Key facts and latest news
- Former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch told lawmakers that she was "incredulous" that the government had cut short her term as ambassador, "based, as best as I can tell, on unfounded and false claims by people with clearly questionable motives."
- The indictment of two foreign-born men with ties to the president's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani revealed a sprawling alleged effort to influence American politics and oust a U.S. ambassador.
- The two men, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, are accused of funneling foreign money to numerous candidates and committees, including a super PAC supporting the president and a U.S. congressman.
- On a July call between Mr. Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, President Trump urged Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden.
WASHINGTON -- Former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch told lawmakers that she had done nothing wrong and refuted each of the accusations against her leveled by the president's allies and his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani.
According to her prepared remarks, obtained by the Washington Post, Yovanovitch denied allegations that she had directed a Ukrainian official to refrain from investigating corruption, and she defended her record against attacks by President Trump and his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani. She said she had never called on any official in Ukraine not to investigate "actual corruption" and denied she had ever created a "'do not prosecute'" list.
She also denied that she had ever been "disloyal" to Mr. Trump and added that the Obama administration never asked her to help with the Clinton campaign or work against the Trump campaign.
Yovanovitch also said her ouster as ambassador came as a surprise, and said that the deputy secretary of state explained to her that there had been a "concerted campaign against" her, and the State Department had been under pressure to remove her since 2018.
Washington, D.C. Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton told reporters that she thought that Yovanovitch came across as credible to GOP and Democratic lawmakers alike.
That testimony comes a day after two foreign-born men who helped the president's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani in his efforts to investigate Joe and Hunter Biden were arrested on federal campaign finance charges, with prosecutors describing a sprawling effort to funnel foreign money into the American political process at the behest of Ukrainian officials. The indictment alleges the pair concealed the foreign source of hundreds of thousands of dollars in foreign money that eventually went to candidates and committees.
The men, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, are both U.S. citizens, according to an indictment brought by prosecutors in the Southern District of New York. Parnas was born in Ukraine, while Fruman was born in Belarus, prosecutors said. Two other men, David Correia and Andrey Kukushkin, also face charges.
Prosecutors allege the men enlisted a U.S. congressman to seek the ouster of Yovanovitch, who was prematurely recalled from her post earlier this year. The president called Yovanovitch, "bad news" in his July phone call with the Ukrainian president that's at the center of House Democrats' impeachment probe. However, when asked about her Friday, Mr. Trump said she might be a nice lady, but Ukrainian President Zelensky had not spoken "favorably" of her during their July 25 call.
Mr. Trump had told Zelensky, "The former ambassador from the United States, the woman, was bad news and the people she was dealing with in Ukraine were bad news, so I just want to let you know that."
Zelensky responded by asking the president, "I would kindly ask you if you have any additional information that you can provide to us, it would be very helpful for the investigation to make sure that we administer justice in our country with regard to the Ambassador to the United States from Ukraine." He went on to say, "I recall her name was Ivanovich. It was great that you were the first one, who told me that she was a bad ambassador because I agree with you 100%. Her attitude towards me was far from the best as she admired the previous President and she was on his side. She would not accept me as a new President: well enough."
As the president left for a rally in Louisiana, he was asked whether Giuliani was still his personal attorney.
"Well, I don't know. I haven't spoken to Rudy. I spoke to him yesterday, briefly. He's a very good attorney, and he has been my attorney," the president responded.
Giuliani told CBS News that he is still representing the president.
Paula Reid contributed to this report.
Trump refuses to say whether Giuliani is still his attorney
5:20 p.m.: Speaking to reporters on the White House South Lawn, Mr. Trump refused to say whether Giuliani is still his attorney.
"I haven't spoken to him... I spoke to him briefly yesterday," Mr. Trump said. "He's a very good attorney and has been my attorney."
Giuliani told CBS News that he is still representing Mr. Trump.
-- Grace Segers and Paula Reid
Schiff says committees have scheduled hearings with more officials
4:31 p.m.: House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff sent a letter to colleagues in the House to update them on the impeachment inquiry. He confirmed that several officials will be testifying before Congress next week. Schiff also said that the committees conducting the inquiry expect to announce additional testimony from relevant witnesses in the coming days.
"The Committees have also scheduled depositions with Dr. Fiona Hill, former Senior Director on the National Security Council for European and Russian Affairs, who left the White House in August 2019; Deputy Assistant Secretary George Kent; Ambassador Gordon Sondland; and State Department Counselor T. Ulrich Brechbuhl," Schiff's letter said.
"We expect to announce additional testimony from relevant witnesses in the coming days and remain prepared to compel testimony through duly authorized subpoenas as appropriate," the letter continued.
CBS News' Margaret Brennan reports that Hill is expected to testify that Giuliani and Sondland actively avoided her and the NSC process and ran their own Ukraine policy. She does not intend to hand over documents or texts.
-- Grace Segers
Committee chairs say Trump administration tried to block Yovanovitch from testifying
2:22 p.m.: The chairs of the three committees conducting the impeachment inquiry said in a statement that the State Department, at the direction of the White House, had attempted to block Yovanovitch from testifying before the committees on Friday. The House Intelligence Committee sent a subpoena to compel Yovanovitch to testify on Friday in response.
"This is the latest example of the Administration's efforts to conceal the facts from the American people and obstruct our lawful and constitutionally-authorized impeachment inquiry," the chairmen said. "As is required of her, the Ambassador is now complying with the subpoena and answering questions from both Democratic and Republican Members and staff."
The chairmen continued that any action to prevent an administration official from testifying before Congress would be considered an obstruction of justice.
-- Grace Segers
Ex-Ukraine ambassador blames Giuliani for pushing her out
2:24 p.m.: Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch defended her tenure as ambassador in testimony before the House committees conducting the impeachment inquiry, telling lawmakers that she was "incredulous" that she the government recalled her "based, as best as I can tell, on unfounded and false claims by people with clearly questionable motives."
According to her prepared remarks, obtained by the Washington Post, Yovanovitch said that although her tour was to end in 2020, she was "abruptly told" in late April to return to Washington "'on the next plane.'" She did not know why she was being recalled, and she met with the deputy secretary of state, who told her that Mr. Trump "had lost confidence in me and no longer wished me to serve as his ambassador." The secretary also told her that there had been "a concerted campaign against" her, and there had been pressure to remove her since 2018.
Yovanovitch said that she was also told that she "had done nothing wrong."
She denied allegations that she had directed a Ukrainian official to refrain from investigating corruption, and she defended her record against attacks by President Trump and his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani.
"I want to categorically state that I have never myself or through others, directly or indirectly, ever directed, suggested, or in any other way asked for any government or government official in Ukraine (or elsewhere) to refrain from investigating or prosecuting actual corruption," Yovanovitch said in her remarks, referring to allegations by former Ukrainian Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko, which he has since retracted.
"As Mr. Lutsenko, the former Ukrainian Prosecutor General has recently acknowledged, the notion that I created or disseminated a 'do not prosecute' list is completely false-a story that Mr. Lutsenko, himself, has since retracted," Yovanovitch said.
She also denied that she had been "disloyal" to Mr. Trump. She added that the Obama administration never asked her to help with the Clinton campaign or work against the Trump campaign, "nor would I have taken any such steps if they had."
Yovanovitch said that she had never met with Hunter Biden and had only met briefly with Giuliani.
"I do not know Mr. Giuliani's motives for attacking me. But individuals who have been named in the press as contacts of Mr. Giuliani may well have believed that their personal financial ambitions were stymied by our anti-corruption policy in Ukraine," Yovanovitch said.
-- Grace Segers
Eleanor Holmes Norton says she thinks both sides find Yovanovitch credible
12:23 p.m. About an hour into the deposition, Washington D.C. Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton spoke to reporters and said that so far, ex-Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch is coming across as a "true ambassador." She said that Yovanovitch has been the object of false statements and she's clearing this up.
Holmes Norton said she thought both sides were finding her to be credible. She also said that Yovanovitch has not indicated that anyone in the administration has tried to keep her from testifying.
Yovanovitch shows up to testify
10:14 a.m. Finally ending speculation about whether she'd appear, former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch arrived on Capitol Hill Tuesday morning to testify. It was unclear whether she would have to resign her position with the State Department in order to testify.
The ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, Devin Nunes, who was appearing on Fox News in a remote interview from California, attacked Yovanovitch as someone who was "badmouthing the Trump administration," and he called her a "well-documented" "partisan ambassador" who was "coordinating" with Democrats.
Nunes said Republicans will want to ask her whether she supported the Trump administration and whether she had really said negative things about it.
She will be testifying behind closed doors in a secure room, not out in the open.
Sondland scheduled to testify before the House Intel Committee next week
9:14 a.m.: Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the E.U., has been scheduled to testify before the House committees conducting the impeachment inquiry on October 17, after the committees had sent him a subpoena. Sondland was originally slated to testify last week, but was blocked from doing so by the State Department.
"Notwithstanding the State Department's current direction to not testify, Ambassador Sondland will honor the Committees' subpoena, and he looks forward to testifying on Thursday. Ambassador Sondland has at all times acted with integrity and in the interests of the United States. He has no agenda apart from answering the Committees' questions fully and truthfully," Sondland's attorney said in a statement.
Text messages submitted to Congress by former Ukraine Special Envoy Kurt Volker last week showed that he, Sondland and another diplomat had talked about securing a commitment from Ukraine to fight corruption and investigate Burisma.
In a tweet last week, Mr. Trump claimed that Sondland had originally been blocked from testifying because the committee would treat him unfairly.
"I would love to send Ambassador Sondland, a really good man and great American, to testify, but unfortunately he would be testifying before a totally compromised kangaroo court, where Republican's rights have been taken away, and true facts are not allowed out for the public ... to see. Importantly, Ambassador Sondland's tweet, which few report, stated, "I believe you are incorrect about President Trump's intentions. The President has been crystal clear: no quid pro quo's of any kind." That says it ALL!" Mr. Trump wrote.
The White House is refusing to cooperate with the House impeachment inquiry.
--Grace Segers and Rebecca Kaplan
White House officials less than thrilled by Giuliani TV appearances
White House officials and others in President Trump's orbit have been less than enthusiastic during Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani's recent television performances, White House officials say.
One White House official said they "wince" whenever the former New York mayor is on television. Trey Gowdy, a new addition to the president's personal legal team, is expected to be more of a presence on TV.-- Fin Gomez
Embattled ambassador to E.U. noticed to testify
Gordon Sondland, the embattled U.S. ambassador to the U.S., has been formally noticed to testify on Wednesday, two sources confirm.
That doesn't necessarily mean he will show up. The administration has barred Sondland from appearing. Sondland has expressed that he wants to testify.
Sondland, a major Trump donor, has found himself in the middle of the impeachment probe. -- Kathryn Watson
Fiona Hill expected to testify about Giuliani and Sondland
When former National Security Council official Fiona Hill testifies before Congress on Monday, she is expected to tell lawmakers that President Trump's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, and Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland actively avoided her and the NSC process and ran their own Ukraine policy, a source familiar with Hill told CBS News.
Hill, who is testifying voluntarily, does not intend to hand over documents or texts. She officially left the White House in July, but before the July 25 call between Mr. Trump and Zelensky took place. Hill is an authority on Russia and has written a book on the Russian president, called "Mr. Putin: Operative in the Kremlin."
Lawyers ask if whistleblower can answer questions in writing
Lawyers for the whistleblower have requested "interrogatories" -- or written questions for their client to answer -- from the intelligence committees, people familiar with the request tell CBS News.
The request was first reported by The Wall Street Journal.
One of the people said the Senate Intelligence Committee is "working through it." -- Olivia Gazis
Trump says he doesn't know Parnas or Fruman
Speaking to reporters before departing for a rally in Minneapolis, Mr. Trump said that he does not know Parnas or Fruman, although he acknowledged he may have taken a photograph with one of them. BuzzFeed News published a photo showing Parnas and Mr. Trump in a Facebook post from July.
"I don't know those gentlemen," Mr. Trump said, adding that while he may have a photo with Parnas, "I have pictures with everybody."
"You'll have to ask Rudy," Mr. Trump said about the two, referring to Giuliani. -- Grace Segers
Former congressman denies knowledge of scheme described in indictment
Former Congressman Pete Sessions, who received large donations from the super PAC backed by Fruman and Parnas, said in a statement Thursday that he had no knowledge of the scheme described in the indictment against the two. While in Congress, Sessions questioned the fitness of former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, whom Giuliani hoped to have removed.
The contributions to Sessions by the super PAC, America First Action, were first reported by The Daily Beast on Wednesday.
In his statement on Thursday, Sessions said that he could not confirm whether he was the congressman mentioned in the indictment, but that he "will vigorously defend myself against any allegations of wrongdoing."
"If I am 'Congressman One', I could not have had any knowledge of the scheme described in the indictment or have involvement or coordination of it," Sessions said. -- Grace Segers
Parnas and Fruman granted $1 million bond
In a brief court appearance Thursday, a federal judge in Virginia approved $1 million bond packages for both Parnas and Fruman, but the men will remain in custody until they meet the conditions of the bond and complete the proper paperwork.
The terms of their release are as follows:
- $1 million bond for each, secured with property.
- Both will remain under house arrest and be subject to GPS location monitoring.
- Any travel must be approved by pretrial services ahead of time, and travel is restricted to the Southern District of New York and the Southern District of Florida, and they must get approval to go back and forth.
- They cannot discuss the case with each other without their respective counsel present.
- They are required to have a third-party custodian to ensure the conditions are met. They are likely to have separate custodians who must be identified to the court.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael S. Nachmanoff said he was "reluctant to impose" the terms given the "unusual situation" surrounding the case. But federal prosecutor Nicholas Roos said the government felt the conditions were sufficient to "guard against the potential flight risk."
Kevin Downing, an attorney representing the pair, told CBS News they are not expected to be released tonight, given the amount of paperwork required to satisfy the court's requirements.
Nachmanoff said both men may be "stuck in limbo" for a few days as the court processes their paperwork and pretrial services can approve co-signers and third party custodians. They're scheduled to appear before a judge in New York next Thursday.
Both men have already surrendered their passports and told the court they have no other travel documents. -- Clare Hymes and Bryce Klehm
House committees subpoena Rick Perry
The three House investigating committees issued a subpoena to Secretary of Energy Rick Perry Thursday demanding documents related to his involvement with Ukraine.
"Recently, public reports have raised questions about any role you may have played in conveying or reinforcing the President's stark message to the Ukrainian President," the chairmen wrote in a letter. "These reports have also raised significant questions about your efforts to press Ukrainian officials to change the management structure at a Ukrainian state-owned energy company to benefit individuals involved with Rudy Giuliani's push to get Ukrainian officials to interfere in our 2020 election."
Perry was tapped to lead the delegation to Zelensky's inauguration in place of Vice President Mike Pence, and met with various Ukrainian officials, including Zelensky, several other times.
The White House counsel said Tuesday that no members of the executive branch would cooperate with Democratic demands for documents or testimony. -- Stefan Becket
Giuliani's attorney says indictment does not involve client "in any way"
Jon Sale, Giuliani's attorney, said in a statement Thursday to CBS News that the indictment of Parnas and Fruman has nothing to do with the former mayor.
"The indictment does not involve Mayor Giuliani in any way. At one point he represented those two men as a lawyer, so that is privileged. He only knew [them] because they were his clients," Sale said. -- Paula Reid
Ukrainian president says he never met with Giuliani associates
Zelensky told reporters in Ukraine on Thursday that he has never met Parnas or Fruman.
"I never met these two men. I heard about them," Zelensky said during a marathon press conference, adding he never had any phone calls with them either.
The indictment against Parnas and Fruman alleges the pair met numerous times with a member of Congress to urge the ouster of the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, working at the direction of Ukrainian government officials. -- Grace Segers
Giuliani associates were arrested while awaiting one-way flight out of U.S.
Parnas and Fruman were arrested at Dulles International Airport outside Washington on Wednesday evening as they were about to board an international flight on one-way tickets, according to U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Geoffrey Berman, who said at a press conference that protecting the integrity of U.S. elections from foreign influence is of primary importance to his office.
"This investigation is about corrupt behavior -- deliberate law breaking," said William Sweeney, assistant director-in-charge of the FBI's New York office. -- Kathryn Watson