The latest on the Trump impeachment inquiry
Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the National Security Council's top Ukraine expert, is set to testify on Tuesday -- and his planned remarks appear to contradict previous testimony from Gordon Sondland, the US ambassador to the European Union.
What Vindman says: The statement says that in a July 10 meeting with Ukrainian and US officials, Sondland "started to speak about Ukraine delivering specific investigations in order to secure the meeting with the President," which prompted John Bolton to cut the meeting short.
Afterward, in a debriefing, Sondland "emphasized the importance that Ukraine deliver the investigations into the 2016 election, the Bidens, and Burisma."
"I stated to Amb. Sondland that his statements were inappropriate, that the request to investigate Biden and his son had nothing to do with national security, and that such investigations were not something the NSC was going to get involved in or push. Dr. (Fiona) Hill then entered the room and asserted to Amb. Sondland that his statements were inappropriate," Vindman's statement said.
What Sondland said: Vindman's account stands in contrast to Sondland's testimony about the meeting wherein he stated "if Ambassador Bolton, Dr. Hill, or others harbored any misgivings about the propriety of what we were doing, they never shared those misgivings with me, then or later."
Backing up Taylor: Notably, Vindman's accounting of the meeting matches the testimony of Bill Taylor, the top US diplomat in Ukraine, who told investigators Vindman and Hill had detailed the meeting to him.
"Specifically, they told me that Ambassador Sondland had connected 'investigations' with an Oval Office meeting for President Zelensky, which so irritated Ambassador Bolton that he abruptly ended the meeting, telling Dr. Hill and Mr. Vindman that they should have nothing to do with domestic politics. He also directed Dr. Hill to 'brief the lawyers,' " Taylor testified.
A Republican official said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s resolution may not corner Republicans as Democrats may hope when it comes to White House complaints about due process.
“This has been over a month of closed hearings and selective leaks. We’ll see if any of that changes but this seems like a symbolic vote after bending to pressure,” the official said.
A source close to the White House agreed and said the “objective” was to force Pelosi to call for a vote on the impeachment inquiry.
But a Trump legal team source was taking a much more cautious approach to the Pelosi resolution, acknowledging the president’s lawyers don’t know what’s in it yet.
“I don’t know what the resolution actually says,” the source said. “So we will see.”
In contentious interviews with CNN's Manu Raju, two House Republicans struggled to defend President Trump when pressed about whether it was okay for him to ask a foreign country to investigate the Bidens.
Rep. Mark Amodei, who has previously signaled public support for the impeachment inquiry, repeatedly refused to answer questions about the substance of Trump's now-infamous July 25 call with the Ukrainian president.
Rep. Rodney Davis, whose seat is vulnerable in 2020, also sidestepped questions about the substance of the whistleblower allegation.
Davis told CNN that there is "no dispute" Trump asked the Ukrainian President to investigate the 2016 election, adding, "I thought we all were supposed to investigate what happened in the 2016 election."
But when pressed further, Davis again dodged questions about Trump calling for Ukraine to investigate the Bidens.
"Let's actually see what the witnesses are saying," Davis said. "Let's hear from everybody, not selective leaks that the Democrats want us to put out."
Asked about the House resolution House Speaker Pelosi announced today that would set out ground rules for the impeachment probe, both Republicans said that they would take a look. Davis, however, added that he "can't imagine" voting for what he described as "the sham process that they have put in place already."
CLARIFICATION: This article has been updated to clarify that Amodei has previously signaled public support for the impeachment inquiry, not impeaching the President.
Some Democrats have given CNN mixed reactions to the House impeachment inquiry vote later this week.
“I truthfully hate to see us get further and further and further into it," said Rep. Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey, one of the remaining few House Democrats who has not called for an impeachment inquiry. "It concerns me that we’re going to get as I’ve said many times before less good work done in a bipartisan way.”
Meanwhile, Rep. Max Rose of New York, who has come out in support of the impeachment inquiry, argued that Republicans will still attack Democrats over the inquiry whether they take the vote or not.
“We could have built any process,” Rose said. “Any process in the world, we could have appointed Mother Teresa to lead this whole thing and the Republican Party would still be talking process, process, process because they are consistently trying to distract and deflect. And I suspect after this vote they will continue to do that.”
Democratic Rep. Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey, who has also come out in support of the inquiry, said he was "eager" to see the resolution, and that he would comment further after he read it.
CNN has obtained a copy of Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman's opening statement ahead of his scheduled closed-door deposition Tuesday morning, in which he plans to say that he twice reported concerns about President Trump’s pressure on Ukraine.
In the statement, Vindman, the National Security Council's top Ukraine expert, says he reported his concerns out of a “sense of duty.”
Vindman said in his statement that he had listened to Trump's July 25 phone call with Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelensky, and was "concerned" by what he heard.
"I did not think it was proper to demand that a foreign government investigate a US citizen, and I was worried about the implications for the US government’s support of Ukraine. I realized that if Ukraine pursued an investigation into the Bidens and Burisma, it would likely be interpreted as a partisan play which would undoubtedly result in Ukraine losing the bipartisan support it has thus far maintained. This would all undermine US national security," the statement said.
The New York Times first reported on Vindman’s statement.
White House counselor Kellyanne Conway reacted tonight to the announcement that the House will vote on the impeachment inquiry
She asked reporters, “Isn’t this something they could have done five weeks ago?”
Conway added that the vote will happen “five weeks after the fact."
Asked whether the vote on Thursday will change the White House’s calculation on how to handle the inquiry, Conway said simply, “No, it doesn’t.”
Conway then went after House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, saying he has “no credibility” and called on Democratic Rep. Jim Himes to take over the investigation.
Sen. Mitt Romney, a Republican from Utah and frequent critic of President Trump, explained today why he also didn’t sign onto the Senate impeachment resolution.
"I’ve been reluctant from the beginning trying to advise the House on how they should proceed. Now that the Speaker has scheduled a vote on the impeachment inquiry, I think the issue has been over taken by events," he said.
More on the resolution: Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham introduced a resolution critical of the House impeachment process against Trump. It calls on the House to hold a vote to initiate a formal inquiry.
The resolution, co-sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, also argues that the House is "denying President Trump basic fairness and due process accorded every American."
Judge Richard Leon wants to hear from lawyers for the Trump White House, the House of Representatives and from impeachment witness Charles Kupperman this Thursday, after Kupperman filed a lawsuit asking the federal court to decide whether he would need to testify.
Kupperman’s House testimony was set for today, but Kupperman didn’t show up, citing White House and Justice Department reasoning that he was immune from testifying because of his previous work on the National Security Council.
Leon will meet the parties in court at 3 p.m. ET Thursday “due to the time-sensitive nature of the issues raised in this case," the DC District Court Judge wrote tonight.
House Democratic leaders announced earlier today that the full House will vote Thursday to formalize the procedures of the impeachment inquiry.
House investigators conducting the impeachment inquiry are hoping to hear testimony tomorrow from Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the National Security Council's top Ukraine expert, about his possible knowledge of the July 25 phone call when President Donald Trump pressed his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelensky, to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden.
That phone call between Trump and Zelensky is at the heart of the Democrats' impeachment inquiry, following a whistleblower complaint alleging that Trump had solicited foreign interference to dig up information on a political rival and the White House tried to cover it up.
Vindman could be subpoenaed before he appears, as the committees have issued subpoenas to the current administration officials who have testified this far.
Yet it remains unclear if he will show up Tuesday.
The uncertainty around whether Vindman will appear for his scheduled deposition has only increased after former deputy national security adviser Charles Kupperman, who was listening to Trump's July 25 call with Zelensky, failed to comply with a subpoena Monday.
About Vindman: He was one of five Trump administration officials chosen for a US delegation, led by Energy Secretary Rick Perry, to attend Zelensky's inauguration ceremony in May alongside Gordon Sondland, the US ambassador to the European Union, and Kurt Volker, who was then Trump's special envoy to Ukraine.