The latest news on the impeachment inquiry
- House lawmakers are preparing to conduct the first public hearings in the impeachment inquiry, with three witnesses set to testify Wednesday and Friday.
- Democrats added five more hearings to the schedule for next week, featuring eight officials over the course of three days.
- A new CBS News poll found Americans hold negative views of how both Democrats and the president have handled the inquiry.
- Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney won't pursue a lawsuit over whether he should comply with a congressional subpoena, and will instead "rely on the direction of the president."
Washington -- House Democrats are ramping up the impeachment inquiry with the first public hearings scheduled for Wednesday, raising the stakes of their investigation into President Trump's dealings with Ukraine.
The first hearing before the House Intelligence Committee will feature Bill Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, and George Kent, a high-level State Department official. Both raised concerns over the administration's attempts to pressure Ukraine into investigating supposed Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election and a company that had employed Hunter Biden, former Vice President Joe Biden's son.
On Friday, the committee will hear from Marie Yovanovitch, a longtime U.S. diplomat who was ousted as ambassador to Ukraine earlier this year as a result of a campaign to discredit her, led by Mr. Trump's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani.
Democrats on Tuesday announced the next round of hearings, with eight officials set to appear over the course of three days next week.
The committees leading the impeachment inquiry on Monday released transcripts of closed-door hearings with three witnesses, including Laura Cooper, a Pentagon official who oversees a U.S. military aid program to Ukraine. That program was delayed for months over the summer, allegedly as leverage to pressure the Ukrainian government to announce investigations. Cooper said the funds "were held without explanation," and officials "began to raise concerns about how this could be done in a legal fashion."
White House prepares to push back
President Trump is expected to watch some of the impeachment inquiry hearings on TV Wednesday, White House officials told CBS News, and staff will be set up to "react in real time" with a "rapid response."
The response team will include staffers from the White House press and communications teams, as well as the White House counsel and legislative affairs offices, reports CBS News' Fin Gomez.
The White House will be "aggressively pushing back on TV, radio, in print, with digital efforts," including Twitter. The White House will also emphasize what they believe is an "incredibly unfair process" by the Democrats.
In the past several weeks, the White House has been meeting with Republican lawmakers in an effort to present a unified front against Democrats during the hearings.
Democrats announce next round of open hearings
7:49 p.m.: House Democrats unveiled a new slate of witnesses scheduled to appear in public hearings next week, with a total of eight officials set to testify before the House Intelligence Committee over the course of three days.
The committee will hold two hearings on Tuesday, November 19, and two on Wednesday, November 20. There will also be one hearing on Thursday, November 21.
These officials are scheduled to appear:
- Tuesday morning: Jennifer Williams and Alexander Vindman
- Tuesday afternoon: Kurt Volker and Tim Morrison
- Wednesday morning: Gordon Sondland
- Wednesday afternoon: Laura Cooper and David Hale
- Thursday: Fiona Hill
Read more here.
Democratic chairs denounce efforts to unmask whistleblower
6:08 p.m.: The chairs of the House Judiciary and Oversight Committees released a statement denouncing attacks against the whistleblower whose complaint sparked the impeachment inquiry.
"The President is leading, with the help of Republican allies in Congress, a shameful effort to threaten, intimidate, and retaliate against the brave individual who simply rang the initial alarm. Whistleblowers have a right to remain anonymous to protect their jobs and their safety," said Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler and Carolyn Maloney, the acting chair of the Oversight Committee.
The lawmakers said it "would be an abuse of power for the President to use his office" to expose the whistleblower, warning that doing so "is dangerous, unethical, and potentially illegal." -- Stefan Becket
Bannon calls Pelosi's strategy "actually quite brilliant"
5:13 p.m.: Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon praised House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday, saying her handling of the impeachment inquiry is "actually quite brilliant."
"I disagree with her ideologically, but I think Nancy Pelosi is a master at political warfare. I think, strategically, what she has done from their perspective is actually quite brilliant," Bannon said in an interview with CBS News.
Bannon, who has fallen in and out of favor with Mr. Trump, recently started a podcast called "War Room: Impeachment," with former Trump campaign spokesman Jason Miller and Raheem Kassam, a former adviser to right-wing British politician Nigel Farage.
Bannon, who has fallen in and out of favor with President Trump, recently started a podcast and radio show called "War Room: Impeachment," with former Trump campaign spokesman Jason Miller and Raheem Kassam, a former adviser to right-wing British politician Nigel Farage.
The show is part of an effort by some of the president's outside allies to fill a perceived void in coordination by the White House, which has largely taken a back seat to House Republicans in formulating a response to the impeachment probe.
Read more from the interview here.
State Department offers $300 an hour to cover witnesses' legal costs
3:19 p.m.: CBS News has learned how much financial aid the State Department will offer to cover the legal costs of foreign service officers who testify in the impeachment inquiry, both in public and behind closed doors.
Department witnesses will be entitled to $300 an hour from the agency for past and future legal representation. If that doesn't cover their costs, their union will pay the difference.
Foreign service officers view the aid as a vindication they're not doing something "unethical," one official said.
The State Department is also allowing witnesses to receive pro bono assistance, which is typically considered a gift and not allowed.
It remains unclear whether the assistance will also be offered to former State Department employees or to those who have refused to testify. -- Margaret Brennan and Christina Ruffini
Democrats aim to use hearings to shed light on Trump's alleged misconduct
3:08 p.m.: Democrats are hoping that the open hearings will shed light on Mr. Trump's potential misdeeds for the public. A Democratic aide working on the impeachment process said Taylor and Kent, who will testify Wednesday, "were both witness to the full storyline of the president's misconduct."
Kent is expected to testify about the "irregular" Ukraine policy channel that was run by former special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker, Ambassador to the E.U. Gordon Sondland and Rudy Giuliani, the president's personal attorney. He'll also speak to the State Department's treatment of former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, who was removed from her post in May after a smear campaign by Giuliani and his allies in Ukraine.
Taylor is expected to testify about his own set of concerns regarding U.S. policy in Ukraine, which became public last month after the House Intelligence Committee released copies of text messages in which he told Sondland it was "crazy" to withhold security assistance in exchange for help with a political campaign.
"I think it will really set the stage for the public to understand the full storyline," the aide said.
Democrats will seek to portray Yovanovitch as the first "victim" of the shadow foreign policy operation when she testifies before the House Intelligence Committee on Friday.
They'll also try to force Republicans to weigh in on Mr. Trump's behavior.
"Ultimately, this is a very simple story. This president abused his office and his presidential powers to force and pressure a foreign government to interfere with our elections on his behalf," another aide working on the impeachment inquiry said. "Republicans will need to answer one question: Are they going to defend the president or are they going to defend democracy?"
The aide added that the hearings aren't expected to reveal new information beyond what they uncovered and released in transcripts of the closed-door depositions House investigators conducted with the witnesses, but said there was still a "value" in allowing the public to hear directly from those who testified. -- Rebecca Kaplan
CBS News poll finds negative views of both Trump and Democrats on impeachment
2:49 p.m.: Congressional Democrats and Republicans each appear to face a challenge moving public opinion on impeachment as public hearings begin, since many Americans say their views are already locked in, according to a new CBS News poll. There's been essentially no change in the number who feel Mr. Trump deserves to be impeached since last month, and now the public expresses dissatisfaction with the approaches of both congressional Democrats and the president thus far.
More Americans feel the Democrats have done a bad job handling the inquiry (52%) than a good job (48%.) And more feel Mr. Trump has done a bad job handling it (56%) than feel he has handled it well (43%.)
Americans favor making at least some hearings public. A large majority think testimony should either be in open hearings (47%) or a mix of open and closed, depending on the sensitivity of the testimony (42%). Just 11% say hearings should be closed. More than half of Americans continue to approve of congressional Democrats having started the impeachment inquiry.
Read more findings from the poll here.
Republicans outline strategy for responding to impeachment inquiry
12:41 p.m.: Republican staffers on the committees conducting the impeachment inquiry drafted a memorandum to GOP lawmakers outlining the minority's strategy for responding to the impeachment inquiry. The memo argues that "the evidence gathered to date" does not support House Democrats' allegation that the president withheld military aid to pressure Ukraine.
The administration withheld the aid package until September, and some U.S. diplomatic officials have told Congress that the release of the aid was conditioned on a public announcement by Ukraine that it would open the requested investigations. The committees conducting the impeachment inquiry have held several closed hearings with current and former administration officials, including some who participated in the July 25 call. Mr. Trump has vehemently denied any wrongdoing, and the White House released a summary of the call in September.
The Republican memo argues that "four key pieces of evidence are fatal to the Democrats' allegations" of a quid pro quo: the call summary released by the White House contains no evidence of conditionality, Mr. Trump and Zelensky have said publicly that there was no pressure on the call, the Ukrainian government was not aware of the U.S. hold on assistance at the time of the July 25 call, and aid to Ukraine was restored in September without Zelensky opening any investigations. -- Grace Segers
Read more about the memo here.
Senate Intel Committee chair recalls “outrageous things” from Trump’s past that didn’t convince people he wasn’t qualified to be president
11:55 a.m. Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr, a Republican, said that although there have been "outrageous things" released about President Trump -- in particular, "I can remember his conversation with Billy Bush" -- they didn't meet "the threshold that people thought he was unqualified to be president."
"I would only say to you the test we're going to have," Burr said at an event with Senator Mark Warner at Wake Forest University, in North Carolina, "and I think we'll be presented with it -- does it reach the level of removal from office?"
Burr also thinks the Senate impeachment process could take six to eight weeks. If that's the case, Mr. Trump's impeachment trial would be longer than the five-week Senate trial for President Bill Clinton.
Warner, the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, is unhappy that this early on in the process, some of his colleagues have already made up their minds.
"What upsets me is, again, men and women I work with on either team who are jumping to conclusions, either saying, 'I've already made my decision that he's guilty or not,'" Warner said.
He added, "Let's let this play out, but we should be doing it with a sense of sobriety and seriousness that it warrants." -- Alan He
Mulvaney backs out of lawsuit
10:38 a.m. Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney says he no longer intends to pursue any litigation over whether he should comply with a congressional subpoena, and will instead "rely on the direction of the president," as supported by Justice Department opinions.
In other words, Mulvaney won't comply with a congressional subpoena, unless compelled by the Justice Department -- a very unlikely scenario. Mulvaney had attempted to sign onto a lawsuit that would have allowed the courts to decide whether he should comply, but withdrew that request Monday, saying at the time instead that he would file his own case, which would be related to the other lawsuit.
Read more here.
Schiff outlines format of impeachment hearings
10:17 a.m. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff outlined the format for upcoming public impeachment hearings.
After opening statements, the chairman and ranking member, or a designated staff member, will each question the witnesses for 45 minutes. Then, after that extended questioning, members of the committee will be recognized for five minutes of questioning.
Schiff said the hearings will likely run at least 3.5 hours, but probably longer.
Schiff did not say which witnesses requested by the minority will be allowed to testify. Republicans have requested a slew of witnesses, including the whistleblower. Schiff has already indicated the whistleblower won't be testifying. -- Rebecca Kaplan and Kathryn Watson
Nikki Haley says she's made up her mind on impeachment
10:00 a.m. Former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley told NBC's "Today" show she's made up her mind on the impeachment push against the president, lamenting that impeachment is "literally the worst punishment" that can happen to a president.
"I have made up my mind. Impeachment is literally the worst punishment you can do to a public official ... impeachment is serious. It's the most serious thing you can do to a president," she said. "The other side of this is we are less than a year away from the election. Instead, let the people decide. Let them hear the testimony, that's fine, but let them decide."
Trump says he'll release transcript of other call with Zelensky "by week's end"
7:22 a.m. President Trump says he'll release the transcript of an earlier call with Ukraine's president "before week's end," something he suggested he might do last week.
The phone call is a precursor to his now-infamous July 25 call with Ukraine's president that set into motion the ongoing impeachment inquiry.
"I will be releasing the transcript of the first, and therefore more important, phone call with the Ukrainian president before week's end!" the president tweeted early Tuesday morning.
The president continues to insist his July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was "perfect," a line most Republicans have declined to replicate.
On Monday, the president seemed to launch a new line of attack against Democrats' swiftly moving inquiry -- that transcripts in closed-door depositions where Republicans were present are made-up, something no other public official has suggested.
Cooper: Pentagon left in the dark over delay in Ukraine aid
6:00 a.m.: Cooper said the first indication she had that the release of the aid had been delayed came in the middle of July after a meeting on Ukraine policy chaired by a National Security Council director.
Cooper sent her deputy, and said a readout of the July 18 meeting indicated "there was discussion in that session about ... OMB saying that they were holding the Congressional Notification related to FMF," referring to Foreign Military Financing, the aid program administered by the State Department. OMB refers to the White House Office of Management and Budget, which signs off on notifications to Congress about aid from the State Department program.
She said her staff tried to clarify whether that delay applied to the Pentagon program as well, and received no guidance.
"So at that point, we were concerned, because this notion that there was guidance that was broadly applicable to Ukraine security assistance was a source of concern, but the only specific was related to that Congressional Notification for FMF," Cooper said. -- Stefan Becket
Read more here.
Mulvaney abandons effort to join lawsuit
5:30 a.m.: Mulvaney withdrew his request to join a federal lawsuit over whether White House officials should comply with congressional subpoenas for testimony in the impeachment inquiry, indicating he plans to file his own separate case.
On Saturday, Mulvaney asked to join the suit filed by Charles Kupperman, a former deputy national security adviser under John Bolton. Kupperman asked the court to decide whether he should comply with a congressional subpoena for testimony or follow a White House order not to appear before the committees leading the impeachment inquiry. Kupperman shares an attorney with Bolton, who has declined to testify voluntarily but has not been subpoenaed.
Mulvaney was issued a subpoena to appear for a deposition last week, which he ignored. His attorney filed a motion asking to join the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia over the weekend, and Judge Richard Leon held a telephone conference regarding Mulvaney's motion on Monday. -- Stefan Becket and Rob Legare
Read more here.