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Westlake Legal Group > Russian Interference in 2016 US Elections and Ties to Trump Associates

The Indispensable Man: How Giuliani Led Trump to the Brink of Impeachment

Westlake Legal Group xxRudy-1-facebookJumbo The Indispensable Man: How Giuliani Led Trump to the Brink of Impeachment United States Politics and Government United States International Relations Ukraine Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry Russian Interference in 2016 US Elections and Ties to Trump Associates Giuliani, Rudolph W Corruption (Institutional)

Not so long ago, it seemed to Rudolph W. Giuliani that he would be presiding over a hefty part of the world.

Holding court a few nights after the 2016 election in a private cigar bar on Fifth Avenue, glass of Macallan at hand, Mr. Giuliani boasted to friends that President-elect Donald J. Trump would soon nominate him to the most prestigious of cabinet posts.

“How about,” Mr. Giuliani asked, “secretary of state?”

Chief global representative of the United States in war, peace and trade.

It would be a sublime reward for having thrown in with Mr. Trump when the respectable Republican establishment was keeping its distance, a fresh burst of stardom in a public life that had been fading fast. Mr. Giuliani made himself indispensable to the Trump campaign by doing dirty work that no one else wanted and trudging ahead even after the candidate lashed him with humiliations.

Three years on, Mr. Giuliani never got the job he believed he had coming — “a bitter disappointment,” his now-estranged wife says — but in his five decades as a public figure, he has never been more prominent in national affairs.

Step by step, he has escorted President Trump to the brink of impeachment. Mr. Giuliani himself is now under criminal investigation by federal prosecutors in the very office where he enjoyed his first extended draughts of fame nearly four decades ago. The separate troubles he has gotten his client and himself into are products of the uniquely powerful position he has fashioned, a hybrid of unpaid personal counsel to the president and for-profit peddler of access and advice.

Practically no name, other than Mr. Trump’s, was mentioned more than Mr. Giuliani’s at the impeachment hearings and in a subsequent Democratic report that described him as the hub of a grievous abuse of presidential power (or legitimate advocate for Mr. Trump, in the Republicans’ minority response).

A dozen witnesses testified over five days, and if Mr. Giuliani were somehow subtracted from their stories, there seems to be no one in or out of government who could take his place as the president’s man on the ground. No one to carry out a campaign to force a vulnerable ally, Ukraine, to damage a political opponent of Mr. Trump and undermine a special counsel investigation in ways that would help both Mr. Trump and an ally now in prison for laundering millions of dollars.

No impeachment train, picking up steam.

Mr. Giuliani has been the voice in Mr. Trump’s ear when others could not be heard, and served as the voice of Mr. Trump in places where presidents dare not go.

Each modern impeachment saga — of Richard M. Nixon, Bill Clinton and now Mr. Trump — has been shaped not by grievances over policy differences, but by human vanities and appetites. In this case, those include Mr. Giuliani’s, which have run in strong currents for decades, unconcealed.

The forces that have returned Mr. Giuliani to the stage at age 75 are the same ones that made him a star federal prosecutor as a young man, a memorable mayor of New York in the 1990s and a scorched-earth advocate for Mr. Trump in 2016: his relentless drive to put himself at the center of public life and his very high regard for his own virtuousness.

Patrick Oxford, a former law partner and chairman of Mr. Giuliani’s 2008 presidential campaign, who praises him as “a fine man,” says he has not changed.

“He’s just a whole lot more of what he was,” Mr. Oxford said. “I’ve noticed that political figures have a hard time retiring from the scene. I think my friend Rudy may be trying too hard to remain involved.”

[Watch a special episode of “The Weekly” about Rudy Giuliani’s wild, decades-long career. Available for Times subscribers in the U.S.]

His personal life has descended into the sort of well-appointed shambles that material wealth can disguise, though not necessarily make any less fraught.

A third marriage has fallen into divorce court ruins, revealing monthly expenses of $230,000 for six homes and 11 country club memberships. By taking President Trump as a client, he lost a position at a law firm in 2018 that paid him $6 million annually, according to court filings. In October, he broke with a partner in a security consultancy, a former police officer who had been at his side for three decades. He was so badly hurt in a fall two years ago that his wife put off divorce plans and looked after him for a while. She laments that before he appears in public, no one tells him that dye has given his hair an orange tinge.

He betrays no distress at any aspect of his life, only delight.

Working on a laptop at a restaurant table in the Trump International Hotel in Washington, he has bathed in the warm acclaim of friends and strangers who recognize him from his television advocacy. “I enjoyed the fact that people were coming by and tapping me on the back,” Mr. Giuliani said.

He was there so often, he said, that he set up a plaque.

Rudolph W. Giuliani

Attorney at law

“He doesn’t just like the spotlight,” his estranged wife, Judith Giuliani, said in an interview. “He craves it, for validation.”

She said she could scarcely believe he was working for Mr. Trump, given his disdain for people like Mr. Clinton, whom he saw as dishonest. But public attention, even refracted through Mr. Trump, was irresistible, she said.

Perhaps that helps explain the velvet-glove treatment he lavished on two Soviet-born American businessmen.

Mr. Giuliani brought one of them, a former penny-stock trader with a string of bad debts, to the state funeral of President George H. W. Bush last December.

And both men were Mr. Giuliani’s guests this year at an annual dinner he gives for a band of people, mostly city workers, knitted together after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Other guests were perplexed by the men’s presence.

Had they been at Ground Zero in 2001?

No, they had not.

They were part not of Mr. Giuliani’s past but of his wished-for future.

He deployed both men to find pressure points in Ukraine, and joined them in undermining an American ambassador. His intentions, he says, were pure. “As a person who finds public corruption a cancer,” Mr. Giuliani said, “I cannot ignore it.”

He may also have been trying to improve the chances for Rudolph W. Giuliani to persist into his ninth decade as an indispensable man.

Poised to take off from La Guardia Airport, the Trump campaign plane had to wait for one more passenger. It was a chilly, cloudy Sunday in New York, the 9th of October 2016. That evening, Mr. Trump would debate his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, in St. Louis.

Inside the custom-fitted Boeing 757-2000, about 40 people were in their seats, including candidate Trump. They could not leave without one last person: Rudy Giuliani.

Why were they waiting for him?

That moment, as much as any, maps the ground between Mr. Trump and Mr. Giuliani.

They had known each other for nearly 40 years. Mr. Trump was the gaudy, gold-veneered developer who somehow navigated the shoals of organized crime, labor racketeering and official corruption in the New York real estate market of the 1980s, even as Mr. Giuliani was becoming so well known as a federal prosecutor that he kept a mental scorecard of his television appearances. (“Actually, it was only two nights,” Mr. Giuliani told a man in 1985 who mentioned he had just seen him five times on television. “Last week, it was five.”)

Mr. Giuliani, then mayor of New York, with Donald J. Trump in 1999. The two have known each other for decades.Credit…Ruby Washington/The New York Times

With Mr. Trump as co-chairman of his first campaign fund-raiser, Mr. Giuliani ran unsuccessfully for mayor in 1989. He won the next time, in 1993, and served until the end of 2001. For the world, he embodied resilience following Sept. 11, a stature he would parlay into wealth but not a successful presidential candidacy. After a dismal showing in the 2008 Republican primaries, in which he spent more than $60 million and won no delegates, he and Mrs. Giuliani retreated to her family’s home in Florida. There he fell into what she called a lingering “catatonic” state. He never fully returned to his law firm, Bracewell Giuliani — “his specialty was being Rudy,” his ex-partner, Mr. Oxford, said — but in time resumed giving paid speeches and running a lucrative security consultancy.

As the years of Barack Obama’s presidency passed, Mr. Giuliani’s voice seemed to carry farthest when it was keyed to harsh or apocalyptic tones. Faintly echoing Mr. Trump’s falsehood about the president’s origins, he questioned Mr. Obama’s Americanism (“He wasn’t brought up the way you were brought up, and I was brought up, through love of this country,” he said). Apart from such flare-ups, he largely dropped out of public conversation.

“Before the 2016 election, Rudy was running around hawking Life Lock on commercials that ran at 2 a.m. on channel 83,” a longtime close aide said.

Mr. Giuliani had not raced to sign on with Trump 2016, waiting until the nomination was nearly inevitable, but few bigger names beat him to it.

Prominent Republicans who now style themselves devoted allies of Mr. Trump spoke of him then with acid revulsion or clenched-teeth neutrality. The campaign needed someone able to dial into a steady state of rage on a moment’s notice, even a high-mileage ex-politician scarcely known to a younger generation of voters.

Given a speaking spot of honor at the Republican convention, Mr. Giuliani roared: “There’s — there’s — there’s no next election! This is it! There’s no more time for us left to revive our great country!”

During the last three months of the campaign, he spun like a tornado from one television studio to the next or jetted around the country, at every stop hurling charges of corruption like boiling brimstone at anyone standing in Mr. Trump’s way.

“He’d do an event with then-candidate Trump, and then he’d speak at a different event with Pence and then do one on his own,” David Bossie, the deputy campaign manager, said.

None of that compared to his work on the Sunday when the Trump campaign jet waited at La Guardia.

Two days earlier, an off-camera tape from the television show “Access Hollywood” had been released of Mr. Trump speaking in crude terms about how his celebrity status gave him license to sexually assault women.

Mr. Trump’s usual surrogates — Kellyanne Conway, Reince Priebus, Chris Christie — had been booked to appear on the Sunday shows before the tape came out. When it did, they all bailed.

Then Mr. Giuliani stepped forward.

“Rudy was the only person willing to go on television to defend Donald Trump,” Mr. Bossie said.

Mr. Giuliani spent that morning rushing between studios — he appeared on all five major networks — pausing long enough to strike a penitential chord and write off Mr. Trump’s words as unfortunate locker-room talk.

Considering the circumstances, the campaign staff believed Mr. Giuliani had blunted the political blow Mr. Trump had inflicted on Mr. Trump. “Most people thought he did a great job,” Mr. Bossie said.

When Mr. Giuliani boarded the plane, spent from his labors, he strode down the aisle a conquering hero, swapping high-fives. Then he settled across from Mr. Trump.

Everyone could hear what the candidate said next.

“Man, Rudy,” Mr. Trump said, “you sucked. You were weak. Low-energy.”

Mr. Giuliani slumped in his seat, one witness said. The plane grew silent.

By day’s end, Mr. Giuliani was back in front of the cameras, claiming victory for Mr. Trump in the debate. And his most important work for the campaign was yet to come.

On Oct. 25, 2016, exactly two weeks until Election Day, Mr. Giuliani appeared on “Fox and Friends,” and was asked what the Trump campaign would do with the remaining time.

“We’ve got a couple of surprises left,” Mr. Giuliani said, chuckling but coyly refusing to be drawn out on specifics.

“I think he’s got a surprise or two that you’re going to hear about in the next few days,” he told another interviewer. “I mean, I’m talking about some pretty big surprises.”

Unknown to the public, the F.B.I. had recently obtained a laptop used by one of Mrs. Clinton’s aides that had not been examined during the investigation of her private email server. That inquiry had concluded in July without charges, but the newly discovered laptop contained about 50,000 emails that might have been relevant. F.B.I. agents planned to go through them in due course, but several ranking officials did not see that any mad rush was called for, the Justice Department inspector general would later report. They believed — correctly, as it turned out — that the emails would be similar to the hundreds of thousands already examined.

Then Mr. Giuliani began dropping those broad hints of a “surprise,” adding that he knew F.B.I. agents were very upset. It seemed apparent to Attorney General Loretta Lynch that leaks were coming from the New York office of the F.B.I., according to the inspector general. Faced with the likelihood that word of the emails would be coming out one way or another, the F.B.I. director, James Comey, announced a review of the newly discovered cache. It played as a stunning piece of news, a fresh gust of scandal 11 days before the election.

Mr. Giuliani would later deny that he had heard about the emails from F.B.I. agents, though he had bragged about that in broadcast interviews.

Years before, he had shown that working with virtually nothing, he could cultivate the mere existence of investigations to his political benefit. Early in his first term as mayor, facing criticism over patronage hires, Mr. Giuliani and aides announced spectacular claims that a widely respected commissioner in the previous administration, Richard Murphy, had overspent his budget by millions of dollars for political reasons. Moreover, computer records seemed to have been destroyed in a suspicious burglary. The heat shifted from the reality of Mr. Giuliani’s patronage hires to the wispy vapors of the Murphy investigation. A year later, it emerged that Mr. Murphy had neither overspent nor done anything wrong, and that no records had been destroyed or stolen. Mayor Giuliani shrugged.

“This happens all the time,” he said. “And you write about those things all the time. Sometimes they turn out to be true. And sometimes they turn out to be wrong.”

So it was with the emails. With two days to go until the 2016 election, Mr. Comey said the review of the material in the laptop had not changed the bureau’s view that Mrs. Clinton had not committed a crime. The unquantifiable damage, though, had been done.

Declaring victory on election night, Mr. Trump hailed his family and his campaign staff.

One more person was singled out.

“I want to give a very special thanks to our former mayor, Rudy Giuliani,” Mr. Trump shouted, to chants of “Rudy, Rudy.” “That Rudy never changes. Where’s Rudy? Where is he?” A moment later, spotting him, Mr. Trump called again, “Oh, Rudy, get up here.”

With that, Mr. Giuliani stepped onto the stage, holding his wife’s hand, joining the Trump family.

Representing the president of the United States was, Mr. Giuliani said, “kind of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

He grabbed it. He strode across the public stage as a man without border or boundary, Full Throttle Giuliani — “I am a high-functioning human being, able to outwork people half my age,” he told New York magazine — blending the rare opportunity to serve the president with far more ordinary chances to profit from his closeness to power.

He became a one-stop human bazaar for the trade of money, favors and influence, certain that he was incorruptible.

“I’m probably the most ethical person you ever met,” he said.

There are conflicting accounts of why Mr. Giuliani did not get the State Department position he campaigned for in 2016, and of whether anyone other than himself even thought it was a real possibility, but his years of lucrative consulting payments from foreign governments since leaving City Hall would certainly have made for a complicated Senate confirmation.

So he returned in January 2017 to his partnership at Greenberg Traurig. He was also running a consulting company, Giuliani Security & Safety, with mostly foreign clients.

Yet for all that, he seemed to be itching to get back inside.

Out of the blue, he would call John Dowd, an old colleague from their days as young lawyers. Mr. Dowd had known Mr. Giuliani as a 30-year-old prosecutor whose withering cross-examination drove a sitting congressman to halt his own trial and plead guilty.

Now, though, Mr. Dowd was the president’s chief lawyer in the special counsel’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election. Mr. Giuliani would phone just to volunteer suggestions or help, Mr. Dowd said.

“When I had the lead,” Mr. Dowd said, “he always had my back.”

In year one of the investigation, President Trump went through multiple lawyers, including Mr. Dowd. By spring 2018, Mr. Trump was having a hard time getting top legal talent to work on the case.

Up stepped Mr. Giuliani, who said he would serve without pay.

The Trump administration turned out to be very good for the business of being Rudy Giuliani, though it was no simple matter to say precisely what that was.

“Probably in the last two years, people have talked to me about hundreds of deals,” Mr. Giuliani said this fall.

As an insurgent, Mr. Trump arrived in Washington without the camp followers of brand-name lobbyists and insiders who set up shop with each new administration. Their absence heightened the value of the few people known to have influence with Mr. Trump, like Mr. Giuliani. Before and after he became the president’s personal lawyer, he thrived.

He hired himself out to a Turkish money launderer, Reza Zarrab, and argued his case directly to the president and the secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, in the Oval Office. Mr. Zarrab had been accused of moving $10 billion in gold and cash to Iran, evading American sanctions. He eventually pleaded guilty and became a prosecution witness.

That was not the only piece of Turkish business Mr. Giuliani brought before the president, or so aides to Mr. Trump suspected. They believed that on his regular visits to the White House, he was pushing the president to deport a Turkish Muslim cleric — a prize sought by Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Ergodan, who saw the man as an enemy of his regime. Mr. Giuliani called the claim that he was lobbying on that issue “stupid” and untrue. Still, for a short time, his access to the Oval Office was curbed.

He got paid to promote an ethane-methane deal in Uzbekistan. His security consultancy signed contracts with the government of Bahrain and a Ukrainian-Russian developer. Other work included engagements with governments, groups, individuals and causes in Romania, Iran, Brazil and Venezuela.

Trying to dazzle a woman on a date, he took her to a reception on the rooftop of the Hay Adams Hotel thrown by a lobbyist for the Democratic Republic of Congo. The Congolese, who were hoping to get America to back off sanctions, wanted his advice on how to please the Trump administration.

He seemed taken aback when reporters questioned him about his private business clients. “I’m not going to answer any more of your goddamn questions because this is getting to be harassment,” he said in an interview last month.

One of those clients had cost him big dollars.

When he announced that he would be representing Mr. Trump, he said he would be taking a leave of absence from Greenberg Traurig. But his partners, and some of their clients, had had their fill of being associated with Mr. Trump. The firm said Mr. Giuliani was resigning. He said it was a mutual decision.

The loss of the $6 million income came with one consolation. No longer would Mr. Giuliani be subject to a moratorium on his TV appearances, imposed by the firm’s buttoned-down reticence. “The last year and a half, I haven’t been on television,” Mr. Giuliani said in May 2018. “Frankly, I’ve missed it.”

He returned to the airwaves with mesmerizing announcements and claims. Contradicting Mr. Trump, he said the president had indeed reimbursed one of his former lawyers, Michael Cohen, for the hush money paid to a pornographic film actress who said she had had a sexual encounter with Mr. Trump. A typical errand for a lawyer, he averred, though many begged to differ.

Mr. Giuliani denounced F.B.I. agents and federal prosecutors investigating the president and Mr. Cohen as thugs, storm troopers, bumbling. (Mr. Cohen, now in prison for his role in the hush-money scheme, said the investigators who raided his office had been polite; when he turned against Mr. Trump, he was declared a “scumbag” by Mr. Giuliani.)

Other lawyers on the Trump team were dismayed by his rhetoric, but Mr. Giuliani said it was tactical, regardless of how unhinged it seemed. Once he learned that the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, had decided that Justice Department policy forbade the criminal indictment of a sitting president, he said, he viewed impeachment as Mr. Trump’s only risk. That would be a public relations war, not a legal one, he explained, with the battles fought on television — an arena that Mr. Mueller did not contest. During his barrage, public opinion shifted slightly against an impeachment based on the Mueller findings, and Congress showed little appetite for pursuing it. Mr. Giuliani took victory laps.

With scant attention at first, he shifted the theater of combat away from television screens, and into murky Ukraine politics.

Without Mr. Giuliani’s push for money and frank yearning for relevance, the Trump Ukrainian initiative might never have amounted to much more than presidential tweetstorms. Mr. Giuliani compressed the digital gases of the president’s suspicions and wishful theories into what is now the molten core of impeachment.

Nothing shows how few limits Mr. Giuliani observed as plainly as his extended bear-hugs of Lev Parnas or Igor Fruman, his friends, clients and fellow emissaries for the president of the United States — the men he brought to his 9/11 dinner at the Maloney & Porcelli steakhouse in Manhattan.

In just about every snapshot from their travels, and there are many, Mr. Giuliani has a big grin on his face when he poses with Mr. Parnas and Mr. Fruman, two Florida men who were trying to hustle up business in Ukraine for an energy company they had just created.

They are simultaneously minor characters in the impeachment saga and very telling ones.

Mr. Giuliani may have been stopped from becoming secretary of state in 2017 by his business entanglements, but as Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer in 2019, he created and oversaw the dominant American foreign-policy channel with Ukraine, running the president’s affairs, his clients’ and his own through it.

That brought Mr. Parnas and Mr. Fruman into the president’s wake, sea gulls following an ocean liner.

When they met Mr. Giuliani last year, Mr. Parnas, born in Ukraine, and Mr. Fruman, a native of Belarus, were on the prowl for influence to help their companies, and over time would plow about $700,000 into political campaigns.

Mr. Fruman also had a business distributing luxury products in Ukraine, including yachts, jewelry, cars and electronics.

Mr. Parnas’s résumé includes work for companies that sold penny stocks in New York, a string of evictions and lawsuits in Florida and a judgment, now approaching $700,000, owed to an investor in a film project. He started a company called Fraud Guarantee, to provide due diligence services for investors. Like other business ventures of his, it was a bust. But it managed to pay $500,000 to Mr. Giuliani, who served as godfather for Mr. Parnas’s newborn son and attended the bris in Boca Raton, Fla.

The three men enjoyed private dinners in Washington, Florida, New York. Trips to Paris, Warsaw, Madrid. At a Yankee game in London, Mr. Giuliani, sporting one of the four diamond-encrusted World Series rings he’d gotten from the team, ushered them onto the field and into the dugout.

Mr. Giuliani and Mr. Parnas, second from left, at the Yankees game in London.

Mr. Giuliani opened doors for them, and they reciprocated at an opportune moment.

Late last year, Mr. Giuliani began to pursue information in Ukraine that he believed might show that the Mueller inquiry was built on a false premise, that it was really Ukrainians who meddled in the election and then framed the Russians for it.

This had long been the claim of Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign chairman, now serving seven and a half years in federal prison for laundering millions of dollars from the Russia-aligned political party in Ukraine.

Mr. Manafort maintained that he and Mr. Trump were victims of Ukrainian meddling that took two forms: the release of a mysterious slush fund ledger that detailed payments by the Russia-aligned party, including $12.7 million earmarked for Mr. Manafort; and the hacking of Democratic National Committee computers that was blamed on Russia.

“The original investigation came to me from an investigator who had a client who said that the Ukrainians were the ones who did the hacking,” Mr. Giuliani said in April. In addition, he said, he was told that the release of the ledger was a malignant act by Ukrainian forces hostile to Mr. Trump — and that it might be a forgery.

So, he said, he had a duty to Mr. Trump to run it down.

“I think if I didn’t do it, I wouldn’t be a good lawyer,” Mr. Giuliani said.

Far more than a lawyer serving a client in a legal matter, though, Mr. Giuliani continued his Ukraine project long after Mr. Trump was clear of any jeopardy from the Mueller investigation, which ended in March.

Pinning the 2016 cyberattacks on Ukraine was a steep hill to climb, as the Senate Intelligence Committee had unequivocally found that they were a Russian operation. Even so, Mr. Giuliani demanded that the country’s new president announce an investigation of it, according to Gordon Sondland, the American ambassador to the European Union.

Equally difficult would be showing that Mr. Manafort was a victim of a forged paper ledger: Electronic bank records were so overwhelming that he pleaded guilty.

Nevertheless, if blame were seen to have shifted to Ukraine in these episodes, Mr. Giuliani would provide balm for Mr. Trump’s lingering furies that the findings of Russian involvement had tainted his presidency. Debunking the slush-fund ledger could also help build the case for a pardon of Mr. Manafort, Mr. Giuliani said.

Enter Mr. Parnas and Mr. Fruman, guides in Mr. Giuliani’s search for vindication of assorted conspiracy theories.

They connected Mr. Giuliani to a former prosecutor in Ukraine who added another twist to the plot. He claimed that Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. had forced his removal because Mr. Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, had been given a lucrative, little-show position by an oligarch who wanted the prosecutor out. Proving this would be yet another steep hill to climb, as the prosecutor’s record was so dismal that his dismissal was also sought by the European Union, the International Monetary Fund, the G7 and Ukrainians who protested his actions.

Still, Mr. Giuliani’s project expanded from Mr. Manafort to include the vilification of Mr. Biden and yet one more person: the American ambassador in Kyiv, Marie Yovanovitch.

The ambassador, an advocate for reforms in the Ukrainian energy sector, testified that she believed Mr. Parnas and Mr. Fruman saw her as an obstacle to their business plans. Mr. Parnas assured people — prophetically — that she would be removed in short order.

Mr. Giuliani fed claims about the ambassador and Mr. Biden to a writer at The Hill, bundled articles and memos into folders from Trump hotels and sent it all to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in a big White House envelope. Though the charges against the ambassador were decried by the State Department as fabrications, they were amplified on Twitter by Donald Trump Jr. She was abruptly ordered home.

Phone records show that Mr. Giuliani was in frequent touch with the White House during this time, including with a regular caller identified only as “-1,” who Congressional investigators suspect may be the president.

Mr. Parnas and Mr. Fruman also dangled American favors in front of Petro O. Poroshenko, president of Ukraine at the time, and two exiled Ukrainian oligarchs facing legal problems in the United States. In exchange, the oligarchs and the president were asked for their help in implicating the Bidens in bribery, or Ukraine in 2016 meddling.

In August, Mr. Giuliani met in Madrid with an adviser to Volodymyr Zelensky, the new Ukrainian president, and also told Mr. Sondland, the ambassador, that he wanted the Ukrainians to announce investigations. As Mr. Giuliani knew from experience, such an announcement at the right moment can be as lethal as a poison arrow, needing only to break the skin to do its damage.

By fall, as a whistle-blower’s complaint brought the pressure campaign into the light, the foundations of Mr. Giuliani’s work were crumbling. An ally of Mr. Giuliani said he saw no evidence that Vice President Biden or his son had broken Ukrainian law.

Mr. Giuliani himself publicly conceded in a Sept. 29 interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos that there was no evidence that Ukraine had hacked the Democratic computers, and said that he had never actively investigated it.

A few days before, he had appeared on CNN.

“Did you ask the Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden?” asked Chris Cuomo, the host.

“No,” Mr. Giuliani replied. “I actually didn’t.”

He held that position for 27 seconds. Mr. Cuomo followed up, “So you did ask Ukraine to look into Joe Biden?”

“Of course I did,” Mr. Giuliani replied.

His project to deliver a crushing blow against a Trump opponent, and to establish that Mr. Trump — not the Democrats — had been the victim of foreign interference in the 2016 election, would fade into a toxic fog of impeachment charges.

At the same time, The New York Times reported that contrary to Mr. Giuliani’s claim that he had no business interests in Ukraine, he had negotiated with officials there for up to $500,000 in contracts that would involve the recovery of looted assets.

And during an August trip to Spain, Mr. Giuliani also did business unrelated to Ukraine: He met with a Venezuelan oligarch facing legal troubles from federal prosecutors in Florida, as The Washington Post reported. (One month later, as The Times reported, Mr. Giuliani held a high-level meeting on the man’s case with Justice Department officials in Washington.)

Mr. Giuliani and his two friends got together for lunch on Oct. 9, at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, the company cafeteria of Trump-world, where hamburgers go for $26 and the least expensive shots of Macallan are $29.

All three were heading to Vienna — Mr. Parnas and Mr. Fruman that very evening, Mr. Giuliani the next night. One of their sources, the unhappy ex-prosecutor, was going to be interviewed there by Sean Hannity, the Fox News personality.

They probably did not know that this would turn out to be their last get-together, at least for a while.

That evening, as they waited to board their Vienna flight, Mr. Parnas and Mr. Fruman were arrested on charges of making illegal campaign contributions — in part, prosecutors charge, to influence the removal of the ambassador.

Few people could have been more astonished at Mr. Parnas’s access to the halls of power and prestige than those who say they were bilked or stiffed by him. A lawyer, Robert J. Hantman, represents a creditor with a judgment against Mr. Parnas.

“It’s unbelievable that these people would be in the White House, or be hanging out with Giuliani,” Mr. Hantman said. “For Giuliani, the president, or anyone who wants to work with him to not have googled him, it’s unreal.”

In a world with few boundaries or limits, it was very real.

Mr. Giuliani was far from a Lone Ranger in the Ukraine pressure campaign. Top figures in the administration knew of it or worked with him. “Everyone was in the loop,” Mr. Sondland testified.

But it was Mr. Giuliani who served as the wrangler of business hustlers, compromised ex-prosecutors, Ukrainian oligarchs and a host of bewildered American diplomats and Ukrainian elected officials who could not entirely fathom how he had come to wield such outsize influence, or to what ends he was wielding it.

And what of his relationship going forward with Mr. Trump, who effortlessly throws people under the bus? In October, the president praised Mr. Sondland on Twitter as a “really good man and great American.” When the ambassador testified last month that he had been acting on the president’s orders in pressuring Ukraine, Mr. Trump said: “I don’t know him very well. I have not spoken to him much.”

After signs of distance between the president and Mr. Giuliani — when the president hesitated about confirming that he was still his personal lawyer, Mr. Giuliani made a “joke” to The Guardian about having “very, very good insurance” — Mr. Trump gushed praise for him on Twitter and on “Fox and Friends.”

Mr. Giuliani said he appreciated the show of support, but added: “I’m not some little schmuck that needs Daddy to protect him.”

The Rudolph W. Giuliani business has been hurt, he said, because potential clients are afraid of being exposed to the endless scrutiny of his affairs.

His need for money shows no sign of ebbing. In addition to his domestic cash burdens, Mr. Giuliani is now said to be under investigation by federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York. He has hired a team of lawyers to represent him. Legal fees could approach seven figures.

Reports indicate that the prosecutors are looking at his compliance with restrictions on lobbying. “I don’t do lobbying, goddamn it,” Mr. Giuliani said, scoffing at the possibility of criminal charges. Although he negotiated with Ukrainian officials about representing them, and carried their messages to American officials and journalists, they ultimately did not come to any agreement, he said.

“I represented the president of the United States,” Mr. Giuliani said. “It is totally ridiculous to say that I was representing anyone else.”

Anthony Carbonetti, a City Hall aide to Mr. Giuliani and a longtime friend, said he worried that what he saw as Mr. Giuliani’s groundbreaking years as New York mayor would be forgotten behind the sky-filling spectacle of Mr. Trump.

“The fact that this is what he’ll be known for is painful,” Mr. Carbonetti said. “His public persona has been dominated by his representation of the president for the last two years, so that has become the public perception of him. I don’t think anyone goes back in time.”

Whatever his friends’ misgivings, Mr. Giuliani remains sure as ever that he is in the right.

His mission, he maintained, uncovered “one of our more major scandals.” Evidence against the Bidens is in his safe, he wrote on Twitter, adding, “If I disappear, it will appear immediately.”

Just last week, The Times reported, he returned to Ukraine to create television programs for a conservative network that he believes will show that he is right and House Democrats are wrong. Mr. Trump said on Saturday that Mr. Giuliani wanted to tell Congress what he had found.

So far, Mr. Giuliani has declined to testify, and described the impeachment hearings on Twitter as an “attempted coup takedown.”

The story, then, is being left to the people who survived being buried alive by Mr. Giuliani, including the cashiered Ambassador Yovanovitch.

“How is it that foreign corrupt interests could manipulate our government?” she asked in her testimony.

The face Mr. Giuliani sees in the mirror, he has always said, is of a man compelled by his idealism to purify government. “I get completely disgusted when I see public corruption,” he said.

Anyone who sees something else in him is mistaken, he said.

“I really try very hard to be super-ethical and always legal,” Mr. Giuliani said. “If it seems I’m not — it’s wrong, and I can explain it.”

As for how he will be viewed in the future, he has, at times, professed indifference. But in an interview with The Atlantic, Mr. Giuliani predicted that he would emerge from all the investigations wreathed in glory, an indispensable man who served the country against the odds.

“These morons,” Mr. Giuliani said. “When this is over, I will be the hero.”

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Giuliani, Facing Scrutiny, Travels to Europe to Interview Ukrainians

Westlake Legal Group 04dc-rudy1-facebookJumbo Giuliani, Facing Scrutiny, Travels to Europe to Interview Ukrainians Zelensky, Volodymyr United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry Shokin, Viktor Russian Interference in 2016 US Elections and Ties to Trump Associates Presidential Election of 2020 Presidential Election of 2016 One America Lutsenko, Yuri V Klitschko, Vitali KIEV, Ukraine House of Representatives House Committee on Intelligence Giuliani, Rudolph W BUDAPEST, Hungary Biden, Joseph R Jr Artemenko, Andrii V

WASHINGTON — Even as Democrats intensified their scrutiny this week of Rudolph W. Giuliani’s role in the pressure campaign against the Ukrainian government that is at the heart of the impeachment inquiry, Mr. Giuliani has been in Europe continuing his efforts to shift the focus to purported wrongdoing by President Trump’s political rivals.

Mr. Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, met in Budapest on Tuesday with a former Ukrainian prosecutor, Yuriy Lutsenko, who has become a key figure in the impeachment inquiry. He then traveled to Kyiv on Wednesday seeking to meet with other former Ukrainian prosecutors whose claims have been embraced by Republicans, including Viktor Shokin and Kostiantyn H. Kulyk, according to people familiar with the effort.

The former prosecutors, who have faced allegations of corruption, all played some role in promoting claims about former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., a former United States ambassador to Ukraine and Ukrainians who disseminated damaging information about Mr. Trump’s campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, in 2016.

Those claims — some baseless and others with key disputed elements — have been the foundations of the effort by Mr. Trump and Mr. Giuliani to pressure the Ukrainian government to commit itself to investigations that would benefit Mr. Trump heading into his re-election campaign. That effort in turn has led to the impeachment proceedings in the House against the president.

Mr. Giuliani is using the trip, which has not been previously reported, to help prepare more episodes of a documentary series for a conservative television outlet promoting his pro-Trump, anti-impeachment narrative. His latest moves to advance the theories propounded by the prosecutors amount to an audacious effort to give the president’s supporters new material to undercut the House impeachment proceedings and an eventual Senate trial.

It was Mr. Giuliani’s earlier interactions with some of the same Ukrainian characters that set the stage for the impeachment inquiry in the first place, and also led to an investigation by federal prosecutors into whether Mr. Giuliani violated federal lobbying laws.

Mr. Giuliani’s trip has generated concern in some quarters of the State Department, coming amid scrutiny of his work with American diplomats earlier this year on the pressure campaign. His trip to Budapest and Kyiv suggests that he is unbowed by the intense scrutiny that has enveloped him and his associates, including revelations from the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday of frequent calls from Mr. Giuliani to the White House and other figures in the pressure campaign at key moments this year.

The European trip was organized around the filming of a multipart television series featuring Mr. Giuliani that is being produced and aired by a conservative cable channel, One America News, or OAN.

The series, the first two installments of which have already aired, is being promoted as a Republican alternative to the impeachment hearings, including Ukrainian “witnesses” whom House Democrats running the inquiry declined to call. Some of the Ukrainians interviewed by Mr. Giuliani were sworn in on camera to “testify under oath” in a manner that the network claims “debunks the impeachment hoax.”

Mr. Giuliani was joined in Budapest by an OAN crew, including the reporter hosting the series, Chanel Rion, who conducted an interview in the Hungarian capital with Mr. Lutsenko, according to someone familiar with the interview.

Earlier this year, Mr. Lutsenko played a formative role in what became Mr. Trump’s pressure campaign, meeting with Mr. Giuliani in New York, where he made claims about a gas company that paid Mr. Biden’s son as a board member and the dissemination of a secret ledger listing slush payments from a Russia-aligned Ukrainian political party earmarked to Mr. Manafort and others. When The New York Times revealed the payments earmarked to Mr. Manafort in August 2016, it forced him to resign under pressure from the Trump campaign.

Mr. Lutsenko, whom Mr. Giuliani considered representing as a client, is facing allegations in Ukraine of abuse of power during his years as a prosecutor and was characterized by some American officials in the impeachment inquiry as untrustworthy. But his office moved to pursue investigations sought by Mr. Trump, and he was praised by the president as a “very good prosecutor” during a July 25 phone call with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine.

Mr. Lutsenko discussed some of the subjects into which Mr. Trump sought investigations during his interview on Tuesday with Ms. Rion, said the person familiar with the interview.

Also joining Mr. Giuliani and the OAN crew in Budapest were two former Ukrainian officials who have been supportive of Mr. Trump, Andrii Telizhenko and Andrii V. Artemenko.

The pair, along with a third former Ukrainian official, Mykhaylo Okhendovsky, recorded interviews at OAN’s studios in Washington late last month with Ms. Rion and Mr. Giuliani for an episode of the series that aired on Tuesday night.

The three Ukrainians questioned the Democrats’ case for impeachment during the episode. And they asserted that Mr. Trump had ample reason to ask Mr. Zelensky during their July 25 phone call to investigate the Bidens and whether Ukrainians acted improperly to damage Mr. Trump’s 2016 campaign.

The July 25 call helped trigger a whistle-blower complaint about the pressure wielded by Mr. Trump and Mr. Giuliani against Mr. Zelensky, and the whistle-blower complaint incited the impeachment inquiry into whether Mr. Trump abused his power for political gain.

In the OAN episode broadcast on Tuesday, Mr. Telizhenko reiterated his claims that, while working in the Ukrainian Embassy in Washington in 2016, he was instructed to help a Democratic operative gather incriminating information about Mr. Manafort. The Ukrainian Embassy has denied his account.

Mr. Artemenko, a former member of Parliament, and Mr. Okhendovsky, the former chairman of Ukraine’s Central Election Commission, both called into question the authenticity of the ledger listing payments to Mr. Manafort.

Ms. Rion falsely claimed on air that the Democratic operative connected to the Ukrainian Embassy, who has become a frequent target of House Republicans, provided the ledger to The Times. She declared that her interviews with Mr. Telizhenko, Mr. Artemenko and Mr. Okhendovsky “pulls the rug out from under” Democrats’ “central premise that Trump was wrong to ask about Joe Biden and the Democrat party’s starring role in Ukrainian corruption.”

Ms. Rion, Mr. Telizhenko, Mr. Artemenko and the White House did not respond to requests for comment.

Mr. Giuliani rejected any notion that it was audacious or risky for him to continue pursuing the Ukrainian mission, given the scrutiny of him by impeachment investigators and federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York, or S.D.N.Y.

“If S.D.N.Y. leaks and Democrats’ threats stopped me, then I should find a new profession,” he wrote in a text message on Wednesday.

Asked about his interview with Mr. Lutsenko and efforts to interview other Ukrainian prosecutors, he responded that “like a good lawyer, I am gathering evidence to defend my client against the false charges being leveled against him” by the news media and Democrats.

He accused Representative Adam B. Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, which conducted impeachment hearings last month, of preventing testimony that could help Mr. Trump. “I am hoping that the evidence concealed by Schiff will be available to the public as they evaluate his outrageous, unconstitutional behavior.”

He did not respond to a question about whether he briefed Mr. Trump on his trip or his involvement in the OAN series, but he has said that he keeps Mr. Trump apprised of his efforts related to Ukraine.

In a news release Tuesday, OAN indicated that the third installment of its series with Mr. Giuliani was “currently in the works with OAN investigative staff outside the United States conducting key interviews at undisclosed safe houses.” It said the network would release additional details “upon return of OAN staff to U.S. soil.”

In Budapest, Mr. Giuliani had dinner on Tuesday night at the residence of the United States ambassador to Hungary, David B. Cornstein, a longtime friend and associate of both Mr. Trump and Mr. Giuliani.

A businessman who made a fortune operating jewelry counters inside department stores and worked in Mr. Giuliani’s New York mayoral administration, Mr. Cornstein has courted Viktor Orban, Hungary’s authoritarian prime minister, who in turn has provided fodder for Mr. Trump’s critical view of Ukraine.

A spokesman for the American Embassy in Budapest issued a statement describing the Tuesday night get-together as “a private dinner” hosted by the ambassador “with his longtime friend,” Mr. Giuliani, and Mr. Giuliani’s assistant. “No one else was present at the dinner.”

A reporter who showed up outside the ambassador’s residence during the dinner was turned away by a security guard.

Some State Department officials said they were tracking Mr. Giuliani’s continued efforts to engage the Ukrainians with concern. One department official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss a politically sensitive topic, called it “shocking” that, in the face of scrutiny of his prior efforts related to Ukraine, Mr. Giuliani was traveling internationally in continued pursuit of information from Ukrainians.

One of the former prosecutors with whom Mr. Giuliani is seeking to meet in Kyiv is Mr. Shokin, who claims his ouster was forced by Mr. Biden to prevent investigations into the gas company paying Mr. Biden’s son Hunter Biden. Allies of the oligarch who owns the gas company say they welcomed Mr. Shokin’s firing, but not because he was actively investigating the company or the oligarch. Rather, they say, he was using the threat of prosecution to try to solicit bribes.

Another prosecutor with whom Mr. Giuliani was seeking to meet, Mr. Kulyk, had compiled a seven-page dossier in English accusing Hunter Biden of corruption, and had taken steps to pursue an investigation into Burisma Holdings, the gas company on whose board Hunter Biden served. Mr. Kulyk was fired recently by Mr. Zelensky’s new top prosecutor as part of an anti-corruption initiative.

OAN’s crew hopes to interview the former prosecutors as well, Ms. Rion suggested during the first episode of the series, which aired late last month.

Kenneth P. Vogel reported from Washington, and Benjamin Novak from Budapest.

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Barr Is Said to Doubt Inspector General’s Finding on Russia Inquiry

Westlake Legal Group 02dc-barr1-facebookJumbo Barr Is Said to Doubt Inspector General’s Finding on Russia Inquiry United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Special Prosecutors (Independent Counsel) Russian Interference in 2016 US Elections and Ties to Trump Associates Presidential Election of 2016 Mueller, Robert S III Justice Department Inspectors General Horowitz, Michael E Federal Bureau of Investigation Durham, John H Clinesmith, Kevin Barr, William P Attorneys General

WASHINGTON — Attorney General William P. Barr has told Justice Department officials that he is skeptical of a conclusion by the department’s inspector general that the F.B.I. had sufficient information to open the investigation into whether any Trump associates conspired with Russia during the 2016 presidential race, according to two people familiar with the conversations.

Should Mr. Barr rebut the inspector general’s assessment, due out next week in a highly anticipated report, Mr. Trump’s allies will most likely use that pushback to dismiss the work itself. The review is expected to contradict some of the unfounded theories about the 2016 election that the president and his allies have promoted.

Mr. Barr’s doubts are significant because they could be perceived as the nation’s top law enforcement officer siding with Mr. Trump, who has long cast doubt on the legitimacy of the Russia investigation, over law enforcement officials.

His views are sure to inflame critics of Mr. Barr, who have accused him of siding with the president over the rule of law in his handling of the special counsel’s findings and in a recent speech in which he defended Mr. Trump’s use of executive authority. While it is a part of the executive branch, the Justice Department has typically sought to maintain some independence from the White House to guarantee that justice is applied fairly and not wielded as a political cudgel.

Mr. Barr’s skepticism could place more pressure on John H. Durham — the federal prosecutor who is conducting a separate criminal inquiry into the roots of the Russia investigation — to find evidence backing Mr. Barr’s position. Mr. Durham has already unearthed some evidence that supports Mr. Barr’s uncertainty of the inspector general’s findings, according to a lawyer involved in the Durham inquiry.

The attorney general has also expressed skepticism at the F.B.I.’s decision to investigate Mr. Trump’s own ties to Russia and whether he obstructed justice. It is unclear whether the report by the inspector general, Michael E. Horowitz, will address that.

Mr. Barr has privately praised Mr. Horowitz for his work and has not made clear whether he will publicly disagree with the report. It is standard practice for the Justice Department to submit to the inspector general a written response to his findings, which is then included in the final assessment. Mr. Barr could use that opportunity to issue a formal rebuttal, or he could make a public statement of some other kind.

“The inspector general’s investigation is a credit to the Department of Justice,” the department’s spokeswoman, Kerri Kupec, said in a statement on Monday night. “Rather than speculating, people should read the report for themselves next week, watch the inspector general’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, and draw their own conclusions about these important matters.”

A spokeswoman for Mr. Horowitz declined to comment. The Washington Post first reported the dispute.

It was not clear what Mr. Barr based his uncertainty on. The threshold to open the Russia investigation was not particularly high. The F.B.I. can open a preliminary inquiry based on “information or an allegation” that a crime or threat to national security may have occurred or will occur, according to bureau policy. Typically, agents open counterintelligence investigations with a small amount of evidence, Lisa Page, a former F.B.I. lawyer who has also been a target of Mr. Trump’s ire, testified privately to congressional investigators last year.

The conclusion that the F.B.I. had enough evidence when it opened the Russia investigation will be part of the long-anticipated report that wraps up Mr. Horowitz’s nearly two-year inquiry into aspects of the case, including its origins and whether the F.B.I. abused its surveillance powers when it sought a wiretap of a former Trump campaign adviser.

While Mr. Horowitz is expected to sharply criticize the F.B.I.’s top leaders, he is not expected to find that any of the bureau’s officials acted out of political bias against Mr. Trump when they decided to investigate links between his associates and Russia. Ultimately, Mr. Horowitz concluded that the F.B.I. violated no rules when it began its delicate inquiry, work that not only thrust the bureau into a politically treacherous position, but has also overshadowed much of Mr. Trump’s presidency.

Mr. Horowitz’s “excellent work has uncovered significant information that the American people will soon be able to read for themselves,” Ms. Kupec said in her statement.

The special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, eventually took over the Russia inquiry and affirmed that Russia had interfered in the 2016 election. But he found insufficient evidence to charge any Trump associates with conspiring with the Russian operation and declined to say whether Mr. Trump obstructed the investigation itself.

Mr. Barr, who has for decades expressed a maximalist view of executive authority, has long questioned whether aspects of the inquiry were legitimate. His skepticism began even before he was attorney general, when he wrote a 19-page memo to Justice Department leaders arguing that Mr. Trump was within his authority to fire James B. Comey as F.B.I. director, which Mr. Mueller was investigating as potential obstruction of justice. During a hearing, Mr. Barr told Congress that he believed that “spying” had occurred on the Trump campaign, and that he wanted to determine whether that surveillance was lawfully predicated.

As Mr. Horowitz worked on his review, senior Justice Department officials have also discussed putting in place procedures and guidelines that would force the bureau to get Justice Department approval before opening an investigation on someone like the president, one person who has been briefed on those conversations said.

Mr. Horowitz also found that a low-level lawyer at the F.B.I., Kevin Clinesmith, altered a document to include false information, and then included it in a packet of information that the F.B.I. used to renew a warrant to secretly wiretap a former Trump campaign adviser.

That information could have been part of the reason Mr. Durham began his work as a departmental review and shifted it in recent months to a full criminal investigation. He is not expected to complete his work anytime soon. His criminal investigation spans not only the F.B.I., the subject of Mr. Horowitz’s report, but also the C.I.A.

Mr. Horowitz will release the more than 400-page report next Monday, and he will testify before Congress about his findings on Dec. 11.

Adam Goldman contributed reporting.

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Democrats Ready Impeachment Report as Republicans Argue Trump Did Nothing Wrong

WASHINGTON — House Democrats pressed forward on Monday with the next phase of their impeachment inquiry, putting the final touches on an Intelligence Committee report expected to form the basis of their case that President Trump’s effort to pressure Ukraine to announce investigations of his political rivals was an abuse of power that warrants his removal from office.

Lawmakers from the panel reviewed the staff-written report for the first time on Monday evening, ahead of a scheduled Tuesday evening vote to transmit it to the Judiciary Committee. It is expected to conclude that Mr. Trump, working with allies inside and outside his administration, used the power of his office to pressure Ukraine to do his bidding in order to gain an advantage in the 2020 presidential race.

Though the factual conclusions are likely to closely track public witness testimony in recent weeks, key elements of the majority report remained shrouded in mystery on Monday night. It was not yet clear, for instance, whether Democrats would use the document to call for specific impeachment charges against Mr. Trump, or whether it would simply outline evidence of presidential wrongdoing and leave it to the Judiciary Committee, the arbiter of impeachment proceedings past, to make that judgment.

Either way, the vote on Tuesday will bring to a close more than two months of investigation by the intelligence panel and shift the case against Mr. Trump into the judiciary panel, which will oversee the drafting and debate of articles of impeachment in what is likely to be a messy public spectacle suffused with partisan rancor.

As the Democrats prepared their case, House Republicans moved to seize the narrative and spin it in the president’s favor, releasing their own report arguing against impeachment based on the facts both parties have reviewed.

In a 123-page document that echoed the defiant messaging that Mr. Trump has employed in his own defense, the Republicans did not concede a single point of wrongdoing or hint of misbehavior by the president. Instead, they concluded that Mr. Trump was acting on “genuine and reasonable” skepticism of Ukraine and “valid” concerns about possible corruption involving Americans, not political self-interest, when he pressed the country for investigations of his Democratic rivals.

Mr. Trump, who spent much of the day traveling to Britain to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, appeared to be preoccupied with the coming fight. He posted on Twitter from Air Force One about the weakness of the Democrats’ case and the strength of Republican unity. Not long after landing in London, the president lavished praise on the Republicans’ report, which he said he had read, and raised the prospect of unilaterally asking the Supreme Court to stop the House impeachment proceedings, a process enshrined in the Constitution, in its tracks.

“Great job!” Mr. Trump tweeted of Republicans. “Radical Left has NO CASE. Read the Transcripts. Shouldn’t even be allowed. Can we go to Supreme Court to stop?”

The Constitution puts the chief justice of the Supreme Court in charge of overseeing any impeachment trial in the Senate, but empowers the House and the Senate to carry out the proceedings as they see fit. The Supreme Court has no purview over the process.

As Washington re-engaged in the impeachment drama after Thanksgiving, the timetable for the process remained unclear. House leaders announced they would remain in session until Dec. 20, more than a week longer than initially planned, leaving open the possibility of a vote to impeach Mr. Trump days before Christmas. But with the Judiciary Committee scheduling only one hearing for this week, Democrats were facing a calendar squeeze that could make it difficult for them to complete the intricate impeachment process before year’s end.

The Judiciary Committee unveiled the list of constitutional scholars its members plan to question on Wednesday, when they convene their first formal impeachment session to help inform the debate over whether Mr. Trump’s conduct was impeachable.

The witnesses are Noah Feldman of Harvard Law School, Pamela S. Karlan of Stanford Law School, Michael J. Gerhardt of the University of North Carolina Law School and Jonathan Turley of the George Washington University Law School. Mr. Turley was invited by Republicans on the panel.

The Justice Department filed a brief before the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, seeking to block impeachment investigators from gaining access to secret grand jury evidence gathered by Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel who investigated Russia’s 2016 election interference and the Trump campaign.

Lawyers for the House have argued that they need to see that material in part because it could further illuminate the question of whether Mr. Trump lied to Mr. Mueller, a matter they have said is part of their impeachment inquiry. But the House is likely moving too quickly for the courts to settle the case before an impeachment vote.

In the Republicans’ dissenting views, they argued that after two months of investigation, the evidence “does not support” that Mr. Trump withheld a coveted White House meeting for Ukraine’s president or nearly $400 million in security assistance for the country as leverage for securing the investigations.

Westlake Legal Group republican-impeachment-report-1575324892513-articleLarge-v2 Democrats Ready Impeachment Report as Republicans Argue Trump Did Nothing Wrong Zelensky, Volodymyr Yovanovitch, Marie L United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry Russian Interference in 2016 US Elections and Ties to Trump Associates Republican Party Presidential Election of 2020 House of Representatives House Committee on the Judiciary Giuliani, Rudolph W Democratic Party Biden, Joseph R Jr

Read the House Republicans’ Report on the Impeachment Inquiry

Republicans on three House committees on Monday finalized a report documenting their impeachment defense of President Trump. The Democrats are expected to release their own report in the near future.

The conclusion is at odds with sworn testimony from senior American diplomats and White House officials who said they believed Mr. Trump sought to use American influence over Ukraine to suit his domestic political purposes, repeatedly pressing President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine to announce investigations into former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and an unproven claim that Ukraine conspired with Democrats to interfere in the 2016 election.

Rather than take those assertions at face value, the Republicans charged that they came from civil servants who dislike Mr. Trump’s agenda and style and are therefore allowing themselves to be part of a push by Democrats to undo the results of the 2016 election and thwart Mr. Trump’s re-election chances in 2020.

“The Democrats’ impeachment inquiry is not the organic outgrowth of serious misconduct; it is an orchestrated campaign to upend our political system,” the Republicans wrote. “The Democrats are trying to impeach a duly elected president based on the accusations and assumptions of unelected bureaucrats who disagreed with President Trump’s policy initiatives and processes.”

The argument mirrored one made at the White House on Monday by Kellyanne Conway, Mr. Trump’s counselor, who sought to portray Democrats’ case as flimsy.

“One out of 12 people had ever talked to the president of the United States and met him or discussed Ukraine with him — that is just mind-boggling to me,” Ms. Conway said, referring to the number of current and former government officials who testified publicly in the inquiry. “And we are supposed to impeach the president for high crimes and misdemeanors for that reason?”

Ms. Conway also dared the chairman of the Intelligence Committee who has been leading the inquiry, Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, to testify publicly during the Judiciary Committee’s proceedings about his handling of the case. If he did, she promised to “show up on behalf of the White House,” which on Sunday declined to participate in the hearing scheduled for Wednesday.

Democrats are expected to argue the virtual opposite of the Republican report.

The Democrats’ case centers on a July phone call in which Mr. Trump pressed Mr. Zelensky to investigate Mr. Biden and the claim that Ukraine worked with Democrats to subvert the 2016 election. It is also likely to charge that Mr. Trump conditioned the White House meeting and military assistance money on a public commitment to the investigations.

Mr. Schiff indicated as much Monday when he said that the Republican report “ignores voluminous evidence that the president used the power of his office to pressure Ukraine into investigating his political rival by withholding military aid and a White House meeting the president of Ukraine desperately sought.”

He added, “In so doing, the president undermined our national security and the integrity of our elections.

The minority report was compiled by committee staff for the top three Republicans on the House Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight and Reform Committees.

It essentially formalized a range of defenses Republicans road-tested last month during two weeks of public impeachment hearings in the Intelligence Committee. For members of the Judiciary Committee and the larger Republican conference in the House, it provided several alternative tacks for defending Mr. Trump or at least arguing against impeachment.

If the Democrats’ case hinges on linking actions by Mr. Trump and his agents to a unified pressure campaign, the Republican defense is staked on pulling those pieces apart and offering an alternate explanation for each.

Many of the actions in question, Republicans argue, stem from Mr. Trump’s “longstanding, deep-seated skepticism of Ukraine due to its history of pervasive corruption.”

“Understood in this proper context, the president’s initial hesitation to meet with President Zelensky or to provide U.S. taxpayer-funded security assistance to Ukraine without thoughtful review is entirely prudent,” the Republicans wrote.

Likewise, they argued, there was “nothing wrong with asking serious questions” about Mr. Biden and his younger son, Hunter Biden, who served on the board of a Ukrainian energy firm when his father was vice president, or about “Ukraine’s attempts to influence the 2016 presidential election.”

Though some officials who testified before the inquiry said that Hunter Biden’s role had prompted concerns about the appearance of a conflict of interest, no evidence had emerged to support any accusations of wrongdoing. And Mr. Trump’s own former national security advisers testified that the concerns he raised to Mr. Zelensky about 2016 were conspiracies promulgated by Russia to absolve its own interference campaign in 2016 and harm American democracy. They said the president had repeatedly been told as much.

Republicans also argued there was “nothing inherently improper” with Mr. Trump empowering Rudolph W. Giuliani, his private lawyer who led the push for investigations, to help steer Ukraine matters, despite testimony that there was widespread alarm at Mr. Giuliani’s involvement.

Fiona Hill, the former top Europe and Russia adviser at the White House, testified that her boss, John R. Bolton, had called Mr. Giuliani a “hand grenade.” Federal prosecutors in Manhattan are also investigating whether Mr. Giuliani’s Ukraine work broke the law.

The report also repeated familiar Republican grievances about the denial of “fundamental fairness” in the investigative process put forward by Democrats. Mr. Trump’s decision to discourage participation in the inquiry, they wrote, was “a legitimate response to an unfair, abusive, and partisan process, and does not constitute obstruction of a legitimate impeachment inquiry.”

Democrats do not see it that way, and have prepared a catalog of all of the ways that Mr. Trump has obstructed their inquiry that could form the basis for its own article of impeachment.

Michael D. Shear and Charlie Savage contributed reporting.

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Republican Impeachment Defense Claims Trump’s Ukraine Pressure Was Apolitical

WASHINGTON — House Republicans plan to argue that President Trump was acting on “genuine and reasonable” skepticism of Ukraine and “valid” concerns about possible corruption involving Americans, not political self-interest, when he pressed the country for investigations of his Democratic rivals, according to a draft of a report laying out their impeachment defense.

In a 123-page document that echoes the defiant messaging that Mr. Trump has employed in his own defense, the Republicans do not concede a single point of wrongdoing or hint of misbehavior by the president, according to a copy reviewed by The New York Times ahead of its planned release on Tuesday.

The report amounts to a pre-emptive attack by some of Mr. Trump’s most ardent supporters against Democrats’ arguments for impeachment. The Democrats have finalized a written report of their own and are scheduled to vote on Tuesday to transmit it to the House Judiciary Committee, kick-starting the next phase of the impeachment inquiry in the House as it barrels toward a likely vote on articles of impeachment.

In the Republicans’ dissenting views, they argue that after two months of investigation, the evidence “does not support” that Mr. Trump withheld a coveted White House meeting for Ukraine’s president or nearly $400 million in security assistance for the country as leverage for securing the investigations.

Westlake Legal Group republican-impeachment-report-1575324892513-articleLarge-v2 Republican Impeachment Defense Claims Trump’s Ukraine Pressure Was Apolitical Zelensky, Volodymyr Yovanovitch, Marie L United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry Russian Interference in 2016 US Elections and Ties to Trump Associates Republican Party Presidential Election of 2020 House of Representatives House Committee on the Judiciary Giuliani, Rudolph W Democratic Party Biden, Joseph R Jr

Read the House Republicans’ Report on the Impeachment Inquiry

Republicans on three House committees on Monday finalized a report documenting their impeachment defense of President Trump. The Democrats are expected to release their own report in the near future.

The conclusion is at odds with sworn testimony from senior American diplomats, White House officials and other administration officials who recounted how Mr. Trump sought to use American influence over Ukraine to suit his domestic political purposes, repeatedly insisting that President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine announce investigations into former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and an unproven claim that Ukraine conspired with Democrats to interfere in the 2016 election.

Rather than take those assertions at face value, the Republicans charge that they came from civil servants who dislike Mr. Trump’s agenda and style and are therefore allowing themselves to be part of a push by Democrats to undo the results of the 2016 election and thwart Mr. Trump’s re-election chances in 2020.

“The Democrats’ impeachment inquiry is not the organic outgrowth of serious misconduct; it is an orchestrated campaign to upend our political system,” the Republicans wrote. “The Democrats are trying to impeach a duly elected president based on the accusations and assumptions of unelected bureaucrats who disagreed with President Trump’s policy initiatives and processes.”

The argument mirrored one made at the White House on Monday by Kellyanne Conway, Mr. Trump’s counselor, who sought to portray Democrats’ case as flimsy.

“One out of 12 people had ever talked to the president of the United States and met him or discussed Ukraine with him — that is just mind-boggling to me,” Ms. Conway said, referring to the number of current and former government officials who testified publicly in the inquiry. “And we are supposed to impeach the president for high crimes and misdemeanors for that reason?”

Ms. Conway also dared the chairman of the Intelligence Committee who has been leading the inquiry, Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, to testify publicly during the Judiciary Committee’s proceedings about his handling of the case. If he did, she promised to “show up on behalf of the White House,” which on Sunday declined to participate in a hearing scheduled for Wednesday.

Hours later, the Judiciary Committee unveiled the panel of constitutional scholars its members would question in that hearing to help inform its debate over whether Mr. Trump’s conduct was impeachable. The witnesses are Noah Feldman of Harvard Law School, Pamela S. Karlan of Stanford Law School, Michael J. Gerhardt of the University of North Carolina Law School and Jonathan Turley of the George Washington University Law School. Mr. Turley was invited by Republicans on the panel.

Democrats are expected to argue the virtual opposite of the Republican report. They will conclude, based on witness testimony and documentary evidence, that working with allies inside and outside his administration, Mr. Trump used the power of his office to pressure Ukraine to do his bidding in order to gain an advantage in the 2020 race.

Democrats’ case centers on a July phone call in which Mr. Trump pressed Mr. Zelensky to investigate Mr. Biden and the claim that Ukraine worked with Democrats to subvert the 2016 election. It is also likely to charge that Mr. Trump conditioned the White House meeting and military assistance money on a public commitment to the investigations.

The minority report was compiled by committee staff for the top three Republicans on the House Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight and Reform Committees.

It essentially formalizes a range of defenses Republicans road-tested during two weeks of public impeachment hearings in the Intelligence Committee last month. For members of the Judiciary Committee and the larger Republican conference in the House, it provides several alternative tacks for defending Mr. Trump or at least arguing against impeachment.

If the Democrats’ case hinges on linking actions by Mr. Trump and his agents to a unified pressure campaign, the Republican defense is staked on pulling those pieces apart and offering an alternate explanation for each.

Many of the actions in question, Republicans argue, stem from Mr. Trump’s “longstanding, deep-seated skepticism of Ukraine due to its history of pervasive corruption.”

“Understood in this proper context, the president’s initial hesitation to meet with President Zelensky or to provide U.S. taxpayer-funded security assistance to Ukraine without thoughtful review is entirely prudent,” the Republicans wrote.

Likewise, they argued, there was “nothing wrong with asking serious questions” about Mr. Biden and his younger son, Hunter Biden, who served on the board of a Ukrainian energy firm when his father was vice president, or about “Ukraine’s attempts to influence the 2016 presidential election.”

Though some officials who testified before the inquiry said that Hunter Biden’s role had prompted concerns about the appearance of a conflict of interest, no evidence had emerged to support any accusations of wrongdoing. And Mr. Trump’s own former national security advisers testified that the concerns he raised to Mr. Zelensky about 2016 were conspiracies promulgated by Russia to absolve its own interference campaign in 2016 and harm American democracy. They said the president had repeatedly been told as much.

Republicans also argued there was “nothing inherently improper” with Mr. Trump empowering Rudolph W. Giuliani, his private lawyer who led the push for investigations, to help steer Ukraine matters, despite testimony that there was widespread alarm at Mr. Giuliani’s involvement.

Fiona Hill, the former top Europe and Russia adviser at the White House, testified that her boss, John R. Bolton, had called Mr. Giuliani a “hand grenade.” Federal prosecutors in Manhattan are also investigating whether Mr. Giuliani’s Ukraine work broke the law.

The report spends relatively little time on the smear campaign by Mr. Giuliani and other Trump allies targeting Marie L. Yovanovitch, the former American ambassador to Kyiv, or Mr. Trump’s directive to remove her from her post months ahead of schedule. Ms. Yovanovitch’s removal is a key plank of Democrats’ case that Mr. Trump shunted aside the proper foreign policy apparatus to secure what he wanted from Ukraine, politically beneficial investigations.

Republicans do not suggest that Ms. Yovanovitch was treated fairly, but they play down her removal, arguing that it had no meaningful effect on her and writing that it was “not per se evidence of wrongdoing for the president’s political benefit.”

The report also repeats familiar Republican grievances about the denial of “fundamental fairness” in the investigative process put forward by Democrats. Mr. Trump’s decision to discourage participation in the inquiry, they wrote, was “a legitimate response to an unfair, abusive, and partisan process, and does not constitute obstruction of a legitimate impeachment inquiry.”

Democrats do not see it that way, and have prepared a catalog of all of the ways that Mr. Trump has obstructed their inquiry that could form the basis for its own article of impeachment in the Judiciary Committee.

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Sidelined for Months, Judiciary Panel Will Reclaim Impeachment Drive It Once Led

Westlake Legal Group 00dc-impeach1-facebookJumbo Sidelined for Months, Judiciary Panel Will Reclaim Impeachment Drive It Once Led United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry Russian Interference in 2016 US Elections and Ties to Trump Associates Presidential Election of 2020 House Committee on the Judiciary

This spring, as President Trump defiantly rejected congressional attempts to investigate his conduct and policies, Representative Jerrold Nadler of New York, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, asked his Democratic colleagues on his famously voluble panel a loaded question: When all is said and done, given the facts before us, are we heading toward impeaching this president?

The answer came back mixed, said people familiar with the private discussion in an office building opposite the Capitol, with many of the panel’s progressive firebrands saying impeachment was inevitable, while some of its more senior members held back, wary of embracing a process likely to unleash forces well beyond their control.

Half a year later, after several twists and turns and the near-death of the prospect of impeaching Mr. Trump in the House, the answer to Mr. Nadler’s question has become clear, even as the divisions that were evident on that spring day remain.

After being unceremoniously sidelined for two months while the Intelligence Committee assembled a case that the president pressured Ukraine to help him in the 2020 election, the judiciary panel is poised to retake the national stage this week to swiftly draft and debate articles of impeachment and almost certainly vote to make Mr. Trump only the third president in history to be impeached.

“News of the Judiciary Committee’s demise has been greatly exaggerated,” said Representative Hakeem Jeffries of New York, a top Democratic leader and member of the panel.

What comes next is likely to be a messy and raucous process. And there were already signs late Sunday that the panel, the arbiter of presidential impeachment proceedings past, was again at the center of the maelstrom its Democratic members have been expecting, one way or another, for months.

In a five-page letter packed with complaints about an “unfair process,” Pat A. Cipollone, the White House counsel, turned down an offer from Mr. Nadler for Mr. Trump or his lawyers to participate on Wednesday when the committee summons yet-unnamed legal experts to help inform its debate over whether Mr. Trump’s conduct warrants impeachment.

But Mr. Cipollone said Mr. Trump’s team reserved the right to change course once more information about the hearing became available, and might consider taking part in future Judiciary Committee proceedings “if you afford the administration the ability to do so meaningfully.”

Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democratic leaders have conspicuously avoided locking in a timeline for the inquiry, but privately they are said to be aiming for a full House vote on impeachment articles before the Christmas recess, barring unexpected developments. That would leave the Judiciary Committee with as little as two weeks to do its work.

“Even at this late date,” Mr. Cipollone wrote, “it is not yet clear whether you will afford the president at least these basic, fundamental rights, or continue to deny them.”

Mr. Nadler, in consultation with Ms. Pelosi and his members, will have to decide how to handle requests like Mr. Cipollone’s, weighing a desire to demonstrate fairness to Mr. Trump against a determination to maintain forward momentum in the proceedings. It is one of the many delicate tasks, fraught with political risks and legal intricacies, that have fallen to the judiciary panel as the impeachment inquiry enters a critical phase.

The first milestone will come in the form of a written report from the Intelligence Committee, which is to be approved on Tuesday. The handoff of the report, which will most likely form much of the basis for articles of impeachment against Mr. Trump, will be a stylistic and substantive turning point for the inquiry that will almost certainly inflame a debate that has already roiled Congress and divided the country.

Large, disorderly and stacked with some of Congress’s most outspoken progressives and conservatives, the Judiciary Committee is the polar opposite of the small and staid intelligence panel, where rules drafted to facilitate the handling of government secrets allowed Democrats to tightly control every aspect of the impeachment inquiry.

The judiciary rules, instead, are fundamentally democratic, intended to provide wide latitude for divisive debates over the nation’s most pressing policy issues, many of the them cultural hot buttons that fuel each party’s activist base. Barring some momentous new evidence, not a single lawmaker on either side is expected to budge.

And while the Intelligence Committee conducted much of its investigative work behind closed doors, the judiciary panel will work entirely in the public glare.

The stakes are high. For party leaders, who have warily eyed recent national polling that shows public opinion essentially unmoved by weeks of fact-finding laying out how Mr. Trump twisted the foreign policy process to meet his own domestic political interests, the debate offers perhaps a final chance to move independent voters behind them before putting Mr. Trump on trial in the Senate.

Democrats, led by Mr. Nadler, intend to try to rein in their more fiery progressives and infuse the proceedings with gravitas, mindful of their role in history. But the freewheeling nature of the panel, with its hyperpartisan members, does not easily lend itself to that task. And their handling of the report by Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel who investigated Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and the Trump campaign, earned Mr. Nadler and his committee a reputation for being unable to fully control their own proceedings.

Republicans instead want to mire Democrats in a sloppy fight, making the hearings into such a confusing mishmash of competing information that even Republicans troubled by Mr. Trump’s actions see no upside in breaking with him. They plan to take advantage of early impeachment advocacy by Mr. Nadler and Democrats on the panel to portray the Ukraine matter as simply another attempt by Mr. Trump’s critics to take him down.

“Any article to come out of this? There is no world in which a Republican, especially on the Judiciary Committee, will accept this,” Representative Doug Collins of Georgia, the panel’s top Republican, said in an interview. “We have seen this sideshow up close all year.”

Joining Mr. Collins on Republicans’ side of the dais are some of the most ardent culture warriors and defenders of Mr. Trump: Louie Gohmert of Texas, Matt Gaetz of Florida, Andy Biggs of Arizona and Jim Jordan of Ohio, who led the president’s defense in the Intelligence Committee. They have already shown a flair for the dramatic, organizing conservative lawmakers to storm the Intelligence Committee’s secure chambers in a stunt to stall the proceedings, which they called a “kangaroo court.”

Mr. Collins, a Georgia lawyer with an auctioneer’s cadence and a lawyer’s knack for tripping up committee business with time-consuming parliamentary tactics, is ready to make the proceedings as painful as possible for Democrats. He warned that if Mr. Nadler intended to jam articles of impeachment through the committee, he would go down in history as “a giant rubber stamp” for Ms. Pelosi and Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, the Intelligence Committee chairman.

It will be up to Mr. Nadler, a loquacious progressive from Manhattan’s Upper West Side who is now one of the House’s leaders, to maintain order and inject gravity and fairness into the proceedings.

Democrats have spent weeks speculating that his relationship with Ms. Pelosi had been badly strained by his earlier push for impeachment, which she publicly opposed, believing the process was too divisive and unlikely, in any event, to result in the president’s removal. Both sides deny it, but privately lawmakers around him conceded that they were wary of comparisons to Mr. Schiff, who oversaw hearings in the Intelligence Committee with an iron fist and tight lips.

Republicans have been quick to weaponize Mr. Nadler’s patience against him in the past, taking advantage of his reticence to simply gavel them into silence.

“We will bend over backward to be fair,” said Representative Pramila Jayapal, Democrat of Washington. “Let’s see if he stands straight instead of standing corrupt. Let’s put the onus on the president to for once perhaps behave.”

The clash will begin during Wednesday’s hearing. But the panel is expected to convene another session in the coming days for Mr. Schiff or his staff members to formally present the Intelligence Committee’s findings for consideration, a spectacle akin to the presentation of evidence by Ken Starr, the independent counsel, during President Bill Clinton’s impeachment.

Articles of impeachment themselves will be drafted in private, but debated, edited and amended out in the open — a process that could take two to three days of public work.

Privately, Democrats believe they could end up with three to four articles of impeachment: one or two focused on the president’s alleged abuse of power related to Ukraine, another chronicling his obstruction of congressional requests for witnesses and documents, and potentially an article focused on findings by Mr. Mueller charging Mr. Trump with obstructing justice when he tried to thwart the Russia investigation.

That last potential charge is the subject of a lively private debate among Democrats about how broad of a case to make against the president. At least one senior member of the committee, Representative Zoe Lofgren, Democrat of California, said in an interview that she remained unconvinced that Mr. Mueller’s case united House Democrats in the same way the Ukraine affair has.

“As you will recall, I did not step forward urging movement for impeachment based on the Mueller report,” said Ms. Lofgren, who worked for the committee during impeachment proceedings against President Richard M. Nixon and served on it during Mr. Clinton’s impeachment. “What we have got before us, which has been explored factually by the Intelligence Committee, is clear and serious.”

Mr. Nadler and other members of the Judiciary Committee spent months this summer aggressively pushing within their caucus for impeachment based on Mr. Mueller’s findings, making only limited headway amid historic White House stonewalling and drawing public criticism for seeming to fumble a case many Democrats once thought would be an ironclad shot at impeaching Mr. Trump. That was the state of play in September when they were thrust to the side by Ms. Pelosi after an anonymous whistle-blower complaint related to Mr. Trump’s dealings with Ukraine found its way to the Intelligence Committee.

Democrats on the judiciary panel have spent the interim preparing out of public view to close whatever case the caucus can agree on. A small army of staff lawyers has spent weeks exhaustively researching House rules and precedents from the Clinton and Nixon impeachments to help Mr. Nadler navigate the coming hearings. And like millions of other Americans, they have had their televisions tuned to the intelligence hearings and the evidence that will soon be in their hands.

“The Judiciary Committee has been very closely watching the testimony,” said Representative David Cicilline, Democrat of Rhode Island.

Michael D. Shear and Emily Cochrane contributed reporting.

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Trump’s Other Personal Lawyer: Close to the Right, but Far From Giuliani

WASHINGTON — Jay Sekulow is a real lawyer, and he plays one on TV.

Mr. Sekulow, the coordinator of President Trump’s personal legal team, does not have an office in the White House. He is best known as a prodigious fund-raiser on evangelical television and a litigator for the Christian right, not for handling criminal prosecutions or executive power disputes. In 2016, Mr. Sekulow said he voted for Hillary Clinton, according to people close to him.

Yet with the House Judiciary Committee set to begin impeachment hearings on Wednesday and Mr. Trump enmeshed in legal battles on other fronts — like his tax returns, claims of immunity from prosecution and elements of his immigration and health care policies — Mr. Sekulow has emerged as one of Mr. Trump’s most trusted advisers and loyal defenders in the news media.

Operating under the name Constitutional Litigation & Advocacy Group from a co-working space in a Pennsylvania Avenue office building, Mr. Sekulow, 63, coordinates the efforts of eight outside lawyers enlisted to help Mr. Trump. He is in regular touch with the White House counsel, Pat A. Cipollone, and speaks frequently with the president.

A long list of lawyers have cycled tumultuously in and out of Mr. Trump’s orbit over the past three years: Donald F. McGahn II, his first White House counsel; Ty Cobb and John M. Dowd, who represented him in the early stages of the special counsel’s investigation; and Emmet T. Flood, who saw Mr. Trump through the completion of the Mueller report. Then there is Rudolph W. Giuliani, like Mr. Sekulow a personal lawyer for Mr. Trump, whose aggressive digging for political dirt in Ukraine has put him under federal investigation and led to the president facing a House impeachment inquiry.

But Mr. Sekulow has hung on.

He was recommended by the erstwhile Trump adviser Stephen K. Bannon to help guide Mr. Trump’s legal response to the investigation by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III. Like Mr. Giuliani, he has New York roots and spent decades as a pugilistic advocate on television, in Mr. Sekulow’s case in a natty on-air uniform of bespoke suit and three-corner silk pocket square.

Unlike Mr. Giuliani, he has avoided messy public conflicts that upstage his client, and he reflects the embattled president’s reliance on evangelical Christians, a crucial political constituency. He declined to be interviewed on the record for this article.

“Jay is not a criminal lawyer, and he’s not even a checks-and-balances constitutional lawyer,” said Paul Rosenzweig, who was senior counsel to Ken Starr for the Whitewater investigation during the Clinton administration. “The substantive background he has is not a particularly good fit for any of those tasks. But he’s been at it for two years, so maybe he’s got more experience in defending this president than anybody.”

ImageWestlake Legal Group 00dc-sekulow2-articleLarge Trump’s Other Personal Lawyer: Close to the Right, but Far From Giuliani United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry Trump Tax Returns Sekulow, Jay Alan Russian Interference in 2016 US Elections and Ties to Trump Associates Religion-State Relations Religion and Belief Mercer University Jews for Jesus Evangelical Movement Christians and Christianity

Mr. Sekulow, left, in 2003 outside the Supreme Court, where he won a string of religious liberty cases.Credit…Dennis Cook/Associated Press

Mr. Sekulow was born in Brooklyn and grew up an observant Jew, first on Long Island and later in Atlanta, where his father, a clothing buyer, moved the family to take a job at a department store.

Mr. Sekulow attended Atlanta Baptist College, today known as Mercer University. It was around that time, he has said, that he became a Christian, in part because of the influence of a college friend, Glenn Borders, who led him through an exploration of the Bible. He would go on to be active in Jews for Jesus, an organization of evangelical believers of Jewish ancestry.

In a first-person biography on the Jews for Jesus website, he wrote that during his reading of the Old and New Testaments, “my suspicion that Jesus might really be the messiah was confirmed.” At a later gathering, “they invited people who wanted to commit their life to Jesus to come up the aisle to meet with them at the front of the church,” Mr. Sekulow wrote. “I responded to that invitation.”

After graduating from law school at Mercer, Mr. Sekulow worked briefly at the Internal Revenue Service, then opened a law firm in Atlanta with a few Mercer classmates and his brother Gary. Working a network of contacts, including a local pastor, Mr. Sekulow swiftly moved from routine real estate closings and wills to a business renovating and flipping historic properties, at the time a popular tax shelter for the wealthy.

The venture imploded in 1986, a development Mr. Sekulow omits from his Jews for Jesus biography. Mr. Sekulow; his brother Gary; his father, Stanley; his law partner Stuart Roth; and their business associates were sued for fraud and securities violations. They declared bankruptcy, leaving a trail of unpaid debts.

Within a year of his bankruptcy, Mr. Sekulow reinvented himself as a litigator for the Christian right. As general counsel for Jews for Jesus, he argued before the Supreme Court and won a 9-to-0 victory in 1987, successfully making the case that by banning Jews for Jesus from distributing pamphlets at Los Angeles International Airport, the Board of Airport Commissioners violated the group’s First Amendment rights.

Within months Mr. Sekulow founded his own faith-based advocacy group, Christian Advocates Serving Evangelism, or CASE, to meet, Mr. Sekulow wrote, “a growing need to challenge the state’s infringement upon the right of Christians to proclaim the gospel” in “parks, school campuses at every level, malls, street corners and, of course, airports.”

Mr. Sekulow won a string of Supreme Court cases in the early and mid-1990s by arguing that bans on various forms of religious expression in public places violated the practitioners’ right to free speech.

His legal successes impressed the televangelists Janice Crouch and Paul Crouch Sr., founders of Trinity Broadcasting Network and icons of what is commonly called prosperity gospel, the belief that following God yields wealth and health. Many mainstream Christians consider the theology heretical.

Mr. Sekulow appeared on the rhinestone-clad couple’s “Praise the Lord” TV show, where they solicited “love gifts” for the young lawyer they called “our little Jew” and “our little David,” battling the Goliath of the secular state.

The Crouches gave Mr. Sekulow his own show, broadcast from a mock courtroom in a TBN studio in Mobile, Ala., and produced by their son, Paul Crouch Jr.

“We got him launched,” the younger Mr. Crouch, who has since left TBN, said in an interview.

Mr. Sekulow still appears on TBN, which carries his show and hawks his books, like “Unholy Alliance,” whose blurb says it “exposes the attempts by fundamentalist Muslims to destroy our legal system and liberties.” Paul Crouch Jr. has also asked Mr. Sekulow to appear in “Trump 2024,” an election-year Christian documentary about Mr. Trump that assumes a second term.

In 1990, the televangelist Pat Robertson, a close friend of the Crouches, hired Mr. Sekulow as chief counsel for the American Center for Law & Justice, a group founded in opposition to the American Civil Liberties Union.

Over three decades, CASE and the A.C.L.J., funded by donations Mr. Sekulow solicits on TV and through telemarketers, have channeled tens of millions of dollars to the Sekulow family and their affiliated businesses, financing homes in Washington, Tennessee and France; private jet travel; and a chauffeur.

Over the years, several news outlets have investigated the groups and their payments to Mr. Sekulow and his wife, sons, brother, sister-in-law, niece and nephew. In 2017, The Guardian, citing documents, published an article saying that between 2000 and 2017 CASE has “steered more than $60 million to Sekulow, his family and their businesses,” including for property, production services and a private jet lease.

The same day, The Washington Post published an investigation of the organizations’ tax records, finding that between 2011 and 2015 the interconnected charities paid $5.5 million in compensation directly to Mr. Sekulow and five family members, another $7.5 million to “businesses owned by Mr. Sekulow and his sister-in-law for producing and consulting on TV, movie and radio shows, including his weekday program, ‘Jay Sekulow Live!,’” and $21 million to a law firm co-owned by Mr. Sekulow: Constitutional Litigation & Advocacy Group.

“CASE and A.C.L.J. comply with all rules and regulations of the Internal Revenue Service,” the law and justice center said in a statement to The New York Times. “We have independent auditors and two independent tax law firms, and we’re in good standing in all 50 states.”

During the Obama administration Mr. Sekulow continued his work at the center, fighting against the Affordable Care Act and defending an Operation Rescue activist sued over “undercover” videos filmed at a Planned Parenthood clinic. During the recession, the group used telemarketers to solicit “sacrificial gifts” from struggling people by phone, according to the Guardian article.

Mr. Robertson said in an interview that if Mr. Sekulow were being “compensated as an attorney for the work that he does, he would be making in the seven-figure range.” Unlike Mr. Giuliani, Mr. Sekulow is paid for representing Mr. Trump; Mr. Sekulow’s son Jordan and Mr. Roth are also on the Trump payroll.

Every weekday Mr. Sekulow takes to the Christian airwaves, amplifying White House talking points and raising money for the A.C.L.J. Last month he and his son worked to impugn the impeachment inquiry’s “alleged whistle-blower,” casting him as part of an Obama administration “chain of deep staters.” As witnesses testified before the House Intelligence Committee, his show promoted its “exclusive live analysis of Adam Schiff’s phony, lacking-due-process” hearings.

After a federal appeals court again rejected Mr. Trump’s efforts to shield his tax returns from New York criminal investigators last month, Mr. Sekulow vowed to take the battle to the Supreme Court, telling CBS News that the president’s claims of legal immunity even from murder “go to the heart of our republic.”

Whether he will argue the case himself before the Supreme Court has not yet been decided.

Charlie Savage contributed reporting.

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Russia Inquiry Review Is Expected to Undercut Trump Claim of F.B.I. Spying

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WASHINGTON — The Justice Department’s inspector general found no evidence that the F.B.I. attempted to place undercover agents or informants inside Donald J. Trump’s campaign in 2016 as agents investigated whether his associates conspired with Russia’s election interference operation, people familiar with a draft of the inspector general’s report said.

The determination by the inspector general, Michael E. Horowitz, is expected to be a key finding in his highly anticipated report due out on Dec. 9 examining aspects of the Russia investigation. The finding also contradicts some of the most inflammatory accusations hurled by Mr. Trump and his supporters, who alleged not only that F.B.I. officials spied on the Trump campaign but also at one point that former President Barack Obama had ordered Mr. Trump’s phones tapped. The startling accusation generated headlines but Mr. Trump never backed it up.

The finding is one of several by Mr. Horowitz that undercuts conservatives’ claims that the F.B.I. acted improperly in investigating several Trump associates starting in 2016. He also found that F.B.I. leaders did not take politically motivated actions in pursuing a secret wiretap on a former Trump campaign adviser, Carter Page — eavesdropping that Mr. Trump’s allies have long decried as politically motivated.

But Mr. Horowitz will sharply criticize F.B.I. leaders for their handling of the investigation in some ways, and he unearthed errors and omissions when F.B.I. officials applied for the wiretap, according to people familiar with a draft of the report. The draft contained a chart listing numerous mistakes in the process, one of the people said.

Mr. Horowitz concluded that the F.B.I. was careless and unprofessional in pursuing the Page wiretap, and he referred his findings in one instance to prosecutors for potential criminal charges over the alteration of a document in 2017 by a front-line lawyer, Kevin Clinesmith, 37, in connection with the wiretap application.

Mr. Horowitz’s mixed bag of conclusions is likely to give new ammunition to both Mr. Trump’s defenders and critics in the long-running partisan fight over the Russia investigation. Last week, Mr. Trump described the coming report in a phone interview with “Fox & Friends” as potentially “historic” and predicted “perhaps the biggest scandal in the history of our country.”

A spokeswoman for Mr. Horowitz declined to comment. The people familiar with the inquiry cautioned that the draft report was not final. The New York Times has not reviewed the draft, which could include other significant findings.

Mr. Trump has long chafed at the Russia investigation, which overshadowed the first years of his presidency. Ultimately, the special counsel who took over the Russia inquiry, Robert S. Mueller III, found insufficient evidence to charge any Trump associates with conspiring with Russia’s interference.

But the president’s allies have seized on the F.B.I.’s conduct in opening the inquiry as potentially problematic. Attorney General William P. Barr prompted alarm among defenders of the F.B.I. by accusing the bureau this year of spying on the campaign.

The F.B.I. director, Christopher A. Wray, who was appointed in 2017, has said he would not use the term spying to describe F.B.I. activities in 2016. The Mueller report reaffirmed the factors that the F.B.I. used to open its investigation, and Mr. Horowitz’s findings are also said to show that the F.B.I. acted properly in opening the inquiry.

F.B.I. officials started the investigation, code-named Crossfire Hurricane, in July 2016 after learning that a Russian intermediary had offered information that could damage Hillary Clinton to a Trump campaign aide, George Papadopoulos. The F.B.I. eventually began looking at four Trump campaign advisers who had ties to Russia, including Mr. Papadopoulos, and as law enforcement and intelligence officials were realizing the extent of the Kremlin’s ongoing campaign to sabotage the election.

The F.B.I. was cognizant of being seen as interfering with a presidential campaign, and former law enforcement officials are adamant that they did not investigate the Trump campaign organization itself or target it for infiltration. But agents had to investigate the four advisers’ ties with Russia, and the people they did scrutinize all played roles in the Trump campaign.

Mr. Trump and his allies have pointed to some of the investigative steps the F.B.I. took as evidence of spying, though they were typical law enforcement activities. For one, agents had an informant, an academic named Stefan A. Halper, meet with Mr. Page and Mr. Papadopoulos while they were affiliated with the campaign. The president decried the revelation as an “all time biggest political scandal” when it emerged last year.

The F.B.I. did have an undercover agent who posed as Mr. Halper’s assistant during a London meeting with Mr. Papadopoulos in August 2016. And indeed, another Trump adviser, Peter Navarro, reportedly pushed Mr. Halper for an ambassadorship in the Trump administration.

Mr. Halper turned down the job and told the F.B.I. that Mr. Navarro had made the overture, according to a person familiar with the offer.

Mr. Horowitz found no evidence that Mr. Halper tried to infiltrate the Trump campaign itself, the people familiar with the draft report said, such as by seeking inside campaign information or a role in the organization. The F.B.I. also never directed him to do so, former officials said. Instead, Mr. Halper focused on eliciting information from Mr. Page and Mr. Papadopoulos about their ties to Russia.

Mr. Barr has suggested that the F.B.I. assigned other informants as well to figure out whether any Trump associates were working with the Russians. The F.B.I. gave Mr. Horowitz’s team extraordinary access to its informant database, and his investigators examined other F.B.I. informants with possible ties to the Trump campaign.

In each case, they found that the F.B.I. had not deployed those people to gather information on the Trump campaign itself, the people said.

It is also possible that the F.B.I. received unsolicited material from inside the Trump campaign; outsiders often submit potential evidence to the bureau that agents did not seek. But it is not clear whether Mr. Horowitz uncovered any such instances.

Mr. Horowitz will also undercut another claim by Trump allies — that the Russian intermediary who promised dirt to Mr. Papadopoulos, a Maltese professor named Joseph Mifsud, was an F.B.I. informant. Mr. Papadopoulos has helped spread that claim; he contends without evidence that the F.B.I. or the C.I.A. set him up to derail Mr. Trump’s campaign.

Mr. Papadopoulos served 12 days in prison last year on a conviction of lying to the F.B.I. about his contacts with Mr. Mifsud. Agents said his falsehoods hampered their ability to interrogate Mr. Mifsud, who was briefly in the United States but later left the country, out of the reach of the F.B.I., and disappeared from public view.

The report is also expected to debunk another theory of Trump allies: that the F.B.I. relied on information to open the investigation from a British former spy, Christopher Steele, himself a onetime bureau informant who compiled a dossier of damaging, unverified information on Mr. Trump.

The F.B.I. did cite the dossier to some extent to apply for the wiretap on Mr. Page. The inspector general will fault the F.B.I. for failing to tell the judges who approved the wiretap applications about potential problems with the dossier, the people familiar with the draft report said. F.B.I. agents have interviewed some of Mr. Steele’s sources and found that their information differed somewhat from his dossier.

Mr. Horowitz plans to say that the wiretap application, which referenced Mr. Papadopoulos, should have also included a statement he made to the undercover agent in London that could be seen as exculpatory or self-serving, the people familiar with the draft report said. Mr. Papadopoulos said at the time that he had nothing to do with Russia and knew no one else who did, he recounted in a book he has written.

Though a wiretap itself is an intrusive investigative tool, F.B.I. officials obtained a wiretap on Mr. Page after he had left the Trump campaign.

In addition, the inspector general examined Mr. Steele’s contacts with Bruce G. Ohr, a Justice Department official and an expert on Russian organized crime. Mr. Ohr, himself a target of Mr. Trump’s ire, spoke with Mr. Steele several times after the F.B.I. terminated its relationship with him in the fall of 2016 because he spoke with a reporter about his concerns about Mr. Trump. Mr. Ohr relayed information from those conversations to the bureau.

Mr. Horowitz is expected to criticize Mr. Ohr for keeping his meetings with Mr. Steele from his superiors.

The report will mark the end of one chapter of the Justice Department’s scrutiny of the F.B.I.’s handling of the Russia investigation, though the saga is ongoing. Mr. Barr has assigned the United States attorney for Connecticut, John H. Durham, to also examine the origins of the inquiry and the government’s collection of intelligence involving the Trump campaign’s interactions with Russians.

Michael S. Schmidt contributed reporting.

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Donald McGahn Must Testify to Congress, Judge Rules; Administration Will Appeal

Westlake Legal Group 25dc-mcgahn-facebookJumbo Donald McGahn Must Testify to Congress, Judge Rules; Administration Will Appeal United States Politics and Government Ukraine Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry subpoenas Special Prosecutors (Independent Counsel) Russian Interference in 2016 US Elections and Ties to Trump Associates Russia Mueller, Robert S III McGahn, Donald F II Justice Department impeachment House Committee on the Judiciary Executive Privilege, Doctrine of Decisions and Verdicts Burck, William A Bolton, John R

WASHINGTON — The former White House counsel Donald F. McGahn II must testify before House impeachment investigators about President Trump’s efforts to obstruct the Mueller inquiry, a judge ruled on Monday, saying that senior presidential aides must comply with congressional subpoenas and calling the administration’s arguments to the contrary “fiction.”

The 120-page decision by Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson of the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia handed another lower-court victory to House Democrats in their fight to overcome Mr. Trump’s stonewalling.

“Presidents are not kings,” wrote Judge Jackson, adding that current and former White House officials owe their allegiance to the Constitution. “They do not have subjects, bound by loyalty or blood, whose destiny they are entitled to control.”

The Justice Department, which is representing Mr. McGahn in the lawsuit, will appeal, a spokeswoman said. Still, the ruling by Judge Jackson, who was appointed by President Barack Obama, could have broader consequences for the investigation into Ukraine affair.

In rejecting the Trump administration’s sweeping claim that top presidential advisers, as Mr. McGahn was, are absolutely immune from being compelled to talk about their official duties — meaning they do not even have to show up — the judge said the same is true even for those who worked on national security issues.

Notably, John R. Bolton, Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser, has let it be known that he has significant information about the Ukraine affair at the heart of the impeachment inquiry but is uncertain whether any congressional subpoena for his testimony would be constitutionally valid. He wants a judge to decide.

Judge Jackson’s ruling also came on the same day that another federal judge in Washington held out the possibility that more documents about the Ukraine affair could yet see the light of day, ruling that emails between the White House and the Pentagon about the freezing of military aid to Ukraine should be released under a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.

But even as those rulings suggested that more potential evidence for impeachment investigators might become available as the cases play out, House Democrats said the Intelligence Committee would deliver a report soon after Thanksgiving making the case for impeaching Mr. Trump, moving forward rather than waiting for the inevitable appeals to drag on.

Democrats are compiling a list of “noncompliance with lawful subpoenas” as part of the report so the Judiciary Committee can consider drafting an article of impeachment charging Mr. Trump with obstructing Congress, the intelligence panel’s chairman, Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, wrote in a letter to colleagues on Monday.

Indeed on Monday, the Supreme Court temporarily blocked an appeals court ruling in another case that required Mr. Trump’s accounting firm to turn over financial records to another House committee while justices decide whether to take the case. If they do choose to hear arguments, the justices might not issue a final ruling on the matter until late June.

Several potential witnesses to what Mr. Trump said and did to pressure Ukraine to announce investigations that could benefit him politically — like Mr. Bolton and Mr. Trump’s acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney — have declined to testify because the administration instructed them not to, claiming that current or former senior officials are constitutionally immune.

Mr. Bolton, who met alone with Mr. Trump about why he was freezing a military aid package to Ukraine in August, has threatened to sue if Democrats try to compel him to testify, seeking a court ruling about whether such a subpoena is legally valid.

A lawyer for Mr. Bolton, Charles J. Cooper, has previously argued that Mr. Bolton’s situation is different from Mr. McGahn’s because Mr. Bolton’s official duties centered on foreign affairs and national security matters. But Mr. Bolton’s intentions and desires are unclear.

Mr. Bolton has become an enigmatic figure in the impeachment drama. According to other testimony, he strongly opposed the Ukraine pressure campaign and told aides to report what was going on to White House lawyers. He left the White House under rancorous circumstances in September and has since criticized Mr. Trump’s foreign policy.

But it remains unclear what he would tell impeachment investigators if he were to appear, and House Democrats are nervous that he is such a wild card he could just as easily hurt their case as help it. He accused the White House last week of not giving him back his Twitter account when he left, then teasingly asked if it was “out of fear of what I may say?”

In her ruling, Judge Jackson appeared to respond to Mr. Cooper’s notion. She wrote that the law required not just Mr. McGahn, but also “other current and former senior-level White House officials” who receive a subpoena to appear — and that it made no difference if they worked on domestic or national security matters.

Still, she emphasized, her ruling is only about whether Mr. McGahn must show up to be asked questions. It leaves unanswered whether the questions that lawmakers want to ask him — primarily about conversations with Mr. Trump detailed in the Mueller report — are subject to executive privilege, suggesting that even if Congress ultimately wins a Supreme Court ruling forcing Mr. McGahn to show up, the litigation process might have to start all over again.

The House Judiciary Committee subpoenaed Mr. McGahn in May after the release of the report by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III. It showed that Mr. McGahn was a key witness to several of the most serious episodes in which Mr. Trump sought to obstruct the Russia investigation.

But Mr. Trump, who had openly vowed to stonewall “all” oversight subpoenas after Democrats took control of the House in the 2018 midterm election, instructed Mr. McGahn not to cooperate.

In August, the House Judiciary Committee sued Mr. McGahn, seeking a judicial order that he comply with the subpoena. That same day, the panel also asked a judge for an order permitting it to see secret grand jury evidence gathered by Mr. Mueller, which Attorney General William P. Barr declined to provide to Congress. (Another federal judge ruled for Congress in the grand jury case a month ago, but the administration has appealed.)

The court filings said the House needed the information not just for oversight purposes, but also for an impeachment inquiry. While the impeachment focus has since shifted to the Ukraine affair that burst into public view in September, House Democrats are still considering an article of impeachment that would accuse Mr. Trump of obstruction of justice.

A question pervading both disputes is whether the Constitution permits Congress to subpoena aides to a president like Mr. McGahn and, potentially, Mr. Bolton, to talk about their official duties — or whether the president’s secrecy powers make his aides absolutely immune from such subpoenas.

Administrations of both parties have taken the position that “Congress may not constitutionally compel the president’s senior advisers to testify about their official duties,” as a 15-page legal opinion from Steven A. Engel, the head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, put it. But there is no definitive court precedent on the issue.

In 2008, another Federal District Court judge, John D. Bates, rejected that theory in a subpoena dispute. He ruled that President George W. Bush’s former White House counsel Harriet Miers had no right to skip a hearing for which she had been subpoenaed. Judge Bates, a Bush appointee, said she had to show up — although she might still refuse to answer specific questions based on a claim of executive privilege.

But because the Miers dispute was then resolved before an appeals court weighed in, Judge Bates’s opinion does not count as a controlling precedent for other disputes raising the same issue. That left the Obama administration, in a 2014 memo, free to take the position that Judge Bates had been wrong, and the Trump legal team echoed that logic.

In declaring that absolute immunity from congressional subpoenas for senior-level presidential aides “simply does not exist,” Judge Jackson spoke scornfully of the memos by the Office of Legal Counsel, sometimes called O.L.C., saying otherwise.

“Absolute testimonial immunity for senior-level White House aides appears to be a fiction that has been fastidiously maintained over time through the force of sheer repetition in O.L.C. opinions, and through accommodations that have permitted its proponents to avoid having the proposition tested in the crucible of litigation,” she wrote.

Peter Baker and Nicholas Fandos contributed reporting.

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Ex-White House Counsel McGahn Must Testify to Congress, Judge Rules

Westlake Legal Group 25dc-mcgahn-facebookJumbo Ex-White House Counsel McGahn Must Testify to Congress, Judge Rules United States Politics and Government Ukraine Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry subpoenas Special Prosecutors (Independent Counsel) Russian Interference in 2016 US Elections and Ties to Trump Associates Russia Mueller, Robert S III McGahn, Donald F II Justice Department impeachment House Committee on the Judiciary Executive Privilege, Doctrine of Decisions and Verdicts Burck, William A Bolton, John R

WASHINGTON — The former White House counsel Donald F. McGahn II must testify before impeachment investigators about Mr. Trump’s efforts to obstruct the Mueller investigation, a judge ruled on Monday.

The 120-page decision by Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson of the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia handed a victory to House Democrats in their fight to overcome President Trump’s stonewalling.

Judge Jackson rejected the Trump administration’s sweeping claim that top presidential advisers are absolutely immune from being compelled to talk about their official duties — meaning they do not even have to show up in response to a subpoena.

Citing Congress’s constitutional power to investigate suspected abuses of power within the government, Judge Jackson wrote that the Trump administration’s “claim to unreviewable absolute testimonial immunity on separation-of-powers grounds — essentially, that the Constitution’s scheme countenances unassailable executive branch authority — is baseless, and as such, cannot be sustained.”

Still, Mr. McGahn is unlikely to appear any time soon because it is virtually certain that the Justice Department will file an appeal and seek a stay of the judge’s ruling. He and his lawyer, William A. Burck, have taken the position that the fight is between Congress and the Trump administration, permitting administration lawyers to handle the case.

“Don McGahn will comply with Judge Jackson’s decision unless it is stayed pending appeal,” Mr. Burck said in an email. “The DOJ is handling this case, so you will need to ask them whether they intend to seek a stay.”

The Justice Department had no immediate comment, but a stay request and appeal is widely expected, following the pattern of other recent legal fights over congressional subpoenas.

But the ruling carries broader implications at a time when the White House has also invoked the same expansive immunity theory to block witnesses about the Ukraine affair from cooperating in Democrats’ impeachment inquiry in the House.

Several potential witnesses to what Mr. Trump said and did in connection with his pressuring of Ukraine to announce investigations that could benefit him politically — like his former national security adviser, John R. Bolton — have declined to testify because of the administration’s constitutional theory that they are immune.

Mr. Bolton, who had a one-on-one meeting with Mr. Trump about why he was freezing a military aid package to Ukraine in August, has let it be known that he has pertinent information about the matter. But he has also threatened to sue if he is presented with any subpoena, seeking a judicial ruling about whether such a subpoena is legally valid.

A lawyer for Mr. Bolton, Charles J. Cooper, has previously argued that Mr. Bolton’s situation is different from that of Mr. McGahn because Mr. Bolton’s official duties centered on foreign affairs and national security matters. But Mr. Bolton’s intentions and desires are unclear.

In her ruling, Judge Jackson appeared to respond to Mr. Cooper’s notion. She wrote that the law required not just Mr. McGahn, but “other current and former senior-level White House officials” who receive a subpoena to appear, and that it made no difference “whether the aides in question are privy to national security matters, or work solely on domestic issues.”

She added: “However busy or essential a presidential aide might be, and whatever their proximity to sensitive domestic and national-security projects, the president does not have the power to excuse him or her from taking an action that the law requires,” she said. “Fifty years of say so within the executive branch does not change that fundamental truth.”

If Mr. McGahn declines to testify until a definitive judgment is reached and Mr. Trump is prepared to keep appealing all the way to the Supreme Court, there appears to be little chance that the matter will be resolved in time for Mr. McGahn’s potential testimony to play any role in the impeachment inquiry.

Indeed, the current dispute is only about whether Mr. McGahn must show up to be asked questions. Even if the Supreme Court were to ultimately say he must, it would leave unanswered whether the questions that lawmakers want to ask him — primarily about conversations with Mr. Trump detailed in the Mueller report — are subject to executive privilege, so the litigation process might have to start all over again at that point.

In her ruling, Judge Jackson distinguished the issue she was ruling on — whether senior-level presidential aides, such as Mr. McGahn, are legally required to appear before a committee in response to a subpoena — “from the very different question of whether the specific information that high-level presidential aides may be asked to provide in the context of such questioning can be withheld from the committee on the basis of a valid privilege.”

The House Judiciary Committee subpoenaed Mr. McGahn in May after the release of the report by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III. The report showed that Mr. McGahn was a key witness to several of the most serious episodes in which Mr. Trump sought to obstruct the Russia investigation — including when the president pushed Mr. McGahn to have Mr. Mueller fired, and later tried to bully him into falsifying evidence to deny that he had done so.

But Mr. Trump, who had openly vowed to stonewall “all” oversight subpoenas after Democrats took control of the House in the 2018 midterm election, instructed Mr. McGahn not to cooperate. His administration put forward the theory that top aides to the president like Mr. McGahn were absolutely immune from being compelled to testify about their officials duties — meaning that they do not even have to show up.

In August, the House Judiciary Committee sued Mr. McGahn, seeking a judicial order that he comply with the subpoena. That same day, the panel also asked a judge for an order permitting it to see secret grand jury evidence gathered by Mr. Mueller, which Attorney General William P. Barr declined to provide to Congress. (Another federal judge ruled for Congress in the grand jury case a month ago, but the administration has appealed.)

The court filings said the House needed the information not just for oversight purposes, but also for an impeachment inquiry. While the impeachment focus has since shifted to the Ukraine affair that burst into public view in September, House Democrats are still considering an article of impeachment that would accuse Mr. Trump of obstruction of justice.

A question pervading both disputes is whether the Constitution permits Congress to subpoena aides to a president like Mr. McGahn and, potentially, Mr. Bolton, to talk about their official duties — or whether the president’s secrecy powers make his aides absolutely immune from such subpoenas.

Administrations of both parties have taken the position that “Congress may not constitutionally compel the president’s senior advisers to testify about their official duties,” as a 15-page legal opinion from Steven A. Engel, the current head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, put it. But there is no definitive court precedent on the issue.

In 2008, another Federal District Court judge, John D. Bates, rejected that theory in another subpoena dispute. He ruled that President George W. Bush’s former White House counsel Harriet Miers had no right to skip a hearing for which she had been subpoenaed. Judge Bates, a Bush appointee, said she had to show up — although she might still refuse to answer specific questions based on a claim of executive privilege.

But the executive branch did not appeal the Miers ruling, and because no appeals court weighed in, Judge Bates’s opinion does not count as a controlling precedent for other disputes raising the same issue. That left the Obama administration, in a 2014 memo, free to take the position that Judge Bates had been wrong, and the Trump legal team echoed that logic.

In arguments late last month, Judge Jackson had indicated skepticism with the Trump administration’s arguments that Judge Bates got it wrong 11 years ago, suggesting that the executive branch’s legal theory threatened constitutional checks and balances.

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