Congress

Impeachment news roundup: Oct. 11

Recalled Ukranian ambassador takes on accusations; Sondland will testify after all; Trump loses in court

Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch arrives to testify behind closed doors at the Capitol on Friday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Marie Yovanovitch, the former ambassador to Ukraine who was recalled in May after butting heads with the White House, told members of the committees leading the impeachment inquiry into President Trump on Friday that her removal was “based, as far as I can tell, on unfounded and false claims by people with clearly questionable motives.”

In her opening statement, obtained by the New York Times, Yovanovitch said she was told by her superior that she had done nothing wrong and that there had been “a concerted campaign against me” and that the State Department had been under pressure “from the President” to have her removed since the summer of 2018.

In his call with Ukraine President Volodomyr Zelenskiy at the center of the impeachment inquiry, Trump called Yovanovitch “bad news.” 

Yovanovitch addresses point-by-point some of the charges that have been made against her, notably those from Giuliani.

“I do not know Mr. Giuliani’s motives for attacking me. But individuals who have been named in the press as contacts of Mr.Giuliani may well have believed that their personal financial ambitions were stymied by our anti-corruption policy in Ukraine,” she said.

To compel her testimony, the House Intelligence Committee issued a subpoena Friday morning.

“This duly authorized subpoena is mandatory, and the illegitimate order from the Trump Administration not to cooperate has no force. As is required of her, the Ambassador is now complying with the subpoena and answering questions from both Democratic and Republican Members and staff,” Reps. Adam B. Schiff, Elijah E. Cummings and Eliot L. Engel said in a statement.

The subpoena was issued after the State Department, at the direction of the White House, on Thursday evening directed Yovanovitch not to appear for her voluntary interview, according to a statement from the three chairmen.

“Any efforts by Trump Administration officials to prevent witness cooperation with the Committees will be deemed obstruction of a co-equal branch of government and an adverse inference may be drawn against the President on the underlying allegations of corruption and coverup,” the chairmen said.

Yovanovitch’s testimony continued Friday afternoon.

Here is the latest on the investigation:

Miller musings: White House aide Stephen Miller declined to tell reporters whether he would comply with a congressional subpoena, if ever presented one. “This entire proceeding is unworthy of cooperation,” he said.

Also, Miller said Hunter Biden flying to China on Air Force Two when his father was vice president shows “corruption” because he soon benefited financially via payment from a Chinese firm. He dismissed reporters’ questions about how Ivanka Trump’s businesses benefiting from transactions in China is different. As he spoke, China’s vice premier was in the Oval Office meeting with Ivanka Trump’s father about a potential trade pact.

Schiff letter: House Intelligence Chairman Adam B. Schiff updated House lawmakers on the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump in a “Dear Colleague” letter Friday. He noted scheduled depositions with Fiona Hill, who left the National Security Council in August, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent, State Department Counselor T. Ulrich Brechbuhl, and Amb. Gordon Sondland, who had declined to testify earlier this week.

“In the upcoming work period, we will continue and accelerate our efforts,” Schiff wrote, including additional testimony and witnesses and the possibility of more subpoenas.

Reversing course: The U.S. ambassador to the European Union who cancelled his testimony before the House committees leading the impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump says he will defy the State Department and testify next week on the Hill.

In a statement Friday, Ambassador Gordon Sondland’s attorney said he will comply with a subpoena issued by the House committees after his no-show and appear before the committees on Thursday.

“Notwithstanding the State Department’s current direction to not testify, Ambassador Sondland will honor the Committees’ subpoena, and he looks forward to testifying on Thursday,” the statement said. “Ambassador Sondland has at all times acted with integrity and in the interests of the United States. He has no agenda apart from answering the Committees’ questions fully and truthfully.”

But he won’t be able to produce documents requested by the committees, citing State Department policy.

“By federal law and regulation, the State Department has sole authority to produce such documents, and Ambassador Sondland hopes the materials will be shared with the Committees in advance of his Thursday testimony,” the statement said.

House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff said he received only an hour-and-a-half notice that Sondland wouldn’t be appearing before the committee on Tuesday. After flying from Belgium for the hearing, Sondland said he got a voicemail around midnight from State telling him not to testify.

 

Up next: Trump’s former Russia envoy Fiona Hill, who played a key role in the administration’s policy on Russia and Ukraine, is scheduled to testify before the committees on Monday.

Trouble at home: Sondland’s hotel chain is feeling a backlash from his role in the Trump-Ukraine affair.

Oregon Democratic Rep. Earl Blumenauer is leading calls to boycott the chain and some were already doing that before he got involved. And the Provenance Hotels chain has seen vendors cut ties.

Trump’s finances: A federal appeals court on Friday sided with the House Oversight and Reform Committee over Trump in a fight to enforce a subpoena for eight years of Trump’s financial records. A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, in a 2-1 decision, ruled that accounting firm Mazars USA must comply with the April 15 subpoena.

The decision is unlikely to be the end of the case. Trump’s attorneys still have an option of asking for the full D.C. Circuit to rehear the case, or petition the Supreme Court to stop the production of records as they appeal Friday’s decision.

 

Riled up: At a campaign rally Thursday night in Minneapolis, Trump called the impeachment probe a “brazen attempt to overthrow our government” before going off on Biden.

“He was never considered a good senator. … And he was only considered a good vice president because he knew how to kiss Barack Obama’s ass,” Trump said to roars from the crowd.

Here are three key takeaways from that event.

Perry subpoenaed: The chairmen of the House Intelligence, Oversight, and Foreign Affairs committees subpoenaed Energy Secretary Rick Perry on Thursday, demanding records about his interactions with Ukrainian officials, including Zelenskiy.

The committees are asking Perry to turn over files about his knowledge of the July 25 call between Trump and Zelenskiy and his activities in and business connections to Ukraine.

Tainted money: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said Thursday that he will donate to charity campaign contributions received from two indicted associates of Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani.

McCarthy, along with the National Republican Congressional Committee and other groups, received contributions from Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, two Soviet-born businessmen who were indicted on charges of campaign law violation and are also subjects of the impeachment inquiry. The pair have been working with Giuliani on his investigation into the Bidens.

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