closed doors for about five hours as former national security adviser John Bolton declined to appear before House investigators.
Trump, meanwhile, complained Thursday morning after a Washington Post report that he wanted Attorney General William P. Barr to hold a news conference declaring that Trump broke no laws during a July phone call in which he pressed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky for the investigations. He also lashed out at an attorney for the whistleblower whose complaint prompted the Democrat-led impeachment inquiry
●Trump wanted Barr to hold news conference saying the president broke no laws in call with Ukrainian leader.
8:45 p.m.: Former attorney general Jeff Sessions says there’s ‘nothing close to an impeachment case’
Former attorney general Jeff Sessions, who drew Trump’s ire when he recused himself from the Russia investigation, defended his former boss against the impeachment inquiry.
Sessions, who announced his run for his old Senate seat in Alabama Thursday night, told Tucker Carlson on Fox News that he “just cannot see an impeachment case here.”
“It’s been a continuous political attack on him from day one,” Sessions said. “Things that people have done that have been perfectly innoncent, I felt some of that myself, were created and twisted to be something evil and improper.”
“I believe the president has conducted himself in this manner within the law and I don’t believe there is anything close to an impeachment case,” he added.
Sessions also said the Russia investigation was very “painful” for Trump, and that the president saw the former attorney general’s recusal as a “pivot moment.”
“But as painful and prolonged as it was it did clear him of Russia collusion and I’m certainly glad that finally happened,” Sessions said, trying to get back in Trump’s good graces.
7 p.m.: Whistleblower’s lawyer defends himself, client against attacks
Attorney Mark Zaid, who is representing the intelligence community whistleblower, responded to partisan attacks on Twitter asserting that he’s been out to get Trump because he’d advocated for the president to be impeached in 2017.
“I live in the United States. Not Nazi Germany. Not Stalinist Russia. Not North Korea,” Zaid tweeted in reponse to Trump’s son Eric’s suggestion that Zaid go to prison.
“Here, we have the right to object to the policies – and indeed the person – who holds the office of president. I rep a lawful #whistleblower,” he added. “Which country do all of you want to live in?
5:50 p.m.: Hill says Sondland lied about Oval Office conversations
Kent was asked what concerns Fiona Hill, the White House’s former top Russia adviser, had expressed about Gordon Sondland, the ambassador to the European Union. Kent said Hill “had concerns possibly based on having been in conversations in the Oval Office [in which] he made assertions about conversations that did not match with what had actually been said in the Oval Office.”
He added, “I think she may have been as direct as saying that Gordon Sondland lies about conversations that occur in the Oval Office.”
Asked whether Sondland had any conversations with acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney on Ukraine, Kent said, “It was clear to me that Ambassador Sondland had a direct connection with Chief of Staff Mulvaney, and that’s actually how the May 23 readout was put on the president’s schedule.
“It was not, to the best of my knowledge, done through the national security staff and Ambassador Bolton. It was done [through] Ambassador Sondland directly to Chief of Staff Mulvaney,” he said.
— Ellen Nakashima
5:05 p.m.: Top Zelensky aide privately accused U.S. officials of hypocrisy
Kent described a Sept. 14 meeting that William B. Taylor Jr., the acting ambassador to Ukraine, and Kurt Volker, the special envoy, had with Andriy Yermak, the top aide to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Kent did not attend the meeting but got an account of it the next morning from Taylor, who described an “awkward” exchange. It happened days before the Trump-Ukraine dealings started to break into public view.
Volker, according to the account Taylor relayed to Kent, pressed Yermak on an investigation the Ukrainians had opened into Zelensky’s predecessor, Petro Poroshenko.
“He didn’t think that was appropriate,” Kent said of Volker.
Yermak, according to Kent’s indirect account, had a sharp reply: “What? You mean the type of investigations you’re pushing for us to do on Biden and Clinton?”
“And at that point Kurt Volker did not respond,” Kent said.
According to this account, the possibility of a Trump-Zelensky meeting later came up, and Volker told Yermak that “it’s important that [Zelensky] give the messages that we discussed before” — an apparent reference to the request for the investigations Trump allegedly sought.
“Taylor told me that he then said: ‘Don’t do that,’” Kent recalled. “My understanding is that he was concerned. And when Kurt made a suggestion that [Taylor] felt was inappropriate he weighed in with his own personal opinion, which [was] that was not appropriate.”
— Mike DeBonis
4:45 p.m.: Kent describes tense exchange with State Department lawyer over subpoenaed documents
In an unusually dramatic example of bureaucratic warfare, Kent described tangling with an unnamed State Department lawyer over the scope of documents demanded earlier this year by House committees — illustrating the high tension inside the department as the Ukraine saga unfolded.
The exchange took place at a meeting attended by about 20 people on the morning of Oct. 3, as senior department officials discussed who precisely was obligated to hand over documents to Congress. Kent suggested that Carl Risch, the assistant secretary for consular affairs, ought to be included given his direct talks with Giuliani regarding a visa for former prosecutor general Viktor Shokin.
“The conversation rapidly, I would say, either escalated or degenerated into a tense exchange,” he said. “He objected to my raising of the additional information.”
The two men, Kent said, continued sparring over whether it was appropriate for Kent to participate in the discussion and whether a statement issued by the State Department suggesting that officials had been bullied and intimidated by Congress was accurate.
Eventually, the lawyer summoned Kent outside where there was another contentious exchange.
“I said, ‘That was unprofessional.’ And he then said, ‘You were unprofessional.’ He got very angry. He started pointing at me with a clenched jaw,” arguing that Congress could interpret Kent’s comments as trying to influence the collection of document.
“I said, ‘That’s called projection,’” he continued. “What I hear you saying is that you think that I am doing that. What I was trying to do was make sure that the department was being fully responsive.”
Kent then left the meeting, and he said that he had no further personal interactions with the lawyer.
— Mike DeBonis
4:40 p.m.: Vindman set up Trump-Zelensky call, and later gave Kent an ‘uncomfortable’ readout
The infamous July 25 call between Trump and Zelensky was set up by National Security Council Ukraine expert Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, who gave Kent a bare-bones readout of it, in which Kent said it was clear Vindman was “uncomfortable” with what transpired.
“It was different than any readout call that I had received. He felt — I could hear it in his voice and his hesitancy that he felt uncomfortable,” Kent testified. “He actually said that he could not share the majority of what was discussed because of the very sensitive nature of what was discussed.”
Vindman didn’t mention anything about Burisma, Biden or 2016. But he did tell Kent that Yovanovitch had been characterized as “bad news,” Kent said, and noted that “the conversation went into the direction of some of the most extreme narratives that have been discussed publicly.”
Kent said he had no advance knowledge that the transcript of the call would be released Sept. 25, and didn’t read it until it was declassified. He said he only recalled discussing Vindman’s readout with a few State Department officials, including Tyler Brace, who used to work for Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), the acting assistant secretary, and possibly the acting ambassador to Ukraine, William B. Taylor Jr.
Kent said he “may have made some reference to the negative characterization” of Yovanovitch to her during an early September dinner with his wife and Yovanovitch’s mother, but “wouldn’t have discussed the substance of the call in part because the readout of the call I got was not substantive, and second of all, it wouldn’t have been appropriate.”
He did not recall Yovanovitch having an obvious reaction, noting that she “is an intensely private person, she’s an introvert.”
— Karoun Demirjian
4:36 p.m.: Kent: Brechbuhl told Sean Hannity to cool it on Yovanovitch
Kent testified that a senior adviser to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reached out to conservative Fox News host Sean Hannity in late March or early April and asked him to back off his attacks on Yovanovitch.
At the time, a journalist-turned-conservative columnist had run a series of stories accusing Yovanovitch of trying to get Ukraine to interfere in the U.S. election against Trump, allegations that have never been substantiated and have been fervently denied by not only her but top State officials.
Hannity, a Trump ally, had picked up the allegations and discussed them on his program.
“I believe, to the best of my recollection, the counselor for the Department, Ulrich Brechbuhl, reached out and suggested to Mr. Hannity that if there was no proof of the allegations, that he should stop covering them,” Kent told impeachment investigators.
— Rachael Bade
4:30 p.m.: Kent’s ‘growing concerns’ with changes to Ukraine policy
On Aug. 15, Special Representative to Ukraine Kurt Volker’s new assistant, Catherine Croft, went to Kent’s office and asked, “Have we ever asked the Ukrainians to investigate anybody?”
Kent suspected that she was really asking whether U.S. officials had ever gone to the Ukrainians “and asked them to investigate or prosecute individuals for political reasons,” he testified. “And if that was the question, the answer is, ‘I hope we haven’t’,’ ” he said he told her. “And we shouldn’t because that goes against everything that we are trying to promote in the post-Soviet states for the last 28 years, which is the rule of law.”
The following day, he said, he spoke with the acting ambassador to Ukraine, William B. Taylor Jr., who “amplified” the theme. Taylor told him that Zelensky aide Andriy Yermak made a remark referring to the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty, a formal process by which one government requests legal help from another.
“And I told Bill Taylor, that’s wrong, and we shouldn’t be doing that as a matter of U.S. policy,” Kent said. He said Taylor agreed.
In short, Kent was worried about a shadow policy being run outside the normal policy and diplomatic channels, by people including Giuliani — who was not a government official — as well as Sondland, Perry and Volker.
“I had growing concerns that individuals were pushing communications with Ukrainians that had not been discussed and endorsed in the formal policy process, yes,” he said.
— Ellen Nakashima
4:20 p.m.: Trump wanted Zelensky to go to the microphone and say, ‘investigations, Biden and Clinton’
On the Saturday after Labor Day, Ambassador Taylor sent Kent a WhatsApp message indicating that he had spoken to Tim Morrison, the NSC senior director for Europe. Morrison had spoken to Sondland, who had spoken to the president.
According to Morrison, Taylor told Kent, “POTUS wanted nothing less than President Zelensky to go to the microphone and say, ‘investigation, Biden and Clinton.’ ”
In return for what was not clear.
But in a follow-up call to Kent, Taylor elaborated that Sondland was trying to “open up the possibility of a [Zelensky] visit to the White House.”
Taylor indicated that Sondland was pushing for Zelensky to do an interview, maybe with CNN, “in which he would send this public signal of announcing a willingness to pursue investigations,” Kent testified.
He said he thought the “hope was that sending that signal would clear the way for both the White House visit as well as the resumption or the clearing of the administrative hold on security assistance … although . … Taylor asserted to me that both Tim Morrison and Gordon Sondland specifically said that they did not believe the two issues were linked.”
Taylor told Kent he told Sondland, “This is wrong.”
— Ellen Nakashima
4:15 p.m.: Appeals court to review order to release Mueller grand jury material to Congress
A federal appeals court in Washington will consider next week whether the Justice Department must release to Congress certain grand jury materials from former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit announced Thursday that it would hear oral arguments Tuesday to review a ruling from last month that requires disclosure of the secret material the House Judiciary Committee is seeking in its impeachment inquiry.
In her ruling last month, Judge Beryl A. Howell, chief of the U.S. District Court in Washington, found the House was legally engaged in a judicial process that exempts Congress from grand jury secrecy rules.
The Justice Department, which opposes release of the information, quickly appealed.
— Ann E. Marimow
4:15 p.m.: Kent suggests Trump set a bad example for Ukraine on corruption
Pushed by Intelligence Committee Chair Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) about whether it was appropriate for a U.S. president to ask for an investigation of an American citizen, Kent said it was not.
“As a general principle, I don’t think that as a matter of policy the U.S. should do that period, because I have spent much of my career trying to improve the rule of law. And in countries like Ukraine and Georgia … there is an outstanding issue about people in office in those countries using selectively politically motivated prosecutors to go after their opponents. And that’s wrong for the rule of law regardless of what country that happens.”
Schiff pressed, “And … having the President of the United States effectively ask for a political investigation of his opponent would run directly contrary to all of the anticorruption efforts that we were making. Is that a fair statement?”
Kent agreed: “I would say that request does not align with what has been our policy towards Ukraine and many other countries, yes.”
4:10 p.m.: Kent describes Giuliani’s effort to secure visa for Ukrainian prosecutor accused of corruption
Kent told the House impeachment inquiry that he never had any personal dealings with Giuliani, but he described having a central role in a key episode: Trump’s effort to secure a U.S. visa for Viktor Shokin, Ukraine’s former prosecutor general.
Kent was brought into the loop once Giuliani’s request reached the upper echelons of the State Department in January 2019.
Asked for his view of Shokin, Kent was withering: “There was a broad-based consensus that he was a typical Ukraine prosecutor who lived a lifestyle far in excess of his government salary, who never prosecuted anybody known for having committed a crime, and having covered up crimes that were known to have been committed.”
He added: “We felt, under no circumstances, should a visa be issued to someone who knowingly subverted and wasted U.S. taxpayer money. And as somebody who had a fiduciary responsibility for anticorruption programs, I felt personally strongly … that it was incorrect and so we stated that view clearly” to the department officials overseeing visas.
Kent said he understood that Shokin wanted to come to the U.S. “to share information suggesting that there was corruption at the U.S. Embassy” — an allegation that Kent said he and others gave little credibility: “I had full faith that it was bunch of hooey, and he was looking to basically engage in a con game out of revenge because he’d lost his job.”
4:05 p.m.: Kent says Shokin’s ouster was over corruption, not Burisma
Kent delivered a blow to Trump allies’ repeated assertions that former vice president Joe Biden sought to oust Ukrainian prosecutor Viktor Shokin because he was probing a company linked to his son Hunter Biden, called Burisma.
Rather, Kent testified that as the No. 2 at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv at the time, even he, a seasoned diplomat with vast Ukrainian connections, was unaware of any investigation into Burisma. Kent also emphasized that U.S. officials and American allies found Sholkin to be corrupt after the so called “diamond prosecutor affair,” when law enforcement “confiscated from his former driver … a cache of diamonds.”
“Our concerns about Shokin’s conduct in office were triggered by the reaction to the so-called diamond prosecutor case,” Kent told lawmakers, later adding: “The conversation was very much focused, first and foremost, on the so-called diamond prosecutors case that involved these corrupt prosecutors, Korniyets and Shapakin.”
“So as the number two in the embassy, at this time, you weren’t even aware of even an allegation that there was an investigation underway by Shokin involving Burisma?” House Intelligence Chair Adam B. Schiff asked for clarity.
“That was not something that I recall ever coming up or being discussed,” Kent said.
— Rachael Bade
4 p.m.: Kent says Giuliani associates Parnas and Fruman sought meetings with top Ukrainians
In the spring of 2019, Ukrainian officials started reporting to State Department officials that they were getting requests to meet with Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, two Florida business executives working with Giuliani on his project to dig up dirt on Democrats in Ukraine. The duo were arrested last month and charged with illegally channeling foreign money into U.S. campaign donations.
According to the transcript of Kent’s testimony, Interior Minister Arsen Avakov told Kent that during a trip to the U.S. in February, he’d been asked to detour to Florida to sit down with Parnas, Fruman and Giuliani. He told Kent that his schedule had been too busy to accommodate the sit-down.
Kent testified another Ukrainian named Ivan Bakanov also said that he’d received a similar request. Kent described Bakanov as the oldest friend of Volodymyr Zelensky, who was elected Ukraine’s president that month. Zelensky later made Bakanov head of the country’s security services. Kent said that Bakanov told him that Giuliani and his associates were planning a trip to Ukraine and wanted to meet with him.
Bakanov asked Kent his opinion of accepting such a meeting. According to the transcript, Kent said he repeated to Bakanov what he had once been told by Avakov: “He told me, ‘you can always meet and have a cup of coffee and not make any commitments.’ ”
Ultimately, Giuliani canceled the trip after the New York Times reported on his plans. But Kent said that Bakanov later sent him a photo of Parnas and Fruman’s business cards, suggesting the meeting went ahead without Giuliani.
—Rosalind S. Helderman
3:55 p.m.: Kent criticizes Giuliani’s ‘campaign of lies’ against Yovanovitch
Asked about comments made by Giuliani to Ukrainian journalists that Yovanovitch was removed from her post for working against Trump, Kent said that statement was “a continuation of his campaign of lies.”
“Mr. Giuliani, at that point, had been carrying on a campaign for several months full of lies and incorrect information about Ambassador Yovanovitch, so this was a continuation of his campaign of lies,” Kent said.
Kent said Giuliani is free to say whatever he’d like as a private citizen but that his “assertions and allegations” against Yovanovitch “were without basis, untrue, period.”
3:45 p.m.: Kent alerted by Ukrainians to ‘mud’ being spread by Giuliani
Kent explained how he first became aware that Giuliani was getting involved in Ukraine: From the Ukrainians.
Kent testified that in February, he and Ukraine’s interior minister, Arsen Avakov, attended a conference together. During a meeting afterward, Avakov warned Kent that Giuliani had recently met with Yuriy Lutsenko, Ukraine’s top prosecutor, in a meeting in New York.
“I said, ‘did he know what the purpose was,’ and the Minister of Interior Avakov said it was to throw mud,” Kent testified.
“And I said, ‘throw mud at whom?’ And he said, ‘a lot of people.’ I asked him, ‘whom?’ and he said, ‘toward Masha, towards you, towards others.’”
“Masha” is a reference to Yovanovitch. She was removed from her post in May, after a months’ long campaign waged by Giuliani and others, arguing she was not loyal to Trump.
Kent’s testimony demonstrates the extent to which the campaign against Yovanovitch was being pushed by a Ukrainian, Lutsenko, who had his own motives for her removal.
— Rosalind S. Helderman
3:40 p.m.: GOP senators called Trump about aid freeze
Several Republican senators called Trump about the hold on military aid to Ukraine, including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), Kent testified.
He said he was aware that senators, “particularly from the Republican side,” who were on relevant committees and had traveled to Ukraine contacted the White House.
“I saw an email that Sen. [Jim] Inhofe had about a 20-minute conversation,” Kent said. “ … Sen. [Rob] Portman called, including the day [the hold] was lifted. And my understanding is that Senate Majority Leader McConnell also called.”
3:30 p.m.: Kent testified that Burisma had a ‘bad reputation’
Kent testified that Burisma, the energy company that paid Hunter Biden $50,000 a month to sit on its board, had a bad reputation, criticism that Trump allies are certain to use against his father, former vice president Joe Biden.
Kent testified to impeachment investigators that he raised concerns with the vice president’s office about Hunter’s paid position but was rebuffed. Republicans also pushed Kent on why he had those concerns.
“Mr. Secretary … you knew Burisma was a troubled, corrupt company, right?” asked Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), a Trump ally.
“As I said, Burisma had a reputation for being, first of all, one of the largest private producers of natural gas in Ukraine but also had a reputation for not being the sort of corporate, cleanest member of the business community,” Kent agreed.
Kent went on to confirm that he advised USAID not to do any coordinated activity with Burisma because of that reputation.
— Rachael Bade
3:15 p.m.: Kent described ‘great confusion’ over hold on military aid
In the testimony release Thursday, Kent said he and other participants in a July 18 call felt “great confusion” when a representative from the Office of Management and Budget said Mulvaney put a hold on military aid to Ukraine at Trump’s request.
“We didn’t understand why that had had happened,” he told impeachment investigators, adding that he did not recall OMB providing any reasoning.
“There was a lack of clarity,” he said. “The participants … did not receive an explanation for why this particular action was taken.”
— Elise Viebeck
2:50 p.m.: Swalwell says Democrats should block any attempt to subpoena whistleblower
Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) said Democrats should exercise their right to block Republicans from subpoenaing testimony from the whistleblower, hours after Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) said his party planned to add that person to their list of impeachment witnesses.
Swalwell told reporters after Thursday’s closed-door testimony that Republican attacks seem designed to “punish the whistleblower, put the whistleblower in harm’s way.”
“I look at the whistleblower like someone who pulled the fire alarm,” he said. “First responders show up, and they see flames, smoke, burning building, an arsonist holding the gasoline can with matches. You don’t really need to know who pulled the fire alarm.”
Swalwell declined to share details from Williams’s interview but said lawmakers have “not heard a single witness yet” provide testimony that undercut allegations of a quid pro quo involving aid dollars, which he called a “defense dollars for dirt” scheme.
“We have not yet seen an arrow going in any direction other than this was a shakedown led by the president of the United States,” he said.
— Elise Viebeck
2 p.m.: Williams leaves secure area of Capitol
Williams has left the secure area of the Capitol where depositions are being conducted and appears to be done for the day.
1:25 p.m.: Former Volker adviser returns to Capitol
Christopher Anderson, a former adviser to former special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker who testified to House investigators late last month, has arrived at the Capitol.
It is customary for witnesses to review transcripts of their depositions.
Anderson testified that in a June meeting, Bolton cautioned that Giuliani was a key voice to Trump on Ukraine and could be an obstacle to White House engagement.
12:40 p.m.: Meadows unconcerned about possible Bolton testimony
Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) said Thursday that he is “not concerned” about any testimony that Bolton might provide impeachment investigators if a court clears the way for the former national security adviser’s participation in the inquiry.
Exiting Thursday’s closed-door session, Meadows said he does not believe testimony from Bolton would be harmful to Trump “based on other testimony I’ve heard.”
“The more transparent we can be with all of it, that’s a good thing, but that’s not my call — that’s [House Intelligence Committee] Chairman [Adam] Schiff’s call,” he said when asked whether Bolton should have appeared Thursday.
Meadows declined to share details about Williams’s ongoing deposition but said he was also not concerned about Pence’s role in the Ukraine saga, repeating his claim that “there was no linkage between [military] aid and any other conditionality.”
Ahead of next week’s open hearings, Meadows said, Republicans will be focused on making the public “understand what the motivations are behind certain witnesses or lack thereof.”
— Elise Viebeck
12:30 p.m.: Schiff gives Republicans Saturday deadline for proposed witnesses
House Republicans must submit a list of proposed witnesses by Saturday morning, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) said in a letter Thursday to Rep. Devin Nunes (Calif.), the top Republican on the panel.
“The Committee looks forward to receiving by November 9, within the Resolution’s stipulated deadline, the Minority’s written request for witnesses, and is prepared to consult on proposed witnesses to evaluate their relevance to the inquiry’s scope,” Schiff said in the letter.
Some Republicans have floated the idea of requesting that the anonymous whistleblower testify before the committee. Others have proposed that Schiff himself be required to testify, although the likelihood of that happening appears slim: All witnesses must be approved by Schiff or by a vote of the full committee, on which Democrats hold a majority.
12 p.m.: Pence says there was ‘no quid pro quo’ with Ukraine
In an exchange with reporters in New Hampshire, Pence defended Trump and maintained that there was “no quid pro quo” with Ukraine, despite the testimony of current and former administration officials in recent weeks.
“The American people have the transcript of the president’s call, and they can see there was no quid pro quo,” Pence said, referring to allegations that Trump conditioned the release of withheld U.S. military aid to Ukraine on the launch of investigations that Trump sought.
Pence argued that the Trump administration has “made military support available for Ukraine” since soon after Trump entered the White House. And he described the impeachment inquiry as “a disgrace” and an effort by Democrats to overturn the results of the 2016 election.
Pence was in the Granite State to file the Trump-Pence 2020 ticket on the New Hampshire primary ballot.
11:45 a.m.: Trump Jr. says he doesn’t regret tweeting about alleged whistleblower
Donald Trump Jr. appeared on ABC’s “The View” with his partner, Kimberly Guilfoyle, on Thursday morning to promote his new book, “Triggered.” But the appearance quickly turned heated after the hosts, led by Abby Huntsman, pressed Trump Jr. on his Wednesday retweet of a Breitbart News article that allegedly named the whistleblower.
Trump Jr. said he “didn’t want to create hysteria” but doesn’t regret sending the tweet, arguing that the identity of the anonymous whistleblower “is not some secret.”
“I don’t regret doing it,” he said. “I don’t think I should have to forgo my First Amendment rights.”
Guilfoyle, a former prosecutor, was asked whether she advised Trump Jr. not to retweet the article. She responded that she was not aware until after he had sent the tweet.
“I left you alone for 10 minutes,” she said. “What happens when mamacita’s gone?”
11:40 a.m.: Bolton is a no-show before House investigators
Former national security adviser John Bolton declined to appear before House investigators on Thursday, according to an Intelligence Committee official, who said Bolton’s attorney said he would have contested a subpoena in court.
“We regret Mr. Bolton’s decision not to appear voluntarily, but we have no interest in allowing the Administration to play rope-a-dope with us in the courts for months. Rather, the White House instruction that he not appear will add to the evidence of the president’s obstruction of Congress,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss closed-door proceedings.
The Washington Post reported earlier Thursday that Bolton was willing to defy the White House and testify in the House impeachment inquiry about his alarm at the Ukraine pressure campaign if a federal court clears the way, according to people familiar with his views.
11:35 a.m.: Pompeo rejects former adviser’s account
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo denied Thursday that his former senior adviser, Michael McKinley, raised the issue of the ousted U.S. ambassador to Ukraine to him when asked about McKinley’s sworn testimony that he had brought up her situation to Pompeo three times.
“When Ambassador [Marie] Yovanovitch returned to the U.S., he didn’t raise that issue with me,” Pompeo said at a news conference in Germany.
Pompeo added that because McKinley’s focus wasn’t Ukraine, “it shouldn’t surprise anyone that in May when that took place, he didn’t say a thing to me.”
Pompeo has faced criticism about his failure to defend Yovanovitch since details of her ouster became public in her testimony before House impeachment investigators last month.
Pompeo’s decision to focus on the month of May appeared to intentionally evade the fact that McKinley testified that he raised the idea of defending Yovanovitch three times in September.
McKinley testified that he pushed for the State Department to defend Yovanovitch in a statement, after the publication of the rough transcript between President Trump and Ukraine’s president showed Trump disparaging her and calling her “bad news.”
At that time, McKinley said he wanted a statement to underscore Yovanovitch’s “professionalism and courage.” However, McKinley testified that Pompeo decided against issuing such a statement as to “not draw undue attention to her.”
McKinley described the lack of a State Department response “puzzling and baffling” because he had confirmed with Yovanovitch that she would “welcome” a statement of support.
— John Hudson
11:30 a.m.: Bolton willing to defy White House and testify if court clears the way, according to people familiar with his views
Former national security adviser John Bolton is willing to defy the White House and testify in the House impeachment inquiry about his alarm at the Ukraine pressure campaign if a federal court clears the way, according to people familiar with his views.
Bolton could be a powerful witness for Democrats: Top State Department and national security officials have already testified that he was deeply concerned about efforts by Trump and his allies to push Ukraine to open investigations into the president’s political rivals while the administration held up military aid to that country.
The former national security adviser, who abruptly left his post in September, is expected to confirm their statements and describe his conversations with Trump, according to the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the ongoing inquiry.
— Carol D. Leonnig and Tom Hamburger
10:40 a.m.: Schumer criticizes Paul for blocking whistleblower resolution
Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) criticized Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) for blocking a resolution Wednesday that would have reaffirmed the Senate’s support for whistleblower protection laws.
“Even though his or her account has been verified by other sources, the White House — and, most particularly, the junior senator from Kentucky — seem committed to discrediting the whistleblower, disclosing the whistleblower’s identity and turning the right-wing media machine on this person, and they can be vicious,” Schumer said Thursday in remarks on the Senate floor.
The whistleblower-protection laws referenced in Wednesday’s resolution, which was introduced by Schumer and Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), “have been on the books for a very long time,” Schumer added.
“We’re going down a dangerous road when members of this body are refusing to stand up for our nation’s laws,” Schumer said.
Paul said he was blocking the resolution because Senate Democrats refused to consider his own whistleblower legislation, the Hill reported.
10:30 a.m.: Trump complains about House rules, takes another shot at The Washington Post
Trump returned to Twitter to complain that, under House rules, he will not be allowed to have a lawyer present next week when public hearings begin before the House Intelligence Committee.
“It was just explained to me that for next weeks Fake Hearing (trial) in the House, as they interview Never Trumpers and others, I get NO LAWYER & NO DUE PROCESS,” he tweeted, before taking aim at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.).
“It is a Pelosi, Schiff, Scam against the Republican Party and me,” he added. “This Witch Hunt should not be allowed to proceed!”
Trump will be allowed to have a lawyer in the room if the Judiciary Committee moves forward with impeachment proceedings once the Intelligence Committee wraps up its work and issues a report.
Trump would also be represented by counsel if a trial is held in the Senate following impeachment by the House.
In another tweet, Trump took another shot at The Washington Post for its report that Trump sought to have Barr hold a news conference regarding his call with Zelensky.
In his latest tweet on the subject, Trump named the story’s three authors, calling them “lowlife reporters” and said The Post is a “garbage newspaper.”
10:05 a.m.: Williams testifying under subpoena, official says
Williams is testifying under subpoena, according to an official working on the impeachment inquiry who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss closed-door proceedings.
“In light of an attempt by the White House to direct Jennifer Williams not to appear for her scheduled deposition, and efforts to limit any testimony that does occur, the House Intelligence Committee issued a subpoena to compel her testimony this morning,” the official said, adding that Williams was now answering questions from Democratic and Republican lawmakers and staff.
10 a.m.: A Ukrainian twist in Trump’s Greenland ‘debacle’ has Danes puzzled
When it was first revealed in August that Trump wanted to purchase Greenland from Denmark, many Danes initially assumed it was a joke. It was not until the president postponed a visit to Copenhagen — citing the Danish government’s lack of interest in selling the autonomous island — that many Danes realized he was serious about this idea.
The U.S. president may have been serious about it, but the whole notion was “absurd,” as Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen put it.
The awkward episode that has strained Danish-U. S. relations in recent months surfaced once again on Wednesday, when House investigators released a transcript of the closed-door testimony of the acting ambassador to Ukraine, William B. Taylor Jr. As part of the ongoing impeachment inquiry, Taylor was supposed to testify on questions surrounding Trump’s decision to withhold military aid to Ukraine this summer.
— Rick Noack
9:55 a.m.: Trump demands Bidens testify in impeachment proceedings
Trump demanded Thursday that Biden and his son Hunter be called to testify as part of impeachment proceedings.
In a tweet, Trump quoted Sen. John Neely Kennedy (R-La.) asking, “What did Hunter Biden do for the money?”
“A very good question,” Trump added in his own words. “He and Sleepy Joe must testify.”
Trump routinely refers to the former vice president and 2020 presidential candidate as “Sleepy Joe.”
Hunter Biden served on the board of a Ukrainian gas company while his father was vice president, reportedly making about $50,000 a month.
9:40 a.m.: Trump’s allies turned to online campaign in quest to unmask Ukraine whistleblower
Tweets on Wednesday by Donald Trump Jr. capped more than a month of efforts by the president’s allies to surface the supposed name of the whistleblower.
Most news organizations, including The Washington Post, have withheld the name of the whistleblower, whose account about Trump’s call with Zelensky has been largely confirmed by diplomats and others with firsthand knowledge as well as by a reconstructed transcript released by the White House. The whistleblower’s name has been kept confidential by U.S. officials, in line with federal law designed to prevent retaliation.
But the supposed name of the whistleblower has been circulating in conservative corners of social media since at least Oct. 3, culminating in Trump Jr.’s Wednesday morning retweet of a Breitbart News article that named an individual. During one 24-hour period last week, the CIA officer’s name was mentioned in more than 150,000 tweets.
— Isaac Stanley-Becker and Craig Timberg
9:05 a.m.: Jordan says Republicans will request whistleblower as witness
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), a staunch defender of Trump, told reporters that Republicans will request that the whistleblower whose complaint sparked the impeachment inquiry be included among the witnesses who will testify in open hearings.
Under rules adopted by the House, Republicans have the right to request witnesses, but they must be approved House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) or by a vote of the full committee, on which Democrats hold a majority of seats.
— Karoun Demirjian
9 a.m.: Trump calls for end of impeachment inquiry, citing 2017 tweets by lawyer for whistleblower
Trump called for an immediate end to the impeachment inquiry on Thursday, citing 2017 tweets predicting his impeachment by Mark S. Zaid, one of the lawyers representing the whistleblower whose complaint sparked the Democratic-led inquiry.
“Based on the information released last night about the Fake Whistleblowers attorney, the Impeachment Hoax should be ended IMMEDIATELY!” Trump tweeted. “There is no case, except against the other side!”
Zaid responded on Twitter in January 2017 to Trump’s firing of Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates for refusing to enforce executive policies.
“#coup has started. First of many steps. #rebellion. #impeachment will follow ultimately,” Zaid wrote.
In July 2017 tweets, Zaid also predicted on Twitter that CNN “would play a key role in @realDonaldTrump not finishing out his full term as president” and said: “We will get rid of him, and this country is strong enough to survive even him and his supporters.”
8:55 a.m.: Williams has arrived at the Capitol
Williams has arrived at the Capitol ahead of her scheduled closed-door deposition.
Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a senior National Security Council official, has also entered the secure area of the Capitol where depositions are being taken. It is customary for past witnesses to return to review transcripts of their depositions.
Vindman previously testified that a top White House lawyer instructed him not to discuss his grave concerns about Trump’s conversation with Zelensky with anyone outside the White House.
8:50 a.m.: ‘Read the Transcript!’ Trump urges his Twitter followers
Trump returned to Twitter to take another shot at The Washington Post, calling the publication “degenerate” for its report that he sought a Barr news conference, and to urge his more than 66 million followers to “Read the Transcript!”
He was referring to the rough transcript the White House released of the July call in which he pressed Zelensky to investigate the Bidens. Trump has repeatedly said the call was “perfect” and has argued that it shows he did nothing wrong because he does not explicitly condition the release of withheld military aid on the investigations he is seeking.
7:30 a.m.: Trump pushes back on reports he sought a Barr news conference
Trump dismissed as “FAKE NEWS” reports that he wanted Barr to hold a news conference declaring that Trump broke no laws during a phone call in which he pressed his Ukrainian counterpart to investigate the Bidens.
According to a story first reported by The Washington Post, Barr ultimately declined to do so, and Trump has mentioned Barr’s demurral to associates in recent weeks, saying he wished Barr would have held the news conference.
Other outlets, including the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, later matched The Post’s report.
“Bill Barr did not decline my request to talk about Ukraine,” Trump tweeted Thursday morning. “The story was a Fake Washington Post con job with an ‘anonymous’ source that doesn’t exist.”
His comments echoed other tweets sent after midnight in which he called The Post’s report “totally untrue and just another FAKE NEWS story.”
“The LameStream Media, which is The Enemy of the People, is working overtime with made up stories in order to drive dissension and distrust!” Trump contended.
His tweets came early Thursday morning after returning from a Wednesday night campaign rally in Monroe, La.
At that event, Trump accused Democrats of “trying to overthrow American democracy to impose their socialist agenda” and attacked one of the lawyers representing the whistleblower whose complaint sparked the impeachment inquiry.
7 a.m.: Pence staffer expected to appear for closed-door deposition
House investigators expect to hear Thursday from the first person from Vice President Pence’s staff to give testimony in the impeachment probe.
Williams is Pence’s special adviser on Europe and Russia, and could offer important insights into the vice president’s interactions with Ukrainian leaders and any contact that he might have had with Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer.
Williams’s attorney confirmed Wednesday night that his client intends to appear.
“Jennifer is a longtime dedicated State Department employee,” her attorney, Justin Shur, said in a statement. “If required to appear, she will answer the Committees’ questions. We expect her testimony will largely reflect what is already in the public record.”
Williams is among the last witnesses scheduled to provide a closed-door deposition before public hearings begin next week.
6:30 a.m.: Bolton expected to be a no-show for deposition
Former national security adviser John Bolton has been summoned to the Capitol for a deposition on Thursday but is not expected to appear.
Bolton, who left the White House amid acrimony with Trump in September, could offer direct testimony about the president’s alleged efforts to pressure Zelensky for information on the Bidens in exchange for U.S. military aid and a meeting with the president.
Top State Department and national security officials have already testified that Bolton was deeply concerned about those efforts.
5 a.m.: Sen. Kennedy calls Pelosi ‘dumb’ at Trump rally
Sen. John Neely Kennedy (R-La.), appearing alongside Trump at a campaign rally in Monroe, La., on Wednesday night, questioned the intelligence of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who launched the impeachment inquiry.
“In three short years, President Trump has doubled the growth in the greatest economy in all of human history. And do you know what our Democratic friends have done for him?” Kennedy asked. “Speaker Nancy Pelosi is trying to impeach him.”
“I don’t mean any disrespect, but it must suck to be that dumb,” Kennedy added, as Trump stood beside him grinning.