Michael R Turner

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.

Most Republicans on impeachment committees aren’t showing up, transcripts reveal
Freedom Caucus members have taken lead role in questioning, foreshadowing public hearings

House Republicans hold a news conference in the Capitol Visitor Center to call for more access to the impeachment depositions. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Republicans have for weeks blasted the closed-door impeachment process, but transcripts released this week of private depositions show most GOP lawmakers on the three panels at the center of the probe have simply not shown up.

The low attendance for most committee Republicans paints a very different picture of a party that recently stormed the secure room where the depositions have been conducted, demanding to participate in the process. Republican questioning during these private interviews have been driven by a handful of President Donald Trump’s allies and GOP staff.

GOP laments Schiff’s handling of Ukraine probe, Volker testimony
Schiff: Trump actions ‘ought to be condemned by every member’

Kurt Volker, former U.S. special envoy to Ukraine, arrives at the Capitol Visitor Center to be deposed by House committees as part of the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump on Thursday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

House Republicans on Thursday said that testimony from the State Department’s former envoy to Ukraine, sought by House Democrats with regards to their impeachment inquiry, won’t advance the drive to impeach President Donald Trump.

Emerging from the day-long deposition, New York Republican Lee Zeldin said that former U.S. Envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker’s private Thursday testimony, “blows a hole in the argument” presented by Democrats that  Trump asked the president of Ukraine for a quid pro quo.

Thornberry retirement latest shakeup on House Armed Services Committee
Former chairman is sixth Republican to announce plans to retire from the committee

Thornberry, a Texas Republican who spent two terms as Armed Services chairman before becoming ranking member after Democrats won control of the House, has been an ardent backer of higher Pentagon spending levels and a reliable hawk on policy matters ranging from the size of the Navy fleet to the nuclear arsenal. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Rep. Mac Thornberry on Monday became the sixth Republican on the House Armed Services Committee to announce plans to retire at the end of this Congress, creating openings for ambitious younger members but also leaving a significant dearth of experience on the powerful panel.

Thornberry, a Texas Republican who spent two terms as Armed Services chairman before becoming ranking member after Democrats won control of the House, has been an ardent backer of higher Pentagon spending levels and a reliable hawk on policy matters ranging from the size of the Navy fleet to the nuclear arsenal.

Intel chief calls whistleblower complaint ‘unprecedented’
Acting director of national intelligence Maguire explains to House Intelligence Committee why he didn’t release complaint to Congress

Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire testifies before the House Intelligence Committee on the Capitol on Thursday. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

The acting director of national intelligence on Thursday told the House Intelligence Committee that he did not forward to the panel a whistleblower complaint regarding President Donald Trump pressuring Ukraine to investigate the Biden family, as he first needed clarification if the complaint was one that could be superseded by executive privilege.

Joseph Maguire detailed the process he undertook after receiving the complaint, saying his staff spent the last several weeks working with the White House legal counsel to determine whether the president’s executive privilege would prevent him from sending the complaint to Congress.

Trump dings Biden during post-shootings trip, as lawmakers handle visits differently
‘Take these assault weapons off the streets,’ Sherrod Brown tells president in Dayton

Demonstrators line a street in Dayton, Ohio, on Wednesday before a visit from President Donald Trump. From there, he visited El Paso, Texas. Both cities were scenes of mass shootings last weekend that collectively left 31 people dead and dozens wounded. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

President Donald Trump met privately Wednesday in Ohio and Texas with survivors of two deadly mass shootings, but he found time to publicly ridicule 2020 Democratic front-runner Joe Biden as several local lawmakers took differing approaches to his visits.

The day’s traveling press pool was not allowed access to Trump and first lady Melania Trump as they met with shooting survivors and local officials at Miami Valley Hospital in Dayton, Ohio. White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham told reporters aboard Air Force One as the president flew to El Paso, Texas, for a similar meeting that Trump was not there for a “photo op.” (The White House, however, released its own photos in a tweet.)

Emotional Portman hopes for consensus on combating gun violence after Dayton, El Paso mass shootings
Ohio Republican, at the Capitol on Tuesday, appeared shaken by deaths

Ohio Sen. Rob Portman was back at the Capitol on Tuesday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Ohio Republican Rob Portman said Tuesday that after seeing blood being cleaned from sidewalks in Dayton, he hopes his fellow senators can emerge from their predictable partisan corners to find agreement on more legislation to address gun violence.

Portman pointed to working on “red flag” grants to encourage states to  keep firearms from individuals with mental health challenges as perhaps the most immediate step. Asked about an expanded background check bill sponsored by Pennsylvania Republican Patrick J. Toomey and West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin III, Portman said, “I think we should look at everything.”

Report: Former members used ‘zombie campaign’ funds in lobbying for foreign interests
Members turned lobbyists used dormant campaign funds to make donations to the legislators they lobbied on behalf of foreign clients

Then-Reps. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., left, and Michael Michaud, D-Maine, talk before a House Veterans Affairs Committee hearing in 2012. The men have pursued very different post-Washington careers: Miller now lobbies for Qatar. Michaud ran for town selectman in Maine last year. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Members of Congress who depart Capitol Hill for a lobbying job have a few advantages: deep knowledge of legislative inner workings, rapport with former colleagues and sometimes, according to a new report, a chest of leftover campaign money.

At least 17 former lawmakers lobbying for foreign governments or foreign political parties maintain dormant campaign accounts — so-called “zombie campaigns,” according to a report published Friday by the Campaign Legal Center. And about half of them have used funds from those campaigns to make donations to the same legislators they lobby on behalf of foreign clients. 

House approves NDAA with no Republican votes
Progressive amendments helped Dems earn votes from the party’s more dovish members in the face of Republican opposition

Chairman Adam Smith, D-Wash., talks with ranking member Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, right, before a House Armed Services Committee markup in Rayburn Building on the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 on Wednesday, June 12, 2019. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The House on Friday approved its defense authorization bill after adopting a slew of progressive amendments that helped Democrats earn votes from the party’s more dovish members in the face of Republican opposition.

The final vote on the fiscal 2020 bill was 220-197. No Republicans supported the typically bipartisan measure that traditionally has earned more than 300 of the 435 available House votes.

Panel approves pilot program to take military sexual assault cases outside chain of command
The number of sexual assaults at military service academies more than doubled 2013 to 2018, Speier said

Rep. Jackie Speier succeeded in getting her amendment to establish a program taking prosecution of military sex assault cases outside of the chain of command at the service academies. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Advocates of taking the decision for prosecuting military sexual assaults — a persistent problem within the ranks — outside the chain of command scored a significant victory Wednesday when the House Armed Services Committee approved a pilot program that would do just that at the service academies.

Rep. Jackie Speier, chairwoman of the Military Personnel Subcommittee, pushed through a four-year program that would require the commandants of the service academies to follow the recommendation of an independent prosecutor in cases of sexual assault.