Congress

Impeachment news roundup: Oct. 18

Cleaning up after Mulvaney; Perry won't comply with subpoena; former ambassador blames Giuliani

Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney answers questions from reporters at the White House on Thursday. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

After weeks of “no quid pro quo” with Ukraine replacing “no collusion” with the Russians in President Donald Trump’s responses to the investigations into his administration, Mick Mulvaney, his acting chief of staff, said there was a quid pro quo.

Then he and the White House spent the following hours Thursday trying to put that genie back in the bottle. But, in true Trump-style, his 2020 campaign decided to capitalize on the press conference by selling a T-shirt emblazoned with one of the more memorable lines from Mulvaney’s press conference.  

At the Thursday briefing, Mulvaney said the U.S. had indeed held up a $400 million aid package to Ukraine, but it wasn’t to get dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter, as Democrats in the House are investigating. Instead, it was to pressure the Ukranian government to investigate other Democrats. And he said it happens all the time in politics, so “Get over it.”

The “Get over it” T-shirt, with a blond hairdo on the "O" styled like Trump’s was available online for $30 by Friday afternoon.

Although Mulvaney later said what he said was misconstrued, Adam B. Schiff, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee who is leading the impeachment inquiry assessed Mulvaney’s comments as “Things have just gone from very, very bad to much, much worse.”

Here is the latest in the impeachment investigation:

Breaking the rules: House Freedom Caucus Chairman Andy Biggs and 76 Republican cosigners sent a letter Friday evening to the heads of the three committees leading the impeachment inquiry demanding they release the rules governing the depositions and transcribed interviews the panels are conducting.

 

The GOP members claimed the Democrat-led committees are violating House rules and regulations by not allowing members not on the three committees to attend the depositions or read the transcripts of the interviews.

 

Rick replaced: Trump announced in a tweet he will nominate Deputy Secretary Dan Brouillette to replace Rick Perry as Energy secretary.

The Energy Department, also on Friday, said it would not provide documents from Perry’s meetings with Ukraine officials because the House has not voted to officially launch an impeachment inquiry.

Perry, who announced Thursday he would be leaving his post, and Mulvaney both faced a deadline Friday for documents related to the impeachment investigation. Other administration officials have defied previous subpoenas.

Mulvaney has not said whether he would comply with the subpoena deadline. Executive privilege, something the White House has often cited as to why it would not release documents or allow aides to testify, applies to the chief of staff. 

 

Get over it’: Trump’s 2020 campaign is now selling T-shirts with the slogan “Get Over It,” embracing comments made Thursday by Mulvaney in which he confirmed a quid pro quo with respect to aid to Ukraine, only to try to backpedal later in the day.

Mulvaney’s press briefing has been widely seen as a gaffe, but it is clear that Trump’s political apparatus sees that very differently.

Republican Oversight Committee member Mark Meadows said Friday he wasn’t concerned with Mulvaney’s statement the day before.

“I have zero concern that aid was withheld for any political benefits,” Meadows said as reporters questioned him about Mulvaney’s comments. Meadows said he talked to Mulvaney, a fellow Freedom Caucus founder, Friday morning but declined to characterize their conversation.

Serious and troubling: One of Trump's 2016 GOP rivals, former Ohio Governor John Kasich, told CNN on Friday that if he were in the House he would vote to impeach the president. “This is extremely difficult for me, but I feel what I have to do, it's what my conscious tells me,” he said. 

Florida Republican Rep. Francis Rooney also on CNN Friday morning said that in light of Mulvaney’s comments “whatever might have been gray and unclear before is certainly quite clear right now that the actions were related to getting the Ukraine to do some of these things.”

He said Trump’s actions are “certainly very, very serious and troubling” and he wants to study the matter some more, but he’s not ruling out supporting impeachment. “I don’t think you can rule anything out until you get all the facts,” he said.

Short and sweet: Trump told reporters in Texas on Thursday he thinks Mulvaney is doing a good job. In the past, that presidential endorsement under Trump has been the kiss of death for embattled Cabinet members and senior aides.

Asked on Friday about Mulvaney’s gaffe, Trump responded, “I think he clarified it,” before pivoting to his Thursday night rally in Dallas.

Next week: William Taylor, the acting ambassador to Ukraine, is expected to appear in a closed deposition Tuesday. Then, Philip Reeker, acting assistant secretary of European and Eurasian affairs, and Michael Duffey, Office of Management and Budget associate director for national security programs, are scheduled for depositions Wednesday, according to an official working on the impeachment inquiry.

Two more witnesses, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Laura Cooper and Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, are also scheduled for testimony next week. 

Let’s see what you’ve got: House Minority Whip Steve Scalise and Rules ranking member Tom Cole introduced a resolution Friday to add a provision to House rules that would allow all members “non-participatory” access to committee proceedings related to the impeachment inquiry, including transcribed interviews and depositions.

Earlier Friday, House Judiciary ranking member Doug Collins sent a letter Friday to the chairs of the Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight committees leading the impeachment inquiry demanding access to their investigative materials, citing his right under House Rule XI, Clause 2(e)(2)(A), which says that all committee records “shall be the property of the House” and that each member shall have access to them.

“Please make available all records, documents, transcripts, and other materials related to or obtained in the course of the ongoing joint investigation,” Collins wrote.

The Judiciary Committee has jurisdiction over articles of impeachment but the Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight have been conducting the investigatory work given the probe's focus on Trump’s interactions with Ukraine.

Holdup: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said Friday the impeachment inquiry is causing a holdup in conference negotiations on Defense spending and called for the investigation to be suspended.

“It should be suspended for what it is preventing from happening: doing the people’s work, including funding our troops,” McCarthy said.

“The National Defense Authorization Bill is languishing, Department of Defense funding is languishing. Together these critical bills include troop pay raises, disaster recovery for our military bases and increased medical funding for (National Institutes of Health),” he said. “Democrats are prioritizing impeachment over our own troops,” McCarthy said.

The House passed its Defense spending bill June 19, though it cleared without any Republican votes. It would fund the Pentagon at $690.2 billion, just 1 percent below levels sought by the Pentagon for fiscal 2020. The House passed its version of the NDAA July 12 and it is in conference negotiations with the Senate version.

Protest: Oversight ranking member Jim Jordan has a new complaint to raise about the process Democrats are using to conduct the impeachment inquiry, saying Schiff has scheduled depositions next week at the same time.

“How I am supposed to be in two places at once?” the Ohio Republican asked.

“Cray-Zee Nancy”:Trump spent 90 minutes onstage at a rally in Dallas Thursday night sharply criticizing House Democrats over the impeachment probe, calling them “sick” and “crazy” — and even accusing them of trying to “overthrow” his election.

“They won’t come close in 2020. They know it. They’re not going to win it. They said, ‘Let’s see, what another idea' ” he barked, suggesting again the impeachment probe is merely designed to sink his reelection bid. “I don’t believe anymore that they love our country. I don’t believe it.”

As he railed against Democrats, calling Speaker Nancy Pelosi “Crazy Nancy” — pronouncing it slowly, for emphasis, “Cray-Zee” — the 20,000-seat American Airline Center repeated serenaded him with loud “four more years!” chants.

Hitting pause: Capitol Hill largely took a break from the partisan rancor around the impeachment investigation as members from both sides of the aisle paid tribute to House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah E. Cummings, who died early Thursday.

Under the bus: Gordon Sondland, Trump’s ambassador to the European Union who was a go-between with Ukraine, testified for more than nine hours Thursday and told members behind closed doors that he was instructed that Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani was pretty much running the administration’s Ukraine policy.

Sondland’s testimony was in line with what other foreign service witnesses have testified to the investigating committees.

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