Key facts and latest news
- Three House committees released a trove of material provided by the former special envoy to Ukraine, who testified for more than nine hours behind closed doors.
- The president told reporters Thursday that Ukraine and China should "investigate" the Bidens.
- The U.S. ambassador to Ukraine who was removed three months early in May was given an ultimatum that she could either quietly leave her post or face consequences, a former official said.
- Secretary of State Mike Pompeo confirmed he was on a July call between Mr. Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in which Trump urged Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden.
- Soon after the July call, White House officials moved a record of the call to a highly classified computer system, severely restricting who could access it.
Washington -- President Trump suggested China and Ukraine should open investigations into Joe and Hunter Biden, stating publicly what he is accused of insinuating on the July call with the Ukrainian president at the center of House Democrats' impeachment inquiry.
"I would say, President Zelensky, if it was me, I would start an investigation into the Bidens," he said, referring to the Ukrainian leader.
Speaking to reporters on the White House lawn on Thursday, Mr. Trump also said the Chinese president may want to investigate Biden and his son.
"Clearly it's something we should start thinking about," he said.
His comments came as Kurt Volker, the former special envoy who resigned abruptly last week, appeared before House lawmakers for a closed-door interview regarding his dealings with Ukraine.
Also on Thursday, the Pentagon said it had begun in June to release $250 million in Ukraine aid approved by Congress, but in late July, on July 25 or 26, the White House Office of Management and Budget ordered a pause in the disbursement of those funds. Mr. Trump's conversation with Zelensky took place on July 25.
On Wednesday, Mr. Trump angrily lashed out at Democrats leading the impeachment inquiry and the whistleblower whose complaint prompted it, accusing a House chairman of treason and saying only "legitimate" whistleblowers should be entitled to protection from retaliation.
House committees release trove of Ukraine documents
10:38 p.m.: The chairmen of the three House committees investigating the Ukraine matter sent a letter to colleagues and released a trove of materials provided by Volker, the former special envoy to Ukraine. Find them here and below:
Volker concludes House testimony
7:12 p.m.: Kurt Volker, the former special envoy to Ukraine, concluded testifying behind closed doors before the House Intelligence Committee after 9.5 hours Thursday. -- Rebecca Kaplan
Ex-U.S. ambassador to Ukraine was given ultimatum to leave, source says
6:42 p.m.: A former official told CBS News it was made clear to former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie "Masha" Yovanovitch in the spring that it was the White House that had a problem with her. She was given an ultimatum that she quietly leave her post in Kiev early or face consequences, the official said.
Rudy Giuliani told The Wall Street Journal on Thursday that the president himself discussed removing Yovanovitch from her post. Giuliani also said he personally discussed the matter with Pompeo. Pompeo approved the removal but has not since replaced her.
Despite extraordinary targeted political attacks in Ukraine and from Donald Trump Jr. himself, Pompeo never publicly defended Yovanovitch, which has caused a lot of concern within the foreign service. Yovanovitch is a three-time ambassador and well-respected among fellow diplomats.
The former official told CBS News that the fact that someone as high ranking as a U.S. ambassador could face political targeting has sent chills through the State Department.
"It is concerning to have no one speak up," a senior foreign service officer said. "There has not been a word of defense or support."
"These are career professions and they don't do politics. They serve their country just like the military. This isn't Obama's ambassador. This is the U.S. ambassador."
The official said the administration "has politicized the State Department. But this is another level."
It is still ultimately up to the State Department to decide whether to allow Yovanovitch to appear before Congress next week. Negotiations are still underway regarding how the expected deposition will be carried out. Those details include the question of who will be in the room with her when she answers questions. The State Department lawyers would be representing the administration, not Yovanovitch.
"Masha still needs permission," this senior foreign service officer pointed out.
George Kent, deputy assistant secretary in the European and Eurasian bureau, is also expected to be deposed. Kent's email exchanges expressing concern in March 2019 about the politically motivated attacks on Yovanovitch were revealed in documents presented to Congress by the State Department inspector general on Wednesday and obtained by CBS News. -- Margaret Brennan
Top counterintelligence official praises whistleblower protections
5:05 p.m.: Strong whistleblower protections for intelligence community employees can help stem potential espionage threats from the country's top adversaries, according to the nation's most senior U.S. counterintelligence official. He weighed in amid attacks by the president and his allies against the anonymous intelligence community whistleblower.
"As head of counterintelligence, I want to advocate for the Whistleblower Protection Act," Bill Evanina, who has served as director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center since 2014, said this week. "We do believe this is a viable, productive legislative act that we encourage employees in the intelligence community to utilize to be able to facilitate their frustration or identification of waste, fraud and abuse." -- Olivia Gazis
Read more here.
GOP Senator Joni Ernst catches heat from voters over Trump and Biden
4:13 p.m.: The president's repeated suggestion that world leaders should be investigating Joe Biden is riling some voters. In Templeton, Iowa, on Thursday, Republican Senator Joni Ernst was pressed by one woman about Mr. Trump's assertion Thursday morning that China might want to look into Joe Biden.
"Just this morning, we have President Trump saying, 'Oh, we need to talk to Xi Jinping, President Xi, and have him investigate Joe Biden," the woman said. "How is that helping anybody?"
The question was greeted by scattered applause in the room.
The woman, who identified herself as an independent voter, said, "We get conspiracy theories and we get lies and everything else except what we really need to know, and what we really need him to do."
"And where is the line? When are you guys going to say enough and stand up and saying, 'I'm not backing any of this,'" she said, berating Ernst and her Senate colleagues.
"You still stand there silent, and your silence is supporting him and not standing up. You swore an oath. You didn't pledge an oath to the president. You pledged it to our country. You pledged it to our Constitution," she said to applause.
"When are you guys going to start standing up and actually be there for us?" she said.
Ernst responded, "I can say 'Yay,' 'nay,' 'whatever.' The president is going to say what the president is going to do. It's up to us as members of Congress to continue working with our allies."
When the questioner followed up with an inquiry about whistleblowers, Ernst replied, "Whistleblowers have to be protected. Please let folks out there know." -- Nancy Cordes and Alan He
State Department signs off on $39.2 million Javelin missile sale to Ukraine
3:38 p.m.: The State Department informed Congress it has approved a potential $39.2 million sale of 150 Javelin anti-tank missiles and 10 launchers to the Ukrainian government. The Javelins were discussed during the July 25 call between Mr. Trump and Zelensky, the president of Ukraine.
In the call, Zelensky said he was "almost ready" to purchase the missiles, which are effective for destroying Russian tanks. Zelensky's comment prompted Mr. Trump to respond that he would "like you to do us a favor though" and raise Ukraine's cooperation with the Justice Department's investigation into the origins of the Mueller probe. Mr. Trump brought up the Bidens later in the call.
The State Department said the deal, which is not yet final, also includes training and support services.
"This proposed sale will contribute to the foreign policy and national security of the United States by improving the security of Ukraine," the department said in its notification to Congress. "The Javelin system will help Ukraine build its long-term defense capacity to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity in order to meet its national defense requirements." -- Stefan Becket
Trump suggests big pharma could be partly behind impeachment "hoax"
2:47 p.m.: The president, delivering a speech on Medicare in a Florida retirement community, suggested pharmaceutical companies could be partly responsible for the impeachment "hoax" disturbing his presidency.
Mr. Trump said he would be "very surprised" if the impeachment push from Democrats didn't originate at least in part from the pharmaceutical companies the Trump administration is going up against as they try to lower drug prices. -- Kathryn Watson
Pence defends Trump asking Ukraine's president to investigate Bidens
2:02 p.m.: Vice President Mike Pence, who has said little publicly about impeachment or the Ukraine controversy, backed up his boss for asking Zelensky to investigate the Bidens.
"I think the American people have a right to know if the vice president of the United States, or his family, profited from his position as vice president during the last administration. That's about looking backwards and and understanding what really happened," Pence told reporters in a brief gaggle in Scottsdale, Arizona.
Pence met with Zelensky twice last month. -- Kathryn Watson
Pentagon says no one from Defense Department was on Ukraine call
12:26 p.m.: Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said Thursday that no one from the Department of Defense was on Mr. Trump's controversial call with the president of Ukraine.
The names of everyone on the call are unclear. Pompeo appeared to be ignorant of the call on ABC News last month, but this week acknowledged he was on the call. -- Kathryn Watson
McCarthy writes to Pelosi demanding clarification on impeachment
11:57 a.m.: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy sent a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi with a series of questions on how she intends to conduct the impeachment process, asking whether she intends to bring articles of impeachment to a full House vote and if committee ranking members will have equal subpoena powers to committee chairs.
McCarthy said if Pelosi answers "no" to any of his questions, she would be "acting in direct contradiction to all modern impeachment inquiries of a sitting president" and creating a process "completely devoid of any merit or legitimacy."
McCarthy is a staunch ally of the president and has condemned the impeachment inquiry. In an interview with "60 Minutes" released on Sunday, McCarthy said that "president did nothing in this phone call that's impeachable," referring to Mr. Trump's call with Zelensky.
Trump suggests Ukraine and China should investigate the Bidens
10:36 p.m.: Speaking to reporters on the White House South Lawn before departing for Florida, Mr. Trump suggested that China and Ukraine should investigate Biden and his son, Hunter Biden.
Asked on the White House South Lawn what specifically he wanted Zelensky to do, Mr. Trump responded:
"Well I would think that if they were honest about it they'd start a major investigation into the Bidens," Mr. Trump said. "It's a very simple answer. They should investigate the Bidens because how does a company that's newly formed -- and all these companies if you look at, and by the way likewise, China -- should start an investigation into the Bidens.
"Because what happened in China is just about as bad as what happened with Ukraine. So I would say that President Zelensky, if it were me, I would recommend that they start an investigation into the Bidens because nobody has any doubt that they weren't crooked."
Giuliani tweets text messages between himself and Volker
10:21 a.m.: Mr. Trump's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, tweeted a text exchange between himself and former U.S. special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker on Thursday morning. Meanwhile, Volker is testifying before the House Intelligence Committee in a closed deposition today.
Volker, who resigned last week, is a key figure in the whistleblower complaint. The complaint said thatolker and the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, met with Zelensky the day after his call with Mr. Trump and provided advice about how to "navigate" the president's requests. The State Department revealed this summer that Volker connected Giuliani with Ukrainian Presidential Adviser Andriy Yermak at Yermak's request.
The text messages posted to Twitter by Giuliani show Volker trying to set up a meeting between Yermak and Giuliani.
Pentagon was ordered to pause Ukraine funding around July 25
10:19 a.m.: The Defense Department says it began to release $250 million in Ukraine aid approved by Congress in June, and the White House Office of Management and Budget ordered a pause in the disbursement on July 25 or July 26. President Trump's conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky took place on July 25.
CBS News confirmed last week that Mr. Trump had instructed acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney to hold off on releasing the aid at least a week before his call with Zelensky.
The Pentagon was allowed to resume the aid beginning on September 12. By the end of the fiscal year, on September 30, it had obligated $214 million out of the $250 million approved.
The rest will be disbursed through a congressional continuing resolution, which allows the Defense Department to continue paying out funds beyond the end of the fiscal year. -- David Martin
Kurt Volker to appear before House committees
9:00 a.m.: Kurt Volker, the former U.S. special envoy to Ukraine, will appear before the House Intelligence Committee in a closed deposition on Thursday. Volker, who was cited in the whistleblower complaint, resigned from his post last week.
The complaint alleges that Volker went to Kiev in late July and met with Zelensky and other Ukrainian political figures and "reportedly provided advice to the Ukrainian leadership about how to 'navigate' the demands that the President had made of Mr. Zelenskyy."
Australian ambassador says Australia will aid in probe into origins of Russia investigation
8:29 a.m.: Joe Hockey, the Australian ambassador to the U.S., wrote a letter to GOP Senator Lindsey Graham saying that Australia will aid Attorney General William Barr in his probe the origins of the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
"I can assure you that the Australian government is cooperating with Attorney General Barr's inquiry. I note that we have been public about our willingness to cooperate," Hockey said in his letter to Graham, citing a May letter to Barr in which Hockey offered the support of Australia.
Graham sent a letter to the prime ministers of Australia, the United Kingdom and Italy on Wednesday requesting that these governments work with Barr in his probe. Graham cited a report by the New York Times published this week that Barr had sought assistance from these governments.
Pelosi says impeachment vote in the House is not inevitable
8:01 a.m.: In an interview with ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos, Pelosi said that an impeachment vote in the House was not necessarily inevitable.
"I don't think so, no. I think we just go forward and follow the facts," Pelosi said when asked if the House would definitely vote on articles of impeachment against Mr. Trump. She added that holding a vote now would not be "fair" to the Constitution. -- Grace Segers
Trump tweets about Fox News report
7:01 a.m.: Mr. Trump tweeted about a report published in Fox News on Wednesday that former Ukrainian Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin told Giuliani that he was instructed not to investigate a natural gas firm linked to Biden's son.
There is no evidence that Biden leaned on the Ukrainian government to dismiss Shokin for investigating the firm, or even that Shokin was investigating the firm.
""The Ukraine controversy continues this morning as new documents obtained by @FoxNews show that a former Ukrainian prosecutor said that he was forced to back off looking into a firm tied to Hunter Biden." @MariaBartiromo Does anyone other than Fake News protectors have a doubt?" Mr. Trump said, citing Fox Business anchor Maria Bartiromo.
Giuliani's notes about his conversation with Shokin were part of the documents presented to congressional staff by the State Department inspector general on Wednesday.
Giuliani has previously accused former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko of telling Shokin to stop investigating the gas firm.
However, Poroshenko denies the allegations within that he told Shokin to stop investigating the firm. Shokin was widely seen as ineffectual and corrupt. The Ukrainian parliament voted to dismiss him and the international community had voiced concerns about his work. -- Grace Segers and Erin Lyall
Giuliani confirms that documents provided to State Department IG originated with him
6:12 a.m.: In interviews on Fox News and CNN Wednesday night, Giuliani confirmed that some of the documents relating to Ukraine presented to the State Department inspector general originated with him. The State Department IG held a meeting with congressional staff on Wednesday to share the documents, which included accusations of wrongdoing by Biden.
In a briefing on Capitol Hill, the IG gave attendees a packet of "hallucinatory, propagandistic" materials and articles about Ukraine, Biden, Giuliani, Trump hotels and other matters that were sent to the secretary of state several months ago, according to Democratic Representative Jamie Raskin and congressional aides.
In light of the Ukraine controversy, Inspector General Steve Linick decided it was best to share the materials with Congress.
The cover sheet claimed -- in calligraphy -- that it was sent from the White House, but no one really knows who sent the materials. Raskin said he'll study the "troubling" materials, but told reporters "it feels like a completely irrelevant distraction from the work at hand."
A Senate aide called the briefing "weird."
In an interview with Fox News on Wednesday, Giuliani said that the IG's meeting backfired on the Democrats because they got a "absolutely terrific" outline as to how Biden is allegedly guilty.
"What they got shoved down their throats is a complete, total, absolutely terrific prosecutorial outline of why Joe Biden is guilty. It's a joke for me even having to describe it to you," Giuliani said about the IG's briefing. -- Nancy Cordes, Stefan Becket and Grace Segers
Whistleblower's lawyer says no one helped draft complaint
Wednesday, 9:22 p.m.: Mark Zaid, one of the whistleblower's lawyers, said his client drafted the complaint with no input from the legal team, a detail first reported by ABC News.
"We can absolutely confirm that the Whistleblower drafted the Complaint entirely on their own," Zaid said in a statement. "Andrew Bakaj, the lead legal counsel, provided guidance on process but was not involved in the drafting of the document and did not review it in advance."
Zaid said no one on the legal team had seen the complaint until it was released by the committee, and added that "no Member or congressional staff had any input into or reviewed the Complaint before it was submitted" to the inspector general. -- Olivia Gazis and Stefan Becket
Read more here.
Whistleblower's lawyer: Client never spoke to Schiff about complaint
Wednesday, 4:10 p.m.: Mark Zaid, an attorney representing the whistleblower, said in a statement that his client never discussed the complaint with Schiff.
"I can unequivocally state that neither any member of the legal team nor the whistleblower has ever met or spoken with Congressman Schiff about this matter," Zaid said.
Zaid also said "there was no contact between the legal team and Congress until nearly a month after the whistleblower complaint was submitted to the Intelligence Community's Inspector General," pointing to a letter sent to the Intelligence Committee on September 9.
In its earlier statement, a spokesman for the committee said the whistleblower "contacted the Committee for guidance" and staffers advised the individual to hire legal counsel and contact the inspector general. -- Olivia Gazis
House Intelligence Committee's statement on New York Times report
Wednesday, 3:05 p.m.: A spokesman for Schiff and the House Intelligence Committee issued a statement confirming a New York Times report that the whistleblower asked a colleague to approach the committee before filing the complaint:
"Like other whistleblowers have done before and since under Republican and Democratic-controlled Committees, the whistleblower contacted the Committee for guidance on how to report possible wrongdoing within the jurisdiction of the Intelligence Community. This is a regular occurrence, given the Committee's unique oversight role and responsibilities. Consistent with the Committee's longstanding procedures, Committee staff appropriately advised the whistleblower to contact an Inspector General and to seek legal counsel.
"At no point did the Committee review or receive the complaint in advance. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence, at the behest of the White House, refused to disclose the subject matter or the substance of the complaint to the Committee, despite its lawful obligation to do so, and despite the fact it was deemed 'credible' and of 'urgent concern' by the Intelligence Community Inspector General. The Committee did not receive the complaint until the night before the Acting Director of National Intelligence's open hearing before the Committee -- more than three weeks after the legal deadline by which the Committee should have received the complaint.
"The whistleblower should be commended for acting appropriately and lawfully throughout every step of the process. The Committee expects that they will be fully protected, despite the President's threats. Only through their courage did these facts about the President's abuse of power come to light. The Committee encourages all whistleblowers to come forward and seek advice on how to make disclosures of serious or flagrant wrongdoing. The Committee -- and the nation -- rely on brave members of the Intelligence Community to raise alarm and avail themselves of established channels."
Trump says he'll cooperate with House subpoena
Wednesday, 2:43 p.m.: At his press conference in the East Room, Mr. Trump said he would cooperate with a subpoena three House committees threatened to issue if the White House doesn't meet a Friday deadline for turning over documents.
"Well, I always cooperate," Mr. Trump said, before immediately launching into a defense of the call, reiterating several talking points from his press availability earlier on Wednesday.
"We'll work together with 'Shifty Schiff' and Pelosi and all of them, and we'll see what happens," Mr. Trump said, referring to the Intelligence Committee chairman. He called the controversy over the whistleblower complaint "a fraudulent crime on the American people."
He again disparaged the whistleblower who wrote the complaint: "I have a lot of respect for whistleblowers, but only when they're real."
Asked about a New York Times report that the whistleblower approached a House Committee staffer before filing the complaint, Mr. Trump called it "a scandal," and said Schiff "probably helped write" the whistleblower report.
"He knew long before, and he helped write it, too," Mr. Trump said about Schiff, mischaracterizing the Times' report. -- Grace Segers
Trump doubles down on criticism of Schiff, whistleblower
Wednesday, 1:02 p.m.: The president doubled down on attacks on his critics while greeting Finnish President Sauli Niinistö in the Oval Office Wednesday. Mr. Trump repeated his suggestion that Schiff, a California Democrat, committed treason by paraphrasing him at a recent hearing.
"He should be forced to resign from Congress, Adam Schiff. He's a lowlife," Mr. Trump said in the Oval Office, as Niinistö looked on.
In a perplexing statement, Mr. Trump claimed Schiff couldn't even hold Pompeo's "'blank' strap." The president is set to hold a joint press conference with the Finnish leader Wednesday afternoon. -- Kathryn Watson
Read more here.
Schiff: Trump's whistleblower comments an "incitement to violence"
Wednesday, 11:35 a.m.: Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff said Mr. Trump's comments disparaging the whistleblower are tantamount to an "incitement to violence."
"This is a blatant effort to intimidate witnesses. It's an incitement of violence," Schiff said in a joint press conference with Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Mr. Trump has repeatedly said that he wants to know the identity of the whistleblower, and has suggested the whistleblower is a partisan actor.
Schiff also criticized Pompeo, who has opposed congressional depositions of several current and former State Department officials mentioned in the whistleblower complaint.
Schiff said any attempt to interfere in Congress's inquiry "will be considered evidence of obstruction."
"They just need to know that, even as they try to undermine our ability to find the facts around the president's effort to coerce a foreign leader to create dirt that he can use against a political opponent, that they will be strengthening the case on obstruction if they behave that way," Schiff said. -- Grace Segers