The latest on the Trump impeachment inquiry
The State Department’s inspector general has requested a bipartisan staff briefing with relevant congressional committees tomorrow related to documents on Ukraine, according to sources briefed on the matter.
The email that went to staff suggested it was “urgent,” sources said.
A congressional aide described the inspector general's request as “highly unusual and cryptically worded.”
The source also said that the inspector general stated the office had obtained documents from the acting legal adviser at the State Department.
Congressional sources tell CNN that the inspector general is expected to brief committee staff from House Foreign Affairs, Senate Foreign Relations, House and Senate Appropriations, House Oversight, Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs and both House and Senate intelligence committees. The briefing will be held in a secure meeting room in the Capitol.
The offer for documents came roughly an hour after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s strongly worded letter pushing back against the Democrats scheduled depositions of state officials and subpoena for documents, sources said.
ABC News first reported this story.
Former US Special Envoy for Ukraine Kurt Volker is still planning to appear at his deposition Thursday in front of three congressional committees, according to two sources familiar with Volker’s latest thinking.
Volker’s plan to follow through with his deposition comes after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accused House Democrats of intimidating and bullying State Department officials by calling for their depositions in the Ukraine inquiry starting this week, something he says is "not feasible."
It remains unclear whether the four current State Department officials will be deposed in the coming days by House committees, according to congressional sources.
CNN reported Saturday that Volker had planned to appear for the deposition.
In a letter to trustees of the McCain Institute on Saturday, Volker wrote that Congress requested his testimony and that he would “be complying with that request.”
Some background on Volker: His appearance before the Intelligence, Oversight and Reform and Foreign Affairs committees was announced just hours before the news broke Friday evening that he had resigned.
The chairmen of the House Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight committees released a statement today responding to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s accusations that they were “intimidating and bullying” State Department officials by calling them for depositions related to the Ukraine inquiry.
Instead, the Democratic lawmakers accused Pompeo of “intimidating Department witnesses in order to protect himself and the President,” noting that he was on Trump's July 25 phone call with the Ukrainian president.
“Secretary Pompeo was reportedly on the call when the President pressed Ukraine to smear his political opponent. If true, Secretary Pompeo is now a fact witness in the House impeachment inquiry. He should immediately cease intimidating Department witnesses in order to protect himself and the President,” the statement said.
“Any effort to intimidate witnesses or prevent them from talking with Congress — including State Department employees — is illegal and will constitute evidence of obstruction of the impeachment inquiry. In response, Congress may infer from this obstruction that any withheld documents and testimony would reveal information that corroborates the whistleblower complaint,” the statement added.
Florida attorney Jon Sale is representing Rudy Giuliani in the matter of the congressional impeachment inquiry, Giuliani and Sale both confirmed to CNN.
Giuliani was subpoenaed yesterday by the three committees in the House of Representatives investigating President Trump’s interactions with the Ukrainian government. The subpoena requests documents and correspondence from Giuliani related to Ukraine.
Giuliani has so far declined to say whether he will comply with the subpoena. Reached by phone today, Sale told CNN he just started looking into the requests.
“What I’ve already learned is this is very complex,” Sale said when asked if Giuliani planned to comply. “I really have to study it. I can’t shoot from the hip.”
“Every time I turn around, Rudy’s on another TV show,” Sale continued. “He and I could have a conversation, and then I turn on the television and he could be doing something else.”
Sale added that there are privileges, including attorney-client privilege and executive privilege, that have to be considered.
Giuliani told CNN today it’s “great to be working with such a great lawyer who knows the difference between a real investigation and a political [sic] orchestrated dirty trick.”
Sale was an assistant special prosecutor during the Watergate investigation and works in white collar law. He was also a classmate of Giuliani’s at New York University's School of Law. Sale’s representation of Giuliani was first reported by the New York Times.
Environmental Protection Agency administrator Andrew Wheeler said he believes President Trump will be “vindicated” during the House's impeachment inquiry.
"I’m sure the President will be vindicated," he said. "They started this process before he actually was elected and they’ve been trying to figure out a way of doing that from the very beginning. But I’m sure he’ll be vindicated as he has of all the other charges."
As EPA administrator, Wheeler is a member of Trump’s cabinet.
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky said he's never met President Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani.
“I never met Rudy Giuliani — never. And never had any phone calls with him,” Zelensky said today at a news conference in Kiev.
Why we are talking about Giuliani: The former mayor of New York is mentioned several times in a whistleblower complaint involving Trump's contacts with Ukraine.
The complaint alleges that Trump attempted to "solicit interference from a foreign country" in the 2020 election and labels Giuliani as a "central figure" in the controversy.
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky insisted today no one could put pressure on him to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden or his son, Hunter.
Asked by CNN if he felt pressure from President Trump to investigate the Bidens in order to unfreeze military aid, here's how Zelensky responded:
“I don’t feel pressure,” he said at a news conference. “I have lots of people who’d like to put pressure on me here and abroad. I’m the president of an independent Ukraine — no one can put pressure on me.”
Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley said in a statement that the whistleblower “appears to have followed the whistleblower protection laws and ought to be heard out and protected.”
"No one should be making judgments or pronouncements without hearing from the whistleblower first and carefully following up on the facts. Uninformed speculation wielded by politicians or media commentators as a partisan weapon is counterproductive and doesn’t serve the country," he said.
Grassley is the chairman of the Senate Whistleblower Protection Caucus and has authored and co-authored many of the whistleblower protection laws.
He appeared to push back on President Trump's questioning of the whistleblower's legitimacy, stating that “when it comes to whether someone qualifies as a whistleblower, the distinctions being drawn between first- and second-hand knowledge aren’t legal ones."
Grassley added: "Complaints based on second-hand information should not be rejected out of hand, but they do require additional leg work to get at the facts and evaluate the claim’s credibility."
Here's Grassley's full statement:
"This person appears to have followed the whistleblower protection laws and ought to be heard out and protected. We should always work to respect whistleblowers’ requests for confidentiality. Any further media reports on the whistleblower’s identity don’t serve the public interest — even if the conflict sells more papers or attracts clicks.
No one should be making judgments or pronouncements without hearing from the whistleblower first and carefully following up on the facts. Uninformed speculation wielded by politicians or media commentators as a partisan weapon is counterproductive and doesn’t serve the country.
When it comes to whether someone qualifies as a whistleblower, the distinctions being drawn between first- and second-hand knowledge aren’t legal ones. It’s just not part of whistleblower protection law or any agency policy. Complaints based on second-hand information should not be rejected out of hand, but they do require additional leg work to get at the facts and evaluate the claim’s credibility.
As I said last week, inquiries that put impeachment first and facts last don’t weigh very credibly. Folks just ought to be responsible with their words.”
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted he is concerned by House democrats calls to depose State officials on Ukraine.
In a response to a Sept. 27 request from House investigators to depose several of his fellow state department employees as part of the impeachment inquiry, Pompeo tweeted today that he believes the committee's request is "an attempt to intimidate, bully, & treat improperly the distinguished professionals" from the state department.
Pompeo linked to the letter he sent to the chairman of House Foreign Affairs Committee.
In a second tweet, Pompeo added: “Let me be clear: I will not tolerate such tactics, and I will use all means at my disposal to prevent and expose any attempts to intimidate the dedicated professionals whom I am proud to lead and serve alongside at the Department of State.”
More context: Pompeo was on the July 25 phone call between Trump and the Ukrainian President, a source familiar told CNN.