A version of this story first appeared in CNN’s Impeachment Watch newsletter. To get it in your inbox, sign up for free here.
Back from a recess, Democrats were debating whether to address gripes about the impeachment process and hold a vote authorizing their inquiry as it races forward.
New revelations about the extent of the Trump administration’s shadow diplomacy in Ukraine are emerging daily in closed-door testimony, and so far, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Democrats have been more swayed by the arguments against holding a vote – it would eat up time, they don’t technically need to and it would put moderates in their party officially on the record – than President Donald Trump’s complaints of unfairness. And it means the first votes of the impeachment inquiry could be on impeachment itself.
There is also full coverage of the CNN / New York Times Democratic presidential debate in Ohio, where Joe Biden and other candidates will have a chance to discuss the impeachment inquiry.
A pattern emerges
There’s a new detail each day, so it’s easy to lose track of the mosaic that’s emerging in remarkably consistent testimony of a shadow foreign policy – outside official channels but enabled by official introductions – that was being conducted by Trump’s private attorney to wound Joe Biden.
How do these pieces fit together?
- Defense hawks like John Bolton saw what he equated to a “drug deal” weeks before the July 25 call and apparently said Giuliani was a sort of “hand grenade” that would affect everyone involved with Ukraine policy.
- A Russia expert, Fiona Hill said she confronted US Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland, a Trump donor and confidant.
- Career diplomats like Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch saw an effort to undercut diplomats like her by Giuliani.
- Bill Taylor, her successor as the top official in the embassy, suggested in text messages he saw something like a quid pro quo.
- Former Ukraine special envoy Kurt Volker said he was just trying to find ways to mute Giuliani’s influence and get Zelensky and Trump on the same page despite Trump’s paranoia after 2016
- White House aides who were concerned from the outset didn’t like what they heard on Trump’s phone call with the Ukrainian President and tried to restrict access to it.
- The whistleblower, an intelligence professional, saw US political pressure being applied to a foreign head of state, and lodged a complaint.
Coming Thursday: Testimony by Sondland
Key question: What specific role did Trump tell Sondland that Giuliani should play in the Ukraine negotiations?
CNN’s Jeremy Herb reports State Department Deputy Assistant Secretary George Kent told lawmakers Tuesday that he was told by a supervisor to lay low after he raised complaints about Rudy Giuliani’s efforts in Ukraine undermining US foreign policy. That report came from Rep. Gerry Connolly, a senior member of the House Oversight Committee, who listened to Kent’s testimony after he complied with a subpoena and appeared on Capitol Hill Tuesday.
Kent testified that at a May meeting at the White House organized by acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, officials were told that three people would be in charge of Ukraine policy: Volker, Sondland and Energy Secretary Rick Perry.
Giuliani, Pence, OMB will defy House subpoenas
Vice President Mike Pence, who met with Ukraine’s President in September and discussed the frozen military aid, will not comply with the subpoena of House impeachment investigators.
Nor will the Office of Management and Budget, which appears to have withheld security funding from Ukraine at Trump’s urging over the summer is also defying a House subpoena.
New detail: Giuliani was paid $500,000 by Fraud Guarantee, the company associated with arrested Ukrainian-American businessman Lev Parnas. – LINK to Reuters
Republicans anxious about Rudy
Most Republicans in the House are all-in defending Trump against Democrats, but there is very little affinity for Giuliani, according to CNN’s Manu Raju and Lauren Fox, who write:
“It’s not as much about the substance of what is alleged – although members are holding their breath about if more comes to light – but it is about his style: his brashness, his unpredictability and his ability to show up on one cable news show after another without much warning.”
They also publish this quote:
“I worry a lot about non-professionals pursuing diplomacy…” said Rep. Francis Rooney, who served as an ambassador under President George W. Bush.
White House learning about testimony the way we all are
From CNN’s Kaitlan Collins:
On Tuesday, George Kent, the State Department official in charge of Ukraine policy, was the latest witness to be questioned. Fiona Hill, Trump’s former Russia adviser, sat down for more than 10 hours on Monday.
Watching this, officials are growing frustrated because they are mainly being forced to learn about what these officials divulged from news reporters. There is no White House counsel present in the room and officials are not given transcripts or readouts after they leave, one person told CNN.
Crowdstrike on Ukraine and Russia
Trump mentioned Crowdstrike by name during his July 25 phone call with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky. You can read all about why and how Crowdstrike is part of his conspiracy theory about the 2016 election for their work on behalf of the DNC that year.
CNN’s Julia Chatterly asked Crowdstrike George Kurtz, CEO of the $14 billion company, about Russia and Ukraine and hacking:
CHATTERLY: Could you have made a mistake back in 2016? Could operatives working in Ukraine have framed Russia for the hack on the DNC in 2016?
KURTZ: Well, that theory has been debunked. We have a world class forensics team. We like many other organizations provide forensic services to companies. And because of our technology and our people we’re able to understand in general who those actors were. But put that aside, if you look at what happened in this particular case, the US intelligence community organizations have proven that it was Russia, not Ukraine, and this has been backed up by the US government. There’s been DOJ investigations on this, and actually came up with 12 individuals that they charged. So this conspiracy theory has been debunked.
Liz Cheney’s logic on impeachment causing Turkey’s offensive
It was the President who decided to cede US involvement in Syria. That emboldened Turkey. But Rep. Liz Cheney, a member of the House Republican leadership, sees things differently.
Cheney: “The impeachment proceedings that are going on and what the Democrats are doing themselves to try to weaken this President is part of this. It was not an accident that the Turks chose this moment to roll across the border. And I think the Democrats have got to pay very careful attention to the damage that they’re doing with impeachment proceedings.”
John Bolton: antihero
Fiona Hill’s testimony means John Bolton, now-former national security adviser, will certainly be called to testify before House investigators.
Writes Michael D’Antonio: “Trump is facing the prospect of his presidency collapsing under the weight of sworn testimony from principled public servants like Hill and, perhaps, appointees he used, abused, and assumed he had defeated. First among them is his former national security adviser John Bolton, a powerful personality who is also inclined toward combat.”
It will be similarly awkward for Democrats who are pushing impeachment to seek testimony from Bolton, who has long been their policy enemy.
Hunter Biden has regrets about being swampy
“I did nothing wrong at all,” he said in an interview with ABC News.
“However, was it poor judgment to be in the middle of something that is – it’s a swamp, in many ways? Yeah.”
“Did I do anything improper? No, not in any way. Not in any way whatsoever.”
What are we doing here?
The President has invited foreign powers to interfere in the US presidential election.
Democrats want to impeach him for it.
It is a crossroads for the American system of government as the President tries to change what’s acceptable for US politicians. This newsletter will focus on this consequential moment in US history.