How Donald Trump impeachment inquiry will loom over Democratic debate
The biggest storyline of the Ohio debate revolves around how the candidates talk about the fast-moving impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump. Here are five ways the inquiry will loom large over the debate.
Recent revelations about President Trump’s conduct are testing the limits of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s narrow impeachment strategy, leading some Democrats to wonder whether the probe should be expanded beyond the Ukraine scandal.
Since House Democrats launched their impeachment inquiry just over two weeks ago, Pelosi (D-Calif.) and her top lieutenants have coalesced around a plan to focus on Trump’s pressure on the Ukrainian president to investigate former vice president Joe Biden, a 2020 presidential candidate, and his son Hunter. The episode, Democrats argue, is clear-cut, easy for Americans to understand and doesn’t require further proof as the White House has released a rough transcript of the call.
McConnell tells Senate Republicans to be ready for impeachment trial of Trump
The Senate majority leader said that the trial could begin as soon as Thanksgiving and that the Senate would likely meet six days a week.An air of inevitability has taken hold in Congress, with the expectation Trump will become the third president in history to be impeached — and Republicans believe they need to prepare to defend the president. While McConnell briefed senators on what would happen during a Senate trial, House GOP leaders convened what they expect will be regular impeachment strategy sessions.
But a spate of allegations about other possible abuses have led some Democrats to rethink the strategy.
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“We have a duty to investigate whether the misuse of government resources for personal and political ends goes beyond Ukraine,” Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn.), a member of the House Intelligence Committee, said in an interview Thursday. He later added: “We have an obligation to just see how deep this sewage flows.”
In the past 24 hours alone, The Washington Post reported that Trump sought to enlist then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in the fall of 2017 to work with Rudolph W. Giuliani to help stop the prosecution of a Turkish Iranian gold trader represented by the former New York mayor and current Trump lawyer, according to people with knowledge of the request.
Senate GOP braces for impeachment trial 'roller coaster'
The Financial Times reported that Michael Pillsbury, one of Trump’s China advisers, said he had received information on Hunter Biden during a visit to Beijing shortly after Trump called on China to investigate the former vice president’s son. Pillsbury later offered a conflicting account.
“China has to do whatever they want. If they want to look into something, they can look into it. If they don’t . . . they don’t have to,” Trump said, adding that it would be “great” either way.
Pentagon expert could reveal key details in Ukraine probe
Laura K. Cooper, who played a crucial role in trying to move the Ukrainian aid forward, is set to testify Friday in the impeachment inquiry.“You can count on the United States to remain your strong partner in strengthening Ukraine’s military to defend Ukrainian democracy,” Cooper said in a video address on Dec. 7, 2018, as she stood before the Ukrainian and American flags.
In solely focusing on Ukraine, Democrats could miss the opportunity to build a stronger case against the president — one that has the potential to sway Senate Republicans who will decide whether to convict Trump if the House votes to impeach.
“We’re basically getting like three new impeachable offenses a day, so it suggests that we are only seeing the tip of the iceberg on what’s happening,” said Daniel Pfeiffer, a former Obama strategist who hosts “Pod Save America” and has been pushing Democrats to expand their probes.
Multiple senior Democratic officials tracking the impeachment inquiry said there is no plan to broaden their investigation to include Trump’s unorthodox request to Tillerson, which the former secretary of state rejected and considered illegal. Nor are Democrats readying a new impeachment probe of Trump’s request last week that China dig up dirt on Biden, which one official said was a public declaration so it didn’t need to be investigated.
Some Democrats, however, indicated that the strategy could change.
While Trump has blocked numerous administration officials from testifying, Tillerson, who was ousted by Trump, has been willing to participate in previous Democratic inquiries, even secretly answering questions for the House Foreign Affairs Committee last spring. Should Democrats call him to testify, he could be a fruitful witness.
Diplomat tells investigators he raised alarms in 2015 about Hunter Biden’s Ukraine work but was rebuffed
George Kent, a deputy assistant secretary of state, was told in 2015 that then-Vice President Joe Biden didn’t have the “bandwidth” to deal with the matter.George Kent, a deputy assistant secretary of state, testified Tuesday that he worried that Hunter Biden’s position at the firm Burisma Holdings would complicate efforts by U.S. diplomats to convey to Ukrainian officials the importance of avoiding conflicts of interest, said the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of confidentiality rules surrounding the deposition.
The Democrats spoke on the condition of anonymity to speak frankly.
Rather, Democrats are doubling down on their Ukraine probe at lightning speed, scheduling additional closed-door depositions with Trump officials, including former National Security Council official Fiona Hill, and issuing new subpoenas to Trump associates for documents.
On Thursday, they sent one compulsory measure to Energy Secretary Rick Perry, who Trump said encouraged him to speak with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Recent reports, the Democratic investigators wrote, have “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.”
Impeachment inquiry shows Trump at the center of Ukraine efforts against rivals
A growing body of evidence makes clear it was Trump himself who repeatedly pushed his own government and a foreign power to intervene in domestic political concerns.Over two weeks of closed-door testimony, a clear portrait has emerged of a president personally orchestrating the effort to pressure a foreign government to dig up dirt on a potential 2020 political rival — and marshaling the full resources of the federal bureaucracy to help in that endeavor.
Democrats also subpoenaed two Giuliani associates, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, for documents pertaining to how they worked to connect Trump’s lawyer to Ukrainians claiming to have damaging information on the Bidens. Both men were arrested on campaign finance charges Wednesday night amid allegations that they schemed to funnel foreign money to U.S. politicians in a bid to affect U.S.-Ukraine relations.
House Democrats have speculated that Trump’s pressure on Ukraine was not a one-off situation — particularly after his comments to China. The New York Times also reported last week that Trump recently pushed the Australian prime minister to "help Attorney General William P. Barr gather information for a Justice Department inquiry that Mr. Trump hopes will discredit the Mueller investigation."
For now Democrats plan to use those headlines to further substantiate their call to impeach Trump, even if they don’t investigate them as part of the inquiry. Rep. Daniel Kildee (D-Mich.), a deputy whip on Pelosi’s leadership team, said Trump’s China comments, for example, “certainly strengthens our case that this president is abusing his power in a way that is really dangerous for America.”
On Sept. 25, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi initiated an impeachment inquiry against President Trump, following a whistleblower complaint over his dealings with Ukraine. Select Congressional committees returned to the Capitol to continue impeachment proceedings throughout the week as Congress remains on recess.
Florida GOP Rep. Francis Rooney not seeking re-election
The congressman who broke with many of his Republican colleagues when he said he wouldn’t rule out impeachment announced he will not seek re-election next year. The two-term Republican grew more receptive this week to the House impeachment inquiry after acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney said in a televised briefing that seeking help to investigate Democrats was part of the reason military aid to Ukraine was temporarily withheld. Rooney, a former U.S. ambassador to the Vatican under President George W.
(Pictured) Anti-Trump protesters hold a sign reading "impeachment" as they gather outside the Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota, ahead of a "Keep America Great" rally by President Trump, on Oct. 10.
The subpoena from the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence to Energy Secretary Rick Perry, on Oct. 10, is photographed in Washington. House Democrats have subpoenaed Perry as part of their impeachment investigation into President Trump's dealings with Ukraine.
Kevin Downing, right, attorney representing two Florida businessmen Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, leaves the federal courthouse in Alexandria, Virginia, on Oct. 10. Two Florida businessmen tied to President Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani have been arrested on campaign finance violations resulting from a $325,000 donation to a political action committee supporting Trump's re-election.
President Donald Trump responds to a question from a reporter at an event for the signing of two executive orders aimed at greater governmental transparency at the White House, on Oct. 9, in Washington.
Mike Pence answers questions from the press about the whistleblower and President Trump’s call with the president of Ukraine following his remarks on the United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement (USMCA) at Manning Farms in Waukee, Iowa, Oct. 9.
Two competing rallies try to block one another's signs during a brief moment of confrontation near Democratic U.S. Rep. Ben McAdams office, one seeking to support McAdams and one to criticize him for supporting the impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump, on Oct. 9, in West Jordan, Utah.
In photos: Impeachment push against President Trump
Scenes from the impeachment inquiry in the U.S. House of Representatives.
James Evans, right, a supporters of President Donald Trump and Breanne Hughes, left, a supporter of Democratic U.S. Rep. Ben McAdams, of Utah, argue during two competing rallies, on Oct. 9, in West Jordan, Utah.
Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden speaks at a campaign event, on Oct. 9, 2019, in Rochester, N.H. For the first time, he called for the impeachment of Donald Trump saying, "Donald Trump has violated his oath of office, betrayed the nation, and committed impeachable acts."
Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, arrives to give a statement to members of the media on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 8. The Trump administration barred Gordon Sondland, the U.S. European Union ambassador, from appearing before a House panel conducting the impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump.
An aerial view of the house of Mykola Zlochevsky, near Kyiv, Ukraine, owner of the gas company Burisma that hired Hunter Biden in 2014, on Oct. 6. Ukraine's chief prosecutor has announced a review of past cases against Zlochevsky.
White House chief economic adviser Larry Kudlow speaks with reporters outside the White House, on Oct. 7, in Washington. Kudlow said that the U.S. has never raised former Vice President Joe Biden and his son during trade talks with China.
A sticker calling for the impeachment of President Donald Trump is adhered to a sign outside the U.S. Supreme Court building at the start of the court's new term on Oct. 7, in Washington, DC. With Chief Justice John Roberts in the lead, the court is scheduled to hear cases involving gun control, abortion, L.G.B.T. rights and immigration during this term.
Rep. Adam Schiff (L) (D-CA) Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence walks to a meeting with Michael Atkinson, Inspector General of the Intelligence Community, at the the U.S. Capitol on Oct. 4, in Washington.
Michael Atkinson, the inspector general of the intelligence community, arrives at the Capitol where he will go behind closed doors to be questioned about the whistleblower complaint that exposed a July phone call the president had with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in which Trump pressed for an investigation of Democratic political rival Joe Biden and his family, at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 4.
U.S. Representative Lee Zeldin (R-NY) speaks to reporters as Kurt Volker, U.S. President Donald Trump's former envoy to Ukraine, is interviewed in nearby offices by staff for three House of Representatives committees as part of the impeachment inquiry into the president's dealings with Ukraine, at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, on Oct. 3.
Kurt Volker, a former special envoy to Ukraine, arrives for a closed-door interview with House investigators, as House Democrats proceed with the impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump, at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 3.
President Donald Trump speaks to the media on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 3, before boarding Marine One for a trip to Florida. He told reporters, "China should start an investigation into the Bidens because what happened in China is just about as bad as what happened with Ukraine."
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., is joined by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., at a news conference as House Democrats move ahead in the impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump, at the Capitol in Washington on Oct. 2.
John Dean, (L) former White House counsel under Richard Nixon, speaks during a town hall on impeachment with U.S. Rep. Eric Swalwell (R) (D-CA) at James Logan High School on Oct. 1, in Union City, California.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., joined by Communications Director Emilie Simons, walks to a secure facility in the Capitol to prepare for depositions in the impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump on Oct. 1.
A statue of former President Richard Nixon is on display along with those of other former vice presidents outside the Senate chamber in the U.S. Capitol on Oct. 1, in Washington, DC. Nixon resigned the presidency on August 9, 1974, after facing near-certainty that he would be impeached and removed from office.
President Donald Trump speaks to members of the media as he departs a ceremonial swearing in ceremony for new Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington on Sept. 30.
Vice President Mike Pence, President Donald Trump, and Defense Secretary Mark Esper, participate in an Armed Forces welcome ceremony for the new chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley on Sept. 30, at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Va.
Rudy Giuliani, President Donald Trump's personal attorney, defended himself on "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" from accusations lodged by a former White House official that he has trafficked unfounded theories about foreign interference in the 2016 presidential election, on Sept. 29.
(L-R) Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Rep. Joe Neguse (D-CO), Rep. Chris Pappas (D-NH), Rep. Deb Haaland (D-NM), Rep. John Sarbanes (D-MD) and Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-NJ) hold a news conference to mark 200 days since they passed H.R. 1, the For the People Act, at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC, on Sept. 27. Following the release of a whistle-blower complaint about abuse of power, the House Democratic leadership announced this week that it is launching a formal impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump.
Vermont Gov. Phil Scott speaks at a news conference on Sept. 26, in Essex Junction, Vt., where he said he supports an impeachment inquiry into the actions of President Donald Trump. Scott is the first Republican governor to publicly come out in favor of the impeachment inquiry, but says he wants to know the facts before any further actions are taken.
Senate Minority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer of N.Y. holds up a copy of a White House-released rough transcript of a phone call between President Donald Trump and the President of Ukraine as Schumer speaks to the media about an impeachment inquiry on President Trump, on Sept. 25, on Capitol Hill.
Ranking member Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., talks to Rep. Mike Conaway, R-Texas, after Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire testified before the House Intelligence Committee on Sept. 26.
A member of the audience holds a copy of the whistle-blower complaint letter sent to Senate and House Intelligence Committees during testimony by Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire before the House Intelligence Committee on Sept. 26.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., questions Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire,as he testifies before the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington on Sept. 26.
Ranking Member Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., questions Acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire as he testifies before the House Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington on Sept. 26.
U.S. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) reacts after conferring with U.S. House Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Devin Nunes (R-CA) as Joseph Maguire, acting director of national intelligence, testifies during a House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, on Capitol Hill in Washington on Sept. 26.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) speaks during a weekly news conference on Capitol Hill on Sept. 26 in Washington. Leader McCarthy discussed an impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., arrives at the Capitol, on Sept. 26, just as Joseph Maguire is set to speak publicly for the first time about a secret whistleblower complaint involving President Donald Trump.
President Trump speaks during a news conference at the InterContinental Barclay New York hotel during the United Nations General Assembly on Sept. 25. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo can be seen standing on the right.
U.S. Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY), chairman of House Judiciary Committee, arrives with Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) and Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) at a House Democratic Caucus meeting, on Sept. 25, in Washington.
U.S. House Minority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) speaks as Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY), and House Minority Whip Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) look on during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol, on Sept. 25, in Washington.
People stop to look at newspaper front pages, from around the US, on display at the Newseum in Washington, a day after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced a formal impeachment inquiry against President Trump, on Sept. 25.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announces the House of Representatives will launch a formal inquiry into the impeachment of President Trump following a closed House Democratic caucus meeting at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, on Sept. 24.
House Speaker Pelosi departs a closed-door meeting with the House Democratic Caucus as support grows within her ranks for an impeachment inquiry amid reports that President Donald Trump pressured Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his family, on Sept. 24.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) leaves a meeting with House Speaker Pelosi and walks to a meeting with the House Democratic caucus to discuss launching possible impeachment proceedings against President Trump, on Sept. 24.
Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden makes a statement on Ukraine during a press conference, on Sept. 24, in Wilmington, Delaware.
Slideshow by photo services
To be sure, Pelosi’s caucus appears largely behind her move to concentrate impeachment efforts on Ukraine — at least so far. Moderate Democrats sought the narrow strategy because they argue the Ukraine controversy will register with voters in their competitive districts in a way that other scandals will not.
Many rank-and-file Democrats also fear that trying to do too much will undermine what they consider a strong case against Trump.
Even some of the most liberal House members, such as Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), co-chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, back Pelosi’s Ukraine focus. In a Thursday interview, Jayapal argued that the caucus needs to "stay focused on what is easiest to explain," even as she said she was open to the notion of incorporating additional elements into the impeachment inquiry.
“It seems like every day we’re finding out a new thing,” she said, noting that caucus members would discuss the scope when they return from a two-week recess next week. “That’s the conversation that will be going on and the balance we’ll be striking: We want to stay focused in on a simple message, and there might be one or two places where it’s actually bolstering the case of Ukraine to talk about the other situations.”
One factor contributing to the desire to stay focused on Ukraine is time. House Democrats hope to vote on articles of impeachment before the holidays so they can pivot back to policy matters in 2020 ahead of the election. Expanding the impeachment inquiry would no doubt complicate that timeline.
But some in the Democratic Party are questioning that logic given the damage to Trump. Since Democrats launched their inquiry in late September, Trump’s support has suffered and backing for impeachment has increased. A recent Washington Post poll found that even GOP backing of ousting the president was on the rise, with 28 percent of Republicans supporting the impeachment inquiry and 18 percent say they support removing Trump from office.
“This is the first time it feels like Democrats have been able to be truly on offense since we took the majority in 2018, and so walking away from that prematurely for the sake of an arbitrary deadline seems like a mistake to me,” Pfeiffer said. “The way this has played out the last few weeks, the way you’ve seen the poll numbers move on impeachment, it’s very clear that there is tremendous interest in what is happening here and it’s very clear that that interest is not good for Trump.”
In the Senate, one Democratic official suggested the party could benefit from a longer impeachment probe as several vulnerable Republican senators would be forced to deal with a drawn-out process months before their elections.
In photos: Impeachment push against President Trump .
Scenes from the impeachment inquiry in the U.S. House of Representatives.
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