Trump impeachment inquiry: All the latest updates

In landmark vote, US House approves rules on impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump.

The House is set to have first vote in the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump's dealings with Ukraine [File:Alex Brandon/The Associated Press]

The Democratic-controlled US House of Representatives on Thursday held its first vote in the impeachment investigation of President Donald Trump

In a 232-196 vote, the House approved a measure establishing rules for public hearings and the release of transcripts from closed-door proceedings. The measure also outlined what rights Republican politicians and Trump himself would have to participate as the process moves ahead.

The impeachment inquiry focuses on a July 25 telephone call in which Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to investigate Democratic political rival Joe Biden, a former US vice president, and his son Hunter, who had served as a director for Ukrainian energy company Burisma. Trump has denied wrongdoing and called the inquiry a sham. There has been no evidence of wrongdoing by the Bidens. 

The investigation examines whether Trump misused the power of his office for personal political gain and, if so, whether that rises to the level of “high crimes and misdemeanors” that merit impeachment and removal from office under the Constitution.

Here are all the latest updates.

Friday, November 1:

Pelosi says public hearings will likely begin in November

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Friday she expected public hearings in the impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump to begin this month.

“I would assume there would be public hearing in November,” the top House Democrat said in an interview with Bloomberg. Any case that is made to impeach the president, she said, “has to be ironclad.”

On Thursday, the House, voting largely along party lines, passed a resolution formalising the impeachment inquiry and setting parameters for the public hearings.

Trump says he may read memo of Ukraine call on live television

President Donald Trump has said he would not cooperate with congressional impeachment proceedings and might read out loud a transcript of a July 25 call in which Trump asked President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate a domestic political rival, according to an interview with the Washington Examiner. 

“This is over a phone call that is a good call,” Trump told the Examiner. “At some point, I’m going to sit down, perhaps as a fireside chat on live television, and I will read the transcript of the call, because people have to hear it. When you read it, it’s a straight call.”

Trump was referring to the informal evening radio addresses former US President Franklin D. Roosevelt gave to reassure Americans facing hardships during the Great Depression and World War II in the 1930s and 1940s. 

Poll: More Americans approve of impeachment investigation 

More Americans approve of the impeachment investigation into President Donald Trump than disapprove of it, though only about a third say the inquiry should be a top priority for Congress, according to a new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

Overall, 47 percent said they support the impeachment inquiry, while 38 percent disapprove.

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Protesters call to impeach President Donald Trump in Lafayette Square Park in front of the White House. [File: Carolyn Kaster/The Associated Press]

That solid, if measured, support serves as a warning sign for Trump’s White House and reelection campaign, which have insisted that pursuing impeachment will end up being a vulnerability for Democrats heading into 2020.

But the findings present some red flags for Democrats, too. More people say House members are motivated mainly by politics rather than by duty as they investigate the Republican president’s dealings with Ukraine and whether he abused his office or compromised national security when he tried to pressure the country to dig up dirt on a political rival.

House probe zeroes in on White House Lawyers

The House impeachment inquiry is zeroing in on two White House lawyers privy to a discussion about moving a memo recounting President Donald Trump’s July 25 phone call with the leader of Ukraine into a highly restricted computer system normally reserved for documents about covert action.

Deepening their reach into the West Wing, impeachment investigators are seeking testimony of two political appointees – John Eisenberg, the lead lawyer for the National Security Council (NSC), and Michael Ellis, a senior associate counsel to the president.

The lawyers’ role is critical because two witnesses have suggested the NSC legal counsel – when told that Trump asked a foreign leader for domestic political help – took the extraordinary step of shielding access to the transcript not because of its covert nature but rather its potential damage to the Republican president.

Thursday, October 31:

Report: Trump adviser on Russia and Europe corroborates, contradicts

Tim Morrison, who stepped down from the National Security Council a day before testifying in the House impeachment probe, confirmed some aspects of earlier witnesses testimonies while contradicted others during his appearance on Thursday, the Associated Press reported. 

Morrison largely confirmed much of what a top diplomat, William Taylor, said in earlier testimony, that the two had multiple phone conversations raising concerns about the Trump administration’s approach towards Ukraine, the Associated Press cited a person familiar with the closed-door testimony as saying. 

Meanwhile, some Republicans said Morrison’s opening statement contradicted another key witness, Army officer Alexander Vindman, who handled Ukraine issues at the National Security Council. Vindman testified Tuesday that he twice sounded the alarm over the Trump administration actions.

However, the specific contradictions were not immediately made clear. 

“Mr Morrison’s testimony is very damaging to the Democrat narrative,” Republican Representative Mark Meadows said. “They’ve all of a sudden gotten quiet today because this particular witness is very credible and has given evidence that suggests some of the other witnesses have been less than candid.”

Giuliani responds to House vote formalising probe

President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, condemned the passage of a resolution formalising the House impeachment inquiry on Thursday. 

Giuliani has loomed large over the probe, with several witnesses testifying before Congress that his role as an unofficial emissary to Ukraine often blurred what was considered official statecraft. 

“This is Speaker Pelosi weaponizing the House against the president and Schiff trampling over our Democracy,” he wrote on Twitter, referencing leading Democrats in the House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff. 

Earlier in the month, Giuliani defied a subpoena from House panels leading the investigation. 

Analyst: House vote may help upcoming court cases

Michael Isikoff, chief investigative correspondent at Yahoo News, told Al Jazeera that the House vote formalising the impeachment inquiry may help in the upcoming court case of a Trump administration official who has defied a subpoena to testify in the inquiry. 

Charles Kupperman, a former deputy to former National Security Adviser John Bolton, had filed a lawsuit in federal court on Monday asking a judge to resolve the question of whether he can be forced to testify before the House panel since he was a close and frequent adviser to the president, who has invoked executive privilege.

“Having the house formally vote, gives the democrats more ammunition to argue that Kupperman’s testimony is needed in the impeachment inquiry. He was deputy national security adviser, and if the judge who hears the case … approves that it almost certainly gives the greenlight to John Bolton to testify as well,” Isikoff said. 

“If the Democrats get Bolton’s testimony, it could be political dynamite,” he added. 

A hearing for Kupperman’s case was scheduled for Thursday afternoon. 

Trump, White House denounce House vote

President Trump has condemned a House vote that formalised the impeachment investigation on Thursday. 

Trump took to Twitter just moments after the resolution, which sets the parameters for the inquiry and public hearings going forward, passed by a 232-196 vote mostly along party lines. 

“The greatest witch hunt in American history!” Trump wrote. 

Meanwhile, White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a statement that the vote enshrined “unacceptable violations of due process into House rules”.

She further described the inquiry as “unfair, unconstitutional, and fundamentally un-American”.

Her statement was echoed by Trump’s re-election campaign which accused Democrats of trying to legitimise the investigation, which they have already been conducting for more than two weeks, after the fact.

The US Constitution does not require a vote for the House to launch an impeachment investigation. 

“Voters will punish Democrats who support this farce and President Trump will be easily re-elected,” campaign manager Brad Parscale said. 

House passes resolution formalising impeachment inquiry

The Democratic-controlled House of Representatives voted to approve a resolution on Thursday that sets rules for public hearings in the impeachment inquiry of President Trump. 

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif. gavels as the House votes 232-196 to pass resolution on impeachment procedure [Andrew Harnik/The Associated Press]

The resolution, approved by a 232-196 vote, authorises House committees to move forward with formal, public hearings.

The move has largely been seen as an attempt to nullify the Trump administration and Republican claims that the inquiry is not official without a vote. 

Legislators voted mostly along party lines, with all Republicans voting against the resolution and two Democrats breaking from colleagues and voting “no”, as well. One Independent voted in favour.

Read more here

Trump, White House say ‘read the transcript’

In a tweet on Thursday, President Trump stood by his claims that the July 25 phone call with the Ukrainian president, which is at the heart of the House impeachment inquiry, contained no wrongdoing. 

“Read the transcript!” Trump tweeted as the House prepared to vote on a resolution that would formalise the impeachment inquiry as well as lay out the parameters for the inquiry going forward. 

Trump was referring to a memo of the phone call, which the White House released after a whistle-blower’s complaint about the call. The White House, quoting Trump’s tweet, later tweeted a copy of the memo, which is a recreation from notes, and not a direct transcript of the call. 

On Tuesday, an army officer and top Ukraine expert at the National Security Council told a closed-door House panel that the memo left out crucial words and phrases, the New York Times reported

Democratic, Republican House leaders give speeches before vote

Elected officials in the House of Representatives gave arguments on the House floor before Thursday’s vote to approve ground rules for their impeachment inquiry of Trump.

Standing next to a large US flag on the floor of the House, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the impeachment inquiry was necessary to defend the Constitution and prevent an abuse of power by Trump.

“The times have found each and every one of us in this room,” Pelosi said. She urged legislators to vote in favour of the impeachment rules “to protect the Constitution of the United States. What is at stake in all of this is nothing less than our democracy.”

Republicans largely portrayed the inquiry as a partisan attempt to undo the results of the 2016 presidential election, with House minority leader Kevin McCarthy, the top Republican in Congress, saying Democrats have tried to unjustly portray Trump’s “legitimate actions” with Ukraine as an impeachable offence. 

“For 37 days and counting they [democrats] have run and unprecedented undemocratic and unfair investigation, this resolution today only makes it worse,” he said. 

Trump’s top adviser for Russian and European affairs scheduled to testify

Tim Morrison arrived on Capitol Hill on Thursday to appear before House impeachment investigators. Morrison plans to leave his job at the White House, a senior administration official who was not authorised to discuss Morrison’s job told the Associated Press news agency. 

Morrison is expected to corroborate the testimony of Ambassador William Taylor, who said last week that Morrison had notified him of a push by the president and his allies to withhold military aid and a White House meeting from Ukraine in exchange for an investigation into the gas company linked to Hunter Biden, the Washington Post reported.

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Former top national security adviser to President Donald Trump, Tim Morrison, arrived for a closed-door meeting to testify as part of the House impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump [Andrew Harnik/The Associated Press]

Wednesday, October 30

Democrats summon Bolton

Former National Security Adviser John Bolton will not agree to a voluntary interview in the impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump, his lawyer said on Wednesday, shortly after the former official was summoned by Democrats. 

The House committees leading the impeachment investigation had asked Bolton to appear behind closed doors next week. But Bolton’s lawyer, Charles Cooper, says Bolton will not appear without a subpoena.
Democrats have issued subpoenas to several other witnesses who ended up testifying.

Politicians want to hear from Bolton after other witnesses told them of his concerns with Trump’s dealings in Ukraine and the backchannel activities of Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer.

Read more here

State Dept officials offer further evidence of outside pressure to overthrow Ukraine envoy

Further evidence of private interests seeking the removal of former US Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch emerged on Wednesday in testimony to the Democratic-led impeachment inquiry. 

Catherine Croft, a Ukraine specialist at the State Department, said Robert Livingston, a former Republican congressman-turned-lobbyist, repeatedly urged that Yovanovitch be fired.

It was unclear why, she said in her opening statement to legislators, posted online by the Washington Post.

Read more here.