Trump lashes out at Democrats over impeachment probe
Key facts and latest news
- In two appearances at the White House, President Trump denounced Democrats leading the impeachment inquiry, calling for a chairman to be arrested for treason.
- House Democrats said they plan to issue a new subpoena for the White House to produce documents, and warned the White House and Pompeo not to obstruct their probe.
- 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 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.
At a remarkable press conference with the president of Finland in the East Room of the White House, Mr. Trump repeated a series of falsehoods about the whistleblower and the allegations in the complaint, stating the individual's account of the call did not match a summary released by his own White House, and labeling Joe and Hunter Biden "stone cold corrupt."
He berated a reporter for asking about the Ukraine call, and derided what he called the "corrupt and fake" media in general. He said the controversy was a "hoax" that amounted to a "fraudulent crime on the American people."
In an earlier meeting in the Oval Office, Mr. Trump called Adam Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, a "lowlife" who "should resign from office in disgrace."
"And frankly they should look at him for treason," the president told reporters.
The dual outbursts came after Schiff and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi warned the White House and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo not to interfere with the impeachment inquiry, saying efforts to block witnesses or withhold testimony would be considered evidence of obstruction.
The committees leading the impeachment probe said Wednesday they plan to issue a new subpoena demanding the White House turn over documents about the president's July phone call with the leader of Ukraine.
"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 at a press conference with Pelosi on Capitol Hill.
"We have to be worthy of the Constitution. As we said before, we have to be fair to the president and that's why this is an investigative inquiry, not an outright impeachment," Pelosi said. "And we have to give the president his chance to exonerate himself, but he thinks what he did was 'perfect.'" -- Stefan Becket
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.
Lawmakers emerge from "weird" briefing with State Department IG
Wednesday, 5:01 p.m.: In a briefing on Capitol Hill, the State Department inspector general 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."
The three House committee chairs leading the impeachment inquiry said the earlier briefing by the State Department inspector general "raise[d] troubling questions about apparent efforts inside and outside the Trump Administration to target specific official," notably a former ambassador to Ukraine who was prematurely removed from her post in the spring.
The chairmen said the documents presented by inspector general "reinforce concern that the President and his allies sought to use the machinery of the State Department to further the President's personal political interests." -- Nancy Cordes and Stefan Becket
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 approached 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 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
Trump calls impeachment inquiry "bad for country"
Wednesday, 10:35 a.m.: The president is blaming "do nothing Democrats" for focusing their efforts on impeachment -- something he claims they've been at since he was first elected.
Mr. Trump also tweeted he "knew that many people were listening" to the July 25 call and "even have a transcript." -- Emily Tillett
House committees prep subpoena for White House docs
Wednesday, 10:23 a.m.: The House Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight Committees are preparing to issue a subpoena to the White House this Friday if it does not turn over a broad set of documents related to the July 25 call.
In a memo on Wednesday, committee chairs Adam Schiff, Eliot Engel and Elijah Cummings said their respective committees are investigating the extent to which Mr. Trump "jeopardized national security by pressing Ukraine to interfere with our 2020 election and by withholding security assistance provided by Congress to help Ukraine counter Russian aggression, as well as any efforts to cover up these matters."
"Over the past several weeks, the Committees tried several times to obtain voluntary compliance with our requests for documents, but the White House has refused to engage with -- or even respond to -- the Committees," their memo states.
The White House has neglected to turn over related documents when they were first requested early last month.
"The White House's flagrant disregard of multiple voluntary requests for documents--combined with stark and urgent warnings from the Inspector General about the gravity of these allegations--have left us with no choice but to issue this subpoena," the memo reads.
This is the latest threat of subpoena action after Engle issued a subpoena for Pompeo, and Schiff issued a separate subpoena to Rudy Giuliani. -- Emily Tillett and Rebecca Kaplan
Pompeo confirms he was on call between Trump and Zelensky
Wednesday, 7:25 a.m.: Addressing reporters in Rome during an overseas visit, Pompeo confirmed he was on the July call between President Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
"I was on the phone call," he told the press. "I know precisely what the American policy has been with respect to Ukraine. It's been remarkably consistent, and we will continue to drive those sets of outcomes."
The secretary neglected to answer questions on whether or not he had heard anything on the call that had raised any red flags, but said the call was about helping Ukraine get corruption out of their government and "taking down the threat that Russia poses to Ukraine."
He said that effort will continue "even while all this noise in Washington is going on."
On the outstanding depositions for State Department officials to come before Congress, Pompeo argued that congressional committees had said department lawyers wouldn't be allowed to attend.
"What we objected to was the demands that were put ... deeply violating fundamental principles of separation of powers. They contacted State Department employees directly. Told them not to contact legal counsel in the State Department. They said that the State Department wouldn't be able to be present. There are important constitutional prerogatives that the executive branch has to be present so that we can protect important information so our partners, countries like Italy, can have confidence that the information they provide to the State Department will continue to be protected," Pompeo explained.
Referring to his stern letter to committee chairs, he said: "So the response that I provided to them was one that acknowledged that we will of course do our Constitutional duty to cooperate with this co-equal branch but we are going to do so in a way that is consistent with the fundamental values of the American system."
"We won't tolerate folks on Capitol Hill bullying and intimidating State Department employees, that's unacceptable and it's not something that I'm going to permit to happen," Pompeo said. -- Emily Tillett
Australia's PM downplays call with Trump
Wednesday, 6:40 a.m.: Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison downplayed his phone call with President Trump over the Russian interference probe, saying the conversation was not "ladled with pressure."
In an interview with Sky News, Morrison said Mr. Trump contacted him to ask "for a point of contact" for Attorney General William Barr's investigation into what triggered the FBI's Russia probe.
"A couple of weeks ago the president contacted me and asked for a point of contact between the Australian government and the U.S. attorney, which I was happy to do on the basis that was something we'd already committed to do," he said.
"It was a fairly uneventful conversation," Morrison defended, later calling the conversation "brief" and a "fairly polite request."
Barr had asked Mr. Trump to call Morrison to alert him that the attorney general would be reaching out, a department official previously told CBS News. The New York Times first reported the two leaders had spoken. Morrison was just one of several foreign officials Barr had sought out for assistance in the Department of Justice's review of the origins of the Mueller probe. -- Emily Tillett
Giuliani threatens lawsuit against members of Congress
Wednesday, 6:00 a.m.: During an appearance on Fox News Tuesday night, President Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani said he's considering filing a lawsuit against individual members of Congress for violating his, the president's and possibly the administration's civil and constitutional rights.
Although Giuliani only specifically cited House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff as a potential target, he said Congress has "violated" the president's authority under Article II of the Constitution and violated Giuliani's attorney-client privilege.
In terms of his subpoena, Giuliani said he does not regret revealing on national television the text messages he has with Ukrainian officials and the state department. He admitted that he has "many more," however, Giuliani also said that turning them over was a "complicated" issue because they're all his "work product" as an attorney. -- Emily Tillett
House Intel says ex-Ukraine envoy will testify as planned
Tuesday, 4:50 p.m.: The special envoy to Ukraine who abruptly resigned his post after his apparent entanglement with Rudy Giuliani came to light will appear as scheduled for a deposition before House lawmakers on Thursday, a House Intelligence Committee official said.
Kurt Volker resigned Friday amid scrutiny over his supposed role in facilitating contacts between Giuliani and various Ukrainian officials. He was scheduled to appear before the House committees leading the impeachment probe on Thursday and will appear behind closed doors as planned, the official said.
The official said former Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch will now appear on October 11, under an agreement reached with her counsel. She was previously scheduled to appear on Wednesday.
Both officials are among the five included in Pompeo's earlier letter to the committees protesting the demand for their testimony. -- Olivia Gazis and Stefan Becket
House chairmen accuse Pompeo of witness intimidation
Tuesday, 2:32 p.m.: The chairmen of three House committees demanding documents from Pompeo and depositions of State Department officials responded to the secretary's letter Tuesday afternoon, accusing him of obstructing their investigation.
"Secretary Pompeo was reportedly on the call when the President pressed Ukraine to smear his political opponent. If true, Secretary Pompeo is now a fact witness in the House impeachment inquiry," the chairmen wrote. "He should immediately cease intimidating Department witnesses in order to protect himself and the President."
The letter came from the chairmen of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Intelligence Committee and Oversight and Reform Committee -- Eliot Engel, Adam Schiff and Elijah Cummings, respectively.
"Any effort to intimidate witnesses or prevent them from talking with Congress -- including State Department employees -- is illegal and will constitute evidence of obstruction of the impeachment inquiry," the lawmakers continued. "In response, Congress may infer from this obstruction that any withheld documents and testimony would reveal information that corroborates the whistleblower complaint."
The chairmen said they are "committed to protecting witnesses from harassment and intimidation, and we expect their full compliance and that of the Department of State." -- Stefan Becket
Pompeo responds to Democrats' demand for depositions
Tuesday, 10:51 a.m.: In a letter to the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accused Democrats of trying to "intimidate" and "bully" State Department officials with a request for testimony about their involvement in the Ukraine call. Pompeo said the committee's request does not provide enough time for the department and its employees to adequately prepare.
Pompeo, who is traveling in Italy, wrote that the request "can be understood only as an attempt to intimidate, bully, and treat improperly the distinguished professionals of the Department of State, including several career Foreign Service Officers."
He added, "Let me be clear: I will not tolerate such tactics, and I will use all means at my disposal to prevent and expose any attempts to intimidate the dedicated professionals whom I am proud to lead and serve alongside at the Department of State."
On Friday, three committee chairs wrote to Pompeo informing him they had scheduled depositions for five officials: former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, former special envoy Kurt Volker, Deputy Assistant Secretary George Kent, State Department Counselor T. Ulrich Brechbuhl and U.S. Ambassador to the E.U. Gordon Sondland. All five officials were mentioned in the whistleblower complaint.
Volker resigned abruptly from his post as special envoy for Ukraine on Friday and is scheduled to be deposed on Thursday.
The chairmen also issued a subpoena for documents from Pompeo related to the call. -- Emily Tillett