The Trump Impeachment Inquiry: Latest Updates
Here’s what you need to know:
The House Intelligence Committee will hold the first public hearings in the impeachment inquiry next week.
House Democrats will begin convening public impeachment hearings next week, they announced on Wednesday, calling three marquee witnesses to begin making a case for President Trump’s impeachment in public.
They plan to kick off hearings next Wednesday, with testimony from William B. Taylor Jr., the top American envoy in Ukraine, and George P. Kent, a top State Department official, said Representative Adam B. Schiff, Democrat of California and the chairman of the Intelligence Committee. On Friday, Mr. Schiff’s committee will hear from Marie L. Yovanovitch, the former American ambassador to Ukraine, he said.
“More to come,” Mr. Schiff added on Twitter.
All three witnesses have already spoken privately with investigators. Ms. Yovanovitch testified that she had been removed because Rudolph W. Giuliani, Mr. Trump’s private lawyer, and his associates wanted her out of the way. Mr. Kent described career diplomats being shoved aside in favor of Mr. Giuliani and a shadow Ukraine policy being run out of the White House.
And Mr. Taylor, whom Democrats consider perhaps their best witness, laid out behind closed doors how he came to understand from others within the administration that the entire American relationship with Ukraine came to depend on its leaders publicly committing to conduct investigations into Democrats that would benefit Mr. Trump politically.
“Those open hearings will be an opportunity for the American people to evaluate the witnesses for themselves, to make their own determinations about the credibility of the witnesses, but also to learn firsthand about the facts of the president’s misconduct,” Mr. Schiff told reporters on Wednesday.
The sessions will not look like traditional congressional hearings, where Democratic and Republican lawmakers alternate asking questions in five-minute blocks and witnesses can easily avoid answering unfavorable questions.
The House voted along party lines last week to approve rules for an impeachment process for which there are few precedents. Those rules include allowing the top Democrat and Republican on the committee to designate questioning to trained staff and for each side to have up to 45 minutes at a time.
Investigators have already begun publicly releasing the transcripts from the testimony of several witnesses this week, including Ms. Yovanovitch, ahead of the hearings.
— Nicholas Fandos
House Democrats released the transcript of William Taylor’s testimony.
The House committees leading the impeachment inquiry released another transcript from their investigation Wednesday afternoon. This time, it is the testimony of William B. Taylor Jr., the top American diplomat in Ukraine and a central figure in the inquiry. Reporters from The New York Times are combing through his deposition to highlight key parts and provide context and analysis.
Mr. Taylor testified two weeks ago in defiance of State Department orders, sketching out in detail a quid pro quo pressure campaign on Ukraine that Mr. Trump and his allies have long denied. Mr. Taylor is scheduled to testify next Wednesday in the first public hearing of the impeachment inquiry.
The White House is beefing up its communications team to help defend Trump against impeachment.
The White House is planning to hire two people to help with public messaging around the impeachment inquiry.
A senior administration official confirmed that Pam Bondi, the former attorney general of Florida, and Tony Sayegh, a former aide to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, would be joining the staff temporarily.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity without authorization to divulge internal White House discussions, said the pair would help with “proactive impeachment messaging” as well as other projects that might arise. They will be hired as special government employees, the official said, a designation for people who are to be employed for no more than about four months out of the year.
— Maggie Haberman
A State Dept. official began testifying this morning, the first administration official who appeared as scheduled this week.
David Hale, the No. 3 official at the State Department, arrived on Wednesday morning to testify in the impeachment inquiry, the first administration official this week to comply with investigators’ request to appear. Democrats want to ask Mr. Hale, the under secretary for political affairs, about the ouster of the former ambassador to Ukraine, Marie L. Yovanovitch, and why he and others did not defend her against political attacks.
The recall of Ms. Yovanovitch was part of the shadow foreign policy effort on Ukraine driven largely by Rudolph W. Giuliani, President Trump’s personal lawyer, who sought to smear her as disloyal to the president. Ms. Yovanovitch told investigators that she personally asked Mr. Hale to talk to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo about issuing a statement of support. She said she never heard back.
Mr. Hale is one of four Trump administration officials who had been summoned to testify on Wednesday.
The three others were Russell T. Vought, the acting director of the Office of Management and Budget; T. Ulrich Brechbuhl, a counselor at the State Department who was among the officials listening in on Mr. Trump’s July 25 call with the president of Ukraine; and Rick Perry, the energy secretary. None of them were expected to appear on Wednesday. Mr. Vought and Mr. Brechbuhl were subpoenaed after they failed to appear at depositions last month.
Democrats are rushing to call the last of the witnesses they are seeking to interview as they wrap up the fact-finding phase of their inquiry and move toward public hearings as soon as next week. Mr. Schiff has indicated he will count refusals to appear as part of an article of impeachment against Mr. Trump for obstruction of Congress.
The lawyer for one key witness disputes another’s account of coffee and cordial chats.
The lawyer for Fiona Hill, a former top White House foreign policy adviser, on Wednesday accused Gordon D. Sondland, the United States ambassador to the European Union, of having fabricated conversations with Ms. Hill during his testimony to impeachment investigators.
Mr. Sondland, a wealthy hotelier and political donor before his diplomatic appointment, said that he had a cordial relationship with Ms. Hill, according to a transcript of his testimony released on Tuesday. Mr. Sondland noted several times that he talked with Ms. Hill over coffee, at one point describing her as furious at Mr. Trump and “sort of shaking. She was pretty mad.”
In a tweet, Lee Wolosky, Ms. Hill’s lawyer, said that Mr. Sondland had “fabricated communications with Dr. Hill, none of which were over coffee.” He added that Ms. Hill, who resigned in July before Mr. Trump’s phone call with the president of Ukraine, told Mr. Sondland what she told lawmakers, that “the lack of coordination on Ukraine” was disastrous and that “the circumstances of the dismissal” of Ms. Yovanovitch were “shameful.”
Ms. Hill has told investigators that she viewed Mr. Sondland as a national security risk because of his lack of experience.
— Michael D. Shear
From Tuesday: House Democrats released revised testimony from Sondland and summoned Mulvaney to appear.
Mr. Sondland revised his testimony this week to add that he told Ukrainian officials that military aid was tied to their commitment to investigations President Trump wanted.
“I said that resumption of the U.S. aid would likely not occur until Ukraine provided the public anticorruption statement that we had been discussing for many weeks,” Mr. Sondland said in a new sworn statement, which House investigators released along with the transcript of his original testimony.
On Tuesday, impeachment investigators also summoned Mick Mulvaney, the president’s acting chief of staff, to appear for a deposition on Friday. Mr. Mulvaney was deeply involved in the alternate Ukraine foreign policy campaign and has been inconsistent in his accounts of the July 25 phone call that is at the heart of the impeachment inquiry.
Last month, Mr. Mulvaney acknowledged that the White House had held hostage nearly $400 million in military aid to Ukraine in exchange for a pledge to investigate Mr. Trump’s political rivals. He later retracted his statement and is not expected to appear for the deposition.
Catch up on impeachment: What you need to know
Mr. Trump repeatedly pressured President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine to investigate people and issues of political concern to Mr. Trump, including former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. Here’s a timeline of events since January.
A C.I.A. officer who was once detailed to the White House filed a whistle-blower complaint on Mr. Trump’s interactions with Mr. Zelensky. Read the complaint.