legal-affairs

Democrats target Trump defenses in first impeachment hearing
Two articulate and polished career diplomats lend gravitas to much-anticipated public event

House Intelligence Chairman Adam B. Schiff, joined by other House Democrats, speaks to reporters Wednesday's hearing. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

House Democrats used the first day of impeachment hearings to take aim at the various defenses President Donald Trump and his congressional allies have raised during the inquiry into his Ukraine dealings — a strategy that allows them to advance their case alongside a drumbeat of witness testimony over the next two weeks.

The House Intelligence Committee started that push Wednesday with two articulate and polished veteran diplomats, whose deep knowledge of Ukraine turned into succinct explanations of the unusual circumstances surrounding how the Trump administration handled almost $400 million in military aid to the country.

Trump, White House aides show some restraint on Day One of public impeachment hearings
‘I haven’t watched,’ president claims after spokeswoman called televised session ‘boring’

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and President Donald Trump hold a joint press conference following their meeting at the White House on Wednesday. Trump also weighed in on Wednesday’s impeachment hearing. (Halil Sagirkaya/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

ANALYSIS — For once, the often-brash and always-combative Trump White House played it safe.

On day one of House Democrats’ public impeachment hearings, President Donald Trump and his top aides opted against firing back to sometimes-damning testimony by two administration witnesses and allegations of corrupt intent from Intelligence Committee Democrats.

White House says Trump ‘too busy’ to watch ‘boring’ impeachment hearing
President cared more about Biden probe than corruption in Ukraine, diplomat testifies

President Donald Trump speaks at an event at the White House earlier this year. He said Wednesday he is not watching the first public impeachment hearing. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images file photo)

President Donald Trump — an avid cable news consumer — contended Wednesday he is “too busy” to watch the first public impeachment hearing, but he dismissed it as a made-for-television “hoax.”

The White House-Republican strategy for providing a counter message to testimony from acting U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Bill Taylor and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs George Kent about two quid-pro-quos with Ukraine’s new president orchestrated by Trump began to unfold in the hearing’s first two hours.

Impeachment news roundup: Nov. 13
Two career diplomats first to offer public testimony, Trump tweets counteroffensive

William Taylor, the senior U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, and George Kent, deputy assistant secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs, are sworn in at the House Intelligence Committee hearing. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Two career diplomats who told congressional investigators behind closed doors of their concerns over President Donald Trump’s withholding of military aid to Ukraine and the “irregular channel” in dealing with the country conducted by Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani testified today in the first public hearings in the House’s impeachment investigation.

William Taylor, the acting U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, told investigators in a closed-door deposition in October that Trump used a stalled $400 million aid package to leverage Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and the involvement of his son Hunter Biden in a Ukrainian energy company. And George Kent, the deputy assistant secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, told the committees conducting the investigation in his closed-door deposition that it was his understanding that Trump wanted the Ukrainians to investigate the Bidens and whether the country tried to influence the 2016 election.

Trump declares economic ‘boom’ underway as CBO sounds slowdown alarms
Congressional analysts predict slower GDP growth, lower labor force participation

A worker boxes orders at the Amazon Fulfillment Center in Robbinsville, New Jersey. President Donald Trump said the U.S. economy is in a “boom” under his watch, but the Congressional Budget Office projects lower labor participation rates and slower GDP growth. (Mark Makela/Getty Images)

Despite warning signs of an economic slowdown, President Donald Trump on Tuesday told an audience of wealthy and influential New York players that the U.S. economy is booming — almost exclusively because of his stewardship.

“Today, I am proud to stand before you as President to report that we have delivered on our promises — and exceeded our expectations. We have ended the war on American Workers, we have stopped the assault on American Industry, and we have launched an economic boom the likes of which we have never seen before,” Trump said at a lunch hour address before the Economic Club of New York, the word “boom” in all capital letters on the White House-released excerpts.

How a Capitol Hill staffer and a James Bond screenwriter dramatized ‘The Report’
Political Theater, Episode 101

Journalists follow Senate Intelligence Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein as she leaves her office on her way to the chamber floor to speak about the CIA torture report being released by the committee on on Dec. 9, 2014. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The release of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s torture report in 2014 was a compelling episode in American history, detailing as it did the CIA’s use of so-called enhanced interrogation techniques on suspected terrorists and their lack of effectiveness. That doesn’t mean the seven-year investigation that led to the report automatically lends itself to high drama, particularly when one considers that many of those seven years were spent reading sensitive CIA documents in a windowless room. That makes the new movie “The Report” that much more of an accomplishment.

Director and screenwriter Scott Z. Burns had his work cut out for him, constructing a political thriller out of the efforts led by Intelligence Committee staffer Daniel J. Jones. Burns and Jones explained some of thinking that went into the film’s narrative, as well as the issues it explores, in the latest Political Theater podcast with CQ Roll Call senior staff writer Niels Lesniewski and me. 

Trump impeachment makes for tricky messaging for Democrats
As public hearings start, Democrats have to cut through complicated issues

House Intelligence Chairman Adam B. Schiff, D-Calif., speaks to reporters in the Capitol last month. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

House Democrats begin the public portion of their push to impeach President Donald Trump this week with what they say is a powerful case that the president used his office for personal political gain — but they face a high-stakes challenge to convey that to a sharply divided public.

The House Intelligence Committee has its first impeachment hearings scheduled for Wednesday and Friday following weeks of closed-door depositions. The witnesses testifying in the open come from the same roster of unknown diplomats and bureaucrats who in their private interviews detailed complex matters of foreign diplomacy that are unfamiliar to most Americans.

Trump to host Turkey’s Erdogan same day public impeachment hearings start
Bipartisan calls to cancel visit ignored, as experts say Washington still needs Ankara

President Donald Trump welcomes President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey at the White House in 2017. The Turkish leader makes a controversial return Wednesday. (Alex Wong/Getty Images file photo)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will be feted Wednesday at the White House despite his attacks on a longtime U.S. ally, his purchase of military equipment from Russia and calls from lawmakers in both parties to punish him.

President Donald Trump and top aides have ignored bipartisan calls to cancel Erdogan’s visit, which is expected to include a joint press conference on the same day public hearings in the House impeachment inquiry begin.

Impeachment news roundup: Nov. 11
Some in GOP struggle with how — or whether — to defend Trump as Democrats ready to go public with investigation

Then-White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, left, and then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, third from left, flank presidential adviser Jared Kushner as President Donald Trump speaks during a working lunch with Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy at the White House in September 2017. (Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images file photo)

The president had first floated the possibility of releasing the transcript late last week.

Trump’s announcement comes as Republicans in Congress continue grappling with how — or whether — they are defending Trump as House Democrats move to the public phase of their impeachment inquiry this week.

How America’s mayor became America’s State Department
As Trump’s de facto secretary of State, Rudy Giuliani makes a mockery of the Senate Foreign Relations panel

He was neither nominated nor appointed to the job, but that hasn’t stopped Rudy Giuliani from acting as de facto secretary of State since Donald Trump’s election, Murphy writes. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

OPINION — With friends like Rudy Giuliani, who needs the State Department? Not Donald Trump. And as long as we’re on the subject, who needs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee? Or the full Senate? Or any of the other pillars of the U.S. government that were created to both support and oversee the executive branch.

The Senate Foreign Relations panel alone is made up of 22 senators and 75 professional staff. As one of the 10 original standing committees of the Senate, its job literally spans the globe, with jurisdiction over international treaties, U.S. foreign policy and all diplomatic nominations. All ambassador appointments are supposed to go through the committee for debate and approval, as are international treaties, declarations of war, State Department oversight and changes to official U.S. foreign policy.